Balancing life with mindfulness

I don’t know about you – but my meditation practice went down the drain as we got into summer with the kids being home, guests arriving, dog sitting, trips away from home and things going on all the time.

Meditation is one of those things that is as important to me as brushing my teeth. It is where I reconnect with myself, find balance, tune in to my core, listen to the songs of my soul and come home.

When I get out of my life-balance rhythm, I suffer and it leads to unrest in my body. As a result, I get stressed, I feel grumpy more often, feel restless. I get distracted and feel disconnected. I may overeat, convince myself I don’t have time to run or that I really, really need that bag of chips!

When this happens, I know it’s time for me to reconnect with myself, and one of the best ways I find, is mindfulness meditation.

In an earlier post I wrote about how meditation changes the brain – how meditation keeps us clam and grounded long after we finished mediating. It helps us stay calm and focused, even in stressful situations. The situation is very much like the way that running helps us to burn fat even in between runs and while resting, because our muscles have become a fat burning furnace. The same happens in the brain when we mediate – and even after just a short period of time it is possible to see changes in the brain. The propensity for relaxation becomes larger and it becomes easier to find back into the same peaceful place within, just as we experience during meditation.

I know that in beginning meditation may very well feel inside like Times Square during rush hour! It takes a while to find the calm and it is important to remember that meditation does not mean that the mind is totally quiet. As my mediation hero, Jon Kabat-Zinn, says: “If you have a mind, it is going to wander”! When the mind wanders and you start thinking about shopping lists, who is driving the kids to soccer, what you should have said to someone or should not have said, when you start telling yourself you will never learn to meditate and you don’t need it anyway – the trick is, to return to the breath – again and again, without judgement.

I have downloaded my meditations to my phone so I can hear them whenever I need them – 5 min, 10 min, 15 min 20 or 30 minutes meditations – voila no excuses.

The latest addition to my collection is a Mindfulness Meditation App – it has 4 guided meditations 3 min, 5 min, 15 or 30 min – it also has 4 silent meditations and a guided Body Scan. You can set it so that at certain times, it reminds you that it’s time to meditate. It can even poke you at certain intervals to remind you to be more mindful and allowing yourself to be exactly as you are – not escaping life as it is, but to be mindful in the moment.

For years I have used Jon Kabat-Zinn’s  mindfulness meditations and I never get tired of them

Here is a workshop Jon Kabat- Zinn gave at Google some years ago

Advertisements

Immune Boosting Smoothie

Autumn is here, the leaves are turning bright red and orange. The days are getting shorter and cooler. The air is fresh and crisp, with a beautiful smell of earth. I love this time of year!

It is one of my favorite times to go running, the woods are beautiful and the temperature is just right.

It is also time to carve pumpkins, light the candles, light a fire in the fireplace, roast chestnuts and curl up with a good book and a cup of tea.

But it is also the time of year where we are particular prone to catching colds and nasty flues. So, as a precaution it is the perfect time to boost the immune system and load up on some natural

vitamin C.

We all need a shot of energy!

Today I created this Immune Boosting Smoothie – made with buckets of natural vitamin C, citrus, kale, grapes, ginger, apples and love.

Immune – Boosting Smoothie

A generous handful of fresh kale

2 small apples

1 grapefruit

1/2 lemon

1  lime fruit

2 slices of fresh ginger

a big bunch of green grapes

1 kiwi

filtered water for the right consistency

crushed ice

Blend it all together – and enjoy an instant boost of natural vitamin C to keep those nasty colds and runny noses away!

Weekend bread

There is something really fantastic about the smell of homemade bread. The aroma spreads throughout the house and fills the air with magic, memories of forgotten times.

When you put your house up for sale, they recommend that you bake before showing the house! Why? Because homemade bread and baking oozes of great life style, extra time, comfort, cozy life, family life and the luxury of having time to make bread, homemade bread!

But making bread is easy – it actually doesn’t take much time – once you get into the bread-making-rhythm.

