In the Kitchen With: Sabina Chazanas of LaNatura Natural Skin Care

I’m thrilled to introduce you all to Sabina Chazanas as my first guest in a new blog series titled “In the Kitchen With…” where I interview individuals that are supporting well-nourished bodies through their work. Sabina is doing just that as the founder and owner of one of my favorite natural skin care brands, LaNatura

From stories of growing up in Italy, to the motto, beauty isn’t a secret – it’s a lifestyle, Sabina’s traditional and holistic view of wellness resonates with what Parisi Nutrition is all about. She’s a genuine expert in the area of skin care and has shared some fabulous tips with us on how to have naturally beautiful skin, from the inside out. Enjoy!

lanatura-owner-sabina-chazanas

Tell us a little bit about your story and what inspired you to pursue a career in cosmetics.

For me, “natural” and “organic” have always been more than just trendy buzzwords – they have been a way of life since I was a little girl. San Ferdinando di Puglia, where I grew up, is an agricultural area known for its rich land and abundance of home grown fruits, vegetables and herbs. My grandfather taught me that the fruits of the earth were not just delicious food, but also the secret to beautiful skin, hair, and overall health and well-being. On long bicycle rides through the countryside, he would teach me to pick wild herbs like chamomile and mint, and put olive oil in my hair to keep it soft. The lessons he taught me made a huge impact and I always knew that I would be in the natural cosmetic industry. In my early adulthood I moved to England, where I trained as an esthetician at London’s prestigious Arnould-Taylor Therapy College. From there I worked with Revlon and Clinique in sales and marketing. I worked very hard to make something for myself and eventually became Senior Consultant at Clinique where I was tasked to launch the Clinique brand in South Africa. It was so exciting and one of the best times in my life. With all the great skills I had learned I decided to branch off and try my hand at running my own business. I moved to Los Angeles and opened my own store in Beverly Hills named LaNatura. The original store carried exotic and natural products I had discovered in my travels for Clinique, but soon I realized that I could make these products too! From that little idea I started LaNatura brand products, making and bottling the products in my own kitchen at the beginning. My inspiration was always to do something that my grandfather would be proud of, and I feel like I have succeeded in LaNatura.

Your website says, “if you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your body.” Why is using pure, natural ingredients a priority for LaNatura and why should we, as consumers, follow this guideline?

We live in a toxic world, where environmental factors are constantly affecting us from the inside out. For the sake of our health and longevity, we should try to counterbalance our environmental toxins with as many “clean” choices as possible. We as consumers have two choices, to fill our bodies with chemicals or to nourish with pure and natural ingredients. Using a chemical or synthetic body lotion instead of all natural formulas like ours is the same as choosing the drive-thru over cooked vegetables. We all know what the better option is; if it’s available to you why not make that better choice? I just couldn’t take pride in what I do if I knew that I was selling a product that essentially was “fake.” You need real ingredients to get real results.

How does one transition from her normal beauty routine to a cleaner routine?

The best rule when buying beauty products is that you can read and understand the ingredient list. Granted some ingredients, even natural products, are written in “INCI” which is basically the scientific name. For example, on our ingredient list we use a lot of Shea Butter; the INCI is Butyrospermum Parkii Fruit. We list both the common and INCI names on our packaging so that everyone can read and understand pure ingredients. If you cannot get a straight answer about what an INCI means by doing a simple search, it’s probably not something you want to put on. It is important to stay away from chemical products such as silicones, heavy metals, sulfates, parabens, formaldehydes, propylene glycol, mineral oil, petrolatum, and PABA ingredients in particular. We also do not use any ingredients, natural or otherwise that have been tested on animals or come from animals.

LaNatura facilities production

What role do you think diet plays in skin’s appearance?

For me, diet contributes 80-90% to skin’s appearance. Everything that goes into your body plays a great factor in how you look, feel and function. Diet provides nourishment and if you are malnourished, you tend to look more dull, and even grey at times. If you eat a healthy diet full of nutrient rich foods then your skin tends to thrive and glow. Oils are regulated throughout the body making skin more supple and moisturized. Eating goodies like “super fruits” and the Omegas are said to fight free radicals which contributes to the health of your skin on a cellular level.

I noticed many of your products are gluten-free. Why is this important to LaNatura and where might gluten be hiding in other cosmetics?

We have access to so many different ingredients and why not choose the safest of those for our luxurious products? With new allergies popping up all the time, we have to be thinking ahead. Gluten is a major concern for people right now and many people have discovered in the last few years that symptoms they had encountered over their lifetimes were actually due to an allergy to gluten. We absorb about 60% of everything that we put topically on our body, so we strive to make our products safe for everyone to use. Gluten can be found in many oils, specifically Wheat Germ which is found in many products. If you are not allergic to gluten, then this is by no means a “bad ingredient,” but we prefer to play it safe.

