Thursday, April 9, 2015

Staying Sane During Pregnancy

As I finally mentioned here, we're expecting our second baby in July and I'm a birth/pregnancy junkie. I'm a huge believer in "knowledge is power" and I seek out what supports and uplifts me during this time. I don't allow other people to tell me their "horror stories" or use any kind of scare tactics.

The focus of care during pregnancy seems to be geared toward physical concerns, ignoring the mom's mental state unless there's a severe problem. This is somewhat tragic and I think we're missing a huge opportunity. When we're willing to make the effort to exercise and eat right during pregnancy, why not go the next step to work on your mental state?

Think about this: As your baby develops, your current hormones (whether they be stress hormones or rest/relaxation/love hormones) guide the direction of your baby's hormones in that moment. If your body is in a constant state of stress, your body prioritizes survival and getting through that stress rather than growth, development, and repair. This has an impact on the baby. Since the developing baby mirrors the mom's mental state, we should capitalize on that!

Since a stress response directs blood flow away from the internal organs and towards the limbs, a baby in a constant stress response may not get the chance to optimize organ growth and development while in the womb.

So while pregnant, it's even more important to have some kind of regular stress-relieving practice. This can be almost anything! My personal favorites are getting exercise (yoga is fantastic), walking outside, napping, preparing and eating delicious food, meditation (lots of ways to do this), and just taking deep calming breaths. Anything that gives you joy!

I'll admit that it's not always the easiest to break a habit. After all, if it were easy to fix, we probably would have done it already! If you're stuck not knowing what to try, just pick something. Commit to it for a couple days and notice how you feel before, during, and after. If you like the change you see, keep it up! Your baby feels what you feel! The more you are aware of the good something is doing for you, the easier it becomes to maintain it. Awareness is key! Put reminders all over your house or set them to go off at regular intervals on your phone.

I tend to get lost in yoga and feel so light and joyful when I finish, but there's always the excuse in the back of my mind that I don't have enough time, I'm not dressed for it, etc. So I leave my mat out on the floor and as soon as my daughter falls asleep, it's WAY more likely to happen! It's great to have a class to go to, but it's not always possible. I subscribe to YogaGlo online (not an affiliate link, I just love 'em) and I love the variety of classes and flexibility they offer.

Whether you're currently pregnant or not, this can still benefit you. Even if you only have 1 minute after finishing reading this, you still have time to close your eyes, inhale deeply into your belly, pause, then allow your exhale to stretch out even longer. Repeat. I like to imagine my body melting and softening during the exhale. It's a great way to release a lot of tension you weren't aware of holding. If you have more than a minute, get off the computer/phone/tablet and do something even more involved!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Homemade Shaving Cream

I know I'm not the only one that skips a shave every now and then during the winter, so when summer rolls around, it can be tough to get back in the habit. Although I'm not completely opposed to using my homemade soap for shaving, this homemade shaving cream leaves behind just a bit more moisture and makes the shave a little easier on your skin.

After forgetting my razor on our recent weekends away, and having to resort to an old disposable...this recipe moved to the top of my need-to-make list.

It's probably best to keep water from getting in the cream as much as possible. Having a towel hanging just outside the shower to quickly dry your hands before dipping your fingers in helps keep the cream from spoiling.

Keeping things simple is mostly my mantra, but if you want to add a little scent, essential oils would really amp up the experience. Just remember not to heat them!

Shaving Cream

1/4 cup shea butter
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 1/2 tablespoons macadamia nut oil
2 teaspoons vegetable glycerin

Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and melt the shea butter and coconut oil in the bowl, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat once completely melted and stir in the macadamia nut oil and vegetable glycerin. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for a couple of hours until completely hardened.

Remove from the refrigerator and use a hand mixer to whip the mixture until light and fluffy.

Transfer to a covered container. Rub a small amount over your wet skin before shaving and lightly dry after showering to keep from removing the protective oils that remain after you've shaved.

Friday, March 6, 2015

How to End a Horrible Day on a Good Note

*Before I get into this post, I realized I haven't told you yet that we're expecting our second baby in the summer...whoops! Anyways, just wanted to let you know before I start posting baby pictures and there's general confusion :)

The other week both my husband and daughter were sick for a few days and although I didn't get sick, it was mentally and physically exhausting being the only caregiver. At the end of one particular day as I crawled into bed, I realized that I probably hadn't had one positive thought (at least that I was aware of) all day.

And knowing how intertwined your mental and physical states are, I realized that not only would it be hard to fall asleep, I didn't want all that negativity to be the last thought I had.

As I lay there, I was miraculously able to come up with a few things I could be grateful for.

I quietly said to myself:

"I am so happy and grateful now that I am feeling well.
I am so happy and grateful now that I have the knowledge and tools to best support my body.
I am so happy and grateful now that I am in my warm and wonderful bed."

And then, to make things even better, I made statements that were not true yet in the moment:

"I am so happy and grateful now that our family is feeling healthy and well.
I am so happy and grateful now that our days are full of fun and laughter.
I am so happy and grateful now that our days are full of sunshine and warm weather."