Making a rhythm is really quite simple. For example, before going to bed, I toss the bread together, and put it in the fridge with a wet cloth on top, overnight. It does its stuff while I’m sleeping.

Continue reading

Delicious plums – in 3 different ways

Plums are gorgeous, don’t you think?  – I love the color and the taste of this fruit that tells me that fall is around the corner.

I went out yesterday and picked every single plum on the tree in the garden and made delicious raw jam, raw vanilla macadamia nut plum cheese cake and a cool plum almond nut milkshake.

Here are the recipes:

But before I get started I would like to thank two very special ladies! One is Somer, who just started a very cool new blog called Vedgedout – she was part of another very, very cool blog called goodcleanfood. One day I was reading a post from goodcleanfood by Somer, about making vegan cheese – I made a comment, and won a packet of Pectin!! A couple of weeks later I received a little package from Somer in the post. What a wonderful surprise!

Please check out both goodcleanfood and vedgedout – heartfelt thank you for the Pectin, Somer! I feel very spoiled!

The next heartfelt thank you, goes to another amazing woman who has transformed her life and healed herself from disease through a plant-based diet. Plant- Based Diet Adventures, thank you so much for nominating me for both the Kreativ Blogger Award and One Lovely Blog Award! Again, I feel very very spoiled, thank you!!

Also, you may like to check out plant-based diet adventures 

And now to the 3 recipes.  I’ll start with Plum Marmalade

Plum Marmalade

4 cups of plums

1 pk of Pectin

3/4 cup raw sugar or 1/2 cup of honey

Juice of 2 lemons

Crush the plums in the food processor. Mix well with sugar/honey and lemon juice. The package of Pectin contains 2 packages, one with pectin and another with calcium. Dissolve the content of calcium in one cup of water. Add 4 teaspoons of pectin to the plums, sugar and lemon juice and process for a couple of minutes till the pectin is dissolved. The recipe says add 4-12 teaspoons of calcium water while running the processor, I added 8 teaspoons, one at the time, till the marmalade thickened.

Enjoy – I enjoyed a homemade cracker with plum marmalade and a cup of tea!

I now have one jar in fridge – and I doubt if it will last long, the rest went in the freezer and will not be taken out until a very grey , rainy and cold winter day.

Cool Plum Almond Milkshake

The perfect after school snack

1 cup of crushed plums

Juice of one lemon

3 dates

1/2 cup of almonds

2 cups of water

crushed ice

Add everything to the blender and blend into a smooth cool and lovely milkshake. (If you do not have a high speed blender, soak the almonds and the dates for a couple of hours to soften them)

And now to the Vanilla Plum Macadamia Cheesecake a la raw food, so no eggs, no sugar, no butter, no cream cheese – still good? Oh yes and sinless!

Vanilla Plum Cheesecake

For the base:

1 cup of raw almonds

The grated rind of one lemon

2 tablespoons of agave sirup

6 dates

pinch of sea salt

In the processor blend all the ingredients well. Add into small pie forms and press the crust together. Leave them in the freezer while you make the “cheese” filling.

Filling

one cup of macadamia nuts

one vanilla bean

one big scoop of coconut butter

4 spoons of agave sirup

pinch of sea salt

1/4 cup water

Soak the macadamia nuts to make them soft – add them to the blender along with the vanilla bean, the coconut butter, the agave, the pinch of salt and the water – blend into a creamy and delicious “cheesecake” filling. Add on top of the crust and put them back in the freezer till you need them. Then take them out 5 min before you serve them and arrange a big spoonful of the plum marmalade on top and enjoy!

Lima beans with garlic, sunripe tomatoes, chili and zucchini

The perfect mix –  sun ripe organic tomatoes, fresh zucchini, garlic and chili – and Lima beans. An easy dish enjoyed on its own or as a perfect companion to fish, chicken, etc.

