Category: Inspired Page 3 of 6

Eat to Live, Baltimore! Free, Fresh Food & Hope for Our City

Baltimore is my home.

I was born and raised here. I went to school here. I made my first friends here.

I had my first informal cooking lessons with our neighbor Miss Muriel across the street from the house where I grew up.

I remember going on school field trips to the Walter’s Art Gallery, the National Aquarium, the Baltimore Zoo, and Fort McHenry.

Some of my favorite summertime memories center around O’s games at Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards with my family, walking to the local snowball stand, and spending hours splashing around at Swan Lake Swim Club in Northeast Baltimore.

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I realize this positive perception of my hometown isn’t shared by everyone.

In the midst of the negative media attention our city often receives, I have a message of hope to offer.

Positive things are happening here, too. They may not be getting the same press attention, but they are worth talking about.

They need to be talked about.

As I was sitting in church Sunday morning, reflecting on what I experienced at a remarkable event in the city on Saturday, lyrics from one of the songs we sang resonated with me more than usual:

For greater things have yet to come,

And greater things are still to be done in this city.

I felt so strongly that the message was about Baltimore. Just one day prior, I had gotten a glimpse of one of those “great things.”

Tessemae’s, a local company known for their ingredient integrity and commitment to creating the best-tasting, natural, condiments and salad dressings, partnered with other organizations to put on a Crop Circle in Baltimore at New Hope Academy.

The goal?

Provide free produce to the community through a pop-up farmer’s market.

Tessemae’s partnered with a California-based company, Renaissance Food Group, which donated over 30,000 pounds of fresh food to be given away at no cost.

Since one out of four Baltimore City residents live in food deserts, without access to fresh fruit and vegetables, the Crop Circle was an opportunity to remove that barrier.

Volunteers arrived at 4 a.m. to set up the pop-up farmer’s market and would remain for nearly 12 hours, helping to distribute the food to local residents.

Dozens of companies, including radio stations and non-profits, provided samples, education, and information.

One of the vendors, Great Kids Farm, puts produce in city school salad bars and sends kids on field trips to the farm to learn about farming and gardening and to taste fresh food.

I met Ryan Brant, who started his own non-profit, Positive Strides, after his personal journey as an injured athlete, including four knee surgeries and a back surgery, all before the age of 25.

His noble mission is “to provide guidance and financial assistance to athletes who have suffered catastrophic or life changing sports-related injuries.” Positive Strides focuses on nutrition, too, because they know that what we eat impacts injury prevention and recovery as well.

Chef Egg, a fellow culinary educator and presenter, used the fresh produce to teach everyone how to make a minestrone soup, apple salad, and fruit smoothies.

We both agree on the importance of at least trying food before dismissing it, something I appreciate as a formerly picky eater turned foodie, and to avoid making comments about food we don’t like that others do like.

Chef Egg said, “Don’t ‘yuck’ my yum! If I like it, you don’t have to knock it.”

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I met Joyce, who arrived at 7:00 that morning with her daughter and sister to help people in line who were wheelchair bound, so they could be moved to the front of the line.

She told me how she and her husband volunteered at a similar event a few years ago on their anniversary from 4:00 in the morning until 6:00 in the evening.

She told me how a local rec football team was on its way to the Crop Circle to volunteer as a team before heading to their football game that afternoon.

She told me about the coat drive her church was organizing for a local school.

Greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done here.

Congressman Elijah Cummings took the stand to share his thoughts, journey, and message of hope. He advocated for figuring out how to get more grocery stores that sell healthy food at reasonable prices into the city.

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He told this inspiring story about his own health journey:

About two and a half years ago, I made a decision about having to go through taking 5-6 pills a day for high blood pressure. I said, ‘There’s gotta be a better way.’

And so I decided that I was going to change my eating habits. I cut out sugar. I cut out all the buns that I used to get. I used to go in there to Dunkin Donuts and get three donuts. ‘C’mon don’t act like ya’ll don’t know what I’m talking about.’ And then, to top it all off, I got a Diet Pepsi!

…But then what I decided to do is I wanted to lose this weight.

So, I started concentrating on vegetables and fruit and trying to eat right, always having a tossed salad at lunchtime. [… ] And over the course of two years, I’ve lost 65 pounds. And let me tell you something – I feel so much better, and now I don’t have to take all them pills […]

But, I did not come here to ask you to do this. I have come here to beg you.

We have to address what we eat, and we must eat to live, not live to eat.

And that’s so important because in our communities, we have higher rates of heart disease, sugar diabetes, cancer. As a matter of fact, one of the things Johns Hopkins discovered is that, for those who live in food deserts, life expectancy is something like 20 years less, which means people are dying before their time and they’re suffering needlessly.

So, my only wish for you at this Thanksgiving is when you sit down to eat, remember, we are eating to live.

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I wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving, filled with gratitude, joy, laughter, and delicious, nourishing food. I’m grateful for your support for the work that I do and look forward to seeing what 2016 has in store!

