Monthly Archives: October 2014

Easy Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables

Simple Roasted chicken with root vegetables.

Simple Roasted chicken with root vegetables.

One of my favorite cold weather go-to dinners is a whole roasted chicken.  You just need a couple of minutes to get it ready for the oven and then you can sit back and relax while it cooks!  Cook it with some veggies all in the same pan and all you’ll have to do when it comes out of the oven is slice it without burning yourself! Plus, if you use an organic, pasture-raised (and hopefully local) bird, you can also save the carcass to make homemade chicken broth afterwards. Probably the best thing ever for keeping us healthy in the winter!

I used to be really intimidated by cooking whole chickens (or any other roast).  All the recipes I’d see on TV or online all seemed so complicated.  They all had me believing you had to truss it up with kitchen twine, stuff it or don’t stuff it, put herbs under the skin and aromatics in the cavity, and rub various fats and seasonings on the skin.  Jeez! Can’t I just cook the darn thing?? It seemed like way too many ways for things to go wrong and too many steps that may not matter all that much in the end result.

This is a simple recipe.  No fuss. No truss!!  Does trussing and all that junk make for a more flavorful or tender bird? Probably. But I’ve never had anyone turn up their nose or say that the meat from my bird was too dry or that it was not flavorful.  There are some things in life I can’t be bothered with and tying up a dead bird before I cook it’s carcass for an hour and half is one of them.  It’s not like it’s going to try to escape. Maybe for a special occasion you want to go the extra mile and make a fancy bird, but some of us just want to get dinner on the table on a Wednesday night without wrestling with poultry.

Cook it with some veggies all in the same pan and all you’ll have to do when it comes out of the oven is slice it without burning yourself! Plus, if you use an organic, pasture-raised (and hopefully local) bird, you can also save the carcass to make homemade chicken broth afterwards. Probably the best thing ever for keeping us healthy in the winter!

This recipe takes 90 minutes to cook.  I realize that is an asinine amount of time to make dinner for the average day of the week so there are a few options for this:
1. Make it on the weekend.
2. Make it AFTER dinner one night and eat it the next evening. It reheats beautifully.
3. Chop the veggies & prepare the chicken etc the night before, store in the fridge and pop in the oven as soon as you get home.  It’s hands free for 90 minutes so you can get lots of other things done, like your work out, laundry or helping kids out with homework.

Feel free to swap out these particular root veggies for other winter vegetables that you may have on hand or prefer.  Parsnips, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts and winter squashes all work well too!

This makes 4 servings.

5 lb whole organic chicken, giblets removed
optional: 1 head of garlic, top sliced off (to expose cloves)
2 medium beets, peeled, cut into 1.5 inch chunks
2 medium potatoes, scrubbed, cut into 2 inch chunks
1 onion, peeled, cut in half and each half cut into thirds
2 large carrots, peeled, sliced into 2 inch lengths
1 turnip or rutabaga, peeled, cut into 2 inch or so chunks
1.5 cups roughly chopped dandelion greens, tatsoi, mizuna or baby spinach
1 tbsps olive oil, melted coconut oil or pasture butter
sea salt & pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Toss the beets, potatoes, onion, carrots and turnip/rutabaga with the olive oil or coconut oil in a large roasting pan (if you care about presentation, you may want to toss the beets separately as they will coat everything red!).  The pan needs to be large enough to accommodate both a 5lb bird and all the vegetables at the same time.  I use one that is large enough for roasting a 20 lb turkey.  Sprinkle sea salt and black pepper on the vegetables.

Salt and pepper the inside cavity of the bird and if using the garlic, insert inside.  The garlic will add some flavor to the veggies and to the chicken but not so much that it’s absolutely necessary.  It WILL make your house smell amazing and make you hungry. Just a warning.

