Archive for December, 2014

Life lessons from our animals

I can’t believe it’s almost 2015! Wishing you all a happy and healthy new year filled with many blessings. In addition to my family, friends and health, here are a few things I’m feeling gratitude for this sparkly evening …

1. I suppose it goes without saying, but I am immensely grateful for the animals I’ve encountered in my life and the ones that have walked gently by my side. Here’s a wonderful article from One Green Planet that lists 10 beautiful life lessons we can learn from animals. I agree with all of these lessons; #1 (compassion) and #3 (live for today), especially, are important elements of my Reiki work with animals. Read the full article here for all 10 life lessons.

2. A reason to celebrate eating vegan: Did you know? January is Veganuary! This global campaign launched in 2013 helps people “take the pledge” to eat vegan for the month of January. The helpful site includes a dining guide, myths debunked, recipes, profiles of vegans from all walks of life and more. And here’s my favorite vegan blog: Oh She Glows. I made the Crispy Smashed Potatoes With Avocado Garlic Aioli the other night and they were absolutely amazing. I also can’t wait to try this (since I love Mexican food): Ultimate Green Taco Wraps With Lentil-Walnut Taco Meat. Who knew eating vegan could be so fun? (What are you waiting for?)

3. Tomorrow’s Tournament of Roses Parade, a yearly tradition in our household! My favorite floats are always the animal floats. There aren’t too many this year, but keep an eye out for La Cañada Flintridge’s float “To the Rescue,” which will be showcasing a message of compassion: a group of sea creatures setting aside their fear of sharks to band together and free a shark trapped in a fishing net and sunken boat.

4. Scientists who make it their life’s work to answer that age-old (and vitally important) question: What do cats do all day? This actually made me smile; what a fun experiment to collaborate with cat owners, outfitting their outdoor house cats with cat trackers. Hm, wouldn’t it be amusing to know what your cat does all day? This study is ongoing, but the early results are pretty interesting. Check out their Cat Tracker website for Google maps detailing each animal participant’s “secret life.”

5. This heartful essay about animals in zoos, which are decorated festively for the holidays and accept donated “gifts” from visitors for the animals. I have to agree with author Jennifer O’Connor, that the animals have “nothing to celebrate” during the holidays. “The greatest gift,” she writes, “would be the one they’ll never receive: life outside a cage.”

As we head into a brand-new year … what are you grateful for today?

What’s your favorite cookbook?

Historically speaking, I never really enjoyed cooking (unless it was homemade chocolate-chip cookies!). But recently—since changing my diet to include mostly vegan and gluten-free meals—I haven’t really had a choice. I’ve been cooking vegetarian for so many years, but I always paired the veggies with pasta, cheese and breads. After going vegan and gluten-free, I wondered, could I survive on lettuce alone? And secondly, what was I going to eat, anyway?

A total rethinking of my go-to cookbooks was in order. So after much Googling, talking to friends and testing in my own home kitchen, I’ve settled upon my top three veg cookbooks. Here they are, plus four more I can’t wait to try!

1. Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi: Yotam Ottolenghi’s restaurant in Notting Hill is my favorite place in London! That’s where I first discovered his mouthwatering vegetarian dishes, which taste as good as they look. His cookbook has helped me bring those wonderful flavor combinations back home to the States.

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2. Crazy Sexy Kitchen: 150 Plant-Empowered Recipes to Ignite a Mouthwatering Revolution: Kris Carr is kind of my guru right now. I love her warmth, inspiring ideas and post-cancer attitude. Her cookbook has helped me to feel strong again in the kitchen and learn to cook the most amazing, healthy dishes. My faves from this book: Chickpea With Root Veggie Tangine, and the Black Bean and Roasted Sweet Potato Burger. Her blog is also worth a look.

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3. Decadent Gluten-Free Baking: Delicious Gluten-, Egg- and Dairy-Free Treats and Sweets: I love my sweets. I do! So giving up wheat felt so utterly depressing … until I discovered this cookbook. Now I don’t even miss my old way of baking! I absolutely LOVE the Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies (except I substitute chocolate chips for the cranberries).

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Here are four more cookbooks I can’t wait to try; I’ve heard such amazing things about them:

1. Heart of the Plate

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2. The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen

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3. River Cottage Veg

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4. The French Market Cookbook

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What’s your favorite cookbook? I’m dying to know!

