Saturday, April 30, 2011

Five No Calorie, Low Cost Ways to Brighten Your Mood

What are you willing to do that could change your mood? Is it something that you can access without dipping into the calorie or cash budget?

1. Write a Thank You note. There is nothing like an “attitude of gratitude” to put you in a better frame of mind. It doesn’t have to be a note to Aunt Grace for the ugly sweater that you never intend to wear, or one that you feel like you “owe” or “should” write. No, surprise yourself and someone else by writing to a deserving, but unsuspecting individual. There are lots of people who make our daily lives easier, better or brighter just by doing everyday jobs…the school nurse or crossing guard, your stylist, your spouse, a neighbor who picks up your mail when you are away. Just writing the note will change your attitude, if you allow yourself to really get into the moment.

2. Sing or listen to music, your favorite music, even holiday music, no matter what anyone else thinks or the time of year. I have a friend that loves Christmas carols and plays them in his car during his commute with the air conditioner on full blast after a particularly stressful day at work. During especially difficult times in his life, he even makes a fire in the fireplace at home and recreates the holiday mood. Sounds funny, but think about it...

3. Take your shoes off for a moment and wiggle your toes. Wiggling your toes can be like a breath of fresh air, well not for those around you... It can take you back to your childhood and it also changes your posture.

According to the science of Reflexology -- which has been around in other cultures for thousands of years -- your feet are a kind of master control panel for the rest of your body. "Meridians" in the body -- which are those channels of energy treated by acupuncture -- end up in the feet. So the ends of those meridians in your feet connect with every organ and every part of your entire body. When you wiggle your toes, you are stimulating -- and thus relaxing -- your entire body. (Incidentally, this is a good place to mention that you can be energised and relaxed at the same time. It's a matter of the quality of that energy. If it flows freely and smoothly, you will be relaxed. If the energy flow in your body is restricted or blocked, you will be tense. Toe wiggling helps to bring about a relaxing, free-flowing energy.)

4. Really look at something alive. Study a caterpillar, watch a leaf blowing in the wind, or watch the expressions on a child’s face as they play or tackle their math homework. Connecting with something outside yourself, especially something with a life of its own\ will give you great perspective and draw you away from your own struggles for a restful moment and can turn into your next adventure.

5. Smile for no reason. Yes, you have probably heard that smiling releases endorphins and can influence your mood, but another reason to smile is …..When you smile people are more likely to smile back, except on the subway. My less than scientific reason is that it reminds you of other times that you have smiled or enjoyed someone else’s smile, and if your cheeks begin to hurt from the strain in just a few seconds, it may mean that you haven’t been doing nearly enough smiling lately and that there are other areas of life calling out to you, happier ones that you haven’t made time for or sought out lately.

You are never more brilliant, more beautiful, or stronger, than when you are fulfilling your own unique destiny. It is the only way to live honestly and the only true gift you can give the world. DeAnne Pearson

Friday, April 29, 2011

Gumbo Des Herbes - Gumbo Z'Herbs

Leah Chase and DeAnne Pearson at Leah’s restaurant, Dooky Chase.

Although there are many versions of this recipe, I feel that my friend, Leah Chase, owner of Dooky Chase Restaurant in New Orleans, has the best recipe in the world for this dish. Leah, the "Queen of Creole Cooking", serves this famous dish each Holy Thursday at her restaurant on Orleans Avenue in downtown New Orleans. She also serves it at home on Christmas Eve. She was so tickled that both my birthday and my son's birthday fall on that day and gave a hearty laugh as she went into great detail sharing her own recipe with me 2 years ago. She said, "Baptize with water if necessary to increase volume," as people trickle in or you have unexpected guests on Christmas Eve. Leah is the inspiration for Disney's The Princess and the Frog, a James Beard Award Winner for philanthropy, an inspiration to her community that was devastated during hurricane Katrina, and an inspiration to me, personally. I hope you enjoy the Gumbo!

You may use any number of fresh greens, but here are some typical choices.

SERVES: 8 to 10

1 bunch mustard greens
1 bunch collard greens
1 bunch turnips
1 bunch watercress
1 bunch beet tops
1 bunch carrot tops
1/2 head lettuce
1/2 head cabbage
1 bunch spinach
3 cups onions, diced
1/2 cup garlic, chopped
1 1/2 gallons water
5 TBS flour
5 TBS Oil
1 pound smoked Boudin sausage , cooked and sliced.
1 tsp thyme leaves
salt and cayenne pepper to taste
1 tbsp filé powder

Clean all greens under cold running water, making sure to pick out bad leaves. Rinse away any soil or grit. The greens should be washed 2 to 3 times. Make Roux with Oil and Flour. Chop greens coarsely and place in 12-quart pot along with onions, garlic and water. Bring mixture to a rolling boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Slice sausage into 1-inch pieces and place into the 12-quart pot. Add remaining ingredients and simmer another 30 minutes or until the greens are tender.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"So much more could be settled if we stayed away from the board rooms, the courtrooms and the war rooms and met in the dining room around the table, over a bowl of soup. Now, I am not saying it has to be a bowl of gumbo, but....."

