Brain Food

This is my gorgeous, smart, sweet-as-hell friend Shira Burstein:

Shira Burstein

Actually, she is my sister’s friend, for many many years (I’ve posted a picture of the two of them from many moons ago at the bottom of this post;)). We have considered her family for a very long time now and I am so proud of the woman she has grown up to become. She wrote me this article and I wanted to share it with you because, well, I love her ideas and insight. So few people connect what we put in our bodies with how they work! Here’s a bit of her story and how she figured it out…and quick!

Recently, during a particularly stressful day I found myself grabbing for my ‘go to’ large frozen pizza and a Ben and Jerrys’ pint of Coffee Heath Bar Crunch. I had been so ‘good’ so healthy and clean in my diet and the way I treat my body…so what was going on? Human beings don’t always eat because we are hungry.  We eat for a variety of reasons.  Food can be the tangential encounter to the entire gamut of emotional experiences.  We can eat when we are stressed, lonely, afraid, bored or even use it as a celebration.  The problem with using food as an emotional bandage is that it doesn’t solve anything. For me, seeing the bottom of that ice cream container really didn’t solve a thing!  In fact the aftermath of the moment caused me to feel guilty and angry leading into unrelenting self-disparagement. I imagine I’m not the only one who has had this experience. The proverbial ‘icing on the cake’ then turns into another round of emotional eating creating an even bigger problem.  The question remains how do we stop this conundrum? How do I stop it and how do I address the connection eating has with mental wellness when my own clients bring these issues up in my professional life as a therapist?

All of us use food from time to time as a source for either comfort or celebration.  It is when food becomes our ‘go to’ tool <like my nightmareish  dairy and carb binge>  for coping that we are create  a multifaceted problem.  The foods that we go to for comfort are usually deleterious to our health.  Either loaded with sugar, refined carbohydrates or loaded with saturated fats.  These foods trigger a part of our brain that is linked to addictive behavior. Pringles, didn’t re-invent the wheel when they came up with the slogan, “Once you pop, you can’t stop!” In fact it should be looked at as a Surgeon General Warning both for our bodies and our minds. There have been multiple studies that have shown that sugar and saturated fats are just as addictive as cocaine. In fact, I find them to be even more dangerous because they are all around us and so easily accessible.

So what is the solution? I started thinking about my training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT talks about changing maladaptive thoughts in order to change our affect and behavior. The use of helping people challenge and replace the tendency to magnify negatives, engage in self-defeating thoughts and distortions. These distortions can be about who we are and what we are capable, or deserving of for example. CBT looks to replace these negative thoughts with more realistic, mindful and positive thoughts, leading then to positive behavioral choices.

Perhaps we need to recognize the potential danger inherent in these foods and work to extinguish the habituated response that is often triggered first by the emotional catalyst.

If I find myself searching in the pantry or the refrigerator at the first sign of being upset, angry, lonely, tired, anxious  I try and ask myself what is truly underlying on an emotional level?  The more frequently I use food as an emotional salve the stronger that behavior becomes and the more unclear I will be as to what the costs and benefits are of using food in place of using my intellect or self-awareness. Maybe the answer is to find alternative thoughts about the food we put inside our body so that we can fully address emotional triggers and not put ourselves in a dangerous cycle. Food is such a powerful part of our lives. It can be the impetus for ill health both physically and emotionally, or it can be the source of vitality and power. The choice is yours as to how you want to deal with it. What are some ways or techniques that you find helpful when you find yourself parked in the pantry or refrigerator?

Shira Burstein, LCSW

Psychotherapist

www.shirabursteintherapy.com

Liza and Shira

Whole Grain Goodness

Mixed Whole Grains

For years and years it’s been brown rice in my house. Brown rice, brown rice, brown rice. Organic, short grain to be specific. This old post is how I make the perfect brown rice every time.

It’s nutty and filling and goes with almost everything. It’s high in minerals and fiber and is everything whole grains are good for.

But, there comes a time in every mama’s life when she has to reevaluate those things she cooks too much.

With all the change in our lives, a new home, new season, new, new, new, it was time for some new recipes.

