Tag: Thanksgiving

Be Somebody’s Mary: The Kindness of a Stranger

We’re in a time of tension, emotions, and division in our country in a way that I’ve not yet experienced in my lifetime. In the midst of this time of uncertainty, it can be easy to fall into the mode of complaining and noticing what isn’t working, what we don’t like, why we’re angry.

All of this negativity makes it easy for us to lose sight of all the goodness in our lives. Yet, kindness continues to abound.

We just have to notice it.

What we focus on expands. If we want to be happier, we have to reflect on the things that bring us joy. If we want to be more selfless, we have to practice gratitude and appreciation regularly.

If we want there to be more kindness in the world, we should be the first ones looking for ways to put it there.

Videos like this one and this one, showing incredible acts of kindness are going viral on social media, a clear indication that we are hungry for hope that the world is still good and that people are still kind.

An act of kindness from a stranger prompted Daniel Lubetsky, the founder of KIND Snacks, to give his company its name. I’ll never forget hearing the story of how their name came to be. If you’re not familiar with it, check out this video. It’ll make you think differently every time you see a KIND bar. It’ll make you want to be kind.

(Oh, and if you’re not already following me on instagram, head on over and “like” my page because I’ll be doing a giveaway there from 11/21 through 11/23.)

The story I want to share today is about something that happened in my life that showed me just how kind and gracious people can be. I hope it uplifts you today.

I was en route to Madison, Wisconsin to go on a retreat with my nutritionist, who has been instrumental in my healing journey. We were on separate flights but due to arrive in Madison within minutes of each other.

The weather in Baltimore was stormy that night, and as I was boarding my connecting flight in Atlanta, she called me to tell me she missed her connection flight and wouldn’t make it to Madison until the following morning. I’d be on my own with transportation and the hotel room. When all was said and done, it was going to cost me upwards of $300 for the drive to and stay in the hotel for what would ultimately be less than eight hours. I couldn’t justify the expense, so I told her to cancel the reservation. “I’ll figure something out,” I assured her.

As I sat on the plane, racing against the clock and the “Please turn off your cell phones” announcement, I frantically searched for a reservation on AirBNB. But my cell phone battery was dying, and my charger was in my luggage overhead with nowhere to charge it. The AirBNB search wouldn’t go through due to a weak signal, so as my flight took off out of Atlanta, I headed to Madison unsure of where I would stay that night.

Once we landed at around 9:30 p.m. and were waiting to deplane, I turned my cell phone back on and saw that the battery was a 1%.  Oh, no. Not now. Please, not now.

I looked toward the back of the plane, searching for a friend I’d made in line in Baltimore. She was a fellow healthy foodie and had just returned from several months of backpacking in Europe. “Maybe I could find a way to stay with her,” I thought. But she was nowhere to be found. I was talking through my concerns with the guy sitting next to me on the plane, but he couldn’t be bothered and didn’t seem to care, so I was left feeling a bit alone and helpless.

“What am I going to do?” I thought.

As everyone was getting out of their seats and pulling down their luggage, a gentleman from a row back who had heard me talking about my situation asked if I’d figured out my lodging.

I couldn’t hold it back at that point and despite my best efforts, tears started slowly streaming down my face. “My phone is dead. I don’t know anyone in Madison. I don’t have a place to stay.”

He reached down to a woman sitting nearby and asked her for a tissue.

As she reached into her purse to hand me a tissue, she gently put her hand on my arm and said, “I have a spare bedroom, if you’d like to stay at my house tonight.”

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“Are you sure?” I asked, as I turned to face her, wiping the tears from my eyes. I tried to give her an out, not feeling confident that a complete stranger would want to help me: “But I have to be in downtown Madison early tomorrow morning.”

“It’s not a problem,” she assured me. “I’ll just drop you off before work.”

So, off I went to stay with a total stranger for the night, still feeling guilty for burdening her with my request.

We chatted the entire drive home. She told me about her husband, how they met and her love of traveling. As we pulled into her garage, I thanked her again for being so kind to me, and apologized for the inconvenience. She reassured me I wasn’t a burden and said she has a daughter close to my age and hoped that if she were in a similar situation, someone would do the same for her.

Mary’s cute little dog, Rosie, and her husband, John, came out to greet us. She informed her husband that they were going to have a visitor that night and then greeted him with a hug and kiss, “Happy Anniversary,” she said.

Oh geez, Rachel. Really? On their anniversary?

