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Sauté Spinach and Onions

Side dish for 6

Ingredients:

1 small or 1/2 large onion, chopped

1-2 tsp garlic, chopped

1 tsp ginger, grated

2 tbsp Avocado oil

1 – 16 oz bag of frozen organic spinach

1/2 cup Vegetable broth or 1 tsp Vegan Bouillon

Squeeze of lemon or sprinkle of apple cider vinegar

Salt and Pepper

Prep:

Heat oil in a wok. Add onions, garlic, ginger, sauté over medium heat, until onions look clear.

Add bag of spinach, broth, continue to stir until liquid evaporates. Add rest of ingredients

You have option to add 1/2 cup mushrooms in with the onions

Serve on top of brown rice, noodles or pasta along side a protein like grilled Tofu or Vegan Chili.

On Bringing Flight Attendants Gifts

It is a very tough job being a flight attendant. They really do work hard with very little thanks or appreciation. Some passenger behave like they are entitled to the service (and this behavior is in public…wonder home they behave at home..).

I recommend we all bring them something. Everyone loves a gift. Luggage limitations means it has to be physically small in size.

I like to gift this natural spray hand sanitizer from Trader Joe’s. If they don’t always in stock, you can always make one too (click on Homemade Hand Sanitizer). The aromatherapy of the essential oils can change the mood of the air plane cabin. Quite often people will say what is that? It smells wonderful.

I like the spray sanitizer over the gels bc I can use the spray to sanitize my seating area too. The screen, tray, arm rest and seat belt. The natural wet wipe that I use to wipe down is typically gray after wiping everything. These areas never get wiped clean so I am doing the airlines a favor.

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The basic essentials oils that I usually mix are:

  • Citrus for cheering things up – favorites are tangerine, lemon, grapefruit. Also consider sweet orange, bergamot.
  • Peppermint to energize.
  • Lavender to calm.

At the time of writing, the TJ hand sanitizer costs $1.99.

I have brought extra viral face masks with me on flights and offered it to coughing people with runny noses around me, so that they don’t make me or anyone else sick. Amazing how many people will say, “I am not sick, it is just allergies”. I don’t get it, Denial, selfish or what? In those situations, I put on the mask. They do reduce respiratory germ transmission.

If you have any suggestions for gifts, please write it in the comments. I avoid candy, cookies, etc bc they are unhealthy empty calories. Except maybe dark chocolates. Although that can be difficult in hotter climates, as chocolate tends to melt. Make sure any food you give is well wrapped and sealed.

Other gift suggestions: Luggage tags that represent where you are from or tell a story.

Follow up to this gift giving business. I usually bring 3 gifts per flight. I wish I could bring more but only so much one can bring on a carry on. So far three gifts seems to cover the number of flight attendants on my part of the plane. The three with whom I interact with anyway.

My recent flight from Athens to JFK, one of the flight attendants gave me a gift back. A bottle of wine. He said one good deed deserves another. How sweet. Exactly the joy that I want to spread. It works folks.

Using Reusable Straws

Headline: Los Angeles County to ban Plastic Straws. About time. These images of plastic straws polluting our earth’s water ways and hurting wild life are disturbing.

Since I last wrote about using metal reusable straws, I discovered silicone and bamboo straws. Straws are useful if you have sensitive teeth, want to keep your teeth from staining, have orthodontic work or unable to drink from a cup bc of health reasons. I like the silicone ones the best due to their “flexibility” but bamboo straws are 100% natural and biodegradable. The hole in the bamboo straw is smaller than silicone, so not useful for thick smoothies. The metal straws can feel harsh against your teeth.

I needed the longer the 11 inch silicone straw for my 20 oz stainless steel thermo container.

