Thai Basil Curry with Swiss Chard, Butternut Squash, and Baked Tofu

 

“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”

–Hippocrates

We know that vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals essential for our health.  More recently, we are becoming accustomed to hearing about how vegetables are wonderful sources for bioactive compounds or phytonutrients.  Bioactive compounds are non-essential health-benefiting compounds that exist naturally in plants–meaning we don’t need these compounds to sustain life like we do vitamins and minerals, but they do enhance life.

Swiss Chard, discovered by a Swiss botantist and one of the most popular vegetables along the Mediterranean, contains at least 13 different polyphenol antioxidants.  For example Swiss chard contains the cardioprotective flavonoid, kaempferol, which is also found in broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and strawberries.  But one of the most interesting bioactive compounds found in the leaves of Swiss chard is the flavonoid called syringic acid.  Syringic acid has been shown to have blood sugar regulating properties through inhibition of  alpha-glucosidase, an enzyme that breaks down starch and disaccharides into it’s simple sugars, glucose.  However, when this enzyme is inhibited, fewer carbohydrates are broken down into glucose and blood sugar is stabilized.  This blood sugar regulating property seems to be particularly true following a meal.  Also, Swiss chard contains a good amount of fiber (>3.5 grams/1 cup, cooked) and decent amount of protein (almost 3.5 grams/1 cup, cooked).  So, the combination of fiber and protein  will not only keep you full longer by regulating the speed of digestion but saringic acid will also stabilize blood sugar levels.  I am thinking this is a win/win situation!

How to incorporate Swiss chard into your dinner plans:

Thai Basil Curry with Swiss Chard, Butternut Squash, and Tofu

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • About 1 pound of baked tofu–please see suggestion within the recipe
  • 1/2 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • small can bamboo shoots, cut into strips
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste (Thai Kitchen is a good one)
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar OR local unpasteurized honey
  • 1/4 cup basil (Thai basil if your local grocery store/co-op has it)
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 large bunch of Swiss chard, washed well and roughly chopped, remove tough stems
  • 1 head of broccoli, stems removed and florets pulled apart
  • cooked (brown) rice or quinoa (optional)

Directions:

Tofu:

  1. Refer to my previous post on baking tofu OR you can pick up baked tofu at Trader Joe’s OR in the salad bar at Whole Foods

Thai Basil Curry:

  1. Dissolve the curry paste and ginger in 1/3 of the coconut milk. (Note:  curry pastes will vary in spiciness.  Use more or less depending on brand and your heat tolerance.) Place in a dutch oven or large skillet and simmer for five minutes.
  2. Add sugar or honey, tofu, broccoli, squash and remaining coconut milk. Cook until squash is almost done.
  3. Add basil and Swiss chard and cover. Steam for a few more minutes. Remove lid and mix.
  4. Serve over cooked brown rice, quinoa, or eat plain!
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Chia Seeds the “Miracle Seed”: Homemade Protein Bar Recipe

Maria and MomA few years ago I get a phone call from my mom and she informs me about this simple concoction of almond milk and chia seeds that will make your hair shine and nails grow strong. Like most of our conversations, once a topic was covered we quickly move on to another topic. We tend to only hit the major headlines and skip most of the details. So on I go with my day and I was so enthused about this chia seed/almond milk mixture that I had to give it a shot. I mixed my chia seeds and almond milk in a little bowl until it made this gelatin like paste. Unfortunately, the next step was that detail we skipped over during our phone call, but I figured the most logical step was to apply this paste directly into my hair like a conditioner. I covered my entire head with this miracle paste and waited twenty minutes to rinse it out…hmmm. I HAD CHIA SEEDS STUCK TO MY SCALP AND SHOWER FOR WEEKS! Good thing I called my mom after my attempted day of beauty to set the record straight because my little dog was about to have his day of beauty too.  After this little debacle, I have learned to inquire more of the details before jumping right in.