Sometimes I lose hours on the internet looking for recipe ideas, design idea, kid stuff… It’s a black hole! That said, often I come out with a new outlook, perspective, project list;)

I found this recipe on 101cookbooks.com. I love her site. Clean recipes, gorgeous images, bright ideas.

But you know I never go by a recipe. It’s just not in my blood. So I’ve been making my own varietals of these mixed grains. Most recently this one has been my favorite:

1 cup short grain brown rice

1 cup quinoa

1/2 cup millet

-Rinse all of these and put them in a pot.

-Add a couple pinches of sea salt and (purified) water to about 1/2″ above the top of the grains.

-Bring it to a boil.

-Then down to a simmer.

-Cover and cook for 45 min.

-Turn the flame off, but don’t remove the top for at least 5 min.

-Fluff. Serve.

I’ve been topping it with fresh tomatoes, avocado, marinated tofu, chick peas, gomasio… Fresh summer dinner!

Summer Dinner

Confessions and Transgressions. Perfection is Overrated.

Me and Brooklyn

As many of you know, this year has been particularly challenging for me in so many ways for so many reasons. Making sense of it, finding a silver lining, is easier some days than others. That said, I would not change who I have become for anything.

I believe the best lessons are learned hard. It’s just a little speckle of the truth of life. I am not the person I was before we left Brooklyn. And yet here I am again. With new eyes and new energy.

Once upon a time, I spent so much time trying to do everything perfectly. Perfectly according to my moral compass that is. The world was black and white. Strong lines were drawn. And I always made the right choices.

But here’s what this last year and a half has taught me: life needs to be lived for the day. So I’ve softened my edges a bit, been making bolder choices, drinking coffee;) I have a job. I am back in Brooklyn. I am more actively engaged in my kids’ daily activities. I push my limits. Am growing my collection of tattoos. And I’ve blurred the rules of my veganism.

I want to be more fun. So I choose to be. I laugh more, get home later, order in more. I write when I feel like it, not when I set myself a calendar. I take more classes. Wear wilder clothing. Dance on my bike.

Here are some silly things that I found in a ridiculous email that perfectly reflect how I am feeling these days…enjoy!!!:

Be ThankfulSome people...It's better...

Raw Cinnamon Donut Holes

Raw Cinnamon Donut Holes

This is one of those recipes that I’ve been saying I’m going to try out forever, but was, for some reason, intimidated. I researched a number of recipes online, decided what flavor combination I wanted, gathered the ingredients, and then never made them!

Then, the other morning, with the Verizon guy here, Richie still palling around the apartment, Bar pulling at my pant leg, I decided it would be a good time to try. And they turned out AWESOME! They were actually super quick and easy to make (though a bit messy). No bake! No dehydrate! Just refrigerate! These will definitely be on the menu more regularly and I’ll experiment soon with other flavor options (I’m thinking a chocolate nutbutter option…!).

Raw Cinnamon Donut Holes

Raw Cinnamon Donut Holes

Raw Cinnamon Donut Holes

Here’s how I did it:

Line a sheet pan with parchment or wax paper.

In a bowl combine and whisk:

-1c amaranth (or other nutty/neutral flour…I had some raw amaranth flour around so I grabbed that)

-1c oat flour (you can also grind oats in a food processor if you don’t have flour on hand)

-3/4c coconut flour

-1/2tsp sea salt

Add:

-1tbsp vanilla

-5tbsp raw agave

-1/3c room temp coconut oil

And mix until it forms a dough then set aside.

In a food processor (I use my Nutribullet) process until fine:

1/2c coconut nectar/sugar

2tbsp cinnamon

Put the cinnamon sugar into a small bowl.

Take about 2 tablespoons of dough in your hand and roll into a ball.

Place the ball into the cinnamon sugar bowl and roll it around until it is totally covered.

Place it on the sheet pan and start over.

Should make 15 balls.

Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

ENJOY!!!

Raw Cinnamon Donut Holes

These are sugar free, gluten free (if you use gluten free oats), vegan, and raw. They are a totally healthy and delicious snack or dessert. Richie love loved them and so did the kids!!