After use, the silicone straw tucks nicely into my container for storage until I get home. Otherwise a wet straw is a messy thing to handle. Checklist when purchasing a container:

  • dishwasher safe for lazy cleaning
  • wide mouth so you can add powders and or pour smoothie in it easily and also easy cleaning
  • an attached smaller lid so you won’t lose it.
  • the part that touches your mouth is completely covered by the lid to avoid contamination and dirt getting on it
  • if going to use in car, make sure not so wide that it will not fit into a cup holder
  • avoid plastic. BPA and BPS (the BPA substitute) are both bad for you
  • stainless steel and glass are the most neutral. The silicone covered glass is less breakable
  • Double thickness containers insulate better so drinks can be kept either hot or cold longer. Plus the neutral temperature of the exterior of the container makes it more comfortable to hold onto

How to fold your silicone straw into your container when finished

The silicone ones have the advantage of being folded into a small container like a pill bottle or extra orthodontic retainer container. This makes it much easier to carrier around with you.

To clean these straws: You can do by hand or put the silicone ones in the dishwasher. Since these silicone ones are larger, they do not fall threw the holes in the cutlery rack. I would not recommend putting the bamboo ones in dishwasher bc they might splinter and crack. The straws almost always come with a brush too.

Hand washing: Soak for minute or two in soapy water, make sure some of water gets into the center of straw. Wiggle it around a bit. Clean inside with brush. Rinse. Dry on a rack that drains.

My vegan lunch smoothie recipe to be posted soon.

Please leave me any comments or questions. I look forward to them!

Biodegradable Dental Floss

For proper oral hygiene, you need to floss daily. Ever wonder what happens to the plastic dental floss like Glide? I can just imagine it gets into our Oceans, resulting in choking and or strangling of marine life.

Now there are other options. Biodegradable silk or bamboo floss. They are a little thicker than Glide so it your teeth are tight, it could takes some time to get use to it. But it works. With the extra thickness, it removes more food particles per swipe! Give it a try. You help the planet, the planet helps you. Karma.

I bought these on Amazon.

Note: If you have short roots, I would not recommend. If you must use a traditional plastic product, and the floss remains in good shape after use, you can rinse the floss and let it dry and re use it again and again. 🙂

Valentine Almond Cookies

This is a recipe from the Island of Malta. You can shape them into Hearts and decorate with a Maraschino Cherry (Whole Foods has sans food coloring). These cookies have 2 versions: vegan and traditional with egg whites.

Bake @ 400F for 8-10 mins. Makes 84 x 2inch round cookies

Ingredients:

4 cups ground almonds

1.5 cups oat bran

2 cups sugar

5 egg whites (or egg substitute)

2 Tbsp Almond Essence

Pinch of salt

Sliced Almonds or Maraschino Cherries, cut cherries in half, let it drain, set aside.

Edible Premium Wafer Paper 8.25″ x 11.75″ Pkg of 20 for Cake or Food Decorating (I bought these on Amazon) – cut these into circles or hearts for Valentines one sheet should give you 12 circles (about 2 inch or so diameter) or 4 hearts

Mix almonds and bran in a large bowl and set aside. Mix the rest of the ingredients (except decorating cherry and sliced almonds) and mix with an electric beater until well mixed. Fold this into the dry ingredients.

Put the Wafer Paper cutouts on baking pan. Roll the cookie mixture into 1 inch balls and place on Wafer Paper. Use dampened fingers and press down dough, leaving a small edge of Wafer Paper.

Be careful not to get the dough onto the baking sheet as the dough will stick to the pan. Decorate with sliced almond or cherry before baking.

Bake 400 degree F x 8-10 until cookie edges are a very light brown

Will be bringing these to share at work on Valentine’s Day.

Remind people that the paper is edible. Some people waste quite a bit of time trying to peel the paper off 😉

Best face mask for cleaning and refining pores

I bought the clay from Amazon and organic Apple Cider vinegar is sold in most grocery stores. I use a large stainless tablespoon to mix the ingredients.

