As I approach 50, I’m focused on taking care of myself now more than ever. From lowering stress levels and making sleeping a priority to leading a healthier, more active lifestyle, I aim to feel my best in every way. Incorporating good nutrition and regular exercise into my daily life are essential to a healthy lifestyle so I am embracing both these days and quite enjoying it, surprisingly!

Today I want to share a few healthy eating ideas I learned about by taking the Clean Eating Chef Series at Ramekins Culinary School. I also want to tell you about my new home gym!

Clean Eating Chef Series

The Clean Eating Chef Series included three evening classes, meeting once a week. The series was divided into breakfast, lunch and dinner categories.

The class was taught by Chef Hollie Greene and Mary Sheila Gonnella. Chef Hollie is founder of Joyfoodly. She is a cooking instructor, Wellness in the Schools consultant, and a Professional Expert for the California Healthy Kids Initiative. Chef Hollie’s website is chock full of healthy recipes and lots of food prep and cooking tips, many of which are shown in short videos.

Mary Sheila Gonnella of Occidental Nutrition is a Holistic Nutrition Consultant and Educator who focuses her practice on helping people suffering from problems relating to high blood sugar. She also incorporates Ayurveda into her nutrition consulting and is an expert in fermentation.

The class was designed as part demonstration and part hands-on instruction.

For the demonstration portions of the class, students could easily watch Chef Hollie and Mary Sheila at work on overhead tv screens.

We were each given a packet with all the information and recipes we would be learning about that evening, as well as a work station and apron for the hands-on portion of the series which included prepping, cooking on portable stove tops and eating! It was quite fun!

Healthy Meal Ideas

The three classes were packed full with information and recipes. We made a lot of food each night. For the breakfast class, we focused on dishes that would not raise blood sugar, satiate your appetite, give you energy, nutrition and sustenance and taste great!

The first dish we prepared was Breakfast Pho. Pho (pronounced ‘fuh’) is a Vietnamese broth-based soup. Mary Sheila and Chef Hollie showed us how to make our own Immunity Broth – either in a pressure cooker or a crock pot – using chicken bones, spices, seaweed, and vegetables. Once the broth was cooked in their pressure cookers and drained off, we each had a bowl. We chose what ingredients to add to our Breakfast Pho. Hard-boiled eggs, black rice and Russian kale were just a few of the foods we could add.

The Breakfast Pho was tasty and comforting and full of nutrients.

We also made Avocado Bowls. We started with a halved avocado then picked the foods we wanted to top it with from an array of choices that included walnuts, sauerkraut, roasted Delicata squash, Gomasio (sesame seeds and dried seaweed) and a seed mixture. I now have this dish for breakfast – usually just the avocado, sauerkraut and Gomasio – at least three mornings a week.

One of my favorite segments of the class was learning about Ayurvedic spices from Mary Sheila. She talked to us about our Dosha, the three Ayurvedic body types: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each body type is helped by certain spices. Mary Sheila created spice blends for each Dosha that we could select and take home. Based on the descriptions, I think I am Pitta. I took the Pitta blend home and sprinkle it on my meals from time to time.

Another fun hands-on dish we made is Nori Hand Rolls. The finished dish looked somewhat complicated to me, but they were incredibly easy to make!

We were given a bamboo rolling mat, nori (dried seaweed sheets), a plate of prepared veggies and tofu, some small bowls of aioli and pesto that we made in class earlier, and nutritional yeast. Chef Hollie showed us where to place the food items – as you can see from the photo – then how to roll up the Nori into hand-held rolls. I’ve already made these at home a couple of times. They are fun to make as appetizers for guests or even with your guests.

Chef Hollie also showed us how to properly cook chicken breasts on the stove She then turned the cooked chicken breasts into a delicious chicken salad she loaded into roasted Delicato squash halves. So tasty and satisfying. I was stuffed!

The series included how to make sauerkraut too. Mary Sheila teaches her clients and students about the digestive properties of  fermented foods. It’s fascinating!

I have not made my own sauerkraut at home yet, though it really is so simple. The most important part of preparing sauerkraut for fermentation is mashing it up. It needs to be almost liquified. This takes time, patience and muscle. Maybe I will incorporate it into a future workout!

There were so many other dishes we learned how to make in this series. I wish I could tell you about all of them!

If you’re in the Bay Area, consider taking one or more of the classes Chef Hollie and Mary Sheila will be offering this summer:

“Easy Weeknight Farmer’s Market Dishes” is a hands-on class on June 1st taught by Chef Hollie Greene

“Shopping + Cooking Smart for Back to School Meals” is also with Chef Hollie Greene and hands-on on August 3rd.

“Fermentation 101” is taught by Mary Shiela and is hands-on. This class is on July 6th.