{P.S. A really beautiful vegan/veggie blog is 101 Cookbooks by foodie Heidi Swanson (she has a couple of healthy cookbooks, too, including this one.)}

 

4 eye-opening TED Talks for animal lovers

I find TED Talks so inspirational and powerful; don’t you? I think what I like best (besides the amazing speakers) is that I learn something new each and every time I watch one. (Sometimes they even blow my mind!) So in case you haven’t seen these particular lectures yet, here are four of my favorite TED Talks for animal lovers:

1. Ian Dunbar: Dog-friendly dog training
Veterinarian, dog trainer and animal behaviorist Ian Dunbar says, “When we train, we always try to take in the dog’s point of view.” Dunbar’s passionate about stopping the disrespect and abuse of dogs at the hands of owners with “horrendous interaction skills” who make terrible mistakes when attempting to train them. The talk, which starts out with helpful dog-training tips, eventually segues into the idea that humans and dogs aren’t so different after all—that the respect, love and patience you should give an animal to “train” them can also be used when raising children and managing the important relationships in your life.

2. Jane Goodall: How humans and animals can live together
I’ve shared before that iconic chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall is my hero. It is so interesting here to hear her talk about how her community projects—such as TACARE (Take Care), which helps people in African villages develop empowerment and improve their standard of living—actually end up helping habitats and conservation efforts, too. She also discusses the planet’s environmental problems, but makes it clear she has so much hope for nature, humanity and endangered species. Goodall says, “We are part of, and not separated from, the amazing animals with whom we share the planet.”

3. Denise Herzing: Could we speak the language of dolphins?
I absolutely love dolphins and am fascinated by their intelligence and social nature. Denise Herzing studies dolphin communication in the wild, and in her TED Talk, she reveals her promising research as she works to see if there’s a way for humans and dolphins to interact with each other using language. She shares great footage of these beautiful creatures and gives viewers a closer look at her experiments. She says, “Imagine what it would be like to really understand the mind of another intelligent species on the planet.”

4. Robert Full: Learning from the gecko’s tail
Lizards are cool—and UC Berkeley biologist Robert Full shares how studying geckos and collaborating with other fields, like engineering, is leading to innovative technologies. (The high-speech footage of geckos alone is worth a watch.) He also points to the importance of conservation: “We must preserve nature’s designs, otherwise these secrets will be lost forever.”

What TED talks inspire you?

The best teas (plus the #1 secret to a perfect cup)

Christmas Eve: a time for good tidings, togetherness and … tea. Yes, tea! Tea may seem an unusual holiday tradition, but for me, it’s the perfect accompaniment to a cozy night in with family and friends. And ever since ditching my daily hot chocolate for healthier tea a few years ago, I’ve become something of a tea enthusiast—and not just on holidays.

I basically drink tea all day long when it’s cold out. Even in the summer, I love my tea in the cool mornings and chilly evenings. In fact, the only thing I love as much as my chocolate is my tea!

My favorite teas come from two companies in particular. I love them not only because their mint and chamomile tea is the very BEST in my opinion (and I have tried many teas!), but also because they are both socially conscious, which I love.

Here are my picks for seven of the best, most truly delicious teas:

1. My favorite tea brand is Mighty Leaf. They are a great company, and I absolutely love their Organic Mint Melange in the a.m.

2. My second favorite from Mighty Leaf is Chamomile Citrus in the p.m.

3. Their Organic Green Dragon is a fave of my friends who like their teas caffeinated.

4. & 5. My second favorite brand is Numi. I just love their Moroccan Mint and their Chamomile Lemon. They do a lot of giving back; check this out—they are a cool company!

6. My caffeine-drinking friends swear by Numi’s Chinese Breakfast tea.

7. My favorite loose leaf tea is from Mountain Rose Herbs. Their Firefly Chai is super delicious, and it’s the only chai I’ve ever found that is caffeine-free.

When Leah D’Ambrosio (my SARA co-founder) and I return to London in August 2015 for SARA teacher training, we will be looking for some great places for afternoon tea. (These look like top contenders!) London is such a hot spot when it comes to tea. This was our absolute favorite tea place last time we visited. You can bet we’ll be visiting it again!

And now for the secret to a perfect cup: According to a study commissioned by Cravendale Milk, the most important ingredient is patience. Click here for their step-by-step instructions.

I would love to hear from you! What are some teas I simply MUST try?

5 pet safety tips for the holidays

Dear friends, I just adore how you treat your animals not like pets, but as genuine family members. That’s why I’m sharing the following tips—so we can make sure our fur babies don’t get into too much trouble while we are busy feasting and merry-making! You might already know everything on this list, but it doesn’t hurt to take a fresh look and keep the following in mind. Here’s to you and your animals having a happy (and healthy) holiday!

1. Just say no to holiday scraps: We all know not to give table scraps to our furry four-legged friends, but sometimes that begging look in their eyes is just too tempting! If you simply must share something special, cook up a nutritious treat that’s safe for dogs and cats, such as thoroughly washed and baked carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes or green beans that are plain and unsalted. (Onion and garlic are no-nos!) Dogs also delight in the occasional dollop of lip-smacking peanut butter. But no matter what, keep pets away from all that chocolate lying around, or you just may end up in the emergency room.