Make a bit of a well in the center of the roasting pan by moving the veggies towards the sides of the pan and insert the chicken in to the well. Liberally salt the skin of the bird (especially if you plan to eat it).  There is no need to add oil or butter to the skin (for this recipe anyway!).

Cook the chicken and vegetables for 90 minutes or until the juices in the thigh run clear when you insert a knife into the thickest part of the thigh.  Normally, I don’t need to do anything at all while this meal cooks (except maybe enjoy a glass of wine) but once in awhile you get a bird that doesn’t seem to release much liquid.  If that happens, you’ll start to smell burning (usually from the most sugary of veggies in your roast).  To fix that, give the veggies a gentle stir and add a few tablespoons of water or stock to the pan and continue cooking as normal.  A little browning adds delicious flavor – no one wants burnt vegetables though.

Going back to inserting a knife into a thigh to see if juices run clear . . .if you are wary of this as a gage of “doneness”, insert an instant read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh for a reading of 160 degrees.  Remove from the oven, cover with foil and let rest for 15 minutes before cutting.  The temperature gage will continue to rise and letting the bird sit before cutting will help it to retain juices.

After 15 minutes, remove the bird from the pan and carve for serving.  Stir the greens (mizuna, tatsoi, baby spinach etc) into the roasted root vegetables (in all the delicious chicken juices, fat and gelatin – don’t be grossed out, that’s good stuff!). They will wilt somewhat but should remain vibrantly green. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Serve the chicken and veggies with a dollop of dijon mustard on the side for the chicken (at least that’s how I like it lately!).

Video: Eating for Energy & Vitality Conference on Google Hangout

Check out this free Eating for Energy & Vitality Call I did on Google Hangouts (the call was live but records automatically and lives on youtube).  Lots of great information to share with you!

Find out why so many women struggle with low energy, why that matters and what you can do about it (it includes tips for eating for high energy, specific foods that can help as well as some non-food ways to boost your energy quickly).  This is exactly the type of stuff I help clients implement in their lives!

Lemon, Asparagus & Spinach Risotto (Cheese Free)

Creamy cheese-free risotto!

Creamy cheese-free risotto!

I love risotto. I remember being so intimidated by it when I first learned to cook.  Having to stand in front of a stove stirring constantly for 30 minutes just seemed like too much of an opportunity for my ADD to screw it up but I eventually gave it shot and it really wasn’t as bad as people made it out to be.  The key is maintaining a constant temp (not too high, not too low) and stirring relatively regularly while it absorbs the liquid (but not constantly).  I’ve made a lot of different risottos over the years and most of them were drowning in parmesan reggiano, mascarpone or pecorino in addition to whatever other deliciousness (pancetta! butternut squash! fried sage!) I put in there.  I wanted to make it a little less of an indulgence and more of a regular day meal so I made a few tweaks to the traditional recipes I’ve made.  This one has no cheese, I’ve swapped out some of the arborio rice for brown rice, and I’ve included a couple servings of veggies but make no doubt about it – this is still a delicious and indulgent tasting dish!

Risotto is usually made with a high starch rice like Arborio, because the starch content lends itself to creaminess when cooked slowly with liquid.  But the problem with most rice that is right for risotto is that they are stripped of the whole grain (otherwise making risotto would take hours!) and when you eat them they can spike your blood sugar just like white rice.  No bueno.  To counter that (a little), I decided to use 1/2 arborio and 1/2 brown rice for this batch. It makes a difference!

Note about substitutions: This can easily be made vegan by opting for vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth and using coconut oil or olive oil in place of the butter (though I would opt for extra virgin olive oil for the 2 tbsp of butter stirred in at the end – more flavor!).  This can also easily be alcohol free.  The wine is just for flavor.  You can omit it and add in a little extra lemon juice at the end or a dash of your favorite vinegar to brighten the flavor.

This makes 6 side dish servings or 4 main course servings (though I would add protein to serve this as a main dish).

Lemon zest.

Lemon zest.

