Thursday, September 27, 2012

Gentle and Rejuvenating Ginger!

  The root of the ginger plant was used by ancient healers in Southeast Asia who utilized it's healing properties to cure indigestion and joint pain nearly 5,000 years ago. Today, many of the same benefits are being procured by this magical plant. It is top on my list of medicinal herbs because of the vast array of ailments it is proven to treat or cure. I'd like to show you a few of these marvelous benefits and give you some ideas on how to incorporate ginger into your daily life!
Ginger for Inflammation

   Ginger root contains powerful anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols. These substances can cause a reduction of pain and increased mobility for people who suffer from rheumatoid and osteo-arthritis when they consume the plant regularly. Other anti-inflammatory benefits (if you aren't quite to the arthritis stage in life) include helping to clear skin of acne and other related outbreaks. I personally have found a few slices of ginger added to green tea and drank daily can help clear your skin almost completely! I have also experimented with using ginger as a topical acne treatment by rubbing the cut end of the root directly on a blemish, which was noticeably lessened the next morning.

Ginger as Cancer Treatment/Prevention

   Those very same gingerols that help to reduce inflammation may also be cancer fighting and killing machines! Studies have shown that the compounds, which also give ginger it's distinct spicy flavor, could inhibit the growth of human colorectal cancer cells and even induce death in ovarian cancer cells! A pro-inflammatory state is thought to be a contributing factor in the development of ovarian cancer, therefore, by reducing inflammation you are greatly reducing your risk! Ways to incorporate these cancer-fighting benefits including drinking ginger tea and eating foods spiced with ginger.

Ginger for Increased Immunity

   You may have heard that drinking ginger tea can help fight off a cold or flu. That is entirely true and I have used this many times to beat or prevent illness. Ginger is extremely warming and can even cause you to produce sweat on a cold day. By causing your body to sweat, you are increasing detoxification, which is exactly what you want when you are sick! Also, ginger can help an upset stomach and is a natural pain-killer. I find that drinking several cups of fresh ginger root tea with lots of lemon and local honey helps to kick illness faster than any commercial medicine I've ever tried. Give it a shot next time you're under the weather!!

   I hope you have learned a little bit about my favorite medicinal herb ginger. Not only is it delicious (especially combined with cinnamon in tea), but it has many disease fighting properties as well. I encourage you to try it out and see what ginger can do for you! Until next time, stay clean and healthy!!! :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pumpkin Cheesecake Muffins

   I love when I stumble upon a recipe that is so completely satisfying I can't help but share it as soon as my tongue gets a taste. This recipe definitely meets those standards. I am also enamored with fall, everything about it. From the cooler breeze to the changing colors in the trees, I adore it all. My absolute favorite thing about fall? It's pumpkin season. :) 
   Upon purchasing a small, organic "sugar pie" pumpkin from Whole Foods, I had a hard time deciding what to actually do with it. I flirted with the idea of making cupcakes with a nice cream cheese frosting. Or should I, upon the boyfriend's request, go all out and make a delicious (albeit time consuming) pumpkin cheesecake? With these ideas in mind, I scoured the internet in hopes to find the perfect fall treat. And boy, did I find it! The perfect combination of the two, I present to you:

