Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Moist Pumpkin Cake or Muffins

With Halloween upon us, sweets and treats are bountiful.  Those of us with children know that there is an additional challenge to curb the desires, of our young ones, to overindulge in the sugar-laden and unhealthy options out there.  Good news – we can prepare treats that offer more balanced nutrition.  When my daughter’s teacher requested my contribution for the 5th grade class’s Halloween party, I got excited to come up with a yummy Halloween treat recipe.  Instead of KitKats and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, this year we’ll try Pumpkin Muffins.  You should try it too!

Pumpkin Cake/ Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour                                                        ½ stick butter
¼ cup white sugar                                                               1 heaping cup pumpkin puree
2 tsp baking powder                                                            ¼ cup applesauce
1 ½ tsp cinnamon                                                                ½ cup evaporated milk
¼ tsp ginger                                                                         2 eggs
½ tsp nutmeg                                                                       1 ½ tsp vanilla
½ tsp salt
1 cup nuts, chocolate chips, or raisins (optional)

For Frosting
¼ cup softened butter            
4 oz cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
½ tsp vanilla

Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Cut in butter.
Mix in the rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl.  Combine until mixture blended well.
Pour wet mixture into the bowl with the dry mixture, and then fold just enough to combine the two.
This is the point where you can add nuts, chips, raisins if you’d like.
Grease cakepan or muffin tins (or use fun Halloween muffin cups).  Fold batter into cakepan or fill muffin cups ½ of the way up.
In a small bowl mix a bit of sugar with cinnamon and nutmeg.  Sprinkle top of muffins or cake with sugar/cinnamon/nutmeg mix.  
Bake at 400 degrees for 22-28 minutes for muffins, 30-35 minutes for cake.
Let muffins/cake cool.  Blend frosting ingredients well and frost if desired.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Your Root Chakra

Root chakra
Meaning: “root support”, The Root chakra is the foundation of your chakra system.
Color: red
Element: earth
Archetype: mother earth
Location: base of spine
Associated endocrine gland: adrenal medulla
Musical note: C
Mantra: I AM HERE
Chant: LAM
Power: gravity
Foods: proteins, root vegetables
Balanced root chakra: You feel grounded, centered, and able to live life NOW.
Unbalanced Root chakra: You may have a weak root chakra if:  you feel threatened or unsafe in this world, if you tend to be fearful or nervous, often feeling disconnected or alienated.
GROUNDING: Use this exercise to strengthen your root chakra and your connection to the ground.
Stand up straight and relaxed.
Put your feet shoulder width apart.
Slightly bend your knees.
Put your pelvis somewhat forward.
Keep your body balanced, so that your weight is evenly distributed over the soles of your feet.
Sink your weight downward.

Keep in this position for several minutes.

Your Sacral Chakra

Pictured above is a depiction of the symbol for our SACRAL CHAKRA.  They are many graphic varieties of the symbol.  However all variations represent the same idea:

  Our sacral chakra is where we harbor our feelings and sexuality energy.   We consider this space the "sacral home of self" and hub of creative potential.
This energy's color representation is ORANGE.
The sacral chakra is ruled by the element: WATER.  

This energy center is located in your sacrum and lower abdomen.  For obvious location reasons, this energy is involved with the testes and ovaries.  Additional involvement occurs with the adrenal glands, prostrate gland, reproductive system, spleen and bladder.

Archetypes of those with strong sacral chakra energy are those that represent or model an emperor/empress or sovereign personality.  

If you have a Balanced and Open Sacral Chakra: Your feelings flow freely.  You can express yourself without being overly emotional.  You are intimate and have passion and a zest for life.

If your Sacral Chakra is unbalanced: You may feel stiff and unemotional.  Some are considered to wear a "poker face".  You are typicalyl not very open to people.

REMEMBER it is important to care for all of your chakras or energy centers.  Your SACRAL CHAKRA has a number of ways for us to care for it.  First, know that the muscial note of this energy center is the note D.

Use this note as an entrance and exit of your mediation.  Hum this note throughout your day to recenter your sacral energy.  You can also engage this energy center using a mantra.  A mantra, as described by wikipdeia.com, can be a sound, syllable, word, or as in this case, a group of words that are capable of creating some sort of transformation.  The mantra is originated from the vedic tradition of India.  It is indeed a traditional practice in Hinduism, Buddhism, and other similar spiritual movements.  