Chia Seeds 

Chia seeds come from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the Sage family.   chiaChia seeds are an ancient super-food and their origin is believed to be in Central America where the seed was a staple in the ancient Aztec diet along with Native tribes of North America. These little black and white seeds have an off-the-scale nutritional profile and are being rediscovered by world-class athletes, wellness professionals and health conscious people everywhere.

Chia seeds have recently gained attention as an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acid. They are also an excellent source of fiber at 10 grams per ounce (about 2 tablespoons), and contain protein and minerals including as iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc.  Recent studies suggests that including chia seeds as part of a healthy diet may help improve cardiovascular risk factors such as lowering cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure.

How to Eat Chia Seeds-Key Word Here is “EAT”

Chia seeds can be eaten raw or prepared in a number of dishes.  I like to sprinkle ground or whole chia seeds either on or in cereal, rice, yogurt, smoothies, or vegetables.  Since chia seeds are very absorbent and develop a gelatinous texture when soaked in water, you can substitute chia for some unwanted fat in baked goods.

Lip-Smackin’ Homemade Protein Bars with Chia Seeds:

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Yield: About 25 Squares

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups of gluten free oats
  • 3 scoops vanilla protein powder (I used Vega Sport)
  • 3 scoops of Mila® Chia Seeds (see below for more information on Mila®)
  • 1/4 tsp of sea salt (if using unsalted peanut butter)
  • 3/4 cup of peanut or almond butter (I used unsalted Trader Joe’s natural PB)
  • 2 Tbsp honey (local is the best!)
  • 2 Tbsp chopped dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup of pecans
  • 3-5 Tbsp of water

Directions:

  1. Line an 8″ square baking dish with wax paper.
  2. Place oats, protein powder, chia seeds, and salt in a mixing bowl.  Whisk to combine.  Add peanut or almond butter, honey, chocolate, and pecans and beat on medium-low to combine.
  3. Add water tablespoon by tablespoon until the mixture is slightly crumbly, but holds together well when pressed.  Press dough evenly into the prepared baking dish.  Refrigerate until firm and chilled, about 1 hour.  Using the wax paper liner, pull the entire dish of oat mixture oat and set on a cutting board.  With a very sharp knife, cut into squares.  Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator.

Tip:  My first batch was a little too crumbly with only 3 tablespoons of water.  I added an additional tablespoon my next batch and the edges held together much better and weren’t as dry.  The completed dough shouldn’t feel sticky, but the dough should hold together nicely.

Mila® by Lifemax ®

A few months ago my friend Sarah introduced me to Mila® by Lifemax®.  Mila® is an exclusive proprietary blend of the world’s finest variants of the most potent grains of chia.  It is naturally gluten-free, trans-fat free, sugar-free, non-GMO and is a superior plant-based source of protein and fiber.  It is a whole, raw food that contains the highest and safest plant-based combination of antioxidants, protein, fiber, phytonutrients, and omega-3s.  It is odorless and will conform to the flavor of any meal.  It is by far my favorite brand of chia and I completely feel revitalized and sustained for longer periods of time than my grocery store bought brands.

To learn more about this amazing product please visit Sarah’s website: TheBlissful Seed.com

 

If you don’t take care of your body, who will?

Cleanse Multi

Eating has a powerful component of living, and what we eat has a profound impact on everything in our lives including; energy level, mood, emotions, mental acuity, physical health, creativity, awareness, and athletic performance. The goal of the MAKwellness 7-Day Cleanse or 8-Day Yoga Detox is to empower you and your approach to food and ultimately leave you feeling your best. Too often we grab a meal on the go without thinking how this might impact our day or even week, succumb to cravings, feel overly full, or eat because there is nothing else to do. These cleanses or detox programs will allow you to mindfully “reset” your awareness of the food you consume, experience how it effects you physically, mentally, and emotionally, and provide you with new tools and strategies to eat in ways that allow you to better achieve your life aspirations.

