A Seriously Excellent Excuse to Slow Down

Food shared around a table can bring some of the most healing and healthy moments to a soul. It is not necessarily the food that matters. The friendship, conversation, and laughter around our tables provide energy and encouragement to engage in the life we were meant to live. I believe it that strongly…and I believe there is research to back up the power of this intimate time.

Though the food doesn’t necessarily matter it sure is nice when it is delicious. I decided to try a brand new meal out on some friends we have known for a long time. It felt like risky business. This could go terribly wrong. And then we would just be eating salad–because it is difficult to mess that up. But I trusted my fellow foodie who shared the recipe and we forged ahead. Oh and by the by, did I mention the recipe included an uncomfortably large volume of onions? I don’t even LIKE onions. But I like food with flavor and these were promising a caramelized taste and I do like carmel and so we went with it! I went on the heavy side of seasoning and heat and decided to add this kale salad…it sweetened the spicy meal a bit…but in only the best possible way.

Because it just isn’t very nice to keep things this great to yourself…I am going to share the whole meal and hope you find the courage to try it. It is not a week night meal–or at least it isn’t in our house. The caramelizing and cooking of the lentils took at least an hour but because I didn’t want to burn them or cook them too fast, it probably took closer to an hour and a half to caramelize my onions. Years ago someone told me you spell LOVE…T I M E. This is a meal made with love…and you have been warned…don’t get angry at the chopping or length of cooking cause love takes time.

Moving forward are Jen Hatmaker’s words describing her Sweet Potato Lentil Bowls. She will guide you through how she cooks this…I personally think the recipe is pretty forgiving…so just go with it.

Sweet Potato Lentil Bowls

1 bag of brown lentils

2 cups of rice (I like basmati here)

8 cups of veggie stock

5 sweet onions

2-3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

2-3 cloves chopped garlic

Olive oil Spices: Cumin Cinnamon, Curry powder Cayenne Plain Greek yogurt for serving Chopped cilantro for serving

So basically, this is all to taste, and I am reluctant to tell you how much spice I add because it will seem irresponsible. We like spicy food, okay? Rinse and sort your lentils. Over medium heat in a pot, sauté a chopped onion and 2-3 cloves chopped garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil for about 3-4 minutes. Add the spices in any quantity that makes sense for your tribe and stir for about a minute (maybe a tsp of each for normal people?). Add the lentils and toss to coat. Add around four cups of veggie stock, cover and reduce heat to low, and cook for around an hour.

Slice up all your onions. Four will cook down so much, so don’t be scared of the enormous pile of raw onions you just amassed. In a large skillet on LOW HEAT (all caps means I am yelling), add a healthy pour of olive oil, all your onions, and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Stir periodically and cook down for around an hour. This will turn into a sweet, carmelized pile of deliciousness that could stand alone as the whole meal if you ask my opinion, which you basically did by reading this. Peel and cube your sweet potatoes, toss in olive oil, salt and pepper, and some of the same spices you used in the lentils, and roast at 375 for around 45 minutes. Cook your rice according to package directions. I like to use stock instead of water so the rice tastes like something. One part rice to two parts liquid. Plus salt! Oh my word. Unsalted rice is such cause for weeping. Layer it all up: rice, lentils, sweet potatoes, carmelized onions, a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, and a sprinkling of chopped fresh cilantro. You could also add chopped peanuts because it is a free country. My kids pick and choose their bowl layers, but I am here to tell you that somehow every single layer together makes the magic. A couple of my kids leave off the yogurt, and their lives are the lesser for it. Leftovers are delicious the next day, and no one will even realize you served them a totally healthy vegan dinner.

Okay it’s me–Jenni again…

(Thanks for this photo…http://www.mamabirdnest.com/…I didn’t take a photo…mine was not as beautiful as this dish…but to be sure…the food tasted better than this looks.) 

