I wanted to share a few books that I have loved over the years! These are books that I have been going to for years, and keep enjoying them every time. They go right in line with my forthcoming book, The Kitchen Witch, and will inspire you in ritual and cooking alike!
This book gives many specific recipes and instructions on how to make a wide variety of teas, for health and pleasure. I mean who doesn't love tea? (Dude, if you are saying "me," then it might be hard to be friends!)
Healing With Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford
This encyclopedic book on healing is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine. Okay, it may not really have an "inspiring" feel - it's a bit of a tome, but it is SO full of useful information and is like an intro course to healing with whole foods based on the philosophies of health in Chinese Medicine.
The Language of Flowers
This is a very small book, but lists the traditional European meanings of various flowers and plants. It is so fun to read and get inspiration on what the flowers say when you pick them or give them!
The Herbal Healing Deck
I'm obsessed with this deck of oracle cards! I LOVE the artwork and the insights are always helpful. It's been a powerful way for me to connect with plant energy and think about plant spirits and just connect with plants! I'm not much of a green thumb, so I'd rather think of them in their wild habitat! Haha.
The Aromatherapy Handbook
This is the best resource I have found on uses for essential oils. The book details various ways to use essential oils for therapeutic aromatherapy, as well health, cleaning, and gift giving, among others. It is an awesome reference book and makes it so easy to make healthy oils and beauty products.
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I've been thinking about the fact that my signature program with my clients is called "Love Every Bite" and yet I have never really told you what kind of bites that I LOVE!
Now, when the Kitchen Witch comes out you'll find out a lot more about that, since there is a whole section of sort-of recipes :)
But in the mean time I thought I'd share my all time favorite cookbooks and why I love them so much!!!
First, though, a caveat. Several of these cookbooks are vegetarian, but I thought you should know... I'm not actually vegetarian. I was vegetarian for many years, so partly I have cookbooks from that time period, but the truth is that I like to eat mostly vegetarian at home, and when I do add meat, it's usually salmon that I cook in a pan or tuna our of a can.
This is because I'm used to cooking vegetarian, my husband eats fish but not meat, and I'm super weird about germs from fish and meat in my kitchen. Also, it's always easy to ADD a bit of meat to a dish, if that is your preference.
So, without further ado...
My favorite cookbook at the moment is a new addition to my shelf...
However, I also almost never follow a recipe, and with 4 versions of the same recipe it is very easy to mash them up and make my own unique version, and still have it turn out great!!
Also, the recipes so far have been easy to follow, not too time consuming or complicated, delicious and nutritious!!!
Another fairly new addition to my cookbook collection is...
It really makes on the fly cooking way less stressful.
Also, I know that the recipes will be easy to shop for - I won't have to hunt around wondering if the store carries certain ingredients.
This is really a great solution for a busy person like me (or you) to have on hand. The recipes are pretty no nonsense, a great selection of sandwiches, some casseroles, lots of quick things. It's not a dinner party kind of cookbook, but it is amazing at weeknight dinners, fast lunches, and making the empty pantry seem not that empty!
Now to some of my old standbys that have bee used and loved for many years.
This is my go to book for dinner parties!!! The recipes are not hard to make, but they are delicious and turn out well every time. That is a rare combination!!!
One of the show stoppers was the vegetable, feta, and pesto parcels...delicious vegetables packed into filo pastry. (I didn't exactly follow the recipe of course... but they were delicious none the less!)
This cookbook is truly international in its dishes, but it does them well. The meals are light, flavorful, and present well on the table. A mainstay in my kitchen!!!
My favorite book for fast weeknight dinners...
Plus... you can always grate some cheese on top if it would improve the meal ;)
Vegan Express was a passed on cookbook fro ma friend who ended up with two copies, and I'm SO grateful! Both to her aunt for giving her the same book twice, and to her for passing it on to me!
You'll notice a theme here: The recipes here come together quickly, are fresh and flavorful. The contents are organized by major ingredient just as much as type of food: protein (tofu, tempeh, seitan), grains, beans, noodles, pizza/quesadillas/wraps, salads, soups, sauces, and sweets. The way she breaks this down and clusters the recipes also makes it easy when you haven't been to the store to find something yummy to cook in a pinch.