The words “detox” or “cleanse” have a daunting connotation and usually invokes an idea of elimination and intense deprivation. But the MAKwellness programs are the complete opposite. These are not calorie-restricted shake or juice only programs, but rather a method to nourish, cleanse, and revitalize each cell of your body. Each day you will consume an adequate number of calories from REAL FOOD for your body type, lifestyle, and health.

Each cleanse or detox is equipped with a full manual, recipes, and direct 1:1 coaching throughout your entire program. You are well set-up for success!

If you are interested in learning more or signing up for the MAKwellness 7-Day Cleanse or 8-Day Yoga Detox, you can e-mail Maria at MAKwellness@gmail.com OR sign-up for one of the following workshops:

  • April 5th from 1-3PM:  MAKwellness 7-Day Cleanse @ Studio 223 in Chatfield, MN (sign-up by e-mailing info@studio-223.com)
  • April 12th from 1-3PM:  Ayurveda 101 @ Studio 223 in Chatfield, MN (sign-up by e-mailing info@studio-223.com)
  • April 26th from 10-12pm:  MAKwellness 7-Day Cleanse @ Xtreme Fitness in Kasson, MN (sign-up by calling Kris Thomas at ​(507) 358-8541)
  • April 27th from 1-3pm (Blaine) or 5-7pm (Maple Grove):  Yoga 8-Day Detox @ Heat Yoga Studios in Blaine and Maple Grove, MN (sign-up at Heat Yoga Studios)

Sample Recipe from the MAKwellness 7-Day Cleanse: 

Pesto Spaghetti Squash & Tomato Tapenade

pesto squash 

Serves 4

 Pesto Spaghetti Squash Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 4 cups of fresh spinach OR arugula leaves, packed
  • ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup of pine nuts or almonds
  • ½ cup of plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Special equipment needed: food processor
  • 1 spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil for squash

Tomato Tapenade Recipe:

  • ½  red onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp capers
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
  • ½ cup kalamata olives, cut in halves
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Split the squash in half and scrape out seeds.  Line an oven tray with aluminum foil.  Season the spaghetti squash with oil, salt, and pepper.  Place flesh side down and roast for 30-40 minutes until fully cooked.  Remove from the oven and let rest until cool enough to handle.
  2. While squash is cooling, add basil, spinach (or arugula), oil, nuts, yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in your food processor.  Pulse to combine ingredients—consistency should be creamy.  Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, combine red onion, capers, cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, red vinegar, salt, and pepper in a separate bowl.  Toss until mixed.
  4. When squash is cool enough to handle, using a large kitchen spoon scrape the strands of squash from the inside of the skin.  Toss the spaghetti squash in a pan with the pesto mixture for just long enough to get hot.
  5. Serve pesto spaghetti squash and top with a few spoonfuls of the tomato tapenade.  Enjoy!

Survival Foods: The Art of Overcoming Being Hangry

I am typically a kind, lighthearted, and giving person but when I am really hungry you would think quite the opposite.  This state  is called being hangry, and I believe I get this from my dad’s side of the family.  There really isn’t a cure to prevent being hangry, but I am quick to observe this state and am taking all active steps in my recovery.  The first step is preparing my pantry and freezer with survival foods, so that I can always have a healthy meal ready in minutes!

Here are a few of my favorite survival foods that you will always find in my home:

