Happy Heart: Butter Bean Hearts

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Butter Bean Hearts

What a winner! These treats are so great to make for a party as finger food, or indeed simply to enjoy with a nice salad for dinner. They are packed with healthy protein which is essential for growth and even my three-year-old loved them!

INGREDIENTS

1 onion
4 small cloves of garlic
200g sweet potato, cut into small cubes
3 small yellow squash, diced
400g tin organic butter beans, drained
400g tin organic red kidney beans, drained (reserve 1 tbsp juice)
2 cups fresh spinach
¼ cup sliced kalamata olives
2 tsp mild paprika
Pepper t o taste (the olives give the dish enough saltiness)
Frozen short-crust pastry

METHOD

  1. Sauté onion and garlic. If you do not have a non-stick frying pan then use oil sparingly.
  2. Add potato, squash, butter beans, kidney beans and tbsp of kidney bean juice and stir to mix. Season with paprika and pepper.
  3. Add olives and spinach and cook until spinach wilts and sweet potato half-cooked.
  4. Cut pastry sheet into four and repeat for remaining sheets. Spoon some cooled mixture into the middle of a square and fold one corner over to the other, containing the mixture into a triangle. Press edges together so that mixture does not fall out. You can simply leave it like this if you wish or else twist the bottom corners of the triangle and bring them together into a knot so that the pastry looks like a heart.
  5. Bake at 200°C for around 15 mins or until pastry is golden brown.
  6. Enjoy on their own or with some tomato sauce for a treat.

Happy Soul: Nurture the Body, Nurture the Soul

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Nearly all of us have experienced death or disease in our lives. People we love fall ill unexplainably, it seems. We are left pondering, searching for meaning. Even though we often try and run from it, we know that all of life in its physicality has an expiration date. We all know that eventually our time will come, or we will be forced to bury someone that we love. So what is the point of health? You could walk outside tomorrow and be hit by a bus. Whether you treated your body with love has no effect on the fact that you are due for an untimely and unexpected death…

This attitude is one that carries weight for a lot of people. It gives an excuse for partaking in activities that can be detrimental to health and the soul. The reality is that our bodies are incredible things. They can take a beating, even if the beating is self-induced. They can adapt, they can heal. Something that may kill one person instantly could see another person well into their elderly years. There have even been stories of people surviving after falling out of a plane with a malfunctioning parachute! There are some who are born with weaknesses they never even knew of. There are children that suffer years of surgery and treatment for a condition that came down to bad luck. Our bodies are even able to come through sessions of radiation for goodness sake. Our only certainly is death, so why do we care so much about prolonging life?

I believe that the answer is different for every individual. Often we can spend decades discovering what life means to us. For me, it is a miraculous, wonderful event. The joys, sorrows, wonders and sufferings that we all endure are a part of the tapestry that we lovingly, or hatefully, weave. I also believe that a life spent nurturing love is much more peaceful than a life spent fuelling hate. By taking the step to caring for your body, you embark on the journey of improving the quality of your life – which makes all the difference.

Unfortunately, we have been born into a world where people actually profit from making us feel inadequate and unworthy. Advertising is designed to make us believe that our lives will be better if we live, buy and look a certain way. Our capitalist society is designed to hold money as god. The more we buy, the more we contribute to our economy. Hence, the media works hard to make us believe that if we work a little harder, we will have the money to buy that pair of shoes, which will make our lives better. Sifting truth out of a pile of lies is a difficult task. But we can begin by being honest with ourselves, by stripping our hearts and souls of their purchased disguises and looking at ourselves for who we are beneath it all. In this naked, vulnerable state, we can face the pains that we have been trying to repress.

Then, we can heal. And whether the time we have on this earth is one day, one decade or several, one day spent loving, caring and nurturing the body will mean more than a century of self-abuse.

