Friday, January 31, 2014

How to Open a Young Coconut

Young coconuts are, perhaps, the most delicious nut on the planet. (Can you believe coconuts are considered a nut and not a fruit?) Unlike the coarse, brown-shelled mature coconut, young coconuts are contained in a thick white husk that can be intimidating to coconut virgins everywhere. If you have tried the mature coconuts at the average supermarket, you may have noticed that the "meat" is impossibly hardy and difficult to use in recipes. However, the "meat" is much easier to use in young coconuts, as it has more of a Jell-O texture and can be easily blended, chopped or scooped with a spoon.

I get especially excited about coconuts as they possess nutrients that are good for your brain such as medium chain fatty acids. They also have antimicrobial properties that could potentially help your immune system as well as electrolytes that are essential for nerve conduction and heart health. Coconuts are also rich in cytokinins, a plant hormone that may have anti-cancer properties. The thing that I like most about coconuts are not just that they are healthy, but they are also delicious. I will not plug my nose and eat or drink anything, it has to taste good.

The first time I bought a young coconut, I was so excited to eat it. However, I had no idea how to open it. I stood in front of my counter with my tiny, maybe a little bit dull, kitchen knife in bewilderment. I chopped, stabbed and, generally speaking, tortured the poor thing before I realized how to cut a hole in the top.

Now a coconut veteran, I bought some coconuts for myself the other day and had them ready to eat in minutes. I took some pictures so you can follow along and be sipping on that coconut water in no time.

What you will need:
A young coconut
A large kitchen knife
Possibly a straw

Step 1) Saw off the point on the top of the coconut with a serrated knife

Step 2) In a sawing motion, cut downward on the three sides

Step 3) Tap the top of the coconut with the lowest point on your knife. You will be making a circle all of the way around. With my knives the way they are, I go around the coconut two or three times. If you want to spare your knifes, you could also use a hammer and a brand new, sterilized nail.

Step 5) Once you have gone all of the way around a time or two, the top can be pulled back like the top of a can.

Step 6) Poke a hole in the jelly and enjoy that delicious coconut water!

After drinking the electrolyte-rich water, the jelly can be scraped out with a spoon.

I hope this tutorial helped you have a frustration-free coconut experience!

Much love,


More about coconuts:

As a side note, I saw Gabriel Cousens, M.D. speak two years ago and he was mentioning that a lot of vegans forget that they are already on a lowfat diet simply by being vegan; they actually can neglect to get enough fat in their diets! He recommended coconuts and chia seeds as dietary staples to stay balanced.

The only downside about coconuts is that they are difficult if not impossible to find organic in northern regions. (Due to the fungicide they are dipped in before transportation to prevent mold) Some think that young coconuts have such a thick husk and shell, the fungicides have not found their way into the inside. I would prefer organic if I could find and afford it, but I do eat the conventional ones in the meantime.

Sources for nutritional facts:

Pub Med

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Few Ways to Feel Beautiful (according to me!)

I have found that a lot of people find their way in to the health food world to lose weight, slim down and look better. There are endless books, documentaries and magazines on dieting, fitness and health foods in the pursuit of beauty. A lot of people use this information to slim down, lose necessary weight and feel lighter; others, however, just seem to torture themselves.
I feel like people often are missing the point when they pursue beauty rather than health. The feeling of being beautiful can often be fleeting, and it is an all too common experience to be at a healthy weight and state of health and still feel unhappy with how one looks.
Fed up with all of the superficial bull$h!#, I would like to share a few ways I like to be beautiful that does not have anything to do with weight.

Hold your head up high
Having good posture will give one a confident edge that will carry out in all aspects of life. Mind-body awareness has a lot of I personally have a hard time with this one, but I try to remember the cues from an Alexander Technique workshop I took once that has really helped with my mind-body awareness.

Proper Nourishment
Staying well hydrated and nourished can give ones skin a lovely glow. Eating a lot of fresh, raw produce (I like to eat a LOT of raw food, but even just one additional serving a day can have health benefits) and drinking green juice or water can do wonders for improving overall health.

