surrender. and suck it up. words of wisdom from my music teacher and 5-yr old niece

After a particularly poor performance on an Aural Perception test – where we listen to the teacher play melodies and rhythms on the piano, then dictate what she plays … crazy hard, for me  – the teacher asked us to raise our hand if we did not like Aural Perception. My hand crept upward. I was not alone.

She looked around the room and said,

“Okay, we’ve acknowledged it.
Now surrender.
And do it anyway.”

This is the same woman who said the first week of class,

“Listen, if I can put pantyhose on at 5 am to be here, you can throw on some sweats and be here by 8.”

I just love her.

She continued…

“In high school, you may have been able to show up occasionally, not take notes, cram and pull off decent grades.”

(I’m in community college, surrounded by 18 year olds and 20-somethings.)

“You are smart people. I get it. But, at some point in your education, classes start requiring serious effort. As you go deeper into your specialty, you’ll discover areas that do not “come natural.” You’ll have to study or practice. A lot. There’s no getting around it.

“To become a pro, ya gotta know this stuff. At this point, just to move forward in your education… ya gotta get past me…with a C. So, figure out what mastering Aural Perception looks like in your world…AND DO IT.”

I don’t know about everyone else in the room, but I had a lump in my throat, the one I get when I’m “scolded” for not doing my best, especially from someone I respect and has my best interest at heart.

What I heard was a mixture of :

“quit whining and be a grown-up,”

with a dash of Dr. Denis Waitley’s ,  “winners do what losers don’t want to do,”

and my 5-year old super-discplined-trained-not-to-cry-gymnast-niece telling me to “suck it up,” after she found me crying while packing her bag when it  was time for her to go home after staying with me.

So, as Gretchen Rubin suggests in “The Happiness Project,”

I decided to Identify the Problem.

In a nutshell:

While I am blocking out big parts of my day to study, (that rules out not having time) after about an hour in, I get frustrated and feel an incredible pull to do anything but study. I take a few breaths and make myself sit there…until I get up and go to the pantry for some chocolate chips. Okay, sometimes I’m lucky to make it 30 minutes before making that 30-second trek.

Back at my desk, I might eek out another 30 minutes of study…

Before I’m pantry bound again. and again. and again.

Coming off the sugar crash, I grab Bisbee and a bean bag for a nap.

Now it’s time to make dinner.

And, I’m not even hungry.

I eat it anyway.

Now, I’m really tired.

And way too brain dead to study.

I go to bed feeling guilty.

And go to class unprepared.

This could be the problem.

Maybe it’s the big 5-0 pending…I’m finding myself less patient with my excuses and general laziness for not doing the things I know make me feel good.

Maybe it’s time to grow up or, “suck it up” as my niece says, and just do them.

(Note: This isn’t me being hard on myself. This is me being honest with myself.)

I do not want to spend the second half of my life bloated, haggard and disappointed that I don’t have the energy to do the things I want to do.

One of which, is play the piano.

The beauty of 50-ish is that I have a pretty good idea of  the daily formula that works for me:

Eat three meals: some protein + healthy fat (i.e. a lot of avocado) + A LOT of veggies = focus, energy, a flatter belly, ease around sugar. BONUS: if I’m eating this way, Robert is eating this way, so he feels better too.

Move my body: at least 20 minutes of cardio + 20 minutes of yoga + the occasional hike and swim = feeling grounded and light in my body.

Meditate: Morning Pages, a bath, legs up the wall or sitting for 20 minutes. The form it takes doesn’t really matter. All of it = magic.

Sleep: a bath and not eating right before bed (especially sugar) works wonders, and totally removes haggardness from the equation. This is important.

Play the piano: 20 minutes of practice a day keeps discouragement and overwhelm away. And somehow that 20 minutes always turns into 40.

Connect. Writing, encouraging, cooking, sharing, listening, capturing moments, posting them on Instagram…the output of these is directly related to all of the above.

If they’re not getting done,
no one is getting any love.
And, that does not feel good.

I remember an article from a Glamour-type magazine, something like “Your Body at 20, 30, 40, 50 and Beyond” saying, in your 20’s and 30’s you pretty much have the body God created. In your 40’s and 50-‘s, you’ve got the body you’ve created.  

The good news is that if it’s not what you want, there’s time to turn it around.

While I don’t think it’s ALL about food, I know that the life I want definitely STARTS with food. It affects everything. No matter how old I am.