  1. A can of Progresso Lentil Soup– Lentils are a small but nutritionally mighty member of the legume family.  They are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber and help to manage blood-sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal.  I like to mix my can of lentil soup with a can of diced tomatoes to add a little more flavor and nutrients.  If I have a cucumber or Italian parsley at home I will top my soup with them both!
  2. Diced Tomatoes– Enjoy diced tomatoes raw on top of your salad or saute a handful with your favorite pasta dish, chili, or lentil soup. Diced tomatoes are naturally low in calories and have an assortment of nutrients to keep you healthy. Tomatoes provide lots of fiber to keep you satisfied and antioxidants to help prevent illness.
  3. Frozen Peas– Okay, this might be odd but I love me my pees, and so do my dogs.  Peas are low-fat but high-everything-else.  A cup of peas has less than 100 calories but lots of protein, fiber and micronutrients.  I like to serve them with dried dill, add to most soups, or combine in a salad.  My favorite recipe is minty pea mash that I learned from Rachel Ray.  Recipe:  http://www.rachaelrayshow.com/recipe/14740_Minty_Pea_Mash/index.html
  4. Sweet Potatoes-  Not only are sweet potatoes readily available, inexpensive, and delicious, there are good for the ol’ ticker.  [Nerd Alert]  They are high in vitamin B6, and B6 helps reduce the chemical homocysteine in our bodies.  Homocysteine has been linked with degenerative diseases, including heart disease.  Serve them any way you like your taters; mashed, baked, or my favorite lightly boil cubed pieces and serve on top of salad.
  5. Veggie Burgers- Sometimes you just want something to go with ketchup and mustard!  Veggie burgers are low in fat and calories, rich in fiber, and help protect our bodies from disease.  Also, did I mention they are ready in minutes!  My favorite brand is Dr. Praeger California burger.  So filling and so tasty!
  6. Beans- Most beans are nutritionally similar, providing a high-fiber, low-fat source of folate, iron and quality protein. Dried beans are a versatile ingredient that take on flavor as they cook, while canned beans, which are already fully cooked, offer convenience because they don’t require hours of soaking prior to use. In general, the two types are nutritionally comparable, but canned beans are usually higher in sodium and slightly lower in nutrients.  Therefore, when looking for canned beans choose the low sodium or even organic options.  You can top a salad, add to a soup, combine with brown rice or favorite frozen veggies, or even puree into hummus or pate.
  7. Larabar-  You will always find a nutritional bar in my purse, gym bag, or in my desk drawer. My favorite brand is Larabar, and each bar is free of gluten, dairy, soy, genetically modified organisms, animal products and is kosher. The nutrition information for each bar varies, depending on the exact ingredients, but each one is made with between two and nine whole food ingredients. Larabars come in a variety of flavors that change periodically.  Larabars are a natural snack that are convenient for eating on the go. Unlike other similar bars on the market, the Larabar is free of manufacturer protein, whey and dairy products that are often used to increase protein and energy value.
  8. Quinoa- Quinoa is one of the most protein-rich foods we can eat. It is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids, which is rare for plant-based proteins.  Quinoa can be served warm or cold.  You can add it to any salad ingredients or frozen vegetables, combine with your favorite spices and serve along side of your veggie burger, or even add a little milk and top with fresh berries and nuts!
  9. Nuts- Nuts, which contain unsaturated fatty acids and other nutrients, are wonderful for your heart. The type of nut you eat isn’t that important, although some nuts have more heart-healthy nutrients and fats than do others. Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts — you name it — almost every type of nut has a lot of nutrition packed into a tiny package.  They’re inexpensive, easy to store and easy to pack when you’re on the go.  Top a salad or soup, combine with plain Greek yogurt and some berries, add to your quinoa and veggie dish, or enjoy alone!  (Tip:  avoid rancid nuts (ewww) by refrigerating them, especially if you buy in bulk!)
  10. DARK Chocolate- Yes, I always have my survival stash of quality dark chocolate in my cabinet.  Dark chocolate is a champion antioxidant. Antioxidants help rid the body of free radicals, nasty little molecules running amok in your body which cause aging and disease. Antioxidants bond to free radicals and whisk them from your body via digestion and other means.  My favorite brand is Endangered Species (88%). 

The “it actually tastes good” Detox Salad

Detox Salad

This is a recreation of one of my favorite Whole Foods salads–The Detox Salad.  This salad bursts with color and flavor, and is loaded with health benefiting vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.  This recipe makes a lot so you will be set for the week, and the taste only gets better over time as the flavors become BFFs

Detox Salad (makes 8 cups):

Ingredients:

2 heads broccoli, finely chopped

1 head of cauliflower, finely chopped

4-6 medium carrots, finely chopped

¾ cups parsley, chopped

½ cup raw sunflower seeds (unsalted)

¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds (unsalted)

¾ cup raisins (or golden raisins)

½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust amount for your preference of heat)

¼ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

¼ cup local honey

Special equipment:  food processor

Directions: Place the broccoli florets, cauliflower, and carrots into a food processor and pulse until chopped very fine (depending on the size of your food processor you may have to do one veggie at a time). Add the finely chopped broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots to a large bowl, and give it a good stir to mix everything together. Stir in the parsley, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and raisins. Add the lemon juice, cayenne, salt, pepper, and honey. To store: keep refrigerated in a tightly sealed container.  Enjoy!