If you’re looking for some recipe ideas for your Thanksgiving spread, check out the links below for some of my favorites:

Our First Baltimore Cookbook Club: The Power of True Community

What does a life lived in radical community look like?

Is community really worth the effort?

I knew I was in for exactly what I needed to hear at the start of Sunday’s service as our friend and pastor, Ryan, asked us to reflect on the answers to those questions and a few other truths about what it means to be in community.

As a culture, we’re moving away from true community.

The internet has fundamentally changed the way we communicate and connect with each other and altered our expectations about what to expect from community. Long-term commitments of any kind (jobs, houses, relationships) are no longer the norm.

We avoid community for a number of reasons. People require energy and effort, which can make true community feel like a burden. Because we know things ABOUT each other but don’t really KNOW each other, we fill in the gaps with assumptions and are more easily offended than ever before.

The hard truth is that it’s exposing to have people REALLY know us.

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So, we’re left asking ourselves: Is community really worth the effort?

The short answer is,”YES“.

As I’ve shared when I first wrote about community almost two years ago, sacrificially giving my time to be with and invest in others is not something that comes naturally to me.

We are all wired to be communal and crave connection, but when you’ve been burned by community in the past, it can be intimidating to put yourself out there again. When we do, we risk being examined, judged, and rejected.

But the greater risk is that we deprive other people of our presence and the gifts and talents we have to offer. 

There’s power in investing deeply in people and in having people invest in us. Sometimes we can feel like we are burdening other people. But guess what?

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When I get stuck in my own thoughts (which happens a lot) and overwhelm myself thinking about all that I could or “should” be doing, I tend to retreat and “check out” socially. I find every reason possible to avoid things like social events that pull me away from a self-centered pursuit or an opportunity to do something I want to do.

That’s why last Sunday night was particularly special.

It marked the start of a community-building opportunity that combines a few of my favorite things: cooking and eating nourishing, delicious food with like-minded people who value living a healthy, purposeful, vibrant life in the context of a supportive community:

Our first cookbook club.

My friend and fellow foodie and health coach, Katie Hussong, and I came upon the idea after seeing a post that went viral on Facebook about Why Cookbook Clubs Should Be the New Way We Entertain.

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Both of us are Culinary Nutrition Experts through the Academy of Culinary Nutrition’s program, so we have a mutual love for creating and savoring nourishing, healing food.

After a series of text messages agreeing we should “do this thing,” we organized our first ever cookbook club, bringing together friends from DC to Philly for a Sunday evening in Baltimore to share dishes from our mentor and culinary nutrition coach, Meghan Telpner.

Meghan recently published her first full cookbook, The Undiet Cookbook, and we used that as the source for our recipes. Everything was nourishing, delicious, made with love and dairy-free and gluten-free.

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We brought together fellow health coaches, culinary nutrition experts, and nurses, as well as friends from college, church and our neighborhoods.

Each of us prepared a delicious dish to share and gathered around the community table to savor the meal and get to know each other.

Green Mojito Smoothies and Jamu Juice Shots to kick off the night.

Zucchini Hummus, Balsamic Roasted Root Vegetables, Sweet Potato Grills with Cashew Ketchup, Wild Rice & Chickpea Salad, Thai Mango Salad, and Maple Balsamic Kale with Butternut Squash for dinner.

A decadent array of desserts, including Ginger Cookies, Wild Berry and Apple Crumble, Chocolate Raspberry Delights, and my contribution, the Rawmazing Key Lime Pie, to finish the evening.

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Everything was DELICIOUS! (If you want the recipe for the pie, click here!)

We even had the opportunity to Skype with Meghan, the chef and cookbook author herself!

We had each person introduce themselves and the dish they had made, which was one of the coolest moments of the evening.

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Me & Katie Skyping with Meghan!

Our bodies and souls were nourished by the food and our time together.

We could let down our guard and just be ourselves.

We ate. We talked. We laughed.

And through it all, we connected.

We were in true community.

This is how we were meant to live!

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So, what is holding you back from community?

Who misses out if you don’t show up, if you’re not present and willing to share your gifts and talents?

What makes you feel truly known?

If you’re interested in connecting with community like this, fill out your contact information here, and I’ll put you on our list 🙂

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If want to connect with others and serve Baltimore this upcoming weekend, join me at the Baltimore Crop Circle with Tessemae’s at 900 Druid Hill Avenue in Baltimore from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm on Saturday, November 21st. We will be giving away over 30,000 pounds of FREE fresh produce to the community!

The UnDiet Cookbook Review {Plus a Yummy Stuffed Sweet Potato Recipe!}

This is so much more than a cookbook.

It’s an inspiring, encouraging, confidence-boosting guide to life that happens to include over 130 awesomely delicious and nourishing recipes.

Whether you’re gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, paleo, or just trying to live a fuller, more vibrant and balanced life, you need The UnDiet Cookbook in your life!

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I had the privilege of learning from the author – nutritionist and best-selling author, Meghan Telpner – as a student in her Academy of Culinary Nutrition training last fall. As founder of the Academy of Culinary Nutrition and author of the bestselling UnDiet: Eat You Way to Vibrant Health and The UnDiet Cookbook, Meghan has committed her life to creating a revolution in health and well-being.