Lima beans with garlic, sun-ripe tomatoes, chili and zucchini

Prepare the beans

200 g Lima beans

a sprig of fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

sea salt

Rinse well in cold water. Add beans to a big pot of cold water, bring to the boil, drain and rinse in cold water. Do the same 3 times before finally boiling in water added salt, fresh thyme and a couple of bay leaves. Cook till tender – cool.

and then the zucchini, garlic, tomato and chili

2 small zucchini

3 ripe tomatoes

3 shallots

2 cloves of garlic

fresh red chili or dried

Olive oil

Slice the zucchini, finely chop the tomatoes, the garlic and the shallots. In a frying pan, fry the zucchini till golden, add the garlic and shallots. Continue cooking until the shallots and garlic are soft. Add the tomatoes and cook for a couple of minutes while mixing and stirring. Add the cooked Lima beans and season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Add chilli to taste. Serve hot and enjoy on its own or as the perfect accompany to fish or chicken.

Easy Crackers

These crackers are so tasty and they can be whipped up in minutes. It is a Danish recipe from a friend and the original recipe calls for wheat flour. But another of my friends, who is allergic to gluten, uses buckwheat, rice flour and chickpea flour. The thing is that you can use any flour you like for this recipe and they will be crispy and good

note however that some types of flour may need some assistance in sticking together. For example, in this recipe, I used chickpea flour, and I needed to add 1/4 extra flour to get the right consistency.

Easy Crackers

(1 dl = 0.42 cups)

1 dl chickpea flour

1/4 dl wheat flour

1 dl sunflower seeds

1 dl sesame seeds

1 dl flax seeds

1/4 dl olive oil

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 dl water

Mix it all the ingredients together – and put the dough on a piece of baking paper. Put another piece of baking paper on top (so the roller won’t stick) and then roll it as thin as you can get (or to the thickness that you prefer). When it is evenly rolled out remove the top piece of baking paper and put the rolled out cracker dough (still on the bottom piece of baking paper) onto a baking tray.  Cut it into squares and bake in 350F hot oven for 12-14 min – till they are slightly golden.

Take them out and leave them to cool. Enjoy the crispy crackers with honey and a cup of tea………………

Or for lunch with hummus like this…………….

Or perhaps with cheese like this…………… and a glass of wine

Or just on their own!

Keep them in an air tight container.

Sweat the blues

Can exercise really help us beat the blues?

I came across an interesting article on one of my favorite Danish news sites Fri.dk called “Can exercise prevent depression”?

A research study done by The Danish National Institute of Public Health points out that exercise can have an effective preventive effect on depression.

There is no doubt that exercise can help us when we are feeling the blues, but prevent depression? This is what the article said:

4 hours light exercise or 2 hours hard exercise a week

The Danish study confirms what we already know, that exercise is good for us physically, and that exercise plays a major role in our emotional health, but it also showed that exercise may  have a preventive effect on depression!

The research was done with 18.000 Danes between 18-99 years of age, both answering questions sheets and undergoing blood tests during a 26 year period.

The results showed that, especially in women, there was a preventive effect in the occurrence of depression, by doing regular exercise.

Women who were either physical inactive or exercised less than 2 hours had 1.8 times higher risk of developing depression than the women who were exercising a lot. The “exercising a lot” criteria in the study was, light exercise more than 4 hours or more than 2 hours heavy exercise a week.

The research points (not surprisingly) to have the same beneficial effect for men, but then there was not as many depressive men participating in the study.

The research discussed whether  it is simply exercise that has a preventive effect. They, therefore, also studied people who were physically active during their work day, for example in the postal services, but the research clearly showed that the physical exercise has to be done in free time. Work related “exercise”  had no effect on depression!  So something points to the fact that it is not the physical activity in itself that has the effect, it is important that it is part of free time and maybe there also is a social component.

I think this affirms that health does not happen in isolation – balanced living and happy health – means many things, among them are: getting regular exercise, nourishing our bodies with good food, embracing (all) emotions, having healthy relationships at work and privately, etc. And remember, depression can be a healthy response to something not right in our lives. No matter how much we run, we still need to attend to the underlying emotions and consult our heart – the old saying is true, we cannot run from our problems.