Also visit each of their websites for more information (Joyfoodly and Occidental Nutrition) and the Ramekins class calendar for even more fun and delicious classes.

My New Home Gym

Late last year, my husband asked me almost every day what I wanted for Christmas. I kept telling him I have everything I need and not to worry. But gift-giving is something we all enjoy and I knew he wouldn’t agree to a gift-free holiday season.

I thought about it and one day I told him I wanted a treadmill. And that I wanted to put it in our formal dining room. I thought for sure he wouldn’t want to give up an entire room in our home just so I could have a treadmill, but he surprised me and said it was a great idea. I was elated!

I shopped around online, read reviews, checked measurements, cost-compared and finally found one I liked: the Sole F80 Treadmill. I could not be happier with my Christmas gift!

I have spent countless years trying to implement a consistent exercise routine that I actually enjoy, and now it’s finally happened. The treadmill arrived on December 18th. Since that day, I have used it between 3 and 6 times per week for no less than 30 minutes at a time. I made an agreement with myself when it arrived that I will never spend less than 1/2 hour on it, once I hop on, and I will use it at least three days per week. Right now I am using it three times per week for one hour. I walked/ran 12 miles last week!

I bought a shelf that straps into the treadmill dashboard. It holds an iPad and even my laptop so I can watch Netflix and read blogs.

Since we sacrificed an entire room in our house for the treadmill, I figured we may as well make it a full home gym! I bought a BOSU Pro Balance Trainer that I use for balancing, crunches and lunges. A foam roller for stretching my back and rolling on my IT band. And I brought the old recumbent bike and my free weights in from the garage.

I also bought a weight bench. I knew I needed one when I was doing bicep curls while sitting on our coffee table!

For the last couple of months, my hormonal issues have subsided (yay, no more hot flashes!), I sleep better, have more strength my lower body and I feel clear-headed on most days. I am also less cranky and my emotions are steadier.

Eating well and exercising really do affect your wellbeing and it doesn’t take years to feel and see the results. I am grateful to have these tools and valuable knowledge to help me continue to improve my health and overall wellbeing.

 

Disclosure: The Clean Eating Chef Series class at Ramekins was complimentary. All opinions expressed here are my own, as always. 

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Santa Barbara Wine Country: Part One

When most people think of California Wine Country they usually think Napa and Sonoma Valleys. But there are more wine regions in California than you may think. I had the pleasure of spending time in Santa Barbara Wine Country as part of a blogger/influencer trip coordinated by Emily Martin of The Jetsettting Fashionista and Emily Martin Communications & Events

Emily, along with Lacey Fussel and Lisa Gerbac of Muse Wine Marketinghosted several bloggers for a 48-hour adventure tasting great wine, fabulous food and taking in the sights in Santa Barbara Wine Country.  I was delighted to be included and couldn’t wait to visit a California Wine County I had yet to experience!

Thankfully, Bill was able to join me for this fun weekend. We left early the morning of the first day. We planned to arrive with enough time to have lunch and do a little sightseeing in the area before checking into our hotel and meeting up with our group.

SOLVANG

We decided to visit the charming town of Solvang. It had been many years since we spent time at this Danish-settled village with lots of windmills, pastry shops and flower gardens. We arrived late morning and walked around the village,  working up an appetite for lunch.

Since I knew we’d be in the car for several hours, as well as walking around exploring, I dressed comfortably, but of course I still wanted to look stylish. I wore jeans, light gray suede booties, a long-sleeved top by Covered Perfectly and a Stella Carakasi jacket from the Resort 2017 Collection.

We checked out three or four restaurant menus before deciding on Bacon & Brine. It had such an an appealing and interesting menu with lots of locally grown and sourced fare.

We ordered the Fried Brussels Sprouts and they were truly the best Brussels sprouts we have ever tasted. You would think with a name like Bacon & Brine they would be covered in delicious bacon but they weren’t! Instead the Brussels sprouts were fried in sesame oil and topped with ponzu sauce and sesame seeds. I’m going to try making them at home sometime.

MARRIOTT SANTA YNEZ VALLEY

After lunch we drove the short distance to our hotel, the Marriott Santa Ynez Valley. With a friendly and welcoming staff, large and contemporary lobby and bar area, and well-appointed guest rooms, it’s a lovely and convenient place to stay when visiting this wine region.

I thought this little alcove area in our room was so cute and ideal for getting a few things done on the laptop between outings.

We had a knock at the door soon after checking in, and were greeted with a lovely surprise! A tray of snacks, a bottle of wine and some water for our room. What a lovely treat!

Once we got settled and unpacked, we dressed for the evening. I wore my Karen Klein dress, suede booties with tights and a leather choker.  Soon it was time to meet the group and head to the darling town of Los Olivos.