The pizzas/quesadillas/wraps section is particularly helpful, since she explains that these methods are interchangeable, so you can use the toppings/filling from one recipe with a different kind of bread to hold it, if that's what you prefer (or have on hand).
She also includes a "recipe not required" section and just gives a whole bunch more ideas!! Now that is what I call inspiration!
The last cookbook is also one I go to for inspiration just as much as actual recipes...
For example, The Sneaky Chef hides a bunch of zucchini and cauliflower in her mac and cheese. So if I'm making mac and cheese, I'll go look up her recipe and figure out if I can either quickly grate some extra veggies in or use some puree. Since I don't tend to follow recipes anyway, I might not use cauliflower, but opt for some cooked butternut squash or whatever I have on hand. The idea is to get inspiration.
Well, that's the review of the most used cookbooks in my kitchen in the past few years. I'd love to know what you think or what YOUR favorite cookbooks are!!!!
Alegra Loewenstein & www.healthyfamilyharmony.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Clicking these or any other links to amazon from my site provides me with income so I can continue to create free and fun content on my site!
I want to challenge something right now.
It might be uncomfortable. I want to challenge the idea that portion control is a healthy way to eat.
Because I understand, as a total control freak my self, the temptation to try to control what I eat.
(The funny thing is that I used to consider my self "Type B." I actually thought I was super laid back, didn't worry too much about things, could go with the flow.
However, having children made me realize that I'm actually extremely controlling! It's just that before kids I was successfully controlling most of my world... and then I had kids and have been basically white-knuckling the edge of the table since they were born, staring in amazement because my mind is blown that I am so unable to control things now.
Sooooo.... it was more like I could be all relaxed and "Type B" because I was so damn good at being Type A that I didn't even know it!)
Also, I used to try to control what I ate. And, interestingly, for a long time that was also out of my control. And it was a real challenge in my life.
The things in my life that felt shitty (in hindsight, basically all the things I could not control), made me want to eat sugar.
I'd try to NOT eat sugar, fail, and then just eat more sugar.
And in my business now I connect with many women who share that they feel that way about many other types of food as well, sometimes all food.
Sometimes they find that portion control has helped them maintain a healthy weight.
However, there are two ways to go about portion control.
The first way, the more common way, is that some external measurement determines the portion. Whether calories, volume/weight, carbs, points, or whatever, this can backfire. It's useful to learn what an average portion might be. But if you are hungry, you may need more than average, and if you are not hungry, you may need less than average.
The second, more empowering, way is to trust your body as the guide. When your body is telling you what the portion should be, it will be just the right amount. And the beautiful thing is that when your body is able to get exactly what it needs to be satisfied, you are able to ENJOY the portions, not simply control them.
It is my mission to help women create this holistic whole body connection in a playful, non-judgmental, and supportive environment, so they can enjoy all the foods they love.
Listen. Here's the deal. I STRUGGLED with this question for YEARS.
Here are some quotes from old journals:
The list goes on and one. Over a period of years I would write this stuff on a regular basis. Interspersed with other things like...
And for the most part I didn't know WHY I couldn't stop. I didn't understand WHY when I resolved to do things, when I TRIED to quite eating sugar, I failed.
I was smart. I was independent. I had a great life.
And yet... I could. not. stop. eating. sugar.
But then there were glimpses into understanding why I could not stop eating sugar, that I just didn't go deep enough with because I didn't understand they were related.
"I had a cry-fest-pity-party tonight. Then I drove to New Braunfels and back. Then I bought soda, candy, and cigarettes on my mom's gas card. I'm sad & lonely & tired of meaningless relationships & sick of love story fairy tales. I want to sleep until it's warm outside. I want peace in my home. I want someone to cuddle with at night. I want to fuck. I want to cry. I want ____."
It is exactly that desire, that looking for a fairy tale - because it was MY OWN fairy tales I was sick of, that desire to connect in an emotional and physical way that I was stuffing myself with sugar to numb myself from.
