What’s Delicious, Versatile and Easy to Make?

Pesto!  I love the taste of homemade pesto.  It’s simple to make and you can use it as a sauce, a condiment, a salad dressing or a marinade.  I tend to make my pesto on the thicker side and with less oil.  I’m not against olive oil, I just don’t like oily tasting food.  I feel the basil is the star here and it should shine through.

I made a batch last week and I’ve used in on fish, pasta, salad, scrambled eggs, a dip for vegetables and as a marinade for chicken.  It literally took me minutes to prep and make it.  You want to look for bright green and fresh looking basil, if you grow your own even better.  And feel free to send me some if you have an abundance!
You can freeze the extra pesto in ice cube trays so you can have pesto when you want it.  One cube is a perfect serving.  (do not add Parmesan cheese if freezing – it freezes better without it). 
Here’s what you’ll need:
1 batch of basil (about 4 cups loosely packed – I use it stems and all)
2 TBS olive oil
1/2 – 3/4 cup of chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
4 large garlic cloves
1/4 cup walnuts or pine nuts
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Directions:
Pulse basil, garlic, nuts, olive oil and broth in a food processor until smooth.  Add in salt, pepper and cheese if using.  
A nice twist is to add in some roasted red peppers.  It gives an extra flavor layer and adds some pretty red flecks into the green.
Need help planning quick health meals for your busy life?  Send me an email, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, and we can work together to have a plan that fits you.  

Trying Meditation, Again…

I’ve taken on the 21 day meditation challenge again.  True to form I’m a little behind on it.  I feel better when I meditate and when I do it at night I sleep better.  Here’s the catch, I sometimes wait too long and fall asleep   instead.  I have tried it during the day or first thing in the morning.  I do stick with it better if I do it upon waking.  

I find it easier to meditate with the challenge as well.  This is the third or fourth meditation challenge that I’ve participated in and I stick with it through the end, even if I miss a few days I always make them up.  It’s keeping it going regularly when the challenge stops that I run out of gas.  I’m not sure why, I guess I don’t feel accountability or 3 weeks isn’t long enough for me to totally develop a habit.  
This particular challenge is interesting, we’re meditating on love and healing.  Letting go of past hurts, including childhood trauma, and opening ourselves up again.  It’s been interesting and much easier than one of the meditation cds I purchased.  One of my first blog posts relates how I yelled at the woman leading the meditation, not very zen.  And, of course, it did not open me up to the practice of meditation at all.
My own challenge is how to keep the practice going once this current series is finished.  I have meditations by some of the leaders of this current series, I just don’t always practice them.  I guess I will have to create my own challenge and see if I can make this a daily habit for myself. Maybe the trick is to explore alternate forms of meditation, such as a walking meditation.  There’s also a group that meets on Tuesdays at a local college to meditate, perhaps I can pick up some new tools there as well.  For now, I have almost 2 weeks left of this challenge so I’ll see how it goes the week that follows.
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Farmers Market and a Watermelon Recipe

I received an email today that said you are what you eat.  It made me laugh because yesterday almost everything I ate, including the 1/2 of a blueberry scone, came from the farmers market.  I do like to have a treat, I believe in balance.

The farmers market is amazing right now.  It’s very easy to pick up health fresh fruits and vegetables.  I have a hard time not buying everything in sight.  I wash and freeze berries so I can have them throughout the winter.  I juice a lot of the vegetables, make salads and have stir fries or foil packets of vegetables on the grill.  I get eggs and some fish or meat, depending on what’s available.

Yesterday’s lunch, pictured above, was a salad topped with egg salad and home made guacamole.  Dinner was chicken burgers, roasted eggplant and zucchini, corn on the cob and gazpacho.  Dessert was a popsicle that I made by blending watermelon with lime and mint.  Tonight I’m making a ratatouille from eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini and yellow squash.  I’ll toss in some of the basil I picked up as well.

Here’s a quick watermelon recipe that you can use as a drink, freeze as an ice or blend with tequila or vodka for a cocktail.  To make a sports recovery drink add in 1/4 tsp of salt, preferably Celtic sea salt since it has a lot of minerals in it:

Iced Melon DrinkWatermelon Mint Cooler

5 cups of watermelon
juice of one lime
1/2 stalk of mint – stems and leaves

Put in blender and puree.