Happy Soul: Life Through a Child’s Eyes

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Every day holds an exciting range of possibilities. As a child, she wakes easily and with great enthusiasm.
“Good morning, Mummy!” she squeals, “this is going to be the best day ever!”
The energy she carries is fierce. It sees her leaping to her feet and skipping down the hall for the very prospect of another day like the day before. “Can we do craft again?” she asks, so excitedly that one might think it was a new venture, certainly not an activity she partakes in daily.
Breakfast is an effort, as distractions stall the necessity. So enthralled, she needs to be reminded to eat, as though living purely in the moment causes her to temporarily forget the plate that waits to nourish her. “What’s that, mummy?” she asks, pointing at a lonely web in the high corner of the room. An explanation prompts one of the first renditions for the day as she begins to sing Incy Wincy Spider at the top of her lungs.
“Beautiful singing, darling,” her mother says.
“Thank you, darling,” she replies.
The rest of the day is routine. It is safe. But in her safety, the child learns to express. It is through that expression that a vibrant rage of emotion is witnessed. If she falls over, her life is indeed coming to an end and she is not afraid to show it. Tears fall down her face and she wails with the pain, lets it consume her in that moment until there is nothing left. In that time the demon is vanquished, not left to fester within her until the emotion brims over into dangerous levels.
Outside, she learns about the world around her. She speaks to the animals, and they speak to her. She understands them and they love her for it. In that moment, the world is endless, with possibilities above what we have been told are safe. She could fly, if she wanted. She could be a healer, a race-car driver; the only limits are the vast boarders of her imagination. The only inhibitions, those she has been told to hold caution with.
She does not wish to sleep. Exhausted, she carries herself into bed to await the five stories she managed to coax her mother into reading. There, they cuddle and immerse themselves into a world of foxes with socks and magical pet shops. If the day was too long, she will fall asleep in amidst, dreaming of the simplicities that brought her more joy than any range of complexity. If her determination allows it, she will wade through the stories, and wait for a song that lulls her into the rest that will see her waking with equal enthusiasm the following morning.
There are no laws to instruct us that we should all eventually grow out of this joy for life. And yet, at some point, we are taught to. At some point, the child within us is silenced. What a sad day for our soul, that day is.

Happy Heart: Sweet Potato Pastries

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Sweet Potato Pastries

As someone who learned to cook with cheese, cream, and butter, I find that I still seek to find similar textures in my recipes, even when I can no longer rely on such products. When playing around with a sweet potato and puff pastry recipe, I tried to brainstorm ways of achieving a creamy addition that would hold both ingredients together. I whipped up a quick batch of hummus and well, the rest is history. The product is delicious, quick and makes a wonderful lunch or addition to a feast.

Serves: 3 – 4

INGREDIENTS

For Hummus:
1 x 400g tin organic chickpeas
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp garlic flakes
½ tsp salt
½ tsp mild paprika

For Pastries:
2 sheets puff pastry
¾ cup cooked brown rice
2 small sweet potatoes or 1 medium, chopped into very small pieces
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 onion, sliced
tsp all purpose seasoning
salt and pepper, to taste

METHOD:

For Hummus:

  1. Combine all ingredients in food processor and process until it becomes a smooth paste. Set Aside.

For Pastries:

  1. Fry onions until soft, if you don’t have a non-stick frying pan use oil sparingly (coconut oil would be best). Add mushrooms and sweet potato and cook until mushrooms are cooked and sweet potatoes partially cooked. Set aside.
  2. Cut sheets of pastry into four squares so you end up with eight equal squares. Spread a layer of hummus in the middle of each pastry square, taking care to leave a generous boarder on each piece so that they will crisp. Add a thin layer of cooked brown rice and then dollop onion, mushroom and sweet potato mixture on top.
  3. Cook in oven at 200 °C for 15 – 20 minutes or until pastry edges are golden brown. Bon appétit!

Happy Soul: Finding Love

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Have you ever woken up in the morning and just ‘known’ that the day was going to be a bad one? Every bit of your body aches, your heart is heavy and you shift from room to room to get ready to repeat the day previous. You eat the same bowl of cereal, shower for the same amount of time only to dress in the same uniform. Nothing has changed, but the dark energy consumes you. Have you ever noticed that these days almost always do end up being horrendous or exhausting?