She does it in a way that is non-judgmental, kind, fun and inviting.

Meghan knows that being approachable and FUN is the key to engaging people, especially when it comes to something as sacred as what we eat and how we live.

So often when people are on diets, they settle for subpar food and a life marked by deprivation. They focus on what they “can’t” eat instead of channeling all of that energy toward what will nourish, satisfy and fill them up physically and emotionally.

Meghan is out to change that:

“UnDiet is here to free us from the chains we attach to all of those old, harmful, self-defeating, unhelpful rules we think we need to follow. They only make us miserable [
] UnDiet is breaking free from the rules we think we’re meant to follow, and doing what is the very best for our individual health.”

Yes! Yes! Yes!

I totally agree.

She inspires anyone reading to take a build-you-up, positive, encouraging approach to what to eat through killer recipes that not only taste good but make our body feel amazing.

And she has a way of building and promoting community. In fact, I partnered with a fellow Culinary Nutrition alum and friend, Katie Hussong, to host our first UnDiet Cookbook Club, where each attendee made a recipe from Meghan’s cookbook or blog. It was SO fun!

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As someone who doesn’t follow one prescribed diet, I’m drawn to Meghan’s “UnDiet” approach. I follow the same philosophy because I’ve found in my own life that there is not one way of eating that everyone in the entire world “should” follow.

We agree that the bulk of what we eat should be plant-based (AKA “plantiful”), but there is room for flexibility, depending on what makes your body feel best and thrive.

One of the things I love about this book is that the UnDiet recipes are free from dairy and gluten (just like every recipe on this blog!), which means all of you can enjoy them.

Though knowledgeable about every diet out there, Meghan prefers to UNdiet, calling herself a “Meghanatarian.” She encourages us to make our choices with “awareness and knowing, doing what feels right for you, your body, your values, your environment, your budget.”

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It’s about pausing long enough to tap into our body’s own intuitive wisdom that tells us what makes us feel awesome and what brings us down.

Through her journey with Crohn’s Disease, Meghan has experienced the healing and restorative power of the UnDiet lifestyle first-hand and is inspired to share what she has learned with the world.

Her intention is that her readers will “get it” and understand for themselves. That way she doesn’t have to say eat this, don’t eat that. She does her best to provide the information with the what’s the why’s the how’s in place, and lets them decide what they’re ready to pick up and run with.

Isn’t that refreshing?

I’ve made over a dozen recipes from the cookbook and have loved every single one.

From Undiet Coffee, Chocolate Chocolate Pancakes, and Banana Berry Oatmazing Muffins to the Vegalicious Quiche, Sacred Scramble, Balsamic Roasted Vegetables, Gracious Glow Soup, Maple Balsamic Tempeh, Baked Apples, Crispy Rice Squares and Rawmazing Key Lime Pie, every recipe we’ve tried has been a hit!

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Meghan’s endearing quirkiness and sense of humor comes through in recipe titles like, “Sunday Night Quickie Chocolate Chip Cookies,” Let’s Stay Together Crackers,” and “Breakfast Patty Whacks”…a few recipes I’ve yet to try but am excited to tackle.

She doesn’t take herself too seriously and consistently communicates the message we shouldn’t either. In the very beginning of the book, she shares her creed, which includes advice like:

“Flirt with farmers.”

“Dance like a four year-old.”

“Make love in the kitchen.”

And, last but not least:

“Today is the day. Make it ridiculously awesometown.”

The UnDiet Cookbook will give you confidence that everyone (yes, even you!) can cook and that it is possible to eat well, be well and live a vibrant life without ever feeling deprived. This is the way we were meant to live.

It wouldn’t be fair to end this love note without sharing one of my favorite recipes from The UnDiet Cookbook.

I’ve made it several times already and like to change up the beans and greens. One time I used cannellini beans and spinach and another time I used black beans and kale. I love versatile recipes like this because they give me a chance to use what I have on hand.

And the ingredient list couldn’t get any simpler.

Introducing, “Dressed to the Nines Sweet Potato.”

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Dressed to the Nines Sweet Potato

Nut-free
Soy-Free (option)
Grain-free
Protein Powered (option)

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 45–60 minutes
Serves 4

4 organic sweet potatoes
2 Tbsp avocado oil, coconut oil or organic ghee
1/2 red onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (14-oz) can organic beans of choice, drained and rinsed*
6 cups greens, trimmed and sliced into ribbons
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon Make-Your-Own Sambal (page 206 in The UnDiet Cookbook), red pepper flakes, or your favorite hot sauce
Sea salt

Optional Add-ons

  • Hemp seeds (protein bonus)
  • Toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • Fresh sprouts
  • Tempeh bits (prepared as with TLT Deluxe Sandwich, page 83 in The UnDiet Cookbook)
  • Tahini Dressing (page 194 in The UnDiet Cookbook)

* Make it Protein-Powered!

