Winter dryness can be harmful for your skin and hair. My knuckles become dry and itchy, and my hair develops knots and split ends more easily…until I started using Argan oil.
Made from the kernel of the Argan tree, the Moroccan Argan oil is extracted from a cold-pressed process by hand. Renowned for its anti-inflammatory, anti-aging and sun-protective properties, Argan oil is rich in antioxidants such as Vitamin E that are great for reducing scars and wrinkles.
Once applied to hair and skin, it is virtually odorless so it is great for those who want a fragrance-free option. Argan oil is considered a dry oil, so it absorbs quickly without being greasy. It hydrates hair and skin protecting it from the split ends and cracking. I apply a few drops on my wet hair after shower to prevent split ends as a form of conditioner. I also use it on areas of my skin that are prone to dryness such as my knuckles and knees. I simply apply a few drops of oil to my body moisturizer before application.
Note: Argan oil is sensitive to light so it should be stored in a cool area in a dark glass bottle.
How do you use Argan oil? I would love to hear from everyone!
In my last post, I mentioned the ingredient wood ear in my vegetarian rice cake dish. For those unfamiliar with this ingredient, wood ear is a type of mushroom that are common in Chinese cuisine and medicine. While wood ear in itself is pretty tasteless, it absorbs the surrounding flavors. Its texture is crunchy, like seaweed. They are usually sold in a dry form at an Asian grocery store pre-packed and sealed.
cucumber and wood ear salad
A great source of fiber (it is composed of 50% fiber), wood ear is also rich in micronutrients like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Wood ear is also anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and has a cardioprotective effect. Animal studies have shown that wood ear can shrink tumor size in rats and reduce blood glucose level and insulin resistance. The cardioprotective effect comes from its blood-thinning ability and its ability to reduce bad cholesterol, LDL.
One healthy way I love to cook wood ear is to make a wood ear and cucumber salad. This tangy marinade makes a great side dish.
Ingredients: (2 servings)
1/4 cup of wood ears (dry form)
1 cup of cucumbers
2 tsp of light soy sauce
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbs of white vinegar or Chinese black vinegar
2 tbs of sugar
1 tsp of salt
1 tbs of sesame oil
Soak dry wood ear in water for 4 hours or overnight (Note that the wood ear expands by over 100%, so be sure to place in a large container)
Peel cucumber then cut them into thin circular slices and place on a plate
Remove the knot at the end of each wood ear and cut the rest into long shreds, then place them with cucumber
In a separate saucer, mix the garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and salt together to make the dressing.
Pour the dressing onto the cucumber and wood ear and gently toss the salad
Add sesame oil and toss. Let it marinade for an hour before serving. (This will assure that wood ear will absorb the flavor)
The word rice cake in Chinese, means yearly growth. Serving a rice cake dish is a must for most Chinese on their New Year. This recipe is a vegetarian version of the traditional recipe my grandma would prepare.
vegetarian rice cake
Ingredients: (Serves 4)
coconut oil, 1 tbsp
garlic, minced, 2 cloves
ginger, minced, 1 teaspoon
napa cabbage, sliced, 2 cups
sliced rice cake (1/2 package, or 3 cups)
shiitake mushrooms, sliced, ½ cup
baby bok choy (or regular bok choy), 1 cup
wood ear, sliced, ½ cup (optional)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoon black bean paste
crushed pepper, for taste
Soak the rice cake in water to soften (I usually soak it for at least an hour)
Heat the oil in a large wok or skillet over high heat. Add the minced garlic and ginger and cook for ~1 minute.
Add napa cabbage and cook until the cabbage is wilted. You should see the liquid from the cabbage come out.
Add rice cake, then cover the wok with lid until rice cake softens, about 2 minutes
Add soy sauce, black bean paste and sugar. Cook until everything is mixed well.
Add bok choy, wood ear, and shiitake mushrooms. Cook until the bok choys are wilted. Add pepper for taste
Whether you are going to a different state, or traveling abroad to a foreign country, part of the experience is enjoying good food. I’ve often discovered during my travels that the best food experiences are often at a place least expected.
Below are 4 Mantras I live by to get the most out of my food experience:
Eat locally sourced ingredients.
The first key to eating well in a foreign land is to find out what foods are local, what are in season, and from where they are sourced. This will guarantee the freshness of the ingredients, but help you figure out what foods to avoid. Ask your cab driver or people working at the place you are staying, what is grown in the region or do some research online (wiki is really helpful).
Pack snacks. When I am hungry, I get grumpy. I often lose self control and grab the first food item I can find, then regret my decisions afterwards. The best way to prevent that is to always have snacks on hand, so I can stay calm and sustain myself until I can find the foods I want to eat.
Go for local mom-and-pop eateries. We often have a very idealist view of where to find that perfect restaurant: it should be on top of a cliff, overlooking the water, or it should be inside an architecturally interesting building. The best meals, I’ve discovered, are often in the middle of a strip mall or in a very generic, ugly stucco building. (I assume the commonality for these places is combination of cheap rent, and easy access for locals). Because the owner is often also the chef, food at local mom-and-pop places are usually authentic home-made style, prepared with lots of love.