You get home with your whole body rejecting everything and everyone. You lash out at loved ones just because you need a vent and they are the only ones you trust to keep loving you despite your temper. You sit on the couch and ‘zone out’ to meaningless television shows, desperately searching for drama, just so that you know that someone else’s life is worse than yours.

It’s easy to write off these days, in fact, it’s easier to leave them behind you completely. You justify the coincidence by saying you have some deep-seeded instinct that allows you to predict such things. But have you ever stopped to wonder if maybe you were the cause? If we wake with negative emotions, hatred, hurt…could it be possible that those thoughts shape our entire day just because our perception has changed. A million wonderful things could happen in the space of those 24 hours but because our mind is only open to registering the hurtful, that’s all we see.

Not convinced? Scientists now believe that our reality may in fact be a reflection of inner justifications, that our outside world is actually a product of our inside world, rather than the contrary. In fact, “the brain processes four hundred billion bits of information a second but we are only aware of two thousand of those” (Dr. Joe Dispenza). In our association with our ‘reality’ we just happened to misplace around three hundred and thirty billion bits of information per second that we did not process, either because we couldn’t comprehend or our emotion and biochemical make-up of any individual day affected our outlook.

If our mood is powerful enough to affect our perception, what do you think it is doing on a deeper level? If it has the ability to affect our sensations, what might it be doing internally, to our cells? “There is a part of the brain called the hypothalamus…it’s like a little factory and it is a place that assembles certain chemicals that match certain emotions that we experience” (Dr. Joe Dispenza). The chemicals are known as peptides, they form hormones that latch themselves to the cells of our bodies and affect our very chemical make-up. These cells become addicted to the hormones we feed them. If we are constantly feeding our body with positive, loving peptides then on a daily basis we crave that love. We begin to search for people, places or things that offer us those feelings so that the cells in our body can receive that ‘kick’. But it works the other way around too. Have you ever known a person who is so hard-done-by that they believe the whole world is against them and can’t snap out of such negative thought patterns? Not only do their cells crave people, places and circumstances that feed them that kick of self-worthlessness, but they begin to deprive their body of essential nutrients that are blocked by the angry, carcinogenic cells they have allowed their body to produce.

Challenge: Happy Soul challenges you to wake up in the morning and do something to show yourself (and the world around you) love. Open your eyes and prepare for a beautiful new day. Look in the mirror and see past the little things that make you feel worthless. You are not worthless. You are incredible, remarkable and completely unique. Look into your eyes and send yourself love. Choose foods that fill your body with love and health. Choose friends that encourage you and make you feel happy. Find little parts of your daily life that brings you joy. There are always choices in life, if you are willing to make them.

Happy Soul: What Do You Believe?

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Believe in your convictions. It’s something we are always told, from when we are young children. Believe in yourself; believe in your ability to make a difference. At what point do we lose that? Somewhere along the way we join a crowd, adapting principles that we are told will get us further. We start to go with the grain, because it’s easier than going against it. We start believing that we need to fight violently to preserve a sense of patriarchy that a few big-pocketed moguls work had to ingrain us with. As young as primary school, we are taught about borders, and the lines that separate us from them. It is beneficial to a few profit-seekers for an entire nation to be ready and willing to go to war at the drop of a hat. If we are running low on oil, we need soldiers who are willing to fight another country for it. Worst of all, we have been taught about judgement. We learn to judge ourselves, and the people around us, so that we lose our hope of standing up for what we believe in through fear of reticule.  By extension, we have learned to hate.

At Happy Heart Happy Soul, we believe in fulfilment. By living your life with integrity and a peaceful heart, you can achieve a sense of freedom that no war could ever grant. Health is not an image offered to us on the cover of a magazine. It starts in the soul, and radiates into every aspect of our lives. If you were to have 15 minutes alone with yourself, what would you learn? If you were to sit in a quiet room, listening to your own consciousness, would you feel peace or shame? So often, people that I have spoken to prefer a busy life, not wishing to have too much time alone with their own thoughts. I propose that this is because our thoughts have so often been handed to us by another. Not believing we are good enough comes from trying to be like somebody else. Not believing that we are smart enough, brave enough, strong enough…these things are materialistic images offered to us by those who want us to occupy our thoughts with a sense of mediocrity. Rebellion can be avoided by a group of people who are not willing to stand up for what they believe in. Take some time to get to know yourself again. Find love in the small imperfections that make you perfectly you. Can you imagine how damaging it would be to your body to fill it with feelings of inadequacy?

