Cooking With Love

I talk a lot about recipes and living a healthy life in this blog – very important parts of a healthy life, but not the full picture.

This past weekend, I lost a friend who lived life to the fullest. She  loved what she did and even more, she loved the people around her. She was a fixture in the community, always supporting others, however she could. Her passion for life was infectious. I remember being on the phone with her talking about an idea I had and after hanging up the phone, I was so so fired up  – her passion had ignited my passion.

Smiling!
Smiling!

This woman also happened to be the owner of  a well-known restaurant for over 20 years. A restaurant that brought Cajun food to the Jersey Shore in a way that only she could put together. Yes, the food is delicious, but I’m pretty sure the main reason people kept coming back because it was like walking into someone’s house as they greeted you with open arms, a warm smile, and a big pot of spicy jambalaya.

Not only was she an amazing cook, she was also a talented writer. Her words would captivate you as she told the stories of the countless characters that she had brought to life (check out some of her writing here.) I remember walking into the restaurant a few years back when she told me that one of her short stories was published. She was so excited and received such positive reviews. She also published her first cookbook “Sittin’Bayou Makes Me Hot” featuring stories and recipes that will warm your heart and your kitchen.

After hearing that she had left this world, I looked through past photos of us, most of them featuring big dorky smiles. (Most of the photos that others have shared share the same resemblance – she was always smiling!) I then sat down and read through her cookbook, eventually stopping on the cover where she had written:

photo 2-3

That was her. Always telling you to cook with love and live with laughter.

My point in this post is not to make you depressed, but to point out that living a healthy life is so much more than the food you put in your body and the time you spend exercising. I’m not an expert, but I know that when I’m eating well, exercising, practicing mindfulness, and being around loved ones, sharing joy and love, that’s when I’m at my best. That’s when life is at its fullest. We tend to get so caught up in the diet crazes and new exercise fads, and that’s all ok, as long as we remember that there’s so much more to our existence. We are social beings, beings that need to love, need to be loved, and need to share. Yes, we can be a little selfish sometimes, and that’s ok, it happens to everyone. We just have to remember that life is worth living and sharing and food is such a big part of that.

The thing is, when you’re living with laughter, cooking with love and spending time with loved ones, that’s when food becomes medicine. Yes, eating a healthy diet packed full of vegetables will keep you moving and grooving, but the love that you experience with others and the zest for life that comes with those experiences is what truly will keep you healthy in the long run. After all, how else can you explain how your Grandma’s chicken noodle soup made you feel better? It’s not just the ingredients that matter, it’s how you put them together too, just like in life. It’s not what you do to live, it’s how you live that makes the difference. 

Give your loved ones a hug today and remember to live life to the fullest. Tomorrow isn’t promised, yesterday is gone, we only have today. 

Love,

Melissa

 

Salmon – The Deliciously Fatty Fish

Raise your hand if you love salmon! I don’t know if it’s all the Omega 3s in salmon, but it’s one of my favorite dishes. Well, actually, it might be taking the top spot (along with scallops, but that’s not a fish.) Anyways, I digress.

seared-salmon-rawFirst, let me talk about how great salmon is for you! It contains a bunch of health benefits, supporting your heart with omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, which slow down plaque build-up in the arteries. Those same Omega-3s boost your brain power while also helping your eyes by protecting the eye cells from sunlight and free radicals. It also contains my favorite Vitamin, Vitamin D, which helps our bodies absorb calcium among countless other benefits! It also contains astaxanthin, a super antioxidant that helps protect your skin from UV-radiation while supporting eye and heart health. Yea, this beautiful fatty fish is loaded to the gills (pun intended) with positive health benefits. So let’s talk about why people may not cook it at home…

Many people reserve fish for ordering at a restaurant. I’ve heard every excuse from I hate the way it smells up my house to I have no idea how to cook it, to it tastes so much better at the restaurant. Well, I’m here to help you out because seriously, I love salmon, but I hate spending $30 on it at a restaurant when I can buy a quality piece of wild caught Alaskan salmon for around $7-10. Here are a few tips for all you lovely fish eaters out there!