Kitchen Sink Dinner

Kitchen Sink Dinner

Life has been crazy. I mean crazy crazy. We moved. Yes again. Full circle. Back to Brooklyn. Through it all, Brooklyn was home. So we came back. It means new schools, new schedules, boxes packed and now unpacking, and Passover in the mix. Our kitchen has been out of working condition on both ends for a while, so when I went to post something for you guys (from the long list of overdue posts I owe you…), this one seemed the most fitting.

I prepared this dinner a while back one rare evening when I was home alone and not at all interested in ordering the same local Chinese food we were in the rut of ordering from.  I swooped through my fridge snagging whatever fresh and frozen produce looked good together along with leftovers I could quickly and easily reinvent.

I make this meal often, even for the whole family, and almost 100% of the time Richie argues that it’s my best meal. Go figure!

I most often use some greenery as the base for the fresh side of the meal (salad variation) and leftover brown rice for the cooked side of the meal (grain bowl variation). Then I get creative with whatever else I have around. I look for a protein (this time tofu, sometimes egg…), seasonal flavors, good fats (avocado, coconut oil, nuts, seeds…). I try to put together a good mix of flavors and textures.

The only rule is that it needs to be able to be make in under 10 min!

Here’s what happened this particular time:

SALAD:

bib lettuce

avocado

oat flour dusted date pieces

toasted pine nuts

dressing: olive oil, apple cider vinegar, raw honey, dijon mustard, turmeric, cinnamon, salt (in measures that please your palate)

RICE BOWL:

in a skillet, heat in the following order:

coconut oil

whole garlic cloves until browned

marinated tofu (I love the Wildwood smoked teriyake)

cashews

frozen, shelled edamame

splash with shoyu or tamari and mirin then cook 2-3 min through

Serve it hot right alongside the salad. You can add avocado to the rice bowl too!

Banana Chocolate Chip (Paleo) Muffins

Banan Chocolate Chip Paleo Muffins

Here it is you Instragramers! As promised:

It is no secret I’ve been experimenting with paleo meals.  No meat for me, of course, but eggs have snuck into our menu.  And it creates an opportunity for more nutrient packed, clean desserts.  These muffins are protein packed, organic, clean, mean, delicious, and the absolute perfect project for a snowy snowed in day.

Here’s how I did them:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prep your muffin tins (this makes 12 big guys).

Put all of these in the bowl of you mixer in the following order:
4 ripe bananas (the riper the better…I may have just made that word up)

Put all of these in the bowl of you mixer in the following order:

4 ripe bananas (the riper the better…I may have just made that word up)

4 eggs

1/2 cup almond butter

1/2 cup coconut or almond flour

2 tblsp coconut oil (organic, virgin, unrefined, melted)

1 tblsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup chocolate chips (vegan grain sweetened if you can find it)

Fill your muffin tins.

Bake for 25 min.

Cool on racks.

EAT!

Paleo Brownies

Paleo Brownies

Soooooooooooooooo…this post can’t come without a bit of a preface…explanation…confession:

I’m eating eggs…and sometimes fish…

My vegan diet was amazing for a very long time. It treated me well and took very good care of me. But as many of you know, before I had Bar, I had a few miscarriages which led to a number of blood tests which led to finding out that I have a problem synthesizing B vitamins. So eggs needed to be on the menu. Always cage-free, organic, local. Mostly from the farmer’s market. And I felt good eating them, so I continued past my pregnancy. Then after recovering from Bar, most of you also know, I fell into the abyss of SoulCycle. And now I’m instructing. With all of the exercise in my life, I needed more protein. And though I believe that many people can get more than sufficient amounts out of a vegan diet, my body was telling me I needed more for proper muscle recovery. So fish (mostly salmon, almost always wild, Norwegian) is also on the menu.

Soooooooooo…paleo desserts are a fantastic option. And these brownies are nothing short of amazing delicious.  They are a variation of these, just a little less sweet and with more add ins!

