Ways To Enlighten Yourself In The Season Of Giving

This Article Written For And Published in Consumer Health Digest. (11/16/17)

“Happiness…consists in giving, and in serving others.”
—Henry Drummond

With the holiday season upon us, it is hard not to think about giving. In fact, everywhere we turn, we see reminders and they seem to come earlier and earlier each year. I am sure you know what I’m talking about—the decorations, the Christmas music, Christmas trees and more.

They prompt us to get out and shop for our friends, family or a special loved one. There’s also the hustling and bustling of people everywhere we turn. Yet some people are so focused on their lists and gift purchases, they forget to see who is front of them, or who they just walked past.

It is sad, but often we forget some of the best gifts we can give to others is our smiles, our attention and our time. We are all guilty of this once in awhile, but it is important to remember a smile can go a long way, especially during the holiday season.

We are all busy, often preoccupied with our own lives. It is easy to forget the holiday season can be a challenging time for many, and a smile just might make someone’s day as well as your own.

In fact, Wayne Dyer in his book, The Power of Intention, tells us “research shows that a simple act of kindness directed toward another improves* the functioning of the immune system and stimulates the production of serotonin in both the recipient of the kindness and the person extending the kindness.

extending the kindness

Even more amazing is that persons observing the act of kindness have similar beneficial results. Imagine this! Kindness extended, received, or observed beneficially impacts the physical health and feelings of everyone involved!”1

That is pretty amazing if you think about it and who doesn’t want to improve* the function of their immune system and feel good at the same time?

So how can you make a difference this holiday season? There are many ways you can help others and show you care. All it takes is a conscious effort and willingness to step out of your own world for a short period of time.

Ways To Make A Difference This Holiday Season

1. Volunteering

There are plenty of places where you can volunteer, especially during the holiday season. Why not volunteer a few hours at a local soup kitchen, food shelf or facility that helps that helps those with disabilities or those less fortunate?

Many non-profit agencies are especially busy during the holiday season and could use some extra hands to help others.

2. Visit A Nursing Home

Visit A Nursing Home

Many nursing home residents are lonely and could use some cheer. We have to remember that not everyone has family to visit them during the holidays.

Why not find a local home near you and drop off a box of chocolates, bring Christmas cookies, play a game of cards or just spend some time with someone talking? You just might make someone’s day and brighten your own.

3. Donate To A Food Shelf

Most of us visit the grocery store at least once a week, or more. Why not plan a special trip to pick out some of your favorite non-perishable food items to give to a local food shelf.

Many food shelves are busier than normal during the holidays and are in need of
extra items. You can get the kids or other family members involved and make it a fun event for all.

4. Practice Random Acts Of Kindness

There are many ways you can show kindness to others. You can open a door for another person, offer to help carry someone’s groceries, return a grocery cart for someone or let someone go ahead of you in a long line.

You can also buy someone a cup of coffee, pay for someone’s lunch or someone’s bag of groceries. There are many possibilities. Why not do a little brain-storming and come up with a few to try yourself.

Practice Random Acts Of Kindness

5. Find A Needy Family In Your Area That Could Use A Little Help

There are many people in need around you, even though you may not always realize it. Perhaps there’s someone in your neighborhood who is struggling to make ends meet.

People on a low-income often have difficulties paying the bills, let alone enough to buy holiday presents. Why not contact a local church in your community to see if can help a needy family?

Many churches work with organizations that help the poor and may know specific families that could use some help. In addition, some churches have giving trees, where you can drop off gifts for children.

Gift Yourself!

The holiday season can be a stressful time, especially if you are planning for visitors, a holiday party and shopping for gifts and groceries. Why not take a little time and gift yourself with a little rest or relaxation in spite of all the busyness?

When you run yourself ragged, it is hard to give to back, whereas if you take time for a little self-care, you will be better prepared to keep going and serve others. You might be surprised how practicing a little self-care might be just what you need to make a difference in the season of giving and keep that smile on your face.


Ways To Practice Self-Care

    • Yoga

      Even if you are a person who practices yoga on a regular basis, it is easy to get off track when your lists are long and you have a bunch scheduled activities you don’t normally have on your calendar.

      While it may be easy to blow-off your regular yoga session, do yourself a favor and attend the class as usual. Yoga is calming and helps you stay in balance. If you’ve always wanted to try yoga, the holiday season may be just the time to do it.

      When you give yourself time to re-energize and relax, you can focus more, which is something we all need during the busy holiday season.

    • Manicure Or Pedicure

      Many people dress up for the holidays. Why not dress up your nails, as well? While you might think you are too busy to get a manicure or pedicure, the quiet time may help you focus more and actually help you accomplish an extra task on your to do list.

