Creamy Chipotle Dressing

Ever since I made this recipe from Dora’s Table, I’ve been in love. It is addictive, it’s easy to make, it’s raw vegan, and it goes well on (almost) everything.

Use it as a sauce mixed with pasta. Use it as a salad dressing on top of greens, avocado, red onion, cucumber, and cilantro. Drool.

1/2 cup raw almonds

1/4 cup unsweetened plain almond milk

1 Chipotle in adobo sauce

1 clove garlic

3/4 cup water

1/2 cup canned fire-roasted tomatoes (I used Muir glen)

1 tbsp. Fresh lemon juice

Himalayan pink salt or sea salt to taste

Blend all ingredients in high-speed blender (I use my Vitamix) and enjoy. I find this keeps well in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Enjoy!  And subscribe below to get email updates when I post amazing, healthy, easy recipes and other fitness/wellness tips!

Acai Smoothie & Coconut Chia Pudding Parfait


The name of this recipe is a mouthful, and a tribute to the complex flavors and exquisite, refreshing texture in this raw vegan delight.

For the Coconut Chia Pudding:

Whisk together…

2 cups full-fat coconut milk (canned)

1 tbsp. Pure maple syrup

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Slowly stir in 1/4 cup chia seeds.  Chill in refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.

 

For Acai Smoothie:

Blend together….

1 cup frozen strawberries

1 sliced frozen banana

2 tbsp. Acai powder (you can buy this in bulk from Whole Foods)

1/2 cup almond or rice milk

1 tsp. agave nectar to taste

1 tbsp. almond butter or other nut butter

 

Assemble by layering pudding with smoothie.  Top with granola, hempseed hearts, assorted fruit, cacoa nibs, whatever you fancy!

 

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How I Stay Fit

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A friend I grew up with, a gorgeous young mother, asked me today if I have any other workout regimen other than yoga, and how do I stay fit. This opened up a can of worms, at least in my own mind 😉 To answer that question: I mostly practice yoga and walk our 2 doggies for exercise. A jog once in awhile is a nice supplement, but that’s pretty much my cocktail of exercise right there – yoga and walking.

So, I decided it might be helpful to provide a list of tips that I use for maintaining balance and a healthy lifestyle, without restricting myself. Disclaimer: this is by no means a comprehensive list! But I’ll throw out some ideas that help me find balance, and add more in future posts as they become available to my memory (haha).

Keep an abundance of healthy foods in the house.
This may seem self-explanatory. But if you allow yourself to become ravished, chances are you’re going to go for the quick and convenient, which often means fatty, sugary, salty snacks. I always have oatmeal, eggs, yogurt, fresh fruit, peanut butter, carrots, apples, and more on hand in my house so that I have the opportunity to fill up on healthy stuff. Alternately, and this is important, do not keep crummy foods in the house! By crummy foods I mean processed gunk. Packaged cookies, cakes, and snacks are typically a no-no in my house. Just check the ingredients. If there are many ingredients you can’t pronounce, or high-fructose corn syrup, or trans fats, chuck ’em. Or don’t buy them in the first place. If you have a sweet tooth, try making oatmeal with bananas, cinnamon, and some pure maple syrup. Another favorite of mine are smoothies! Or make your own dessert from scratch. Pinterest has tons of amazing recipes for healthy desserts made with pumpkin, applesauce, greek yogurt, black beans, etc. Give them a whirl!

Use Cinnamon.
I don’t know how I missed the boat on this for so long, but cinnamon is truly a miracle spice. Cinnamon is my new bestie. I put it on EVERYTHING. Well okay, maybe not everything. But truthfully, I use it in my coffee, chai or spiced tea, on cereal, oatmeal, rice cakes topped with peanut butter & banana, apple slices, you name it. It is so warming and comforting. It tastes delicious. And I haven’t even told you about the benefits yet. It has been known to stabilize blood sugar and reduce sugar cravings, and may be effective in treating Type 2 Diabetes by lowering blood sugar. It can be a remedy for headaches and migraines. In Ayurveda, it is believed to aid in proper digestion. It fights E.coli and inhibits bacterial growth, which means it’s a preservative. Honey and cinnamon together are said to alleviate arthritis pain. Simply the scent of cinnamon can boost memory and cognitive function. Isn’t that unbelieveable?! I know, I really nerd out when it comes to nutrition. But seriously. Start using cinnamon.