Swap the beans for 1 lb pastured, organic protein of choice such as ground beef, chicken, or turkey. Cook the meat just until browned and then use in place of the beans.

Make It Like So

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Scrub the sweet potatoes and prick them in a few places with a fork (this gives them room to breathe as they bake). Place them on a baking sheet and bake until soft all the way through, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  3. While the sweet potatoes are baking, heat the olive oil in a medium pan and add the onion and garlic. Cook until soft. Add the beans and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in your greens (the heat will wilt them). Add your lemon juice, sambal, and sea salt to taste.
  5. Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven. To serve, slice each sweet potato through the middle and top with beans + greens mix and your optional add-ons.

Excerpted from The UnDiet Cookbook: 130 Gluten-Free Recipes for a Healthy and Awesome Life by Meghan Telpner. Copyright © 2015 Meghan Telpner. Photography Copyright © 2015 Maya Visnyei and Catherine Farquharson. Published by Appetite by Random House, a division of Random House of Canada Ltd., a Penguin Random House Company. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Warm & Cozy Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal {Gluten-Free}

Sometimes we read books that transform us and the way we think, and once we’ve read them, we’re never the same.

That’s how I feel about a book I recently finished reading, The Slow Down Diet by Marc David.

I’m putting together a separate post about the key takeaways from the book, but as a sneak peek, one of them is to SLOW DOWN and listen to your body.

Sure, it’s not a mind-blowing revelation, and it’s something most of us have been told before, but I’m finally at a point in my life where I’m open enough to hear it.

The other day, after I woke up, I drank a tall glass of water, sipped my cinnamon tea, set up my oil diffuser (like a candle but better!), and did a video session of Yoga with Adriene.

I’m going through her 30 Days of Yoga series and am LOVING it!

It helps me stay focused and grounded first thing in the morning and brings more oxygen into my mind and body for clearer thinking and a boost to digestion.

After my yoga session, I was ready for breakfast and headed into the kitchen.

I’ve started being more intuitive about what I eat. Instead of just gulping down a smoothie on my way out the door, rushing to get to whatever is waiting for me for that day, I’ve been taking more time with eating. I’ve been pausing before making decisions about what to eat and paying attention to what my “gut” is telling me.

So, instead of robotically slamming a smoothie every day (typical time to belly = 60-90 seconds), I’ve gone back to basics and have been enjoying some of my favorite breakfast foods, foods I can chew.

Foods that are warm. Foods that are packed with flavor and texture.

PS Oatmeal

The first image that popped into my mind as I was standing at the door of the fridge that morning was a warm and cozy bowl of oatmeal, perfect for the cooler weather we’ve been having.

For me, oatmeal is one of the best comfort foods for fall, especially when it’s full of flavors like cinnamon, ginger, clove, and maple.

My favorite oats to use are Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-free Oats. Almost every grocery store sells them. I even got to meet Bob Moore himself at the Natural Products Expo last month.

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It was super cool!

I’ll be sharing a recipe for Banana Nut Oatmeal in November, but in the meantime, give this pumpkin spice version a try and let me know what you think!

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Servings: 3-4

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 1 cup gluten-free rolled oats (old-fashioned, not quick cooking)
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seed (flax meal)
  • 2 tablespoons 100% pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pecans, lightly toasted
  • Optional: scoop of unflavored protein powder (I like Vital Proteins collagen peptides)

Directions

  1. Bring water, salt, and oats to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir for 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in pumpkin puree, almond butter, vanilla and protein powder and stir. Remove from heat and cover for 5 more minutes.
  3. Stir in ground flax meal and maple syrup.
  4. Pour into serving bowl and top with chopped pecans.

Stop Playing Small…Who Are You NOT to Be Great?

I was going to write an entire post dedicated to a recipe for a yummy chicken salad from one of my favorite blogs, Nourishing Meals.

The authors of that blog have also written a few of my favorite cookbooks, including Nourishing Meals and The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen.

Asian Chicken Salad

But because of all of the exciting events over the past week, I felt more inspired to reflect on and share a life lesson that has really transformed my life and what’s possible in it.

Earlier this year, I wrote about how Bill and I started the year by declaring how we wanted to FEEL (vs. a laundry list of all the things we wanted to ACCOMPLISH) in 2015. I narrowed down how I wanted to feel to five words and have intentionally taken action to do things that make me feel RADIANT, CLEAR, FLOWING, CONNECTED and WORTHY.

When I’m speaking, teaching, or presenting about a topic near and dear to me, I feel radiant, flowing and connected. Something in the deepest part of me unlocks and I radiate only goodness and positivity. I become the best version of myself.

I feel energized, inspired and ALIVE.

I lose track of time. I’m in a “flow” state, and everything seems effortless.

I’m joyful. I’m authentic.

I’m boldly and unapologetically me.

What a relief that is.

I haven’t always felt so CLEAR or so completely myself.

In March 2015, I was recognized by WELCOA as the #1 Health Promotion Professional in the Country, and won a trip to San Diego to attend their summit. I had the privilege of being able to share a few words with my peers during an acceptance speech and was stoked to do that.