I don’t know how your heart is…or how your much you are needing a slow night to be with your family or a few close friends…but this meal will give you a great excuse to do it.


May You Be a Blessing and May You Nourish Your Body and Soul…


Don’t Go Christmas Cookie Crazy…

I keep reading that the average American gains anywhere from 1-7 pounds between Christmas and New Years.  (Some reports were as many as 12 pounds!)  We are not surprised, since this time of year is filled with holiday food, festivities, parties, and treat traditions.  With our schedules full of evenings out–we are eating at home less.  Parties are not the time to be impolite and talk about our food preferences.  But with two Christmas parties back to back this week, I was reminded that I should NOT throw caution to the wind and accept my “feasting fate” for the holidays.  

I am all or nothing.  So if I feel slight failure I am tempted to cave in on all occasions.  Pass the eggnog and the fudge.  

Waking up this morning I was reminded that I have been given 3-5 daily opportunities to make a good choice.  I may not be able to control what is served at the parties I attend…but I can control what goes in to my mouth while I am there and more importantly what I eat the rest of the day!

So here are 5 suggestions that might help you better cruise through Christmas cookie cravings…

1.  DRINK LOTS OF WATER.  Blah blah.  No seriously…please don’t make me go in to all of the health benefits of drinking water.  Last year a friend gave me a super cute plastic Christmas cup with a straw.  I take it everywhere.  Do whatever it takes.  Just do it.  

2.  KEEP STOCKED.  What are your favorite healthy “fast foods?”  Keep them on hand, in your car, and in your fridge.   Carrots, celery, peppers and hummus.  Almonds, apples, peanut butter.  Kale and spinach for a quick salad or smoothie.  Get as close to nature as possible and eat loads of “nutrient rich” foods through the month.  You don’t have to prepare a masterful meal each night–just be sure when you do grab something quick, it is healthy.  

3.  FIBER IS YOUR FRIEND.  Along with staying hydrated, fiber keeps you fuller, and keeps everything moving nicely through your system.  So instead of something easily processed, be intentional about popping something full of fiber in your mouth.  

4.  FOCUS on the FESTIVITIES…not the FOOD.  Why are you celebrating?   Focus on your co-workers, neighbors, the people that you are with.  The family you never see.  Think creatively how you can make that time more memorable and not solely surrounded by food.   

5.  FORGIVE AND MOVE ON.  If you mess up…get over it…don’t start constantly using the drive thru, or dumping trash in your grocery cart because you had a rough meal.   Between now and New Years you have 63 meals to eat.  (Even more if you eat mini-meals throughout the day.)  Are you going to let 3-7 holiday meals mess up your month???   

Food is NOT your enemy.  Food is NOT your friend.  Food is fuel. 

May we spend the next 63 meals living this out and enjoy the real reason for the season.  

May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed!