As I spoke, I could feel my negative state lifting and by the end, I even had a smile on my face and felt joyful. A much better way to end any day!

There's no magic number of statements to make, but I just keep going through until I feel a noticeable shift. You'll know when you get there!

Although this would certainly benefit you at any time of day, I seem to only think of it when I'm quiet in bed. If you can think of pausing more often during your day to think of or say what you're grateful for, that's even better! But we all have to start somewhere, right?

It's been said that what you think about, comes about and that certainly seems to happen in my life. When I'm stuck on a path of negative thinking, negative things from my past and imagined things from my future seem to come up! When focusing on, and being grateful for the positive, the negative diminishes and the positives seem to multiply without any extra effort!

*And yes, I realize I haven't given you part 2 of my fermentation series, but I've been having problems with getting a SCOBY started. When I do, it's going to be all about kombucha!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

How to Make Water Kefir (Fermentation Series Part 1)

 One of our favorite things to drink is water kefir. If you've never had water kefir, it's comparable to pop (or soda), but full of healthy probiotics and empty of the freaky stuff they put into pop nowadays.

It's perfect for those trying to kick their addiction to pop and for introducing kids to fermented foods because it lacks the signature sour flavor of most fermented products.

Why are fermented foods important and what benefits are specifically found in water kefir?
There are more bacterial cells in our guts than cells in our bodies! If this grosses you out, please realize that without these little guys, you could not survive. They help us digest our foods, provide extra vitamins, and help prevent nasty infections from taking over, among many other things! Fermented foods provide us with the healthy bacteria that our bodies benefit from as well as help pre-digest some plant materials that may be harder to break down. Although water kefir contains sugar, the sugar is only used as a food source for the grains, which need it to survive and thrive. There should be very little sugar in your final product. The B vitamins in water kefir may boost flagging energy levels and the beneficial acids promote healthy digestion.

Next to sauerkraut, I'd recommend introducing this into a persons diet when they first begin making fermented products at home. It is a bit more expensive than sauerkraut, requires a few special ingredients and equipment, but is otherwise the easiest to introduce taste-wise. Plus, you'll be able to enjoy it in only 1-3 days!

If you want to take a break from water kefir or are leaving town, transfer the jar (loosely capped) containing grains, sugar, trace minerals, and water to the refrigerator. That way, the grains will still have some food, but will slow their growth while in the cold temps.

Basic Water Kefir
Yield: 1 quart

Equipment needed:
1 quart-size glass jar with a cover (wide mouth is preferred)
Wooden or plastic spoon with a long handle
Plastic strainer (found here or here)
Water kefir grains* (found here, here, or from a friend)
Filtered water
Liquid trace minerals** (found here or here)
Scant 1/3 cup organic sugar (we use this)

*If you buy your water kefir grains online, you may need to rehydrate them before proceeding with this recipe. Follow the instructions that come with your grains and then follow the instructions below.

**If your filtered water still contains minerals, you may not need the trace minerals.

Place your kefir grains in the bottom of the quart jar. Add in the sugar, about 5 drops of the trace minerals, and fill the rest of the jar with filtered water. Stir using a non-metal spoon until the sugar dissolves. Place a cover on the jar and leave on the counter for 24-48 hours. The warmer the temperature of your room, the faster the kefir will ferment. I usually leave it for 48 hours. The water kefir will be quite bubbly.

Using the plastic strainer, strain out the grains and place them in the bottom of a clean jar to begin the process again using more sugar, water, and trace minerals.

If you like the taste of this finished water kefir (it's pretty unique and I usually prefer to put it through a second fermentation as described below) you can bottle and drink it as is. Refrigerate any leftovers.

NOTE: You may also use coconut water in place of water. If using coconut water, just omit the sugar, water, and trace minerals.

Easy Water Kefir Flavoring (aka 2nd fermentation)
Yield: 1 quart

1 quart of water kefir from basic recipe
Plastic funnel or glass measuring cup with a lip
1 liter Grolsch style bottle (found here)
1/3-2/3 cup 100% fruit juice

Transfer the completed water kefir using a funnel or glass measuring cup into a Grolsch bottle along with the fruit juice.

Tightly close the bottle so bubbles can form during the second fermentation period and leave on the counter for up to 24 hours.

Before transferring the bottle to the refrigerator, carefully crack open the cover to let some of the pressure release. You may want to cover the top with a washcloth as you let the air escape in case there is more carbonation than you expect.

More fermentation fun coming in 2015!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Back to blogging and some changes...

I know it's been an excessively long time since I've blogged here. I got to the point where strictly focusing on food/recipes wasn't as fun anymore. Of course I reserve the right to change my mind, but I've decided to start incorporating some different topics although they will still be health-related.

As you may or may not know, I'm a stay at home mom and have recently felt the urge to start learning something new, which may lead to opening my own business at some point. So I've been learning more about essential oils and have been taking a local mind/body medicine class, which have been incredibly exciting.