Scoop some clay onto spoon and add some apple cider vinegar about 1:1 (the vinegar has healthy probiotics and the acidity exfoliates). It will start to bubble. Mix the solution well with finger or cotton swab. Then apply to face, avoiding eyes. Let dry about 5 minute-10 minutes depending on how thick you make the mask. You will feel your skin tightening.

I remove mask by gently wiping off some of it with either a hypoallergenic natural facial towelette or a moistened tissue before rinsing off with water. This is to prevent the clay from accumulating in the drain and risk clogging up the sink.

Voila- nice smooth skin and smaller pores. Of course don’t do this if your skin is sensitive.

Holiday Vegan Main Dish – Stuffed Squash

This is easier to make than a Turkey….

Ingredients:

  • 2 Medium Acorn Squash
  • 1/2 cup Orange Juice
  • 1 good sized onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Wild Rice
  • 2 tbsp Avocado oil or coconut oil
  • 2 cups Vegetable Broth
  • Spices- 1/2-1 tsp Curry powder; 1/2-1 tsp Cinnamon; 1 tsp Cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 – 1 cup Dried Cranberries or Cherries
  • 1 cup fresh Parsley, then chop (save 4 pieces for garnished)
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh Sage, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Walnuts

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan, add wild rice. Stir until rice is well coated and slightly toasted. Heat 2 cups of Vegetable Broth in microwave for about 2 minutes. Put broth and wild rice into Rice Cooker. Cook as per your Rice Cooker. Rice grains will split open when done.

Microwave Acorn Squash one at a time for 1 minute (this will make it easier to cut in half). Let it cool and cut each squash into 2 equal halves. Remover the seeds. Place 2 halves face down in a microwavable dish, with about 1/4 inch of Orange Juice in dish. Microwave until soft – about 8-10 minutes. Repeat with the other Squash. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the center of squash, leaving 1/4 inch rim of squash on rind. Set aside.

Add rest of oil to pan, medium heat and then add onions. Stir until onions are browning. Stir in the rest of the ingredients ( except walnuts) including scooped out Squash pieces and cooked rice.

Scoop this mixture back into the Squash Halves. Sprinkle with walnuts and garnish with parsley. Serves 4.

For sides you can serve Miso Soup, Mash Potatoes with Kim Chi, Stir fried Spinach or kale with garlic and onions.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments. I want to hear…

Forest Bathing In Your Own Home this Holiday

The concept of Forest Bathing derives from Japan. The Japanese call it Shinrin-yoku. They have discovered that by breathing in alpha-pinene, an essential oil from Pine trees, there is an increase in human Natural Killer (NK) Cells, NK activity and anticancer activity in lymphocytes. To achieve this, it is recommended that you slowly walk in a pine forest covering about 1 mile in 2-3 hours. This is slow enough that it is mediative too. That slow unhurried pace is, in itself,  healthful. The average walking speed is about 2 miles per hour. In Forest Bathing, you are then walking at a maximum speed of only 25% of the normal walking pace.

Not all of us can easily access a forest. But what about a Fresh cut coniferous tree for the holidays? For many years, I have avoided a fresh Holiday tree because of the concern for fire. But this year, I was not motivated to do a fake tree. The subtle smell of plastic has become depressing. 

So I filled our home with a fresh pine tree and garland*. It smells so good. Nature does take care of us. I am, like most others, naturally attracted to the aroma of pine. The whole process of Shinrin Yoku, forest bathing can be described as Biophilia: our innate tendency to seek connections with nature. The stimulations of NK cells must be the evolutionary advantage.

Happy healthy decorating to all!

For fire and smog prevention, fireplace use is forbidden. The tree came from a YMCA fundraiser for underserved youths. These trees are farmed for the purpose of decoration. 

http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/shinrin-yoku.html

*For those with allergies to coniferous trees, sorry. 

Reduce Flu, Cough and Cold Transmission… it is the season

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You can reduce spread of Respiratory Infection by wearing a mask. You can reduce the spread  by up to 60-80%. Of course good hand washing is a must too.