What is your favorite summer fruit or vegetable?

If you would like to learn more about seasonal eating send me an email at   janinemchale@empoweredplate.com.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Hitting the Salad Bar? Add the Avocado and Olive Oil!

Do you ever do the salad thing for lunch and then a few hours later you’re hungry again?  It’s probably not the volume of what you’re eating, it’s the content.  I would make a gorgeous salad for lunch, enjoy it and be happy I was doing something healthy for myself.  And then in a few hours I’d be jonesing for something else to eat.  Something that inevitably wasn’t as healthy as my salad.

I was leaving out some very important key ingredients:  healthy fats and protein.  Once I started adding in some avocado, a few nuts, a little cheese and a protein (egg, chicken, beans, shrimp, etc), I was feeling much better.  I also like to use olive oil and vinegar for my dressing, I know it’s simple with no added sugar or weird ingredients.  Seriously read the back of a diet salad dressing bottle, it’s scary.

Rather than grabbing for a roll, see if the salad bar has any whole grains on it.  Places like Whole Foods have quinoa, farro and/or brown rice on their bars.  A good healthy option that adds some protein as well as carb to your meal.

Finally, do stay away from the fried, the gooey and the sauced options.  You don’t know what’s in them and the calorie count really isn’t worth it.  Remember just because they are sitting there does not mean they are healthy options. And Jello salads aren’t really salad, I don’t care what the name implies.

Need help navigating your own eating plan?  Not sure what foods will fill you and make you feel your best?  Together we can come up with a plan that works for you.  Send me an email, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, to schedule your free health consultation.  

Chill Out with Blender Gazpacho

I went a little bananas the other day, the farmers market had lovely fresh Jersey tomatoes, cucumbers and red bell peppers on Sunday so I stocked up and then some. I use them in salads, in juices, raw pastas, etc. but I have an abundance. So I decided it must be time to make gazpacho. Cool, fresh and delicious gazpacho is like the best of summer.

While I love gazpacho I’m not a fan of the super chunky kind, it feels like I’m spooning up salsa. I puree mine in the blender and then add in some extra vegetables for something to chew. If you happen to enjoy yours a bit chunky use your food processor on pulse instead.  Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients:
4 large vine ripened tomatoes, cut into large pieces
3/4 of a large cucumber, roughly chopped
1 red or yellow bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 cup onion, roughly chopped
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 cup of water or 1 cup vegetable juice

Optional toppings: 

1/4 of a large cucumber, finely chopped
1 small zucchini, diced
avocado
cooked chilled shrimp, shells removed
lump crab meat, picked over to remove pieces of shell

Directions:
Put the first 10 ingredients into your blender and whirl away.*  Pour into your bowl or storage container and stir in the finely chopped cucumber and zucchini.  Chill for 2 hours to let flavors meld together.

I like to top mine with avocado for garnish and I’ll add some cooked chilled shrimp or lump crab meat to make it a meal.

*If your blender is not large enough to handle all of these ingredients at once do this in 2 batches and combine in a bowl

