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'Tis the Season 

Give your loved ones -- and yourself -- the gift of joy

No matter what your religion or circumstances, whether you celebrate Christmas, Kwanza, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or celebrate the holiday without religion, make this holiday season one of joy and meaningful celebration.

The holiday season is the one time of the year when many people are able to take time off work and spend real time with family -- and forget about the stressful and busy year that’s gone by.

The holidays present most of us with an opportunity to rejuvenate and regain new inner strength to approach the New Year re-energized with perspective and a positive attitude. It’s also a great way to teach our children to cherish and honor family time and pass on our traditions to the next generation.

Like life itself, the holiday season should not about the quantity of doing. It should be about the quality of being. Being loving to yourself, being in love with your partner, being there for your children, being accepting of others, being kind to strangers, being generous when you can, being patient with those who frustrate you and being tolerant and understanding with everyone around you. It’s the time of year to deviate from the ordinary and reflect on the big picture.

It’s a time to re-discover the simple things in our lives: Leisurely meals with loved ones, walking in nature, gathering around a fire, watching a sunset or reading a book.

The holiday season falls at the end of the western calendar year. It's a natural time to slow down and reflect. We can take this opportunity to consider our way of life; what we are thankful for, what we need to change, how we behave towards others, how we take care of our bodies, what new goals we need to set for ourselves, what we really want in life.

Many of us face more stress than joy during the holiday season. We have strayed from the Amira Elganreal meaning of the holiday celebrations because we have neglected to focus our personal purpose and intent of why we do it -- and what we want out of it. Instead, we stress and fret over relatively insignificant things. We create conflict affecting our relationships unnecessarily and disrupting our peace and harmony.

For instance, one common conflict among many who celebrate Christmas is over gift giving. We all have different views and opinions about gift giving and receiving. Let’s keep in mind, however, that gifts are meant to be presents that are freely given by someone. While Christmas has in many ways been commercialized, gift giving should not be about rules and regulations. It adds complexity and defeats the purpose of the act of giving. It should be about freedom of doing what we each can do and want to do -- freely doing within our means what our hearts desire. Someone who wants to give should not be deprived of the gratification and joy of giving a little something to the people they love or like. It’s a demonstration of affection and appreciation.

At the same time, it’s important to respect the fact that some cannot give or simply may not want to. Giving must be a completely selfless act -- we must not expect anything in return. The bottom-line is that we should freely give what we want, and not have any expectations about what others do. We can practice gift giving for the simple act of giving without placing any emphasis on the gifts.

It's important to remember that happiness and misery is always the difference between our expectations and our circumstances. While we strive to improve our circumstances, let's also let go of our expectations.

Whatever the origins of the holidays we celebrate, the holiday season is a special time of the year to put more emphasis on setting aside our differences and love and cherish one another regardless of our ideologies. Whether we’re Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics or simply shoppers, our holiday can be filled with joy and happiness by accepting everything and everyone for exactly who and what they are, and thinking deeply about exactly how blessed we all are.

Be Merry.

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Good Things In Store

Cooking with whole grains is an important aspect of eating healthfully. And it's important that you don't make an exception to that rule with pasta. Whole grain pasta made of stone ground, whole wheat or spelt are easy to find these days.

After trying many different brands, I currently tend to favor Bionaturae whole wheat organic pastas because they have the best flavor and texture I've found.

These pastas are made in Tuscany, Italy, and cook the same way regular refined pastas do -- but taste much better and are better for your health.



Words of Wisdom

"Happy and successful cooking doesn’t rely only on know-how; it comes from the heart, makes great demands on the palate and needs enthusiasm and deep love of food to bring it to life".

- Georges Blanc
 

Research Developments

A recent Cornell Study study found that “super sizing” portions has a direct correlation to how much food we choose to eat -- regardless of how much we actually like the food.

The study served movie goers stale popcorn in medium and large size buckets. Those eating out of the large buckets ate 34% more than those who ate out of the medium size buckets. Furthermore, those who were served fresh tasting popcorn in the large bucket actually ate 45% more than those served fresh popcorn in a medium size container.

The bad news is that this confirms once again that fast food restaurants make their contributions to our obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease epidemics by selling low-quality, high-fat food, but also by irresponsibly continuing to increase portion sizes.

The good news is that now we can use this knowledge to improve the health of our loved ones and for ourselves. Boost consumption of healthy foods like fresh, organic fruits and vegetables by serving them to yourself and your family in larger portions, and by serving less healthy fare in smaller portions.



Food For Thought

Cranberries, also known as bounceberries, are a staple food during the holiday season. They’re harvested between Labor Day and Halloween and widely enjoyed during Thanksgiving.

These little nutritional powerhouses provide many health benefits because they’re rich in antioxidants and vitamin C. They're also famous for compounds that help protect against urinary tract infections.

Now scientists have found another reason for us to be thankful for cranberries—a new study conducted by the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York has found that cranberries help prevent tooth decay and plaque.

Fresh cranberries can be refrigerated (tightly sealed) for up to two months or frozen for up to a year. Pick the brightly colored and dark-red ones. Discard the ones that feel soft and look shriveled. They’re great for sauces, chutneys, pies and smoothies.



Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the Week


Click on the picture for a closer look!

Peppery Seitan (vegan)
Serves 4 to 6

Seitan is the perfect high protein alternative to meat. It has no cholesterol so it’s also great for your heart. One small serving provides 31 grams of protein. It’s easy to prepare -- just add herbs and spices. It’s really delicious and very satisfying. Everyone will love it. Leftovers can be used to make a sandwich or add to a salad.

Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 15 minutes

Get ingredients ready (use organic ingredients if possible)
2 tablespoons oil (safflower or canola oil)
3 fresh garlic cloves, crushed or minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 (8oz packages) traditional seitan, chopped into bite size chunks
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon fresh dill, very finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
Sea salt

1. In large pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil on low heat. Add garlic and onion stirring and sautéing until lightly browned. Add seitan, basil, thyme and oregano and sauté for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add dill, pepper and salt cooking for 5 more minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Add lemon juice mixing thoroughly and serve.

 

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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.