As I was sitting at the conference listening to all of the awesome speakers, I thought to myself, “I want to do that one day.” 

I reflected on the time I spent in San Diego at the Wellness Council of America (WELCOA) Summit and the American Journal of Health Promotion Conference, and I wrote down a list of declarations on the last page of my journal.

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It’s been pretty mind-blowing to see how many of those intentions have become realities over the past 6 months.

On a warm, sunny day in late August, I received a call from Sara Rauch, the Director of Strategy and Planning for WELCOA. She invited me to be one of the speakers at the 2016 WELCOA National Summit in Orlando!

I was elated/joyful/on top of the world/stoked and couldn’t stop smiling. It was literally a dream come true.

Since then, a few of the other intentions I’d written down in April have come to be.

1) I’ve spoken at multiple SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) conferences.

I presented at the Maryland State conference in Ocean City in September, at Chapter meetings for the DCSHRM and Baltimore County SHRM, and most recently, at the Carroll County SHRM’s Annual Fall Conference. I’m slated to speak at the Montgomery County SHRM and possibly two other regional SHRM groups in 2016.CCSHRM2

2) Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to speak at a CEO group in Baltimore. The event was put on by the Hunt Valley Business Forum and was focused on Health and Wellness for the 21st Century Woman. I was one of the four panelists, each with different areas of expertise in the health and wellness field.

My friend and favorite group exercise instructor Jacob, who I’ve known for nearly a decade, invited me to be on the panel, and I felt SO alive and invigorated before, during and after the event. I met some amazing women who are doing great things in Baltimore and beyond.

hvbf flyer3) I’ve had the privilege of presenting at the Institute for Integrative Health multiple times.

I co-presented a Sweet Confessions event with Dr. Chris D’Adamo in July, taught a Yummy Snacks for Healthy, Happy Kids cooking class and workshop in September, and felt totally on fire and “in the zone” teaching this week’s workshop, “Going Gluten-Free without Going Crazy.”

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Have you ever walked away from a project and just felt like, “THAT is what I’m meant to do!”?

That’s exactly how I felt after Wednesday’s class. It was incredible!

We’re in the process of planning programs for next year, and I’ve been asked to speak at the Annual Health and Wellness Conference put on by the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine and hosted by the Institute for Integrative Health in April 2016. I’m pumped!

I share all of this with you not to brag or be arrogant but to prove that point that we have to BELIEVE things are possible in our lives and make room for them before they’re likely to happen.

If we NEVER think we’ll get that job, have a healthy and thriving relationship, run that half marathon, cook from scratch, get a raise, or be happy, then we probably won’t. If we believe deep down that something is impossible, then subconsciously, we’ll do things to sabotage anything that comes close to looking like what we actually want to happen in our lives.

We’ll end up shutting it down before it even has a chance to come into being.

In the spirit of transparency and being totally honest and open with you, I feel compelled to share that one of my deepest fears and insecurities is that people won’t like me, that I will be TOO successful and that, ultimately I will be alone.

I know it might sound crazy to hear me say that, but ALL of us, no matter how “successful” or accomplished we become, deal with those feelings in some way or another.

Because of that, I have to be hyper aware of that tendency, so I don’t sabotage myself or sell myself short. I love what Marianne Williamson has to say about that…

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That inspiration comes from her book, A Return to Love, and the complete passage reads like this:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

So, what about you?

What would your life look like if you were honest with yourself about what makes YOU radiate and bring light and joy into the world?

Each one of us has the power within us to be great.

So stop playing small. 

And start living the life you were meant to live!

31 Inspirations @ 31

Yesterday, I was blessed to celebrate yet another year on this earth, and what a year it’s been!!

So many incredible things have happened in my life that I would have never imagined a year ago.

I set an intention at the beginning of the year to feel these Radiant, Clarity, Flowing, Connected, and Worthy and I’ve been feeling all of them in BIG ways!

From the WELCOA award and San Diego trip to the birth of our niece and countless opportunities to speak to, present and teach at the local, regional and national level, I’ve felt radiant and have been “in the zone,” doing what I love.

I’ve met several inspiring and passionate people who are making a big difference in the field of health and well-being, including Dan Buettner, Dr. David Katz, Tom Rath and the Food Babe. Connecting to these people and others, like my CNE community, has been so energizing.

Everything that has happened this year has brought me closer to realizing that I’m “enough” or “worth it,” feelings I’ve struggled with my whole life.

I was reminded of this the night before my birthday when Bill surprised me with a garden in our backyard (and a cute little RNK Rachel’s Nourishing Kitchen sign!).

As someone who is known for killing plants and not being able to keep anything alive, I’m hopeful that having an actual garden will turn things around!

Inspired by my friend, Jessica, I now take off on my birthday and do exactly what I want to do, spending the day at my favorite place – Belvedere Square.

I worked out at the gym in the morning (awesome, high energy class with Angel!) and then grabbed a juice at Plantbar.

