Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Make Your Own Coconut Milk

Coconut milk boast many health benefits for your skin, brain, and metabolism.  Coconut milk contains lauric acid which has antiviral and anti bacterial properties supporting the body's immune system.  For your skin, it is full of antioxidants and vitamins.  Also the fat in coconut milk is composed of medium chain fatty acids which the body prefers to breakdown for energy instead of storing it as body fat.  As the body burns this energy it simultaneously boosts its metabolism. These fats are also essential in maintaining healthy nerves.

Making coconut milk at home is super easy. I began making it at home because guar gum found in most commercial coconut milk, including organic varieties, makes me sick in my stomach.

Recipe for Coconut Milk

Unsweetened coconut flakes 7oz.
Boiled water cooled slightly

Put half the coconut flakes in a Vitamix or other similar blender.  Add 5-6 cups of very hot, not boiling, water.  Process as a hot soup in the blender being sure to hold down the top.  I usually use a kitchen mitt to protect my hand from the heat.

Once finished strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove the coconut.   You can repeat the process with the rest of the coconut flakes.

The coconut milk can then be stored in the refrigerator for four days. The fat will separate.  It can be reincorporated with vigorous shaking.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Learn to Cook

My mother was not a cook.  She knew where to go for catering, mastered cooking in the microwave, and was the queen of semi assembled food to which you added an egg or ground beef.  My memory of my father cooking was of him counting out each piece of spaghetti.  When I went to Russia for the first time it was a revelation.  Home cooked soups and stews like schi and solianka tasted amazing.  Bulochki , a Russian bun, tasted nothing like store bought buns.  Coming home I vowed to learn to cook real food.  And I did.  Now I can cook almost any Russian, French, or American dish with ease and I am confident it will taste amazing. 

If you have the time and opportunity the easiest way to learn to cook is to take a cooking course designed for serious amateurs like those at the International Culinary Center (ICC) in New York City.  I took their cooking course years ago which taught me how to confidently prepare vegetables, soups, fish, eggs, and meats.  It was wonderful learning knife skills and basic cooking technique.  Also, since each student was given his own ingredients and kitchen, it was four hours of hands on learning each session.  But, not everyone has the time or chance to do that—I certainly would not be able to do that now.

Not having 40 plus hours to devote to a cooking course these are my recommendations:
      1. Choose one cuisine to cook until you understand it. Jumping from Korean to Tex-Mex to Indian will not give you the understanding of flavors, techniques, and dishes which will free you to cook without recipes and with improvisation.  In addition, practically speaking, it is hard to keep the essentials you need on hand and fresh when jumping from one cuisine to the next.

      2. Cook the same dishes over and over so you can master and build upon them.

      3. Keep it simple.  Start with the most pared down recipes.  They are easier and often more satisfying.

      4. Choose a good general cookbook.  My recommendations are below, but choose a cookbook that inspires you.  To learn the most from a cookbook commit to it and work your way through the recipes.  Make notes on the recipes as you cook them so you can improve and remember what you thought of your technique and the finished dish.

My top cookbooks are:     
How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
Please to the Table (Russian) by Anya von Bremzen
Fish & Shellfish by James Peterson
Staff Meals by David Waltuck
The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Remember the great thing about cooking is you will be hungry again.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

5 Products to Nourish Your Skin in Winter

Below freezing temperatures have finally zapped my skin of its sun kissed glow.  To keep my naturally dry skin glowing throughout the winter I liberally use these five products.

1.     Argan Oil is a staple this winter.  I apply argan oil as a night cream or as a serum under my regular moisturizer when I feel my skin is extra dry from time spent outside in the cold and sun.  Argan oil is deeply absorbed into the skin without clogging pores making it helpful for all skin types.  It also provides your skin with loads of antioxidants and repairs sun damage helping skin to stay supple and looking young. 
2.     Jojoba oil I use both as a cleanser and makeup remover.  By this point in the winter, I find my usual cleanser leaves my skin too dry.  To make it more nourishing I add a bit of jojoba oil to my cleanser.  I will also use jojoba oil alone at night as a combination makeup remover and cleanser.  Simply take a small amount and rub it all over your face and rinse.  It removes everything, yet leaves the skin soft and moisturized.