Pumpkin Cheesecake Muffins
For the filling: 
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsps cinnamon 
  • 1 tsp almond extract (optional but delicious)
For the muffins: 
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 large eggs (or egg substitute - I used 4 chia/flaxseed "eggs")
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree (you can purchase this pre-made or make your own - details below)
  • 1¼ cups grapeseed oil (or any oil you have on hand. I used a combination of grapeseed and coconut.) 
For the topping: 
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
   If you're like me and prefer to avoid pre-processed foods, you might consider making your own pumpkin puree for this recipe. It's very simple to do and a small "sugar pie" pumpkin provided me with the exact amount I needed for this recipe. To make pumpkin puree, there's a variety of different ways you can go about it. All ways begin with you cutting the pumpkin in half, de-seeding it (Save for a later date! Pumpkin seeds are very nutritious and spectacular toasted with some cumin and chili powder.), and then chopping small and removing the skin. I chose the quickest method which involves placing the diced pumpkin into a pot of boiling water and letting it cook for about half an hour. Alternatively, you could roast the pumpkin or steam it. Both take a bit longer to do, however, and I was very impatient last night. ;) After you cook the pumpkin using whichever method you choose, you simply place the bits in a food processor or blender and let 'er rip! In seconds, you have freshly cooked pumpkin puree! (This also freezes exceptionally well if you end up with more than the needed 2 cups!)

   Now for the ACTUAL recipe. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine your ingredients for the filling. Simply whisk together until nice and creamy, and then store in the fridge until ready to use. You'll want to make the topping next. To do so combine the dry ingredients and then add your cubes of butter. Then you'll want to use a fork to mash the butter into the dry mixture until it is crumbly. Also set this in the fridge until you're ready to assemble. Now you can make the muffin batter. Simply add all ingredients and mix until incorporated. (I used an electric hand mixer but with a little man power you can easily do this by hand.) You want to line a cupcake pan (or two if you have them!) and then fill the paper 3/4 of the way full with the muffin batter. Then you will add a dollop (about 1 tbs) of the cream cheese filling on top. Finally, sprinkle generously with the topping. Bake for about 20 minutes and then remove when a toothpick (or other sharp kitchen device) comes out clean. Let cool for as long as you can manage. I don't recommend eating directly out of the oven - the cream cheese filling is molten, trust me! 

   These muffins are the perfect fall treat and taste even better the next day for breakfast. I hope you enjoy this recipe and the beginning of your fall/holiday season! Until next time, stay hungry delicious clean!!!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Increasing Your Willpower

Is there a goal you've set or a change that you'd like to make that you just can't seem to make yourself do? Whether it's losing weight, quitting smoking or even just making more time for your family, we all have challenges overcoming what we want to do in the short term for what we know will be good for us in the long term. Here are a few tips gleaned from Kelly McGonigal's book The Willpower Instinct on how to increase your own willpower and do the things you always find yourself wishing you could do.

Track the choices you make related to your challenge.
Before you start tackling your goal head-on, go about your week like you normally would and be conscious of what choices you make throughout the day. What derails you when you're about to do something you need to do? Are you stressed, hungry or tired? Do you get a sense of comfort and security when you spend an extra hour at work? When you constantly check Facebook, are you even aware that you're doing it before you find yourself commenting on a status? Being aware of what motivates you lets you know what's preventing your success. You may be surprised by what you discover!

Willpower is finite.
Just like any muscle in your body, your brain can handle only so much resistance before it finally gives out. This includes minor daily tasks, like remembering a phone number. Don't ask your brain to run a marathon right away. Anything worth doing takes time, so if you're struggling just remember to keep trying. Don't overburden yourself with too much too fast, and don't beat yourself up if you don't get it right. Try to remove any obstacles that make it more difficult for you to reach your goal daily, and use the following techniques to boost your willpower over time. Remember too that many stressors can drain your willpower throughout the day, so be aware that if you've had a rough day at work you'll be more likely to slip up.

Meditate at least 5 minutes daily.
Research shows that daily meditation, even in short increments, can boost your attention, focus, stress management, impulse control and self-awareness. Effects can be seen immediately, but the best part is the more regularly you meditate, the more adept you are with all of these skills.

Slow your breathing down and take deep breaths.
Just twenty minutes daily of being conscious of your breath, and even just taking a few deep breaths before a big challenge for one to two minutes greatly increases your willpower reserve. Try to take 10 to 15 seconds for each breath.

