Your Action Plan for Times of Crisis

Feeling overwhelmed to the point of paralysis? Here's what you can do about it.

Stress is so widespread and so harmful that it's really something of a pandemic. Stress is detrimental and can be the root of many serious illnesses, sleepless nights, anger problems, unhappiness and even termination of careers, relationships and marriages.

Unfortunately, the first thing we often lose in these times of personal crisis is the motivation to care for our own selves. We tend to abuse ourselves with more junk food, caffeine, sugar, bad fats and alcohol and less exercise -- the opposite of what we really need in order to cope with stress.

No doubt, the U.S. economy -- with its housing market slump, high war costs, sub prime mortgage mess, high gas prices, skyrocketing food cost, slow job growth, government budget deficit and other woes -- is affecting just about everyone. And things might get worse before they get better.

It's natural to look at times of crisis as all bad. But it's precisely during such times when we are challenged to grow.

While grave personal or financial problems may be justifiably worrisome, getting stressed out and losing control won't help anyone. Instead, it's best to focus on the solution, not the problem.

Part of that solution is to fortify ourselves and build the strength and energy to cope. I’m referring, of course, to proper nourishment and the cultivation of stress relief Amira Elgantechniques. Eating right, exercising regularly and relaxing the mind must be the first action items we do to get things under control. If we can’t do these simple things, especially when we’re facing adversity, we are setting ourselves up for failure, defeat and additional problems.

There is a lesson to be learned from every experience in our lives -- good and bad -- a silver lining waiting to be discovered. Whether we’re facing financial challenges, struggling with our daily schedule to meet deadlines, having relationship difficulties or even facing life-threatening illnesses, we have the inner essence within each of us to empower ourselves to overcome challenges. But we must do first things first -- eat real whole foods, do power walking, go hiking and in general be kind to our bodies and act and think with kindness towards everyone around us.

Of course, it's easy to say all this -- and it's easy to agree with. But in times of crisis, following such advice is not so easy. That's why I've put together this Personal Crisis Action Plan. I recommend that you print out this plan, and tuck it away in a place where you can find it later, or post it on a wall. When you're feeling really depressed, worried or scared to the point where you might stop taking care of yourself, muster the will to follow each of these items, in order.

Personal Crisis Action Plan

1. Walk. Walking will break the paralysis of stress. You need only to muster the will to put one foot in front of the other and leave the house. Walk around your neighborhood at any pace you like, but for at least 30 minutes. Walking gives you blood circulation, fresh air, a change of scenery and a feeling of accomplishment when you need to keep moving forward.

2. Clean out your refrigerator and pantry. Get rid of all foods that contain sugar, artificial ingredients, caffeine, preservatives, white flour, bad fats or high sodium, (usually foods that come in packages). This simple act not only physically removes bad food from easy access, but also serves as a cathartic event that feels good and gives you a second accomplishment.

3. Meditate. You've cleared your lungs and cleared your fridge, now you're ready to clear your mind. Take at least 15 minutes to meditate. There are a million ways to meditate, and it doesn't really matter which you choose. The goal should be to reduce mental chatter to nearly nothing, and sustain that mind-peace for some time. Come out of your meditation gently and gradually, and try to sustain your clarity of thought and stillness of mind. Plus: A third accomplishment! You're moving forward now.

4. Write down your life priority list. This will show you what you need to spend your time and energy on -- what to focus on. Make a list of all the things in your life that most matter to you. If you had one year to live, how would you spend your time and what would you most care about?

5. Create a list of goals. What are your passions? Write down what you want to have accomplished in 10, 5, 3, in 2 years, in 1 year, in 6 months, in 3 months and in 1 month. When you have clear objectives, living meaningfully and fulfilling becomes easier.

6. Write down all the things that are causing you to worry or stress. Compare these items to your priority list to see if they’re the same to determine how to prioritize them and what course of action to take. Find solutions for the things you care about and eject from your life things that waste your time and energy.

