Roasted Acorn Squash with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds and Balsamic

Although I love summer, fall is my second favorite season. I love the smells, the colors, and the cooler nights. But really, my favorite part is the squash. I love almost all kinds of squash…spaghetti squash, acorn, pumpkin, butternut…I love them all. They’re full of nutrients and fiber, and they’re more filling than many other vegetables.

I made this particular recipe with a friend. She had bought some acorn squash and wanted to experiment. Our favorite part was the pan-toasted pumpkin seeds. Once I discovered pan-toasting, I toast almost every nut and seed this way. It’s quick and easy, and is less damaging to the sensitive oils. And best of all, it’s so tasty! So please enjoy, and let me know if you have any suggestions to make it even more delicious.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

2 medium acorn squash

4 tablespoons olive oilPumpkin Seeds

salt and pepper, to taste

¼ cup shelled pumpkin seeds (aka pepitas)

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

***Optional: ¼ cup fresh parsley, sage, or mint leaves, torn.

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425°.

2. Cut squash in half, and spoon out seeds (and the stringy stuff) and discard. Cut squash into 1½”-thick slices. Coat slices with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Lay slices on a baking sheet.

3. Place in then oven and roast for about 30 minutes, turning slices over halfway through. They should be golden brown on both sides, and soft enough to eat.

4. Heat some olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add pumpkin seeds, turning them often so they don’t burn. They should brown slightly, but still be a little green. Once they’re down, place them on a paper towel to soak up excess oil.  Season with salt. Roasted Acorn Squash with Pan Toasted Pumpkin Seeds 5. Place squash on serving plates, and sprinkle toasted pumpkin seeds on each piece. Drizzle on balsamic vinegar. (Don’t over-do it, vinegar goes a long way!) If you are using any fresh herbs, lightly sprinkle those on as well.

6. Serve warm and enjoy!

Pomegranite Marinade on The Blissful Chef

Check out my recipe for Pomegranate Marinade and Veggie Kabobs on the awesome website The Blissful Chef. Try marinating just about anything for a tangy, sweet and rich flavor. I discovered this recipe on accident, and ended up making portabella burgers that impressed everyone!

http://theblissfulchef.com/2012/09/guest-post-pomegranate-marinade-and-veggie-kabobs/

“The Blissful Chef” herself is my dear friend Christy Morgan, who happens to be one of the best chefs that I know. Her cookbook Blissful Bites is a staple in my kitchen. Filled with simple, healthy recipes, I’ve learned how to cook everything from gluten-free grains to lotus-root chips. I’ll be making a recipe from her book this month, so look for a grain-free take on pasta coming soon.

An Interview with Yoga Teacher Brad Keimach

For those of us that live in Southern California, it’s so important for our body and mind to take advantage of this beautiful weather. What better way to enjoy the day than spending it at the beach? You can soak up your Vitamin D from the sun, get your magnesium from the ocean air, and melt your stresses away. To make it even better, Brad Keimach teaches yoga classes on the beach, right at the water’s edge. His classes are by donation (min $10), so there’s no reason not to take advantage of the great exercise for your mind and body. Brad’s classes can be transformational, and have gained him a lot of media attention as of late. His beach classes have been featured as “Best of L.A.” by Los Angeles Magazine and LA Weekly. And if you don’t like the sand, you can find his classes at the renowned exhale Center for Sacred Movement in Venice.

I wanted to find out how Brad discovered his practice, so I was able to get an interview and find out.

Beach Yoga with Brad

How did you discover yoga?

“I had lived in Los Angeles for one year, and I had a conducting student over at the house. I don’t know why, but we were talking about jogging, and I told him I was getting bored with my jog around the neighborhood. And he said, ‘Oh, you should take a yoga class with my teacher Max.’ And I thought to myself, ‘Yoga? How Californian am I?’ But then I thought about it…I was so bored with running, and this guy taught Monday, Wednesday, Friday. So I figured I could take his classes, and then run the other days of the week. Fine. I didn’t know it was a level 2/3 class. I didn’t know anything! So I went to this class. And it was physically the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I came home, thoroughly wiped out. I made it home to the floor of my living room, and just, splat! For two days I lay like that. There’s no way I could have run Tuesday as planned. I went back to his Wednesday class, and came home, and again, splat! But what I did sense is that there was something else that was there, and I didn’t know what it was, but I wanted to find out. So I went to Max’s class 3 and 4 times a week until he left 8 years later. I’m sure I was his most loyal student. Every day he taught, I was there.

So what was the “something else” that you sensed? What else did you get from your yoga practice besides exercise?