Palates Like People…CAN Change

I used to believe when fit “fools” or “granola” girls ate sticks, grass and berries and then said they LIKED it…they were LIARS.  I could not image that any truly healthy food tasted that good or that I might actually crave leafy greens.  I did not believe that a big creamy bowl of ice cream might actually someday taste too rich, heavy, and “artificial”.  These things were so foreign to me and I felt it was the fit folks’ way of deceiving themselves so that they might daily choke down that many fruits and vegetables.  Or could it possibly be that their taste buds just didn’t work?
After my 1st clean eating challenge (which took out all processed foods and sugar)…I decided it was time to “treat” myself after the 9 weeks of hard work.  I popped a leftover Halloween Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in to my mouth.  I was anticipating the same “feeling” and “taste” that came before the challenge.   I slowly chewed to take in all the “goodness”  and immediately was shocked by the “fakeness” of the food.  It tasted like fake peanut butter, fake chocolate, and were there hints of some sort of synthetic substance holding it all together?  Yuck!  I could not find a trash can fast enough!   For those Reese-Loving readers—I get that you might think one insane to spit out a cute little cup!  But truthfully, it was an automatic response.  Apparently those fit “fools” were right:  PALATES CAN CHANGE.
It has taken me years of trial and error with my family to encourage them to change their palates as well.  One of the best ways to change is to pull the “fake food” from your diet.  Cold turkey.  If you eat “pretty healthy” but still have sweets at night, your palate will never change.  If your kids eat pretty well but then get a sucker at the bank, a cookie at the grocery store, and a dessert most nights at dinner their palates WILL NOT CHANGE.  I had to pull our Velveeta Macs and Cheese off the market for a while and bring in the organic bunny kind many months later.  I had to stop making cheesy chicken enchiladas and replace it with a vegetable heavy meal.  It was not an easy road…our palates have been conditioned to crave sugar, fat, and salt.  At first it appeared that our food lacked flavor.  It takes some time to figure out different ways to season your food and for our taste buds to find a deep appreciation for the sweetness and flavor of fresh fruits and veggies.   To my great dismay, a rich pasta with heavy tomato cream sauce can not be easily substituted in nature.  But over time you will grow to appreciate and love these flavors.  Your health will thank you.   Sugar, fat and salt lead to sluggish, sick, minds, bodies, and spirits.   
For me, this did not happen over night.  I had a very strong bond with food and was very resistant to change, or anyone telling me my food was “not fine”.  It also seemed impossible to shift my family from the “S.tandard A.merican D.iet” (SAD) to one that was nutrient dense full of protein, minerals, vitamins, and fiber.  For some encouragement (and humor) on the subject of continuing to introduce healthy, nutritient rich foods to your family check out:
It is a slow process and a journey of trial and error but the truth is…change does a body GOOD
May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed…


Labels Lie and Liars Make Labels

Last year when my studio did our clean eating challenge a client asked if I would be willing to take her grocery shopping with me.  I was happy to oblige, but being a mom of three kids also meant that I would be taking 3 children:  5, 4, and 2 along for the ride!  While walking through the isles Emily looked at one of the boxes and asked, “What about this?  It says heart healthy?”  We flipped over to the ingredients of the cute sandwich thins but sadly they were filled with sugars, preservatives and other things that SHOULDN’T be in bread!   She said, “I don’t get it, it says it has multi-grains and is healthy?!?! ” It was her first lesson in this truth:  “labels lie and liars make labels”.  A week later my kids and I were back in the bread isle and my 4-year-old son yelled, “THESE BOXES LIE!”  From the mouth of babes.   I had no idea how closely he was listening to our conversation, but I am grateful.  I hope that at a very young age I can teach my children deep truths about food and nutrition so that they will never have the confusion that I had on the subject!  Sometimes I fantasize about walking through the grocery store and blocking off entire isles with huge signs that say, “DO NOT EAT…HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH!” 
Labels lie and liars make labels.  Often unfortunately after further inspection of the bright shiny box that tells us it is filled with “nutrients”…we find that the ingredients lists are filled with words we cannot identify.  That is our greatest clue to STEP AWAY from the product…and RUN (do not walk) to the edges of the grocery aisles.  The FDA does not require a label for most of those items because they contain ONE ingredient:  blueberries, apples, spinach, carrots, kale, beets, you get the idea.
I started to compile a list of “bad ingredients” for you to identify while shopping.  You know, preservatives, additives, coloring, or “hidden” chemicals, sugars, etc.  What a GREAT idea.  Then I realized my list would take up PAGES of my blog.   Don’t get me wrong—we want you to figure out what is IN a product…but often under further investigation you find it is simply NOT whole food.  Such is the state of our food these days.  My strongest encouragement is if you do not recognize a word, it probably is NOT a good sign, and probably should be avoided.   If it is a product that overall seems clean except for one ingredient it may be worth investigating…if there are several words you don’t recognize, or a list longer than about 8 ingredients it is probably best to just avoid it.   It’s not that YOU are not smart enough to know what it is, it is that the Food Industry will do ANYTHING it can to MASK the junk that they have put in to our food to confuse the consumer. 
If we can shift our focus away from trying to even figure out what is IN everything and try to find a the most whole natural foods then we will be in a MUCH better place! 
Janine and I can both sense that our clients are working very hard to be clean, read ingredient lists, and make wise choices.  KEEP doing this.   In the meantime…use your BEST judgment.  Continue to educate yourself.   Read great books and watch great documentaries.  Figure out the WHYS to better create “belief power”…it is 1000x stronger than will power.  
We are very PROUD of each of you as you are beginning this nutritional journey.   This is not just about getting lean, but about the life long health benefits of eating whole foods.   Keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep eating one dark leafy green after the next…no label required!  