7. Vow to take care of yourself every day. Remember to eat mostly plant foods and foods that are SLOW (Sustainable, Local, Organic and Whole), do weekly meal and menu planning, bring food to work rather than eating out or eating food provided at work, schedule lots of outdoor activities and do both yoga and strength training at least twice a week.

Remember, life has ups and downs. But it's important to keep in mind that you need good health all the time, not just when things are going your way.


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Weird Vegetables Need Love, Too

I have written about different varieties of cauliflower on my blog. Recently, I found another gem called romanesco cauliflower at my local Farmer’s Market. Scientifically speaking, it's an edible flower of the Brassica oleracea species. Also known as romanesco broccoli, broccolo romanesco and brocoflower, this delicious and weird-looking but strikingly beautiful gift of nature was first found in Italy in the sixteenth century. If you like broccoli and cauliflower, then you’ll love this lime green “flower” with the unusual fractal pattern of phyllotaxis found only in nature. Eat it raw as crudités cut into florets or as part of a chopped vegetable salad. Just for fun, cook it whole by steaming it for few minutes until tender (but not overcooked) and serve whole then dig in, cutting it with a knife. It can also be drizzled with your favorite dressing or just olive oil and lemon juice. It’s not only treat for your taste buds with its sweet and nutty taste, but it’s also a feast the eyes as a natural work of art packed with vitamin C, lots of fiber and, yes, antioxidants!

Amira's Online Stores

I have two online stores where you can buy products that I personally recommend or that carry the Vegetarian Organic Life, Vegetarian Organic Blog or Your Wholesome Life branding.

Here's the Vegetarian Organic Store where you can find my favorite cookbooks (and other books), kitchen tools, cookware, dry goods and even gifts and movies!

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Purple Potatoes Are Good Potatoes

This week’s recipe uses potatoes. If you can find them, I recommend purple potatoes, which I often buy from one of my favorite farmers at my local Farmer’s Market. Purple potatoes were some of the first potatoes harvested in South America and were reserved for Inca Kings. They really are purple, and their deep purple color means they're very high in antioxidants. These are the tastiest potatoes I’ve ever had -- their flavor is simply fantastic. Try them in this week’s recipe, Vegetable Comfort Soup, or in oven roasted potatoes with fresh herbs.

Of Pots and Pans

Q: Amira, I just recently discovered your website and am totally thrilled. I try and read one or two newsletters a day from your archives. It is almost better to read them slowly so you can ponder and think about and remember what you learned. Thank you for your knowledge and willing to share it. Thank you for healthy recipes that I can't wait to try out. I really appreciate the different links you put throughout your newsletter and recipes so I can learn more about it. I am new at this and I am learning more about healthy organic food items and companies. Thanks for letting us know where we can buy it - some times people don't live where they can go to a store and find such items. Or if I can "see" the label - I can keep an eye out for it.

I just read the April 22, 2007, newsletter talking about cookware. I copy below a description from Amazon.com about the all-clad cookware. It states it has an aluminum exterior and an aluminum core - is that safe? I always hear to stay clear of aluminum. The all-clad website said it was 3 ply where you stated 5 ply if I remember right. Am I looking at the right pans? I glanced at both the All-clad and Le Creuset you listed and there were quite a few different "lines" they made. I wouldn't want to chose the wrong one. I have stainless steel pans now since I was married but have thought about replacing them. Just like knives, I have my wedding set and thought about replacing them but don't know what safety measures to look for in that area.

"Stunning good looks and superior performance combine in this seven-piece cookware set. The collection includes an 8-inch fry pan, a 1-1/2-quart covered saucepan, a 3-quart covered sauté pan, and a 6-quart covered stockpot. Offering unique triple-ply bonded construction, the cookware pieces feature a brushed aluminum exterior, a hand-polished 18/10 stainless-steel interior that will not react with food, and an inner core that is pure aluminum not just at the bottom, but all the way up the sides for optimum heat conductivity. Stainless-steel handles stay cool to the touch and are secured with non-corrosive rivets, while sure-fitting stainless-steel lids form a seal to keep in moisture and nutrients for tender, flavorful food. Oven-safe to 500 degrees F, the cookware carries a limited lifetime warranty and should be washed by hand."



