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Taking it easy in the kitchen

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Squash soup

This is an article from the series Tami's Kitchen.

No matter what holidays you celebrate, if you celebrate them at all, this month can pack in a lot of action.  There are parties, extra treats floating around at work and everywhere else you go, invitations to gatherings, expectations from people in your world, and so on.
Often I hear my clients telling me that there's a history of a downward spiral at Thanksgiving, leading through the December holidays, and packing a final punch with New Year celebrations.  A party like that can leave one with 6 weeks worth of regret, extra weight, debt, and other unwelcome guests.

This year, I challenge you all to hold your head up and stay above the chaos! Keep calm and carry on. I know it's easier said than done if temptations weaken you. So as always, I shall provide you with some tools that may help you with success.

1. Have a mantra, something you can say to yourself to keep yourself on track.  It can be a line from a song, poem, or book that means something to you, a quote from someone you admire, even an image that means something to you. 

2.   Set intentions every morning.  Remember what your personal goals are, give a realistic assessment of struggles you might face during the day, and set an intention on you plan to handle those struggles in a positive way.

3. Don't skip any meals.  Being hungry leads to impulse eating.  Eat real food and don't get caught hungry!

4.  Plan your meals.  If you are super busy, decide on 5 primary meals you'll rotate through the month.  Cook in bulk.  Roast up extra root veggies and squash.  They keep well in the refrigerator and reheat easily in your oven at mealtime. 

5.  Exercise.  It is a sure fire way to remind you that you are on a healthy path.  Exercise in the morning is even better, if you have the time, because it sets the path for the kind of day you want to have.

6.  Drink water.  Getting dehydrated leads to some funky cravings and moods. It's free and easy. Drink your water. 

7.  Be a little snobbish.  Going to a holiday party? Enjoy it! But only eat that which is fit for a queen.  You can have bread and mashed potatoes any day.  Enjoy the special dishes.  Suffer no guilt from it.

8. Begin each day new.  If you intentionally overindulged at a party the night before? Cool. I'm glad you had fun. But today is a new day and just because you partied last night it doesn't mean you have to do so again.  Plan for your "day after" party days with extra healthy and clean foods.

9.  Say no.  Are you doing too much? Are people asking too much of you? Set some boundaries.   Scale back.  It's okay.  I'll write you a permission slip if you want.

10.  Have fun.  Make an intention to get out there and make fun happen for you.  Make snow angels. Drink hot chocolate.  Dance to the music in the supermarket.  Smile at strangers.  Be a goof.  Joy does wonders for the spirit.

So, what are some of those easy meals you could have this time of year?
You didn't think I was going to tell you to do that and not provide some recipes, did you? Of course I will, silly!

Squash Soup
•     1-2 winter squash (Butternut, Acorn, or Pumpkin are best)
•     16 oz coconut milk
•     2c vegetable broth
•     2 cloves garlic, minced
•     1 tbsp maple syrup
•     1t ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350
Roast squash whole at 425 for 45-60 minutes until soft.
Let squash cool and then cut in half. Remove seeds and either pull off skin if it's loose, or scoop out squash and put in a bowl.
Puree squash batches in either a food processor or blender by putting squash and some of the vegetable broth in together and puree until smooth.
Heat up pureed squash on stovetop and season to desired flavor. You can go sweet or savory by playing with sweet spices of cinnamon and maple or almond extracts, or savory with garlic and curry. Consistency of soup can be determined by you, add as much broth/coconut milk as you like to make it as thin or thick as you like.

Cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes to let garlic and curry cook into the soup.

Then, if you bake an extra squash, you can must make up a batch of brown rice and make cheaters Risotto!

Quick Squash risotto
• 6 c cooked brown rice
• 2 c cooked squash puree
• 1 leek, chopped
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• ¼ c veg broth
• 1 c coconut milk
• ½ tsp cinnamon
(other spices you might choose, cloves, nutmeg, maple)
Sauté leeks in olive oil for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add in pumpkin puree and stir in broth and coconut milk. Stir in rice. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes until everything is warm and mushy and yummy.

Quick roasted Brussels Sprouts

• 1 lb Brussels sprouts
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• Salt
Preheat oven to 425.
Prep Brussels Sprouts by trimming off bottom and cutting them in half.  Toss with oil and sprinkle with salt.  Spread them out on a baking pan and roast for 25 minutes, turning them halfway through the cook time.

Steamed greens

• Any dark leafy green
• Water

Winter dark leafy greens are hearty, filling, and packed with nutrients.  They also last for a good 4-5 days in your refrigerator after you cook them.  Making up big batches of greens to dip into throughout the week will help ensure you eat more of them!

Simply wash and chop your greens.  Put them in a steamer pot on stovetop and cover with lid.  Steam for 3-4 minutes.  Remove from heat and run cold water over them to stop the cooking process.  

Greens like spinach only need to be steamed for a minute.  Heavier greens like Kale or Collards will cook  a little longer, 3-4 minutes.  

Enjoy as is or spice up with a little sea salt, toss in some sauteed onions, it's just that easy!


Tamara Flanders is a Holistic Health Counselor and graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.  Her health coaching practice, Your Body Awake, is located in Rexford, NY.  Learn more at her website

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