“Being entirely honest with oneself is good exercise”- Sigmund Freud

I think the social component in exercise plays a big and important role in preventing depression. We get out, we meet people and often we have great conversation during exercise, we solve the worlds problems as we go. We connect in a special way with people we exercise with. We set goals together, we sweat together, we laugh and cry together, we stretch ourselves together, we go beyond, we celebrate successes and support each other, we encourage each other, we share together. These aspects have the power to heal us, make us feel better, and prevent depression from occurring.

“The greatest wealth is health “ – Virgil

“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health” – Hippocrates

Earlier blog posts on exercise:

Muscles reward exercise

Make running part of your life – for good.

Getting into the great habit

Want to live longer? Jog a bit

Kale, beet salad with peaches, cranberries, creamy goat cheese and orange, honey dressing

September is one of my favorite months. It’s the month where we bask in the lasts days of summer, dwell on them like we trying to make them last forever, soaking up the sunshine, treasuring the fruits and berries. I really don’t want it to end – on the other hand what is better than a crisp, fresh autumn day with a clear blue sky and the trees turning orange?

This salad is a real September treat and it is easy to make. It tastes wonderful and is full of intense flavor combinations – sweet, salty, sour and zesty. Make sure you eat it wearing a big bib or even better your bathing suit – the juices go everywhere!

Kale,beet salad with peaches, cranberries, creamy goats cheese and orange, honey dressing

A big bunch of red kale

one bunch of beets – 5-6 beets ( keep the tops and use them later for juicing or in smoothies)

one handful of pumpkin seeds

goat cheese

one handful of dried cranberries

olive oil

one peach

dressing

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

juice of one orange

2 tbsp honey

sea salt

1 clove of garlic

1 tbsp olive oil

Wash and rinse the kale, remove the stems and cut the kale finely. Add it in to a bowl and drizzle a bit of olive oil on top, and then “massage” the kale to tenderise it. Peel the beets and either grate them or run them through the food processor. Add to the kale. Add a handful of dried cranberries  and a handful of pumpkin seeds.

In a small bowl add the balsamic vinegar, the orange juice, olive oil, honey, sea salt and freshly squeezed garlic. Mix it all well and add it to the salad, mixing well. Arrange the salad in a dish or on plates, Cut slices of peach and arrange it on top of the salad, add a bit of crumbled creamy goats cheese on the top and a few more pumpkin seeds.

Enjoy!

This salad can of course be eaten without the goats cheese for a vegan version, like this.

Easy Beets

I love this time of year – so great to cook with the great harvest from the garden or the market. I am not a gardener, have never had a single interest in the gardening before, but this year, something changed.

I love my garden – It is magical to go out in the garden early in the morning while the day is fresh, to water and then later to pick lettuce for salads, kale for greens smoothies, spinach for salads and pies. And now the garden is booming with juicy cherry tomatoes and plums. Yesterday I went out and harvested beets – delicious beets.

The garden has been so generous! Today a recipe for Easy Beets

 

8 beets, wash them, clean them and cut off the tops and ends. Put them on a baking tray, drizzled with olive oil and sea salt – put them in the oven to bake for about 20 min at 360F all depending on the size of the beets.

While the beets are baking, put a big pot of water to boil with added salt. When the water is boiling  throw in the beet leaves, leave them in til they are just wilted . Take them out and run cold water over them to stop the cooking process.

When the beets are cooked, take them out to cool. The cooking time depends on the size of the beets so check to make sure they are right. I cooked mine for about 20 min

When everything is cool –  skin the beets and cut them into quarts, arrange them on top of the wilted leaves.

Make a dressing of the juice of one lemon, mixed with 1/2 cup of olive oil, some sea salt, freshly ground pepper and some freshly chopped parsley, mint and basil – pour the dressing on the top and VOILA, one delicious salad!