10 Tips to a Healthy and Happy Winter

asulia blog 10 Tips to a Healthy and Happy Winter Photo: © Suzanne Brendle 2014

Photo: © Suzanne Brendle 2014

Somewhere between the turning back our clocks in November and the tail end of January, the combination of cold weather and less sunshine can lead us off the healthy track. Below are ten practical steps you can take now to make the best of the winter season:

  • Wash your hands… properly! It might seem like common sense, but don’t make the mistake of a quick soap and rinse and call it a day (or forget the soap entirely!). Lather up your soap for 20 seconds before rinsing well and don’t forget the underside of your fingernails–germs love hiding there. Frequent hand washing is one of the easiest and most effective ways to avoid getting sick and spreading illness.
  • Have that Game Night! The hibernation thing works great for bears, but last we checked, people are not bears and staying hidden away at home all winter is not the way to go. Socializing is a powerful mood booster, so whether it’s a coffee date with a close friend or taking a group fitness class, engaging with others is a great way to destress and keep away the holiday blues. Shhh… we secretly love playing apples to apples.
  • Winterize your body, mentally and physically. For a season that comes around every year, we still find ourselves surprised by the onset of stuffy noses and sour moods. But there are ways to get a step ahead of Old Man Winter and have ourselves a happy and healthy season, from staying hydrated to being mindful about our mental health.
  • Stay on top of your fitness regimen. It’s all too easy to use winter weather as an excuse to stay indoors and curl up with Netflix, but staying active and consistent with your workouts is critical to boosting your immune system and combating the aftermath of holiday feasting. Whether you bundle up for a walk around the neighborhood or roll up your sleeves to give the house a good dusting, make sure to get on your feet.
  • Catch those Z’s. It’s true that not everyone needs a full eight hours of sleep to function healthily, but all the precautions you take against the cold or flu will be useless if your body is too tired to even use them. Try some turmeric milk at night if you have trouble sleeping.
  • Lighten up. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects millions of Americans and it’s important to seek treatment and not just brush it off as a case of the “winter blues”. If, however, you find yourself bogged down under a mild case of the blahs, getting more light in your life is an easy and effective solution.
  • Overcome holiday stress. The holiday season is a time for joyful family gatherings, but it’s important to acknowledge that this isn’t a universal truth. Family relationships are complicated and for those dreading the yearly get-together, there are concrete methods to identify what troubles you and ways to get through it. Watch a Ted talk about unconditional love.
  • Check your heating system and make sure it runs safely. Make updates if necessary and install a carbon monoxide detector to keep you and your family safe.
  • Travel smart. It’s difficult to stay healthy on a daily basis, but the holidays brings out stress and temptations in spades. Get prepared before you jump on a plane, train, or automobile. Here are tips to get the most out of your holiday season travels.

We hope you’ll make time by checking in on how you’re feeling and take steps toward a healthier you this winter. Let us know your favorite ways to stay healthy during the cold months! We’d love to hear from you.

 

5 Ways to Use Turmeric for Better Health

Photo credit: Guilt free food guide

Photo credit: Guilt free food guide

What looks like ginger, has a slightly citrusy smell and earthy taste, and gives Indian curries and our favorite bottled mustards their vibrant gold coloring? If you guessed turmeric, you are correct!

Often referred to as the “Golden Spice of Life” and “Poor Man’s Saffron”, turmeric is native to southeast India and has been used in the region for thousands of years for its culinary, medicinal, and coloring properties. The rhizomes (underground stems of a plant) of the turmeric plant look like the fresh knobs of ginger you’d find in the market. The ground turmeric we are used to finding in our spice racks is made by boiling, drying, then grinding the rhizomes into a powder, but turmeric is also available in its fresh root form and also as a whole dried root that you can grind yourself. Fresh turmeric has a more vibrant flavor than its dry counterpart, so it’s especially well-suited to sautés and smoothies, whereas dried turmeric is better for lending color and subtle flavor to roasted vegetables and dishes like rice pilaf.

If you only dig out your jar of turmeric for the occasional curry dish, you’re missing out. You have a jar of untapped potential languishing away among your cupboard’s odds-and-ends.

Alongside adding depth of flavor to your soups and braises, the spice has powerful medicinal qualities that have gained attention in recent years. Studies have shown that turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory and its main active ingredient, curcumin, is a powerful antioxidant. Turmeric can aid digestion, boost memory, help you sleep, and even help treat (and possibly prevent) arthritis, heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.

