Let’s face it: as caregivers, much of our daily schedule has been adapted to combat stress in order to move through life more freely. Exposure to stressful situations is among the most common human experiences even before adding caregiving into the mix. These types of situations can range from unexpected calamities to routine daily annoyances.
During the holidays, calamities spike at enormous rates. Emotions run amok, triggered memories surface, and increasing “to do” lists are all added to the mélange.
I personally believe that releasing any emotion is healthy. Recognizing and accepting whatever it is we are feeling is a key for survival for caregivers. The sooner we allow our genuine feelings to rise and be released, the more gentle the process will be.
Here’s an honoring treat for caregivers during the winter months and throughout the holidays…
Delicious Warm Mayan Cacao Milk
1 tablespoon Raw cacao powder (raw chocolate) and
1 tsp vanilla
Milk of your choice
Add a few tablespoons of warm (or boiling) water in cup with cacao and stir.
Fill the cup with milk and some stevia (or sweetener of your choice).
Warm on the stove or in a microwave.
Apparently, raw organic Cacao is something exceptional for our health. Although I’m neither a doctor nor a nutritionist, various studies that I’ve read indicate that cacao seems to have more antioxidants than any food tested so far, including blueberries, red wine, and black and green teas. In fact, it has up to four times the quantity of antioxidants found in green tea. Who knew?
I also learned all chocolate is made from the cacao (cocoa) bean, and cacao beans in their natural, unprocessed, unadulterated state are rich in nutrients and beneficial to health.
Other health benefits of the antioxidants in unprocessed Chocolate include:
Promoting cardiovascular health
Serotonin production~ Cacao raises the level of serotonin in the brain; thus acts as an anti-depressant, helps reduce PMS symptoms, and promotes a sense of well-being. Seriously? How much can we eat?!
Increases Endorphins – Cacao stimulates the secretion of endorphins, producing a pleasurable sensation similar to the “runner’s high” a jogger feels after running several miles. An endorphin high without having to run and further wreck my knees? I’m in.
High in magnesium – Cacao seems to be the #1 source of magnesium of any food. Magnesium balances brain chemistry, builds strong bones, and helps regulate heartbeat and blood pressure. Strong bones, check. Healthy heart beat and blood pressure, check. Balancing brain chemistry? Chocolate for dinner honey?
Bon Appetit and Namaste!
2 cups Milk of your choice (cow, goat, almond, coconut, soy, etc.)
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoon unsweetened organic cacao powder or cocoa powder
2 teaspoon sugar (or equivalent desired sweetener)
2 tablespoon instant coffee (optional) decaf or caf
6 oz dark chocolate (66% to 70%)
Note: According to FDA guidelines, cocoa powder and cacao powder are simply different terms for the same powder, and are nearly interchangeable; however, “cacao powder” specifically refers to raw, unsweetened powder. “Cocoa powder,” on the other hand, may still have a very small amount of cocoa butter present to enhance the flavor subtly.
Finely chop chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl.
Pour milk and water in a saucepan, add sugar, cocoa and instant coffee (if using) and whisk carefully to avoid lumps. Bring to a boil over medium heat then remove from heat.
Pour mixture over the chocolate, melt 5 minutes while mixing gently to get a smooth and creamy consistency.
Cool. Pour into an ice cube tray and freeze. Makes approximately two dozen ice cubes.
Add to your choice of milk such as vanilla milk for a delectable treat.
Caregiver’s need calming remedies. Vanilla milk is a great soothing drink, heated before bedtime or as a mid-afternoon treat. Coconut milk, almond milk, rice milk, or soymilk can be easily substituted.
Milk of your choice; cow, almond, coconut, soy,etc.
Vanilla extract or vanilla bean (seeds scraped into milk with pod while steaming)
Sugar or desired sweetener to taste
Pour milk into a large saucepan, add sugar or sweetener (and cocoa if you desire) and stir or whisk to dissolve.
pour in vanilla to taste or split the vanilla pod in the center, scrape the seeds and put them in the pan along with the pod while steaming.
Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, then remove from heat.Whisk in
Serve warm before bedtime. Leftovers? Cool then refrigerate several hours or preferably overnight for cold vanilla milk for a delectable treat.
For an extra decadent drink, serve your chilled vanilla milk with dark chocolate ice cubes that swirl and melt a flavor sensation into your drink. Serve in cacao and sugar-rimmed glasses.
Bon Appetit & Namaste!
My husband Stephen doesn’t generally care for salsa but he could eat this heart healthy appetizer with a spoon!
4 large heirloom tomatoes (or 6 smaller vine-ripened ones), seeded and diced
¼ to ½ cup green onions
chopped cilantro to taste (I like lots)
chopped 1 tablespoon fresh oregano
chopped 3 to 4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon jalapeño pepper, minced (Optional)
1 can mild diced green chilies
2 or more tablespoons olive oil (Don’t be afraid of this heart healthy fat!)
4+ teaspoons fresh lime or lemon juice
sea salt* and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
*of course, for heart health use a small pinch of salt or omit it all together. (Stephen tells me he doesn’t even like the taste of salt anymore..and he used to eat a whole bag of potato chips without even blinking.)
1. Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl. If desired, prepare half of the salsa in a food processor or blender.
2. Let sit, loosely covered, at room temperature, for the flavors to blend.
Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve within 4 hours.
Add a little tomato juice, water, and chopped cucumber and you have instant gazpacho.
Puree half in a food processor for a less chunky version.
Roast 1/2 of the tomatoes with a little olive oil at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, puree, and add to remaining salsa mixture.
Mix it up! Add orange, yellow and red cherry tomatoes for interesting texture and flavors.
Notes: You can make this salsa in the winter too (when desperate for a taste of summer) even though tomatoes won’t be at their peak.
Even though tomatoes have long been linked to heart health, they are rising even further to the top of the list as a heart healthy food. Garlic may also help decrease the progression of cardiovascular disease and, together with tomatoes, will help boost your immune system and fight the common cold!
Bon Appetit & Namaste!
Stephen and I love to travel to Napa, California when we can arrange to stay with his dearest friend of sixty-two years Michael Dellar and his beautiful wife, Lesyle. Yes, you read that correctly. Stephen and Michael have been friends since their first day of kindergarten in 1951. Michael owns several fantastic restaurant including One Market in San Francisco.
When Stephen and I visit The Dellars in Napa, great food and fabulous company are always on the agenda. And, of course, a little wine.
On our most recent evening in Napa, Michael served us chopped salad to begin our meal on their patio overlooking the incredible Napa Valley. I craved it so much on our return home that I just had to make it myself.
Michael Dellar’s Chopped Salad
In a large serving bowl, add organic greens and watercress, mince or dice really small pieces of broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, avocado, radish, green onion, or whatever your favorite ingredients are, but that particular combination is dynamite.
Michael’s directions: “Make a vinaigrette like a thin mayonnaise. Finely minced shallots, Dijon mustard, egg yolk, salt, pepper, Meyer lemon juice, a little balsamic, then whisk in the olive oil. A little water only if it gets too thick. It should be emulsified. Enjoy”.
To serve, toss all ingredients gently together with a light amount of the vinaigrette and then plate. Shave a little hard-boiled egg on top of each salad with a fine cheese grater for a tasty impressive finish.
Bon Appetit & Namaste!
* I know the picture is blurry but I love it so.
I created this delicious recipe when I was craving Mexican food and wanted something healthy. My family now requests it constantly. (Stephen says it is also the “best pizza alternative on the planet.”)
1 pound mushrooms, sliced (combination off cremini, button, shiitake, baby bella… your call. I use 2 pounds because we always will want leftovers to assemble the next day!)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced (again I use more)
4 to 6 shallots or one large sweet onion cut thin in half moons
2 tbl olive oil to cover bottom of pan
Tamari (wheat free soy sauce) to taste
Mirin (sweet rice cooking wine) to taste
1 package sodium free tortillas
home made pesto (see recipe below)
Tofutti’s vegan cream cheese
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Pop in tortillas sprayed lightly with olive oil spray (3 on one rack 3 on another) and bake until crispy. Turn halfway through… finish until all tortillas are crisp…place on a plate and store the remainder once cooled in zip lock bag.
In a sauté pan over medium heat, add the oil and garlic and onions and leave untouched to begin to caramelize. Stir.Next, add the mushrooms.
Once they get a nice sear, stir and add some tamari and mirin for flavor and liquid.Sauté another 3-4 minutes.
Spread the cream cheese lightly onto the crisp tortilla and then a thin layer of pesto. Top with mushrooms saute. Garnish with a few sliced olives.
Broil 3 tortillas at a time under broiler on high quickly until heated &
My family puts pesto on everything so I always have a fresh bunch made and ready to go. We dress up salads, vegetables, steelhead or salmon, egg white scrambles, or as you saw above, even tostadas!
1 huge bunch organic basil (4 cups)
½ cup pine nuts (or more to taste)
¼ cup olive oil
1 to 2 cloves of garlic
dash of sea salt
fresh lemon juice (optional)
*Parmesan cheese to taste if not wanting a vegan/clean version
Puree in food processor and taste, add more olive oil or seasoning or nuts as needed. Try mixing up nuts such as almonds and walnuts for less expensive versions but use at least 1 cup of nuts.Mix basil and cilantro half and half for excellent detoxing benefits.
Bon Appetit & Namaste!
This delicious vegetarian dish is a hearty main meal! Polenta is another family favorite so I make twice as much as I need for dinner to have for snacks or breakfast the next morning. Heat up the leftovers the next morning and top with a fried, soft boiled, or poached egg and you will feel like you are eating at a five star resort.
3 cups of polenta
6 cups of water or stock
1 tsp sea salt
¼ cup julienne sun dried tomatoes
Mushroom Ragout Ingredients:
Few tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 garlic cloves
4 shallots sliced (place in freezer for ten minutes before peeling and slicing to keep your eyes from burning and tearing)
2 pounds wild mushrooms any combo (cremini, button, shiitake, baby bella)
2 tsp marjoram, 2 tsp thyme, 2 tsp parsley chopped fine mix
1/c red wine, chicken stock or vegetable stock
Sea salt and pepper to taste (optional)
Shaved Parmesan (optional)
In large saucepan, bring water to boil and whisk in polenta slowly. Add salt if using. Add sun dried tomato and stir constantly until polenta is thick. Pour into two glass pie plates that have been sprayed with olive oil, cool and place in refrigerator to set two hours.
