It’s lovely to talk about the joys of the holiday season, but unfortun-ately, for many people, the holiday season brings up a whole slew of emotions, and not all of them are centered on peace and joy. Many people struggle with sadness, isolation, depression and anxiety at this time of year, whether it’s because we miss family members who are no longer here or who we can’t be with; because of problematic family relationships; because of overly high expectations; or because of fears of being judged poorly by others, to name just a few examples.
Even if we are fortunate enough to spend the holidays with people we love doing things we enjoy, we can still feel the effects of seasonal depression—which seems all the more difficult during a time when we pressure ourselves to be happy.
Whether you’re more prone to battle the stress of too much or the loneliness of too little, it’s especially important that we pay attention to our psychological health during the holiday season. Connecting with nature can feel difficult when the days are short and the weather is chilly, but you can ward off seasonal depression and fatigue by getting in some daylight time. Consider starting your day with a brisk walk or jog outside; just 10 minutes of sunlight can help boost mood and energy for the day. And it’s doubly important to get physical exercise at this time of year, as it can help manage both high anxiety and feelings of sadness, relieving stress and bolstering mood.
If you know you will be spending a day that’s important to you (Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Eve, for example) alone, plan ahead to fill that time. Many volunteer organizations are in need of extra help during the busy holiday season. Community centers or places of worship often host services, pageants and other activities on these days. Or if you’d rather not socialize, consider plans you can make at home. If you miss your mother who has passed away, spend the evening baking a dozen of her favorite kind of pie, then give them away to neighbors, friends or homeless shelters. It might help you feel more connected to your mom, and that you’re helping her legacy live on. If you know you will be sad to spend the holiday apart from children or grandchildren, think about connecting with them via video chat, making care packages to put in the mail for them, helping out with kids at a women’s shelter or doing something you love with a friend who’s also free.
If you have no holiday plans to speak of, consider shifting from the holiday perspective to a more ancient one: Honor this season’s traditional role as a time for relaxation, introspection and rejuvenation. If you can, take time off work and stay away from technology, allowing yourself to lose track of what time it is and what day it is. Let the days slow down. Focus on getting extra sleep, indulge in long walks, practice meditation or yoga, read a long novel and stare out the window, allowing both your brain and body to rest. Things don’t have to stay the same as they were in the past to be good—you can celebrate your own place in this world with no one else around.
3 Things I Love This Issue...
1. A guide to old-fashioned herbal remedies
2. A collection of traditional holiday gifts and activities
3. A study of turmeric’s astounding health benefits
Although I'm not a vegan or vegetarian, I love to eat plant-based meals. Plant-based meals offer the most possible nutrition, the widest range of antioxidants, and the least environmental impact of any meals we can prepare. Not to mention, finding meat and dairy products that are raised responsibly can be difficult—and expensive. So incorporating lots of plants into our diets is a great choice for so many reasons.
Over the past year or so, I've had the good fortune to begin a collaborative relationship with Laura Theodore—host of PBS' Jazzy Vegetarian. Laura offers a huge array of amazing recipes with our readers via her regular blogs on our site, so I was thrilled when a preview copy of her book Vegan-Ease arrived in my office. In it, Laura shares so many fabulous recipes for vegan foods. And although she's included innovative recipes that sound wonderful—Walnut and Quinoa Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms are on my to-make list—one of my favorite things about the book is that she offers healthful, plant-based versions of some of our favorite comfort foods. With that in mind, I wanted to share this awesome recipe for Mac'n Peas with Creamy Butternut Squash Sauce. I love that Laura has created a smooth sauce for this dish out of superhealthy butternut squash and cashews, and that it includes some of the world's most effective medicinal herbs—-garlic, turmeric and cayenne. What could be better for a cool fall dinner after a long day of work and school? Enjoy!
Mac ’n Peas with Creamy Butternut Squash Sauce
Craving the comforting, creamy texture and smooth taste of mac and cheese? This innovative recipe fills the bill when you’re seeking a warm and hearty replacement for that dairy-laden version. Peas add color and pop, while the butternut squash and cashews create a super velvety sauce.
3¾ cups peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped butternut squash
2 small cloves garlic, chopped
1⁄3 cup raw cashews
½ cup plus 1½ tablespoons filtered or spring water, plus more as needed
3⁄4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more as needed
1 pound whole-grain fusilli, elbow or chiocciole pasta
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
¼ teaspoon dry mustard powder
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1⁄8 teaspoon ground turmeric
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. Fit a steamer basket into a medium-sized saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Add 2 to 3 inches of cold water to pot, then add squash and garlic. Cover and bring to a boil. Steam squash and garlic until very tender, about 20 minutes. Let cool for about 20 minutes (see note).
2. Meanwhile, put cashews and 1⁄2 cup water in a small bowl. Let soak for 30 to 40 minutes. Drain soaking water from cashews and thoroughly rinse cashews.
3. Once squash and garlic have cooled, bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add 1⁄4 teaspoon salt (optional). Stir in pasta. Decrease heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is almost tender. Add peas and cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender but firm and the peas are heated through, about 3 minutes. Drain pasta and peas.