I was the one thinking that a relationship would be some kind of fairy tale. I was so deeply duped by the silly stories in our society, and yet simultaneously unwilling to accept them. No wonder I was frustrated in so many ways.
And, after lots of self work and reflection, I can say that the longer quote, where I talk about bigger picture things, is the GOLD NUGGET (and, ugh, I feel dirty that I used my mom's gas card - I almost wanted to edit it out, but decided to leave it in, and then, kind of laughingly, why is THAT the part that still creeps me out?)
Because it is EXACTLY that bigger picture that was the reason behind the sugar binges!! They did not feel related at all back then. I had no idea. I was also in denial when my doctor of Chinese medicine suggested as such. First I denied I had a problem with sugar (despite the fact that I was writing about sugar incessantly in my journals). Then I told her I didn't care - I didn't WANT to stop eating sugar. But luckily she gently persisted with the message and I eventually acknowledged this as truth.
And yet... as amazing as she was as a healer, she only pointed me in the right direction with the sugar-desire connection. I still had to fumble my way through figuring it out, which I eventually did. And I did this so successfully that it feels like a different me back then.
I can also say that I truly have to go to my journals to remember that self hate, that body hate, that shame and feeling like a failure.
(That's not to say I'm in some perfect life now - we never are, but I am much better at recognizing my own bullshit stories and stopping myself mid-thought to reset. Focusing on my wrinkles, my post-children jiggly bits, etc etc... well it happens, but I know it's a load of shit even though I still feel it, and so I just try to honor the feeling while I recognize that it is coming from a bullshit story.)
Plus my journals NOW are so full of positive affirmations you'd really not recognize the author!!!
So... if you are wondering why you can't stop eating sugar... then ask yourself what your deeper desires are. Or, better yet, buy my journal and answer the questions to help guide you to that answer!
There are many things in life in which I like to take a very very big picture, cosmos kind of look at things.
The way I eat is one of those things.
For a long time, I thought about the environmental impact in a strictly numbers kind of way. How do I minimize impact? I became vegetarian at 15 (though, admittedly, in the beginning that was more of whim).
I had been an environmentalist since a young age. Encouraged by my school, and a natural tree hugger, I understood that eating plants took less of toll on the environment. Eating lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains was good for my health AND good for the earth! There is a lot of science to back this up.
I also had a vegan stint in college. (But then I also had a no onions and no garlic stint in college.)
And at the time all of this seemed very "big picture."
But, as you likely know, I struggled for a long time with eating sugar, lots of sugar, and in an unhealthy way. I also had a lot of guilt and judgement around food - both towards myself for "failing" to "quit" sugar, but also towards others for "failing" to be as "big picture" with their diets. (Wow, that was a lot of quotes.)
That year I was vegan? It's seriously a wonder that I have any friends that knew me before that lasted through that year. I try to block it from my mind, so I can mostly only imagine how self righteous I was.
Plus, being so strict was alienating. It made parties and family gatherings hard. BLESS my mom for being so accommodating and catering to my various diets over the years!!! I mean she used to cook me whatever she was cooking minus whatever it was I was not eating!!!!
It took a lot of self discovery and letting go of rigid perspectives for me to move beyond the rules that were not actually serving me.
Also, suffering through 7 months of nausea and vomiting in my first pregnancy was enough to make me realize I'd eat ANYTHING to make it stop. I mean I would have hunted a deer and painted my face with its blood if it would have gotten rid of the NVP. Meat, unfortunately, did not help, because nothing helped. None the less, the experience cracked the door open much wider.
I had actually already decided that a bit of quality meat was probably the healthiest, especially for me, since I don't tend to crave much protein. Meat is nutrient dense and very nourishing. The whole chicken noodle soup effect is real. I had read a bit of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and they tout the same: modest, quality meat consumption as part of a plant based diet is often the most healthful. Still, I didn't want to eat animals.
