The Easiest, Prettiest Holiday Photos You’ve Ever Done

Minted Holiday Photo | The Organic Beauty Blog

Growing up, we were never a holiday photo card family.  With the exception of school photos, we never had any professional photos taken — as a Russian-Jewish family, it just wasn’t something that was done.  Secretly, I always envied our American family friends around the holidays — those adorable family photo cards that we received, with the little updates on the goings-on of the year just seemed like such a special way to celebrate family milestones and share holiday cheer with friends.

Now that we have our own little family, I finally have the opportunity to partake in this distinctly American holiday tradition, and every year since our little one was born, we’ve created our holiday cards with Minted. I love their beautiful designs, ranging from minimal and modern to traditional and glitzy; I love how easy the cards are to customize; and I especially love the awesome perks, like free address labeling and maintaining a digital address book.

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Organic Beauty 2013 Holiday Gift Guide!

Organic-Beauty-Gift-GuideBy: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Ahhh, the season of gifting… For us, the gift-giving craziness lasts from Thanksgiving (my birthday), through Hanukkah, the hub’s birthday, to Christmas (which we now celebrate with smaller gifts in our post-nuptial tradition), to New Year’s (which is the big, gift-giving holiday in my Russian family). That is a solid month and change of gifts, so I am always on the look out for special somethings to gift to my friends and family.

Being, as I am, a lover of all things healthy, natural, sustainable, and, of course, stylin’, I try to give gifts that are in line with my ethos. Gifting something that promotes health, wellness, happiness, and relaxation is the ultimate gift and show of love to the people in your life. I’ve collected my favorite gifts to share with you, and am sure that you’ll find something for everyone on your list!

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Have a Healthier Thanksgiving!

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHCHave a Healthier Thanksgiving! | The Organic Beauty Blog

If your email subscription habits are anything like mine, by now your inbox is flooded with a thousand emails about how to “Have a Skinnier Thanksgiving!” or “How To Avoid Packing on The Pounds This Thanksgiving!” And if you’re anything like me, you’ve pretty much had it up to here with all that.

Lets face it, Thanksgiving is about two things: food & family. And instilling fear in ourselves about food during this festive, beautiful, and fun holiday is just the kind of disordered thinking that turns food into the enemy and surrounds it with guilt and anxiety. I say, stop thinking about Thanksgiving (or any holiday for that matter) through the lens of weight. Instead, think of it (and all your eating for that matter) through the lens of health!

Thanksgiving is a delicious holiday that puts the focus on seasonal eating, which is a super healthy thing! Before Americana got it’s hands on it with the marshmallows, and the everything-must-be-covered-with-gobs-of-sugar mentality, Thanksgiving was actually a really healthy holiday, and you can connect with that tradition this year, and every year to come, without sacrificing the enjoyment that comes from sharing a big, delicious meal with your family!

Below are some tips on how to embrace the healthy, delicious traditional Thanksgiving dishes without the guilt, bloat, and arterial damage inflicted on yourself and your family.

Go Fancy With Your Turkey!
There is nothing inherently unhealthy about having some turkey on Thanksgiving. In fact, Thanksgiving turkey is one of the only times I eat animal protein throughout the year. But there’s turkey, and then there’s turkey. Your average supermarket turkey is loaded with antibiotics, hormones, and horrible energetic juju from the horrific conditions in which it was farmed. Trust me, that is not something you want in your body, and it’s most certainly not something you want to feed your family! Plus, once you’ve had a delicious, plump, juicy heritage, free-range, organic turkey, you’ll never want to go back! So consider it an investment in your health and the health of your loved ones, and get yourself fancy turkey! Whole Foods, your local health food store or gourmet market, or the farmer’s market are all great places to find a high quality, healthier turkey. Depending on where you live, you may need to order your turkey in advance cuz those puppies are in high demand.

In terms of turkey preparation, I’m a big fan of brining, which is the easiest way to get a ridiculously moist, tender turkey without needing to saturate the whole thing in butter. Click here for super easy directions on how to brine! When you’re preparing your turkey, sticking some pats of herbed butter under the skin is fine, but use olive oil to rub on the outside of the turkey before roasting. This way, you’re getting a little less fat without sacrificing flavor.

