Wellegance

Cultivate a Life of Vitality, Pleasure, Passion and Purpose


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Recipe: French Apple Cake

This is a cake that my mother came across years ago and we’ve enjoyed it ever since. If you’ve ever had a French Apple Tart (Tarte Aux Pommes), this cake will definitely remind you of that. The cake consists mostly of thinly sliced apples (there is very little cake batter) with the delicate flavors of almond and vanilla. It feels light and decadent at the same time and is the perfect dessert to enjoy after a big meal. Which is precisely why I like to make it around the holidays (although, truly, it’s perfect at any time!)

When my mother learned of this recipe, she learned the story that went with it:

Many years ago, there was a lady who walked around the streets of Paris selling this cake. She had a little cart full of cakes and became known as the “Apple Lady.” The cakes became popular and many people tried to convince her to turn it into a business, but she chose not to, as she believed that this would take the pleasure out of baking them. The Apple Lady continued to sell the cakes in this modest way and, before her death, shared her recipe with a few trusted friends. Who shared it with others. Who shared it with others…you know how it goes. So…

It was eventually shared with my mother (and, now, with all of you 😉

I hope that, like the Apple Lady, you take pleasure in making it. Rest assured, those lucky enough to partake in this cake will take pleasure in eating it!

Buon Appetit!

Karen

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French Apple Cake

If you've ever had a French Apple Tart (Tarte Aux Pommes), this cake will definitely remind you of that. The cake consists mostly of thinly sliced apples (there is very little cake batter) with the delicate flavors of almond and vanilla. It feels light and decadent at the same time and is the perfect dessert to enjoy after a big meal.

Ingredients

For Cake:

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1/3 cup skim milk
  • 4 granny smith apples cored and sliced thinly

For Topping:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 3 Tbsp. butter melted
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add the vanilla extract, almond extract, eggs, canola oil and milk. Stir until a loose batter forms. Add to that the sliced apples and stir to make sure that the apples are well coated with batter.
  3. Pour into the springform pan and bake for 25 -30 minutes, until it becomes puffed and lightly golden.
  4. Combine the topping ingredients in another bowl and pour over the cake. Bake for an additional 10 minutes. Allow to cool thoroughly before removing it from the pan.
  5. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.

Recipe Notes

Serves 6.

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Wellegance 2017 Gift Guide

 

Thanksgiving weekend officially began the holiday season and, as such, many of us have begun holiday shopping (or at least we’ve begun to THINK about holiday shopping!?)

Last year, I posted the first “Wellegance Gift Guide,” which was extremely well-received by readers of the blog. After all, the task of holiday shopping is often daunting; time (and patience) tends to be short and the choices can be absolutely overwhelming. Our intentions are good – we want to find the perfect gift for each and every person on our list – but, at times, that task is wrought with stress, frustration and exhaustion.

I’m always appreciative when a trusted friend tips me off to a great gift idea and shares the things that he/she loves to give and/or receive. Now, I hope to be that trusted friend for you. Here are some of my favorite items this year. I’ve sorted them into categories (gifts for the home, cook, traveler, fashionista, etc.) to make it easy for you to navigate.

Of course, you can always peruse this page (which lists all of my “Wellegant Finds”) and last year’s gift guide for additional ideas.

Happy shopping and have a wonderful, Wellegant holiday season!

Karen

FOR THE HOME

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOR THE FITNESS ENTHUSIAST

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOR THE FASHIONISTA

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOR THE COOK

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOR THE TRAVEL LOVER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOKS/GAMES/ENTERTAINMENT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Weekly Wellegant Find: UGG Ansley Slippers

 

 

You all know how I feel about my pajamas! And I recently discussed how I’ve committed to “upping” my pajama game. I mean, why not make sure that my loungewear/sleepwear choices reflect the same sense of quality and style with which I select all of my other clothes?

With that in mind, I decided to replace my well-worn, well-loved, fuzzy slippers with a pair that, while being equally warm and cozy, is a bit more (actually, A LOT more!) stylish and well-made.