Here is a list that many have requested and that I thought would be helpful as you shop this week!  Any meal or mini snack should pair a lean protein and complex carbohydrate.  There is great science as to the whys of this…I have included a site* that explains for those who want a “why”.  But as you think through your snacks and prepare meals this week PLEASE think lean protein and complex carb.  This will be lists that can be used for both the clean and E2 challenges…

Carrots, Snow Peas, Peppers and hummus
Carrots and peanut butter (Chris’ favorite)
Almonds and dried apricots
Avocado or black beans and salsa
Avocado (crackers, ezekial bread or spelt bread)…then I add tomato and spinach. 
Roasted chickpeas and carrots
Salmon and Quinoia
Chicken and broccoli
Boiled egg and apple
Eggs and spinach
Whole wheat toast with a nut butter
Banana with a nut butter

Apple with nut butter…or sunflower butter
Triscuits and a nut butter…triscuits with any protein option
Tuna and veggies
Oatmeal and walnuts (add dried fruit—delish!)
String cheese, laughing cow cheese, and triscuits

Cashews and grapes or other fruit

Spinach, walnuts and strawberries

Greek,  Coconut or Almonde yogurts and walnuts (or granola)

A “clean bar” that has protein and carb—my favorite “lara bar”.

Homemade granola with dried fruit/walnuts/almonds (no salt in these and only natural sugars)
Smoothies!  With protein powder, or yogurt, or soy milk,  or peanut butter and then some sort of fruit, I even add oatmeal…but people say I am weird!  =)

Almonds, Walnuts, and Goji berries…my NEWEST fav!  


Hands off my HO HOs…

A re-post as POWER starts up another nutritional challenge…

Why is FOOD so doggone personal?   Why does the hair on the back of our necks raise when we are confronted with something different than our own diets or preferences?