In large sauté pan over medium heat, coat pan with oil and sauté garlic and shallots 2 to 3 minutes. Add sliced mushrooms and herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook for two minutes and then add wine to reduce. When mushrooms are soft and sauce has thickened, set aside.
Coat grill or grill pan with olive oil spray. Cut polenta into triangles and grill over medium-high heat until polenta is heated through and grill marks are set approximately 3 ½ minutes per side. Top with ragout, fresh parsley, and shaved parmesan if using.
Bon Appetit & Namaste!
Mexican food is my weakness. If I am ever having a rough day, Stephen automatically picks me up and takes me out for fajitas or nachos (or anything Mexican inspired) and sets the world right again. Since his heart attack, we have been looking for healthier versions of these authentic craving-busters that would enhance our mood and energy levels.
*Black beans are very higher in fiber, protein, folate, antioxidants, and many other vitamins and minerals. They assist in cardiovascular health, cancer prevention and much more.
This black bean rich, healthy, satisfying meal honors vegetarians, vegans, heart healthy omnivores, and Mexican food fanatics alike with a few easy substitutions or eliminations!
1 can precooked low sodium or 2 cups previously cooked black beans
1 can refried black beans low sodium (Or soak 1 pound of black beans and make your own)
4-8 Fiber and Flax Corn Tortillas (1 to 2 per person) low sodium
1 cup nonfat sour cream or non-fat plain yogurt (omit for Vegan dish)
3 cups finely shredded romaine lettuce
Chopped tomatoes (not needed if making homemade salsa)
Chopped cilantro leaves
Chopped black olives (omit for heart healthy)
Chopped green onions (not needed if making homemade salsa)
Summer Fresh Salsa
Salad dressing~ optional (Sometimes guests prefer to make a salad and sprinkle it with the healthy homemade crispy tortillas on top).
1) Lightly spray tortillas with cooking oil. Cook at 400° for 8 minutes or until crispy.
2) Mix together beans and refried beans in small pan to heat on low.
3) Remove crispy tortillas from the oven and place on a platter.
4) Layer the ingredients onto the tortillas, beginning with black beans. I like to set up a tostada bar and let my family top their own tortillas.
Make mini-tostada cups by trimming tortillas to a slightly smaller circle, spraying with oil, and pressing into a large muffin cup tin. Bake at 350 degrees until crunchy, about 8 minutes. This makes for fun, festive appetizers!
Make your own tortilla chips by cutting a stack of tortillas in half and then in quarters, creating triangles. Spray and very lightly salt and place on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 400 degree oven, watching closely until crunchy and golden brown, about ten minutes. Turn over halfway through for best results.
La Tortilla Factory Smart and Delicious, Fiber & Flax Corn Tortillas are incredible tasting and are the first corn tortillas to include the added health benefits of fiber and flax. They’re packed with five grams of fiber, 200 mgs of Omega-3s, and 20 grams of whole grains. And with only 45-90 calories and 15 mgs of sodium per tortilla, they’re a great way to add nutrition minus the guilt!
Trader Joes carries no sodium tortillas that are delicious as well.
Beware though. Some supposedly healthy tortillas have as much as 350 mg of sodium each.
Bon appetit & Namaste!
4 to 6 organic chicken breasts
1 container of your favorite salsa (preferably organic) or a few cups of homemade salsa
1/4 cup of water if needed
I package low sodium Mexican seasoning (optional)
Use some other salt free spices and herbs if focusing on heart health.
Place chicken breasts in glass dish and cover with salsa. Place a small amount of water in jar and put the lid back on and shake to remove the remainder of the salsa. Pour over chicken.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes to one hour (depending on how thick breasts are) until chicken is no longer pink in the center and shreds easily with two forks.
Great for salads, tostadas, tacos, nachos, burritos and more!
Bon Appetit & Namaste!
I make this chicken for almost any recipe that requires cooked chicken. There is no sodium and it is extremely low in fat. This is the perfect chicken for soups, pasta dishes, and more. For Mexican inspired dishes substitute wine for a jar of salsa, no spices required!
4 to 6 organic chicken breasts
1/2 to 1 cup of white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
Italian Seasoning, and/or cilantro and parsley
Combine chicken and wine in a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle the Italian seasoning on top of chicken. Bake for 20 minutes or until the center of the meat is no longer pink. Remove chicken from dish, and shred the meat with two forks in the cooking juices.
This recipe is as delicious and versatile as the shredded chicken recipe above and I love to use it when I am adding poultry to my soups or pastas. Be sure and add the pan juices as well to the pot of soup because they add an entirely new layer of flavors.
Cilantro is also great for inflammation and psoriasis.
Parsley is also great for detoxing….so mix it up!
Bon Appetit & Namaste!