Monthly Archives: July 2011

BOOK REVIEW and GIVEAWAY – Run Like a Girl

I recently read Run Like a Girl by Mina Samuels.

Part locker-room confidential, inspiring manifesto, and personal memoir, the book shows us, through stories of nearly a hundred women, how the confidence women build by participating in sports—whether it’s running or rock climbing, swimming or yoga—can transform our lives in profound ways. Lively, funny, and sometimes heartbreaking, in the candid stories, which fill its pages, these women share how sports helped them overcome life’s obstacles and achieve the happiness and success they’d been running toward.

While reading this book I took the time to reflect upon the fact that I was fortunate to have parents who felt it was important for my sister and I to have an active childhood.  From the time we were 3 years old, my sister and I were dancing…by the time we were in elementary school we were each taking more than 5 dance lessons weekly (the last dance studio we attended is still there and thriving!).  Between school, dancing, and homework (which was often done at the studio between classes) there was no idle time and more importantly no time to get into any trouble.

We were also swimmers who spent every summer on the swim team at Forest Park Cabana Club.  To this day I do NOT get into cold water without a fuss…there were too many COLD early morning workouts that resulted in blue lips and fingers, but my mom was always on the sidelines with a thermos full of hot cocoa.

I guess I had never really stopped to think about the fact that the sports I participated in as a child were as powerful as they were.  I learned so much about life from dancing and swimming.  I learned that life goes on even when you fall flat on your face during a dance recital and the whole audience gasps!  The butterfly stroke was shockingly hard when I first tried it, but through perseverance and LOTS of practice I learned that it could become my best stroke.  Because of sports I never developed the all to common fear of public speaking.  Sure, I get butterflies when I speak publicly, but years of dance performances and swim meets made me comfortable “performing.”

Sports continue to help me as an adult.  As you know, I competed in the Camp Pendleton Mud Run in June (click here to read my post about it).  When I stated that the second third of the race Was difficult for me, what I should have said was, “The second third of the race was incredible difficult for me.  I felt so ill that I thought I was going to vomit and REALLY wanted to quit.”  What kept me from quitting was the fact that I didn’t want to let my team down and I most of all didn’t want to let myself down.  I persesevered.  In the last third of the race I found my stride again and had a blast  At the end of the race I was so proud of myself for not quitting…my prior experiences with races let me know that I would somehow make it through.  Sports has so many parallels to life.  Sometimes life can throw you curve balls, and experiences like the Mud Run strengthen you and let you know that you WILL get through those curve balls and actually be better for them.

I really recommend Run Like a Girl.  It is a quick read filled with inspiration as well as stories about the deep friendships that tend to form through athletics.  There are so many activities I have wanted to try and haven’t and this book has motivated me to put myself out there.  One of my fellow NEXT by Athena Ambassadors is a Stand-Up Paddle instructor and I now plan on contacting her for a few lessons since it looks like so much fun.


I am excited that I am going to be able to gift one of my readers a copy of Run Like a Girl.  To be entered into the giveaway leave a comment below about what sports means to you…

I look forward to reading your comments and will announce the winner on August 3rd.

P.S. I am on day 10 of Tracy Anderson’s Metamorphosis today and doing great!  The soreness in my calves went away by day 5 or 6 and I am really enjoying the dance cardio.  It has been so long since I danced that I forgot how important it is to dance up on the balls of your feet in order to save your shins…my body now remembers!

For more information about Mina Samuels click here.

To purchase Run Like a Girl click here.


Filed under Books, Exercise, Giveaways, Vegan, Vegetarian


A few years back while in my old San Francisco stomping grounds, I got adventurous and tried some basil gelato.   I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but ended-up really liking it.  Why does basil seem like a strange dessert ingredient to us when we are so accustomed to adding mint to so many desserts?  Basil works in this sorbet…it really, really works.  Combined with citrus it is the perfect refreshing dessert to top off a summer meal.