Above all, discover what you truly believe in. Break free from preconceived ideas and discover your own affirmations. Only then will you begin to see through the unnecessary that has become so much of our life.

I believe in peace trumping war every time. I believe that collectively we will achieve freedom, but separately we will achieve only hate. I believe in the simple things, in the sunrise and the freshly blooming daisies. I believe that they can be so much more beautiful than any object that money could possibly buy. I believe in the pursuit of preservation, in learning how to work with the earth instead of destroying it. Above all, I believe in making a peaceful stand against those who try to rule by telling us how we ought to live and what we ought to fight for.

What do you believe in?

Book Review: The China Study by T. Colin Campbell

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The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II

The China Study by T. Colin Campbell is a comprehensive representation of a lifetime of scientific research in nutrition. Campbell offers his readers a glimpse into his world by sharing the knowledge he has earned on the benefits of consuming plant based protein and the dangers of excess animal based protein dependence. The author has created an easy-to-read, enthralling work that inspires people to take their health into their own hands. Over the years it has become hugely popular encouraging both praise and criticism for his remarkable findings.

Campbell begins by telling us about his childhood and the fond memories he carries of being raised on a dairy farm. From a young age he was brought up on milk, beef, bacon and eggs, a norm for many families in the developed world. When he started his career in science, it was expected that he would carry on the ideas of nutrition that he earned from a young age. In the beginning his task was to encourage people to consume more animal based protein, believing as many scientists of the time did, that it was beneficial to our health and growth. What he learned along the way shattered any pre-conceived ideas, setting Campbell up for a lifetime of research against the grain as he took on the new passion of educating the public of the dangers of animal based protein consumption and it’s relation to many of the diseases that our world currently fears and faces.

Through years of research, the scientist concluded that while carcinogenic particles planted the seed of cancer in our bodies, it was our nutrition and food choices that gave the tumour its fuel to grow. What we chose to feed our own bodies had an effect on whether or not the cancerous dna would grow into a melanoma. Not only does Campbell conclude that animal based protein has positive, terrifying effects on the growth of cancer, but he also discovered its relation to other ailments like heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s to name a few.

I found this book both confronting and inspiring. The author presents his information in an easy-to-understand way, so that anyone can read and enjoy his work. I would recommend this book to anyone who wishes to change their life in a positive way. His remarkable findings have broken down walls and challenged the corruptions of multi-billion dollar corporations. He presents a way of life that encourages people to take health into their own hands, hence breaking dependency on prescription medication and junk food. A remarkable read.

Happy Heart: Mushroom and Bean Bolognaise with Wholemeal Pasta

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Bean and Mushroom Bolognaise with Wholemeal Pasta

Serves: 4 – 6

There are some comforts that are difficult to contemplate sacrificing. For me, a bowl of spaghetti bolognaise was once a friend and a warm blanket. Yet I was wearing the meal for many days to come, with the bacon, the mince, and the handfuls of cheese. Delicious! But the meal provided close to zero nutrition. One of the wonderful things about changing your health and your attitude about food is that you can still enjoy the things that you love, varied in a way that nurtures your body, rather than abusing it. This a great recipe to make with kids too. My daughter loved helping me make the fresh pasta dough, believing that we were playing with play-dough. The great thing about getting kids involved with cooking is that they can’t wait to eat their creations. So, if safe, include your kids in as many healthy cooking projects as possible.

Note: I have made the pasta from scratch in this recipe, which is something I recommend in as many elements of cooking as possible. Making fresh pasta, bread and hummus (to name a few) means that you know exactly what ingredients are going into the development process. You avoid preservatives and are able to shop for organic ingredients, hence avoiding nasty hidden GMO’s. Don’t be scared of making home-made pasta. It is actually very easy. But if you just don’t have the time, a packet of wholemeal pasta would suffice. Just be sure to look at the label when purchasing so that you know what is in the pasta and hence, what you’ll be putting into your body.