I ran into my friend Celeste and made a new friend, Monyka, who is another woman driven to do big, meaningful things in Baltimore.

I had lunch with Lola, who I’ve known for almost a decade but whose Nia classes I just started taking a few months ago. I LOVE Nia! The best way I can describe it is judgment-free joyful movement 🙂

She was kind enough to treat me to a yummy lunch and give me this flower as a gift!

In it was a note and one of her signature phrases:

“Do it with passion, or don’t do it at all!” 

Yes!

After lunch, I went to my favorite chocolate place – Pure Chocolate by Jinji – and got a little goodie bag of chocolate treats, including one of these black raspberry lemon thyme chocolates.

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One thing I noticed is that raspberries were everywhere.

They’ve always been my favorite fruit, so I felt particularly special to have them in everything from my salad to my tea to my chocolate 🙂

It’s so neat when fun things like that happen, isn’t it?

My sister-in-law, Layne, brought her two cutie pie kiddos to visit me a little while later (adorable!). We wandered around the market, a mesmerizing place to explore for a 2-year-old!

I spent the rest of the afternoon writing this post before Bill took me out to dinner at Great Sage.

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I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

I was energized and inspired by all of the people I physically spent time with and all of the texts, phone calls, emails and Facebook messages people took the time to send.

I felt so abundantly loved!

Last year, as I reflected on turning 30, I wrote this blog post about my 30 Truths at 30.

Since then, I’ve learned even more from all of the amazing teachers and experiences in my life and the books I’ve read.

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So, another year later, after taking time reflect about what inspired me most over the past year, here are my 31 Inspirations at 31 that have shaped my thinking and influenced my “doing.”

I hope they speak to you, too 🙂

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Gratitude

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My #1 Secret to Resist Food Temptation

Most of us have good intentions when it comes to eating well.

But sometimes, despite the best of our intentions, tiredness and temptation get in the way.

We know we “should” eat what tastes good and leaves us feeling satisfied and energized, but most of us struggle to actually do that on a daily basis.

The next time you’re in a social situation where food is involved and you’re feeling pressured to make a choice you really don’t want to make, I’m going to let you in on a little secret – the main way I respond when someone offers me something I would rather not eat.

I first heard it in Hungry for Change (one of my favorite food documentaries!), and it has stuck with me ever since.

Instead of saying, “I want it, but I can’t have it,” say:

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See what we did there??

The first response is all about the deprivation-oriented dieting mentality and makes it seem like we’re not choosing what we eat. But, we’re all adults, and we know that everything we eat or drink IS our choice, so let’s own that.

The new way is a freedom-based response. It says,

“Sure, I can eat anything I want because I’m an adult and make my own choices.

BUT I care about my body and want to fill it up with food that makes me feel good and energized, so I’m choosing to eat something nourishing. Thank you.”

I don’t know of anyone in my life who would continue to bug me after getting a response like that.

Be firm and confident about WHY you’re doing what you’re doing.

After all, it’s YOUR life, so you have the final say about what goes at the end of your fork 🙂

Punchin’ for Patti: The Power of Being a Contribution

How will I be a contribution today?

What if we were to ask ourselves that question everyday?

What if we were to throw ourselves into life as people who make a difference, accepting that we may not understand how or why?

This past weekend, I was part of a special group of people who were a contribution and made a difference.

Earlier this year, my brother’s mother-in-law, Patti, was diagnosed with brain cancer.

Always the one to take care of others and put their needs first, she was suddenly thrust into a new reality that she, the perpetual caregiver, would have to become the receiver.

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It came as a particularly tough blow because her daughter, Layne, my brother’s wife, was one month from her daughter Raleigh’s due date. Not only that, but Patti’s sister Diane, who coached lacrosse at Loyola University for years, passed away from brain cancer over a decade ago.

This is the worst kind of de ja vu.

Two women in the same family – sisters. What are the odds??

Each year in September, our family takes part in a memorial 5k at Loyola University to support Aunt Di, as she is lovingly remembered.

But this weekend was about Patti.

Over two dozen friends and family showed up at Goucher College to rally around Patti for the Keep Punching 5k, a race focused on raising money and support to prevent and eradicate brain cancer.

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My family is pretty competitive, so my parents, husband, and brother and a bunch of other friends were all racing, but a recent foot injury sidelined me.

As I was leaving the house that morning, the words from a book I’m reading called The Art of Possibility, came to mind.

Instead of being bummed out about not being able to run the 5k and compete, I thought to myself, “How can I be a contribution today?” 

I grabbed my camera.

I knew Patti would be at the race and that it would be the first time I would see her since her diagnosis. She would be surrounded by friends and family, including her grandchildren and our niece and nephew – Raleigh & Braxton.

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What better opportunity than this to capture the support, love, and joy that would be sure to characterize the day?

It was a humid morning, and our team of over two dozen supporters – “Punchin’ for Patti” – trickled into the race start. Friends, co-workers, and family showed up to support the cause.

And then the guest of honor arrived. 