3/4 cup arborio rice
3/4 cup brown, wild or japonica rice (any whole grain rice of your choosing!)
5 – 6 cups low sodium organic chicken broth
1 onion, diced
3 tbsp unsalted pasture butter
1 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup white wine (I’ve even used vermouth in a pinch)
1 bunch asparagus, ends snapped off, then stalks cut into 1 inch pieces
2 -3 cups baby spinach
1 – 2 organic lemons, zested and juice reserved
dried or fresh parsley – your call as to how much (I love it so I use a lot!).
sea salt & black pepper

You’ll need 3 sauce pans or dutch ovens for this recipe. I honestly believe (now) that risotto isn’t that complicated but I do recommend reading through the entire recipe before starting so that you have an idea of what is coming next while you are cooking.

Pour the chicken stock into a saucepan and turn heat to medium-low. In another saucepan or dutch oven, begin cooking your brown or wild rice according to the package directions (or if you’re me, just pour a few cups of water in a pan, boil and add rice).  You will only cook the whole grain rice for half it’s normal cooking time (so if it requires 45 minutes to cook, you will cook it for 22-23 minutes.  When you’ve cooked the wild rice for the allotted time, drain if necessary.

In another saucepan, (while the whole grain rice cooks), melt 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the onion and cook for 5 minutes or until it softens. Add the arborio rice and stir well to coat the rice with the pan liquids. When it’s well coated add the wine to the pan. Stir and let it cook until it’s mostly absorbed. Once the wine is mostly absorbed, add a small ladle of hot stock to the rice and stir. It should be absorbed into the rice in about 2 minutes. Continue adding small ladles full of stock to the rice, one at a time, stirring occasionally and allowing it to completely absorb into the rice before adding another.

Do this until the stock is gone (20 – 25 minutes). Note: You may have to turn your heat up or down a little to make the liquid absorb at the right speed.  Add in the whole grain rice when it’s cooked at it’s halfway mark – usually after the first couple of ladles of stock have been added to the risotto so that the arborio and whole grain rice finish cooking together.


Coating the arborio rice with pan liquids.

When you are on your last ladle or two of chicken stock, add in the asparagus and allow it to “cook” with the rice.  One the liquid is absorbed, turn the heat down, add in your lemon juice, lemon zest, baby spinach, parsley, salt and black pepper.  Stir until the spinach wilts and then stir in the remaining 2 tbsps of butter. Taste to adjust seasoning if needed and serve!

This is a great base for risotto – meaning you can change this really easily by adding herbs, or by swapping out the vegetables for different ones.  You can skip lemon juice & zest and see if you like a less tangy flavor! So many options.  Enjoy!

Wilting the spinach at the end of cooking.

Wilting the spinach at the end of cooking.

I like to add sliced smoked sausage or pan seared wild sea scallops to mine. Yum!

I like to add sliced smoked sausage or pan seared wild sea scallops to mine. Yum!

The Benefits of Eating Fermented Foods & Invitation to Free Video Conference!

THE (1)Friday night I put on a workshop on “Eating for Energy & Vitality” as part of NSH Lady Project’s first Active Night at the Strength in Balance Studio in Nashua. It was really fun and a great way to network, get some exercise and teach others a little about what I’ve learned about the connection between food, lifestyle and our energy levels.

The women had a lot of questions for me and one of the things that they were interested in learning about was fermented foods.  It’s something that seems to be coming up a lot lately in the media so I thought I should spend a little time on it in this week’s email in case you had questions about it too. I’m not going to go heavily into detail but I want you to know what fermented foods are, what the benefits of eating them are and how to get them into your diet.

Consider this the “cliff notes” version on fermented foods – it’s a huge subject and I’m only going to glaze the surface here! But before we get into fermented foods, I want to invite you to something I’m doing next week.