(Except for the one time at my friend's wedding in Ohio, and I had WAY too much champagne. Back at the magical farm house where all her friends were staying, with a kitchen packed with all kinds of things to nosh on... the only thing that looked at all appealing was a giant roasted turkey!! That was the real beginning, and to this day the only meat that I honestly enjoy eating a "chunk" of is roasted turkey! A new traditiona i nthe life of the mostly vegetarian was to eat turkey on Thanksgiving day.)
Roll forward to my current life. Today was Thanksgiving. My mom made a turkey, I made a vegetarian "Neatloaf." We had mashed potatoes, tempeh gravy, sweet potatoes, root vegetables, grains and greens salad, Brussels sprouts, two kinds of cranberry sauce, corn bread stuffing, and a pickle tray. Everyone loved the Neatloaf! But, of course, I ate some turkey, too :)
And my dad, who eats healthy mostly because of my mom, told me after dinner, "I think being vegetarian is really the healthiest way to eat." And I told him, "Maybe only 90% vegetarian." And he said, "You're right. You've lightened up in your old age."
First of all LOL!!! Love it that my dad is calling me old! And second, what a nice middle ground, for the more meat and potatoes guy to be admiring me and for me to be meeting him in the middle!
Looking at the big picture, though, what I mean is this: Yes, it's really good to eat lots of fruit and vegetables. But that is not something that surprises most people. Eating a plant based diet is good for your health AND the health of the environment. However, if you eat ANY diet with rigid rules and lots of judgement towards ANYONE, that actually is NOT healthy for you.
So, sure, aim for a lot of plants in your diet. It will make you feel good, help you live a healthier life, maybe even allow you to live longer, and certainly can help you lose weight. But choose the fruits and vegetables you really love. Have fun with whole grains. And enjoy meat and sugar!
The last piece of the puzzle is that I believe that taking the absolute best care of yourself you can will naturally lend itself to taking good care of the earth. Because people who eat well and feel well naturally gravitate towards choices in their life that uplift the world, and the truth is there are MANY ways to do that.
(Oh, and since we are talking environmentalism, also VOTING for strong environmental protections & protectors is essential!)
This is something I've spent a lot of time thinking about because I want to know how to refer to my clients in a way that actually makes sense for them - here are my thoughts on all the approaches I've tried (and the one I created!) I hope it's helpful!!!
I use emeals. They give a two week free trial. I think it was $59 per year for a dinner plan (you can add on breakfast, lunch, special occasion, etc), and lots to choose from (kid friendly, vegetarian, paleo, etc). The recipes are all pretty quick.
It is somewhat seasonal (lots of squash and pomegranates on menus lately - yum!)
I love that I don't have to think with this one!
I choose the recipes I want to use as I enter the store and it makes my grocery list, with pantry staples separated out for easy shopping. The only down side is the app takes a few minutes to open - it always wants to refresh. Sometimes it fails to open at all, and then you are stuck winging it (see MY meal planning program below to get you through those days).
Also the web version is not interactive, you have to get the grocery list for all 7 recipes for the week - so just use the app.
I also noticed it saves me money at the grocery store (which is a claim they make as well)... as long as I don't just start throwing random things in (which I still sometimes do).
PLAN TO EAT
I've used Plan to Eat, but it requires a bit of computer time to devote to it. People who avidly use Pinterest seem to have great luck with it - they just move from Pinterest to Plan to Eat and pop them in the calendar.
You are completely in control of all the recipes each week. The service combines them into an easy to use format to schedule on your calendar and then compiles a grocery list for the days you select, which is mostly cohesive to put onions with onions, etc, but sometimes onions will appear more than once - not a huge deal, just a bug of the system to be aware of.
But if you don't want to go around pinning recipes, then this is NOT the plan for you. It takes time, time that I was never able to get into my routine.
It is only $40/year; they also give a 30 day free trial.
There is also my fellow Boss Mom, Sam Rodgers' Eating Clean Cooking Dirty!!!
I've used her plan before - it is all clean eating, with several options to choose from. It is based on the premise of one prep day that is longer than other days, then everything is basically ready to go when you want to eat it.
She integrates all the recipes into one set of instructions. She is seriously amazing at this!!!! It is like following ONE recipe, but at the end you are set for the week! She is as crazy about making yummy and easy to follow meal plans as I am about assimilating every self help book I've ever read into my coaching programs!