Seeing such a vibrant woman who has always been full of life and energy confined to a wheelchair took me aback at first. It’s one thing to hear about what someone is going through when they’re battling cancer.

It’s another thing entirely to see them.

The first round of radiation and chemo caused her to lose her signature blond hair, but I was only momentarily distracted by that as her radiant smile emerged.

She showed determination almost immediately, as she rose out of her chair, so she could walk with the support of her cane.

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Patti is a fighter, and she wanted to show us how far she’s come.

You couldn’t help but smile and cheer her on in that moment!

“F*ck cancer!” she declared, as she started on the first of what would be many loops around the track, alternating between walking and being pushed around in her wheelchair.

I had the opportunity to walk with her and capture these moments by camera.

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Once the race was finished, the awards ceremony began. My parents each won their age group and gave their medals to Patti.

After all, everyone was running for her. We all knew that she was the real winner that day.

Just as the ceremony was wrapping up, it was announced that there would be two awards given to the most spirited teams.

Punchin’ for Patti came in second!

We all cheered as she went up to accept her award.

She beamed with pride as she held up her plaque.

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Never one to take herself too seriously and always a woman with a sense of humor, Patti looked at her plaque and laughing and smiling said,

“I never win anything. I had to get brain cancer to win an award!”

We all had a laugh with her, and then I took a few moments to ask her how she was really doing.

She told me how she spent months feeling angry, confused, and upset about her diagnosis and what she was going through. Her voice cracked as she shared the guilt and sadness she felt that she couldn’t be with her daughter for the birth of her granddaughter. She expressed fear that her grandchildren wouldn’t know her.

She said everything really brought her down for a while.

But on Sunday, you could tell something in her had changed.

She had hope.

With renewed determination and a new lease on life, she said she’s committed to doing everything she can to fight this. While she knows it will never go away, she’s going to make the best of it. She told me even if she has another 5, 10, 15 good years left, she wants to be here for her kids and grandkids as long as she can.

You couldn’t help but tear up as you watched her hold her granddaughter. She worked hard in physical therapy, so she would be able to hold Raleigh in her arms.

Her grandson, Braxton, looked like a king on his throne as he sat on her lap while she was pushed around the track.

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What an incredibly inspiring and emotional day.

All because a group of people decided to be a contribution.

Sometimes we’re the giver. Other times, we’re the receiver.

Sometimes we’re the medal winner. Other times, we’re the cheerleader.

Sometimes we feel strong and determined. Other times, we feel weak and defeated.

But no matter what we are or how we’re feeling, we can make a difference in someone else’s life.

As we were leaving, I hugged Patti and told her she’s an inspiration. I told her how many people love and care about her. She said it took her a long time to realize how many people love her and how much, regardless of whether she is taking care of them or doing something for them.

She is loved simply because she is.

Don’t all of us need that reminder sometimes?

So, Patti, from all of us who love and care about you and see the feisty fighter in you:

“Keep punching. Keep fighting. And know how very much you are loved.”

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If you want to donate to Keep Punching to support the fight against brain cancer, click here.

Top 10 Tips to Upgrade Your Summer Cookout!

Hot dogs, potato salad, chips, soda, and ice cream.

It seems like when we’re in social situations, especially at events like summer cookouts or picnics, we temporarily stop trying to eat well. We know how we’re going to feel later, but we decide it doesn’t matter as much as feeling good in the moment.

I’m here with some great news!

We can eat nourishing AND delicious food at cookouts without feeling deprived…or bloated, gassy and tired 🙂

The next time you’re headed to a cookout and want to make the best choices possible for yourself and your friends and family, check these out!

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1) Bring a nourishing dish/side/drink. Most of the time when we are going to an event someone else is organizing, we tend to cop out and pick up something cheap and quick at the store, without taking into consideration how that food will make everyone feel. If you bring something nourishing that you like to eat, you’ll be guaranteed to make better choices while you’re there…and help others in the process!

Try this Tomato-Basil Pasta Salad. It’ll be a HIT!

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2) Instead of mayo as the base in different salads, try using an oil-based vinaigrette or mashed avocado. I used to hate avocados (before ever trying them), but they have almost no flavor, so they won’t mess with the flavor of whatever dish you put them in.

3) Load up on veggies. Whether you throw them into a pasta salad or greens salad, put them on a kabob or roast them in a foil pack, make sure you load up on veggies. Whenever I go to a cookout or picnic, if there is a platter of roasted vegetables, it gets eaten up quickly!

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4) Add in some minced veggies to your burger patties. If you finely dice them, no one will notice, and they will add flavor and moisture to your burgers. Try things like onions, garlic, mushrooms, celery, diced peppers, and herbs.

5) Don’t char your meat. As much as some of us might love the taste of charred meat, we should avoid it to reduce our exposure to cancer-causing compounds. Charring, burning or grilling meat, poultry and fish over high temperatures causes cancer-causing compounds to form, which can damage our genes, raising the risk for stomach and colorectal cancers. Marinating your meat for 30 minutes prior to cooking can reduce that risk dramatically. To learn more about healthy grilling, click here. We also want to make sure we’re upgrading our meat and fish to grass-fed beef, pasture-raised poultry and wild caught seafood. Check out LocalHarvest to find a supplier near you.