The other aspect of yoga, which is primarily what I teach now, is how to teach the mind how to think. This is truly the cornerstone of a happiness practice, because what you think is where you live. It doesn’t matter what the external reality is, it’s what you tBrad Keimachhink about. The mind has a tendency to think worst possible scenario, and that leads us down the path of enormous suffering. Mark Twain sensed this when he said; “I have suffered many misfortunes in my life, some of which actually happened.” So most of our misfortunes come from within, not without.

So what would you suggest as a way to keep our mind in a healthy place?

Staying present is the key. It’s not about the body; the body will get enough work during the physical practice. But that’s not the point.

Basically, the point is to have the mind do one’s own bidding. The mind is a lousy master and a wonderful servant. Most people live the other way…. they let the mind rule. That’s really a tough life.

There are definitely physical things that help certain physical ailments. One of my students had low back pain all the time, and she looks to be in exquisite physical shape. But she was hurting all the time, and I’ve shifted things for her. So there are physical things you can do to help certain physical ailments. Yoga is a stone that shouldn’t be left unturned. Even if it can’t fix a certain physical ailment, what you can acquire from a yoga practice is a way to talk to the mind, to teach the mind, again, how to think. It’s not a lost cause. It’s going to help other aspects of life.

Beach Yoga with BradBio: “Beach Yoga with Brad” has been named “Best of 2012” by LA Weekly, “Best of L.A. 2012″ by Los Angeles Magazine, and one of the best “10 Outdoor Works in LA” by The Examiner. The classes also have a 5-star rating on Yelp. Brad has studied Hatha yoga with Max Strom, Saul David Raye, Sarah Powers, Georg Feuerstein, Gabriella Giubilaro, and Tias Little. He has taught yoga at Exhale since it’s opening and has also instructed at Maha Yoga, Dance Home, and Brentwood Yoga. For Brad, yoga is a transformational and healing practice for and from the heart. This is what inspires and motivates him to share this path with others. With a background as a symphony and opera conductor, Brad has been profoundly influenced in his life and teaching by the heart-first example of his mentor, Leonard Bernstein. “Like” his page of facebook, and you will receive updates on his beach yoga classes: http://www.facebook.com/beachyogawithbrad

5 Reasons to Keep your Blood-Sugar Balanced

You may have heard of the world “blood-sugar,” and probably know it’s talked about by diabetics, but you may not know why it’s important. Most food is broken down by our bodies into sugar, and we use that for energy. Eating too many “simple sugars” can make our blood sugar too high. On the other side, waiting too long to eat, or crashing from a sugary meal, can make our blood sugar too low. Here’s why it’s important to keep it at a balanced medium:   Grouchy from low blood sugar

1.  Low Blood Sugar can make you really grouchy. In my family, it’s well-known that none of us can go hungry for too long. I have 3 sisters, and if our blood sugar gets too low, we turn from sweet, loving women into a bunch of crazed, angry people in need of an exorcism. If you go too long without eating, you can get yourself a permanent condition of hypoglycemia.
How to Fix It: Eat small meals every few hours, and keep snacks on you at all times. I always have a bag of trail mix in my purse, and baked veggie chips in the car. I don’t overeat at meals, but I eat smaller meals more often. I do this for the sanity of those around me and the people I love, so they don’t have to witness my wrath of hunger.

2.  High Blood Sugar can make you really hyperactive, then crash into a unproductive coma. If you eat a high sugar/high starch meal, you can have a “tweak out” as the sugar surges through your body. Sugar is absorbed into the bloodstreaHyperactive Cat from too much sugarm as soon as it enters the mouth, it doesn’t even need to be digested. So that innocent little frappicino or soda can send you into a hang-shaking, mind-racing state of blood sugar mania. Then, to make matters worse, your blood sugar will sharply drop back down causing a crash. Then a state of exhaustion and lack of energy will occur. And how do people pick themselves back up? More sugar! It becomes a vicious cycle.
Cat SleepingHow to Fix It: Eat tons of fiber and some healthy fat in every meal. This will lower the glycemic load and slow the break-down of sugar in the body. Also, avoid sugary snacks and treats on a daily basis. Give yourself a “treat day,” and just eat sweets once a week or so.

3.  Consistently high/low blood sugar increases your risk for diabetes. Don’t think you’reDiabetes Treatments too young to be at risk for diabetes! There are children being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, which is very preventable. It can happen at any age. And do you want the expenses and the annoyance of daily injections, medications, and strict diet guidelines?