These Ansley slippers by UGG are made of the classic UGG suede, lined with sheep’s fur. They have a molded rubber sole for indoor or outdoor use, which makes them ideal to wear when going outside to grab the mail or put out the garbage. I’ve seen some people wear them out in public and, while I wouldn’t wear them as shoes, the durable sole makes it possible to do that, if you’re so inclined.

Perhaps they’ll make a nice gift for yourself or someone else this winter 😉

Have a wonderful, Wellegant week,

Karen

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Recipe: Pumpkin Mousse (GF)

For those of you looking to savor these last weeks of Autumn (winter doesn’t officially begin until December 21st), I have a wonderful gluten-free, carb-free alternative to pumpkin pie. It’s too bad that I’m posting this after Thanksgiving has passed, as it would be an especially lovely addition to the Thanksgiving dessert table! I happened to find this recipe weeks ago in the Cooking section of the New York Times and adapted it slightly.

I made it last weekend and it was absolutely terrific – just as rich and creamy as pumpkin pie, with all of the same warm spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, etc.), but with no grain or gluten at all. My son happened to be home from college that weekend and, by the end of the weekend, he’d polished off several of them!

The recipe was fairly simple…a few steps, but nothing complicated. It takes a couple of hours for the mousse to “gel” in the fridge, and then it can be kept in the fridge for several days, making it a perfect dessert to prepare ahead of time.

Feel free to use espresso cups for a tiny, “tasting” sized portion, or larger, parfait glasses, as I did. This way, you can decide the amount/number of portions you’d like to make. Top it with a dusting of cinnamon, a dollop of whipped cream or both. Either way, the mousse is wonderful and the presentation is gorgeous.

If you do happen to try this dish, please post a photo on Instagram and be sure to tag me…I’d love to see your creations!

Buon Appetit,

Karen

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Pumpkin Mousse

I made this Pumpkin Mousse last weekend and it was fabulous- just as rich and creamy as pumpkin pie, with all of the same warm spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, etc.) but no grain or gluten at all.

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 1 packet of unflavored gelatin approx. 1 tbsp.
  • 3 eggs whites and yolks separated
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups canned pumpkin purée
  • ½ tsp. Ginger
  • ½ tsp. Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. Nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. Salt
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ¾ cup heavy cream

Instructions

  1. Fill a medium pot with a few inches of water and bring to a simmer.
  2. In another (smaller) pot, combine the cold water with the packet of gelatin and let sit for several minutes, until the gelatin softens. Then place the pot on the stove over low heat and stir until it liquifies (be sure not to boil it). Once liquified, remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. In a glass or stainless steel mixing bowl, which together the egg yolks and ¼ cup of sugar. Add the pumpkin, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and milk and whisk to combine.
  4. Set the bowl over the pot of simmering water and continue to whisk for approximately 5 minutes, until the mixture thickens a bit (it will resemble a loose custard). Add the gelatin into the pumpkin mixture and stir to combine.
  5. Pour the pumpkin mixture into a large mixing bowl and set aside to cool for approximately 15 minutes.
  6. With an electric mixer or beater, beat the egg white until they form soft peaks, then add the remaining sugar. Continue to beat until the egg whites become firm and the sugar is fully incorporated. Add the egg whites to the pumpkin mixture and continue to beat until well combined. Set aside.
  7. Beat the heavy cream until stiff, then add it to the mousse. Continue to beat for 1-2 minutes, then pour into serving glasses (espresso cups, parfait glasses, even wine glasses work well). Refrigerate for at least 2 hours until the mousse is set. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon or top with additional whipped cream, if desired.

Recipe Notes

Serves 5-10, depending on serving size preferred. Note: this mousse will keep for several days in the refrigerator. Just be sure to cover it with plastic wrap.

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A Good Night’s Rest

Open up any health magazine and you’re likely to find at least one piece extolling the benefits of a good night’s sleep. More and more, research has linked poor sleep habits to everything from obesity and heart disease to depression and diabetes. Clearly, sleeping well is an integral part of our overall wellness. However, for many people, that’s far easier said than done.