In the past, my primary approach to attaining improved health has been strictly through physical changes. At this point, I feel like I know so much in that area (chiropractic, nutrition, sleep habits, movement...) but I've been missing the emotional approaches to improving health.

When I was in high school I was incredibly depressed although I believe I hid it well. To this day (technically before this day), very few people were in on the secret. Although I was able to live what appeared to be a normal and happy life, I was miserable inside. I ended up seeing a therapist and at a low point, when things were seemingly not improving, she asked me if I wanted to consider medication. Not having any background information (at least compared to what I have now) on them, I instinctively said no. Thankfully, shortly after that, things started to improve to the point where I stopped seeing her and I've been improving ever since.

Four years later, once I got into chiropractic school, I began to learn about where health really comes from and began to make big changes that have improved my mental and physical health.

Fast forward to today and I've spent the last 6 years learning everything I could get my hands on about improving health. The one area I've missed has been how to affect your physical body through your emotions, thoughts, and the state of your mind.

Having a daughter has made me realize how important this piece is and I know she'll learn by observing me. I want her to be as emotionally healthy as she is physically healthy. And maybe I'll be able to help others with this once I figure out this for myself!

If there's any topics you're particularly interested, let me know! I may know a little something, or at least have another thing to research :)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Grilled Plum Crumble

I've officially knocked "grill some sort of fruit" off my bucket list! And I have no idea why it took me so darn long. Normally, I'm not a fan of plums because the skins are too thick, but grilling them softens them up nicely and makes them completely acceptable to me.

Actually, much more than acceptable!

If you want to or need to skip the grilling part, you'll have to bake the crumble longer in the oven and cover the container with foil so the crumble doesn't burn.

A couple weeks ago I took a CreativeLive course on food photography from Todd Porter and Diane Cu (White on Rice Couple) and it was incredible! I was getting in a rut with my photography and although I was getting somewhat consistent results, I didn't have the thought process for changing when I needed to.

Needless to say, I ended up buying the course and hopefully I'll continue to learn and stretch in this area!

Gather up your friends, and grill them up a humble crumble. They'll owe you!

Grilled Plum Crumble
Yield: 6-8 servings

4 plums, halved and pits removed
3/4 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup raw pecans
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
Pinch sea salt
Whipped cream, lightly sweetened with honey or vanilla stevia, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and a grill to medium high heat.

Place the halved plums on the grill, flat sides down and allow to cook for 3-5 minutes. Very ripe plums will only take a few minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the almonds, pecans,  butter, honey, cinnamon, cardamom and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal place. Pulse until the nuts are coarsely chopped and you can form the mixture into a ball with your hands.

Remove from the grill and place flat sides up in a 1 1/2-quart size casserole dish.

Sprinkle the nut crumble over the plums and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the crumble is browned.

Top with lightly sweetened whipped cream and serve at any temperature.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Vanilla Bean Espresso Cashew Butter Cups

Oh. My. Goodness. You know how some foods sound really good, but they taste even better? These are like that.

I was inspired by an almond butter I saw once in the store, but then decided to use cashews instead of almonds. Now I feel like it owe it to myself to go back and try these again with almonds.

Technique-wise, there's nothing too crazy going on here, but there is some special equipment, like a pastry brush and a food processor that you'll need. You may be able to get by without the pastry brush, but please don't try making cashew butter without a good food processor. This beast is the one I have and love. If you don't have a food processor, buy the most delicious sounding nut butter you can find in the store and use that instead.

Vanilla Bean Espresso Cashew Butter Cups
Yield: 18 cups

1 cup raw cashews
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon coconut oil, refined to avoid coconut flavor
3/4 teaspoons espresso ground coffee, or espresso powder
1/8 teaspoon vanilla beans seeds, or seeds from one vanilla bean
10-ounce bittersweet chocolate chips

Line 18 muffin tins with paper muffin liners.

In a large food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the cashews for 30 seconds. Add the honey, coconut oil, coffee, and vanilla bean seeds. Continue processing and scraping down the sides of the container periodically until the cashews form a thick smooth dough. You'll know it's ready if you can pick up piece and easily roll it into a ball.

Place chocolate chips in a glass bowl and set over a pot of simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted and remove from heat.

Drop 1 teaspoon of melted chocolate into the bottom of the paper liners and spread it slightly up the sides of the paper with a pastry brush. If you don't have a pastry brush, you may be able to tip the chocolate up around the edges of the liners.

Once you have filled all 18 liners, place the pan in the freezer for 5 minutes to allow the chocolate to harden.

Roll and teaspoon-sized ball of the cashew butter between your hands and flatten into a disc that will fit into the hardened chocolate (see image above). Fill each cup this way and return to the freezer for an additional 5 minutes.

Remelt the chocolate if it has thickened and pour 1-1 1/2 teaspoons of chocolate over the cashew butter discs, using the back of a spoon to spread the chocolate out to the edges to seal in the cashew butter.

Return to the freezer to set for another 5 minutes.

Store in a covered container in the fridge or freezer.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”