INGREDIENTS

For the pasta:
2 cups wholemeal flour
2/3 cup water
½ tsp salt

For the bolognaise:
1 tsp coconut oil
1 red onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic (or 1 tsp garlic flakes)
1 tbsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
420g tin four bean mix, drained
1 potato, sliced into small pieces
100g sweet potato, sliced into small pieces
100g pumpkin, sliced into small pieces
generous handful broccoli, diced
375g mushrooms, sliced
3 tbsp tomato paste
400g diced tomatoes
500ml vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste

METHOD

For the pasta:

  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl until it forms a dough. Sprinkle some extra wholemeal flour onto a workbench and knead the dough lightly, until it becomes a smooth ball. Keep adding extra flour until the consistency is no longer sticky.
  2. If you have a pasta making machine, proceed to rolling the dough through the different levels, flattening the dough to a couple of millimetres of thickness.
  3. Being a vegan pasta (no egg) and having no oil in the recipe, I found that when I tried to put the dough into the fettuccine cutter, it didn’t separate well. I tackled this by laying the flattened dough out on the table and simply cutting the sheets into fettuccine sized strips.
  4. If you do not have a pasta making machine, you can simply avoid the second step and roll the dough out by hand until you achieve the desired thickness. Make sure to dust your bench with flour first so that your dough doesn’t stick to the table!
  5. When you are ready to prepare the pasta, simply cook it for a few minutes in a pot of boiling water, drain and put aside for assembly.

For the bolognaise:

  1. Heat the coconut oil in a pan and sauté onion until soft. Add the garlic, turmeric and cumin and stir quickly and thoroughly.
  2. Add the mixed beans, potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, broccoli and mushrooms and mix well. Cook for a few minutes then add the tomato paste. Ensure that the paste is well implemented through the mix.
  3. Add tinned tomatoes and vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for about a half an hour, or until the potato is cooked through.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and serve alongside some of your fresh wholemeal pasta.
  5. You’re done! Smile and be proud, and most importantly, enjoy! Food is there to be enjoyed so savour every healthy bite. Bon appétit!

Happy Heart: Plant Based Nutrition

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I have to first begin by saying that this isn’t a new idea to me. I have been battling with the morality of eating meat for most of my adolescence and early adult life. I have gone back and forth from vegetarian crazes, only to come crashing down by the depletion of energy often earned from poorly planned meals. What I lacked, I now realise, was the proper understanding of nutrition. Once upon a time I would have scoffed at the thought. Of course I knew about nutrition! I knew that a salad sandwich was a healthier choice than McDonalds…it was mostly common sense, knowledge that we acquire over the years. But the truth is; there is a big difference between claiming the knowledge of a healthy life and implementing it. Yes, a salad sandwich is healthier than a McDonald’s burger but I knew nothing of combining grains and pulses for complete proteins, choosing whole grains over refined grains to provide healthier energy. I didn’t know anything about processed foods, the poison of GMO, the corruption of the billion-dollar meat industry, or the severity of greenhouse gas emissions from the animal agriculture industry. I knew that heart disease was the leading cause of death in my country, and yet the idea that I could potentially lead myself down that road was not a concern. Those kinds of things happened to other people.

As a result, I have been on close to every diet known to man. I have detoxed, living on lemon water and cold tea; I have tried low carbs; high carbs; low fat; no sugar…I’ve counted calories like a nun counting rosary beads. And what for? What do any of us do it for? Why do new diet books sell like hotcakes (cruel analogy)? I think it’s because we all feel like we are under this constant amount of pressure. It comes from all sides, this weight. It firmly attaches itself to our shoulders and demands that we carry it around wherever we go. Work gets us down, and that adds a little more to the weight. Family troubles, a little bit more. A magazine cover shows us an image of what women and men are ‘supposed’ to like, add some more. Sooner or later we start acknowledging that it is a part of us, rather than a parasite that we have allowed into our hearts. We start to look around, seeing all the things we’re not, all the things we should be, all the things we want to be, all the things we want to do, want to afford, and that pesky weight whispers to us every time we do. “You think you can be like that? Look at you, you aren’t good enough, you’ll never be good enough”. What a joke! We have allowed ourselves to be completely governed not only by politicians with sleazy grins but by a pressure invisible to anyone but the person carrying it. How great would it be to let that rope go, leave that weight behind you and start fresh? How incredible would it be to fill your life only with positive, soul-fulfilling thoughts?