Free Invitation to LIVE VIDEO CALL
If you are interested in learning about how you can live and eat for better energy, I’m holding a live google hangout call on October 29th at 7pm EST.  It will be a web version of the talk I did Friday night. You can join it by viewing it directly at this link on October 29th or you can sign up here to receive email reminders of the video chat and receive an email link to the recording after the fact (in case you miss it live!). Come check it out! Barring any technical glitches, I promise it will be very informative – we’ll talk about why women are struggling with their energy levels, why that is important and ultimately what we can do about it! Good stuff!

What are fermented foods?
Refrigeration and freezing food is a relatively new thing in terms of human’s ability to preserve and store foods.  Long before we had electricity or ice boxes, people had to find ways to make food last longer to get them through months of the year where food was scarce (think winter!).  One method of preserving food was through fermentation.

In fermentation, the carbohydrates in fruits and vegetables are converted into lactic acid (which is a natural preservative), by a rich bacteria that naturally lives on them. In the right controlled conditions (such as temperature, moisture and lack of exposure to oxygen), this bacteria will multiply and grow.  As the bacteria multiplies, it continues to feed on the starch in the food, which preserves the food but also breaks it down some, making it easier for us to digest. One side benefit to fermenting foods was that people noticed it completely changed the taste of some foods, in many cases the chemical changes happening actually completely transformed the taste and texture of the food that was preserved (like as in the case of beer or wine).

Why should we eat them?
Did you know that there is more bacterial cells in our bodies than actual human cells? I know, that’s disgusting to think about. Most of the bacteria that makes it’s home in our bodies is beneficial to us and plays a large role in proper digestion and in keeping our immune systems strong. Lifestyle factors can affect whether we have a lot of good bacteria or too much bad bacteria in our guts. The good bacteria can be damaged or even wiped out by poor diets, the use of antibiotics and from exposure to glyphosate (a pesticide sprayed on gmo crops). Without a healthy amount of good bacteria in our gut, bad bacteria can run rampant, and is often made worse by our diets, like those high in sugar (the bad stuff feeds off of sugar).  This can lead to skin problems like eczema, acne or psoriasis , digestive issues (constipation, diarrhea, gas – you name it!), and increased frequency of colds and allergies.

Adding fermented foods to your diet can replace good bacteria that has been wiped out by these lifestyle factors. Healing our gut issues is a complicated subject (far bigger than I can address in an email) and requires dedication but regularly eating fermented foods is a start! They are easy to digest and will increase the amount of good bacteria living in your gut.

A few of the fermented foods in my fridge.

A few of the fermented foods in my fridge.

How and where can I find them?
You can make them yourself – which a couple of google searches will direct you to.  Or you can buy them at many grocery stores today.  There is a whole range of fermented food available today. Sauerkraut, pickles, kvass, miso paste, tempeh, natto, kefir, raw dairy, kimchi, sourdough bread are just a few that you might be able to find in your local store.

Most fermented foods will be in the refrigerated section of the store as they are living foods and the bacteria count can be affected by improper storage. In choosing fermented foods at the store, the ingredient list is important.  Most will have very few ingredients on the label (in the case of naturally fermented sauerkraut, water, cabbage and salt is usually all!).  When you start seeing preservatives and words you don’t recognize, it is likely not a true fermented product.  One other way of knowing if you have a high quality product is that naturally fermented foods are usually unpasteurized.

Are fermented foods safe?
Some people have safety concerns about eating food that has not been pasteurized and it’s a valid one.  I think it is a personal decision and an especially careful one for those who are pregnant, elderly or have compromised immune systems.  My feelings on it, is that while pasteurization kills harmful bacteria, it also kills beneficial bacteria (so your pasteurized yogurt probably doesn’t have nearly as much acidophilus that you think it does) and humans ate food for centuries long before pasteurization even existed.  Honestly, there is just as much risk of sickness from bacteria from eating raw vegetables (remember all those e. coli scares from tomatoes and spinach a few years back?) than there is from eating naturally fermented foods but we never question if salad is safe.