2 cups filtered water
1 cup Somersweet
3 limes, juiced
2 Meyer lemons, juiced
2 small oranges, juiced
Zest from 1 lime, 1 orange, and 1 lemon
16 large basil leaves, torn
½ tsp each zest of lime, Meyer lemon, and orange (1 ½ tsp total)
Âľ tsp very finely chopped basil
2 tsp olive oil
ÂĽ tsp xanthan gum (helps with the texture when freezing)

To make the simple syrup place the first 7 ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat while whisking.  I used a microplane to zest the citrus.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer the syrup for 5 minutes.   Remove the syrup from the heat and allow it to sit undisturbed for 30 minutes to encourage the flavors to develop further.

After 30 minutes, strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a glass measuring cup or bowl.  Place the bowl in the fridge to cool (approx 1 hour).

While the syrup is almost done cooling, prepare the 1 ½ tsp zest and ¾ tsp very finely chopped basil.

Once the syrup has cooled, make a slurry with the olive oil and xanthan gum.  Pour the cooled syrup into your Vitamix or blender along with the slurry and blend for 60 seconds.  Once blended, add the zest and finely chopped basil.  Pulse a few times.  You do not want to emulsify the zest and basil, you simply want to incorporate it.

Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.  Once the cycle is complete, if you would like your sorbet to be more firm, simply place it in the freezer (be sure to take it out and stir it every 30 minutes or so).

This is best eaten the day it is prepared.  If you have some extra time on your hands I suggest you serve it in lemons or oranges (simply cut the tops off and remove the citrus meat).  If you leave the sorbet in the freezer overnight make sure you pull it out 15-20 minutes prior to serving so it has a chance to soften-up a bit.

For a printable version of this recipe click here.


Filed under Cooked Fruit, Dessert, Gluten Free, Recipes, Sorbet, Vegan, Vegetarian

GUEST BLOG – Natural Skincare by Juliette Samuel

Today’s Guest Blog is by Juliette Samuel of  NYRAJU Skin Care.  Juliette is a person who definitely knows beautiful when she sees it.  Juliette has had a very eclectic career working in and around the beauty industry.  She has worked as an instructor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.  She has also been a Professional Image Consultant.

Currently Juliette works as a Skin Care Therapist, acting President and Chief Nose for NYRAJU Skin Care.  As such she is in charge of product formulation and development for all of the skin and hair care products  produced for the line.

Juliette is also a member of NAHA-The National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy, The Society of Cosmetic Chemist and is the Fragrance Editor for BellaOnline.  What does that do for you?  It keeps Juliette on her toes when it comes to the type of information that she’ll be able to share with you as readers of her blog or articles that she publishes on and off the web.

Beautiful Skin Using Natures Special Gifts

Beautiful skin has always come from within.  There is no beauty without healthy looking skin.  You are what you eat, this holds true for skin health and weight loss.  Nutrition plays an important role in the success of both.

Sooo … as we venture into your kitchen, I have one question for you …

What do honey, avocado, blueberries, cucumbers and strawberries have in common?

Aside from tasting good, they provide great antioxidants and moisturizers for your beautiful skin. And they make wonderful skin care treatments.

But so do shea butter, cocoa butter and mango butter.  Let’s not forget olive oil, jojoba oil and grape seed oil.  While we’re at it sea salt, turbinado sugar and a few essential oils will add a little seasoning to the group.  Now if you blend them together, not all in one product, you’ll get some sultry, sensual, luxurious skin and body care treatments, not to mention skin that’s soft as a baby’s bottom.

When you think of natural skin care products, you don’t always have to venture outside your home.  The great thing about these ingredients is that they are either in your pantry and bathroom or you can find them at your local health food store.

As annoying as bee’s can be, they provide you with a great product that’s considered great for you internally and externally.  Here are samples of what honey can do for your skin.