How to Fidiabetes pillsx It: Make the choice to be healthy today. And eat more vegetables!!! This isn’t just an annoying thing our parents say, it’s a true key to health. Increase whole gluten-free grains, fruits, veggies, and healthy fats. If you can’t live without ice cream and chocolate cake, give yourself one day a week to indulge.

4.  Low Blood Sugar can slow your metabolism down. If you wait too long in-between meals to eat, your body goes into fasting mode. All of your systems slow down, and you your body holds onto fat reserves. Also, if you get too hungry, you’re more likely to eat a huge meal and consume access calories all at once.
How to Fix It: Continuing to eat small meals throughout the day will keep your metabolism revved up, and your body will even burn more calories as you sleep.

5.  Balanced blood sugar makes you smarter! Ok, not exactly smarter…but it will keep your mind clearer! Low blood sugar leads to “fuzzy brain” syndrome, where you have trouble thinking clearly. You can forgot things more easily, and will have more trouble functioning. High blood sugar can make you hyperactive, and your fast Human Brainmoving brain can have trouble concentrating and holding on to information. So balanced blood sugar can improve your memory and your brain functioning! So eat those vegetables, I swear there’s a million ways to make veggies tasty. Just listen to Einstein, he was all about it!

5 Ways to Lower Blood Pressure Without Medication

Blood PressureMany of us have, or know someone with, high blood pressure. Blood pressure medications are now the third most prescribed medication, and yet controlling your blood pressure is usually a matter of adjusting your lifestyle. Whether or not you choose to take blood pressure medication, adjusting your lifestyle will help you eliminate, minimize, or delay the need for medication.

Try adjusting your lifestyle with the following 5 suggestions. Add one at a time, and try incorporating them slowly, in a way that is most realistic and applicable for your lifestyle. Adding even a single suggestion to your repertoire will help significantly!

Exercise is an activity that will help aid many common ailments that affect our culture, and helping to reduce high blood pressure and maintain a healthy blood pressure is no exception! Aim for a goal of 30-60 minutes of moderate activity 5-6 days a week, whether this is aerobic activity (cardio exercises, walking, running, etc.) or anaerobic activityWalking (strength training), any exercise is beneficial! If this seems like a lot to start, aim for 15-30 minutes and work your way up. It is more beneficial to get your exercise throughout the week rather than all at once, so aim to spread out your activity as much as possible — you can even consider breaking up your day’s duration into multiple parts, such as 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening. For individuals with high blood pressure, gradually build up your activity and intensity over time, as too much intensity too quickly can be risky.

If you have severe hypertension, it is especially important to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise regimen, as there may be some exercise restrictions specific for you.

VegetablesEating a Healthy Diet, like exercise, is a strategy that will help mitigate nearly all common ailments. Again, for lowering and maintaining a healthy blood pressure, this is no exception! When your body has all the essential nutrients it needs to survive, it will function more optimally. Reduce the amount of processed foods in your diet, and instead replace them with whole foods you make yourself, as simple and close to their natural form as possible. Be sure you add a full bounty of fruits and vegetables to your diet, the latter being most important for those with high blood pressure. Additionally, you’ll want to aim to eat some specific foods that will help to reduce blood pressure: foods high in essential minerals (potassium, magnesium, calcium), a good amount of fiber, and high in Omega-3 Fatty Acids.

If you’re looking for some excellent foods to add to your cooking routine, be sure to check out: 7 Foods to Help Lower Blood Pressure.

Reducing Stress is often something ignored in our culture with a go-go attitude, but it essential for lowering your blood pressure. Besides, doing so will also help your overall well-being! Stress and anxiety can temporarily increase blood pressure, but if you’re constantly stressed or anxious, your blood pressure will also constantly be raised! Take some time out of your day to identify what is stressing your most. Family? Work? Home? Friends? Think about what you can do to help reduce stress, and then take action and reduce it as much as possible. However, sometimes we have obligations we simply cannot give up that stress us. In this case, think of some alternatives. Take up some deep-breathing exercises, meditation, try yoga, get a massage, be sure you’re getting adequate sleep, or perhaps even see someone that specializes in helping to reduce stress (such as a therapist).

Losing Excess Weight is a tremendous key it lowering your blood pressure. When you have excess weight on your body, your heart and blood vessels must work harder to simply pump the blood to where it is needed in your body. Losing even just 5-10 pounds can help significantly, but making a goal to reach your ideal weight should be a priority! If you do decide to take blood pressure medication, losing weight will also help to make the medication more effective overall. In addition, keep an eye out for where you carry your weight: carrying excess weight primarily in your midsection increases your odds for high blood pressure. Make strides to lose those excess pounds, diet and exercise are key!