Let The Yams Speak for Themselves!
Yams and sweet potatoes are naturally sweet and delicious, so there is absolutely no need to ruin them with added sugar or heaven forbid, marshmallows. If you want to sweeten them up a bit, use some maple syrup or sparingly, and season them with cinnamon and nutmeg, which bring out there natural sweetness. And you don’t need tons of cream and butter to make them delicious! All that fat and dairy turns a healthy, delicious food into a bloating, fatty, mess. If you want to add a little creaminess to your yams, add some coconut milk or cream or Earth Balance! Check out my delicious mashed yam recipe, and other great, healthy Thanksgiving recipes in A Healthier Take On Thanksgiving Recipes.

Skip the Bacon!
Turkey is the main event at Thanksgiving, so there’s no reason to add more fatty, artery clogging meat to your Brussels sprouts, green beans, or other sides. Again, let these delicious veggies speak for themselves, instead of masking their awesome flavor with more meat. Eating tons of healthy vegetable sides is the way to offset the effects of the turkey and desserts on your body. So embrace them and let them do their jobs! If you want to add a little smokiness to your veggies, roasted walnuts, pecans, and chestnuts are great. You can also add a dash of liquid smoke, which is a super fun cooking condiment! The main idea with healthy, delicious Thanksgiving dinners is to showcase yummy seasonal produce.. So less is more! Less butter, cream and sugar equals more focus on the delicious healthy food! And if you can’t live without, opt for olive oil or Earth Balance, coconut or nut milk, and agave or real maple syrup as healthier substitutes. Check out my delicious maple roasted brussels sprouts recipe, and other great, healthy Thanksgiving recipes in A Healthier Take On Thanksgiving Recipes.

DON’T Save Room for Dessert!
The worst thing you can do for your body is to finish off a big, fattier-than-usual meal with a ton of sugary, fatty desserts. That just equals more artery clogging, blood sugar spiking badness (not to mention more cellulite and belly fat), which I’m sure won’t be making your Thanksgiving gratitude list.

So forget that terrible saying “save room for dessert!” Instead, fill up on the good stuff during dinner, the seasonal sides, salad, and a small amount of turkey.

If you’re in charge of dessert, make healthier versions of your family favorites by using agave or stevia instead of sugar, and lighter flours like rice or spelt flour instead of processed white flour (major bad guy!!). Your family won’t know the difference, and you can rest easy knowing that you’re not increasing everyone’s risk of Type II Diabetes down the road. You think I’m kidding? I’m not. Exposing your kids to consistently elevated blood sugar levels, even just from Halloween through Christmas, increases their insulin resistance and risk of obesity, diabetes, and hormonal imbalance down the road. How’s that for motivation?

So before you finish off your big Thanksgiving dinner with two slices of pecan pie, think about what you’re doing to your poor body, and what you’re exposing your loved ones to. Go ahead and sample a bit of those Thanksgiving pies, but if you must have more than a few bites of dessert, focus on fruit!

Check out some healthier Thanksgiving dessert recipes:
Dairy-free Pumpkin Pie
Healthier Pecan Pie
Healthier Apple Pie

Also: Check out my article, 5 Ways to Sneak in Exercise over Thanksgiving!

Have a happy, happy Thanksgiving full of gratitude, joy, and healthy, delicious food!

5 Ways to Sneak in Exercise over Thanksgiving!

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC 
5 Ways to Sneak in Exercise over Thanksgiving! | The Organic Beauty Blog
If you’re anything like me, going home for the holidays can mean a complete derailing of all health-related activities.. Wouldn’t it be great to find ways to sneak in some exercise over Thanksgiving with the whole family by doing everyday activities that burn off those holiday calories, get your heart pumping, and get everyone moving!

1. Rake the leaves!

This fall chore is actually a great workout! Get the family outside and start raking… You’ll work up a sweat, get some cardio, and have a great time!  Try to lunge forward with every pull of the rake, and make sure to alternate your dominant hand.  This will work your arms, abs, and legs and will burn about 250 calories in an hour!

2. Shovel some snow!

If you’re in the midwest, chances are there is more snow to deal with than leaves…  Shoveling snow is an amazing resistance workout, and can turn into a really fun family activity!  The motions of pushing, pulling and lifting the shovel work the back, abs, arms, and legs!

3. Clean house!

Transforming into Cinderella before and after the big Thanksgiving get together can feel like a tedious chore, but if you think about it in terms of exercise, mopping, sweeping, dusting, and vacuuming can burn some major calories!  Throw in some lunges while you mop the floor, calf raises while you clean the counter, and squats as you move furniture or pick things up and you’re burning over 200 calories an hour.

4. Play some football!

This venerable American turkey day tradition is probably one of the best things you can do for your body before or after the big meal.  Get outside, run around, break a sweat and offset those Thanksgiving calories.  Not a football family?  A game of tag, capture the flag, or even just catch will do the trick!