A: Paulette, thank you for writing, I love getting e-mail from readers! I’m glad to hear you enjoy reading my newsletter.

Using the right cookware is definitely an important aspect of food safety and good health. Although I’m partial to enamel-coated cast iron cookware because it requires less oil than stainless steel, I also own stainless steel cookware and uncoated traditional cast iron skillets.

The best stainless steel pots consist of bonded five-ply bottom layer construction with copper core and 18/10 stainless steel exterior (the cooking surface) but they cost an arm and a leg. The best brand is All-Clad, but Kitchenaid also makes some good ones for a lot less. The particular pots you’re referring to sound perfectly safe. As long as they are polished with 18/10 stainless they won’t react with food. And if they have a tri-ply bottom layer consisting of copper, they’ll conduct heat most evenly. Combination of bottom layers of aluminum and copper core is the second best. Bottom cores constructed of layers of all aluminum will make heat conduction inferior to those made with copper layers. You also want to make sure that they are oven safe to at least 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Good luck in your search!



Vegetable Comfort Soup
(Serves 6)

Click on the picture for a closer look!

A bowl of delicious and healthy vegetable soup is a wonderful way of getting some warmth and comfort whether we’re feeling under the weather or perfectly healthy.

This vegetable soup is comfort food because it tastes super good but unlike "regular" comfort food, it’s also good for you. We all love potatoes, but because of their bad reputation as a high-glycemic food that spikes blood sugar levels, we avoid them. The key to healthy eating is moderation, and knowing how to prepare food in a way that is optimally nutritious. Use potatoes sparingly and cook them in a healthy manner. Potatoes contain antioxidants and are high in potassium. Note that this recipe involves what I call “rawking” -- I word I coined for "raw cooking" -- which means that the kale and garlic are used raw but gently softened when the hot soup is poured over them to maximize nutrition while making them easier to eat.

Preparation time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 45 minutes

Get ingredients ready (use organic ingredients if possible)
1 tablespoon safflower oil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
3 celery stalks, finely diced or chopped
4 medium carrots, finely diced or chopped
6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾-inch cubes (use purple or red potatoes)
6 tomatoes peeled and seeded (or 14 oz canned peeled tomatoes)
8 cups vegetable broth (add more if necessary)
6 cups water
2 teaspoons black pepper
Sea salt to taste
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon fresh sage, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (or 2 teaspoons dry thyme)
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons turmeric
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (add more for extra spiciness)
1 bunch fresh Kale, stem removed and finely chopped (one cup per serving)
3 cloves of garlic, pressed using garlic presser
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice

1. In an extra large pot or Dutch oven, combine oils heating them over low heat. Add half the onions sautéing for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add minced garlic, celery, carrots and potatoes stirring occasionally and sautéing for 10 more minutes. In the meantime, in a food processor or blender add tomatoes with the remaining onions and puree completely.

2. Add tomato and onion mixture, broth, water, black pepper and salt as desired and bring to soft boiling. Add oregano, sage, basil, thyme, paprika, turmeric, coriander and cayenne and continue to simmer for 30 minutes covered with lid over low to medium heat stirring occasionally. Cook until all vegetables are tender.

3. For each individual serving, place at one half cup of finely chopped kale per bowl. Top kale with about 1 teaspoon of pressed garlic and pour soup over kale and garlic. Add 1 teaspoon or more of lemon juice to each bowl of soup and enjoy!

Cook's tip: To peel and seed tomatoes immerse them in boiling water for about a minute then transfer tomatoes onto a colander and place them under cold running water for 30 seconds. Peel skin away, cut in half and remove seeds and core if desired.



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