EPIPHANY CELLARS 

Epiphany Cellars is located in downtown Los Olivos and is part of the Fess Parker family of wines. Epiphany focuses on Rhone varietals, most from the Santa Barbara Wine Country. We expereinced a sit-down wine tasting with Eli Parker, son of Fess Parker, founder of Epiphany Cellars and the label’s Brand Visionary.

The outside of the tasting room is quaint and charming while the inside is hip and chic with a retro Mad Men vibe.

I love the orange furniture against the light flooring and walls, as well as the metallic accents and lighting. It was such a fabulous setting!

Epiphany was founded originally as a creative outlet when Parker was winemaking. These days, as Brand Visionary, he’s left that role and given it to Blair Fox, who is the talented and well-known winemaker for both Epiphany and Fess Parker labels.

As an enthusiast of mostly white wines, I loved this 2014 Inspiration from Santa Barbara County. It’s a drinkable and lovely blend of 50% Viognier, 25% Marsanne, 13% Roussanne, 12% Grenache Blanc. Ideal for summer sipping on the patio!

Bubble Shack

Adjacent to Epiphany is the Bubble Shack. Siblings Ashley Parker Snider and Eli Parker created this special tasting room for their line of bubbles. Ashley and Eli collaborated to bring sparkling wines to their customers. Their Fesstivity Blanc de Blanc and Brut Rose from Sta. Rita AVA are their first releases.

While we weren’t able to experience the Bubble Shack during our visit, it’s certainly on my list of things to do next time!

BALLARD INN & RESTAURANT

After our visit to Epiphany Cellars concluded, it was time to eat! We went to The Ballard Inn’s restaurant, The Gathering Table. What a romantic and relaxing atmosphere! Candle lit tables, a roaring fire in the dining room’s fireplace, and only 12 tables in the entire restaurant. Chef Budi Kazali, named CCM’s Ultimate Chef, has been the owner of this beautiful property since 2004.

I sat with Emily and two other influencers at the end of our long table. We decided to order several plates to share – cheese fondue, fresh oysters on the half shell, a salad and hamachi. Delicious, fresh and flavorful!

Not wanting to miss out on any desserts, we ordered three to share. All three were delectable but I loved their bread pudding!

GAINEY VINEYARD

Photo Courtesy of Gainey Vineyards

The next morning, we had breakfast in the hotel before heading to Gainey Vineyard for a tour and tasting. It was such a gorgeous winter day with sunshine and blue skies.

I was excited to see that Gainey has such an expansive and picturesque ranch with vistas as far as the eye can see.

If you look closely, you can see the Santa Ynez Mountains in the background were capped with a bit of snow.

We would be taking a tour of the property – not by foot but by jeep. What an adventure! Cloud Climbers Jeep and Wine Tours provided the jeeps and the skilled drivers. I love the yellow color of the jeeps – my favorite!

Our guide and driver was Michelle. She was so friendly! Doesn’t this seem like such a fun job to have?

We stopped by a vineyard to learn more about Gainey Vineyard.  It’s a family owned winery that was established in 1984. Gainey makes small quantities of high-quality wine such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling,  and Cabernet Sauvignon Wines.

The Gainey family owns three properties in two appellations – Santa Ynez and Sta. Rita Hills – and is able to produce enough fruit to produce 18,000 cases of estate wines each year, meaning they don’t buy grapes from other growers.

Driving up and down hills, through some mud and over rocks, we explored a good portion of the ranch. When we came upon a rustic barn, we stopped for a break and some photo opportunities. The Gainey’s use this barn for events, like weddings. Wouldn’t this be such a great place to get married?

It was a lovely and peaceful place to walk around. The day was sunny but a little cool – it was wintertime after all –  so I wore a sweater poncho, a long-sleeved tee, jeans tucked into tall cognac boots and my wool Australian Outback hat. For jewelry, I wore a beaded necklace with a tassel necklace from KayandStar (similar).

I ventured into the barn with Amy Lieberfarb who is a friend and fellow blogger, also from a Sonoma Valley. Amy has the blog Sip on this Juice and does the wildly popular weekly wine discussion on Twitter called Sonoma Chat (#sonomachat).

Photo Courtesy of Gainey Vineyard

Once the jeep tour was complete, we went back to the winery and visited the barrel room.

 

Once there, we had the chance to sample a few more Gainey Vineyard wines right out of the barrel!

Stay tuned for Part Two of the Santa Barbara Wine Country adventure!

Have you ever visited Santa Barbara Wine Country?

Disclosure: My hotel room, meals (except for Bacon & Brine) and wine tasting experiences were part of the blogger/influencer trip and I was not charged. All opinions expressed here are my own, as always. 

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