The mantra I suggest for your SACRAL CHAKRA is: 
You may create your own mantras or find others that may suit you better.  Whatever you choose, allow it to reconnect the SACRAL as emotional center and grounding you to open your feelings and creativity.  This chakra's power is MAGNETISM and attraction to others.  

A chant may also be use to engage the energy center through vocal and auditory connections.  The chant for the ROOT is: VAM and/or MA
As you chant, place your hands on your lap, face up on top of each other, left hand below, with thumbs lightly touching.  Concentrate and make a connection to the area in your lower abdomen.

Some examples of the crystals and stones that hold similar energies to the sacral chakra are: amber, carnelian, moonstone, orange calcite, and turquoise.  Use them to strengthen the Sacral Chakra in your system.

The Sacral Chakra is well-balanced needs foods that nourish the sexual and creativity center of your body.  

orange fruits & vegetables: providing beta-carotene and other carotenoids.
seeds:  rich in healthy fats, especially flax seed because of its ability to influence estrogen activity in the body and thought to reduce certain cancers (breast, prostrate, and colon) (www.newconnexion.net, Dr. Deanna Minich. 2011)
spices: cinnamon, vanilla, carob, sweet paprika, sesame seeds, caraway seeds.
nuts: Cashews for excellent; they cashews great, rich in a buttery taste and shaped like the crescent moon.  Walnuts are important and are brain-shaped and ironically high in brain boasting omega-3 fatty acids.  Include other nuts like almonds too!

This last exercise is a physical grounding activity. 

Sit comfortably with your legs criss-crossed in front of you.  Inhale  deeply and push the tip of your spine backward.  This is assist in opening the front of your sacrum while expanding and filling your lower belly.  Imagine that the air you inhale expand the area between your hips and makes that space wide.  Exhale and move your sacrum in the opposite directions, this time pushing your navel back toward your spine.  Repeat this inhale and exhale exercise and continue to expand and contract the space between your hips; you can increase the speed as you go.  Connect with the fluidity of your pelvic area and let that flow up your spine.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Investigating Chakras

In this new series, we will discover all there is to know about the chakra system.  The chakra concept originates from Hindu and Buddhist traditions.  The word chakra is derived from the Sanskrit word for “wheel’.  Just like wheels, chakras are wheel-like vortices believed to exist at the surface of all living beings.  The idea is that the chakras are energy centers and are focal points for energy transmission and receptions.  (source: wikipedia.com)

Let’s begin by taking a chakra test: http://www.eclecticenergies.com/chakras/chakratest.php

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Few Recipes from My Kitchen

Here are a couple of recipes for dishes my family loves.  Make all 3 as a full dinner, or serve each up on different nights.

Dinner Menu
Italian-style zucchini fritters
chicken marsala 
rice, lentil, & veggie pilaf

Italian-Style Zucchini Fritters

servings: 4

2 eggs, beaten lightly
1 zucchini, 3/4 shredded, 1/4 diced
1 Tbs. parmigiana cheese
3-4 leaves of basil, julienne, or 1 tsp. dried basil  
1/4 tsp. salt, dash of pepper
3 Tbs. cornmeal
1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4-1/2 c. vegetable oil     

Italian-Style Zucchini Fritters cont’d

1.  Beat eggs in a bowl with a whisk until smooth.  Stir in zucchini.  
2   Season with parmigiana cheese,basil, salt and pepper. 
3.  Next gradually add cornmeal, flour and baking soda.  Combine well.
4.  Heat oil in non-stick frying pan or electric fryer to 350-375 degrees.
5.  Drop the batter into the hot oil by the spoonful, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Cook until fritters are golden brown on each side, approximately 4 minutes per side.
6.  Drain on paper-towel lined plate before serving.
7.  Enjoy!


Chicken Marsala
servings: 4

1 lb. thinly cut chicken breasts
1/2 c. flour
2 Tbs. butter
1/4 c. olive oil
5 Tbs. marsala wine 
5-8 Tbs. water or stock


Chicken Marsala cont'd

1. Pound the chicken breasts to a thickness of 1/4 inches.
2. Spread flour on a plate.  Lightly dredge the chicken slices in the flour, shaking off excess.  
3. Heat butter and oil in a large frying pan.  When foam from butter subsides, put the chicken into the pan in one layer.  Brown the slices quickly on both sides , in two batches if necessary.  Remove to a warmed plate.
4.  Pour marsala and water or stock into pan.  Cook over moderate heat, scraping the bottom of the pan.  Add chicken slices to pan and continue moving sauce around and scrapping bottom of pan, while pouring thickening suace of chicken.  DO this for 3-4 minutes.
5.  Serve at once.