Learn why this isn’t any ordinary salad:

Broccoli:  Broccoli can help in our body’s natural detoxification system.  It contains glucosinolates, a phytonutrient or extra-nutritional health benefiting compound.  This compound supports all the steps in the body’s detox process, including activation, neutralization, and elimination of unwanted contaminants.   

Lemons:  Lemons can help promote healthy weight loss.  If the digestive system doesn’t function optimally, our body may not be able to absorb essential nutrients. When this occurs, your body incorrectly believes it is malnourished and craves food. Lemons enhance your body’s digestive system, ultimately allowing your body to absorb the essential nutrients and help you feel full.

Cayenne Pepper:  The active compound in cayenne, capsaicin, can help fight inflammation, reduce blood cholesterol, reduce triglyceride levels, clear congestion, and boost your immune system.  In addition, cayenne can help in the promotion of weight loss.  The heat after eating cayenne pepper takes energy to produce, and this energy increases thermogenesis and oxygen consumption for more than 20 minutes after eating.  This heat can also help you sweat toxins out through your pores.    

Must have chocolate!

Must have chocolate!

Do you ever feel like your food cravings have a mind of their own, and life won’t feel complete until you have that piece chocolate or that handful of chips? You’re not alone. The habit trained mind craves sweet, salty, and fatty foods and beverages, especially when under stress. These foods raise dopamine and opiod levels in the brain, which produce a pleasurable feeling, and when something is pleasurable we want more of it!

Over time this pattern of eating dopamine triggering foods becomes habitual. It is a vicious cycle! We eat hyperpalatable foods to make ourselves feel better, but the sugar, fat, and salt drive up dopamine and opiods to fuel a pattern of food addiction. Then our waistline expands and our self-esteem shrinks. Ekk!

Taking a conscious look at your habits and revamping you daily rituals can help diminish these overwhelming cravings. Here are some quick tips to help overcome your insatiable food cravings:

1. Drink more water: Plenty of people confuse hunger with dehydration. Get yourself a nifty canteen and keep it full all day long. Instead of reaching for the next thing to eat, drink some water and see if your “hunger signal” diminishes. Not a huge fan of plain water—try adding lemon, lime, watermelon, or cucumber to your water to livin’ it up!
2. Move your body: Forget the notion that exercise brings your appetite on heavy — it actually decreases your appetite. Don’t have time to hit the gym? Before you hit the shower do a 1 minute wall sit, 20 push-ups, and 1 minute of mountain climbers.
3. Breakfast is still the most important meal of the day: Skipping breakfast can actually throw off your whole day. Getting your metabolism moving earlier will help keep you full longer.
4. Have a lighter dinner: In French, supper means “supplemental” or “soup” NOT stuff yourself silly and then go to bed. Try having your largest meal of the day before 2pm, and have something lighter at night. First, you’ll sleep better and two you’ll have more energy throughout the day.
5. Post Meal Tea Time: Give your after-meal sweet tooth a little makeover. A tasty cup of hot tea will help satisfy your perceived hunger and help rewire your cravings for sweet, salty, and fat so you feel satisfied.
6. Get honest: Do you constantly snack when you’re bored or stressed? Mindful eating is used to break the cycle of mindless eating. It involves slowing down and being 100% in the moment: aware of every taste, smell, touch, and texture of each bite of food you eat.  Have you truly experienced your food recently?
7. Don’t starve yourself, for heaven sake: Starving yourself all day for one large meal at the end of the day is an absolute recipe for disaster. Plan for two medium smaller meals, one more substantial meal, and light snacks throughout the day to curb crazy unwanted cravings.