Eat Mindfully.
This is one of my favorite practices, and quite frankly it’s probably the most potent for stabilizing weight and staying fit. Most of us have busy lifestyles, I totally get that. But eating without paying attention to our food is wreaking havoc. I invite you to at least try mindful eating once. Maybe start on a weekend morning when you can actually sit and enjoy breakfast. Begin by sitting with a long, tall spine. Posture is important. Next, observe the food in front of you. Really look at it – colors, textures, elements. Where did the food come from? Did you prepare it yourself? Think about where the fruit/vegetables/eggs came from. Are they local? Think about all the effort it took to get this food to your plate, from cultivation to transportation, to you buying it, chopping it, etc. Now smell your food. Really take in the scents wafting into your nostrils. What feelings do these scents evoke? And now taste your food. Chew it slowly. Take sips of water or juice in between bites. Be with your food and the experience of eating it. Give thanks. This is a simple practice of mindful eating. It makes such a difference to eat this way, than to gobble our food down…sometimes not even remembering what we consumed. A consistent practice of mindful eating will naturally allow you to eat less, and actually be more satisfied.

Nix Liquid Calories.
The primary beverage we drink should be water. And a lot of it. Like, more than you thought possible. Our bodies need and want it desperately. If you hate water, try flavored seltzer. There are some pretty delicious flavors out there…black cherry is my personal favorite. If you need to have beverages with calories, let that be a special treat. Like a cup of hot cider or chai in the fall, hot cocoa in the winter, an occasional glass of wine, a freshly-made margarita with only tequila, lime, and triple sec (sour mix is the sugar devil!), or whatever your poison is. Just let it be in moderation. (Hmmm, where have I heard that before?) Seriously though. I like beer, trust me. It takes awhile to wean off. But now I can have one beer and be truly satisfied.

Well my friends, that’s all for now (this post is getting quite lengthy). I do have many more ideas and practical ways to stay healthy and balanced, I’ll post more soon!

Namaste, Jai Bhagwan, Om Shanti –

Steph
xo  (P.S. for more fit tips and to follow my journey/be in the journey together, enter your email address below – thank you!)

Mission: YOGA

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Soon I’ll be going off on an adventure. What type of adventure, you may wonder? Well, I’m chasing my dreams. They’ve been beckoning me for some time now. In a mere month, I’ll be living and learning at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. I’ll leave my hometown behind for awhile, as well as my corporate job (hopefully forever), to pursue what my spirit wants and what the world needs. This 200-hr program for my yoga teaching certification will be intense. From 6:30 am to 9:00 pm, 6 days a week, I will be quite literally living and breathing yoga.

Embarking on something like this ignites passion in my heart, and inspires me to draw on all my faculties to soak in all the knowledge and wisdom I can. As I draw more and more inward to prepare for this experience, I continue to consider my personal values and mission.

Completing the application for entrance into Kripalu’s Yoga Teacher Training program required much self-reflection and deep thought into why I want to pursue this path. I wanted to share some of my answers to the questions on the application. These will help me in the future, as I compose my vision and mission statements for a studio one day.

Why do you want to be certified as a yoga teacher at this time in your life?

There is a great deal of suffering in the world, and in our communities. I’ve witnessed the transformative power of yoga, and its ability to create a sense of peace, understanding, compassion, and love in people of all walks of life. If I could offer a small piece of solace through yoga practice, and a safe space for people to gather and feel welcomed and accepted, that would be an invaluable life skill to me. I would be living a life of true purpose and meaning, and helping people on a level where they could empower themselves, and find comfort in the deepest part of themselves that perhaps they didn’t even know existed.

I’d like to help others let go of perfectionism, quiet their inner critic, and feel able to live as they were intended – free of anxiety and discomfort. And when they are feeling anxiety, discomfort, depression, and anger, they should be able to use yoga to validate these feelings and perhaps be able to let them go.

When I walk through the hallway of the insurance office I work for, I’ve observed that many people hang their heads low, struggling to make eye contact, or smile, or say “hello.” These people can benefit from yoga. Almost anyone can. If I can offer the gift of potentially guiding someone to find peace in themselves, easing their tension and anxiety, that is awareness I’d like to create for people. Manifesting the peace that is within us, bringing it to the surface, and sharing it with others contributes to an outpouring of kindness in our communities that I hope to see more of.

How do you plan to apply your yoga skills to your life and work?

I’ve always had the innate desire to reach people in a healing sense. Ever since I was a little girl, I struggled with an anxiety that I didn’t understand. As a result, I was shy, awkward, and just felt different, or somehow separate. I want to help people understand that what makes us different is what makes us beautiful.

I suffered from an eating disorder as a teenager and received outpatient treatment; in the rehabilitation center I attended, I met many wonderful, talented, lovely, spirited young women who unfortunately buckled under the pressure of society’s skewed standards of beauty. It was heart-wrenching to be surrounded by these young ladies (and gentlemen) who to me, were gorgeous inside and out, but weren’t able to see it through their own eyes or hearts. I’m grateful for that experience, because a deeper sense of compassion was born out of it. It became my mission to help people find their beauty and truly accept themselves and be kind to their bodies.