      A hand or foot massage can also help relieve the extra tension that may accompany the power shopping you’ve been out doing.


Christmas Dishes: Top 10 Christmas Dinner Menu You Must Try

  • Massage

    Your muscles naturally tense up when you are stressed and over-doing it. Why not take some time to have a massage and relax a bit before those guests arrive for your party or your family is in town.

    It might be the perfect way to escape for an hour and ease some tension. Massage is therapeutic and can help promote sleep. It can also help your immune system to function better, which can be especially beneficial during the hectic holiday season.

    Wishing you peace, smiles and Happy Holidays!


¹ Dyer, Wayne. The Power of Intention. Hayhouse Publishing, Inc. Copyright © 2010 by Wayne Dyer. pg 27.
Image Credits
Feature Image: Shutterstock.com
In-Post Image: Shutterstock.com

5 Ways To Boost Your Smoothie!

Smoothies have become a popular choice for breakfast these days and why not?Many people are concerned about their well-being and are looking for ways to eat healthier. Smoothies provide a quick, easy way to include a variety of healthy, whole food ingredients in your diet. They also can be fun to make, as there are many options and combinations you can try. While many people use protein powder and fruit, there other selections you can add to your smoothie mix to add more vitamins and boost your nutrient intake to make it better for you. In this blog, I wanted to share 5 ways to boost your smoothie. Let’s take a look…

Learn 5 Ways To Boost Your Smoothie:

Boost Your Smoothie

  1. Greens—Many people naturally add a banana or another type of fruit to their smoothie, but adding vegetables, especially greens, is a great way to boost your nutrient intake. Try adding a handful of spinach, or kale to your smoothie for some added vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin K, vitamin B6, iron and more. When I was dealing with iron deficiency anemia, smoothies became a staple in my diet. Many protein powders contain a healthy dose of iron and when you add greens and other vegetables, it boosts the iron content even more. In my book, Wholey Cow A Simple Guide To Eating And Living, I talk a little about the importance of eating vegetables at every meal and how adding more greens to my breakfast smoothie helped improve my energy level. As an added bonus, I became less prone to getting sick. Make sure you experiment with adding more greens to you diet to experience a boost in your nutrient intake and health too.
    spinach greens
  2. Super Foods—Why not start your day with an added boost of energy? Super foods are foods that are considered nutrient dense and extremely beneficial to the body. Try adding super foods such as coconut oil, maca powder, cacao nibs, or chia seeds to your morning smoothie to help improve your well-being.  Super foods can help make you feel super good and super energized and who doesn’t like an extra kick-start to get the day going? Try adding one or 2 to super foods to your smoothie to see how they make you feel. As you go along, you can try more or mix them up and see how your energy improves.
  3. Protein—Over the last several years protein powders have become extremely popular and many people like to add them to their smoothies. There are many options when it comes to protein powder including, whey, vegan and bone broth varieties.  Make sure you choose one that works best for you and look for a good, quality brand, (one without a lot of additives and sweeteners).  If you are not a protein powder fan, try adding peanut butter, another nut butter, nuts or seeds to your smoothie to get your morning dose of protein. Play around and see what you like best.
    peanut butter
  4. Healthy Fats—Avocados are another nutritious item you can add to your smoothie. Avocados contain healthy fat and fiber your body needs and craves. Try adding a half of avocado to your mix to not only get some good fat, but some extra vitamin C, E, potassium and more. You can also add cashew butter, peanut butter, almonds, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds.
  5. Spices—You can also add a variety of spices to your smoothie to enhance the nutrient content and flavor. Try adding cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne, nutmeg or ginger to your smoothie. Many spices contain antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that help promote good health. Some of them also contain warming properties, which are especially beneficial during the winter months.Try adding some fresh ginger to help fight a cold, the flu, or aid in digestion.

Thanks for reading and happy smoothie making!


P.S. If you are looking for more ways to improve your health and live a healthy life-style, you might want to check out my new book, Wholey Cow A Simple Guide To Eating And Living. You can grab a FREE chapter here to preview.

Recipe: Easy Sausage Spinach Vegetable Lasagna

In this blog, I wanted to share a recipe for some easy sausage spinach vegetable lasagna that I made over the weekend. This recipe is a favorite of my family and I make it quite a bit, especially in the fall and winter months, when your body craves more comfort foods. It combines a healthy dose of vegetables including spinach, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, onions and olives that not only are good for you, but provide a host of vitamins and nutrients your body needs. I also put in some options if you have a gluten sensitivity, or prefer a vegetarian version. Give it a try if you are looking for a new recipe to try for dinner.