There is nothing that makes someone more approachable than a genuine smile. If it is hard to just naturally smile, practice thinking joyful thoughts when your mind is resting (ie, you are not in the middle of something that needs your concentration) and dismiss the negative thoughts. Smiling in front of a mirror can also boost

Even if there is weight to lose, muscle to build or acne to clear up- accept yourself for where you are at today. Pick out the qualities about yourself that are likable and capitalize on them. No one is perfect, and the expectation of such can be terribly damaging. There are probably so many imperfect people in your life that you love; why not make yourself one of them.

Doing something creative (whether it be visual, musical, edible or whatever your passion is) can really make a person glow. Practicing some sort of art can also help work through deep emotions that can hold one back from their full potential.

Avoid harsh criticism, gossip and complaining
I have found that some of the most beautiful people can suddenly appear to be very unattractive after opening their mouths and hateful or rude words are expressed. I have caught myself complaining a number of times lately and realized that I don't really want to be a complainer. This habit can be curbed by noticing when one is doing it, and then promptly replacing the negative comment with a positive one. It is very important that self-regulating occurs with the voice of a thoughtful mentor rather than a harsh critic.

Decorate yourself
Fun hairstyles, jewelry, makeup and lotions are all fun ways to have some style. I like to play around with fashion, it is one of those things that is more fun when it is taken lightly.

Practice listening intently
The best social advice I have ever heard was from Oprah, who once said that she likes to pretend that she is interviewing everyone that she talks to. (although, in her case, she usually is interviewing most people that she talks to!) Follow up questions and an appropriate amount of eye contact reassures the person you are talking to that they have your full attention.

Aerobic exercise
The tool of aerobic exercise has the power to make eyes shine, skin glow, stimulate the production of beneficial neurotransmitters and make the cardiovascular system stronger. I like to do some intervals of walking, running and jogging to get my heart pumping.

Laughter really is the best medicine! A good laugh can bring people closer together, raise serotonin levels and get the blood pumping. According to WebMD; "We change physiologically when we laugh. We stretch muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues."

Focus on other things
When virtually anything is put under a microscope, the flaws are much easier to see. While it is important to focus on ones self sometimes, (Quite often, in fact!) putting energy into other projects, relationships and activities can boost self-esteem and reduce anxiety. It is especially esteem-boosting to spend time on projects that you personally excel at and feel like you are benefiting others when you do them.

Whatever you like to do to feel beautiful, remember to be kind to yourself!

Much love,

Bethany < 3

Monday, January 13, 2014

10 Ceramic Pieces that Blow my Mind

Pottery is an art that I can easily lose myself in. From squishing the clay between my own fingers to admiring pottery made by others, I just can not get enough of it. In my free time, I like to collect pictures of pottery to oooh and ahhhh at. Today I picked out a few favorites to share and I hope you like them as much as I do!

1) Theresa Brooks's intricate coil vase looks as though it were made of soft-petaled flowers. I particularly like this vase because it has a weightless feel to it even though it is a very large vase. Click here to see the full collection and learn more about this artist.

2) This hand-built vase by Susan Anderson spirals inward with an implied sense of infinity. This vase particularly speaks to me because of the non-linear quality about it. To see more of Susan Anderson's work, click Here.

3) This octopus collection by Shayne Greco is so realistic, I could imagine being a bit afraid of washing my face in this bowl. What I love about these pieces is that the sea creatures have an illusion of movement and life. To see the full collection and learn more about Shayne Greco, click Here.

4) As seen in Toronto, Coe and Waito's collection of jellyfish give the viewer a feeling of being underwater as the pieces float weightlessly in the exhibit. I like the immense amount of detail on the tentacles  and the way the jellyfish seem to be realistically puffing up as they reach for the ceiling. Coe and Waito's full collection and biography can be viewed Here.

5) These wheel-thrown vases by Jennifer McCurdy speak volumes with negative space. I love how the space twists around and up, giving the illusion that the pot may vanish with the wind. Jennifer McCurdy explains her creative process in her biography on her website,

"After throwing my vessel on the potter's wheel, I alter the form to set up a movement of soft shadow. When the porcelain is leather hard, I carve patterns to add energy and counterpoint. I fire my work to cone 10, where the porcelain becomes non-porous and translucent."