Again, it’s a personal choice and I urge you to do your own research.  If you do choose to eat fermented, unpasteurized foods, the quality you choose matters, especially important when choosing raw animal foods, such as in the case of raw dairy.  Know your farmer and their practices.  Anyone who is running safe practices is going to be more than willing to give you a tour of the facilities.

Well, that’s a lot to digest (digest! get it? haha!)! If you have any questions about fermented foods, feel free to send them my way! I’m happy to discuss anything that I believe can lead to happier and healthier lives for all of us!

Wishing you happy gut flora and hope to see you join us on Oct 29th to learn about eating for energy!

This was originally posted as an email newsletter.  To sign up for this list, click here!

Mix and Match Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd's Pie (topped with Butternut Squash!)

Shepherd’s Pie (topped with Butternut Squash!)

Growing up, we had Shepherd’s Pie quite a bit! In our house, it was essentially leftover mashed potatoes, frozen or canned corn and ground beef all baked in a dish together.  To be honest, I did not love it.

But now as an adult, I realize that was my mom’s way of using up leftovers and she didn’t get fancy with ingredients because she had 5 kids and at least one of us at any given time was a picky eater.

While I didn’t love the combo of plain beef and corn, I do see the appeal of a one pot dish and a form of Shepherd’s Pie appears in our house at least a couple times a month.  I like to call it Mix and Match Shepherd’s Pie.  It’s essentially one part protein, one part assorted cooked vegetables, a little tomato paste, worcestershire and appropriate spices, topped with mashed root vegetable or starch of your choice. This is not really a recipe, but more a loose formula, so go crazy if you like.  It’s a phenomenal way to use up leftovers, it’s full of comfort food, and it’s comprised of whole foods . . .what’s not to like?

The options are endless – almost anything you’ve got in your fridge can work here! I’ve made some really crazy combinations and so far neither John or I have turned up our noses at the result.  When you can’t think of anything to make – make this! The amount of nutrients you can pack into it are endless!

sausage, bell peppers, spinach, celery, onions and who the heck remembers what else! Filling for Shepherd's Pie!

sausage, bell peppers, spinach and who the heck remembers what else! Filling for Shepherd’s Pie!

16 – 20 oz protein of choice: try ground turkey, beef, lamb or pork, or sausages (casings removed), thinly sliced chicken breasts or canned beans.

3-4 cups leftover mashed root or starch: try potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, acorn squash, celeriac, turnip, rutabaga, kabocha squash or cooked polenta.  (If I don’t have leftovers, I boil and mash and then stir in 2 tbsp pasture butter or coconut oil to my starch/roots, plus salt and pepper. I usually will leave potato & sweet potato skins on)

3 cups chopped mixed vegetables of your choice: try mushrooms, broccoli, kale, dandelion greens, bell peppers, carrots, peas, zucchini, mizuna, cabbage etc.

1 cup diced onion or thinly sliced leeks
1 tbsp pasture butter, olive oil or coconut oil
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp dried herbs (one or two): try ground sage, savory, basil, oregano, thyme, tarragon, marjoram, dill
optional: 1/2 tsp garlic powder, onion powder or smoked paprika
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Heat a large saute pan over medium heat, add 1 tbsp of coconut or olive oil (or butter) and saute 3 cups of chopped mixed vegetables and 1 cup of diced onions/leeks until they begin to soften and the onions are almost translucent. Remove the vegetables from the pan and cook your meat (you don’t need to cook canned beans if you are using them), stirring occasionally until cooked through.  Stir the vegetables back into the pan, add the worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, herbs and any optional spices until everything is well blended.  Most meats will yield a small amount of liquid during the cooking process, if you use something that doesn’t and the pan seems dry, feel free to add a couple tbsp of water while working in the tomato paste and other flavorings.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Pour the meat / bean & vegetable mixture into the bottom of a large casserole dish or 9X13 pan.  Top with mashed root or starch and bake for 30 minutes or until warmed through.  Some toppings will brown better than others, if your top doesn’t brown, turn on the broiler and broil for 1-2 minutes (keeping an eye on it as roots brown quickly).