While research is still being done on its medical potential, turmeric also has a variety of tasty and unexpected uses beyond adding a touch of color:

  1. Try including turmeric powder into your beauty regimen. Its antiseptic properties can be used to treat burns. You can also mix it with besan (gram flour) and water to create an exfoliator.
  2. Blend it into a smoothie — its slight bitterness will be masked by the other ingredients.
  3. Brew it! Simmer turmeric with milk (or your dairy substitute of choice) and honey for a comforting beverage when you’re feeling under the weather. We love making this turmeric milk at night.
  4. Pickle it for a unique side dish–preserved with lemon and salt, it’s crunchy, tangy, and has a bit of a kick to it.
  5. If you want to focus on curcumin’s full effects, invest in a bottle of turmeric extract. Curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream, but studies have shown that consuming it with black pepper enhances absorption.


The next time you restock your spice rack, consider giving that jar of turmeric an eye-level shelf upgrade. With its rich history in cooking and traditional medicine, it’s about time we put turmeric to good use.

Beyond Pumpkins: Meet its Cousins

photo credit: Suzie's Farm

photo credit: Suzie’s Farm

It doesn’t matter where you are this season–there’s no escaping them. They’re at every family gathering, spicing up your morning coffee run, taking over menus, and even lining office window sills! That’s right: winter squash. From the omnipresent pumpkin (and its trendy cousin, pumpkin spice) to striped and spotted decorative squashes, it’s almost impossible to imagine the autumn and winter months without these tough, colorful vegetables filling our plates and overflowing from market stalls. We put them in our pies, hollow them out and carve them up for spooky effect, roast them, mash them, and stick them in stews. When the leaves crunch underfoot and the air gets chilly, all other vegetables take a bow, because squashes run this town.

The seasonal obsession with pumpkin spice everything always brings in the media and disdainful critics. As we giggle over massive lists detailing gross acts of pumpkin spice abuse, it’s easy to forget that the real thing has star standing in the vegetable world for a reason. Winter squashes are nutrient powerhouses: one cup of baked butternut squash is filled with a vitamins (A, B6, C, and E), as well as magnesium, potassium, and manganese. Pumpkin, butternut, and acorn squashes are some of the most well-known varieties, but there’s a world of winter squashes out there just waiting for some extra love. Check our this list!

Happy National Kale Day!

WTK with Asulia brand

Seems like Kale’s been in our lives forever! It’s hard to imagine, but there was life before kale (“B.K.”). We didn’t try to put other leafy green vegetables in everything–we kept our lettuce strictly in the salad bowl, not in our nail polish, donuts, or soda just to name a few odd finds. Take romaine lettuce, for instance: its high water content and crunchy texture makes it a great lettuce for almost any salad, but baking it into a chip isn’t an option. No one was running to blend romaine into cocktails or desperately trying to add it to sauces, spreads, or soups. Another example: arugula is delicious, but it has a slightly bitter and spicy taste which rules it out of even the most creative dessert recipes (see: kale fudge pops–they’re definitely a thing).

The rise of kale has other vegetables seeing green, so much so that Portlandia filmed an episode on the “Celery Incident”. Steve Buscemi’s character paces restlessly across his living room after stammering to come up with fresh celery ideas at a board meeting of successful vegetable salesmen (heirloom tomatoes, brussel sprouts)–”WHY DON’T PEOPLE LIKE CELERY?” He bellows, throwing the bunch of fibrous stalks he has in his hands on the floor and sinking down in a helpless heap.

Which brings us to life after kale (“A.K.”), or are we really A.K.? Everywhere we look, we still seem to be under this superfood’s super spell. It’s in our lemonade, our guacamole, even our waffles! We don’t see other vegetable superfoods being put in the national spotlight–artichokes aren’t making their way onto t-shirts and tote bags, pureed broccoli isn’t being served up with a swizzle stick. No, it seems kale is here to stay and I, for one, welcome our nutrient-dense, leafy overlord.

Though kale has been grown for over 2000 years, its mindboggling popularity in the U.S. and its many devotees has been a relatively recent development. Talk about rags to riches: despite packing 134% of your daily Vitamin C needs, 684% of your daily Vitamin K needs, and 204% of your Vitamin A needs, for a long time kale’s status in the States was about equal to that of the flimsy, fake, cutout grass you find in supermarket sushi boxes–a forgettable garnish. Before 2013, Pizza Hut was the largest consumer of kale. They used it as decoration for their salad bar! Fast forward to the 2000s and we have kale being the toast of daytime television and celebrity lifestyle blogs–salad has never been so hip.

