Love Is In the Air
celebrates romantic love between sweethearts. But love is everywhere.
I had a great trip to New York recently. Not because New York is new to
me -- I lived there for a decade and travel to the Big Apple more than
once a month. And it wasn't because of random celebrity sightings (I saw
Joan Rivers, Patricia Heaton and Cuba Gooding Jr.). It was a great trip
because I lost my wallet.
My pocketbook vanished somewhere at LAX (the Los Angeles International
Airport) before the first leg of my trip. Along with my wallet went
important credit and membership cards, documents, about $100 in cash --
and my Social Security card.
Now, I don't normally travel with my Social Security card because it's
the worst thing to lose. Social Security cards can be used for identity
theft and as "proof" of legal status for illegal immigrants, so they're
a hot item on the black market. They're very difficult to replace
-- and the replacement number can give you problems with companies that
use the Social Security number for ID (such as cell phone carriers).
Because I had my driverís license and one credit card in my pocket, I
was able to
continue with my trip without interruption.
Why am I telling you all this? Because today is Valentineís Day, a
holiday that celebrates love and friendship -- two things that are
essential for proper nourishment of our souls, spirits, bodies and
minds. Losing my wallet turned out to be a wonderful experience that
filled my heart with joy, appreciation and hope. Here's what happened.
Upon arrival to New York, I took the train from JFK Airport to Long
Island, buying my ticket at a vending machine with my credit card. When
the conductor came around to collect tickets, he discovered that mine
was for ďoff peakĒ travel, and that I owed an additional fare of $2. I
asked the conductor if I could pay with a credit card, and explained
that I had lost my wallet. Although he didnít say so, it was obvious
that he didnít believe me. The railroad has a policy that lets people
pay by mail, which is what I ended up doing. Not knowing this, a fellow
passenger offered to pay my fare. He was ready to help a complete
stranger for no reason other than kindness.
After I got off the train, I struggled with my luggage while descending
a long flight of stairs, and nearly lost my balance. Seeing this, a man
ran over, grabbed my bags and carried them down the stairs for me.
The next day in Manhattan, I had trouble buying a subway ticket at a vending machine. The machine couldnít read my credit
card. I noticed a gentleman waiting to use the machine behind me, so I
stopped my transaction to let him use it. When he successfully got his
ticket, he handed me two one-dollar coins for my ticket, and said "those
work better." Before I realized what was happening, he was gone -- and I
was holding two dollars -- yet another gift from another stranger. Without his coins and the fast tickets they produced, it turns out, I
would have missed my train and been late for an appointment.
The following day, I took the train -- with all my luggage -- from Long
Island to Manhattan again. As I got off the train, a lady came chasing
after me to let me know that I nearly forgot my luggage. Another
stranger. Another kindness.
Then, again with the luggage. I proceeded into the subway, and my
rolling bag got stuck in the turnstile. But along came a nice woman, who
went to the other side of the gate and liberated my bag from the metal
claws of the gate. I thanked her profusely and headed to the subway
platform. I boarded the train, which was so crowded that all seats were
taken and many people were standing. And another act of kindness -- a
man got up and gave me his seat.
Well, believe it or not, I survived the trip. Now, you might be thinking
that I'm a
forgetful klutz. I'm actually not. I just had what might have
been a terrible trip, if it weren't for all those kind people.
And what happened to my wallet? Well, a few days after returning from
New York, the airline called to say they found it and would mail it to
me. When I received it, it rifled through the cards to see if any were
missing. All my credit cards were there, but not my Social Security
Then -- in keeping with the rest my trip -- I found my Social Security
card tucked deep inside a hidden compartment in my wallet, which is not
where I keep it. Some anonymous stranger had cared enough to remove my
Social Security card from its easily accessible location, and hid it
away to prevent others from stealing it.
It should have been the trip from hell. But afterwards, I felt an
enormous sense of peace, joy and, yes, love. Every problem, annoyance
and bit of "bad luck" was cancelled and reversed by some stranger who
rushed to my aid. It's really something to feel loved and cared for by
people I have never seen before, and probably will never see again.
Happy Valentineís Day, kind strangersÖ I love you, too!
I mentioned in my column above that I travel to New York City quite
frequently. The reason is that I'm studying at the
Institute for Integrative
Nutrition, which is affiliated with Columbia University.