They assured me my presence was not a problem, and John greeted me warmly and invited me into their home. They offered me a drink, set me up in their guest bedroom, and had hot tea waiting for me in the morning.

Mary drove me to the retreat, as she mentally prepared herself for the conversation she was going to have at work that morning. It would be her first time telling an employee that he was being let go. She could have used more time and head space to focus on that, but instead, she went out of her way to take me to where I needed to go.

She dropped me off at the hotel, and in the midst of what was an incredibly windy day, stepped out of the car to take a picture with me. “Thank you for everything. I don’t know what I would have done without your help,” I told her.

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Me and my new friend, Mary

We’ve since stayed in touch via social media, and I will be forever grateful to her for her generosity and thoughtfulness that night and for her willingness to help a total stranger in need and show kindness to a fellow human being.

So, as we approach this week of thanksgiving, I invite you to pay attention.

Pay attention to kindness.

Share those posts. Share those videos. Share those stories.

And pay attention to people. Listen to what they’re saying and what they’re not saying. Notice what they might need. Where are you being pulled? What is your gut telling you?

Do they need a smile, a laugh, some money, food, a blanket, a kind word or maybe a hug? Be open to how you might be called to be a light to someone else, someone you might never expect.

In this season of thanksgiving and kindness, be somebody’s Mary.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad with Walnuts

Isn’t fall food the best?

What’s not to like?

Soups, stews, chilis, squash, apples, Thanksgiving, and

Brussels sprouts!brussels-salad-closeup

I’ve always liked certain vegetables that other kids didn’t like, including Brussels sprouts, but I think the Parmesan cheese shower I coated them with as a kid helped hide the taste. I think I liked the taste of the cheese…not so much the bitter taste of the overcooked Brussels sprouts.

Brussels sprouts get a bad rap because most of us have only ever eaten them steamed or boiled to death, which releases all of the not so pleasant smells most of us associate with Brussels sprouts.

BUT it doesn’t have to be that way? Brussels sprouts don’t have to be awful.

They can be incredibly delicious, especially when roasted, sautéed, or prepared raw, which is what we’re doing for today’s recipe. I first served this dish at a Healing Foods cooking class I taught in Baltimore recently, and it was a hit.

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It gave me an excuse to use the food processor, which I demo’d on a Facebook live video. Using a food processor is SO MUCH FASTER and more efficient than chopping things like Brussels sprouts by hand.

The brand I recommend and have had the most success with is Cuisinart. I have an 11-cup style and a 14-cup style, and the 11-cup is sufficient for most things I do on a daily basis. You can find the best deals on their food processors on Amazon.

Brussels sprouts are in the cruciferous veggie family, which includes all-stars like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, arugula, collard greens and kale.

The compounds in Brussels sprouts help activate cancer-fighting enzyme systems in your body and support detoxification (cleaning out the gunk). Upping your intake of these mini cabbages can also help reduce inflammation and your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.

If you’ve always been a Brussels sprouts hater or skeptic, I encourage you to give this recipe a try. Serve it up to family and friends – I bet they’ll never know they’re eating Brussels sprouts!

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Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad with Walnuts

Ingredients

1 pound Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed
1/4 cup lemon juice (about 1.5 lemons)
Zest from 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp 100% pure maple syrup
1 clove garlic, peeled and grated or finely minced
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped
1/4 cup naturally sweetened cranberries (optional)

Directions
1. Working in small batches, place brussels sprouts in feed tube of processor fitted with shredding blade. Pour shredded Brussels sprouts into large bowl.

2. Whisk dressing ingredients (lemon juice through black pepper) together starting with the lemon juice, streaming in the olive oil last. Toss with brussels sprouts to coat evenly. Add more dressing if needed. To soften Brussels sprouts, refrigerate salad at least 30 minutes.

3. Top with walnuts and dried cranberries.

This salad will hold up well for a few days in the fridge 🙂

Do you have any favorite Brussels sprouts recipes? Feel free to share them below!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares {Paleo, Vegan}

As we’ve been gearing up for Thanksgiving and experimenting with different dishes, I’ve been trying some new desserts.

Inspired by the textures of Meghan Telpner’s Rawmazing Key Lime Pie, I thought I’d infuse the flavors of fall into a melt-in-your-mouth, coat-your-tongue, creamy, no-bake cheesecake.

And I wanted an excuse to use pumpkin.

Pumpkin

Because I love pumpkin.

All things pumpkin.

Especially when it’s mixed with sweet maple syrup, creamy cashews, and warming cinnamon and ginger.

It’s my new go-to for a Thanksgiving dessert.