Easy Sausage Spinach Vegetable Lasagna

spinach lasagna

  • 1 small box lasagna noodles (1/2 lb or approximately 9 noodles).
    You can use a gluten-free variety if you have issues with gluten.
  • 1 24 oz. jar spaghetti sauce
    I used a local brand called Anna Lisa Spicy Pasta Sauce I got at Whole Foods that had no sugar or preservatives added. I really like this brand, but you can use any variety you like.
  • 1 container cottage cheese
    You can also use ricotta cheese
  • 2-3 cups shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese
    I usually shred my own to avoid the added cellulose in cheese and other pre-packaged foods used to prevent caking. It is derived from wood pulp. Yes-wood pulp.
  • 1 pound Italian sausage
    You can also leave this out if you prefer to make a meatless version of lasagna
  • 1/2 bag of fresh spinach
    You can also you kale
  • 1 small red onion diced
  • 1 small green pepper chopped
  • 1 small package fresh mushrooms
  • 1 small can black olives
  • 1/2 jar green olives
  • 1-2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 medium size tomatoes diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cajun seasoning

Fill a large pot with boiling water and add the lasagna noodles. Turn down heat a bit and boil the noodles for 10 minutes and then strain off the water and set aside.

In a large skillet, brown the Italian sausage. Add the garlic, onion, green pepper and mushrooms. Stir the mixture until the vegetables are slightly browned. Add in the olives and the salt, pepper and cajun seasoning to taste and stir. Add the spaghetti sauce to the meat and vegetable mix and stir to combine all of the ingredients. Add the tomatoes to the top and stir, just so they become warn and then remove from the heat.

Grease a 13″ x 9″ cake pan with olive oil. Place 3 noodles on the bottom of the pan. Then spoon about 1/3 of the meat and vegetable sauce over the noodles. Grab a handful or so of the spinach and place it on top of the sauce. Next scoop about 1/3 of the cottage cheese on top of the spinach and then add a layer of the mozzarella or cheddar cheese.

lasagna layers

Repeat these steps 2 more times to create 3 layers total.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Place the prepared pan of lasagna in the oven and bake for 30-40, or until slightly crisp on the top. Remove from the oven and let set and cool for another 30-45 minutes. Serve warm with a fresh garden salad.



P.S. If you are looking for more good recipes to try and ways to live a healthy life-style, you might want to check out my new book, Wholey Cow A Simple Guide To Eating And Living. You can grab a FREE chapter here to preview.

Tomato Avocado And Cucumber Salad

In this blog, I wanted to share a recipe for some summertime Tomato Avocado And Cucumber Salad I made over the weekend.


I had some garden fresh vegetables on hand including tomatoes, onions and cucumbers, so I thought I would add an avocado to the mix and make a healthy summertime salad. The mix proved not only be tasty, but included some healthful vitamins, including vitamin C and K, as well as some other healthful nutrients. It also included some good fat from the avocados, which our body needs.

garden fresh vegetables
garden fresh vegetables

If you have some vegetables available from your garden, or have some on hand from your local farmers market, you might want to give this recipe a try.

Tomato Avocado And Cucumber Salad

1-2 medium avocados, diced
3 medium tomatoes, diced
2 medium cucumbers, peeled and diced
1 small red onion, diced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup sunflower seed oil
salt to taste
fresh black pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine the chopped vegetables.

tomato-avocado-cucumber-chopped vegetables
tomato-avocado-cucumber-chopped vegetables

Add the sunflower oil and salt & pepper to taste. Serve alone, or as a side salad with other items.


P.S. You can find other healthy recipes in my new book, Wholey Cow A Simple Guide To Eating And Living. Grab a FREE chapter here.

Red White And Blue Spiked Berries

With The Fourth of July just around the corner, I thought I would share a recipe for some Red White And Blue Spiked Berries I made the other weekend. Although this dessert is spiked with a little wine, it does include some healthy berries and slivered almonds, which contain protein, good fat and other healthful vitamins and antioxidants. Before I share the recipe however, I thought would share a little story.

Fourth of July
4th of July

I know I just wrote a blog on 5 Simple Ideas To Plan Meals, but I wanted to share an experience I recently had with meal planning. The other weekend, I had my sister and a friend up to the lake. As I was thinking about what we should have for our meals, I thought it might be fun to try some new recipes from a cookbook that my daughter gave me the other year. Although I like to try new recipes from time to time, when I cook I typically wing it and make meals with the food I have on hand, or change recipes up a bit to make them healthier. I thought this particular weekend however, it would be good to practice a little meal planning of my own. Anyway—we picked out 4 recipes from my cookbook, Williams-Sonoma Healthy in a Hurry, to make including the Wine Spiked Berries With Ricotta. We then made a grocery list of the things we needed to buy that I didn’t have on hand and made our way to the store for the rest of the ingredients.