If you could give us one skin care tip, what would it be?

Drink water! Lots of water. Personally, I drink at least 50 oz. of water a day. It keeps you moisturized and, of course, hydrated from the inside out. This goes back to the diet point. I feel and see the effects immediately when I haven’t had enough water. You may not see the toll dehydration is taking now, but if you up your water intake I guarantee you will see the benefits.

What are your must-have LaNatura products?

Our Superfruit Pure Vegan Body Butters are essential. I use it everyday and have for years. I rely on it fully to keep my skin soft and moisturized all day long. Of course our shea butters are excellent, but some, like me, prefer a creamier texture during application and a few added benefits from the additional oils. The Shea Butter base alone is excellent for your skin, but then, for example in our Matcha Green Tea Body Butter you get the antioxidants from the Matcha Green Tea Powder, the soybean oil which is ideal for hydrating and minimizing the appearance of wrinkles, grape seed oil for improving skin texture and toning vitamin E that helps to reverse skin’s aging process. It has definitely kept my skin glowing throughout the years.

Sabina Chazanas LaNatura roots and cooking

At Parisi Nutrition, we’re all about food. What is your favorite, easy meal to cook at home after a long day of work?

I would say my favorite thing to cook is soup. Any kind of soup, really. I’m very into lentil soup right now. It is very easy to make and so delicious. I love the warm, comforting quality of soups, especially after a long day at work or an intense spinning class. I like to season mine with curry powder and turmeric.

At Parisi Nutrition our goal is to cultivate well-nourished bodies through whole foods and a pure lifestyle. What foods or practices make you feel nourished?

Fresh fruits and vegetables are the key for me. I start every morning with a warm cup of lemon water, sometimes with a splash of ginger. The lemon just instantly makes me feel bright and awakened! I continue my day snacking on nuts and eating meals that consist of delicious greens, bright tomatoes, avocado, fresh mozzarella and herbs. I grew up eating very clean on a farm in Italy, as my grandfather taught me and I have always carried the importance of that with me. I also work out at least three times a week with different, fun exercises. My favorite right now is my Brazilian Butt Bootcamp. Like our motto at LaNatura says: Beauty isn’t a secret, it’s a lifestyle. For me this means it’s not enough to just eat green. It is a combination of healthy practices including nutrition, exercise and all the products you use.

Isn’t that the truth? Be sure to check out LaNatura‘s products when you’re ready to upgrade your beauty routine and connect with Sabina on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest or email info(at)lanatura.com.

Loving This {March}

March Loving ThisA monthly show-and-tell on what’s working for me.

I’ve been so excited about spring’s arrival that I had quite a bit of trouble narrowing down my favorite things this month. My six finalists are below, but you can always follow me on Instagram for all the others. This month has been all about contrasting seasons, curling up on the couch at night with a cup of hot tea after a day filled with strawberries and sunshine. Now, I’m in California so my seasons may look a little different than yours, so feel free to share what March looks like for you in the comments below.

What’s Working in March:

  1. Strawberries. I walked into the grocery store this month to find an explosion of strawberries. It’s definitely spring here in California and I’m taking full advantage of the bounty.
  2. Glass Straws. Glass straws are a fabulously green way to protect tooth enamel from acids and keep your lipstick fresh. I love these smoothie-sized glass straws from Glass Dharma.
  3. La Natura Lip Balm. Winter lips have nothing on La Natura Lip Balm. I’ve never been into chopsticks or lip balms, but this coconut-y concoction is free of all the things I try to avoid and feels so good. I’m hooked.
  4. Tea + Coconut Oil. There’s been so much buzz about the benefits of coconut oil recently, especially around it being a potential therapy for Alzheimer’s disease. I aim for 1-3 tablespoons of coconut oil each day and adding 1 tablespoon of oil to my tea is an easy way to do that. The oil adds a richness (and is great for chapped lips!) and provides a little more energy than just a plain cup of tea.
  5. Butter. I’ve always loved butter, but due to the current drought and the popularity of Bulletproof Coffee, my favorite Kerrygold Irish salted butter has been out of stock for months. I was delighted to finally found it in the store again, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.
  6. The French Laundry. I don’t know how to properly express how fabulous this Napa restaurant is, other than it exceeds the hype. Just walking around the restaurant garden alone is worth the trip. If you’re ever lucky enough to get a reservation, be prepared to eat more than you ever have, enjoy foods you never thought you’d like, and have every possible need taken care of before you can even ask (even food sensitivities).

What are you loving this month?

 

Breakfast Tacos

I could probably eat tacos for every meal and breakfast is no exception. I typically add eggs to my breakfast tacos, but this particular day I was tasked with creating an egg-free version that I absolutely loved. This is a great meal to make if you have leftover roasted vegetables from a previous meal.