This is great if you want to streamline your time in the kitchen - it's not as good if you like to improvise while you cook. i.e. If you can't or don't like to follow recipes strictly, this is probably not the plan for you; messing with one recipe is ok, but messing with 5+ at once may not be a good idea.
She gives a free week to try, and then her monthly cost is fantastic for the quality of her product.
Finally I also have a meal planning course, but mine is actually ALL about how to have a plan...and how to improvise when you need to!!! Because I'm a master at improvising in the kitchen :) ...
But you still need a plan.
You can get a free week of sample meal plans and also an introduction to my approach (basically break it down into simple steps and commit to them one at a time.)
My course works in conjunction with other meal planning tools! I use emeals AND I improvise :) Haha
Sign up for your free week here: Beyond Meal Planning
Some of you may know this, but I know my business coach was surprised; I have an MFA in Creative Writing (with an emphasis in Poetry!)
When I first graduated I always felt BAD that I wasn't writing more poetry, but I remember reading a book about "being a writer" and it was all about staying true to the passion and it ended up having kind of the opposite effect where I was like "fuck that I'm only writing if there is audience for it!"
Haha, I guess my business mind was coming out before I even knew it :)
None the less, reading that book and my reaction to it was actually really inspiring because it actually freed me from writing what "I thought I should be writing" because of my degree to writing whatever the hell I wanted to!!!
For a long time I only wrote letter to friends!! Long, intimate letter to my lovely long-term (one 10 years and one 15 years) pen pals :)
But it was this freedom that has made the writing part of my business SUCH a joy and pleasure, and it was all the sweeter to complete my book and move towards publication because of this history with writing.
So...What makes my forthcoming book "Emotional Eating Detox A 21-Day Inspirational Journal to Understand Your Cravings, End Over Eating, and Find Freedom From Dieting Forever" different than other health books? It actually has nothing to do with food! You can eat WHATEVER you want!! It's all about the OTHER stuff going on that causes you to eat in a way that is stressful and makes you feel like crap! Check out my book here!
How's that for creative writing?
Fast food is DESIGNED to make you want it, and to make you eat as much as possible. It is literally engineered to be that way. Sometimes getting info about that can help you want to stand up to that kind of deception and manipulation. Movies/Books like Fast Food Nation, Super Size Me, The End of Overeating, etc.
Also, learning about how bad that food is over time may help you decide you don't want to eat it.
However, you also MUST address the emotional/lifestyle trigger behind the desire/craving.
You don't feel like cooking... that is FINE! That is totally legitimate! There are many days when you may not feel like cooking. Cooking can be a joy...and cooking can be a total slog.
I used to be a sugar addict (also very addicting), and now I am passionate about helping people create their ideal relationship with food. I ALWAYS suggest spending some time to understand what is driving that craving. Yes, with fast food some of it is physical/biological...but there is also a lifestyle/emotion to it. In the case of fast food avoiding the work of cooking and the clean up after is a big part of it.
I focus on five steps:
1. Count the Joy - learn to celebrate food
2. Love Every Bite - you should eat foods you enjoy
3. Have Your Cake - include treats and foods you love
4. Eat Healthy Without Trying - this takes time, but you can train yourself to truly honestly prefer healthy foods!
5. Have a Plan - don't get caught too hungry or too busy
I wanted to explain all the steps because a lot of the understanding work comes first, you have to know where all your triggers are coming from before the changes will last.
And at the same you can start with some of the changes -- what usually comes at the end-- while you spend the time laying the emotional foundation.
In THIS case, how can you have a plan?
1. Keep food in your freezer or pantry that is better than fast food... look for frozen meals with no weird ingredients. Be it pizza or noodles whatever super easy item you prefer, take some time to stock a few "emergency rations".
2. Keep your fruit bowl full. Add fruit to any meal to round it out. Noodles again? Add some orange slices on the side to freshen it and lighten it. Feels like a fancy restaurant, too
3. Use paper plates. Sure, it makes waste...but so does fast food, so indulge at home once in a while, too.
What else can you do to have a plan and honor your desire to not cook?