Yoga fosters self-love. Yoga helps us cultivate understanding, patience, poise, and presence (among innumerable other benefits). It is a powerful tool that largely contributes to self-actualization, and gently leads us to becoming the best version of ourselves. Applying yoga skills to life and work comes naturally when we nurture a lifestyle of devotion and dedication to practice. The application of yoga comes through our countenance and in the way we carry ourselves, the way we communicate with family members, coworkers, strangers; it changes our perspective on daily life, allowing us to let go of trivial issues and focus on the bigger picture.

Om Shanti

Namaste.

xo Steph

The Pursuit of Perfect

We all have that fleeting time in our lives where we were (or we now perceive that we were) living optimally. I’ll give you an example. That “perfect” time in my life has a name: my “2007 prime”. In 2007, I was 20 years old. I was training for a half marathon, and was basically unstoppable. Running and constant exercise were my lifeblood. I had energy that rivaled a 5 year-old. When I wasn’t running, I was practicing yoga. When I wasn’t running or practicing yoga, I was hiking. When I wasn’t running, practicing yoga, or hiking, I was meditating…finding myself. I ate mostly vegetarian, had no boys in my life, stayed away from alcohol, and listened to a ton of Jeff Buckley. Whatever that means.

When I think back to that time now, and how I was in the best shape of my life, with hardly an ounce of fat to hinder me…I realize how unfair it is to expect myself to be that way. I was practically a kid then. I’m a woman now, and my body is preparing to have children one day. Not to mention that I wasn’t working at the time, meaning I had all day to focus on myself and exercise. Perfection is a figment of the imagination, and pursuing it relentlessly is exhausting and unhealthy. It sets us up for failure and self-deprecation.

I think the more important thing to remember is to be kind to myself. To celebrate in the small accomplishments, and hunt the good stuff. I could put myself down and dismiss my achievements, letting the critic take over and say, “well, you ran today, but you stopped. You did yoga, but you didn’t balance for very long in pendulum pose, and your chaturanga could really use some work.” OR – (thank goodness there’s an “OR”, right?) I could praise myself, and say: “you know what Steph? You did a great thing for yourself today. Not only did you walk 2 miles on the bike path during your lunch break, but you came home after a long day, practiced yoga diligently, and went for a jog outside, enjoyed nature, and benefited both yourself and your beautiful puppy.”

Which of those statements sounds better? Kind of a silly question when I put it that way…But it’s amazing what we tell ourselves sometimes. I wouldn’t criticize someone else that way, so why should I do it to myself?

The lesson to take away, (and I hope I get better at this) is:

Be where you are right now, and have that be enough.

Namaste.
xo Steph

Cleansing the Soul

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It occurred to me on Day 2 of my cleanse that this isn’t just a cleansing in the physical sense. This process is not just about the food, or my body. It’s about awakening spirit, inviting new opportunity, and letting go of what doesn’t serve me. When we nurture our body by feeding it as many whole, natural, organic foods as possible, we also begin to see how we’ve been mistreating ourselves from a mental/emotional standpoint.

The beautiful thing about a cleanse is that you start to experience food in a different way. Since you’re truly physically hungry, you become more appreciative of the subtle and wonderful flavors of foods in their natural form. Suddenly, kale becomes a salty treat, brown rice is nutty and satisfying, and apples taste like candy. It forces us to slow down and appreciate nature’s bounty.
The challenge for me in going through a cleanse like this is dealing with the emotional stuff that comes up. It’s common for anybody (including me) to reach for a crunchy bag of chips when they’re stressed. When that crutch is gone, we are forced to stop stuffing down our emotions with food and actually feel them. This is what we do in yoga. Sit with our emotions. It can be uncomfortable, but I believe it’s necessary if we want any sort of growth and change to occur.

I’m learning a lot about myself. I’m learning how to let go, and appreciate. I’m learning and remembering how important gratitude is, and how essential it is to extend that gratitude to ourselves and our bodies. It’s important work. And it’s ongoing. So with this cleanse, I’m renewing myself. The journey begins here.

xo Steph

4 Day Cleanse

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Happy Monday friends! I hope you’re ready to kick Monday in the rear and keep that positive momentum going throughout the week. Buds are budding, flowers blooming, and warm weather on the horizon. Spring is the perfect time to cleanse your body, mind, and spirit. So to honor myself and rid it of the toxins I’ve likely accumulated from the long winter, I’m doing a 4-day kick-start cleanse.

I’ve done this cleanse before, and will tell you exactly how to do it and where to find more information so you can always have this effective method of healthy eating at your fingertips. It’s gentle, and fantastic for beginners or those who have never tried a cleanse before. Disclaimer: you WILL be hungry. But if you space out the allotted foods throughout the day and drink a massive amount of water, you’ll do great and 4 days will go by in a flash.