Basic Honey Masque

Honey is a great hydrator when applied to you skin.  If you put about a tablespoon of honey on your face and neck for 10 minutes it will leave your skin feeling soft and supple after you remove it with warm water and pat it dry.

Honey Masque for Oily Skin

When paring honey with oatmeal it makes a great masque for oily skin.  If you mix honey and oatmeal into a paste and apply it to your skin for 15 minutes, the oatmeal will absorb the oil from your skin, without stripping it of its natural essence.

Remove the masque with warm water and pat dry.

Avocado Honey Masque for Dry Skin

1 large Avocado
1 Tablespoon of Honey

You already know that honey is a great hydrator but when coupled with an avocado, it will provide your skin with a rich skin product that will add moisture to your skin as well.

Peel and slice your avocado.  Put it in your blender and puree with honey.  Gently apply the masque to your face and continue until your masque feels extremely tacky to the touch.  Relax and leave on for 5-10 minutes.  Rinse with warm water and pat dry.

If you’re looking for a blissful spa experience for your beautiful skin, try blending your own body butter scrub:

2 tablespoons of sea salt
1 tablespoon of turbinado sugar
1/2 cup of shea butter
1/2 teaspoon of jojoba wax beads
1 teaspoon of jojoba oil
2-5 drops of essential oil (optional )

Place all of the ingredients into a glass bowl and stir.  This is not a butter per se, but you would apply it as if it’s a butter.  Put your blended treat into a glass or cosmetic grade plastic container that has a secure top. You’ll want to keep it in a cool dry place, your refrigerator is perfect for summer months.  The shea butter will melt especially if you’ve used raw shea butter.

The best place to give yourself this treatment is in your bathtub.  Standing in your tub, apply your blend from shoulders to feet, then run a warm tub of water.  While your water is running you will place your well massaged body into the water and enjoy it’s tranquility for 10-15 minutes.  Pop the drain or pull the plug and as the water is taking all of your dead skin cells that you’ve sloughed away, rinse off any excess product or cells and pat your skin dry. Your skin should now feel luxurious to the touch.

Now that you’ve taken care of your skin, one last treat is in order.  It’s smoothie time!  Strawberries, blueberries, banana’s …Oh My!

Yes, it’s that simple, toss some strawberries, blueberries, a banana and almond milk into the blender and you’ve got a delicious tasting smoothie. Time for you to be creative, Enjoy

Beautiful skin?  Absolutely!

honey image courtesy of

avocado and honey image courtesy of

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Filed under Education, Guest Blog, Recipes, Skincare, Skincare Mask, Vegan, Vegetarian


When our bananas get very ripe I usually make banana bread.  While I absolutely love banana bread (click here for my vegan and gluten-free recipe), it has been way to hot to make it lately…who wants to turn the oven on when it is in the nineties and humid???

The hot weather has also been making our bananas ripen much faster than usual.  It all works out though because we have been making a TON of smoothies lately to help cool us off.  One of my favorite ways to make a smoothie creamy and help  sweeten it naturally is to add frozen bananas to the blender.  When I notice the bananas getting too brown and soft to eat on their own, I peel them and put them in a bag in the freezer.  I ALWAYS have frozen bananas in the freezer for my smoothies.

One last tip…break the frozen banana into 3-4 pieces right before you put it in the blender (it will be too difficult for the blender to break-up the banana if it isn’t broken down a bit beforehand).


Filed under Gluten Free, Raw, Recipes, Smoothie, Vegan, Vegetarian

I FINISHED!!! – P90X as a Vegan

I am actually really proud of myself because a little over a week ago I finished Tony Horton’s 90 day P90X workout series!!!!  I wholeheartedly recommend this workout program

I did not follow the nutrition plan because I am happy with my current nutrition.  I did however find a great resource for those who are vegan and want to follow the P90X nutrition plan.  Beach Body has a newsletter article specifying how to follow the nutrition plan as a vegan (click here for the article).