Grizzly Bears Love Salmon Too
Grizzly Bears Love Salmon Too

1. Every salmon needs a good sear (well at least I think so). I love the crispy crust when it’s complemented by the tender inside. It’s so good, my mouth is watering right now. My favorite way to get that crust to to cook my salmon in a skillet on the stove. First, I get the pan searing hot, add a little olive oil, and the salmon, skin side down (if you have a skinless piece of salmon, don’t worry about it). Turn the heat to medium low. Cover the skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes. Then flip, cover, and cook for 2-3 minutes more. What comes out is a perfectly cooked salmon. Seriously. Anyone can do that! Yes, even you!

IMG_15662. Ok so now you know how to cook the salmon. It won’t be fishy tasting (that only happens when you overcook it), but your house may smell a little fishy after cooking. I understand. No one likes that smell in their house, only on the docks. So what do you do about it? First shut your doors to the rest of your house. Try and confine the smell as much as possible. The be sure to open a window, put a fan on, just do something to kick the smell out. Once you’re finished cooking, clean up, right away. If it still smells like a dock, simmer your some cinnamon sticks, cloves and citrus peels on the stove for an all natural air freshener. And if you just can’t get the smell out, leave a small bowl on the counter filled with white vinegar, baking soda, or coffee grounds which will help naturally dissipate any remaining smells come morning.

3. Think you can’t cook as good as some restaurants? Think again. You may not be able to rival a 5 star establishment, you can still wow your guests and yourself, by cooking up a delicious seafood meal. The key is to cook it properly (see number 1) and then add some jazz to it! I love making a light dill sauce to go along with my salmon. Take 1 cup Greek Yogurt, 2 tablespoons white vinegar, 3 tablespoons freshly chopped dill, the juice and zest of one lemon, salt and pepper and BAM! – you’ve got yourself a fancy salmon sauce.

Are there any other hurdles that are stopping you from cooking up a seafood feast this evening? Let me know about them and I’ll see if I can help you!

Looking for healthy kitchen inspiration? Let me design a food plan that fits your budget, time constraints, and preferences while focusing on your health concerns! I’ll get you back on track for 2015 by eating delicious food that’s easy to make and good for your body and soul! Contact me at info@mbeewell.com for a free consultation!

Bee Well,

Melissa
info@mbeewell.com

 

Yes, You Can Eat Pasta…

pasta-pamaI am not Italian, but I do love pasta. I usually make it once a week to satisfy my craving for that perfect al dente bite. It just tastes so darn good! Being mindful of my health, I really do try and limit it to once per week, even though it can easily become a reliable standby for weeknight meals. BUT, that doesn’t mean you should.

Ok, so back to that one night a week meal (maybe two if it’s a special occasion). Whenever I make pasta, I try to balance out my bowl with 2/3 veggies and protein to 1/3 pasta. That way, I’m never feeling deprived from not eating pasta, but I’m also providing my body with all the fiber, nutrients, and protein that it needs to help slow down the breakdown of sugar in the pasta, keeping me fuller, longer! (Seriously, how many times have you eaten a big bowl of pasta with just pasta and sauce only to fall into a food coma and wake up 20 minutes later eating more? This is what I try to avoid!) I also try to load up on the veggie topping first and then just top it off with a little bit of pasta. (Think 2/3 of your bowl being vegetables and protein to 1/3 of your bowl being pasta).

So on an evening when you’re craving pasta, but not the guilt, try making this dish that will keep you full until morning! It’s a quick and easy supper that’s made with most ingredients that you already have in your pantry. Serve with a side salad or vegetable soup and you’re good to go!

IMG_1603Feel Good Pasta with Beans and Spinach

Serves 4

1/2 Box Pasta of your choice
1 bag frozen spinach (or 2 bunches fresh spinach)
1 can Cannellini Beans
1/2 cup Sundried Tomatoes
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Red Pepper Flakes
1 tablespoon butter
Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt (to the salinity of the sea) and pasta. Cook to al dente (follow the directions on the box).