Let me know in the comments below!
The secret to simple healthy food is this: grains and veggies.
I explained a bit about grains one week ago. Today, let's chat vegetables.
If you really don't know how to make sure you make this happen, then grab yourself a coffee chat with me so we can chat and I can tell you about the ways I can help you commit to it. I have SEVERAL ways! I can teach you to go Beyond Meal Planning. I can schedule you a Pantry Makeover. I can help you go deep in Love Every Bite.
Let me share with you how I tout the advantages of vegetables in my forth coming book:
Adding a salad or steamed vegetables to a meal is quick and easy way to round the meal out. Cooking soup is an easy way to create a meal featuring the bounty of the farmer’s market. Vegetables should be plenty and abundant in your diet. They are filling and delicious; they are high in fiber and low in fat; most are low in sugar; they are full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
They really add so much to a diet and you can eat so much without ever worrying about whether or not they are healthy. Vegetables are the one part of any diet that you never have to measure, weigh, or be concerned about over eating.
And I didn't even go into the health benefits! Vegetables are the staple of most healthy "diets." Anytime or place in the history of the world, they ate vegetables. Except, of course, for modern day industrialized nations. Like ours. Where we suffer from a disastrous array of preventable health ailments... Ahem. Alright, so how can eat more of them??? Just like grains. We have to commit. We have to change our mindset from "it's too hard" to "hell yeah I wanna live forever!"
(You know, not really. But I do wanna feel great and look my best and be as healthy as I can as long as I can!!! And veggies help with all of that!!!)
Okay, Alegra. HOW????
Well, if you are familiar with "Beyond Meal Planning" - the first step is chop veggies. It's really three steps: Buy them and chop them and use them. Still. I know you can do that.
So go ahead and hop back on Pinterest and find one recipe with veggies. Easy! And then chop TWICE as many veggies as what it calls for, and use up the leftovers in an other meal the next day!! You've just doubled your veggies consumption.
What veggie will you pick???
I told you last time I've dusted off my old manuscript for my book, The Kitchen Witch, and I'm working through it, finding typos, and getting ready to publish it!
I am having SO MUCH FUN reading through my old wisdom, and following the advice I gave myself ten+ years ago. What a gift!
Of course, it's not really dusty, because it's on a my computer, and the advice won't really make you live forever, because that's impossible plus - who would want to?
But it is excellent advice none the less, and advice which I see I have lost touch of with adulting and parenting... but advice which I am ardently working to bring back into my life! I hope you can, too!
Check out these three basic premises (premi?). Check out this simple concepts that inspire the book!
What’s good for the inside is good for the outside. That’s one of the mottos of this book, and what you’ll be learning about when you read this book or use it a reference. The book is organized categorically, but the extensive index will help you locate suggestions for specific issues or ailments, such as facial treatments or acne, or by ingredients that you happen to have on hand, like sesame oil, bell peppers, or rose flower water.
What’s good for the outside is good for the inside. That means an approach to health that will help keep you happy and healthy from inside to outside and from outside to inside. You can’t create beauty superficially – beauty arises from deep inside of each of us. It’s when this beauty is blocked from surfacing that we don’t feel our best, and from there we can’t look our best.
Treat yourself well, and the world will follow. So, how can we take care of our bodies and souls everyday so that we feel good and look good? It’s by treating ourselves to the best things in life, which happen to be things we have access to everyday: good food, good company, and good intention.
Let's be honest. It's actually really hard to take good care of ourselves. Society, sadly, thinks it's great to run around, brag about how you haven't even eaten breakfast (and it's 2pm), complain about lack of sleep, etc etc etc. But that is called: On your way to adrenal fatigue / We don't take care of ourselves in 'merica.
So, let's pledge together, that we will put ourselves first. We will take deep care of our bodies and souls. We will make choices that are good for our insides AND outsides.
In fact, I'm going to eat some healthy snacks AND get a massage this week.
What will you do???
I help busy, ambitious women connect their food to their desires & overcome emotional eating in a non-judgmental, supportive environment.