Breakfast Tacos

Ingredients:

  • 1 large sweet potato, cut in 1/2 inch cubes (keep the skin on!)
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, rinsed well and sliced
  • 1 cup black beans
  • 8 slices nitrate-free bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 4-8 sprouted corn tortillas (or lettuce cups)
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Toss sweet potato and bell pepper with 1 Tbsp. melted coconut oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring halfway through, until tender, 35 to 40 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat remaining coconut oil in a large sauté pan on the stove. Add sliced leeks and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the leeks are tender, about 5 minutes. Add black beans and cook for 5 minutes more.
  4. Once the sweet potatoes and bell pepper are finished, add the roasted vegetables to the pan with the leeks and beans and toss to combine.
  5. Lay out tortillas or lettuce cups on serving plates and top with vegetable/bean mixture, crumbled bacon, avocado and cilantro.

Tips:

  • Use whatever vegetables you have in your fridge. Greens like spinach or kale can be cooked along with the leeks or try summer squash, eggplant or mushrooms.
  • Add an egg to your taco for extra protein.
  • Keep any extra vegetables and enjoy a sweet potato hash for another meal.

 

The Best of The Breakfast Club

Last month many of us embarked on a 28-day challenge to take the time to eat breakfast every day. My co-hosts and I shared photos of our own breakfasts (scroll down to see the “Best Of”) and the challenge participants pinned their favorite recipes to our group Pinboard (which you can view here). It was a wonderful experience that was both challenging and educational, but I think the most important thing that happened last month is that we all fell in love with breakfast.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love breakfast. The truth is, I don’t know if my friends actually know the extent to which I love breakfast. I think my husband has a good idea – he proposed to me over homemade breakfast burritos (Husband interjects: Please note that the proposal included a lot more than breakfast burritos – it was EPIC). Clearly he know what he wanted and exploited my weakness to get to it.

Isn’t waking up in the morning the very best thing that can happen in a day (the idea being that if we didn’t wake up, nothing else would be possible)? Breakfast is a celebration of that. 

The transition from sleep to wake is valuable. The mingling of dream-life and real-life provides fresh perspective. Problems are solved. Plans are made. Priorities are set. Breakfast gives us time and space to think and become fully awake.

Just like a killer outfit, new shoes, or red lipstick can add some spunk to your attitude, breakfast can inform who we are each day.

Food is the story we tell our bodies. Each bite a word, each meal a message – I’m happy, I’m sad, I care about you, I’m too tired to care…Breakfast is the beginning of each chapter. Let your story say I love you and let each breakfast say you’re important and I believe in what you will accomplish today.

If I were to create a restaurant, it would be a breakfast restaurant called “Put An Egg On It” serving all sorts of seasonal vegetable combinations topped with a poached egg (of course there will be options for people with egg sensitivities). There will be a cozy corner for those who stumble in wearing their pajamas to curl up with a book and a seating section to see and be seen for the fabulous ladies who brunch. It won’t be a destination restaurant, it will be a local spot for regulars because breakfast is ordinary, and that’s the beauty of it.

We eat breakfast because it’s been a long time since we last ate and we’re hungry. Breakfast is eating in its simplest form: food as fuel. It’s often repetitive, rooted in habit, on the verge of tradition, and I love it.

The Best of the Breakfast Club:

Almond Pancakes

Best allergen-free: Shirley’s Almond Pancakes

Made with almond flour and a banana, get your healthy sugar fix and protein kick all in one.

photo 1Most beautiful photo: Natalie’s Sprouted Toast with Almond Butter

and Mixed Berry Chia Seed Jam

This grown-up version of peanut butter and jelly is deliciously warm, and hits the spot without all the sugar of your childhood version.

smashed eggsBest Quick & Easy: Drew’s Smashed Eggs

To make this quick, keep hard boiled eggs in the fridge so you’ll be ready at any time. The recipe is simple: smash some hard boiled eggs in a mug and add a dollop of good mayonnaise, dijon mustard, sprouts, and flax seeds.

Sweet Potato HashTop Pick for Weekend Brunch: Gillian’s Sweet Potato Hash

This sweet potato hash with caramelized onions, sausage, rosemary, and eggs will be a hit with the whole family and makes for great leftovers too!

photo 1Everyday favorite: Drew’s Leftover Quinoa

This is a fantastic and simple recipe from It’s All Good to make whenever there’s leftover quinoa in the house. Simply sauté some kale and garlic, poach and egg, and you’re done!

polenta sausage pepper and eggsMost Creative: Gillian’s Polenta and Eggs

Most people wouldn’t think of eating polenta for breakfast, but leftover polenta makes a great base for eggs – especially when paired with red bell pepper and sausage.

HeartBeet SmoothieBest Smoothie: Natalie’s Valentine’s Day HeartBeet Smoothie

This superfood smoothie packs a delicious punch with raw kale, raw beets, and raw cacao! Rich and satisfying, you’ll probably want to make this everyday. If you don’t have a protein powder you use, you can give the smoothie extra staying power with a half cup of certified gluten free oats, or a couple tablespoons of almond butter.