5. Go for a walk (and bring your pooch)!

After dinner, grab the whole fam and the dog and go for a walk.  Walking after a big meal is a great way to stimulate digestion and get things moving.  If you keep a brisk, steady pace, you’ll burn up to 250 calories in an hour!  And the fresh air is a welcome break after having been inside for a few hours.  Mom (or whoever cooked) will appreciate the change of scenery!

A Healthier Take on Thanksgiving Recipes!

Healthier Take On Thanksgiving Recipes -- The Organic Beauty Blog

Thanksgiving is one of my all-time favorite holidays.. and not just because it falls on my birthday every few years!  Getting together with family, laughing, drinking, and eating amazing food make for a pretty perfect affair, and I am always eager to find ways to make it a healthier one.

Luckily, a lot of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes are already pretty healthy at their core–the gratuitous addition of marshmallows, cream, and tons of butter and sugar to pretty much everything is definitely the Standard American Diet interpretation of classically delicious and nourishing foods.  Get back to the basics and make Thanksgiving a healthy and yummy celebration of the autumn harvest, as it was always meant to be!  Below, find some healthier versions of traditional Thanksgiving dishes, your family will love them, and everyone will feel much less comatose afterwards.But first, try the following tips this year, and get through it all without gaining a dress size:

  • Make sure to have a healthy breakfast the morning of Thanksgiving (if you do the whole dinner at 3pm thing), and/or a healthy lunch (if you sit down to dinner later).  I know this is contrary to the mentality of fasting before a huge meal, but making sure you’ve eaten well throughout the day will ensure that you’ll eat less!
  • If you’re cooking, use some healthy substitutions for common ingredients (agave or stevia instead of sugar; Earth Balance instead of butter; almond milk or coconut milk for milk or cream;  whole grain bread for white bread).  If you’re not the one cooking, take the opportunity to chat with mom (or whoever) about some healthier options, or just go ahead and bring the ingredients over and offer to help!
  • If salads aren’t a traditional part of your family’s T-giving dinner, make it one!  Start the meal with a healthy salad course before diving into the insanity.
  • Try a little bit of everything.  Don’t load your plate with heaps of the three fattiest things on the table.  Allow yourself a small portion of all the dishes, which will give you a more balanced meal, as well as encouraging you to eat less overall without feeling deprived.
  • I’ll be the first to admit that playing football is sooo not my thing, but the sentiment is spot on.  If you’re having an early dinner, get the family outside afterwards for some physical activity.  It’ll get things moving, and help you to digest your big meal!  If you’re eating later, have everyone go for an evening walk together after dinner.  It could be the start of a new family tradition!
  • Lastly, slow down!!  The holiday meal is a celebration of family and loved ones, not just food.  So take your time to eat slowwwwwly, chew your food and focus on the company!

Mashed Yams with Coconut Milk

A Healthier Take on Thanksgiving Recipes!This dairy-free take on traditional mashed yams tastes exactly the same as the one you’re used to, but with substantially less fat and calories! 

Ingredients:

5-6 sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut in halves or thirds
1 14 oz can organic coconut milk
2 tbsp olive oil or Earth Balance
1 tbsp maple syrup or organic raw agave
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
a pinch of sea salt

In a large pot, cover the yams with water and bring to a boil.  Allow to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until soft.  Remove from water, mash or put through potato ricer.  Pour in coconut milk until the desired consistency is reached (this may not be the whole can), and stir in remaining ingredients.

Mushroom and Walnut Stuffing

This stuffing recipe uses vegetable broth and spelt bread instead of the traditional chicken broth and refined, white bread, which makes it heartier, and a whole lot healthier!  

Ingredients:A Healthier Take on Thanksgiving Recipes!

10 oz. cremini or button mushrooms, diced
2 large, yellow onions, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 loaf of whole grain spelt bread (you can also use a good rye or other whole grain bread), left out overnight or toasted in the oven, cubed
1 to 1 1/2 cups low sodium organic vegetable broth
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
2 tbsp fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add onions and celery, and season with a small pinch of salt and some pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, about 5-7 minutes.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Add a bit more olive oil to the pan, and sauté the mushrooms and sage, seasoning with a small pinch of salt and some pepper.  Cook about 5 minutes, or until mushrooms are browned.  Add wine and cook, stirring and scraping all bits off the bottom of the pan, until the wine is almost entirely evaporated.  Transfer to the bowl with vegetables, mix, and add bread, walnuts, and enough bread to moisten (stuffing should not be soggy).  Taste and add a bit more salt and pepper, if necessary.  Add eggs to the mixture and toss well to combine.