The one day we made 3 recipes from the book and for breakfast the next morning we used the Turkey Arugula Frittata recipe, but we decided to change it up a bit and create a Healthy Breakfast Spinach Tomato Sausage Frittata version instead. It turned out to be delicious. Maybe you saw my blog on that one?

ALT Spinach Tomato & Sausage Frittata
Healthy Breakfast—Spinach Tomato & Sausage Frittata

Anyway—I have to say the weekend, the meal planning and the food, all turned out great. We all helped out with the food prep and had a good time doing it. Oh— and the Wine Spiked Berries, which we added strawberries and almonds to were delightful. Here is the recipe for my version.

Red White And Blue Spiked Berries

Spiked Berries
Spiked Berries
  • 1 large orange
  • 1-1/2 cups dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup plus sugar, plus 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 2 cups mixed strawberries, blueberries and blackberries (You can also use raspberries or another type of berry.)
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 Tbs. Grand Marnier liqueur
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/8 cup slivered almonds

Using a sharp paring knife, cut two 2- to 3-inch strips of zest from the orange. Using  a grater, remove 1 tsp. finely grated zest from another section of the orange. Reserve the orange for another use.

In a small saucepan, combine the wine, the 1/2 cup sugar and the orange zest strips and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the liquid is reduced to about one-third, (simmer about 10 to 15 minutes). Remove from the heat and let the syrup cool.

Put the berries in a bowl. Remove the zest strips from the syrup and pour over the berries.

In a food processor or mixer, combine the ricotta, Grand Marnier, vanilla, grated orange zest and the 2 Tbs. sugar and mix until smooth. Spoon the berries with some syrup into glasses or small bowls and layer with the ricotta mixture. Top with slivered almonds and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Enjoy and Happy 4th!



{“isAjaxComplete_B004SOPF1I”:”0″,”isAjaxInProgress_B004SOPF1I”:”0″} Karen Ansel (Author) › Visit Amazon’s Karen Ansel Page Find All the Books, Read about T. “Healthy in a Hurry (Williams-Sonoma): Simple, Wholesome Recipes for Every Meal of the Day Hardcover – April 3, 2012.” Healthy in a Hurry (Williams-Sonoma): Simple, Wholesome Recipes for Every Meal of the Day: Karen Ansel, Charity Ferreira: 9781616282134: Amazon.com: Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 June 2017.

Renew Your Mind And Life With Positive Thoughts…

It’s February, but spring is in the air here in Minnesota!

I have to say that the 60 some degree temperatures are refreshing after a few cold months. I know it will be awhile yet before spring and we see those beautiful flowers blooming, but it is nice to have something to look forward to. In the meantime, I hope you are able to get out and enjoy the warm weather. The sunshine and warmth naturally uplift the spirits and bring happiness about.

Speaking of happiness…

Do you know what the most successful and happy people think about all day long? They think about what they want! In fact, according to the article, Transform Your Life With Positive Thinking, International Speaker and author, Brian Tracy writes that “Healthy, happy people think about what they want, and how to get it, most of the time. When you think and talk about what you want and how to get it, you feel happier and are in greater control of your life. When you think about something that makes you happy, your brain actually releases endorphin’s, which give you a generalized feeling of well-being.”¹ Talk about renewal. That is amazing.

So what is that you want to accomplish in your day, this week, or this month? Start thinking about it and keep thinking about it. You will be well on your way to happiness if you keep those positive vibes flowing.

If one of the things you want to accomplish includes eating healthier, I can help.

I offer health coaching services to help you achieve your health goals. Feel free to contact me for more information.

Thanks for reading!


¹”Transform Your Life With The Power of Positive Thinking.” Brian Tracys Blog Transform Your Life With The Power of Positive Thinking Comments. N.p., 23 Feb. 2016. Web. 04 Apr. 2016.

Recipe: Chocolate Cream Caramel Bars

Here’s a good recipe I came across on Pinterest that I made for Thanksgiving. It combines the taste of  chocolate and caramel together wonderfully and is pretty tasty. It also has some healthy ingredients including coconut oil and requires no baking. Give it a try if you like.

Chocolate Cream Caramel Bars


1 cup almonds or other nuts (I used walnuts.)
1 cup dates
Pinch of salt (optional)

½ cup cashew butter (You can also use almond butter.)
½ cup coconut oil
1 cup dates

Chocolate cream:
1/3 cup coconut oil
2-3 tablespoons cacao powder
¼ cup preferred liquid sweetener (I used honey.)