Escape Summer’s Heat Through Healthy Living

Today’s post is by guest blogger Nili Abrahams.
Summer is upon us, and thanks to climate change it feels hotter than usual all around the world.
Are there any secrets to staying cool when the temperatures are reaching record highs? Is there a better way to eat or exercise for heat relief?
According to an ancient medical science called Ayurveda the summer is the fire season or the Pitta season. This science teaches us what to eat and how to act to balance this Pitta element so that we will feel cooler and more comfortable all season long. The summer or Pitta is made of fire and water, and its qualities are hot, sharp, oily, and light. During summer season you can reduce the heat within your own body by eating a diet of cooling foods and moving in a cooling manner.
So what is this cool way of eating? The best food choices to stay cool include: sweet, juicy fruits like melons, plums, and peaches. Add bitter and astringent vegetable such as cucumber, mint, collards, kale and cilantro while including digestive spices to your food such as cumin, coriander, fennel and turmeric.  You should limit hot, spicy, fermented, salty, oily, fried foods as it will increase the heat in your body and make you feel hotter. And finally reduce or eliminate alcohol and caffeine as they are both sharp and hot keeping you hot when you want to cool down. Please remember to drink plenty of cool, fresh water.
It is always important during every season to exercise regularly, but the type of exercise you do should also be in balance with the time of year. During the heat of summer, it’s best to swim and do gentle yoga. If you prefer biking and running, try to save doing these activites in the early morning and evening when the temperature is slightly cooler.
Many people love to do Bikram’s hot yoga, but I would encourage them to switch to a cooler type during the heat of summer. Specific yoga postures and breathing exercises are more cooling than others.
So follow these simple changes and feel comfortable this summer.
About the Author: Nili Abrahams, Certified Holistic Health Coach, MBA has 25 years experience in academia, corporate training and institutional food sales.  She currently has a Health Coaching practice in Israel where she offers workshops, group programs and one-on-one consultations. Hear her on Arutzsheva Radio each Wednesday on the hour, every half hour at http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Radio/.

Some Days I Just Don’t Feel It

Today was one of those days:  I’ve been exercising pretty intensely the past few days, today was very warm in the house and I’ve been doing school work most of the day.  Generally sitting for a while has me anxious to move, today not so much.  I would really rather have sat and read my new book.

I was also feeling a little out of sorts and a little sad.  That is really what got me up off the couch, I like to increase my endorphins and boost my mood naturally.  I honored the tiredness my body was feeling though and stuck to a Pilates mat workout.  My abs and legs definitely felt the work, I wasn’t gasping for air and concentrating so hard on form keeps me from being blue.

After I finish working out I never think, wow, I wish I hadn’t done that.  I have sat on the couch at night and felt badly when I haven’t worked out.  I look at it this way, I can always stop if I don’t feel well or if I am in pain.  ( And you should always stop if you feel sharp or intense pain)!  Today I said hello to a few muscles I haven’t visited this week but overall it felt good.  My mood is better and I’m ready to take the dog for her pre-dinner walk.

What do you regret when you don’t do it?

Do you need help getting motivated?  Send me an email and together we can figure out a plan works for you, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com.

Push Ups Every Day, Because Why?…

Yes, I have challenged myself to do push ups and drink a green drink every day for 21 days.  And I’ve gotten a lot of curious questions about it.  I’ve been asked:  Why?  Where does the challenge take place? Who knows you’re doing it?  What if you don’t do it one day?


So here’s the why:  I took two classes and realized my upper body was much more sore than my core and my lower half.  I don’t want “bye-bye arms” either.  You know, when you wave bye and your arm keeps moving.  As for the green drink, I ordered a juicer and I wanted to see how I would feel adding in a green drink to my day.  And, honestly, I like to shake things up to keep me fresh. 


The challenge takes place in my head and when I post it online.  No one is checking on me to see if I did the push ups or if I had a juice or smoothie.  The people who see the Facebook pages know I’m doing it as does my husband and a few friends.  


One day I missed the drink but I ate a boat load of vegetables that day and had some fruit as well.  I kind of missed the juice but wasn’t worried that I didn’t get an adequate intake of produce.  I haven’t missed a day of push ups though.  I do a minimum of 25 but generally do at least 50.  I do a combination of full push up and from the knees – I’m not up to 50 full push ups yet.  That can be the next challenge.


Tomorrow will be the 21 days and I can say I’ve noticed a change in my arms.  I’m going to extend it to a month and see how they look then.  I feel pretty strong and want to increase the strength I’ve got.  I’ve also noticed a change in my skin, which has been clearer and more glowy, I’d say the juice is reason for that.  It also curbs cravings and keeps me from wanting sweet treats.  It’s definitely something I’ll continue with.


Stuck in a routine and want to shake things up?  Why not try my Summer Cleanse?  You will get your eating habits back on track with 3 meals a day of whole foods.  You will receive recipes, support, as well as tips for pre-cleanse, cleanse and post cleanse.  You can choose from 5, 7, or 10 days.  You can sign up for it by clicking here:  http://empoweredplate.com/ and clicking on health coaching/paying via paypal.