4. While pasta and peas cook, put cooled squash and garlic, cashews, 11⁄2 tablespoons cold water, mustard powder, smoked paprika, 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, cayenne pepper and turmeric into a blender and process until the consistency of a thick, smooth sauce. Add more water 1 tablespoon at a time, as needed, to achieve desired consistency.
5. Transfer sauce to a medium-sized pan and cook over medium-low heat, just until heated through, stirring often and adding water as needed if sauce is too thick.
6. Put pasta and peas in a large bowl, pour warm sauce over pasta and gently stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve hot. Serves 6.
Chef’s Note: The butternut squash and garlic may be steamed in advance of preparing this recipe. After steaming, cool and store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
Amount per serving, based on 6 servings: 310 Calories; 3g Fat; 0g Saturated fat; 12g Protein; 4mg Sodium; 63g Total Carbohydrate; 11g Sugars; 5g Fiber
The question of whether animals are sentient beings used to be a matter of debate. The cause of this debate may seem dubious to you if you’ve ever gotten to know an animal. Just about everyone I know who has ever had a pet or raised a farm animal knows darn well that animals have feelings and consciousness: They demonstrate those feelings in countless observable ways.
The question of animal consciousness is no longer the subject of serious scientific debate. In 2012, a group of scientists issued the “Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness,” which concluded that nonhuman animals have all of the neurological requirements to enable them to experience consciousness. According to Marc Bekoff, a pioneering cognitive ethologist and co-founder with Jane Goodall of the Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, “The database of research on animal sentience is strong and rapidly growing. Scientists know that individuals from a wide variety of species experience emotions ranging from joy and happiness to deep sadness, grief and post-traumatic stress disorder.”
With this knowledge, the animal abuses suffered on factory farms seem all the more difficult to abide. Let’s use pigs as an example. Pigs have the same intelligence level as dogs. They’re naturally inquisitive, curious and mentally engaged. Yet in factory farms, pigs are housed by the thousands with zero access to sunlight, straw, fresh air or dirt. Sows grow and deliver piglets in cages so small they can’t turn their bodies around or, often, lie down. The list of abuses goes on, and one could make an equally awful list for every type of farm animal.
Factory farming may seem like a problem so big it’s impossible to tackle, but it’s a relatively recent phenomenon. According to the report Factory Farm Nation by the public interest organization Food & Water Watch, it’s been over just the last two decades that smaller farms have given way to factory farms: “Even a few decades ago, there were small- and medium-sized dairy, cattle and hog farms dispersed all across the country. Today, these operations are disappearing. The remaining operations are primarily large-scale factory farms...where thousands of animals on each farm can produce more sewage than most large cities, overwhelming the capacity of rural communities to cope with the environmental and public health burdens.”
If given the choice, I’m sure every one of us would fight legislation that permitted chopping off a cow’s tail or horns without painkillers, for example; but the legislation that has facilitated the growth of factory farms is wrapped in blander packaging. “The incredible growth of factory farming is the result of three key factors,” says the Factory Farm report, listing misguided farm policy; unchecked mergers and acquisitions between the largest meatpacking, poultry processing and dairy companies; and lax environmental rules and lackluster enforcement.
We can all do something to help reduce the suffering of animals on factory farms. One step is to keep our dollars from supporting them, whether by following a vegetarian or vegan diet or by only buying meat, eggs and dairy from well-raised animals. But we can also support groups that fight for animal welfare. We can demand that our politicians address the farm policies that encourage the growth of these operations and support political candidates who understand the important health and moral consequences of the commoditization of animal life. It’s up to us to be stewards of the earth, and protecting the animals that live here is an important part of that promise.
3 Things I Love This Issue...
1. A profile of a farm animal rights advocacy group
2. A feature showcasing some of the world’s healthiest herbs
3. A huge guide to choosing protein sources
Do you consider yourself an herbal brainiac? For instance, which herb is best for balancing blood sugar, or which is known for soothing the nervous system? Then test your knowledge of medicinal herbs in this fun quiz.
Smart sunglasses. We all know the sun's UV rays increase our risk of skin cancer, but the potential damage UV rays can do to our eyes is less publicized. Short-term excessive exposure to UV radiation can cause what is essentially sunburn to the eyes, according to the American Optometric Association, which includes short-term discomfort, light sensitivity and redness. Long-term exposure can lead to increased chance of developing cataracts or macular degeneration, as well as retinal damage. Choose sunglasses that block out 99 to 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B radiation and screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light. Tens is an independent sunglasses company that makes sunglasses that protect the eyes from 100 percent of harmful rays, yet retains color quality. These filtering sunglasses work especially well for those with vision problems, especially degenerative eye diseases that affect light perception such as cone or rod dystrophy, as they help retain sharpness of vision while also protecting eyes. Order them at tenslife.com
The right sunscreen. While we're on the subject of UV rays, we may as well talk about sunscreen. Of course we all know that the sun's rays can increase our risk of skin cancer, but did you know many types of sunscreen contain worrisome ingredients such as oxybenzone, a hormone disruptor, and retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A linked to skin damage that may speed development of skin cancer? Any sunscreen you buy should use the active ingredients zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) estimates that more than half of sunscreens on the American market would not meet European health requirements. If in doubt, check your sunscreen with the EWG. Derma-E and Honest Company both make good, easy-to-find options.