Credit: I found this cleanse in a book by Dr. Ian Smith (you may remember him from the TV show Celebrity Fit Club) called The 4 Day Diet. He calls it the “Induction Phase” in his book, which you can find on Amazon or at your local bookstore. The first time I tried this cleanse, I lost 8 pounds in 4 days and felt brand new. It really works if you follow it precisely. This time, I will be making some slight modifications, and will let you know the result of those adjustments and whether it’s as effective.
4daydiet

DAY 1
-2 cups of coffee. Limit sugar to 1 packet and cream or milk to 1 tsp per cup
-2 cups of raw or cooked green leafy vegetables (i.e. spinach, kale, collard greens, Swiss chard)
-1 cup of freshly squeezed lemonade with no more than 1 tbsp sugar
-1 tbsp psyllium husk powder*
-4 servings of fruit (1 apple, 1 banana, ½ cup berries all count as 1 serving)
-One 6-oz low-fat or fat-free yogurt
-1 medium-size green salad (about 2 cups – veggies only) with 3 tbsp low-fat dressing
-1 cup of cooked beans (chickpeas, lentils, etc.)
-1 ½ cup of cooked brown rice (measured after cooking)
Unlimited water or seltzer. Be sure to drink 1 cup before each meal
Exercise – 40 minutes of cardio (can break up if needed with a 20 min session in am and 20 min session in pm)

DAY 2
-2 cups coffee
-2 scrambled eggs or egg whites (can add ¼ cup veggies if you want)
-1 cup of freshly squeezed juice (I substitute Naked juice I got at the grocery store since I don’t have a fancy juicer…sad face)
-3 servings of fruit
-1 large-size (3 cups) green garden salad with 3 tbsp low-fat dressing
-2 cups of green leafy vegetables
-1 cup of vegetable juice from the cooked vegetables
-1 cup of cooked brown rice
Exercise – 40 minutes of cardio

DAY 3
-2 cups of coffee
-One 6-oz low-fat or fat-free yogurt
-3 servings of fruit
-2 cups of green leafy vegetables
-1 cup of freshly squeezed lemonade
-1 tbsp psyllium powder
-1 medium-size green garden salad with 3 tbsp low-fat dressing
-1 cup of cooked beans, chickpeas, lentils, etc
-1 cup cabbage soup**
-Unlimited water or seltzer. Drink one cup before each meal.
Exercise – 40 minutes of cardio

DAY 4
Unlimited fruit of any kind
-1 cup of green tea or regular tea
-1 large-size (3 cups) green garden salad; add garlic, and 3 oz. of walnuts, cashews, almonds, or sunflower seeds; also 3 tbsp low-fat dressing
-1 cup of freshly squeezed carrot juice (can substitute pear, apple, or orange juice)
-1 tbsp psyllium husk powder
-2 cups of cooked brown rice
-1 cup of cabbage soup**
-2 servings of cooked or raw vegetables
Unlimited water or seltzer.
Exercise – Rest Day

*Psyllium husk powder can be found at Vitamin Shoppe. It can be mixed with water or lemonade. I recommend trying to get psyllium-enriched cereal instead. I believe Whole Foods carries it. I personally hate the powder version, it can kind of be difficult to get down just because of the texture. But it definitely works and is known to mop up and remove toxins in the body.
**Cabbage Soup:
1 tbsp oil 3 medium carrots, sliced
2 medium onions, diced 1 ham hock (can omit if vegetarian)
1 medium green cabbage, shredded 3 tbsp wine vinegar
1 ¼ quart chicken broth ½ tsp sage
3 small potatoes, cubed ½ tsp thyme
In a large pot, heat the oil and cook the onions until softened. Add the cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Add the chicken broth, potatoes, carrots, ham hock, vinegar, sage, and thyme. Cover and simmer for 50 minutes. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper as desired.

So there you have it. The 4-Day Cleanse. I will let you know how it goes…wish me luck!!

Bubblegum Smoothie Recipe

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So, this was one of those happy accidents…you know, where you throw most of what you have in the fridge directly into your blender and see what happens? Yeah, well it turned out amazing. Just like that chewy, fun confection that reminds us of our carefree childhood: bubblegum!

Ingredients:

-1 cherry-flavored Chobani greek yogurt
-3/4 c. frozen strawberries
-1 cup fresh diced pineapple
-a few fresh blueberries
-1 1/2 ripe bananas
-1 scoop Herbalife french vanilla healthy meal shake (or any vanilla protein powder you like)
-About a cup of orange juice
-Handful of baby greens (or spinach)

Blend to desired consistency and enjoy!

*There are no rules when it comes to smoothies – that’s one of the many things I love about them! So add what you have and adjust to your taste. Smoothies are tailored to you, so create the flavors that excite you.

xoxo Steph

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