Preserving Your Summer Herbs

Now that the cool morning air has me pulling the covers a little closer, I can no longer deny it— summer is waning.  And while the sun still feels hot at noon, plants now get fewer hours of sunshine. This month, leaves begin to turn and our gardens start their seasonal decline. The garden plants that I miss most when the growing season ends are herbs. I love stuffing handfuls of fresh parsley, basil and mint into my blender for morning smoothies. I depend on a library of fresh thyme, oregano, dill, rosemary, sage and chives to season my meals. I also adore their beauty benefits.

Many of us don’t consider the incredibly beautifying properties of fresh herbs. Basil protects cells from oxidative (pro-aging) damage, parsley is rich in the beauty mineral iron, while thyme is a powerful antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory (bye-bye blemishes), and sage helps regulate bile flow for healthy digestion. Mint and cilantro are powerful detoxifiers.

Every fall, I hatch plans to extend the life of my herb garden so that I can continue the flavorful, beauty-boosting harvest into the winter. After years of trial and error, here are my favorite ways to preserve your herbs:

Dry them.  This seems to work best with more potent herbs like oregano and thyme, two varieties that retain their flavor when dried. I like to cut their stems near the soil, wash them and leave them to dry on the counter for several days. When they’re fully dried, slide your fingers over the stems to remove the leaves and transfer them into a jar.

Freeze flat. Freezing the leaves of some herbs (basil, for example), retains the delicate flavor better than drying. Freeze clean, dry leaves flat on a baking sheet first, then transfer to a freezer bag or container. When you need basil for a winter recipe, pull it out, chop it and toss it into your meal.

Freeze cubes. Fill empty ice cube trays with fresh herbs (chopped or whole), cover with a little water and freeze them into cubes. When a soup, stew or baked dish calls for herbs, pop out the ones you need and add them to your creation. You can freeze measured amounts (eg: 1 tbsp chopped parsley), or base quantities on taste.

 Make pesto. Pesto is a delicious way to preserve the flavor of your basil, though basil isn’t the only herb that works well in this style. Try making pesto with fresh parsley, thyme or cilantro as well. Add olive oil and raw nuts (walnuts, cashews or pine nuts work well), season, and freeze to preserve the flavor.

Bring them indoors. This is the hardest, and least foolproof, method of extending your herb season. I’ve had healthy green herbs wither as soon as the indoor heat switches on in November, and turn a pitiful shade of yellow without the strong midday sun. For the best results, give your indoor herbs the sunniest spot in the house, and water them consistently (but don’t over-water, especially herbs like rosemary and sage that like drier, sandier soil).

What’s your favorite method of preserving herbs?

Summer Beauty Dessert: Toasted Coconut & Cardamom Peach Crumble

Last week I had the thrill of sharing an entire Eat Pretty-style menu at an exclusive Beauty Is Wellness Supper Club event at Whole Foods Market South Street in Philadelphia. This also happens to be my local Whole Foods, aka the spot I run to at all hours of the day and night when I need ingredients for a meal or recipe!

The menu included one of my favorite summer recipes from Eat Pretty, the Blueberry Lentil Salad (p 115), plus 3 other courses designed to support beauty in the late summer season.

I thought I'd share the recipe for the meal's finale, my Toasted Coconut & Cardamom Peach Crumble, because it's perfect to make RIGHT NOW. Yes, even after Labor Day we'll be enjoying fresh peaches (and wanting to savor them, since before long we'll be missing summer stone fruits), so make this gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free (can you say 'beauty-friendly'?) dessert tonight. And then have the leftovers for breakfast tomorrow:)

The most unique part of this crumble is the topping; it's a mix of toasted buckwheat (which contains a phytochemical that blocks wrinkle formation), gluten-free oats (a great source of silica for healthy hair), plus coconut flakes and coconut oil (excellent fats for skin and hormone health). You'll also find blood sugar-stabilizing cinnamon and detoxifying cardamom in this recipe, along with organic peaches that are loaded with skin-smoothing vitamin A and collagen-building, wrinkle-fighting vitamin C. Did I mention that there is no refined sugar and only a tiny amount of (relatively low glycemic) coconut sugar— about 1 tbsp in a serving? It's a true Eat Pretty-style summer dessert. Feel free to experiment by adding berries if you have them on hand!

Toasted Coconut and Cardamom Peach Crumble

Exotic cardamom spices up the flavor of summer peaches—and adds to the beautifying power of this dessert. I love to serve it warm, when the buckwheat and oat crumble is crisp, but leftovers can double as breakfast with the addition of almond milk.