This is common practice in Asia. Healthful cultural practice we should adopt.

It is the season. Be a trail blazer. Just do it.

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/takingcare.htm

 

My Tibetan Vacation

Mt everest 3

I would like to share with you my journey into Tibet and some of the wisdom I gained from this experience.

Tibetan culture is very spiritual. Tibetans believe that there are 3 evils in society: Anger, Greed, and Ignorance. Throughout their life time it is a person’s responsibility to overcome these 3 evils. Tibetans pray to become kind and compassionate; honest, and generous. To spend a lifetime gathering wisdom from education, to know right from wrong, and to learn from the teaching of your elders. It’s a main focus of their culture. 

Individuals in Tibetan society have a collective goal to grow beyond these human weaknesses. It is just a beautiful way to live.  They use meditation with various mantras to help reach a special spiritual place they call Nirvana. To become enlightened – which can be defined as a state of perfect happiness; an ideal or idyllic place, with neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self. Tibetan society and its people have a defined path to Nirvana. Along the way, they teach and reach beyond themselves and selflessly give back. 

Now contrast this to life in the United States. There is an abundance of anger, greed and ignorance in our current American culture. It seems we as a collective entity have forgotten to address the existence of these negative and hurtful attitudes. How and when we got off track is difficult to say maybe we just started this way. Unfortunately, it has become part of the fabric of this country. Just read some of the hateful comments on the internet. So much negativity. I wish we had a clear path to rise above the 3 evils, to become better people in a society without anger, greed, and ignorance. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could call out people when they embodied the 3 evils? Wouldn’t it be nice if Anger, Greed and Ignorance became shameful?  Wouldn’t it be nice to hear people say I am working on raising my level of enlightenment? How much more advanced would our society be if we spent our collective energy, intelligence and spirit on positive creativity rather than trying to keep the negative energy of the 3 evils at bay? For example the amount of time we need to spend to fight against hackers, corruption, arguing amongst each other, etc. It is not productive.  It is such a waste of the short amount time we all have on this planet. We could be so much more advanced if we spent our time creating and working on new, inspirational and positive ideas. Our society is stuck at the level of the 3 evils. The anger gets us into aggressive behaviors, high murder rates and generations after generations of wars. The greed can make some people extremely rich and self-centered, instead of using their platform to help others rise up for a more balanced society. How many billions is enough? Yet there will never be enough to fill the inner emptiness. Our ignorance is reflected in our failing educational system. A future of ignorant people is a formula for a society to fail.

These 3 evils aren’t in our conscious minds. How we behave and what we accept as decent and graceful behavior has been lost. Sometimes our own truth is too difficult to face or we don’t know how to find it. So we hide it behind protective layers of facades, live in denial, blame others for our problems. But if we ignore our own inner truth, it will bubble up as anger, greed, anxiety, and depression that has no end. We use addictive behaviors to cope. That’s what happens when we are ignorant of our true selves. Our society does not provide a pathway, such as in Tibet. Americans have to purposely seek this out.

Then an inspiring turn of events.  

As I was contemplating these ideas,  I coincidently (although maybe there are no coincidences), I watched  a documentary called “The Work”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qm6fiDXmTkw on the airplane back to USA. 

“The Work” is filmed in Folsom prison, a  Level 4 prison in California. They follow the transformation of “lifers” defined as those who are serving life in prison without the possibility of parole: people who have committed horrific crimes. 

In this film, we follow selected lifers as they go through 4 days of intensive group therapy where the wall that they have erected to hide their true selves is torn down. The truth can be unbearable and so difficult to face that one subconsciously lives a life of crime rather than face the real issue. That protective wall that separated themselves from their true selves allows them to disconnect. This disconnection in part enables them to perpetrate those heinous crimes. 