Leah Chase owner of Dooky Chase in New Orleans, James Beard Award winner and inspiration for Tiana in Disney's "The Princess and the Frog"

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gluten Free Sweet Potato Soup

Servings: 4
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
• 1 tablespoon coconut flour
• 1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
• 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
• 1 1/2 cups cooked cubed sweet potatoes
• 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (or fresh, to taste)
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1 cup milk*
• salt and pepper, to taste

In a heavy saucepan, over medium-low heat, cook the coconut flour and virgin coconut oil, stirring constantly until the roux turns a light caramel color. Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil, and then lower to a simmer. Stir in the sweet potatoes and spices. Bring to a simmer again and cook for 5 minutes more.

In a blender, puree the soup in batches (or all at once if blend pitcher is big enough) and return to saucepan (or use a hand blender). Add the milk and gently reheat the soup. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

* You could use rice, almond, or coconut milk to make soup dairy-free. For coconut milk make homemade coconut milk or use 1 teaspoon of coconut cream concentrate for every 6-8 oz of water for coconut cream milk. Mix together and use as directed.

Recipe submitted by Sherri, Avon, IN

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What would be possible if you let go of the outcome? Often, we seem to believe that we are in control of people, circumstances, and even time. Very seldom is there really any control in our hands when it comes to the outcomes of our lives. When I feel really frustrated, really frenetic and stressed, I am often operating from that place inside me that says that I am in control of all I survey. I am choking the outcome. However, that is so untrue and limiting to what could be. As Byron Katie states, “There are three kinds of business, my business, your business, and God’s business”. My business consists of the essence of me, actions I take, or do not take, my thoughts, my feelings. Your business is the essence of who you are, your actions, your thoughts, your feelings. God’s business could be hurricanes, harvests, life, and beauty of nature…….
Recently, I had a group project due which I was quite nervous about. I had a clear vision of the goals to be accomplished, the 2-3 hours it would take, the actions that would be included, and how gloriously it would turn out if we got it together with hard work and time invested. I was partnered with someone I didn’t know and right away, we had trouble coordinating our schedules. I was concerned. Finally, we struggled to get a phone meeting set up for Monday morning, the morning the project was due. My concern grew into worry. So, I set aside most of that day to work on the project. I was distracted by the project all weekend. Monday morning rolls around.

Time for the meeting; I was really going to plow into this project. No call. I wait a few minutes; I try to call my partner. Busy. My blood pressure goes up! “What if this doesn’t get done? How will I look?” I wait there with white knuckles and finally, an instant message comes up on my computer, my partner will call in an hour. So, I file some papers; do some bills, really unable to concentrate fully.
The hour comes and goes- no call. I have a lunch with a friend that I have been looking forward to….I am frustrated, my pride is a bit hurt, my heart is pounding. Another half-hour goes by, and my partner called, very apologetic with an explanation and a request to work through lunch. So I text my friend my regrets about lunch and choke down a cold sandwich…. No call. It is due at 2:30….It is wall past noon. I took out my paints and a small canvas I had picked up on sale. I squirted directly on the canvas, opposing color, green, purple, black…..Then, something happened. As I brushed through the paint, I started to see something…a flower… iris.. One of my favorite flowers and favorite subjects to paint, but I haven’t had time to paint because my hours have been filled with getting those business outcomes that I wanted.

Yet, here it was-a purple iris. I liked it. Actually, I loved it. I created it. I learned that we can have a vision for how we want to be, set goals to reach that vision, take action, but really the outcomes are out of our control and sometimes more beautiful than what we originally imagined.
Oh, I forgot. For those of you who are curious about the project. My partner and I finally connected with each other an hour before the project was due. After sharing a about six sentences with each other regarding the project, we wrapped up the kernel of our project in about three words, each of us quickly getting to the crux of the task.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Crystal Glasses

Recently, I had my mom’s Renewal Group over and we ended up having fruit salad from beautiful crystal glasses. I had gotten the glasses back home from a couple who had been married for 40+ years. The wife told me the story that she had to “get rid of them because she was afraid to use them….afraid she would break one. “ I told her about the Renewal Group that meets at my house and that how it would make the evening feel special. She smiled and was very pleased that I would be putting them to use.
So, after a warm bowl of soup and tackling the 2nd chapter in the book we are working through, it was so nice to sit around the table with these delicate crystal glasses filled with fresh fruit and vanilla yogurt. This morning, as I was making room for my new crystal treasures in my cabinet over the drain board, I realized that the set of glasses had only one missing member. There were 15 instead of 16 total. How interesting to me was the fact that this dear woman had put away her wedding crystal having just lost on one glass its members.
To me it was a testament to how we can be so hard on ourselves regarding the little things that don’t turn out as planned, that we can completely shut the door to what remains. In this case, the door was shut to using these beautiful glasses for Sunday dinners, graduations, anniversaries or just any time. It just wasn’t worth the risk. These crystal glasses stayed packed away in a box until finally they ended up in the “garage sale stack”.
So for me, I will be using the glasses. My plan is to set my table the night before school starts with my wedding china and my new crystal, even if a plate might be chipped. Because each moment I am truly present with those I love is a special occasion and worth the risk. Are you truly present in your life or living a story, filling your life or fulfilling it? Be forgiving of yourself and take a risk…..