Serves 6

Filling:

  • 8 medium organic peaches, pitted and quartered
  • 1/4 cup large/fancy grade unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • sea salt

Crumble:

  • 1 1/2 cup gluten free whole oats
  • 3/4 cup large/fancy grade unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 3/4 cup toasted buckwheat groats, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 to 2 tbsp unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, combine filling ingredients, tossing to coat peaches well.  Transfer to a 9- or 10-inch pie plate.

Using a food processor, pulse remaining crumble ingredients until just combined. Crumble topping over peaches and bake for about 50 minutes, until top turns golden brown.

A 5-Minute Healthy Hair Breakfast

In the beauty world, there’s a lot of buzz about hair-boosting supplements. Some experts swear by them, while others feel that they’re only as good as placebo pills. While the jury’s out on which supplements really make a measurable difference in our hair health, we do know that there are certain nutrients that your body needs to build healthy hair, and you can make it a point to include those in your diet with the goal of supporting gorgeous locks.

At Beauty Is Wellness, my approach is always to take in nutrients from whole foods first, before reaching for supplements. That doesn’t mean gulping down foods that you hate or slaving over a bunch of complicated recipes. In the case of healthy hair, it couldn’t be easier, or more appealing, to whip up my hair-nourishing Banana Breakfast Smoothie, below.

What are the secrets to a smoothie that boosts hair health? Since the foundation of our hair is keratin protein, this drink is packed with protein-rich hemp seeds that also provide iron, another mineral that supports strong locks. A healthy scalp is key for shiny, elastic hair, and hemp seeds are powerhouse beauty foods that offer healthy fats to nourish your scalp and skin as well. (For added scalp benefits, make time for regular cardio exercise, which brings circulation to your scalp and releases healthy scalp oils). Silica is an important nutrient for hair thickness, and the oats and banana in this smoothie are great sources. The final dash of cinnamon is rich in manganese, a nutrient that supports healthy hair and the production of hair pigment. All in all, it’s a complete hair booster at around 250 calories and a filling way to start the day. As for supplements, I’ll be following studies to see which ones come out on top!

 

Banana Breakfast Smoothie

This sustaining, perfect-for-the-a.m. smoothie nourishes healthy hair from the inside out.

Serves 1

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 peeled, frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup gluten free whole oats
  • 2 tbsp shelled hemp seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Combine ingredients in a high-powered blender and process until smooth.

Sun Protective Cherry Chocolate Smoothie

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The summer harvest gives us bushels of fresh foods that support sun defense in our bodies— tomatoes, watermelon, peppers and apricots are just a few of my favorites. I'd also add cherries to that list, since the phytochemical quercetin in cherries helps defend against UVB damage. For a change of pace from your green smoothie, I created this creamy, sweet— and sun protective— Cherry Chocolate Smoothie that's filled with skin-friendly ingredients (and not a bit of added sugar). Beyond their sun defensive qualities, cherries reduce inflammation in the body, calm redness in the skin and fight allergies. Raw cacao power (an even more beautifying alternative to regular cocoa powder) also protects skin from UV damage, reduces redness and boosts skin hydration. It's also rich in sulfur, a beauty mineral that supports strong hair, nails and skin. As a bonus, cacao raises levels of feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin and endorphins in the brain, making you happy! And the gluten free oats and hemp seeds also give your skin a boost, with plenty of plant-based protein, beauty minerals that support skin elasticity (in the oats), and skin-friendly fats (in the hemp seeds).

Cherries are ripe now, so grab a bag of these beauty fruits (look for organic varieties) and whip up this sweet, beautifying treat today...

Sun Protective Cherry Chocolate Smoothie

Serves 1

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup pitted and halved organic sweet cherries
  • 1/3 cup gluten free whole oats
  • 1 tbsp shelled help seeds
  • 1 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • few drops almond extract
  • small handful ice cubes

Combine all ingredients in a high powered blender until smooth. Serve immediately.

Is Coffee a Beauty Food?

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Browsing a popular beauty site, I did a double take at the headline ‘7 Surprising Beauty Benefits of Coffee.’ Coffee— a beauty food? I instantly clicked, wanting to get to the bottom of the claims. You see, coffee— caffeine specifically— is one of the ‘Beauty Betrayers’ named in my book Eat Pretty; it may have well-documented health benefits, but it’s not exactly the beverage that you should be gulping for beauty.