Pour stuffing into a lightly oiled, 2-quart baking dish.  If using stuffing for turkey, reserve four cups.  Bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until top is golden brown.  Stuffing can also be made ahead of time, covered, and refrigerated before baking day-of.


{adapted from Martha Stewart Living}

Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts

This classic roasted brussels sprout dish is rich and delicious without being full of the butter and bacon and aren’t doing anyone any favors.  The smoky, roasted hazelnuts add a meaty, bacon-y flavor without the artery-clogging fat!

A Healthier Take on Thanksgiving Recipes! Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs. brussels sprouts, halved, with stems cut off, and any discolored outer leaves removed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp maple syrup or organic raw agave
3/4 tsp sea salt
ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
2 dashes liquid smoke (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, toss hazelnuts with a splash of olive oil, the smoked paprika, and a tiny pinch of salt.  Spread onto a lined baking sheet and roast for about 10-12 minutes.  In the meantime, toss brussels sprouts, remaining olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl.  For an added smoky flavor (for those of you who would miss the bacon), add a couple dashes of liquid smoke.  Once all the brussels sprouts are coated, pour into a 9×13 baking dish.  Roast in oven for 15 minutes (at this point, your hazelnuts are probably done!), and stir with a wooden spoon, and continue roasting for another 15 minutes.  Stir in maple syrup, and roast for a final 15 minutes, or until the sprouts are easily speared on a fork.  Remove from the oven, and toss with the toasted hazelnuts.  

Zesty Cranberry Sauce

Making homemade sauce out of fresh cranberries does wonders to improve the flavor and benefits of this traditional turkey condiment.  The canned stuff is cooked, processed, full of sugar, and has about zero health benefits, where as this super easy raw recipe is loaded with vitamin c, antioxidants, and is still sweet as can be!

Ingredients

12 oz bag fresh, organic cranberries
1 cup juice from about 3-4 organic oranges
1 tsp zest from one of the juiced organic oranges
1 medium organic apple, peeled and grated with a box grater
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup organic raw agave

Pulse cranberries, grated apple and orange juice in a food processor.  Add remaining ingredients and pulse until desired consistency is reached.  For a thicker, chunkier sauce, use less orange juice.  For a smoother consistency, use full cup of juice.  Enjoy!

Vegan Mushroom Gravy

This recipe is great for vegetarians forgoing the turkey altogether, or meat-eaters who don’t want to add meat on top of more meat… I mean come on, is that really necessary?  This gravy tastes great with the turkey or without and is super healthy!

Ingredients

3/4 cup dried mushrooms, chopped (I like to use shiitakes)
1 cup vegetable broth
1 small onion, diced
2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 tbsp Earth Balance
2 tbsp tamari
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp thyme
Freshly ground pepper to taste.

Hydrate dried mushrooms with about 1/2 cup boiling water.  Cover and let sit for about 10 minutes.  Melt Earth Balance in a small skillet over medium heat, add onion, and saute lightly.  Add the mushrooms with their soaking liquid, tamari and the vegetable broth.  Add the flour, little-by-little, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.  Bring to a simmer or low boil, then reduce heat.  Add herbs and pepper, and continue to cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring constantly, until gravy thickens.

Spicy Pumpkin Pie

A Healthier Take on Thanksgiving Recipes!This vegan take on the traditional pumpkin pie uses REAL pumpkins (commence gasping!) and not the canned, processed, sugar filled variety.  It also features silken tofu, which makes it much healthier and lower in fat, while still being rich and delicious.

Ingredients

1 medium sugar pumpkin (enough to make 2 cups mashed)
1 package organic silken tofu
3 tbsp organic cornstarch
3/4 cup raw organic agave nectar or maple syrup
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
9 inch graham cracker pie crust (I like the one by Arrowhead Mills)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cut pumpkin in half and remove stem, seeds and pulp.  (Save the seeds for roasting!)  Place two halves face down in a shallow baking dish and cover with foil  Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until pumpkin flesh is tender.  Let cool, scoop out flesh and puree in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Turn oven up to 425 degrees.  In food processor add agave and tofu to pureed pumpkin.   Add spices, cornstarch, and salt, and process thoroughly until smooth.  Pour mixture into pie crust and bake for 15 minutes.  Lower heat to 350 degrees, and bake for another 60 minutes.  Cool and serve!

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