Upon my successful completion of this professional training program in
June, Iíll be certified as a holistic health counselor by
the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and by Columbia Universityís
Teachers College. I will also be eligible for national board
certification by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners,
which would accredit me as a professional practitioner.
For many years, I've helped families and individuals make
improvements to their diets and lifestyles. Iíve done this with
publications such as this newsletter and its associated blog. Iíve also
taught cooking classes, written articles and columns for other
publications and have provided one-on-one health counseling.
This professional program is providing me with additional training to
broaden my practice, enhance my knowledge and amplify my ability to grow
and develop both personally and professionally. I will continue to do
what Iíve been doing, but a lot more of it.
Iím setting up a separate holistic counseling practice, dedicating at
least half of my time to working with clients one-on-one, as a family or in
group settings. My counseling sessions can be conducted in person
or by phone. Iím currently working on a separate web site for my
counseling practice (in the meantime,
here's the temporary site). I will also offer private
cooking classes and workshops.
Warning -- here comes my shameless pitch: Given that you are reading
this, you are my perfect client because you are someone who cares about
your own body, relationships, nutrition and overall wellbeing. I invite
contact me and let me
help you make the changes you always wanted to make, one step at a time.
The first initial one-hour consultation is free.
When it comes to overall health and happiness, itís all
connected; your food, your relationships, your lifestyle and you career
are all part of the equation. Iíd love to help you find your solution.
How It All Began
My interest in food, nutrition and health began when my oldest son, who
at the age of three asked where meat comes from (we were
having hamburgers for dinner). When my husband told him that it was
from a cow, my son spit the food out of his mouth, put his burger down
on the plate, and refused from that point forward to eat ďdead animals.Ē
He's turning 24 years old next month, and he is still a vegetarian. (He
does make exceptions to his vegetarianism while traveling abroad in
order to fully participate in the local culture. For example, he ate a
scorpion in Thailand. Ugh!)
Having worked in the hotel food and beverage industry for many years,
food was always at the center of my professional life. But my sonís
refusal to eat ďdead animalsĒ forced me to think about nutrition on a different level. I wanted to make
that, as a vegetarian, his
dietary needs were met. Thus, my journey to learn
about nutrition began.
It was a slow process for my husband and me to become vegetarians. We
gave up read meat when my son did. Gradually, we abandoned chicken and later seafood. Eventually
we gave up all animal products having been vegans for more than 15 years
now, making occasional exceptions for reasons Iíll discuss
in another column.
My education about health made me aware of just how horrible my eating
habits were when I was a teenager. I moved to the United States at
13, and immediately discovered the wonderful world of fast
food and sweets. I thought I was in heaven. In
high school, I ate a "king size" Snickersí bar almost daily. I used
Cool Whip by the tub. I remember leaving my high school campus to go buy
lunch, which usually consisted of a large order of French fries and a
hamburger with a coke.
At the age of 15 years old, I had a lump removed from my breast.
Although it was benign, in retrospect, I have no doubt that it could
have become cancerous and that it was a direct result of my diet. By the
time I was 21, I had a second (and last) lump removed. It was also
benign, but almost certainly one effect of my low-quality diet.
My obsession with good nutrition and healthy living is driven in part by
a desire to reverse the effects of all that junk food.
Iíve spent more than twenty years learning all I can about nutrition. Iíve
long developed my own recipes because, in
searching for great food to make, I discovered two colossal problems:
Most recipes in vegetarian cookbooks aren't healthy, and most healthy
recipes aren't tasty!
Iím fortunate that, throughout all these years, I was able to follow my
passion even when I had other jobs. Iíve been lucky enough work at
companies that supported my personal interests and life choices. I
always wanted to go "full time" with health counseling, but decided to
put that career on hold until my youngest turned 18 years old. That
happened last year. Both of my sons are now adults and away from home.
While I devoted myself to making the most of my sonís last year as a
minor, I began thinking about the next steps for me. I knew clearly that
I wanted to grow and develop my lifelong passion of teaching balanced nutrition
and healthy living. I also wanted something to focus my
energy on. One of my newsletter readers shared some information with me
that led me to learn about the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. It
was a eureka moment.
After reading about the world-renowned faculty, the comprehensive
approach they take in teaching the curriculum, the knowledge that I would be
interacting with like-minded people and encouragement from my
husband, I knew this was the perfect thing for me to do.