Cheesecake StackPSquare Closeup

Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares.

I’m going to keep it short and sweet here today because this recipe is that good, but all you need to know is it’s easy to make, doesn’t require baking, and is so addictive you’ll want to eat multiple squares at a time.

The creaminess comes from the raw cashews (don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it), and the slight hint of tartness we’d usually get from cheese comes from a spoonful of lemon juice.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Ingredients

Base

  • 1 cup raw pecans
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts
  • 1 cup Medjool dates, pitted (make sure they’re soft)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch fine grain sea salt

Filling

  • 2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water 2-4 hours then drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Put all the crust ingredients into a food processor, and process until the ingredients stick together. Stop and scrape down the sides as needed. Press the crust mixture into the bottom of a square baking dish.
  2. Put all filling ingredients in your blender or food processor (high-speed blenders like a Vitamix or Blendtec work best) and blend until smooth and creamy. You may have to stop to scrape down the sides. I had to use the tamper for my Vitamix to get it to be smooth and creamy.
  3. Pour the filling evenly over the base and smooth with a spatula. Cover the dish and place it in the freezer to set for 4-6 hours.
  4. Let the dish sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes and then cut into squares. I sprinkled a thin layer of cinnamon on top before serving.

Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Mash {Plus How to Break Apart Cauliflower…Easily!}

I love putting healthier spins on recipes that we think we “can’t have” when we’re eating healthy.

One of my goals is to help you make healthier, more empowered choices around food so you can look and feel your best and have all the energy to do the things you want to do in your life…without feeling deprived!

Today we’re going to focus on one of most people’s all-time favorite foods…mashed potatoes.

Except we won’t be using potatoes. We’ll be using another seasonal vegetable instead…cauliflower!

Trust me on this one. I was skeptical at first, too, but we served this at my mom’s birthday dinner, and everyone gobbled it up!

After trying this dish, you may find that you prefer it over traditional mashed potatoes, which tend to spike our blood sugar and don’t contain all of the nutrients and cancer-fighting power we can find in cauliflower.

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First, a few words about the amazing health benefits we can find in cauliflower. I like knowing “why” something is good for me…not just whether or not it is!

Cauliflower’s green friend, broccoli, tends to get way more hype, but cauliflower is a potent cancer-fighter, too, and a fellow cruciferous vegetable.

Here are a few reasons why you may want to add more cauliflower into your life!

  1. It’s a GBOMBS food. Read more about anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory GBOMBS here.
  2. It contains sulforaphane, a compound that kills cancer stem cells, thereby slowing tumor growth. It also greatly improves blood pressure and kidney function AND promotes digestive health.
  3. It fights inflammation. Inflammation is at the root of why we are sick and can’t seem to get rid of stubborn weight. Reduce inflammation, and you’ll be much more likely to resist disease and release weight.
  4. It’s loaded with disease-fighting and health-boosting vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals (think FIGHT-o-chemicals J)
  5. It helps us detoxify. In addition to inflammation, toxicity causes us to get sick and keep packing on the pounds. The more we help our bodies detox, the better off we’ll be.

If you’ve never bought a whole head of cauliflower before, it can be kind of tricky to break apart, so I’ve added a video that shows you how to make that process super easy!

Here’s a link to order the towels I mentioned in the video. I learned about them by reading Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Chef, and we love them because they make fantastic dish towels!

Convinced yet? If you like mashed potatoes, you will love the recipe below! It’s a healthier alternative to traditional mashed potatoes because of all of cauliflower’s awesome health benefits above and because it won’t drive up blood sugar the same way a white potato will.

Looks just like mashed potatoes...right?

Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Mashed “Potatoes”

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets, stems and leaves removed
  • 1 head garlic, roasted (click here for how to roast garlic) 
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, ghee or grass-fed butter (if you can tolerate a little dairy)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme (prefered) or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon yellow corn meal (prevents it from being watery)
  • 1-2 tablespoons almond milk, unsweetened

Directions

  1. Put the cauliflower in a steamer basket over 1-2 inches of water in a pot. Bring water to a boil and steam the cauliflower until it softens (about 12-15 minutes). You should be able to stick a fork through it easily.
  2. Put the cauliflower in a food processor and add the garlic, ghee/butter or oil, black pepper, sea salt, thyme, and cornmeal.
  3. Pulse to achieve desired consistency (chunky vs. smooth). If you’re using almond milk, add it 1 tablespoon at a time.
  4. Adjust seasonings based on your taste preferences. Enjoy!

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