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Get Your Silkiest Skin Ever

Youthful skin is not only wrinkle-free, it’s smooth as silk. And while it might feel effortless to maintain soft cheeks in your younger years, at some point (earlier than we expect!) the natural shedding of our skin cells— an essential process for smooth, glowing skin— begins its decline. Warm weather signals an uptick in our cell turnover (the rate at which our skin cells naturally loosen and fall off, revealing new skin underneath), but that doesn't mean that your skin will always be smooth and glowing in the summer. The sunscreen we’re applying daily to prevent wrinkles can exacerbate textural issues when it mixes with sweat and makeup. The result is a dull, uneven, clogged complexion.

But we’re not stuck with rough. My prescription for your silkiest skin ever is a combo of beauty foods, products and practices to restore the smoothness of your cheeks. This regimen helps even your skin, head to toe, so other problem areas like your shoulders and décolleté will benefit as well.

Get younger-looking skin right now with these four steps:

1.     Boost the skin-smoothing vitamin A in your diet. This multitasking beauty nutrient is essential for balancing the sebum production in our skin, repairing and renewing our cells, and encouraging natural cell turnover. Excellent seasonal sources of vitamin A include greens (dandelion, collards, romaine, kale and spinach are great picks), carrots, cantaloupe, red peppers and peas. Be sure to add some healthy fats to your vitamin A-rich foods to help you absorb the fat-soluble nutrition.  

2.     Reduce inflammation. Lowering aging inflammation is always a good idea for your skin (since it contributes to wrinkles, redness and blemishes), but it’s especially important for maintaining a smooth, happy complexion. Reduce the quantity of inflammatory foods in your diet (I call them the Beauty Betrayers, and you can find a complete list in my book Eat Pretty), like refined sugar and processed foods.

3.     Practice more frequent (but gentle!) manual exfoliation. Using a soft muslin cloth or gentle washcloth to slough off dead cells and stubborn sunscreen can transform the texture of your skin. The trick is to slow down and never tug, rub or pull. Soak your cloth in warm water, wring it out, and use it to wipe your face, along your jawline and down your neck to your collarbone once a day or a few times a week after you cleanse.

4.     Find a scrub or enzyme exfoliant that pairs well with your skin. Some scrubs and alpha hydroxy acids can be harsh on skin, and leave them more susceptible to sunburns. If you have reactive skin, try honey or an enzyme exfoliant formulated for sensitive skin as a gently exfoliating mask. And if your skin can handle a little more intensity, go for a stronger enzyme exfoliant (pineapple, papaya, honey and berries are naturally exfoliating ingredients) or a scrub. Both skin types can also benefit from the use of skin care that contains retinols to increase cell turnover‑ask your dermatologist about those, or look for a gentle, over-the-counter version.

 

Image ©J E Theriot

Rethinking Rice: Beauty Super Food?

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With all of the exotic grains lining grocery store shelves, it’s hard to get excited by plain old rice. But if you haven’t looked at rice offerings lately, you’re missing out on both beauty nutrition and an easy, affordable staple for your beauty pantry. When it comes to rice, there’s a little something for every taste (there are over 100,000 varieties).  Take a look at what these rice varieties have to offer (hint: there are a few that surpass the rest when it comes to beauty benefits), and get cooking for beauty.

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Try This Easy Spring Detox Dinner

Spring is the season to shed winter pounds, rev up your energy, and glow from the inside out. Your body knows how to do all of these things naturally with spring detox, but it really needs your help. That doesn’t mean suffering through a week of juice-only meals; you can support beauty detox easily every time you eat by filling your plate with cleansing spring beauty foods and skipping the foods that stress your beauty.

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Eat Pretty & My Summer Snack Picks in InStyle!

Ever have one of those moments that really makes you stop and reflect? Maybe you run into an old friend or come across a photograph (er...digital photo?), and suddenly you're aware of the passage of time. It hits you that dozens and dozens of tiny changes have taken you from point A to point Z in your life— so far away from where you've been!

I'm feeling that right now.

The May 2014 issue of InStyle features my new book Eat Pretty in the What's Now! section (I think that means it's a must-have!). This would be exciting for anyone, but it's especially meaningful to me, since I spent years working at InStyle, both in the fashion closet and the beauty department. InStyle is where I nurtured my love of fashion and catapulted my career in beauty, among a team of writers, editors and design pros who are simply the best in the biz. To see my own book in its pages really makes my journey from staff writer to health coach and entrepreneur come full circle for me.

Thank you InStyle!

Check out the issue (I also contributed to the awesome 2014 Best Beauty Buys story!) and get a head start on summer snacking to stay slim, glowing and protected from the sun's rays in the season ahead. I personally can't wait to read the interview with Cameron Diaz (her new title The Body Book is on my wish list!).

Here's the story...

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