**This is a great dish to serve over pasta.  Some variations include, sauteing onions and mushrooms and adding to sauce.   

Rice, Lentil, Veggie Pilaf

2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 c. brown rice
1 c. orzo
1 c. lentils (I use red and green)
1/2 c. white wine
1 can diced tomatoes
4 c. water/stock (I use a veggie bouillon)

Season with: 1/2 tsp salt, dashes of pepper, bay leaf, basil, oregano, or choose your own spices.                             
Variation:  Sometimes I include chicken and Italian sausage into this dish.  Just brown meat first, put off to side, and then add back in when adding water.

Rice, Lentil, Veggie Pilaf cont'd


1.  Heat oil and butter.  Saute onions and carrots.  Add in garlic.
2.  Into this saute, add rice and orzo.  Stir frequently allowing them to brown.  Next add lentils
3.  Splash in white wine and let sizzle for 30 seconds.  Then add tomatoes and enough stock or water to come about 1/2 inch above pilaf.
4.  Cook on low heat at a simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 30-45 minutes.  The best way to test this is to take a spoonful to taste.
5.  Once rice and lentils are soft to the bite, remove from heat, uncovered and sit for 5-10 minutes.
6.  Scoop into serving dish and ENJOY!


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Trip To the Farmer's Market

A Trip to the Farmer’s Market

Fashionably late.  That's how we arrived at the Bristol Farmer's Market http://www.bristolfarmersmarket.org/ this morning.  I consider myself an old hat at market shopping.  It began in New Jersey when I started visiting the weekly farmer's market, at first subconsciously searching out connection and community amongst the producers of our local food.  I graduated on to a market consumer.  I would take a bag and go to a market for my meal ingredients; I’d go to the local farmer’s market in New Jersey, then I ventured out to a Delaware farmer’s market while on vacation.  A few times, while visiting my sister in Vermont, we’d frequent the market in her town.  Then last season I got to experience the farmer’s market from a vendor’s perspective.  My younger sister and I baked for the Saturday morning markets.  Our name was Conscious Creations and we baked sweets and breads with local and organic ingredients.

So when it was time to think about the farmer’s market this morning, I knew we should arrive about an hour after the start.  Fashionably late. What a perfect time to arrive!  The hustle and bustle was just beginning.  Vendors were all set up with their bounteous tables arranged for our viewing.  Small groups of people seemed dispersed around the park.  Two women purchased flatbread pizza slices to snack on as they chatted it up with the vendor, a woman who bakes her own flatbreads each week.  I glanced around and caught a scene of several girls sitting by the fountain with a dad knelling beside them as they all snacked on lunch they had just purchased.

With our basket in hand, my daughter and I strode around the market.  It’s located in Bristol, Vermont a quaint little American town, at the town green on Main Street.  The late summer day in Vermont, thick and lush, promised the humid heat from strong sun’s rays through the layer of cloud that hovered among us.  The market has a circular layout and we began our first circuit; just to see what we were dealing with here.  We know our goals: something to eat now and produce to eat later.  That first circuit rarely does the trick, often we’ll continue for a second or third glance at the various vendors and options before we make our choices.  Today was no different.

My daughter initiated our consumption by deciding on a cup of freshly made lemonade.  And what a great choice it was!  We stood by while the owner/operator of maybe, 15 years old, cranked the juicer as he squeezed our lemon into a blue tinted cup.  He went on to throw a slice of that same lemon in the cup with the juice, 2 heaping tablespoons of sugar, a handful of ice, and he filled it with cold water.  Putting another cup over the concoction, he gave it a few good shakes and passed it our way.  Wow – what a refreshing beverage.  From there we headed right, clockwise in our circular path, of course, to the flatbread tent.  We agreed on a flatbread with bits of bacon, thinly sliced potatoes, leeks, sprinkled with parmesan cheese.  At this point, I felt pretty confident that I needed to start with the produce shopping.