I took another tidbit from “The Happiness Project,” and decided to:

Do what ought to be done.

I re-read “It Starts with Food,”  one of my favorite books on how food affects hormones, thyroid, immunity, energy, digestion, belly issues, allergies, sleep…

The more I understand how the body works, the more I’m able to make peace with changes I need to make.

I’m 8 days into their Whole30 Challenge of 3 meals a day, consisting of simple, whole foods, without grains, dairy, and sugar and I am already sleeping better, my belly isn’t bloated, my appetite is healthy, I have all-day energy and best of all – there have been no pantry trips for chocolate chips!

I don’t do a lot of food challenges or cleanses, but sometimes the structure they provide can be comforting. Following a plan when you are unsure or don’t have the energy to figure it out on your own can be just what you need to get back on track and experience how good food can make you can feel.

This book also offers one of the easiest menu / meal planning guides I’ve seen. Basic dishes such as one-skillet-meals, curries, soups and more are offered with a variety of ways to make each one, so what is essentially an elimination diet doesn’t feel so limiting.

If you are looking to get your groove back in the kitchen, or are searching for easy grain-sugar-dairy free meals that taste really good, give this one a go.

Healthy eating is a process. It will never be “perfect” because our bodies, tastes, environments change, but a guide such as this can bring us a little bit closer to knowing what feels best in our bodies.

And, maybe the next time we get off track (because there will be a next time), instead of giving up, we simply grab the book, or whatever works, and get re-inspired to get our groove back.

That’s the key.
Coming back.
However you get there.
This is essential.
The world needs your best self.

What is your heart telling you to come back to?  What could you accomplish if you simply did it?




















gifts beyond the gift card (part 1) + go-to cookbooks

Looking for a gift that runs deeper than a gift card? Maybe even one that encourages, inspires and helps your loved ones feel good far beyond the holidays?

For anyone who has shown an interest in healthier eating, not just the cooks in the family, these cookbooks read more like manifestos. They are stories of the author’s personal path to finding their groove with food.

I also appreciate that they are written for people who aren’t necessarily passionate about cooking. What they are passionate about is making food that gives them energy and gets rid of the things that make them feel bad – digestion troubles, crazy cravings, issues with cholesterol, blood sugar, thyroid, food allergies, etc…

All of them are packed with ways to incorporate more real food into your meals… something everyone can use, no matter what your health condition or food philosophy.


Tara, me and an armload of her cookbooks :)

Tara, me and an armload of her cookbooks 🙂

Tara Stiles, Make  Your Own Rules Diet. Like all things Tara, her recipes are super simple. This one is ideal for “non-cooks” and anyone flirting with getting into yoga or meditation… lots of how to’s included.  I’d also pass along a link to her You Tube channel where she shows how really simple this food thing can be in the Recipes section. (Mainly vegan, gluten-free, natural sweeteners.)

Gwyneth Paltrow, It’s All Good. Gwyneth’s more of a cook… but if you can follow a recipe, it will be All Good with this one. After feeling  burned out and lethargic, she turned to an elimination diet to get her back on track. Insight from Dr. Alexander Junger (of Clean) and Dr. Habib Sadeghi, combined with her passion for real food offer real-life menus for real-life families. This is the most food-stained cookbook in my collection. (Mostly gluten-free, natural sweeteners, has meat, but lots of plant-based options too.) 

Giada, Feel Good Food. This one, along with Crazy Sexy Kitchen by Kris Carr are close seconds for my most used cookbooks. I love Giada’s for her beauty secrets and Kris’s for providing the MOST powerful “plant-based-diet-as-preventative-medicine” message.  Be sure to pass along the link to her Crazy Sexy Cancer movie trailer to whomever you give it to. I credit that movie, along with her blog and book, Crazy Sexy Diet for inspiring me to really explore the food thing. Both offer easy recipes. (Kris’s is plant-based. Giada has some meat + lots of plant-based options.)

Superfood Smoothies by Julie Morris. Just when I thought I’d mastered smoothies, my friend Ashley rocked my world with this book. If you know anyone perplexed by superfoods like cacao, maca, lucuma, and goji berries, this is the perfect gift. Or, if you know anyone perplexed by what to do with their Vitamix, this is the perfect gift. Add Superfood Kitchen and Superfood Juices and make it a Super Special gift !