Honorable Mentions: Blueberry Lemon Biscuits, Sweet Potato Kale Quinoa Frittatas, Bacon Avocado and Tomato Toasts, and Fruit and Vegetable Smoothie

Congratulations to all the challengers for completing 28 days of The Breakfast Club!

Travel Eats: Asia (Hong Kong, Beijing, Thailand)

Travel Eats AsiaI recently returned home from a fabulous trip to Hong Kong, Beijing, and Southern Thailand. Having had such an easy time finding delicious, gluten free foods on previous trips, I must say I was quite surprised by how difficult it was to find gluten free foods on this trip. Most of the restaurants and hotels I visited were not familiar with the term “gluten free” and it turned out that between noodles, soy sauce, and MSG, wheat flour was an ingredient in most menu items.

While not everyone follows a gluten free diet, we all have foods that we particularly favor and a lot of us are trying to fuel our bodies with certain foods in order to reach personal health goals. Traveling to unknown places can be quite a disruption to our normal eating habits, and if we don’t plan well, can derail us from our health track.

Having so many clients that travel frequently for business, I know I’m not alone in the struggle to eat well in a new place. I’ve put together this simple list of 8 Healthy Tips for Eating Abroad:

  1. If you have any dietary restrictions, request special meals from the airline when you book your ticket. Unfortunately these meals often aren’t very good (are the regular meals any better?), so see #2.
  2. When you accidentally pack your snacks in your checked luggage, you end up eating potato chips and apple juice for dinner at the airport.

    When you accidentally pack your snacks in your checked luggage, you end up eating potato chips and apple juice for dinner at the airport.

    Pack food to take on the airplane with you. Airports and airplanes are (real) food deserts and you don’t want to be stuck for hours or days without food. If it’s the first leg of your trip, you can pack more perishable items like hard-boiled eggs, chicken salad, green salad, or whatever leftovers you have in the fridge. Don’t count on the airline-provided meal to be any good and don’t necessarily expect to find a balanced meal at an airport during your layover. (If you don’t plan well, you may end up eating potato chips and apple juice for dinner.)

  3. Consider the time that you will arrive at your destination. If it’s late, you may not have access to food when you arrive so plan to bring a snack to eat then as well.
  4. Pack non-perishable snacks that should last the duration of the trip like sprouted nuts and seeds, dried fruits, jerky, and protein bars.
  5. Gluten free restaurant card thanks to the hotel concierge.

    Gluten free restaurant card thanks to the hotel concierge.

    If you have dietary restrictions, carry a card with you that explains your dietary needs written in the language of the country you are visiting. You can search for these online, or ask your hotel concierge to write it out for you. (This works most of the time, but be prepared in case you run into a server that can’t read.)

  6. Find a grocery store when you get to your destination to stock up on balanced snacks to eat during your stay so you won’t be at the mercy of restaurants.
  7. Just like you research where to stay and what to do ahead of time, research where to eat. For example, you can search for gluten free restaurants on Trip Advisor or travel blogs. There’s nothing worse than being hungry and not being able to find a restaurant to suit your dietary restrictions.
  8. Enjoy yourself! This is a time to try new foods and have an adventure. If all else fails, eat a protein bar.

If you are planning a trip to any of the places I visited (or just want to live vicariously through what I ate), here are some of my recommendations:

Mana! was a delicious gluten free and vegetarian restaurant in Hong Kong.

Mana! was a delicious gluten free and vegetarian restaurant in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong: I (gluten free) visited my friend (vegetarian) in Hong Kong so we had to find restaurants that suited us both. We found Mana! and Life which were both organic, vegetarian, and gluten free. While they weren’t necessarily unique experiences (the cuisine was similar to what I might find in California), the food was delicious and made our bodies feel amazing.

Beijing, China: Beijing is where things got really tough. Apparently Northern China cuisine relies more on wheat products like noodles and dumplings, while Southern China consumes more rice. Luckily, hot pot is a traditional dish that can easily be made gluten free by asking for no soy sauce and no MSG. We found a fun little hot pot restaurant called Little Sheep and it turns out they also have locations in California! My favorite dining experience in Beijing was at Temple Restaurant. The staff at Temple understood our gluten-free needs and offered to make us a gluten free version of anything on the menu. They sympathized with how hard it is to find gluten free food in Beijing, so they ended up bringing us the entire, 8-course tasting menu to make sure we had enough to eat. Needless to say, I was full.