Here’s how I made them:

Ingredients:

1 jar of smooth almond butter (try to find organic if you can)

2 eggs

1 cup coconut nectar (dry or syrup)

1/4 cup agave

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup cacao powder

Optional add ins: 1 cup chopped walnuts, 1 cup gogi berries, 1 cup dark chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Put everything into the bowl of a mixer (preferably wet ingredients, mix, then dry, but not necessary).

3. Mix until smooth

4. Coat a brownie pan with coconut oil.

5. Pour in batter

6. Bake for 25-30 min or until cooked through and just starting to brown at the corners.

7. Cool, Cut, Serve!

The Cold and Colds

Wellness Shot

It’s been freezing in these parts.  Dead of winter.  And it’s no secret that little kids carry lots of little germs.  And those little germs create runny noses and sore throats and all that is evil.

On Sunday Avital puked into my hands while Richie sped to try to get us home.  Yesterday I came home to Ellie’s poop everywhere.  Tonight Bar vomited all over me while cuddling on the couch.

I AM SURROUNDED!  And I cannot afford to get sick.

This season is just tough.  Period.

Almost every day I get a text or call from a friend or family member asking what are my remedies for x, y, or z.  Soooooooo…I figured I’d post my cure-all, preventative, germ killing wellness shot for all of you.

You can make it in a juicer to in a blender.  I used my mini-prep Cuisinart thingy then strained it all through a hand strainer and glugged it down.  It’s spicy and sweet.  It may burn a bit going down, but I promise it works wonders!  Boost that immunity y’all!

Here are the ingredients (no exact measurements necessary):

1-2 inches of fresh ginger

2-3 cloves of garlic

lemon juice

apple juice

raw honey

cinnamon

As Promised…Recipes! Cabbage Soup

Cabbage Soup

No need to reiterate I’m sure, but life has been crazy.  Crazy crazy.  Taxing emotionally and physically.  And time is short.  But I’ve been trying my hardest to spend time (quality) with the kids and cook more.

Now more than ever, when our adrenals are in danger of fatigue, when the season is changing and the cold is drying us out, when days are shorter and the list of things to do is just as song, when we find stronger sadness AND happiness, we need to make sure we are getting the nutrients we need.

And when I say we, I mean me.  That’s what Richie says at least.  And it’s true.  Mama Bear is the toughest job out.  Keeping everyone healthy is of utmost importance.  So I’ve been cooking.  Wholesome, whole foods.

This recipe is a mix of a “clean out the fridge” and my grandma’s cabbage soup.  It is sweet and sour and hot and just hit the spot.  With a big hunk of sprouted bread it’s the perfect cold  night supper.

Ingredients:

1/2 green cabbage, sliced thinly

1 yellow onion, cut in half and sliced thinly

3 tblsp olive oil

1/2 tsp sea salt

3 field roast apple and sage sausages

1/2 kabocha squash, large dice

1 carton No Chicken broth (or the veggie broth of your choice)

2 tblsp honey

juice of 1 lemon

-Saute the onions and cabbage in the olive oil and salt until soft.

-Break the sausage (with your fingers so that it has raw edges, not cuts) and cook it in with the vegetables.

-When the sausage starts to brown, add the squash and broth and bring to a boil.

-Once it boils, bring it down to a simmer and cook 45min-1hour.  If at any point the liquid gets too low, just add hot water.

-At the end, add the lemon and honey.

More Posting…Coming Soon

Hey.

Lots of you have been asking if and when I’m going to get back to regular posting.

I am.  I promise.

It feels strange to go from posting about Jonny to posting about vegan muffins.  It feels strange to go back to anything normal.

That said, we’ve been really busy.  Apple picking, visiting friends upstate, SoulCycling, Halloween prep, new tattoos, cooking, baking, crafting, decorating the house, and, and, and…

I have some great recipes to share with you guys and I’ll get those up here soon.

Meanwhile, here are some pics of us doing our thing, getting back to life.  It is a struggle lots of days to be honest, but I’m finding that I squeeze my kids tighter and that feels good.  We belly laugh more.  Even if there is sadness in between…  The good is better…

UpstateFresh Apple MuffinsMe and KillaKammFresh InkHome Goods Shopping with friendsPearl JamKiddosMe and My AliBar's BirthdayBirthday Pancakes