To learn more about Jennifer McCurdy and see her full collection of intricate pottery, click Here.

6) This incredible wheel-thrown vase by Linda Nowell uses negative space to create contrast between the interior darkness and outer light. I love the intricacy of the top half with the heavy handedness of the lower half. To learn more about Linda Nowell, click Here.

Here is a page that shows pictures of how the vase was created

7) These etched vases by Melanie Ferguson posses an illusion of illumination. The yellow on the sides further the idea that the pot is so full of light it is just bursting at the seams. I also love the weightlessness of the lower half with the slightly heavier top. To learn more about Melanie Ferguson and view the full collection, click Here.

8) This wheel thrown vase by Anne Goldman spirals outward with a feeling of unraveling rather than infinity. I love the sea shell texture on the outside compared to the inner smoothness. To see more of Anne Goldman's pottery, click Here.

9) These pit fired coil pots by Kay Lynne Sattler seem to radiate light like the Hawaiian heritage that inspires her art. I love the contrast, the light and the curling of the dark outer pot to the golden interior. To discover more of Kay Lynne Sattler's art, click Here.

10) This surreal porcelain collection by Kate MacDowell depicts a delicate view of what lies beneath the surface. I love how the pieces are more intricate at the deeper levels. There is a lot of metaphor here, but your interpretation is as good as mine. To learn more about Kate MacDowell, click Here.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Staying Warm, Happy and Healthy all Winter

I had the most difficult time last Fall staying on a healthy, high raw diet as the temperatures fell. When it's cold outside, the last thing I want to do is eat cold food. As I have been experimenting throughout the season, I have found a few things that have helped me stay healthy, happy and warm.

1) Warm Herbs
I have found that warm herbs are excellent for helping my body stay warm. My favorites are ginger, cinnamon and garlic. Garlic is especially wonderful since it also has anti-viral properties, which is always useful this time of year.
I can add these to a smoothie, a salad or a juice and it does the job just as well as a cooked dish.

2) Wearing Proper Layers
I've got my long johns under my pajama pants under my jeans. I look a little chubby, but it works! Never underestimate the power of layering.

3) Drinking Tea
Warm teas (such as ginger or chai rather than cool teas like peppermint) add both temperature and herbal warmth on a chilly Winter day.

4) Soup, Soup, Soup!
I like to eat warm soup made with miso, garlic or potatoes. It's not raw, but it does the job!

5) A little bit of exercise helps
Taking a brisk walk or doing a few minutes of aerobic exercise indoors does wonders to warm me up.

6) Brave the cold and visit a friend
Having a good visit with a friend over a cup of tea can make the cold feel like an adventure rather than a curse.

7) Try to have fun!
Try out skiing, ice skating, sled riding and snow man building. Making the most of these cold days helps me look forward to them when the season changes again next year.

When I absolutely can't stand it, it helps to remember that it is all temporary : )

Jaymes and I running around in the snow last Winter

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

How to Make Green Juice (without a Juicer) In 15 Minutes

I love fresh green juice. It is full of super-vitamins, makes me feel amazing when I drink it and is a great way to stay hydrated. I have noticed that I am usually, specifically, hungry for more raw, fresh foods in the following meals when I have a green juice in the morning.
I juiced a lot when I first started my raw food diet. I was recovering from serious health ailments, and healing was my full time job. I had juice three times a day, and more often during my 40 day juice feast. (Although it wasn't like I was doing all of that juicing for myself, my family helped me a lot.)
However, as time went on, my health returned and my schedule began to fill up. Juicing became less frequent as my life became more hectic. After moving from a home with counter space to an apartment with very little, I stopped juicing altogether.
Thankfully, I discovered an easier way to make my morning green juice that does not involve using a juicer. Now that green juice is again a part of my daily routine, I have noticed a big change in my health and I am so thankful.

Here is a walk through of how I have been making green juice without a juicer

What you will need to get started:

1 head of romaine lettuce
1 Pear
1 Apple
1 Beet
1 chunk of Ginger

(The greens and fruit are completely optional. Mix it up! The sky is the limit!)