6) Go bunless. Sometimes we do things out of habit. Grabbing a bun to go with our burger is one of them. If I have a burger, I just cut it up and treat it like a mini steak – no bun needed. Another option is to wrap lettuce leaves around it, just like you would a lettuce wrap and eat it that way.

7) Go for simpler chips. When it comes to chips, focus on upgrading your options from things like Doritos to Way Better Chips, Jackson’s Honest Chips, Kettle Chips, and even kale chips! Look for chips with as few ingredients as possible.

Dairy-Free Queso Dip with Way Better Chips

Dairy-Free Queso Dip with Way Better Chips

Jackson's Honest Sweet Potato Chips

Jackson’s Honest Sweet Potato Chips

8) Upgrade your dips and spreads. Instead of heavy, cheesy dips or things like ketchup, mayo, and BBQ sauce (which is just like pancake syrup in terms of sugar content), try guacamole, hummus, salsa, bean dips, queso dip (dairy-free!), sauerkraut, or mustard.

9) Instead of sugary drinks, sweet tea or lemonade, try infused water. From lemon-lime to strawberry basil and orange/pear, infused waters are refreshing and flavorful, and the variations you can make are limitless!

10) Focus on fruit for dessert. Make it fun, and try simple popsicles made with coconut milk and fruit, a fruit salad with mint, or grilled fruit kabobs with a honey glaze.

This berry peach crisp is always a hit, too!

Delicious Berry Peach Crumble

Delicious Berry Peach Crisp

**Bonus Tip #11**

Focus on FRIENDS and FAMILY instead of FOOD.

It can be SO easy to become consumed by all of the smells and sights at a cookout or summer party.

See what happens when you are intentional about focusing more on the people at the party and less on the food on your plate 🙂

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Celebrating summer with friends

In my next post, I’ll be sharing a bunch of recipes (from entrees and sides to dips, drinks and desserts) that will help YOU answer the following question:

“What exactly should I bring to the potluck?”

Creamy Curry Hummus

I write this blog to give you a refreshing approach about what to eat and how to live in a way that makes you feel energized, inspired and alive.

Today’s post is about two of those things – eating well and feeling inspired.

It isn’t often that we come across celebrities, especially professional athletes, who are not only talented but also motivating, gracious and humble.

In the process of doing a fact check for this post, I came across the MVP acceptance speech from the person whose name inspired today’s dish – Stephen Curry from the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors.

Talk about someone who is energized, inspired and alive!

Even if you’ve never watched an NBA game in your life, it’s worth listening to his acceptance speech. In his closing, he had this to say:

Be the best version of yourself in everything that you do. You don’t have to live anybody else’s story […] It doesn’t matter where you come from, what you have or don’t have […] All you need to have is faith in God, an undying passion for what you choose to do in this life and a relentless drive and the will to do whatever it takes to be successful in whatever you put your mind to.

Make sure you live in the moment and work your butt off every single day. And I hope I inspire people all around the world to just be themselves, be humble and be grateful for all the blessings in your life.

WOW. Pretty incredible, right??

I had the opportunity to watch Steph Curry play in person back in 2008 during Davidson’s upset over Gonzaga in the NCAA playoffs. My family was spending Easter in Raleigh, North Carolina, and there happened to be a few playoff games that weekend that we got tickets to see.

Curry (#30 below) scored 40 points in that game, with 30 of those points coming in the second half alone. You could tell there was something special about him. He is always in my fantasy basketball team without fail! Curry always seems to send me right to the top of the fantasy basketball rankings.

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Now, it’s time for the “Curry” recipe that his name inspired! 🙂

Curry is a blend of spices that is common in Indian food and serves as the flavor base for this EASY hummus recipe.

Growing up, I was never very adventurous when it came to food, but over the past few years, I’ve learned to love the bold flavors of spices like ginger, coriander, turmeric, and cumin that often make up a traditional curry powder.

This curried hummus has a little bit of a kick to it (and that’s coming from someone who is SUPER sensitive to anything remotely spicy), but it’s not overpowering.

It’s loaded with flavor and would make a perfect dip for veggies, crackers, chips or whatever other dippables you have on hand!

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Creamy Curried Hummus

This Indian-inspired hummus makes a delicious dip for your favorite veggies or pretzels (I love Mary’s Gone Crackers’ brand!) or as a spread for sandwiches.

  • 1 15 ounce can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 cloves garlic (peeled and chopped)
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice (fresh)
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin)
  1. Put all ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor and process until mostly combined. Scrape down the sides with a spatula as needed.

  2. Stream in olive oil (through hole on top of food processor) and process until hummus is creamy. Serve immediately or store in a glass container in the fridge. It won’t last long!

Curried Hummus

If you like curry, check out these recipes for curry roasted potatoes, fancy pants curried cauliflower steaks and mash, or one of my favorite dishes ever – this curried lentil and rice casserole.

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