During the therapy sessions many of the prisoners broke down into tears, to reach that emotional state of who they really are and to face the truth about themselves. When the tears start, “The Work” can begin: breaking down all those tough guy hard core barriers and finding the path to discover their truth. The truth can be very painful. Those deep feelings of not being good enough, feelings of inadequacy, shame, fears of being (self) judged and not being accepted and loved as a child can consumes one’s spirit. Acknowledging them is the beginning to healing. Many of the individuals open up about their unbearable childhood. The damage of adverse childhood events, including chronic racism, exposure to violence, abandonment, etc., no matter how subtle, can cause a lifetime of illness and dysfunction.  https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/about_ace.html . Our painful truth. 

I highly recommend that you watch this documentary. The Folsom program has had impressive results. For those lifers who qualified for and completed the program, some were subsequently released back in society. So far none have returned.

We all live at various levels behind our protective walls, the highest wall being the most exterior of walls, the wall that is furthest from your true self. The higher the wall, the higher the level of disconnect and dysfunction. 

There are 5 levels of walls that need to break down before we get to the level of Nirvana.

Starting with the most exterior wall to the inner wall:

Level 1 – This level would be the people with severe disturbances in thought patterns. 

Level 2 – Level where the people have little insight to their behavior- examples sociopaths, borderline personalities, narcissists. 

Level 3 – The “Robot” level – people who function without emotions and lack empathy and compassion.  

Level 4 – The majority of us with our anxieties, worries, depression and neuroticism

with various stages of severity. 

Level 5 – Nirvana recognizing and living as your true self – the inner core

It takes constant work to get to break down the barrier and stay at level 5, the ultimate level, But the more you practice, the more it stays with you. 

It takes work (with or without trained professional guidance). You have to keep digging and when you  dig deep enough you will get there. Sometimes on the other side of the protective wall is a deep dark space. That dark reality about yourself may not be easily confronted. Rather than do the work, it is easier to stay the course at the familiar superficial layer. Not to step out of the comfort zone. But the shorter, seemingly easy path will end up the most difficult path of a life of anxiety, depression, chronic illness, pain and addiction. The (self) hate and racism, stems from this space. 

Discovering your truth, helps you to understand why you behave the way you do and your emotional reactions towards life events. To face your shame and your emotional pain. Take the path that moves away from the 3 evils. Your behavior and actions mirror the feelings you have for yourself. If you hate someone, look at what you hate about yourself. 

Getting back into your inner layer is where the healing starts. Start with building yourself up with self love and self compassion. Then this can become your new mirror. A new reflection that is available to you and that you can have if you do the work. Shift your path towards acceptance, kindness, compassion, generosity, wisdom and being enough.

How do we do “the work” within ourselves? 

There is a path. Rather, there are so many paths and options to reach to your inner spiritual true self. A combination of them is ideal, but there is no magic. You have to do “the work”. Examples of healing modalities are: mindfulness, meditation, healing touch, aromatherapy, Reiki, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, breathing exercises, aromatherapy, yoga, books, hypnotism, Classical 5 elements acupuncture, music therapy, art therapy, talk therapy, connecting with nature, community connections, friends and family. Of course proper nutrition is assumed (covered in my other blog posts).  

Life is a truly a journey to finding your path and then bravely taking it. Let your adventure begin. 

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Epilogue

To see and feel the auspicious mystical energy of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world soaring up with a peak of 29,035 feet is a truly transformative experience. We saw Mount Everest from the Tibetan base camp which is at an altitude of 16,900 feet. We lucked out, as the clouds cleared for the 2 days that we were there in July. We were able to see Qomolangma (the Chinese name for Mount Everest, which sounds much like its Tibetan name Chomolungma) in all its glory. 