Typical hotel buffet breakfast: steamed rice, sautéed vegetables, and an egg

Typical hotel buffet breakfast: steamed rice, sautéed vegetables, and an egg

Koh Samui, Thailand: Thai food is much easier on a gluten free diet as most restaurants offer curry, rice, and soup. I downloaded this handy gluten free restaurant card and most places were able to accommodate my needs. My hotel, Napasai was very accommodating, providing steamed rice and gluten free toast at the breakfast buffet, offered gluten free pasta, and helped explain our dietary restrictions to restaurants when making reservations for us. Our favorite restaurant was Barracuda (which we went to twice) for their wide variety of meats and vegetables and excellent flavor.

What are your experiences with food traveling in Asia?

 

Loving This {February}

February Loving ThisI’m always discovering new recipes, products, and tricks that make living a well-nourished life just a little bit more fabulous and delicious. Inspired by my dear friend Becca over at While You Were Napping, I thought I would share a simple list with you each month of what I’ve found works for me in hopes that you may fall in love with some of these things too! I’d love to know what healthy habits are working for you this month, so be sure to leave a comment below!
  1. It’s All Good. I’ve shared my love for this cookbook before, and it continues to hit the spot. This month I’ve enjoyed Spicy Sweet Potato Soup with Chipotle + Coriander, Chicken + White Bean Chili, and Savory Leftover Quinoa.
  2. Detox Baths. After being exposed to radiation on a plane flight (and everything else that comes with travel), I love taking a good detox bath when I get home. My simple recipe contains 1-2 cups Epsom salt (I used a mineral salt blend I found at Whole Foods), 1/4 cup baking soda, and 8-10 drops peppermint or lavender oil.
  3. Soy Candles. I’m so delighted to have found these clean-burning soy candles from Target. After dinner I’ll light one of these and watch the Olympics; a habit that almost makes me enjoy winter. Almost.
  4. Breakfast. I started The Breakfast Club to inspire all of you to renew your interest in breakfast, but it turns out that I’ve been the one inspired! My co-hosts have created some beautiful morning meals and I’ve loved everything you all have shared on our group Pinterest board. I would love to have the rest of you join this free challenge and eat breakfast with us every morning for the rest of the month!
  5. Pellegrino. Pellegrino is nothing new, but I love how the sparkle makes drinks feel more special. My favorite combos have been Pellegrino + Synergy Kombucha and Pellegrino + fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice.
  6. Pilates. My friend Robin over at The Balanced Life Online has been posting a short pilates workout on her blog every day this month. These 5-10 minute workouts are so convenient, so why not join me?

What’s working for you this month? Share in the comments below, or post your own list!

February Seasonal Foods

February Seasonal FoodsIt’s been a year now that I’ve been sharing my favorite seasonal foods each month and, I must say, it’s been an enlightening exercise for me! I’ve enjoyed being confidently in touch with which foods are fresh and in season, and which foods are better reserved for another time. I’ve also discovered that (in California) many foods are available all year long. In the interest of highlighting new foods each month, I have to admit that February is rather sparse. Many of these foods are available all year long, and many of the December and January selections are still in their prime.

beetsBeets: Like all brightly colored produce, beets contain large amounts of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients. Look for firm, unblemished, and brightly colored beets with fresh-looking stems. Avoid those with “hairy” taproots as this indicates age and toughness. Remove the greens before storing as they can steal moisture from the root. Since beneficial nutrients are destroyed through heat, beets are best when lightly steamed.

dungeness crabDungeness Crab: In the San Francisco Bay Area, crab season begins the second Tuesday of November and runs through June, though 80% of Bay Area Dungeness is brought in by the end of the year. Aside from being a seasonal treat, crab is a very lean source of protein and is high in vitamin B6 and magnesium. Look for crab that feels heavy, as it typically contains more water and is fresher.

 

green garlicGreen Garlic: In very early spring, garlic that is harvested before it is mature is called “green garlic.” The season is very short, only a couple of weeks, so start looking for this unique treat now. Green garlic looks like miniature scallions, with a small white base and dark green stalks. Like regular garlic, green garlic contains the same immune-boosting properties as the mature bulb.

 

kumquatKumquats: Kumquats are tiny little citrus fruits, about the size of a grape. While they have a similar nutritional profile to that of an orange, the difference is that you eat the peel of the kumquat, which is full of essential oils and antioxidants. They are a tangy addition to winter salads, or a fun fruit to snack on.

 

leeksLeeks: A member of the allium family, leeks contain cardiovascular and immune-supportive nutrients just like onions and garlic. Look for leeks with straight stems and bright green stalks. Overly large leeks tend to be more fibrous, so look for bulbs that are 1.5 inches in diameter or less. Leeks have a milder flavor than onions, and can be substituted for onions in many recipes giving the dish a more subtle flavor.