Through the years I have done a bit of everything when it comes to fitness…personal training with the amazing Vito La Fata who is the owner of Fitness Evolution (for 8+ years), pilates, yoga, running, swimming, you name it, and I have to say that P90X is an extremely well rounded workout.

I am kicking myself for not taking before and after pictures because it would have been fun to see the changes in photographic form.  The only pictures I have during this process were taken at the mud run when I was half-way through the program.  I can tell you that I have without a doubt gained muscle, increased my endurance, and improved my flexibility (which was pretty good to begin with).

So…I am going to give kudos to myself for sticking it out for 90 days.  Trust me, it wasn’t always easy to make the time and sometimes I was literally getting my workout in at 10:30pm, but I did it because I made the commitment to myself.  Take inventory of your life for 90 days and you will realize that A LOT goes on during that time.  I powered through an episode of sick kids (ER visit and all), the Camp Pendleton Mud Run (the only day I missed my workout…I figured the Mud Run was a good substitute), the end of the school year (always insanely busy), my mom’s hip replacement surgery where I did my workouts in the hotel at night, and the beginning of Summer when the kids seem to always need to be entertained.

Have any of you done this program???  What did you think?


This week I began the 90 day Metamorphosis Omnicentric program by Tracy Anderson and the first three days I was limping because my calves were so sore (I consider this a good sign).  I was smart and had my hubby take some “before” pictures which means I will actually get to see the changes with this workout series.  Stay tuned in 90 days to see how I liked Metamorphosis…

P90X image courtesy of

Metamorphosis image courtesy of


Filed under Exercise, Product Reviews

ASK GRETTIE – Vegans and Protein


My latest Chic Vegan column…

How much protein does a vegan person need daily?  Is animal protein superior to plant-based protein? 

~ Gail

This is definitely the question I get asked most.

When eating a varied whole-food plant-based diet that is adequate in calories it is actually difficult to become protein deficient (i.e. spinach is 57% protein while hamburger is 37%).  According to Dr. Pam Popper,

“[We] are suffering from excess, not deficiency.  [Americans] are eating too much fat, too much protein, and too many calories.”

So many people are so concerned about protein deficiency.  While protein is a very important macronutrient, so are carbohydrates, and you never hear anyone expressing a concern about carbohydrate deficiency.  Without the appropriate amount of carbohydrates our brains do not function well and that should be a big concern!

There is an elemental difference between animal-based and plant-based protein.  Since the amino acid structure of animal-based protein most closely mimics that of our own bodily protein, it is more available for our body to utilize immediately…But that does NOT mean that it is a more superior form of protein for our bodies to use.  We must remember that animal-based protein is acidifying and results in our bodies need to buffer that acid by removing it from our body’s alkaline stores (most notably calcium from the bones).  I don’t know about you, but I want to keep as much calcium IN my bones as possible.

While plant-based protein does not generally provide all 9 essential amino acids (there are some exceptions; soy, quinoa, spinach), it is not acid producing which is a major benefit.  The essential amino acid issue so many people have harped about for years is insanely easy to rectify.  It was once thought that vegetarians and vegans needed to eat complementary protein foods at each meal to result in a complete amino acid profile, but it is now known that it is not necessary to do so. The Vegetarian Resource Group states,

“We recommend eating a variety of unrefined grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, and vegetables throughout the day, so that if one food is low in a particular essential amino acid, another food will make up this deficit 8,9.”

Current protein recommendations for vegetarians vary from 0.6-1.0 grams of protein per kg of body weight.  To determine your protein needs, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 (this will give you your weight in kilograms).  Take that number and multiply it by the protein recommendation.  Let’s use a 150 pound man as an example:

150lbs. / 2.2 = 68kg (rounded down for ease)

68kg x 0.6 = 41 grams of protein

68kg x 1.0 = 68 grams of protein

The protein recommendations for a vegetarian male range between 41 to 68 grams of protein per day.  When you look at the protein content of many vegetarian foods (click here to do so), it becomes clear that consuming adequate protein is not a problem.  Vegan protein powders alone can provide up to 24 grams of protein per scoop.