Bug banisher. Mosquitoes and ticks are more than irritating--they also spread disease. But many of us aren't thrilled with slathering ourselves with the chemical DEET, which is used in most common bug repellents, so how to keep bugs at bay? Try a natural repellent such as Badger's Anti-Bug Shake & Spray, made with citronella, rosemary and wintergreen. Other good options include burning citronella candles or torches, or making your own mosquito traps. Find the low-cost instructions here.
A sweeter treat. We all know summer is the perfect time for ice cream. If you or someone in your family suffers from lactose intolerance, though, that indulgence often must be denied. Luna & Larry's Coconut Bliss changes all that. Lactose intolerant or not, every kid and adult will swoon over this delicious, coconut-based ice cream. Their ingredients are responsibly sourced, organic and free of dairy, soy and gluten. They are also (and most importantly) absolutely delicious. On top of that, they use sustainable practices in their manufacturing facility and headquarters. Basically, they're impossible not to love!
Cool drinks. Another summer craving is for cool and refreshing drinks. Unfortunately, most prepackaged drinks on the market contain lots of sugar, along with dyes and other synthetic additives. Instead, opt for a refreshing drink that can actually enhance your health. Rishi offers a wonderful Paradise Punch tea made up of organic pineapple, sarsaparilla root, mango, hibiscus, lemon verbena, orange peel, lemon peel and lime oil. It makes a sweet and refreshing iced tea.
Stellar summer skin care. One of my favorite products for summer skin care is witch hazel. All natural witch hazel is a great toner and it's the perfect way to refresh summer skin. It also acts as a good mosquito repellent, on its own or combined with essential oils such as peppermint or tea tree, and a great treatment to relieve itchy bug bites. T.N. Dickinson's is an easy-to-find brand free of artificial fragrances and dyes.
Are you cheery calendula, wise sage or romantic rosemary? Take our fun personality quiz below to find out!
A few months ago Bob’s Red Mill sent us a package of Almond Meal to try. Since last November, I’ve been trying to drastically limit/eliminate my consumption of refined grains and white sugar. While it’s difficult to be at absolute zero on these items and lead a normal life, getting close to zero has been easier than I anticipated. That said, my husband has a sweet tooth and I want my kid to be able to have chocolate chip cookies once in a while. (Oh, and yes, I too like chocolate chip cookies!)
The back of the flour bag had this wonderful-sounding recipe, and I had all the ingredients in my house (including dark chocolate chips in the freezer). I gave it a try and oh-my-gosh these cookies are amazing! No. 1 cookie priority: They are incredibly delicious. Like, didn’t last in the house for more than 24 hours delicious (maybe a little too delicious?).
Along with the incredible taste factor, though, these cookies are in the not-that-bad-for-you realm with no flour, coconut oil instead of vegetable oil or butter (not that I would ever dis butter) and pure maple syrup as the sweetener (and 1/4 cup rather than the whole cup many recipes call for). I don’t think I had the optional almond extract, which was totally fine. They do include a bit of sugar in the dark chocolate chips, but you could even go with cacao nibs and I think this recipe would be fabulous. The almond meal gives the cookies a crumbly and delicate texture, and they taste buttery and rich even without actual butter. And that combination of dark chocolate and salt is the way to my heart.
So if you are looking for a sweet treat that tastes completely indulgent yet is not too bad from a health aspect (I didn’t even go into the nutritional benefits of the almond meal—3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein per serving, plus a dose of healthy fats), I cannot encourage you enough to try these cookies.
One thing to keep in mind: At $11 a bag, almond meal is expensive—waaay more expensive than flour. But I justify the expense by considering that I rarely make home-baked goods, so when I’m going to splurge, I say go big.
• 3 cups almond meal
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
• 1/4 cup coconut oil
• 1/4 cup maple syrup
• 1 whole egg
• 2 egg whites
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
• 1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
• 1 cup dark chocolate chips
• 1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds*
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Combine almond meal, baking soda and sea salt and set aside.
3. Mix coconut oil and maple syrup in a mixer or by hand until creamy but not fully incorporated, about 5 minutes. Add whole egg, egg whites and extracts (if using) and mix for 2 additional minutes
4. Slowly add dry ingredients to egg mixture and mix briefly. Add chocolate chips and toasted almonds and mix until well combined.
5. Place large rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets, about 1-inch apart. Flatten slightly, to approximately 1-inch thickness. Bake until set and golden, about 15 minutes. Makes 25 to 30 cookies.
*To toast almonds, simply add sliced almonds to a hot, dry pan and saute, stirring regularly until slightly browned and fragrant.