MAKwellness 7-Day Cleanse

MAKwellness 7-Day Cleanse

This year I launched my first MAKwellness 7-Day Cleanse at Heat Yoga Studios in Blaine and Maple Grove. There were 35 dedicated yogis committed to their health and ready to make a positive change for their bright future. This cleanse was developed not to deprive the body of energy or nutrients, but to empower you to make healthful and mindful changes to your diet and lifestyle. It is all about turning mindless eating into a mindful experience.

About the MAKwellness 7-Day Cleanse:

Eating has a powerful component of living, and what we eat has a profound impact on our energy, mood, emotion, mental acuity, physical wellbeing, creativity, awareness, and athletic performance. The goal of the MAKwellness 7-Day Wellness Cleanse is to empower you and your approach to food and ultimately leave you feeling your best. Too often we grab a meal on the go without thinking how this might impact our day or even week, succumb to cravings, feel overly full, or eat because there is nothing else to do. This cleanse will allow you to mindfully “reset” your awareness of the food you consume, experience how it effects you physically, mentally, and emotionally, and provide you with new tools and strategies to eat in ways that allow you to better achieve your life aspirations.

The first 3 days of the program require a gradual removal of specific foods from the diet in the order indicated. As you begin to eliminate foods from your normal diet, detoxifying reactions can result such as disturbances in sleep patterns, changes in body temperature, light-headedness, mood swings, headaches, joint and muscle aches, changes in gastrointestinal function, and changes in body odor or breath. These responses are usually minor and generally lessen in intensity during the program.

This is not a calorie-restricted program, but rather a method to nourish and cleanse each cell of your body. Each day you will consume an adequate number of calories for your body type, lifestyle, and health. You will receive daily easy to follow recipes, grocery lists, mindful exercises, your own nutritionist to help guide you each day, and helpful tips to aid you in your successful completion.

If you are interested in the MAKwellness Cleanse please contact Maria @ MAKwellness@gmail.com.

Participant’s Testimonials:
“Through Maria’s cleanse I’ve come away feeling more in control of portion size, eat more mindfully and crave veggies over sugar. Real food is delicious food! Thank you, Maria!!” –Shannon B (2014)

“The MAKwellness cleanse was amazing. I got exactly what I wanted out of it, and that was to reduce my sugar cravings. I didn’t feel deprived on this cleanse compared to other cleanses. It was easy to follow and the one on one attention from Maria was great. She held me accountable and gave me motivation to stick to it.” –Jeanna S (2014)

“The MAKwellness cleanse was just I needed to start out the new year. I learned new ways to incorporate more grains, fish, homemade dressing for my salads, quinoa and legumes into my daily foods all with the help of the recipes that were provided during the cleanse and with the support of Maria during the 7 days. It’s day 8 and I feel great.  I survived without caffeine, chocolate, bread, and even wine Friday!” – Rachele K (2014)

Where to start Maria is an excellent Yoga instructor so i was thrilled to see she was running a seminar on doing a cleanse coz I really LIKE her!  Then I read her credentials and was sooo impressed I brought my 18yr. old daughter with me so she could learn PROPER technique/facts instead of all the silly fads going around!  Mattison my daughter loved Maria too and did a great job following the 7Day cleanse, we both learned to LOVE Quinoa, Smoothies, Gluten Free Pasta, and Kale:)!!  I just ordered my first Vitamix coz we are now fully into it!  Never felt deprived, Gave up drinking my 1 Diet Coke a day habit:) and lost 1.4lb’s completely safely I am also FULL of energy think my face has cleared up and I’m giving up Red meat except for occassionally!!!  Try Maria’s cleanse and recipes YOU won’t regret it  Easy and So Yummy  going to Mexico in 6 weeks and am on track for a bikini ready BOD!!  THANKS Maria!” –Paula S (2014)