 

lettuceLettuce: In California, lettuce is available throughout the year. While many of us disregard lettuce as simply a base for salad because of its low calorie content, it actually contains a good amount of nutrition. Lettuce is very high in vitamins A and K, which are best absorbed when paired with fats (like salad dressing). Look for lettuce that is crisp and green, without any wilting or discoloration. Wash are dry lettuce leaves before storing and they will keep in the fridge for 5-7 days.

mushroomsMushrooms: Mushrooms are known for their powerful immune-supportive nutrients. Select mushrooms that are firm and evenly colored. Avoid those that are dry, wrinkly, or slimy. Store mushrooms in a breathable container in the fridge (remove from plastic wrap). Mushrooms are best when simply wiped with a damp cloth. Avoid soaking them in water as this will make them mushy.

 

radishesRadishes: Along with cabbage, radishes are a member of the brassica family and are known to contain nutrients that protect against certain cancers. Choose radishes with bright, fresh looking leaves and be sure to remove them before storage. Give the root a gentle squeeze to be sure it’s not hollow or mushy.

February “Breakfast Club” Challenge

BC ImageDid you eat breakfast today?

As much as I adore breakfast, I must confess that I’ve found myself skipping it lately if I have an especially early morning commitment. The struggle to eat breakfast consistently is something that many of my clients struggle with, and I’m guessing that you might too.

Since New Year’s goal setting is still fresh in my mind, I’ve decided to challenge myself to eat breakfast every day during February – and I’m enlisting the help of some of my friends!

I’ve challenged a couple of my favorite healthy foodies to do this with me, and together we’ve formed “The Breakfast Club.” We’d like to invite you to join us!

We challenge YOU to decide what breakfast means to you and commit to caring for yourself by starting your morning right during the whole month of February.

To help inspire you, we’ve set up a club Facebook group and Pinterest board to share recipes, ideas, and encouragement, and we’ll also send you an email each week detailing what we hosts have been eating for breakfast. Simply click the link below to join the challenge!

This challenge is currently closed. Be sure to sign up for our email list to be notified of any future challenges!

Meet the hosts:

Gillian HaasGillian Haas: My husband and I blog together at “The Haas Machine” (I do the writing and planning, he helps with a lot of projects and recipe development). We love being able to create together, so our blog is the reflection of that. We mostly focus on simple DIY projects and recipes, but we also spin things in a natural light because we enjoy living as naturally as possible.

We live in La Crosse, WI, which is about 2 hours west of Madison. John is a geotechnical engineer for a local company (he basically plays with dirt all day) and I stay home with our spunky daughter, Ruby (born in 2011). Besides creating, we are passionate about camping, thrifting, hiking, biking, eating gourmet foods, gardening, listening to records, eating dark chocolate, and collecting rocks.

Connect with Gillian via her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or Instagram

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAShirley Plant: Shirley Plant has studied in the field of nutrition for many years. Diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and multiple food and environmental allergies, Shirley understands firsthand the difficulties of trying to plan creative, nutritious, and affordable menus while having to avoid such common foods as wheat, dairy, eggs, corn, gluten, and sugar, just to name a few. But through understanding, education, and a keen interest to help people find food alternatives to fit into their life schedules, Shirley has developed an expertise and reputation in dietary design, customized recipes, and menu-planning.Connect with Shirley via her website, Facebook, and Twitter

Natalie GriffoNatalie Griffo: Hi, I’m Natalie Griffo! I’m a food blogger and lifestyle photographer, living in San Diego, California. I call myself a “healthy foodie”, but I haven’t always been interested in healthful eating. My husband Mark was the more health conscious one when we were dating, but I quickly caught on… and now am more of a “health nut” than he is! I am passionate about people understanding that healthy, nutritious eating doesn’t mean tasteless and bland (like I used to think). There are so many delicious possibilities!

My favorite things in life are my husband, cooking healthy and delicious food (of course), taking photographs, going on adventures, fashion, and really good espresso.

Connect with Natalie via her Website, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

January Seasonal Foods

January Seasonal Foods

We’re getting into the leanest months of the year. In most of the United States, the snow and cold during January and February make it difficult to grow food and we’re left with hearty roots that can withstand months of storage or foods imported from warmer climates. In California we’re lucky to enjoy fresh produce all year long. Here are some of my January favorites:

AlmondsAlmonds: Almonds are high in monounsaturated fats, which have been found to reduce the risk of heart disease. They also contain copious amounts of calming minerals, like magnesium. Look for almonds that are plump and uniform in color. Store them in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator and soak before eating.

 

beans XSmallBeans: While beans tend to be harvested in the summer and fall, they are then dried and available for use all year long. Beans are a great source of fiber and a nice plant source of protein. Look for dried beans that are whole, uniform in color, and free of moisture. Beans in individual packages will maintain their freshness over those sold in bulk bins. If purchasing from a bulk bin, make sure freshness is maintained through tightly sealed bins and frequent turnover.