I have come to the wonderful conclusion that health works from the inside out. If you are looking for something that will help you drop two dress sizes by the end of the week, keep looking. But if you are at the end of your tether, if you’re sick of trying to look like someone else, fit into someone else’s clothes…if you’re searching for a way to change your life for the long term, for the better – then welcome! As a wonderful novelist once said, “you do not have a soul, you are a soul, you have a body” (C.S. Lewis). By first nurturing the soul, you can learn to nurture the body. Only when you take care of both, will you be on the way to true health and happiness.

Now, let’s not beat around the bush. I love food. I adore food. I am constantly planning meals and designing recipes. We are so blessed in our society to have access to food whenever we want it, whenever we need it. However, most of us are malnourished. That’s right! We may be living in the land of obesity but our bodies are as malnourished as they would be if we were starving. This is because the choices we make affect our health on astronomical levels. We choose to eat food with little or no nutrition, and then go to the doctor for a prescription to the health problems that start to cripple us. To make up for the lack of nutrition, we buy vitamins and health supplements – anything to avoid eating the foods that might save our lives. As T. Colin Campbell says in his incredible book, The China Study: “everything in food works together to create health or disease. The more we think that a single chemical characterizes a whole food, the more we stray into idiocy”. Campbell goes on to share his incredible findings on the negative effects of animal based protein on our bodies. Suffice to say that there is a reason that the biggest cause of death in our society is heart disease. There is a reason why so many of us are burdened with diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s and poor nutrition. Most of us consume animal based protein on a daily basis, and Campbell believes that our poor health and our food choices are no co-incidence. In fact, what we choose to put in our bodies affects our health, happiness and vitality.  But the truth is, for most of us, the idea of giving up animal based products sounds like an absolute nightmare! You may have been eating it your entire life, or scoff at the thought of feeling full on ‘rabbit food’. This is a common attitude and one that I once shared. But in reality, plant based nutrition can be satisfying and incredibly delicious. All it takes is a little bit of planning and a willingness to nourish the body and the soul. You don’t have to give it up all at once, it would actually be unwise. But “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” and even if you try adding a few vegan or vegetarian recipes into your diet a week and slowly work your way towards a goal of long-term heath, your body will be thanking you for it.

Welcome to Happy Heart Happy Soul!

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We are bombarded daily with pressures to look a certain way, feel a certain way and spend a certain way. One only has to turn on the television, or walk out the door to be thrust into a world of want. Billboards of fit and healthy people clutching a bag of crisps or holding a can of fizzy drink make us wonder on a sub-conscious level, if we will in fact be that beautiful and popular with the aid of such products. But the truth is, we also live in a world of extreme health issues. On one end of the spectrum, there is obesity and all the ailments that come with it. On the other end, there is starvation, chilling images of infants literally starving to death. The guilt and the pressure that we are faced with every single time we look down at a plate of food is enough to make an entire society unwise in their choices. We all know that true health starts from the inside out, but why is it so hard to take that step? Why do we deliberately put our bodies through the torture of quick fixes? Why do we rape our souls with expectation and hatred? I heard once that a person will not change unless the pain of not changing becomes greater than the pain of changing, but I have to say that I disagree. Pain breeds pain. Change should be seen as a healthy, wonderful thing. Happiness can be sought but will never be found without acceptance and release. Happy Heart Happy Soul seeks to uphaul our perspectives of diet. This blog with be devoted to collecting and offering the latest knowledge in nutrition and happiness, seeking advice from gurus and scientists alike. I hope to change my own life, and my family’s lives by releasing my fear of food. And this is the product of my journey. Welcome!