Image courtesy of


Filed under Chic Vegan Column, Education, Protein

PRODUCT REVIEW – Dr. McDougall’s Asian EntrĂ©e Cups

I have been reading Dr. McDougall’s books since high school.  When I was doing my coursework through Cornell one of the Guest Lecturers was Dr. McDougall and I thoroughly enjoyed his lecture.  I have the utmost respect for Dr. McDougall and all the work he has done as a pioneer in the arena of nutrition-based medicine.

I was recently given the opportunity to sample four of Dr. McDougall’s Asian EntrĂ©e Cups which are all vegan and non-GMO.  I guess I should amend that…I was almost NOT given the opportunity to sample Dr. McDougall’s Asian EntrĂ©es because when they came in the mail I brought them in, took a quick picture of the package, and went upstairs to fold a load of laundry.  When I came downstairs my family had already cooked half of them and I barely got a bite before they were gone!  There is just something about Cup-O-Noodle type meals that everyone loves (brings me back to my swim team days!).  I am glad to say that we did all love them.  Thankfully one of the noodle cups was Pad Thai (rice based noodles) and completely gluten free, so my daughter was able to participate in the taste test as well.

When I examined the nutrition information for the noodle cups I was impressed in all areas with the exception of sodium.   Cup-O-Noodle type soups are notorious for having outrageously high sodium levels (most Cup-O-Noodles average about 1500mg per serving!!!).  The sodium content in Dr. McDougall’s Asian EntrĂ©es pales in comparison, yet it is still too high at around 480-590.  There is a very simple solution to the sodium issue; only use half of the flavor packet.

Overall we really liked the soups.  The flavors were great, the calories were low (all in the low 200s), and the fat was low!  According to the manufacturer:

“Our secret to creating a healthy alternative is to use noodles that are baked, not fried, and to use ground nuts for fat instead of oil.”

“Reflecting the brand’s longstanding commitment to environmental responsibility, Dr. McDougall’s Right Foods Asian EntrĂ©es come in paper-based, BPA-free packaging exclusively sourced from certified sustainably managed forests.”

I would definitely keep these noodle cups in the pantry for quick meals.

For more information about Dr. McDougall and his clinic in Santa Rosa click here.


Filed under Gluten Free, Product Reviews, Vegan, Vegetarian


The winner of our blissmobox giveaway is Elyce Hackley.  Congratulations Elyce!!!

Leave a comment

Filed under Contests, Giveaways, Services, Vegan, Vegetarian

GUEST BLOG – Julieanna Hever and Chef AJ

I am always looking for fun ways to dress kale because it is soooooo good for you, but can be a very strong taste on its own.  The other day I received a blog post in my inbox from The Plant-Based Dietitian (I am a subscriber) and it was an episode of The Chef and the Dietitian wherein they demonstrated how to make Chef AJ’s  “Hail to the Kale” dressing.  I decided to give it a try and loved it so much that I contacted Julieanna and Chef AJ to see if they would allow me to share the recipe with all of you.  Both were so responsive despite the fact that they were out of town at Vegetarian Summerfest (I would have LOVED to be there too!).  This is an absolute winning recipe!

Before we get to the recipe, I want to give you some background on Julieanna Hever and Chef AJ…

Julieanna Hever, M.S., R.D., C.P.T. , The Plant-Based Dietitian, is a passionate advocate of the miracles associated with following a whole food, plant-based diet.  Julieanna is the nutrition columnist for VegNews Magazine, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition, and co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Gluten-Free Vegan Cooking (click here for more info).  Julieanna maintains a private practice in Los Angeles and lectures throughout the U.S. As co-producer and star of the “infotainment” documentary, To Your Health, Julieanna interviewed a host of the plant-based world’s most respected doctors and researchers to bring this important information to a broad audience.  As Executive Director of EarthSave, International, Julieanna has had the opportunity to bring nutrition to the forefront of efforts to improve the current global health crisis.  To learn more, visit Julieanna at her website (click here) and her blog (click here).