While the pasta is cooking, add 1 teaspoon of olive oil to a pan on low heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt, then cook till transleucent. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, pepper, beans, and sundried tomatoes. I chose to add the spinach without thawing it because I wanted a little liquid, however, you can microwave the spinach and drain in a colander and then add it as well. Cook for a few minutes until the spinach and beans have warmed through the the tomatoes have plumped up.

Add the pasta to the spinach mixture, the butter, and a little bit of the reserved pasta cooking water. Serve with a sprinkle of Parmigiano Reggiano.

Enjoy!

 

Looking for healthy kitchen inspiration? Let me design a food plan that fits your budget, time constraints, preferences, and health! I’ll get you back on track for 2015 by eating delicious food that’s easy to make and good for your body and soul! Contact me at info@mbeewell.com for a free consultation!

Bee Well,

Melissa
info@mbeewell.com

Take the Leap

“The first step is a leap of faith, every leap after is one of knowing.”

I heard this today during yoga and felt the need to share. During that instant, it applied to the split I was attempting to do, but after class, it was the thought that I could continue to succeed, do what I love to do, and help others. It’s a saying that can really be applied to anything that you’re afraid of attempting, whether it’s applying for that job that you really want, telling someone you love them, or starting a new routine.

most+things+are+difficult+quoteThe steps and choices we make in life aren’t always easy. However, do we really want to be on our death bed and think of the “what ifs” or would we rather think of the “oh wells.” For me, I really would rather say oh well, I guess I really screwed up that time instead of asking myself what if I did that, what if I went there, WHAT IF?

Once you take the first (which is most of the time, absolutely frightening) step, you’re more comfortable moving forward because you’ve got “Mr. Momentum” on your side now. When we overcome our fears, we realize that there wasn’t that much to fear in the first place. The entire time that we were telling ourselves that we couldn’t do it, we can’t make it, we’re never going to succeed, was just our fear telling us that we couldn’t do it. It wasn’t reality. We had never tried it! How would we know if we could succeed? Even if we had tried it in the past… that was then, this is now. We’re different. The circumstances are different. The world is different.

Remember, Albert Edison made over 1,000 mistakes before he invented the light bulb.

Now that you’re following your dreams, it’s almost like a worn in pair of jeans that fit you so well. With every single step forward, you’re more comfortable in your actions, with who you are, what you do, and how you feel. It’s like you were meant to act this way and that’s because you were.

dont-give-upSince it’s the beginning of the New Year, I’m sure many of you are writing down resolutions to lose weight, eat well, and get healthy (and as we’ve seen from the past that many people often lose ground in February). The first act of getting healthy is difficult for many, but a lot of times it’s “staying on track” that becomes even more difficult for some people. You may know that you want to eat well, but those tray of french fries are just way too tempting. So maybe you did take a leap of faith in exercising and trying out new recipes, but was it for the right reason? We won’t be able to really realize our hopes and dreams if it doesn’t come from within instead of what we think others think.

A lot of the time, people tend to focus so much on how they want to change their look instead of thinking about how they want to FEEL. Looks are passing, how you feel on the inside is lasting. Do you want to feel vibrant, strong, energetic, smart, powerful, and full of life? Then think of that as your goal instead of losing 20 lbs which is far less satisfying in the long run.

Yoddler_297_LargeYou can do it. Write down how you want to FEEL in 2015 and make the leap of faith to get there. Once you start the journey towards following your heart, every step thereafter becomes one of knowing.

Bee Well,

Melissa

P.S. If you’re looking for someone to help you start your journey towards the REAL YOU, contact me below! I’d love to help you start (and end) the New Year in the best way possible – by following your heart!

 

A Healthy Holiday Detox

The holidays are great. It’s a time for baking your favorite cookie recipe that was passed down through generations. For me, I bake kozlocki – aka little bites of heaven – a Polish cookie filled with jam. It’s so good. And my holiday wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t make pierogis from scratch. I also go overboard cooking intricate dishes that I wouldn’t normally waste my time on. But, that’s what the holidays are for! Of course, there are also the libations – beer, wine, champagne toasts, and fancy cocktail drinks. But, now… as my friend said yesterday “if I look at another stuffed mushroom I’ll throw up.” My sentiments exactly.