Get a full night of sleep.
Being tired drains your brain of energy too, not just your body. When your brain isn't functioning at its best, it's difficult to balance tough decisions. Do yourself a favor and make sure you get the 8 hours you need. You'll work more efficiently in the long run than if you stay up late and work an extra hour.

Exercise at least 5 minutes daily.
That's all it takes to boost your mood and your resistance to temptation!

Relax your muscles.
When your body is relaxed, you recover some of your willpower. Unfortunately, watching TV doesn't count. Lay on your back with your knees bent in a quiet place. Tense up your muscles and then release them to feel full relaxation. You may be scowling, slouching, or clenching your fists and not even realize it.

Hopefully you'll find these tips helpful as you set out to reach your goals. Start small and dream big! And until next time, keep it clean!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Streamlining Your Workout

We all have high demands on our time during the day, making it difficult to fit in everything we need to do -- much less the things we would like to do for ourselves. Unfortunately, exercise is one of the number one things we put off or put on the back burner because we don't have a free moment to do it. Here's a few tips to make fitting in a workout a little faster.

Workout where you are.
Driving to the gym, packing a gym bag, trying to arrange your keys and water bottle and headphones in your shorts, waiting for a treadmill... Sometimes going to the gym can really sap your day away! You can easily spend an hour preparing for and cleaning up after a 20 minute work out. Try finding places nearby you (a nearby park or just your own neighborhood) that offer the same perks. If you like the stair-stepper, use the nearby high school stadium and run up and down the bleachers, or find a steep hill in your neighborhood. Carry weights to make it more challenging. Running around the block is usually more physically demanding and a better workout than running on a machine. Bonus points: Research shows that spending just 5 minutes a day outside among greenery boosts your willpower and focus throughout the day. So get out there!

Resist the urge to shower every time you sweat.
I know it sounds a little icky, but you can still be clean and fresh (and save an extra 30 minutes in your mornings) without always washing. If you have access to a shower, give your body a quick rinse. If you're not so lucky, go with a French shower and wipe off extra sweat and dirt with a clean wet washcloth. Deodorizing wipes and body sprays can also help freshen you up.

You can still have gorgeous hair without washing it.
Keep mousse, light hairspray or shine enhancing balm (whatever hair finishing product you prefer) on hand. Spritz on a little, work it through your hair and then blow dry it in sections with a round brush to dry out the sweat. Flip your head over and dry underneath, and finish by blowing cool air at the nape of your neck to help you cool off faster. If your hair gets oily, you can sprinkle cornstarch on your scalp, let it sit for a few minutes and then brush it out with a bristly brush over the sink. Voila! No more oil. It's a super cheap dry shampoo that quickly gives your hair life again. This routine takes all of 5 minutes, smells great and no one will be the wiser.

Find training that works multiple areas.

To cut down on time, try multitasking with your body! You can do a cardio circuit without the machines by just varying the speed and intensity of your runs, or by picking hilly terrain. If it's strength training you're interested in, there are literally hundreds of options for working multiple muscle groups. Fitness MagazineNike Training Club, and Beachbody are all excellent (and mostly free) resources for short and effective workouts.

Sleep in your gym clothes.
My sweats double as my PJ's. This way I can just roll out of bed, put on my shoes and go. If you work out during your lunch or after you get off work, lay out your stuff the night before. This way if you have other things on your mind as you're getting ready for the day, you won't be distracted by trying to remember where your favorite pants are.

Keep in mind what prevents you from working out.
Everyone's schedules and lives are different. Take a hard look back on the times you've skipped workouts and be honest with yourself. When you start making excuses, be conscious of it and step outside of yourself and say "What is really preventing me from going? Am I really that tired or hungry? Do I really have to clean the kitchen right now? Can I check my emails when I'm back at work, or does work really demand my time right now?" Only you can talk yourself in or out of doing something, and only you know what's at the heart of what's stopping you. The only workout you regret is the one you don't do. So spend less time lying in bed, dragging your feet and debating about what you want to do or should do and just do it!