Remove from oven and let cool briefly before serving.  Makes 4 generous delicious, comfort food servings.

Note: If your mash topping seems soupy (as the case might be with things like butternut squash) stir in a beaten egg before cooking and it will firm right up during cooking!

My favorite combos:
Topping: Colcannon (mashed potatoes with kale, leeks & cabbage stirred in)
Filling: Ground Turkey, broccolini & carrots (photo below)

Colcannon/Butternut Squash shepherd's Pie with ground turkey, carrots and broccolini!

Colcannon/Butternut Squash shepherd’s Pie with ground turkey, carrots and broccolini!

photo 1 copy 5

Topping:  Butternut squash
Filling: Sweet Italian Sausage, Kale, Bell peppers, peas

Topping: Smashed Parm Potatoes
Filling: Ground Beef, mushrooms & carrots

Do you make Shepherd’s Pie? What are your favorite filling and toppings? Are you a traditionalist or do you like to veer off and clean out your fridge like me? Share in the comments below, I’d love to hear your side of things!

NSH Lady Project, Strength in Balance & Andrea Quigley Maynard Teaming Up for Active Night

NSH LadyNext Friday, October 17th, 2014, the NSH Lady Project is hosting their first Active night at Strength in Balance.  The event starts at 7pm. For just $5 (all of which is being donated to Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, Nashua), you’ll get to mingle with some new ladies you haven’t met before, take an introductory Booty Barre class with Becki Somers and you’ll get to hear me talk!

I’ll be teaching a class on Eating for Energy & Vitality (something many of us could use some help with).   I’m so excited about it!  We’ll talk about some of the most common culprits that sap our energy throughout the day, natural ways you can boost your energy and some of the best foods for keeping energy levels strong.  I’ll also be sending folks home with some delicious recipes they can make themselves.

Those of you who follow me on facebook or read my blog regularly know that I’m a huge fan of the classes at Strength in Balance – I’ve been going to classes there at least 4 days a week for almost a whole year now.  It’s an amazing workout and Becki is a great instructor.  This event really is a great chance for you to try it! It’s challenging but also a lot of fun!

You can purchase your ticket here.  Hurry though, space is limited (due to the size of the studio)! See you Friday October 17!

Roasted Radishes & Greens with Lemon & Butter

photo 1 Are you a fan of radishes and their greens? They’re a great source of vitamin C, folate and potassium and they contain several phytochemicals and antioxidants that help keep our liver, kidneys and bladder running smoothly. Most people eat them raw in salads so they probably aren’t eating enough of them to get much nutritional benefit from them but eating them cooked is a great way to take in more in one sitting (they’re a little spicy otherwise, don’t you think?).  I actually prefer to eat them cooked because it completely changes the flavor!  They become a whole new vegetable, I promise!

Here’s my favorite way to prepare them. Radish greens can be a little spicy so cooking them and adding lemon can really take the bite out of them. Let me know what you think!

2 tsp olive or coconut oil
2 heads of radishes plus their greens
2 tbsps unsalted pastured butter
sea salt
1 lemon

Cut off the greens, wash them well, chop roughly and put aside (you’re going to eat them too!). Scrub the radishes well and then cut each one in half. Toss the radishes in a little coconut or olive oil and spread out cut side down on a sheet pan and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast them in a 425 degree oven for 15-18 minutes (depending on size).

Towards the end of the cooking process, heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tbsp butter and when hot, saute the greens just until they wilt and reduce in size. Add the cooked radishes to the pan, melt the 2nd tbsp of butter and squeeze the juice of a whole lemon over them. Add more salt if necessary and eat! This makes two hearty vegetable servings for me and john (because we’re veggie monsters) but if you’re new and timid with cooked radishes, this could be enough for 4!