Chef Abbie Jay (otherwise known as AJ), is a graduate of The Living Light Culinary Arts Institute and has been a vegan for 30 years.  At the age of seven she received an Easy Bake Oven as a gift and hasn’t stopped cooking since.  Teaching both vegan cooking and raw food prepartion, AJ’s passion is showing people how to incorporate more fresh, organic fruits and vegetables in their diets in ways that are easy, delicious and fun.  Chef AJ is also the author of the book, Unprocessed (which I can’t wait to review for you!).  She especially loves showing others how to make decadent, delicious desserts with out using white sugar, white flour or artificial ingredients.  Chef AJ, has cooked for many celebrities, and has volunteered at The Braille Institute for 2 years teaching healthy cooking to the blind who have lost their sight due to type II diabetes.  Many of her students have decreased their need for insulin through switching to a healthier diet.  One of her creations, Rockin’ Nut Crunch, will soon be sold at Whole Foods Market.

I also learned a new tip from Chef AJ in the video episode (click here) which has been a HUGE time-saver for me when prepping the kale from my garden (my latest harvest is in the picture above…it is the most gorgeous greenish-blue!).  She shows us a really fast and simple way to remove the hard center stem from the kale.  How did I not know this before?

You must make this dressing…it is that good!


INGREDIENTS – Enough to dress two heads of kale

1 cup raw almond butter (unsweetened and unsalted) *
1 cup coconut water
ÂĽ cup fresh lime juice and zest
2 cloves garlic
Fresh, peeled ginger (approx. 1” or ½ ounce)
2 Tbs. low sodium tamari
4 pitted dates (soaked in water if not soft)
½ tsp. red pepper flakes **
* I used a combination of almond and cashew butter
** I used ÂĽ tsp. since I served it to children


Place all ingredients in the blender (I used my Vitamix) and blend until smooth…it’s that simple!

When the dressing is nice and smooth pour some over your prepared kale and sprinkle with chopped nuts.  Since I made a smaller salad, I did not use all of the dressing.  To store the remaining dressing, I poured it into a mason jar and placed it in the fridge.  I ended up using it as a dip as well…it was great with all kinds of cruditĂ©s (carrot, celery, cucumber, belle peppers, etc.)

For a printable version of this recipe click here.


Filed under Books, Guest Blog, Nuts, Raw, Recipes, Salad, Salad Dressing, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian

GIVEAWAY – Blissmobox

Yeah…Another amazing giveaway from blissmo!!!  blissmo just started a new monthly program called blissmobox.  In their words, the blissmobox is:

exceptional organic & eco-friendly products delivered right to your door, once-a-month. Think of it as a CSA or Wine Club subscription, except instead of veggies or Pinot Noirs you are discovering well-loved products better and safer for you & your family than conventional alternatives.

what brands and products are in the box?You’ll have to subscribe to find out, but previous boxes have included exceptional products from well-loved brands including method Laundry, Sambazon, Numi Tea, CLIF Bar, and YesToCarrots.

Each box has on average $30 of product value (sometimes much more – our June skin & beauty box valued at $51) — and you’ll get to discover curated products safer & better for you, your family & your planet. More questions? Read our blissmobox FAQ or email us at box (at) blissmo (dot) com.

This particular blissmobox is a foodbox and I can’t wait for you to win!  The winner will be announced on Monday.


To enter simply sign-up for the blissmobox newsletter by clicking here.

Come back to this post and leave a comment telling me that you have signed-up for the newsletter.  The winner will be selected at random from the comments on this post and announced Monday, July 18th.


Filed under Giveaways, Services, Vegan, Vegetarian