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Friday, February 13, 2015

Why spending time with your friends matters, a cleansing chicken recipe and a million things

We live in a difficult world. There's no question about it. And...what can we do to thrive in it, despite it all?
I wished I had an easy answer that would solve everything. But I think that starting small is where the big changes take place. A couple of weeks ago I taught a class about how purposely finding pleasure in every day (and often free) activities can help us reduce stress and become healthier. The feedback I received was amazing, and what I presented was nothing new. No special skills, no Powerpoint, not even a food demo. It was all about simple things in life: deep breathing, scents, praying, cooking and eating, sleeping, moving joyfully, hugging and laughter; all of which have the power to change our brain chemistry, impact of microbiome (gut bacteria), lift our spirit, help us connect with others, strengthen our immune system, better our digestion, help our metabolism, and improve our overall health and happiness. 
And you know how often, certain things in life don't come separately... This past weekend I felt even more how pleasure has a mind-body-spirit effect. I met with some of my dearest friends of 28 years for two days. We're all turning or have just turned 40 and we decided it was finally time to get together. We laughed, we cried, we sang, we danced, we huged, we complained, we remembered. It was exactly like a scene of a cheesy chickflik that my husband wouldn't watch even if I paid him a million dollars. And it felt GOOD. It still feels good!!!
A day after that weekend retreat, another beloved childhood friend mentioned how a psychiatry professor at Stanford (I'm a sucker for anything coming from Stanford, as that's where I met my husband. It's the place where I spent some of the happiest, most exciting days of my life and where I was first introduced to Google, then an obscure search engine) stated that “One of the best things that a man can do for his health is to be married to a woman whereas, for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health is to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends.” He explained that when we hang out with our girlfriends, we produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can combat depression and create general feelings of well-being. Sara Gottfired MD, author of The Hormone Cure writes that women form "a network of stress-reducing, protective females and leverage oxytocin, the "love" [and cuddle] hormone that also acts as a neurotransmitter." This in consequence reduces our blood levels of cortisol, which is the main stress hormone. So there you go! Bonding with your girlfriends is food for the soul, and for the body as well.
Smelling wild orange essential oil or having coffee with your friends won't solve the violence, frustration, pressure, worry and uncertainty that the world is filled with, but things like those do equip us with tools to reduce the physical and emotional stress that makes us feel so threatened. The palliatives are there for us to grab. Do you use them often enough? 

We have to pay attention and make an effort. Nourishing ourselves by connecting, breathing mindfully, infusing with the sacred everything we do, purposely enjoying cooking, eating, moving, resting, creating, is possible. Being more aware of our senses; being present every time we hear, see, touch, taste and smell something can transform our experience of life. 

Consciously thanking our bodies, the trillions of microorganisms that inhabit it, our souls, our loved ones, the healing powers of touch, of connection, of holiness takes us through a very different path in life than if we don't acknowledge them. 

I want to invite you to a series of classes where I will be talking about these topics and doing activities and demos, many of them food related, but none of them like any other food/nutrition classes you've ever taken! They will all be a mind-body-spirit experience, and I'd love you to join me! I know time is a scarce commodity, but you won't regret it!

  • First class: February 25 at 10:00 AM at East 72nd Street (exact location will be given upon signing up) and will be about ESSENTIAL OILS. How to use these concentrated, super potent plant compounds to improve our immunity, our mood, clean our household without toxins, and better many health ailments from skin issues to respiratory concerns. Space is limited. Cost: $40.00 and includes all materials (and essential oils will be available for ordering)

  • Second class: March 23 at 10:00 AM at East 79th Street (exact location will be given upon signing up). We will learn about mindful cooking and mindful eating. It's about cooking and eating with your senses, and with your heart, while being present. Even if you hate cooking, you'll see everything through a different view. Space is limited. Cost: TBD.

April and May classes are still on the planning stages, so feel free to request topics. Among ten will be: eating for immunity, eating for beauty, the importance of the seasons, super foods, digestive health, sugar-free sweets.

Other announcements (sorry, too many things to share!!!):
  • I'll be teaching a gluten free, dairy free, super food loaded treat-making demo in Brooklyn at the SCC on March 17 at 10:00am. Please tell your friends!

  • Thank you for making Three Tablespoons Frozen Cookie Dough such a success! More products are in the works, and I'll keep you posted. Please keep placing your orders at 718-986-7374 (text or call). I deliver every Thursday in the Upper East and Upper West Sides. For now, it comes in 4 varieties: chocolate chip, oat-quinoa-chia, vanilla-maple, cacao nib-coconut-hemp biscotti. Each roll is $12 and makes 20+ gluten free, dairy free, refined flour and sugar free cookies loaded with super foods and NO MESS, and they make your home smell amazing!

  • Purim is coming! Place your orders for your Hamentaschen kits. This year, they are a bit different. They come with: frozen Hamentaschen dough (that you just roll out and cut into circles with either a round cutter or the top of a glass) and mixed berry-chia filling, a brown gable box, themed stickers, a card and a very cool multi-colored crayon stick, so you can prepare Mitshloach manot. Kids LOVE them! $35 each. Call or text.

I leave you here with 2 things: Virginia Satir's recommendation "We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth." So you can make yourself (and the one you hug) grow... and a delicious, comforting recipe that I wrote originally as part of a detoxing piece of that came up last month. It's incredibly aromatic, full of super foods and since you make it in a slow cooker, it gives you extra time to spend with your girlfriends and produce lots of serotonin and oxytocin!

Chicken in Coconut Milk Detox Broth
Lemongrass, garlic, lemons, ginger, turmeric, cilantro, cinnamon, are all phytochemical and digestive powerhouses. They've been coveted for centuries for their antioxidant, antiiflammatory, disease fighting and cleansing medicinal properties. And the best part is, that they aren't only healthful, but delicious, as they lend their fragrance, pungency, flavor, color and deliciousness to this comforting, but sophisticated chicken dish. The slow cooker allows the flavors to develop beautifully, and gives you a break from the kitchen, but if you are shorter on time, place everything in a Dutch oven and cook covered in a 375 F oven for about 45 min to 1 hour. I usually double up the recipe and freeze one for the following week. 


4-6 Servings


  • 1 chicken (3 to 4 pounds, preferably pastured or organic), skinned and cut into eights (bones in)
  • 1 inch gingerroot, peeled and minced
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, white part of inner bulb only, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1 bunch cilantro, stems roughly chopped and leaves, set aside (for garnish)
  • 1 large lemon, cut into 6 slices and seeded
  • 1 (16-ounce) can full fat coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 cups dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, Swiss chard, bok choy, etc)
  • Cooked rice, to serve (I love serving it with forbidden rice. It's whole grain, delicious and makes for a dramatic, colorful presentation), optional
Chicken in Coconut Milk Detox Broth


1. Place chicken pieces in the bowl of a slow cooker. Sprinkle with the ginger, lemongrass, garlic, chopped cilantro stems, and lemon slices.
2. Pour coconut milk on top. Top with turmeric and vinegar and mix all together a bit (it doesn’t have to be completely mixed, cooking will do its thing!).
3. Add cinnamon stick and salt, cover and cook in high for 5 hours or in low for up to 8 hours.
4. A few minutes before serving, add in the greens, mix them into the broth a bit, cover and cook for 5 to 10 more minutes.
5. Top with cilantro leaves right before serving. Serve with rice, if you’d like.