3.     Caudalie Grape Water sets makeup beautifully and refreshes the skin with a light mist of water.  I keep it on my bathroom sink and often carry a travel size water spray by Evian in my purse.   I use it after I apply my makeup in the morning and throughout the day to refresh my skin and restore its glow. 

4.     Bobbi Brown lip balm is a must to keep my lips from becoming chapped.  I load it on at night right before bed so that it can be slowly absorbed through the night.  By morning, my lips are ready for cold, wind, dry heat, and the darker, more drying, lipsticks I’m so fond of during winter.

5.     La Mer Intensive Revitalizing Mask is my newest love.  I started using this mask in the fall.  It is applied on clean skin, allowed to absorb for eight minutes, and then you can continue with your normal serums and moisturizers.  This mask is amazing.  I leaves my skin smooth, hydrated, and supple.  

Monday, January 5, 2015

Winter floral arrangement

Bringing flowers in from the garden is one of my great joys as a gardener.  Winter presents a challenge in that there is less to choose from, but the desire for greenery grows stronger.  One of my goals this winter is to create an arrangement each week from the garden.  It will not only beautify my living space, but will satisfy my desire to be in the garden at a time of year I ordinarily would not.  I share with you week 1.

This small vase contains clipping of cedar clippings and yellow twig dogwood gathered from the garden with an accent of purple from Japanese beautyberry  growing at the edge of our lawn.  

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Keeping New Year's Resolutions

   Resets are a wonderful opportunity for personal growth and change.  I usually reevaluate my goals and priorities many times during the year, but I love January because it represents a new beginning.  A new year, regardless of what calendar you use, is a universal time to reflect, reconsider, and reboot. 

   So now that you have your New Year’s resolutions what now?  Statistically, very few people make it past January with their resolutions still in mind.  How do you make it stick, so that by December 31st you see movement in the right direction?  These are my tips for reaching your New Year’s goals. 

1.     Write your resolutions down in a journal, your calendar, smartphone or other place where you won’t loose them and will be able to refer back to them easily.

2.     Break goals into small mini goals.  The mini goals make your resolutions more attainable by breaking them into a reasonable timetable, a measurable element, or steps which will get you there.  For example, one of my goals is to do the more challenging option for the abdominal exercises in my Bar Method classes.  Usually there are two to four sets of these in each class.  The harder options require lifting one or both legs while keeping your abs contracted.  I broke this into a daily goal and quarterly goals.   My daily goal is to at least try the position for as long as I can each time I take class.  By March, my goal is to be able to do a full set, then by June to do half the abdominal work using the harder option, and from there work to three quarters by September and completion by December.

3.     Accept failure.  If you fail in living up to your goals, don’t give up!!!  If you do, you have no chance for improvement.  Last year one of my goals was never to feel heavy or more than satisfied after a meal—this translates into knowing when to put down the fork.  I failed many times, but learned something each time I did.  I learned that one more bite once I was satisfied for me translated into too much.  Some days I was hungry and others not.  I learned to honor my bodies internal hunger meter.  If today half an omelet satisfied me even though yesterday I devoured the whole thing, it meant that for my body that day it only needed half.  I learned to stop second guessing my body’s signals and not to eat out of habit.  Remember that the journey often teaches more than attaining the goal.  In this way, think of your goal as your intention for the year—something to work toward—it is not necessary to achieve perfection.

4.     Try, try, try.  Too often we defeat ourselves by throwing in the towel too early.  Remind yourself that how many times you fail is not as important as how many times you get up.  So if your goal is to be more thankful and your daily action point is to write down five things your thankful for, but you forget to do this for two weeks, don’t give up the exercise.  Begin again where you are.  You will always gain something from perseverance.

All the best in the coming year!