Simple Recipes for Joy: More than 200 delicious vegan recipes, by Sharon Gannon. This one was given to me by my yoga teacher, written by her yoga teacher, with a foreward written by my healing, nutrition teacher, Kris Carr. How can this be wrong? While I’m not vegan (yet), my heart has serious vegan tendencies. Receiving and reading this book is encouraging me to follow my heart. Regardless of where you are on the subject, the recipes are easy and nutrition-packed.

Breakfast Criminals. This is more of a movement than a book. Ksenia has taken superhuman breakfasts to the streets of NY, encouraging people to start the day with a bowl of love. You can download the e-book and order a heart-shaped bowl for a sweet gift. Two people on my list will be getting these 🙂

heart bowls

I could go on and on with cookbooks. Stay tuned for other gift ideas in Part 2 🙂

If you need help finding your yoga, meditation or food groove,  join our40 Day program at Session Yoga, beginning January 6th, or “Let Go of 2014″ workshop with Jes Gale on December 19th. Sign up here!




Grocery store video tour with @Kris_Carr and @ChadSarno

“The only lasting cure for that which ails us, is prevention… and I”m not just referring to cancer, I”m referring to any disease or state (self-doubt, listlessness, fear) that ails you.” 

Throughout November, Kris Carr is celebrating Prevention with all kinds of tips and tools to help us become healthier and happier.

Grab a cup of tea and online casinos take Una selezione di slot machines online online davvero senza pari. 15 minutes to watch her and Chef @ChadSarno, of Crazy Sexy Kitchen shop Whole Foods.  It’s filled with cooking tips so grab a pen and paper – you’ll want to take notes.

Oh, and you won’t believe what Kris puts in her bathtub. I can’t wait to grate and squeeze some into mine!

Crazy Sexy Kitchen Cookbook is here!

“It”s here, it”s here!”  That was me, so excited, when UPS dropped this off on my doorstep. My pre-ordered copy of Kris Carr”s Crazy Kitchen was here! Now, I haven”t immersed myself in this as I would like to, but from what I can see, it will be the main cookbook I”ll be recommending to anyone on a New Year wellness path.

Like everything Kris does, it”s not just about the food or a trend.  She has Stage 4 cancer. This way of life has literally saved her life.

You can read jameshallison casino more about her here… I just want you to know about this gem. Add it to your holiday casino online wish list. Give it to someone you care about. Immerse yourself in it. Play with it. Try it…

If you buy it on-line, you get 10 free cooking video classes with her and Chef Chad Sarno.

If you buy it at a bookstore, you get an invitation to 4 “virtual” dinners with Kris in her own kitchen, where she”s prepared the food for a variety of guests in the wellness field. You”ll get to ask questions via live chat, or watch the video at your leisure.

I bought the book online. You can bet I”ll be buying another book at the bookstore so I can check out the dinners.

I”ve already made her sage pesto sauce for the pumpkin ravioli that I made (yes, I went for it and roasted those pumpkins on my doorstep). I used this recipe for the ravioli (so easy) but substituted Kris”s “cashew” ricotta (so easy). No one could believe there was no dairy in this creamy, tasty dish.






productive pumpkins.

Without the sweetness of trick-or-treaters roaming the neighborhood these days, Halloween at my house has simply become a couple of pumpkins on my doorstep. But this year, for the first time, I’m considering doing something productive with those pumpkins.

Maybe it’s because my pumpkins came from my weekly CSA share. They’re kind of special. I hate to let their goodness go to waste.

Maybe I’m ready to embrace a new kind of Halloween, without cute kids in costumes  and sugar crashes.

Or, maybe I’ve lost my mind because I’m considering roasting those pumpkins and making my own pumpkin ravioli and pumpkin soup.

Now, the roasting and ravioli part will be totally new ventures. I have made the soup, but I used Trader Joe’s Organic Pumpkin in a can. When I told my friend who gave me the recipe about this, she said I needed to re-visit the recipe and do it right – roast the pumpkin! I loved the soup anyway, but she has me intrigued… how much better could it be??

So, for those of you with more culinary expertise than me… roast away and enjoy.

Or, grab a can at Trader Joe’s and whip up a batch of “THAT REALLY DELICIOUS PUMPKIN SOUP” in honor of a new way of being this Halloween. One without sugar crashes.