I keep wandering down memory lane to just over 3 years ago when Janine issued a Nutritional Challenge—a “Clean Eating” Challenge for her studio.  I keep trying to remind myself why I was SO ticked at her and at the suggestion that my food might be “dirty” in some way?  I NEVER want to forget where I was…
Three years ago I worked out so that I could eat whatever I wanted.  I ate when I was hungry or when something looked or smelled good.  I ate for the joy of eating.  I ate when I was bored, lonely, angry, tired or depressed.    Food was a social common denominator:  every event whether it be a party or a play date,  food found it’s way in to the equation.  Food was comfort.  Food was a friend.  Food was entertainment.  Food was not in any way “fuel”.    That was a foreign concept.
I took the challenge because I was preparing to join P.O.W.E.R.’s staff and eventually own my own studio.  It would seem highly inappropriate for her first employee to throw a tantrum about the “RIDICULOUS” challenge she had put forth.  I spent the first week whining to the other pod girls about the fact that I could ONLY eat lettuce, and lettuce with NO dressing at that.  I complained, went to stores, read ingredients, got annoyed and went home empty handed.  I didn’t have TIME for this.  I didn’t have the stomach for it…literally.
Our family was not “so far” off the beaten path when it came to food…was it?  Sure we ate out SOME but not every night.   We ate vegetables…or at least brocolli and carrots…and I loved salads.  We didn’t deep fry everything that was placed in front of us and we didn’t eat a ton of red meat.  We drank sodas, but we were not addicted.  I loved cran-apple juice and probably drank 2 gallons a week.   We liked dessert and had sweets available but it was not an every day occasion.  Our kids didn’t eat white bread…but what was wrong with “fruit chews” that come in Disney Princess and Cars shapes?   What was high fructose corn syrup and why was it so “evil”? 
Apparently everything on our grocery list was “dirty” except for the broccoli and carrots and even our whole wheat bread had problems.  I was finding every excuse in the book to dump the challenge.  I didn’t have time to find new recipes; I was studying like crazy for my personal training license.   We didn’t have the money to buy less processed foods, never mind organic while my hubby made just over $40k a year?!?  Besides, I had three small children 3, 2, and 8 months…there was NO WAY I could get them to do this.  Did I mention my husband was a “meat-aterian” and balked at most new vegetables that I brought to the table?  This wasn’t going to work!
The first week I rolled my eyes, complained and simply refused to be apart of the madness.  The studio was buzzing though.  Women were complaining but also attempting this insane challenge.  I looked at their lives and went back to my excuses:  “yes, but she is single and doesn’t have to make 2 meals or find a ton of new recipes!”  “Yes, but her hubby brings in more cash each month!”  “She is a stay at home mom and totally has time for this!” And yet, their enthusiasm was wearing me down.  That weekend I went back to the store and started again.    I came home with a bunch of “tasteless” things and a higher grocery bill!  The 2nd week I probably ate clean 3 of the 7 days.  They were not fun and I remember feeling like I was eating like a gerbil.   I was eating more often and that was a pain because I didn’t have time to stop (yet again) to eat something!  I did not feel a difference in my energy level and was in general agitated by the process.
The 3rd week I think I added another day to a grand total of 4 out of the 7 days “clean”.  I did this partly due to peer pressure and the desire to potentially win a prize!  The conversations at the studio helped and I realized that I was going to have to resign to the process if I was going to get through the next 6 weeks.   I put together a facebook group…a “support group” of sorts, where P.O.W.E.R. girls could come together, complain, share recipes, and finish out the challenge before the holidays hit!   Somewhere between week 3 and week 9 my attitude slowly shifted. I found a few recipes that I liked and I found that I was actually not preparing as many “meals” as I was eating healthy, “substantial snacks” throughout the day.  
Somewhere between week 4 and week 9 my clothes became a little looser which was nice.  (It was jeans season and I HATED the out of the dryer, suck in and pray they button dance I used to have to do!)   Amazingly, I think I might have even dropped a jeans size by the end of the challenge.  THIS, (if I am honest) and this alone was motivation to continue considering what it would be like to shift to a “cleaner” diet.   So I began to educate myself more on WHY people should eat less preservatives and more whole foods.  I began to find out what was IN my sodas and juices.  I began to read, research and became absolutely convinced that this was a better way.  
Interestingly, and I SWEAR this is not just what healthy people who eat plants say, my food preferences CHANGED.  
I did not CRAVE sugar, sweets, salty, and fatty foods.  As a matter of fact, I distinctly remember eating a piece of processed candy and felt slightly disgusted by the “fakeness” of the flavor.  (I—gasp—spit out the Reeses cup that my child brought home for Halloween!)   This was such a shock to my system as I was sure that this was just what people “said” happened but deep down I knew it would never be true for me!   I began craving water, fruit, and vegetables,. 
My body was leaner, it moved more quickly, I had more energy and it even was more “flushed”…things moved through more naturally.  (Sorry if this is TMI!)   Over the past 3 years our family has slowly continued to change and transform our nutrition to what it is today…SUPER CLEAN!   My hubby eats and tries all vegetables that I serve.  He actually orders vegetables on his own merit—and lots of them!  It took a good amount of education to get him there, but he is there.  My kids eat lots of fruits and veggies and the processed snacks are to a minimum.   If their snacks aren’t homemade, I can pronounce and tell you what is in their food, where as before most of their snacks were chemically engineered!   This actually does help me to sleep better at night. 
The month of October is exciting in the POWER studio as women are going to be given a similar challenge to the one that was put forth 3 years ago.  I want to remember.  I never want to forgot how angry I was.  I never want to forget how HARD it was.  I never want to forget all the reasons (most valid!) for a need to keep things the way they were and avoid change.  I also never want to forget where that challenge brought me!  If I haven’t thanked her—I should—Janine, THANK YOU for making me start the journey.  I am a MUCH healthier version of myself.  My kids will hardly have memories of processed food in our home and my husband, too, is a grateful man for this lifestyle change. 
Much more to come on this subject!   But as you consider the challenge placed before you, be ENCOURAGED, take HEART it IS a journey WORTH taking! 