It’s only natural, with this veggie royalty’s meteoric rise, that we’re celebrating the second annual National Kale Day! The Kale Day team is working towards making the celebration official, but in the meantime, the first Wednesday of October has been set aside to bring awareness to not only how this veggie packs a healthy punch, but also its culinary versatility and ways to build communities around a shared love for this superfood.

Today and always, we ask WTK “Where’s the Kale?” And don’t forget to share your love of kale loud and proud today, whether it’s with #KaleDay2014 on Twitter or making your family and friends some kale dishes they won’t soon forget.

Kale is the new kale.

 

Drink your way to healthy and lean

asulia blog drink your way to healthy and lean

A Simple Detox

You know that sluggish, gross feeling you get when you eat foods that you know are not good for you? I’ve been feeling it recently, even though I’m obsessed with vegetables and eating healthy. I’m constantly running around between events and sometimes find it  hard to eat well. I love all kinds of food and I work in the food world, so it’s hard for me to say no when I’m short on time and there’s food front and center. Especially if it’s free and already ready to eat!

When I feel like this, I know it’s time to clean it up. How am I doing that, you ask? Lemon and apple cider vinegar water. I start my morning with fresh juiced lemon water. I love switching between this and apple cider vinegar water. The taste took me some time to get used to, but now I miss it when I don’t  have it. After you consistently do this for 1-2 weeks, you’ll notice that you’ll feel better, your skin will glow and your appetite is suppressed. I love it so much, I try to drink lemon and apple cider vinegar water everyday now.

While both lemons and apple cider are acidic, they actually help to balance the PH levels in your body. The more alkaline your body is, the more readily it can absorb nutrients, process what we eat and flush out the not so good things. I also have acid reflux and ever since I started my lemon and apple cider vinegar regime, I haven’t any flare ups. This can also help you shed unwanted pounds along with other amazing benefits. I’ve been doing this for the last few weeks, and my fellow startup friends I see regularly at MassChallenge have noticed I look slimmer and my clothes are telling me the same!

I’m bootstrapping a startup. In addition to being simple, this is also economical and budget-friendly. Save money on fancy detox plans and prepackaged juice cleanses and get yourself some lemons and a bottle of  Bragg’s apple cider vinegar, which still has the mother in it. Make sure to gentle shake the bottle before you use it though!

Tips:

  • Apple cider vinegar: Use cold or room temp water with 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Or take a swig straight up without diluting it with water. Just don’t use hot water. The heat will eliminate all the live natural properties of the apple cider vinegar.
  • Lemons: Use a regular lemon or Meyer lemon for a little natural sweetness. Use hot, cold or warm water. I use about ¼ to ½  a lemon for each drink.
  • Keep lemons and a bottle of Bragg’s apple cider at work with you for a quick refresher during the day.
  • Fill up bottles ahead of time and stash them in your fridge so you can grab and go in the morning.

Happy detoxing friends! Stay tuned for more healthy living posts to come.

 

Quick Breakfast Smoothies

Asulia blog quick breakfast smoothies

Photo Sarah Britton

Chances are your mornings are rushed like mine. Whether it’s not remembering if I’ve already shampooed my hair, stuffing last night’s leftovers into a mason jar, or frantically making coffee, there never seems to be enough time in the morning!

If you didn’t start your overnight steel-cut oatmeal  last night (I know I didn’t), you could try something that’s faster to prepare: a breakfast smoothie! Super nutritious, ridiculously easy, surprisingly filling, and requires only two things: a blender and a container you love – I like a glass mason jar.

All smoothies more or less follow the same basic formula (adapted).  You need liquid (i.e. water, juice, almond milk), a textured ‘base’ (i.e. banana, avocado, peanut butter), fruits and/or veggies (fresh or frozen), and extras (spices, oils, grains, sweetener).

Here are some smoothies we love!

Banana Avocado Smoothie

  • 1 banana
  • 1 avocado
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk

Place all the ingredients in a blender for about 30 seconds and adjust taste to your liking.

If you don’t have time to use a blender, mash the avocado and banana in a mason jar. You can also add in flaxseed, nuts or differnt seed butters, chia seeds or other.