The less barriers you have, the more likely you are to get things done. Make it easy on yourself to achieve what you want and you'll be more likely to succeed. Until next time, keep it clean!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hey There Honey!

   Honey has been utilized as a natural sweetener for centuries, dating back as far as 2100 B.C. Mead, which is made from honey, was once referred to as the "nectar of the gods." Honey has also been honored as a form of currency, tribute, and offering throughout history. It's even been used to make cement, varnishes for furniture, and also has many medicinal purposes. Let me show you a few! 

Anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral: 

   Honey has all of the above qualities making it a powerhouse against disease and infection. You can take honey to prevent and help cure illness, treat athletes food and other fungal infections, and even use it directly on a wound or burn to help increase healing! It's gentle and tastes delicious too! 

Honey helps soothe and heal sore throats and upper-respiratory infection:

   Due to honey's antimicrobial properties, it makes it the perfect antidote for a sore throat. Not only will the sweet, viscous liquid coat and soothe the throat, but it will help fight off infection naturally too! There have also been reports that honey will reduce the frequency and severity of coughs due to upper-respiratory congestion. 

                                             Honey as cancer prevention: 

    While honey will not cure cancer, there is significant evidence that it can help to prevent it. Honey has carcinogen-preventing, anti-tumor properties due to large amounts of flavonoids. These are antioxidants which can help reduce the risk of some cancers and even heart disease.

Bonus - Honey for hangovers:

   If you sometimes indulge a little too much on the weekend, you may end up with the dreaded hangover the following morning (or afternoon as the case may be). Well, here comes honey to the rescue! Honey is super gentle on your tummy and also contains a mix of natural sugars, including fructose. Fructose has been known to speed up the oxidation of alcohol by the liver, acting as a sort of 'sobering' agent. This will help speed up your recovery and increase overall well-being. 

   I hope you have learned some new things about this old standby sweetener. Honey is one of my favorite foods, and I always have a large supply. When using honey for medicinal purposes, it's best to use local, raw honey as it has the most healing powers. Happy health and as always, stay clean!


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Pizza Cupcakes!

   I love to experiment and have fun in my kitchen. I also loooove pizza. After perfecting my pizza dough recipe (took a few years to get the proportions just right!), I soon became bored with making the same old pie. So, with a little inspiration, I give to you:

Pizza Cupcakes!

You will need: 
  • Pizza dough (homemade or store-bought, though I highly recommend the former - recipe below ;))
  • Marinara or pizza sauce (again, homemade or store-bought)
  • Mozzarella cheese (regular or vegan, shredded)
  • Pepperoni (regular or vegan, diced small)
  • Oil (I use coconut oil for this)
  • Cupcake pan (or a muffin pan for pizza muffins!)
If making your own dough, you'll also need:

  • 2 1/4 teaspoon yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup bread flour (or all-purpose flour + 1 tbs vital wheat gluten)
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbs oil (I use grapeseed in mine)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup warm water
   To make the dough, add the yeast and sugar to the cup of warm water. Let sit until bubbles form. Then add the rest of your ingredients. Knead the dough to form a soft ball. Let rise, covered in a bowl, for 30 minutes to an hour, or until doubled in size. Mine usually doesn't  take long to rise at all! Once risen, punch the dough in the center and then knead again briefly. Now your dough is ready to use!

   Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease your cupcake pan using the coconut oil and a paper towel. Then pinch off enough dough to cover the bottom of the cupcake pan. Spread it out and make sure some of the dough is coming up the sides. Now you'll spoon a little marinara on top of the dough and coat evenly. Then sprinkle on the cheese and diced pepperoni. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until the tops are brown and the cheese is melted. Let cool briefly and enjoy your cute mini pizzas! :)

   Thank you for letting me share this recipe with you! It's a hit for both kids and adults and is super easy to make. Have fun in the kitchen and as always, stay clean!!!