I swear these taste way better than this picture makes them look.

I swear these taste way better than this picture makes them look.

When Opportunity Knocks, do you slam the door in it’s face?

photo credit: tres rosas amarillas via photopin cc

photo credit: tres rosas amarillas via photopin cc

When an opportunity comes up for you, whether it be social, spiritual, career or otherwise, how do you handle it? Do you have a healthy balance of accepting and declining opportunities?  Are you good about weighing the pros and cons before you decide on something? Or do you rely on a gut feeling?

Gut feelings are incredibly important but what if that gut feeling always tells you to say no? Is this you? It’s a pretty common occurrence. For some of us, the urge to say no becomes a problem because it prevents us from exploring potential. Undoubtedly, people who suffer with this problem are choosing “no” out of fear.

Fear of not being good enough.
Fear of meeting new people.
Fear of looking dumb.
Fear of being rejected.
Fear of _____________.

Did you know that most of our fears are only what we tell them to be? Read that again.Our fears are only what we tell them to be. Sure, some fears are legit, but there are many that are mostly the product of negative thoughts that have little basis in reality. What do you tell your fears to be?

I’ve noticed over the years that in the areas of my life that I felt confident in, my instinct was always “Yes! I’d love to!”, but that in areas where I had fear, my instinct was “say no! You can’t do that! You’re not smart enough, poised or outgoing enough (insert whatever negative thought comes up for you).”

But what about me made any of these things true?  Nothing. I have no proof of any of this.  These are all things I told myself (for whatever reason). Our fears are only what we tell them to be and I had been telling them that I’m afraid of opportunities that make me feel vulnerable, opportunities that will encourage growth or those that bring about change. My fears were often about putting myself out there (taking risks) because god forbid I’m successful and great at what I do – then what will I have to fear?

Here’s the thing: opportunity knocks.  Sometimes it knocks loudly. Other times it’s so soft that we don’t even realize there was a knock at the door until we see it walking away. And sometimes opportunity knocks and we slam the door in it’s face rudely.  How likely is it that opportunity will come back when we do that?  Not very likely.  If you want opportunity to keep appearing in your life, you need to be willing to invite it inside sometimes.

To encourage MORE opportunities in your life (and this can be in any area – love, work, health, friendship etc), you should say yes, sometimes, even when you are scared. Say yes and figure out the hows, whats and whys later.  If you absolutely have to back out  (it’s a possibility) but don’t lock the door until you even know what you are saying no to.

With every YES to opportunity, you are telling the universe that you are up for the challenge, that you trust yourself, that you will take good care of this precious chance.  And just like with almost anything else in life, when you prove that you are reliable, willing and deserving, stuff starts to fall into your lap – because you’ve earned it.  You can earn opportunity too.

The tricky stuff is figuring out if that instinctual NO reaction is a gut feeling that should be paid attention to (such as in cases that could lead to bodily harm or legal risks – true danger), if you just don’t have any interest in the opportunity or if it’s a fear based No reaction. Remember our fears are only what we tell them to be.  If a NO is coming up for you when opportunity knocks, why?  If you just don’t want to do something, that’s fine.  If taking the opportunity could land you in jail or would risk your life, a No is completely reasonable.  But if that No is coming up because you are afraid of falling flat on your face, looking foolish, being vulnerable or because of some other reason you are telling yourself, test the waters by saying yes. Deep down you know if you should give something a chance – try to listen to that voice and quiet down the others.

Part of the reason opportunity stops knocking when we ignore it is because we actually cease to even see it. Opportunity will stop looking for you and you’ll stop looking for it, because it is easier to give your fears power, than it is to dive in and see where life takes you. All you’ll see are the opportunities others are given, and wonder why you don’t have the same fortune.  But you do!!

So what, if you fall on your face?
So what, if you look foolish?
So what, if you are vulnerable?