1 small pumpkin (cut in half, bake, cut side down until soft – or use 1 can of Trader Joe’s organic canned pumpkin)

1 leek, sliced finely

bit of fresh ginger (1/2-inch or so), grated or chopped

1/2 cup red lentils (aka yellow mung dhal… ask for either at Whole Foods, Sprouts, or any health/indian food store)

1 cup water

1 can coconut milk

parsley, lime and roasted pumpkin seeds for garnish

salt to taste

Fry the leek in a bit of oil, or water saute, then add ginger and cook gently for 5 minutes stirring constantly. Add the lentils and stir for a minute. Add water and simmer gently until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Add coconut milk. Scoop out the pumpkin flesh from its skin and add to the soup (or open the can…) Puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Salt to taste.

Garnish with parsley, lime wedges and roasted pumpkin seeds.


If you really want a fresh start to Halloween and holiday season, check out the 3-Day Fall Detox Guide or call in for 3 Simple Steps for Surviving Sugar Season – both courtesy of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

p.s. I’ll let you know if my ravioli dream becomes reality. I’d love to hear what you do with your pumpkins and if you have a great ravioli recipe you’d like to share, send it over.



party food for yogis

What’s a movie without snacks, right? However, what do you serve when the movie is about yoga, shown in a yoga studio, where there could be all kinds of interesting yogi food preferences … “vegan, but has some cheese occasionally… plant-based but open to fish … ”

Whether my guests are into yoga or not, I try to make a tasty, healthy version of something most everyone can get excited about… and toss in as many veggies as I can.

So, for “Yoga Woman” movie night at Session Yoga (coming soon to a theater or studio near you), I kept it simple and went with veggie wraps, chips and guacamole, vegan chocolate chip cookies and vegan peanut butter cups.


For one of the wraps, I spread Trader Joe’s red bell pepper hummus on Trader Joe’s whole wheat lavash bread (I like this because it only has 4 ingredients: whole wheat flour, water, yeast, salt.) If I were doing it gluten-free, I’d serve these in chard or romaine leaves…


I lightly grilled some tempeh (Whole Foods) and zucchini on the stove, then chopped them into small pieces and sprinkled them along the hummus. I added chopped tomatoes and bell peppers from  the week’s CSA share, green olives and radish (great for digestion). While the olives and hummus offer plenty of flavor, I sprinkled in some goat cheese for some party decadence.


The spread on the other wrap is a mixture of plain Miso Mayo (usually available at Whole Foods or a health food store),  sriracha sauce, garlic powder, dijon and lemon. We don’t mind heat in our house, so we do 1/2 Miso Mayo, 1/2 sriracha, but you might want to start with less heat.

I grabbed an avocado, chopped some kale and made this salad, without the lentils and olives, but you could leave it as is. I topped the salad with a sprinkling of radish, rolled it up and was ready to go.



I used to be known (ok, I still am known) in my family as the cookie monster. But these days, I make most of my own sweets and am always on the look-out for recipes that are dairy-free, made with low-glycemic sweeteners and whole grains.  These chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter cups are always crowd pleasers!







kinder, gentler, vegan peanut butter cups

I think these are beyond better than Reese’s. They’re super easy to make and require no baking. This recipe is from Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet, one of my favorite books, especially for anyone “flirting” with a vegan diet.  Here’s a video of her making them for the Oprah show …


1/2 cup Earth Balance butter

3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter (preferably unsweetened, unsalted… I’ve used them all)

3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (I use Kinnikinnick gluten-graham crackers or any whole wheat graham crackers, depending on who I’m making them for)

1/4 cup maple sugar or other granulated sweetener (I used to have a hard time finding maple sugar, but Trader Joe’s now has organic maple sugar in their baked goods section)

1 cup vegan chocolate or carob chips

1/4 cup soy, rice or nut milk

1/4 cup chopped pecans, almonds or peanuts (optional)

Line a muffin tin with paper liners. Alicia uses the 12-muffin sized tin in her recipe. I use the smaller, 24-sized tin just because I prefer them more candy than cookie-like. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the peanut butter, graham cracker crumbs, and maple sugar and mix well. Remove the mixture from the heat. Drop an even spoonful of the mixture into each muffin/candy cup.


(Before I add the chocolate, I put the pan of peanut butter in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes because I find the chocolate sits on top of the peanut butter better this way, otherwise it seeps through… Alicia does it all at once.)

Combine chocolate and milk in another pan. Stir over medium heat until chocolate has melted. Spoon chocolate evenly over peanut butter mixture. Top with chopped nuts if you’d like. Place in the refrigerator to set for at least 2 hrs before serving.


serving suggestion: make peanut butter parfaits by placing a scoop of vanilla coconut milk ice cream in a glass, top with a peanut butter cup, add another scoop of ice cream, another peanut cup……. keep going, or take a deep breath and practice moderation :)


vegan, gluten-free chocolate chip cookies

With almond flour and agave, these cookies offer a more stable, protein-rich, lower glycemic base than white flour, white sugar aka “white death” versions.