Peace, Love, Clean Food and Burpees,


10 Things to Promote Health and Wellness TODAY

Everything that you value in life, including your family, finances, career success, ministries, and friendships all depend on you being in GOOD HEALTH.

There are precious people close to me and to those I love who are sick.  It is debilitating and all consuming.  Often the sickness is completely out of our control.  But loads and loads of research is proving that often it is not…

I believe change starts with ONE simple action.

Moving toward wellness is vital to the things we value.  

TODAY do one thing to promote your physical wellness:

1.  Take a walk or run.   
2.  Eat more vegetables.
3.  Drink water instead of Coke.    
4.  Sweat in any way you can. 
4.  Drink one less coffee…pass on dessert.
5.  Do yoga.   
6.  Empty your pantries.  Throw out the junk.
7.  Eat IN instead of OUT.
8.  Did I mention eat more vegetables?    
9.  Take the stairs.  Park far away for a longer walk.  
10.  Pray for strength, courage, and motivation to do one more thing tomorrow.  
May You be a Blessing and May you Be Well! 


Better Than The Bachelorette?

This dork loves a good documentary.  I will happily exchange prime-time for an educational video any day.  I understand that some are not as “dork-minded” as me.   I am way behind on my reality tv.   As deprived as I am on pop culture conversation these days, I do believe there is much to be gleaned from the research of others.  In the spirit of Wellness Wednesday I thought I would share my top 5 documentaries on the subject of food, exercise, and body image.  I also wanted to share information about a free flick that is available for the next 3 days…it is a worthy watch.

Food Inc.     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqQVll-MP3I
Opened my eyes to exactly where my food came from…you mean it is not from a cute farm in the mid-west with a big red barn in the middle of it?    (You can watch it free in segments on youtube.)

America the Beautiful    http://americathebeautifuldoc.com/original/
Looks at society, the media, and how distorted we have become with our understanding of beauty.

Bigger, Faster, Stronger    http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/bigger-stronger-faster/
Body image issues do not just effect women…this was an interesting documentary on the lengths that men will go to become bigger, faster, and stronger.  

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead     http://www.fatsickandnearlydead.com/
A journey of one man moving from near death to vibrant life.

Forks Over Knives    http://www.forksoverknives.com/
If the China Study is too thick…this is a great summary of the research.

For the next 3 days there is great documentary that is being offered online for FREE.   Hungry for Change highlights and interviews many medical doctors on the subject of nutrition in America.  It interviews specialists, authors, and many people whose lives have been changed by changing their nutrition.  This includes two 30-something cancer survivors,  Joe Cross (from Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead), and even Jamie Oliver makes an appearance! 

Hungry For Change         

The information is scientifically based and the information on sugar in our diets is disturbing.  I hope you will take advantage of this free flick!  I promise even if you just receive ONE golden nugget from the movie, it will be good for your life long health…better than The Bachelorette! 

May You Be a Blessing and May you Be Blessed!