The altitude of the base camp is above tree line so zero greenery. Just rocks and snow. In this barren landscape, there is a sense of solitude. As we stood in awe of Qomolangma’s grace and beauty while immersed in Tibetan culture, one can’t help but become inspired and to contemplate the meaning of one’s own existence and ask who am I really? What does it matter? The hypoxia at this altitude may have contributed to these questions 😉

On a practical note about traveling in Tibet: 

The Chinese side of Mount Everest, one can easily drive up to Everest Base Camp (like a true Californian :). Whereas in the Nepalese side, one needs to hike in several days before getting to the base camp. 

The cuisine at high altitudes is was not great because food can’t be heated to high temperatures. 

The non flushing stand/squat toilet are to say the least yucky. I coped with the thought that most of the world lives like this. Still I really appreciate home and my flushing toilet.

My Tibetan references include the information that was gathered from our Tibetan tour guide, Gyaltsen from Wonders of Tibet. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g294223-d557334-Reviews-Wonders_of_Tibet-Lhasa_Tibet.html

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Veterans Day: We Remember

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In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

This is part of a poem that I grew up reciting every year at school in Remembrance of our fallen soldiers.

https://www.history.com/news/world-war-i-poppy-remembrance-symbol-veterans-day

I wish America had a larger tradition of using a poppy symbol to visibly honor our Veterans.

Easy Dinner #3 – Bowls

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This meal’s prep time is not 10 mins but around 25 mins with some pre-planning.

Pre planning –> Make ahead:

Miso dressing (See Sept 2017 blog for recipe or way down at bottom of this recipe) and set up rice cooker with brown rice. Turn on rice cooker few hours before guests arrive. Serving a whole meal in a bowl is simple and it was a hit with guests.

The base is organic Brown Rice or whatever grain you prefer. You can buy precooked rice in frozen food aisle. I like to use my Rice cooker because once it is set up, I don’t have to think about it until I am ready to serve the rice. For added flavor, I prefer using vegetable broth instead of water to cook up brown rice.

Best to soak rice over night to remove most of the Arsenic and then make sure you rinse the rice out well. (1)(2)

Set your oven for 400 deg.  Toss precut Butternut Squash with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Best if all the Squash cubes are about same size so cubes can bake consistently, preventing small ones from burning and bigger ones from undercooking. Bake 20-30 mins, until soft.

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Meanwhile: Toss ready to serve pre washed Baby greens with Miso dressing.

Heat/prepare your protein. You can use, for example, Smart Tenders (see below) or some chickpeas or tofu cubes.

I added some sliced pre cooked beets and Kim Chi for sides.

Best to serve Bowl Meals in some 6-8 inch diameter bowls. Asian markets are the best place to find these.

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Putting it together –> First layer in some brown rice, then the Miso greens then squash, beets and Kim Chi (can use Sauerkraut too) on top.

Bon Appetite 🙂

 Miso Lime Dressing with Honey 

1 1/2 tablespoons miso paste*
2 tablespoons rice vinegar*
1 1/4 tablespoons raw honey*
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Add toasted almonds (optional)

Mix the above ingredients. Serve in a mixed green salad

*these ingredients are rich in probiotics

(1)Breyer, M. (2017, Feb 17). How to Cook Rice to Remove the Most Arsenic. Retrieved from https://www.treehugger.com/green-food/how-cook-rice-remove-most-arsenic.html

(2)Consumer Reports (2014, Nov 18). How much Arsenic is in your Rice? https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2015/01/how-much-arsenic-is-in-your-rice/index.htm

Easy Vegan Dinner #2

This dinner takes about 10 mins to make.IMG_3037

Needs to get these ingredients together from Trader Joe’s and some basics from Costco.

Prepare Carrots as per package but bake convection oven at 400deg for about 8 mins to brown carrots. Then Microwave covered for about 2 minute to soften (depends on wattage of your microwave). Salt and Pepper optional.

Then for stir fry –

Add to frying pan, olive oil, garlic, ginger, stir a little and add veggies, and sliced sausage. Keep on medium – low heat, stirring as needed to prevent from burning.

Meanwhile in microwave heat up rice and use Coconut Aminos to season to taste.