A Nutmilk Bag
Nutmilk bags were originally created to strain almond milk. (hence the awkward name) They generally cost around six dollars and can be found online

A Big, Wide Bowl

A Blender

Step One: Chop up the Fruits and Veggies

 Step Two: Throw them veggetubbles in a Blender with Water

I used quite a bit of water on this occasion to counterbalance the amount of fruit sugar in the beets
Step Three: Blend it up!

Step Four: Strain It
At this point, you will want your large bowl to be sitting in the sink. With the nutmilk bag around the top of the blender, gently pour the liquid in to the bowl.

Step 5: Milk it! This is where things get weird. Squeeze the nutmilk bag until all that is left in the bag is dry pulp. This usually takes me about one to two minutes.

I like to pull the string on the top before I start milking the juice, but you don't have to

After the juice is thoroughly extracted, it is ready to drink;

but before you run off and enjoy that juice, be sure to clean up first
The bag can be flipped inside out to empty the pulp
It takes about thirty seconds to rinse this bag off. I like to run my nutmilk bags through the washer every so often to kill any bacteria.

And there you have it, two quarts of beet-red green juice in fifteen minutes without a juicer


Monday, January 6, 2014

Meditating with Mandalas

Meditation is a practice that comes in many shapes and sizes. Meditation tends to conjure images of someone sitting cross-legged practicing stillness. While it is true that this is the most common type of meditation, there are many other kinds. In fact, meditation can be used while walking, drawing, playing the drums, knitting or doing anything repetitive.

The key is to match breathing to the repetition (Tip: If I am walking more quickly than I would like to breathe, I take a breath every two steps rather than every single one) and allow all other thoughts to be put to the side until another time. A repeated mantra (phrase), prayer, or affirmation is often helpful.

The type of meditation people find most helpful tends to relate to their personality type. Because I am a visual person, I find the using mandalas to be incredible helpful when meditating. A mandala is nothing more than a circular, often repetitive, image. Mandalas are used to represent the universe, cycles of life and seasonal rhythm in traditional Hindu and Buddhist traditions.

I often find that I do not need to apply the mental energy that I would while traditionally meditating. Maybe it is because I am so entertained by the colors, lines and shapes unfolding before my eyes, it becomes very easy to put away my other thoughts and allow the meditation to come automatically. I still try to make the time to practice stillness, because both forms of meditation offer different things that I equally need.

The Specifics

I like to use the same pattern that you would see in the center of a sunflower or pinecone. (The pattern is called a phyllotaxis) It looks complicated, but it is actually very simple to draw.

I use a simple graph to guide the shape.

First, I like to draw three rings.

Second, I divide it like a pie

Third, I put a big X over each "square"
It will start to look like this
Keep going, and it will look like this:

In the middle, I ordinarily would curve the middle lines, but I had to space them out funny because I made this mandala via computer. So, the lines are funny- but you get the idea.

Now, you could just leave it like this and color it

Or, you could erase the graphed lines (the pie shape) and color it like I did this time

Of course, the end result has nothing to do with the actual meditation, and really the outcome is the least consequential aspect to this variety of drawing. The healing is in the process!

Interesting Facts About Meditation

In the popular health psychology bookMind Over Medicine, Lissa Rankin, M.D. explains a few of the benefits of practicing meditation. "Meditation has been shown to decrease stress-related cortisol, reduce respiration and heart rate, reduce the metabolic rate, increase blood flow in the brain, increase activity in the left prefrontal cortex (which is observed in happier people), strengthen the immune system, and lead to a state of relaxation."

(Here is a great article by Lissa Rankin about how and why to utilize meditation)

Pioneer of meditation reserach and acceptance of meditation in the medical field, Herbert Benson, M.D. believes that, "Any condition that's caused or worsened by stress can be alleviated through meditation" (You can read the rest of this article Here.)

You Can Eat a Salad, and Enoy it, too!