As anyone who has trouble sleeping can attest, it is ENDLESSLY frustrating to lie awake in bed, trying desperately to get some rest. Naturally, the harder we try and the more anxious we become, the more sleep eludes us. Add to that, worry over being exhausted and not being able to function the next day. Add to that, the stress of a life challenge that we (or a loved one) may be facing and the “Worst Case Scenario” movie that’s on replay in our mind and…well, a good night’s rest seems like an impossibility!?

While we all have sleepless nights now and then, a consistent pattern of poor quality sleep not only prevents us from functioning at our best, but also presents some serious health risks. Before I share with you my best tips for getting a good night’s rest, let’s look at the benefits of good sleeping habits (there are many!). I have a feeling that these benefits will convince you to invest some time and attention to this area of your life.

The benefits of a good night’s rest include:

  • better thinking, problem solving, attention, memory and creativity
  • A strong heart (during sleep time, the body works on maintaining/restoring the heart and blood vessels)
  • Healthy weight  (sleep decreases cortisol levels)
  • Hormone regulation
  • Strengthening of the immune system
  • Regulation of blood pressure
  • Less depression and anxiety
  • Better sex
  • Lower risk of accidents and injury

(Source)

But the bigger question is how do we get a good night’s rest, when most of us are hyper-stimulated and trying to pack entirely too much into each 24-hour day? Based on the research available on this topic, here are some strategies for improving the amount and quality of your sleep. I’ve used many of these strategies and they’ve made a noticeable improvement in my sleep and, consequently, my energy level. Even trying just one or two of them is likely to yield a positive result (and number 12 is the absolute game changer!).

  1. Stick to a steady sleep schedule – both bedtime and wake time, even on the weekends. This means going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time each day (and NO hitting the snooze alarm – this is counter productive, as the depth and quality of sleep in those 10 minutes is poor).
  2. Watch what you eat and drink at dinner. Have enough food that you won’t go to bed hungry, but not so much that it’s difficult to digest. Also, limit alcohol and caffeine consumption. Both interfere with sleep patterns throughout the night and will, ultimately, result in less restorative sleep.
  3. Keep the temperature in the room on the cool side. It’s harder to get good rest when the body is too warm.
  4. Keep the room very dark. This is important, as we don’t want to interfere with the circadian rhythm of the body. Even things like a nightlight, a bright digital clock or other screen can cause sleep disturbances and interrupt natural sleep cycles. So, it’s a good idea to ditch the lights and, perhaps, even invest in a sleep mask or blackout curtains to maintain a very dark environment.
  5. Make the bedroom a television-free and computer-free zone. The goal is to establish the bedroom strictly as a place for rest and sex. The body will begin to recognize the bedroom this way and will begin to wind down, upon entering.
  6. Get regular exercise. Make sure to get some movement/exercise each day (just 20 minutes will do). Just be sure not to exercise right before bed, as it may give you an adrenaline rush and make it hard for the body to wind down. Gentle yoga might be an exception to this, but all other forms of yoga should be done at least 3 hours before bedtime.
  7. Spend a little time outdoors each day. Whether due to the fresh air we breathe, the sun on our skin or the peaceful quality of nature, it’s well documented that being outdoors promotes better sleep.
  8. Develop a “wind down” routine. This can be a hot bath, some deep breathing exercises, time spent in meditation or prayer, a hot cup of tea, journaling, reading, etc. When done regularly, this routine signals the body to release the day and prepare for sleep.
  9. Invest in a quality mattress, pillow and bed linens. Make sure that your back and neck are well supported and kept in proper alignment while you sleep. In addition, high quality bed linens will be much softer against the skin. All of these things combine to create a more comfortable and restorative sleep.
  10. Experiment with essential oils and aromatherapy. There are lots of options for incorporating scent/essential oils into your sleep experience – essential oil diffusers, pillow/linen spray, even just rubbing a few drops of essential oil between the palms, cupping the hands over the nose and inhaling the scent. Some scents known to relax the nervous system are lavender, vanilla, cedarwood, frankincense and chamomile.
  11. Avoid napping during the day. Some people love the luxury of a good nap but, most people find that it interferes with the body clock and makes falling asleep at night harder. If you’re someone who has trouble falling/staying asleep, you may wish to avoid napping during the day.