IMG_1382
Cookies for days….

 

IMG_1384
I swear they’re my kryptonite

So now that your body has been thoroughly stuffed over the past week (ok month) and you’ve probably not been keeping track of your workouts, it’s time to give yourself (and your body) a break and hit that reset button!

In order to “reset,” we need to focus on the three main systems that play a crucial role in the elimination of wastes: circulatory, digestive, and lymphatic. Your circulatory system pumps blood and oxygen through your body, carrying waste products away from cells while your digestive system separates the nutrients from the waste and your lymphatic system collects fluid throughout the body where anything harmful such as bacteria or other contaminants are removed before being returned to the bloodstream. Our goal is to help all these systems function at their optimum levels so you can ditch that sluggish feeling you’ve been harboring since last week!

First things first – get “it” out of the house! Don’t tempt yourself by keeping a big pile of cookies on the counter or a delicious bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy in the fridge. It’s getting cold, you’re hungry, and it’s there, of course you’re going to go for it instead of the kale salad that you could make. So do yourself a favor and just get rid of all the “excess” lying around your house and by “excess,” I mean all the “food stuff” you would only have around this time of year.

Ok now that you’ve gotten rid of the goodies, drink some water. Every time you want a cookie, drink a glass of water. Every time you’re craving that delicious pierogi with sour cream, drink a glass of water. You get my drift. With all of the heavy and sugary laden foods that we’ve been consuming, our body is craving water, especially while we’re sitting in heated houses (the dreaded dry heat!)

Fresh Red Beets
Beets – Nature’s liver cleanser

So now that you’re running to the bathroom every 30 minutes, let’s get you eating some detoxifying foods. Try adding some beets to your diet, filled with magnesium, iron, zinc, and calcium they help your liver stay in tip top shape. Ginger is another liver cleanser, spiking your metabolism while flushing out waste. You can also add some sweet pineapple to your morning smoothie, providing you with a good dose of bromelain, a digestive enzyme that clears out your colon. You can even add a dash of cinnamon to your yogurt that’s full of calcium, iron, and manganese which helps you process fatty acids while keeping your blood sugar stable.

You’re drinking your water, eating your veggies, and now you’re going to get your sweat on! Head to the gym, get outdoors, or take a yoga class! A body in motion stays in motion and a body that’s been lying on the couch eating cookies, will continue to lay on the couch and eat cookies. I know the first step is hard, but once you get back in your workout routine, you’ll look forward to it. Try and head to your favorite yoga studio or practice some detoxifying poses at home to help promote digestion. Here’s a little sample of a great detox yoga flow.

high-lunge-twist-400x400
Twists are great for stimulating the digestive system

At the end of the day, rest up in a mud, clay, or epsom salt bath instead of going for that cookie and glass of wine. These minerals will help draw out toxins from the body, helping your muscles rest (and your mind!) Add some arnica oil to help soothe your muscles even more.

Don’t wait until 2015 to get going, give 2014 everything you’ve got for a fresh start in the new year! And if you’re looking for someone to be accountable to, give me a call. I’ll help you stay on track so that your goals will become your priorities. Instead of “dieting,” I’ll help you live.

Bee Well,

Melissa

 

 

Water, Water, Everywhere!

Yes, I know it’s been a while. Too long. I’m sorry about that. I’ve neglected my blog and should pay for it, but alas, I can only get mad at myself. The best way to fix it is to just write! Stop delaying and just do it. Anyway, that’s my pep talk of the day. For now, I want to talk about something that I “prescribe” to my clients the day I meet them.

Drinking warm water with lemon, first thing in the morning.

Something so simple, natural, and holistic will become something that will change your life. I promise.

I can see you shaking your head in disbelief through the computer screen. But, I came prepared. I knew there would be doubters, so let me give you five reasons why adding warm water with lemon to your morning routine will help you look and feel better, instantly.

  1. I find that the warm water and lemon “gets things moving” in the morning, and science backs me up there! Lemon contains pectin fiber, super beneficial for colon health and also a known antibacterial agent (think of all those ‘lemon’ scented cleaning products.)