Don’t be afraid to order off-menu.
China restaurant in Holton, KS
Unless you are at a chain restaurant, most chefs would be happy to prepare off-the- menu items at your request. Recently, I was in a rural town in Kansas. The only restaurant around was a Chinese place called “CHINA”. As if the name itself wasn’t a dead give-away of the authenticity of the food, the place was full of local farmers eating their $6 lunch buffet consisting of egg rolls, watered down hot-and-sour soup, and few beef dishes drenched in heavy sauce. I knew immediately there was nothing on the menu that would be remotely appetizing for me. So I spoke to the server who was also the daughter of the owner, to find out if they had any fresh produce in stock. The daughter told me the only thing they had was green beans. So I asked them if they could just do a light sautee of green beans with garlic and pepper. The chef was more than happy to oblige and later came to see how I liked my dish. Often, the reason something is not on the menu is not due to lack of availability, but is because they assume the customers won’t be “interested” in ordering such a dish.
What kind of travel wisdom have you obtained during your travel? Feel free to share!
Flu season is in full bloom with everyone around you, or even worse, yourself, getting sick. I wanted to share some great natural remedies to prevent and fight against cold and flu. Natural remedies are not only effective chemically, but there is also a healing process that occurs through the comfort of holding a cup of hot ginger tea that can not be found in popping a pill. Our bodies defenses not only get drained physically but also emotionally, and the communion with earths remedies help to ground us, and soothe in our recovery to health.
Note: vast majorities of sore throats, sinus congestion and bronchitis are viral in nature, so antibiotics will NOT work.
Raw Honey is antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiviral. It also helps against cough in upper respiratory infections. Raw honey is also rich in antioxidants, essential enzymes, and has good bacteria, such as lactobacilli as seen in probiotics, which boost immune system and help your body against pathogens. Be sure to use raw honey as the conventional form undergoes pasteurization, which kills most of the phytonutrients in the honey.
Elderberry is a type of berry with known anti-viral effect.
Nature’s Way Elderberry Syrup
Take elderberry syrup at the first sign cold and flu. It helps to prevent an incoming influenza and shortens and improves cold/flu symptoms. While there are many brands of elderberry syrups available in the market, I personally like Sambucus by Nature’s Way, since it is the most studied. They also have elderberry lozenges, which are great for traveling.
Ginger is anti-inflammatory and helps to detox your body when you are fighting against a cold/flu. Simply add it into soups or seep it to make tea (add some raw honey to make the tea more drinkable).
Not only is raw garlic effective in fighting against virus and bacteria, but it used against parasites and fungus as well. Simply mince or chop the garlic and add into soup or other food at the end of cooking. Since the anti-inflammatory effect of garlic will be diminished when heated, try to incorporate more raw garlic by grinding it or adding it into sauces.
We made it through the holiday season, with its variety of emotions and associations that tend to arise, some more challenging than others. Everyone has a different experience and relationship to this time of year, notice how it changes over time. I’ve experienced this for myself, each year carrying with it a slightly different texture and quality than the previous. Whether you fled the country, gathered with friends and family or did something entirely different, take notice of the psycho-spiritual lessons you are dealing with and where you are in your personal process among this greater unfolding. Sometimes we have the experience of remaining stuck, however as the old proverbial tells us, “you can never step in the same water twice”.
If you find yourself dealing with family of origin issues, as can be especially triggered by this time of year, be kind and gentle with yourself. These family systems have a deeply embedded narrative that unravel over generations. Healing has its own time and process. I believe the healing is in the way we react. Having compassion and kindness for oneself can be a radical difference. TheNew Year with its energy of renewal, shifts, and beginnings, can be a shedding process, an unraveling of that which no longer serves us and an opening to deeper layers of truth.
Here are a few things that help me re-ground and re-connect to myself anytime of year, especially during the post-holiday season. As always, find what works for you.
Post-Holiday Hangover Self-care/Survival tips:
Back to Basics- I’ve been finding much value and growth in a daily routine, maybe I’m just getting older; nonetheless, there is a grounding quality that comes with taking care of our basic needs. Stocking the fridge with nutritious foods, sleeping 8 hours a night, moderate exercise, and drinking water are a few. When I’m feeling good, I’m able to handle what comes my way with more ease.
Pay Attention- Who’s running the show here? Take notice of the running dialogue in your head-the talk radio as it’s sometimes referred to. Meditation practices are really helpful for cultivating awareness and catching ourselves from identifying and running with our thoughts and beliefs. Paying attention creates space which can be a difference in our normal ways of operating.
Nurture your mind, body, soul- whether it be singing, dancing, yoga, writing a love letter, or sitting in a steaming bath of nourishing bath salts, take time to connect with yourself. It is not uncommon for people in my life to point out how I love to pamper myself (which is true), and while we may call it pampering, it’s an act of connecting with oneself and nurturing.
Finding and connecting to your tribe- Finding a community of like-minded souls with whom you share interests, life experiences, values, a shared philosophy. Connecting with people who just get you on a deep level is important to feeling grounded here on earth. These connections have brought me healing, meaning, and a sense of belonging, and returning to these connections can be incredibly validating.