And the VERY best piece of advice I can give is this…(drumroll, please)…

  1. Make sure that you have some “me” time scheduled into each day. This doesn’t, at face value, seem like it would benefit sleep, but I believe that the reason most people don’t go to bed earlier is that the time at night, before bed, is the ONLY time that they have to themselves and they are loathe to give it up to sleep. One girlfriend after another has told me that they can’t seem to go to bed earlier because, “If I give that time up, then my entire day belongs to others.” Wow. It makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? We are staying up so late because we simply MUST have some time to ourselves each day; it’s so important that we will even sacrifice sleep and energy and, perhaps even our health, to get it. Therefore, if we build a little “me” time into each day, we’ll likely be much more willing to go to bed earlier and get more (and better) rest.

When we make quality sleep a priority and implement just a few changes to our daily routine, the results are quite noticeable (and pretty amazing!). A well-rested body contributes to a well-lived life.

I hope that this information serves you and, if you have tips and tricks that have worked for you, I’d love for you to share them in the Comments below.

Have a beautiful (and restful) weekend,

Karen

Sources:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/17/better-sleep-tips-best_n_4958036.html

https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-tools-tips/healthy-sleep-tips

https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/9-reasons-to-sleep-more

http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20459221,00.html

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Weekly Wellegant Find: Healthy Humans Insulated Tumbler

Every morning, I head off to work with a green juice or smoothie in this insulated aluminum tumbler by Healthy Humans. In case you haven’t yet heard of the Healthy Humans brand, they make water bottles and tumblers of high quality, eco friendly materials (aluminum). Their products are functional and very well designed.

This tumbler holds 20 ounces (the perfect size for me!), fits perfectly in automobile cup holders and, conveniently, comes with an aluminum straw (as well as a wire brush to clean the straw). It also comes in a variety of fun colors.

I’ve found that the double walled insulation keeps beverages hot or cold for quite a long time. Oh, and they are “powder coated” so they won’t sweat all over your car, desk, and papers (which is SO nice!)

They’re fairly inexpensive at $19.99 and my experience has been that this is a quality product that works well and lasts. I’m certainly putting mine to good use!

Have a wonderful, Wellegant week!

Karen

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Recipe: Quinoa with Shallots, Fresh Herbs and Pine Nuts (GF)

 

I love side dishes like this one that pair well with a variety of meats and veggies, and I especially love extra on hand for lunches and/or dinners throughout the week. Quinoa is a grain that I make frequently, as it’s gluten free and full of protein (as well as fiber and lots of vitamins/minerals). While it’s quite nice plain, I often add veggies, beans, fresh herbs, etc. to jazz it up a bit.

This variation includes shallots, lots of fresh parsley and pine (or pignoli) nuts. I toast the nuts first, which gives them a wonderful nutty flavor and a nice, golden color. In the summer, this quinoa is a perfect base for all kinds of kebabs and at this time of year, I love to serve it with roasted chicken, pork or beef.

Buon Appetit!

Karen

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Quinoa with Shallots, Fresh Herbs and Pine Nuts (GF)

This variation includes shallots, lots of fresh parsley and pine (or pignoli) nuts. I toast the nuts first, which gives them a wonderful nutty flavor and a nice, golden color. In the summer, this quinoa is a perfect base for all kinds of kebabs and grilled meats and fish. At this time of year, I love to serve it with roasted chicken, pork or beef.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp. Pine pignoli nuts
  • 1-2 shallots finely diced
  • 2 Tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup quinoa rinsed
  • 2 cups water or broth chicken or vegetable
  • ¼ tsp. Salt
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley and more for garnish
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Place the pine nuts in a small frying pan over high heat, tossing them frequently until toasted and lightly golden (be sure not to step away from the pan, as they will burn very quickly!). Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, place the chopped shallots and the olive oil. Sauté until translucent (approximately 4-5 minutes). When done, add the quinoa and the cooking liquid (water or broth), along with the salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. And cover the pot. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and allow quinoa to sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and toss in the parsley and the toasted pine nuts. Add pepper to taste and garnish with some more fresh parsley.

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It contains my best healthy living tips, recipes and other resources to help you live your most Wellegant life. Enjoy!