    When Life Gives You Lemons, You'll Be Happier!
    When Life Gives You Lemons…
  2. Beat the common cold this winter! Lemon also helps balanced your body’s pH by creating an alkalizing effect in the body. A balanced pH in your body will help you fight infections by keeping your body alkalized instead of acidic, which is a breeding ground for anaerobic pathogens. When you have high levels of hydrogen, that bad bacteria stays inactive. Lemon is also an excellent source of Vitamin C which protects the body against immune system deficiencies.
  3. Lemon helps strengthen the liver, providing energy to its enzymes, helping them dilute. Toxins are flushed out and it encourages your body to produce bile, which aids in digestion.
  4. Say goodbye to aches and pains! By drinking warm water and lemon in the morning, pain and inflammation in the joints and knees will be reduced because of the diminishing amount of uric acid. When you have a build up of uric acid in your body, it deposits like broken crystals throughout your joints. But, when your cells and joints are lubricated, you’ll feel better!
  5. And say hello to gorgeous skin! We all know that drinking enough water throughout the day will help your skin stay supple and soft, however, did you know that it will also help reduce wrinkles and acne?

So there you go, five reasons for you to boil some water first thing in the morning, add a squeeze of lemon, drink, and then go on with your day. It’s best to spend a few extra dollars, if you can, on organic lemons if you’re planning on putting the lemon into your drink. Or just squeeze the lemon and toss the rind in the garbage if you’re buying conventional.

Also, always be sure to brush your teeth after you drink your lemon water since lemon can ruin the enamel of your teeth (which is why you’re diluting it in water!)

And once you drink your warm lemon water in the morning, be sure to keep drinking water throughout the day. Remember that when you are thirsty, your body is already dehydrated!

Until next time, ‘Bee Well,’

Melissa

Satisfying Vegetarian Tacos

I know when many people hear “vegetarian” dish, they’re thinking that there’s no way that the dish is going to fill them up or satisfy their hunger. This may be true for dishes that don’t include enough fiber, protein, or healthy fats, which leaves you hungry an hour later. But there are so many ingredients that will help you amp up your veggie meals!

Making sure that your meals have a balanced portion of fiber, protein, and healthy fats will help you stay satisfied without feeling weighted down. Great vegetarian sources of protein include: eggs, cheese, quinoa, nuts, beans, yogurt, peanut butter, and tofu. Vegetarian sources of fiber include: seeds, nuts, beans, and fruit. And for your healthy fats, try olive oil, coconut oil, and nuts.

Hearty Vegetarian Tacos
Hearty Vegetarian Tacos

Over 50% of my meals are vegetarian. It’s a way for me to appreciate the meat and where it came from when I do have it and it’s also a way for my body to get the nutrients it deserves. I notice that many times, when I do have a meatless meal, there are so many more vegetables on the plate than when I have a dish with meat, especially when I’m at a restaurant.

As they say, practice what you preach! So here’s a hearty vegetarian dish that’s packed full of vitamins, fiber, protein, and healthy fats so you won’t miss the meat!

Roasted Sweet Potato Tacos with Herbed Yogurt Dressing
Serves 4 (just add one small sweet potato per person)

4 Small Sweet Potatoes (or 2 large sweet potatoes) scrubbed and cubed (skin on)
1 cup Black Beans (I used dried black beans that I cooked, but you can use a can too!)
1 small Hot Pepper (take out the seeds if you want less heat)
1 bunch Cilantro
2-3 Scallions (white and green parts)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons Greek Yogurt
1 tablespoon Cumin
1 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Whole Wheat Tortillas

  • Preheat the oven to 375. Toss the cubed sweet potatoes with the cumin, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Cook until golden brown, around 30-40 minutes.
  • Combine the cilantro, scallions, hot pepper, greek yogurt, salt, pepper, olive oil in a food processor and mix until the consistency of a thick sauce.
  • Warm the tortillas on a cast iron skillet. Top with the roasted sweet potatoes, black beans, and herb yogurt sauce.

Super easy, super simple, not many ingredients, and completely satisfying!

Until next time, ‘Bee’ Well,
Melissa