Selective BrocolliBroccoli: Research studies on broccoli have found it to be highly related to cancer prevention by way of addressing chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, and inadequate detoxification. Very high in vitamin C and K, broccoli can support the immune system and improve vitamin D metabolism. Choose broccoli with floret clusters that are compact and not bruised with uniform color. Store in the refrigerator and wash just before use. Broccoli can be enjoyed raw, steamed, roasted, or boiled.

cabbage XSmallCabbage: Like broccoli, cabbage is a member of the cruciferous family and provides cancer protective nutrients. Cabbage has also been shown to provide cholesterol-lowering benefits. Cabbage can be eaten raw, though it may be difficult to digest for some. Macerating with vinegar dressing or a simply braising the cabbage will make it easier to eat. Look for cabbage heads that are firm with crisp, colorful leaves. Cabbage should be kept cold in order to retain its vitamin C content. It should keep in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.

2100204-003Carrots: While the typical carrot season is summer and fall, carrots are easy to find during the winter months in warmer weather climates, like California. Like all bright orange vegetables, carrots are a great source of beta-carotene and other antioxidants. Look for brightly colored carrots that still have their leafy green tops as these are the freshest. Remove the green tops before storing them in the fridge as the greens will pull moisture from the root.

garlic isolated on whiteGarlic: Garlic is one of my favorite immune-supportive foods. Look for garlic heads that are firm, with no nicks or soft cloves and are also free of dark, powdery mold. Store unpeeled garlic in a cool, dry place – don’t refrigerate or freeze. Garlic should keep up to three months. If you notice green sprouts growing from your garlic, simply discard them before using as they can be quite bitter. You can also plant these sprouted garlic cloves and grow them to about 6 inches to use like chives in salads. If you find your garlic sticky and difficult to peel, that means it’s fresh! Garlic shrivels as it matures and becomes easier to peel.

red onion XSmallOnions: Due to their unique combination of flavonoids and sulfur-containing nutrients, researchers recommend including a serving of an allium vegetable (onions, garlic, shallots, scallions) in your diet every day. Choose onions that are clean, well shaped, and have crisp outer skins. They should be stored at room temperature and can keep for a month or more. When preparing onions, be sure to keep as much of the outer layers as possible as the flavonoids tend to be more concentrated in the outer layers of the flesh.

2100719-102Spinach: Spinach is often considered one of the healthiest vegetables due to its nutrient richness. Very high in vitamins K and A, manganese, folate, magnesium, and iron, spinach may protect agains inflammatory problems, oxidative stress-related problems, cardiovascular problems, and cancers. Look for spinach with vibrant green leaves that are tender. Store spinach in the refrigerator and wash just before use.

Kitchen Essentials: Pantry

pantry essentialsI remember pulling out the drawers in the kitchen as a child in order to use them to climb up onto the counter so I could access the pantry cupboard. There I would sit, pondering the satiating value of crackers vs. pretzels, probably settling on whichever package appealed to me more visually because that how I (still) make most decisions.

I realize my pantry today looks very different from the pantry I remember as a child and may look very different than (or perhaps very similar to) yours. Unfortunately for my 6-year-old self, my pantry is no longer filled with quick fixes for my hunger pangs. For that, I would have more luck searching in the fridge. Rather, it is more of a treasure trove, filled with raw ingredients collected from both near and far, allowing me to both elevate the flavor of and add density to my meals.

Because the pantry is full of kitchen staples that last a long time, it can be quite valuable on those days when you don’t have time to get to the store. Between a well-stocked pantry and freezer, you should be able to survive a few days with an empty refrigerator.

Spices and Dried Herbs: I’m a fan of using spices and herbs liberally. They add so much flavor to foods without having to overdo it with cheese, butter, or salt (not that those foods are necessarily bad). Many spices and herbs contain high amounts of powerful antioxidants and phytonutrients that have been shown to support a healthy body. While fresh herbs add more flavor, dried herbs are nice to have on hand when fresh isn’t available. Just like fruits and vegetables, choose organic spices and herbs that have not been irradiated (choose organic). Spices and herbs do go bad, so write the date of purchase on the bottle and replenish as needed. Two of my favorite spices are cayenne pepper and turmeric.

Honey: Local, raw, organic honey is a wonderful, nutrient-dense way to add sweetness to dishes. Though it contains large amounts of sugar, honey also contains valuable vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that provide benefit to the body. Many people find that consuming local honey helps alleviate seasonal allergy symptoms. Look for raw, or unpasteurized honey as the pasteurization process destroys beneficial enzymes.

Vinegars and Oils: Having a variety of oils and vinegars in your pantry will take your cooking to the next level. Oils like olive, sesame, and macadamia are great for cold salads while grapeseed, peanut, and coconut oil are ideal for high heat cooking and baking. Don’t be afraid to experiment with vinegars. Rotating balsamic, sherry, champagne, apple cider, and rice vinegar in your salad dressing is an easy way to keep meals from getting boring. Oils and vinegars last a long time (especially when kept in a dark place) so don’t be afraid to stock up.