This recipe is from  I highly recommend visiting her version, because she gives specifics on types of almond flour, which I didn’t read before making them about 10 times and found myself using the one she doesn’t recommend… I’ll explain below.

Dry ingredients:

2-1/2 cups blanched almond flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill almond flour, but see note below**)

1/2 t sea salt

1/2 t baking soda

1 cup dark chocolate chips (vegan, if you prefer)

Wet ingredients:

1/2 cup grapeseed oil

1 T vanilla

1/2 cup agave

Preheat oven to 350. Mix wet ingredients in one bowl, dry in another. Add wet to the dry. Stir. Refrigerate dough for 15 minutes. Drop about 1/4-1/2 of a regular serving/teaspoon onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and do not press.**

Bake until golden brown, about 7-10 minutes. Cool and serve.

**Elena says to form 1-inch balls and press on to the sheet, which made my cookies come out flat (like casino these below.) But, that’s because I used Bob’s Red Mill almond flour, which she clearly says does not work in her recipes (because it makes her cookies come out flat – like these below 🙂


I completely missed her insight on the almond flours, so I kept experimenting and found that if I made smaller, bite-sized versions (like below) and did not press the dough, the cookies came out just fine. I like smaller cookies anyway, so I’ve stuck with these. You might want to try the other almond flours she recommends. Let me know how it goes.

10 Day Food Day Challenge. Eat Real Food.

If you’re like me, you don’t need to be convinced why you should “eat real food,” you just need help figuring out what to make … then, make time to prepare it.

So, in the spirit of freshening your mindset, ending the year “A New You,” and in honor of National Food Day (Oct 24th),

why don’t we take the Lilly’s Table 10-Day Food Day Challenge together? 

All you have to do Ensuring the Validity, Veracity, and Volatility of Big best file recovery High volume, high variety, and high velocity are the essential characteristics of big data. is sign up here, and you’ll receive 10 days of educational mails, tasty recipes and a chance to win 1 year of menus from Lilly. It starts October 16th, but you can join any time…

This just might be the catalyst for creating online casinos a routine around planning, shopping for and preparing more real food for you and your family.

p.s. I met Lilly during last year’s Food Day festivities she led in Tucson. I signed up for her weekly online menu service (just $12/month) and have discovered some of my favorite recipes. They are always simple, tasty and have few ingredients. Her weekly emails offer great tips on how to work with seasonal produce and her site even prepares your grocery list!

one pot wonder.

I can’t remember who gave me this pasta fagioli recipe – my friend Lori or my Mom or, it could have been my Grandma.

What I do know is that it is my go-to soup when I’m in a hurry, hungry and want leftovers. It’s also a good “company” soup because it’s hearty, adapts to most diets and bonus – it’s packed with plant-based nutrition.


However, the best part is that all you have to do is pour everything into a pot.

Prepare a bit of pasta, however much you’d like in a big pot of soup – I use brown rice pasta for more nutrients than white pasta and the gluten-free aspect. Set this aside.

Toss the following in a big soup pot (no oil necessary):

Trader Joe’s Mirepoix (carrots, celery, onions pre-chopped and ready. love this….)
A scoop or two of crushed garlic (or, you might prefer a tablespoon or two… I can go garlic crazy)
Let these cook together for about 5 minutes, then add the following:

2 (14.5 oz) cans of fire-roasted crushed tomatoes (I buy organic, it’s up to you)
1 can tomato sauce
1 can kidney beans, rinsed
1 can cannelini beans, rinsed
3 cups vegetarian broth
1 cup water
1 can V8 juice (I rarely use this because I never drink it and don’t want to buy it, but you can add it if you’d like)
1 T white vinegar
1/2 t dried thyme
1 t basil flakes
1 t oregano flakes

Let simmer for at least 15 minutes… Add the cooked pasta before serving.
Brown a package of ground turkey for your meat lovers and add to their soup before serving.
Crumbled veggie sausage patties are nice if you’re transitioning away from meat.
Salt & pepper to taste.
Make it pretty and even more nutrient-packed with fresh chopped parsley.

Page 1 of 212
© Copyright Denese Russell: Writings | created by: IZUMI STUDIOS