Everyone knows that salad is the healthiest thing to eat. It is packed with vitamins and minerals, it is light on your stomach and yet still includes the fiber necessary for healthy digestion. However, it can be really hard to make myself eat a salad some times. My apprehension usually stems from my encounters with the cafeteria variety of salad- scant iceberg lettuce under a pile of shredded carrots and a baby tomato or two. Not fun! Not fun at all.

However, salads can be a really fun and interesting meal when you get the chance to make one yourself or eat at a place that is salad friendly.

(As a side note, I asked for a "dark green" salad with lots of extra chopped veggies at Kings once and they gave me the most wonderful salad I had ever eaten at a restaurant. You never know what a restaurant will serve you if you ask nicely and are willing to pay an extra couple of bucks for the extra produce.)

Here are some tips that I have found make salad much more interesting, palatable and fun to eat!

1) Dark leafy greens are the way to go

While iceberg lettuce may be a nice tortilla substitute, it doesn't do much in the way of flavor or texture. (It also does not have as much nutritional benefit as its darker leafy green relatives) Spinach, baby lettuce, kale, cabbage, swiss chard, bok choy are all delicious in a salad and have much more to offer in the way of cancer-fighting antioxidants.

2) Massage that kale

Kale is often steamed to soften the rough texture of the leaves. This is a nice way to prepare it, but it is more nutritious when eaten raw. My raw food friends introduced me to a new way to prepare kale that softens the texture but does not require heating. I simply lightly cover the kale in olive oil, add a little salt and squeeze it with my hands until it takes on a lighter texture. It is tempting to suffocate it in olive oil, but it really only requires a moderate amount.

3) Put some nuts on it!

I sometimes like to grind almonds, cashews or sunflower seeds to add texture to salad. This is especially good on a kale salad. I use a coffee grinder, although I suppose you could do the same thing with a food processor.

4) Think beyond the greens

Have you ever tried chopping up a cauliflower and eating it with no accompaniments other than a little olive oil and salt? It is so delicious! Avocado, tomato and basil are equally worthy of talking about. Leafy greens are important, but it is okay to forget them every once in a while and just eat some good old chopped veggies.

5) Add some beans

Beans are a great way to add plant-based protein! Additionally, beans add a lot of flavor and texture to a salad. Whether you get them out of a can, sprout them or cook them yourself; the protein will do you some good!

6) Herbs

I really like adding some fresh herbs to my greens. It adds a lot of spice and makes everything so much more fun. I have found that they are the most delicious when cut up very fine and mixed in with the other greens.

7) Less can be more

Salad dressing is great, but sometimes lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil or sea salt is all you need. I have found that a little lemon juice over an avocado makes a delicious salad dressing. This can be especially nice when you are going out to eat, as any restaurant that has avocados should be able to serve you a lemon with it.

8) Back to salad dressing

Salad dressing can make things so much more interesting. I use the healthier store brands sometimes, (especially lately, as I have been too lazy to make my own) but home made salad dressing is much better and really is not a challenge to make. I like to use olive oil and vinegar as my base and blend in a few herbs and spices. Mustard is an emulsifier, so that is a good thing to add if you want a creamier salad. (Nuts or seeds will also make it creamy!)
I once went through a few tubs of greens in a week because I loved this salad dressing so much! (and then I got sick of it, but I really should make it again because it has been a while)

9) Grow your own!

Lettuce and kale are easy to grow, and thrive in environments such as a planters or raised beds as well as in the ground. Fresh greens are light years tastier than the days-old greens one may find at a store! If you are somebody who eats a lot of salad, growing some of your own greens can save some money.

10) Share that salad with a friend!

While you are taking care of your body and eating that salad like a champ, it is okay to forget about yourself for a moment and check in with another person. Being social and connecting with others is a really important part of being healthy. Even if that other person is your cat, (Although he probably will not share the salad with you unless it has tuna on it) meal times are a great time to embrace the other people in your life and spend quality time with them.

11) Have fun! This is not serious time- there is plenty of time for that elsewhere. This is you-time. I love the possibilities involved in preparing food, and it feels good to know that I am eating food that is nourishing and healing.

Enjoy your fabulous salad!