To make the crust: process the nuts into a flour mix in your food processor, then add the dates and process until it all begins to stick together. Press into the bottom of a lined baking pan or bread pan and refrigerate. (I doubled the recipe and used a 9″ x 9″ glasss baking dish.)

To make both the caramel and mocha layers: just blend the ingredients in each list until smooth. Spread the caramel onto your crust, followed by the chocolate cream. Refrigerate until completely set; this will take a couple hours. (I actually put this in the freezer to speed up the process for each layer.)



Recipe: Chicken & Broccoli Bow Tie Pasta With Walnuts & Sage

Here’s a recipe I made a few days ago. It is fairly easy to make, contains some healthy vegetables and is quite tasty. Give it a try if you like pasta.

Chicken & Broccoli Bow Tie Pasta With Walnuts & Sage


2 chicken breasts (cut in pieces) (I used organic chicken)
1 small head broccoli (break into small pieces)
1 small purple onion (diced)
1-2 garlic cloves (crushed)
1 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 pound bow tie pasta (I used Whole Foods 365 organic brand)
5 Tbsp. butter
12 fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp. lemon juice (I used a fresh squeezed lemon)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper, or to taste
1 cup shredded Romano Cheese

  1. Generously coat a large skillet with olive oil. Add the chicken to the pan and brown over medium heat. Add the broccoli, onion, and garlic and saute  with the chicken until the broccoli is a little tender. Remove from heat and set aside. Spoon mixture in a bowl.
  2. Place the walnuts in a large, dry non-stick pan over medium heat. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until lightly toasted. Remove the walnuts and set aside. Spoon the walnuts in a small bowl.
  3. Cook the pasta in boiling water according to the package directions, about 10 minutes. When the pasta is almost done, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sage, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Cook a minute or 2 and then remove from heat.
  4. Drain the pasta; reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then add the pasta to the butter in skillet. Gradually add pasta water. Stir in the chicken mixture. Stir in the cheese and toss to combine. Garnish with the toasted nuts and serve.



Recipe: Spinach & Garbonzo Bean Salad

Here’s a good recipe to try. I tasted something similar at a deli and decided to try and replicate it. It is easy to make, healthy and quite tasty.

Spinach & Garbanzo Bean Salad


2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 bag spinach
1-2 cloves garlic
1 red pepper chopped
1 can garbanzo beans
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 small container sun dried tomatoes
1 tsp. pesto sauce
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 container of feta cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
4 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

In a skillet, add olive oil, spinach and garlic.  Saute on medium heat. Add the peppers and tomatoes & garbanzo beans. Stir & add seasonings. Remove from heat and pour mixture in a bowl to let cool. Add the feta and Parmesan cheese. Stir in the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Cool and serve alone, or with crackers, chips, or garlic bread.


Thanks for reading!


Are You Going Green?

Most people know that going green is good for the environment and can help make the world a better place, but did you know that going green is also good for your health? That’s right! Greens are rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E & K, which are good for our bodies.


They also provide a host of other benefits such as improved circulation, blood purification, improved liver and kidney functioning, a strengthened immune system, and more.  Greens however, are the most common missing food for most people. While many people these days may have a salad for lunch, or add one to their dinner, we should really be including greens into our diets at every meal we eat to get enough of their healthful and beneficial nutrients.


Although many people do eat greens and other vegetables, most people are definitely not including them at every meal. How about you? Where can you add in more greens? Maybe it is lunch time, or dinner, or perhaps an afternoon snack? How about breakfast? That one hits home and used to be problem for me, but over the last couple years I made some adjustments and now eat greens and vegetables pretty much every morning.

Adding in greens to your diet does not have to be complicated. It can be as easy as adding a little spinach, or kale to a smoothie, making some green juice, or adding some spinach, kale or chopped vegetables to your morning eggs, etc. You can also add greens into a stir fry,  chow mein, spaghetti and more. There are many ways to add more greens to our diets. All it takes is a little brainstorming, thinking ahead a little, and shopping, so you have what you need on hand.


Here are some Popular greens you can include in a variety of food dishes:

  1. Spinach
  2. Kale
  3. Collards
  4. Swiss Chard
  5. Cabbage
  6. Arugula
  7. Romaine lettuce
  8. Radicchio

When we choose whole foods that contain the nutrients our bodies were made to thrive upon, we naturally feel better, so what is holding you back from making healthier choices? Go ahead and go green! Your body will thank you.

Thanks for reading!