Whole, Intact Grains: Grains like quinoa, rice, and oats are useful to have on hand as they store well and provide bulk to your meals. Quinoa and oats are best soaked overnight before they are used, so they still require a little planning in advance before including them in your meal. Intact grains are far better at supporting stable blood sugar levels than processed grains, like those found in crackers, breads, and pastas. When you take the time to make a grain, make extra and store leftovers in your fridge to add to meals during the week.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables: Alliums like onions, garlic, and shallots are must-haves for any cook’s kitchen. These vegetables have a long shelf life and can add a lot of flavor to meals even when you haven’t been to the grocery store. Many other fruits and vegetables should be kept unrefrigerated, either in the pantry or on the counter in order to ripen properly and maintain their full flavor. You can find produce storage recommendations in each month’s seasonal food guides.

Dried Beans: Beans and lentils are a wonderful way to add bulk and fiber to your meals. While canned beans are easy, many cans contain a chemical called BPA which has been shown to disrupt the endocrine system and may lead to certain cancers. Dried beans are quite easy to work with, simply soak in water overnight to soften, then heat as desired. Add a piece of kombu seaweed to the cooking liquid to neutralize the gas-causing compounds in beans and impart nourishing minerals into your dish. To make your efforts worth it, prepare a large batch of beans and freeze the extra for a quick meal another day.

Coconut Milk: A wonderful addition to smoothies, desserts, soups, cereals, and lattes, coconut milk is a useful product to have on hand. Look for traditional, full-fat coconut milk, which is often found in the ethnic foods section of the grocery store. Avoid the brands that come in cartons, often found in the milk alternatives section, as these are homogenized and contain unwanted ingredients and preservatives. Look for brands with BPA-free cans like Native Forest. (You can learn more about the benefits of coconut here.)

Tomato Sauce and Canned Tomatoes: Living with an Italian, we do a lot of tomato sauce. Tomatoes add heartiness to dishes that broth can’t. While I commend those who can their own tomatoes, store-bought brands are more realistic for those of us without gardens bursting with tomatoes. Many brands are now supplying tomato sauce in glass jars or cardboard cartons instead of BPA-lined cans. Find an organic, BPA-free brand and stock up.

Ghee: Common in Indian cuisine, ghee is clarified butter. In the clarification process, the milk proteins and sugars are removed, making it suitable for even those sensitive to casein and lactose. While ghee is often stored in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, I like to keep mine in the pantry so it remains soft and spreadable. Ghee is delicious when spread on bread and pancakes and is a perfect choice for high-heat cooking.

Coconut Oil: Another highly stable cooking fat, coconut oil is solid at room temperature and liquid when heated. It is ideal for sautéing, frying, and baking. It can also be used as a spread for toast, or delicious as a simple spoonful added to a cup of tea. (You can learn more about the benefits of coconut here.)

Salt and Pepper: I’m sure most of you already have these two in your kitchen as they are called for in pretty much every recipe. In the case of taste, quality matters. You don’t need to be afraid of adding salt to your dishes is you’re using the right kind and freshly ground black pepper elevates your meal to the next level. When you buy a pepper grinder, look for one that allows you to adjust the size of the cracked pepper flakes – don’t be afraid to get advanced like this and find your preferred pepper-flake-size. Attending to the smallest details during cooking connects us more intimately with our food and heightens our senses. (You can learn more about my favorite brands of salt here.)

Maple Syrup: Another whole-food sweetener, maple syrup is a great substitution for sugar in baking recipes or to sweeten a dressing or sauce. If you ever have the opportunity to travel to a syrup-producing area, pick up a few bottles of local, raw maple syrup. While “Light” or “Grade A” syrup is most popular, choose “Grade B” or “Very Dark” syrup as it has a higher concentration of nutrients and a more intense flavor.

Extra Provisions: If you have enough room in your pantry, stock up on all those flavor-rich goodies that don’t need to be refrigerated until they’re opened. I love keeping extra jars of capers, sun dried tomatoes, anchovies, Dijon mustard, roasted peppers, and olives in my cupboard so I can easily dress up a rather sparse meal. A simple chicken breast can turn into a gourmet meal with the addition of lemon, parsley (from your freezer!), and capers.

Protein Powder: While I fully support a whole-foods based diet, sometimes protein powder saves the day. A high-quality protein powder combined with frozen fruits or vegetables from the freezer can provide a quick meal when there’s nothing else available. You can also add protein powder to yogurt or oatmeal to provide a little protein boost. Not all protein powders are created equal, so look for one made from non-denatured whey or pea protein and is free of sugar, artificial sweeteners, allergens, or other additives. (You can find my favorite brand here.)

What else is in your pantry?

Want more kitchen essentials? Read about my freezer tips here.