Banana Bread Super Foods Smoothie

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 banana, frozen
  • ⅓ cup cooked quinoa or buckwheat
  • 1 tablespoon raw walnuts or hemp seeds
  • 2 teaspoon cold-pressed flax oil
  • 1 medjool date, pitted
  • flesh from 1 vanilla bean or ½ teaspoon alcohol-free pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch allspice
  • extra walnuts and ground cinnamon for topping

Place all the ingredients in a blender for about 30 seconds and adjust taste to your liking. Pour into a mason jar and top with additional walnuts and ground cinnamon.

Mojito Smoothie

  • 1 ½ cups nut milk or coconut water
  • 3 Tbsp. hulled hemp seeds
  • ½-1 tsp. spirulina (whatever you can handle)
  • 4 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 2 dates, pitted
  • handful fresh mint leaves (20-25 leaves)

Place all the ingredients in a blender for about 30 seconds and adjust taste to your liking.

Avocado Kale Superfood Smoothie

  • 1 frozen banana, chopped in small chunks
  • 1/2 cup blueberry soy yogurt
  • 1 cup kale (or spinach) leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

Place all the ingredients in a blender for about 30 seconds and adjust taste to your liking.

Sue’s Kale-full Smoothie

  • 1 cup packed, chopped kale
  • 1/2 a banana
  • 1 wedge of lemon
  • 1/2  an apple
  • 1 scoop of original vega or pea protein
  • 1/4 cup mango juice or berries
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 Tbsp flaxseed

Burning hot dumpling demo

asulia blog burning hot benny dumpling demo

One of the fun things we get to do at Asulia is to demo and give out dumpling samples at stores and events. We meet people of all ages. We hear stories. Sometimes people give us things, like poems (true story). We also meet furry friends too, like Benny pictured here at Whole Foods Lynnfield. Isn’t he adorable? I can attest that he has a fluffy soft coat.

And sometimes, the unexpected happens.

The other week, we were at an outdoor summer block party at Whole Foods South Weymouth. As a vendor, we’re asked to bring everything we need to demo. This includes a table, table cloth, cooking equipment, samples, cooler to keep our handcrafted dumplings cool, and more. We were ready.

The sun was out, the grill was on, and all we needed was some electricity for our toaster oven to heat up our fusion dumplings. Simple, right? We’ve done this a hundred times. It’s usually fairly straight forward to run an extension cord, but for this setup, there wasn’t a power strip to divide the electric current for multiple vendors to use. We couldn’t use our toaster oven! Instead, the store kindly let us borrow a gas-powered cooktop. I love cooking with gas stoves!

asulia blog burning hot

Photo courtesy of HuffPost

Things were going great. But, as we were setting up, the gas cartridge slipped and all of a sudden, the cooktop, table, and tablecloth lit up blazing in flames! The store marketing team leader came dashing over with a fire extinguisher. He said he’d never run that fast before. We think he should try out for the Olympic sprint team! Gold all the way Wayne. Thankfully, the fire was put out immediately, and no one was hurt. Post flare up, we used the grill that had a better controlled heat source to continue our sampling.

A huge shout out to the team members at WF South Weymouth for handling the fire situation so well as we went up in smoke!

Just when we think we’ve seen it all at demos, something else surprises us!

Join us on our food startup journey on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

New digs at MassChallenge

Asulia blog new digs at masschallenge

We moved into our summer home at MassChallenge (MC) in the Innovation District a few weeks ago!  During the first week and a half at MC, we attended bootcamp sessions designed to fast track the learning process of this 4 month accelerator program, which is like a condensed version of business school.  We have the privilege of learning from some of the community’s most respected founders from companies such as Monster, Rue La La, Communispace, iRobot (Roomba, your pet’s BF), talented entrepreneurs on the MC staff, and many more.

Post bootcamp, we’ve been meeting more amazing people, hearing from speakers, and attending marketing, team culture, funding, workshops and more. There’s even happy hour once a week, but my favorite is the fizzy water we have on tap in the kitchen! Good thing we juice to keep energy levels up!  The support and community here is amazing. It’s an honor to come in each day and be surrounded by such awesome people. Although Asulia is one of only two food startups here, we all have something to contribute, despite our different industries.

We’ve also been busy redesigning the packaging for our kale, chickpea, and taro root fusion dumplings, expanding into more stores, and out in the community sharing lots of samples at events!

Details and info about free dumpling tastings and where we’ll be next are here.

Hope to see you soon!