Iím half way through the program now, and it has been an incredible and
fulfilling experience. While I found that I'm familiar with much of the
nutrition information and dietary theories presented, it has validated
and encouraged my passion for teaching nutrition and healthy living. It
has also given me immense inspiration to do more of what Iíve done in
the past: Helping people transform their lives for health and happiness.
love to hear from you. Click here to send e-mail!
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WORDS OF WISDOM
Meaning In Life
"Believe, when you are most
unhappy, that there is something for you to do in the world. So long as
you can sweeten another's pain, life is not in vain"
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Dozens of books have
detailed what's wrong with industrial food production. Most of these,
unfortunately, were ahead of their time and didnít become popular with
the general public. Now, Michael Pollanís new book, "The Omnivoreís
Dilemma," is getting attention. It's great to see a book on the subject
-- finally! -- approach the top of the bestseller lists.
Here are other books that have not received the attention they deserve,
and which I highly recommend:
The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter
by Peter Singer and Jim Mason.
Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How
to Fight Back by Michele
Food Politics by Marion
Fast Food Nation by Eric
Organic, Inc. by Samuel
Diet For A Dead Planet by
Christopher D. Cook
To keep up with vegetarian, organic and health-related research
news on a daily basis, check out my
Vegetarian Organic Life
VEGETARIAN ORGANIC RECIPE OF THE WEEK
My Boysí Pesto Pasta
Click on the picture for a closer look!
6 adults or two teenage boys)
This pesto pasta dish is
dear to my heart because it was my sonsí favorite pasta meal growing up.
Itís absolutely delicious and nutritious and it goes well with any
Preparation time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes
Time saving tip: Begin by boiling water in a large pot half full covered
This pesto sauce can be used in a variety of ways. Itís delicious tossed
with pasta but it also makes a great sandwich spread. Try it in soups
and salad dressings. Although this recipe has no cheese, it tastes even
better and it is cholesterol free.
Get ingredients ready (use organic ingredients if possible):
6 cups fresh basil leaves loosely packed and not pressed down (2 large
1/2 cup raw walnuts
1/3 cup raw pine nuts (pignolias)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 fresh garlic cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
Sea salt to taste
1. In a food processor or blender, combine basil leaves, walnuts, pine
nuts, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Process or blend (stopping
once to scrape sides) until it looks like a smooth paste. Add or reduce
amount of oil to thin or thicken the sauce. If not used immediately, store in
an airtight container. The sauce will last at least two weeks in the
fridge and six months in the freezer.
Cookís tip: Before placing the lid on the storage container spread 1
tablespoon of olive oil on the sauce as a thin layer to reduce
Get ingredients ready (use organic ingredients if possible):
1 tablespoon safflower or canola oil
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (plus more for drizzling pasta once
1 fresh garlic cloves (minced or pressed)
14 ounces fresh firm tofu, cut in small cubes (vacuum packed)
1 tablespoon dried basil
3 cups of fresh or frozen vegetables, raw, thawed out or pre-steamed
(peas, edemames, corn or broccoli)
1 cup pesto sauce
1/3 cup raw pepitas or pumpkin seeds
16 ounces whole grain pasta, uncooked (my favorite: whole wheat rigatoni
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
1. Boil water for pasta in pot half full of water covered with lid. Once
water is boiling add pasta and cook as indicated on package instructions
or until tender (usually 8 to 14 minutes). Set timer and stir
occasionally to prevent sticking.
2. Meanwhile, in a separate large pot, heat safflower and olive oil over
low heat and immediately add garlic, tofu and dried basil mixing well
and sautťing for 5 minutes.
3. Once pasta is cooked, drain on colander, drizzle with one tablespoon
of olive oil, mix lightly, cover with lid or plate and set aside.
4. Add pre-steamed or raw vegetables (depending on your preference) to
the tofu mixing well and sautťing for 3 minutes. Add pesto sauce and
pasta mixing well. Add pumpkin seeds and season with salt and pepper
cooking for about 3 minutes on low heat (avoid over cooking to allow
pesto to retain its nutrients intact) and serve. Leftovers may be kept
for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.
Cookís tip: The pasta can be dried or fresh but should be organic and
whole grain. Also, you can add more pesto sauce or a little bit of olive oil if it looks too dry for
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This newsletter is not intended to provide and replace medical advice. The author and editor expressly disclaim all responsibility for any adverse effects resulting from any information, diet or exercise suggestions. It is imperative that the advice of a physician is sought before any diet or exercise programs are adopted.
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Copyright© 2003 - 2009 Amira Elgan. All Rights Reserved.