Weigh the pros and cons of taking a risk.  You might find that cons list is made up of things that are in your head and aren’t even real.

What opportunities have come your way that you wish you hadn’t said no to? Why did you say no?

One way I open my life to opportunity are with small things: smiling when I don’t feel like it, saying hi when I don’t feel like it, saying yes to a lunch date or a business meeting when I’m feeling shy or awkward etc.  Those things aren’t specifically opportunity knocking, but consider them on the same plane as giving directions to your house to “opportunity”.  He or she might not show up, but at least they know where you live if they’re in the neighborhood.

Don’t let your fears about who you are or who you think you should be before taking something (or someone) on, prevent you from trying new things or meeting new people.

Growth can be terrifying and uncomfortable.  One thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that while nerve wracking, doing things that scare me (that deep down I know I want to do) actually starts to feel invigorating the more I do it.  I can feel scared and excited at the same time, but the excitement wins every time – because by taking chances, I’m teaching myself that the risk of looking foolish or falling on my face really isn’t as bad as sitting at home and hoping I someday have the life I want to have.

So please listen to your gut, but don’t be afraid to question it if it keeps putting out the same answer when there’s a knock at your door.

Now it’s your turn to share.  What is something you know you need or want to do but are scared about doing?  What are you worried about? Comment below or leave your response on my facebook page.  There is someone out there who also shares your fear and would benefit from hearing you share it!

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Healthy Crockpot Apple Butter

Healthier Apple Butter - no refined sugar! Sweetened with just a few dates!

Healthier Apple Butter – no refined sugar! Sweetened with just a few dates!

Last fall I made apple butter for the first time in my crock pot and it was delicious but it required something crazy like a cup and a half of sugar.  As tasty as it was (and as good as it made the house smell), I really didn’t want to use all that sugar this year so I decided to try to make some using nothing but medjool dates as sweetener.  I also left the peel on the apples to increase the amount of fiber and polyphenols and other good stuff in my apple butter.  It worked out really well!  This for sure is a bit more tart and less sweet than last year’s batch but I’m ok with that!  I used 4 dates in mine and I found it plenty sweet (but John tells me my sweet tooth is overly sensitive) but feel free to use a couple more if you are tentative about going the no refined sugar route.  Also, I used Macintosh apples (because that’s all the Orchard had the day we went apple picking) but using sweeter apples like Fuji, Gala or Honeycrisp could result in a much sweeter butter.

Apple butter is good stuff! It’s great on toast or rice cakes, stirred into oatmeal, dolloped into smoothies or onto vanilla ice cream and it’s even good in savory dishes (try mixing it with dijon mustard & chives as a sauce for chicken or pork) and if you store it in mason jars it freezes really well.

Throw all ingredients in crock pot, cook for 5-8 hours and then puree in a blender.

Throw all ingredients in crock pot, cook for 5-8 hours and then puree in a blender.

10 – 12 medium sized apples, peel left on, cut into chunks
4 – 8 medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1/2 cup water (optional)
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp vanilla extract

Put all ingredients in a 6 qt crock pot, cover and turn heat to low.  Cook for 5-8 hours, stirring occasionally until the apples and dates are completely broken down and start to take on a thick consistency and a caramel color.  Let cool and carefully pour into a blender and blend just for a minute or two to ensure the apple skins are finely pulverized (you’ll be amazed how broken down they get just by cooking in the crock pot for hours).  If for some reason the apple butter seems too liquidy after blending, you can put it back in the crock pot and cook until it reaches a consistency you are happy with – the longer you cook it will reduce more liquid, concentrating the sweetness and flavor. I’m kind of a lazy cook and I don’t want to cook twice so I’m more likely to just keep cooking until it’s as thick as I like – but your call!

Pour into mason jars and refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve.

My batch filled two 16 oz mason jars to the top!

So delicious!

So delicious!