Reducing Sodium and Caffeine are two methods for helping to reduce your blood pressure. If your diet is primarily based around processed foods, it’s likely it contains a good amount of sodium. Replace processed foods with whole, natural foods as described in Eating a Healthy Diet (above), and you’ll help eliminate excess sodium. Once you’ve done this, if you still find you would like salt in your diet, try adding small amounts of unrefined Celtic sea salt or Himalayan pink salt, two types of salt that contain a significant quantity of minerals other than sodium. Additionally, add foods high in potassium and magnesium to help balance the sodium content in your blood. Limit your sodium intake to no more than 2,300 mg per day.Caffeine

When you ingest caffeine, the caffeine temporarily raises your blood pressure. In the same way that stress can raise your blood pressure, a consistent stream of caffeine also means a consistently spiked blood pressure. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, and thus the effects will vary. However, caffeine can also be stressful for your adrenal glands, the organs that help us deal with stress in our daily lives. Stressed adrenal glands mean a more stressed body, and stress as a whole elevates your blood pressure. Try reducing the amount of coffee, tea, and soda your ingest on a daily basis. Be mindful of how you feel, and also monitor your blood pressure as you reduce you caffeine intake to see what intake is best for you.

Incorporate these suggestions into a balanced lifestyle and you’ll start to see results, whether your goal is to lower blood pressure or maintain it. Taking blood pressure medication is largely unnecessary, especially for the long-term. Your lifestyle is key. The decisions you make are yours!

Balsamic Marinated Figs and Blueberries with Brie

Happy Labor Day! Although relaxation is imperative for health, holidays are often associated with overeating and unhealthy food. I decided to post this recipe, although to be totally honest, it’s not the healthiest thing I’ve posted…but I decided that for a holiday, I could meet halfway and go for a treat. It does has antioxidants and fiber in the figs and blueberries, and protein in the brie. Good-quality balsamic can ease digestion. It can be made gluten-free with a gf bread choice. It’s not the best for food combining, and it’s not vegan…but like I said, this holiday. Let’s meet in the middle. I first made this on a lovely day off, after I had picked some fresh blueberries off an alpaca farm. I hope you enjoy!

Balsamic Marinated Figs and Blueberries with BrieBalsamic Marinated Figs and Blueberries with Brie 

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 ripe figs
  • Blueberries
  • Aged Balsamic, or blackberry balsamic vinegar **
  • Extra virgin olive oil**Oilve Oil, Aged Balsamic, Brie, Figs, and Blueberries
  • 1/2 round of Brie or Camembert Cheese
  • Fresh bread (Italian or Ciabatta work best) or crackers
  • Fresh or dried thyme
  • Fresh or dried marjoram
  • Salt and Pepper
  • *Optional: white or black truffle salt

**Quality is very important! You want thick, barrel aged balsamic. I love the classic We Olive Balsamic that is local to California, but you should be able to find some online, or in a specialty grocery store. The same goes for olive oil! By law, olive oil can be mixed with a certain % of low-quality vegetable oil. So if it’s very cheap, it’s probably not pure! Besides We Olive, I also LOVE Temecula Olive Oil Company. The Fresh Basil Olive Oil is to die for. Supporting local products is also more environmentally friendly, as it saves on the shipping fuel.

Directions:

  1. Slice the tops off the figs, and cut into quarters. Place the figs and a handful of blueberries into a bowl. Finely chop the thyme and marjoram, and sprinkle over the top (fresh herbs are always best, but if not available dried works as well). Season with salt and crushed pepper. (Use less salt if you plan to use the truffle salt. But don’t put the truffle salt in yet; it will be used later.)
  2. Pour We Olive balsamic vinegar over the fruit. They should be pretty well covered, around 3 tablespoons. Put the bowl aside in a cool, dry place. (Not the refrigerator.) Let it marinade for at least an hour. Balsamic Marinated Figs and Blueberries
  3. If you’re using fresh bread, cut it into thin slices. Toast until crispy.
  4. Arrange the toasted pieces (or crackers) on a plate. Slice the Brie to your desired thickness, and place several pieces on each slice of bread.
  5. Take the bowl of marinated fruit, and place a some figs pieces and blueberries on each slice of bread. Drizzle some additional balsamic over each piece.
  6. When all the fruit is used, drizzle We Olive olive oil over each piece. Sprinkle some additional thyme, marjoram, and pepper on top for presentation.
  7. If you have truffle salt, sprinkle a pinch on each piece.
  8. Serve and enjoy!