On this particular day, and most this season, there were three produce vendors in attendance, each with their harvests from their local farms.  I knew I wanted a salad so I went to the stand that looked like it had most of my ingredients.  I loaded my basket with a simple variety: 3 ears of corn, a head of red leaf lettuce, a cucumber that would make a good basis for my salad.  Then I couldn’t resist the pint of strawberries wisely set up by the check out area.  I threw in 3 different colored peppers: red, orange, and yellow, in anticipation of our family pleasing sausage, peppers, and onions on rolls dinner!  And I just tossed in a couple of zucchini, an old stand-by.  The teen in charge rang me up and I tossed all of my items in the basket.

We continued our stroll and next came upon our housemates and their Mountain Warrior Farm stand http://warriorfarm.wordpress.com/ We scored a free freshly made samosa – yum!  Meanwhile, a small gathering of interested consumers gathered around the stand to hear more about the Chaga Chai drink for sale.  Traditional Chai tea had been mixed with Chaga, also known as cinder conk, is a fungus in Hymenochaetaceae family. It is a fungus parasitic on Birch and other trees and believed to have medicinal and immune-tonic properties (Wikipedia.com).

We finished our circuit purchasing a few onions from another produce vendor who lives on our street and copped a squat.  Sitting on the rim of the town green’s fountain, my daughter and I enjoyed our snacks and took in a few moments of everything that was around us.  Aside from all of the food vendors, there were a few crafters and some non-for-profit agencies set up.  All of this was hosted by live music on the pavilion, children frolicking around the green, and lots of people talking as they frequent the town’s farmer’s market.  The best news I can share with all of you is that this experience is replicated throughout the U.S.  Find a farmer's market in your area, cleanup a basket from around the house, and go take care of yourself as you shop!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sleep Studies

Anyone ever partake in a sleep study before?  Well, I just finished up a 24 hour ordeal at the Sheraton in Burlington, VT.  That could sound potentially wrong but in actuality the ordeal I completed was a sleep study with two tests over a 24 hour period.  I could go into the kinds of tests and what they measure, but instead, I'll entertain you with the sidebar commentary.  Here's a link to the National Institutes of Health if you're interested in the nitty-gritty. http://health.nih.gov/topic/SleepDisorders

First of all, it is kind of nice to escape your everyday reality for a quick  getaway.  That's how I looked at this event.  I was going to a hotel, to sleep over, a night away.  I picked up dinner for myself and headed in unknowingly.  I was ready to do this.

A sleep study is conducted by a sleep technician.  I had three different young women through the evening and the next day.  I requested female technicians; something just felt more comfortable.  One of the enjoyable things about my sleep study was the chance to speak with each of these women.  As one technician glued and pasted electrodes to my calves, we talked about her recent house purchase and my sale, her younger sister and hopes to visit her abroad in Australia one day, and my little sister and how she got a job and moved out of Vermont!

My second technician was all business.  My memory is kinda of hazy at this point in the ordeal.  I was taking naps every 2 hours and what they would do was let me fall asleep, read some early sleeping brain waves, and then wake me up.  After a night of sleeping with a bagillion wires attached to me head to toe, literally - I was a little foggy.

My last technician had a good vibe.  She constantly kept apologizing as she use acetone to remove the glued electrodes from my head.  These young women were all college educated and extensively trained for this position.  One spoke of 'taking the boards' and a bunch of their friends or co-workers end up becoming nurses.  Needless to say, I had competent healthcare technicians perform my sleep study.

Some down sides... I'm going to say it.  Being in a hotel room for 24 hours, without ever stepping out the door, is kind of cramming.  Even the internet got boring to me.  I barely watched TV (cuz TV just isn't that good anymore or maybe we're just getting better.)  Other interesting tidbits, I had to carry around a big black box with my 21 wires plugged in; I carried it over my shoulder like a shoulder bag.   This made me do everything slower, not necessarily a bad thing.  It actually makes me smile just remembering it.

In the end, I was glad to step out into the air with my study done, results awaiting, and objective proof of however it is that I sleep.  I'm a little more in touch with myself too, as if validated by the experience, learning once again through another lesson that I have to take care of myself.  This can happen for all of us, at any time, life gives us little reminders.  What an ordeal!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tips for Taste...

...I've got another fabulous recipe to share.  I bake these in abundance and freeze them so that the yumminess can continue long after the baking has ended.

Pineapple Cream Muffins
servings: 30 mini muffins

1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup well drained crushed pineapple

1. Measure sugar, egg, butter and sour cream in bowl and beat.
2. Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. Combine wet and dry mixtures into one bowl and stir until moist.
4. Add pineapple to mixture.
5. Fill greased mini muffin trays and bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes.