Friday, November 30, 2012

For the LOVE of Tea Tree Oil!


I love a good green product with multiple uses, and am constantly searching for natural, do-it-yourself remedies!

 When I recently needed a cleaner for my yoga mat to rid off all the yuckiness that gathers from dripping sweat and being transported back and forth, I found my remedy in
TEA TREE OIL!


Here are a few fun facts about my new FAV oil:

1.  Tea tree oil fights off bacteria, fungi, and viruses...hence, my use for a yoga mat cleaner!

2.  It can be applied to your skin and used to treat acne, eczema, and Athlete's Foot. Word to the wise... avoid eyes when applying to your face!

3.  The scent of tea tree oil is energizing and can lift your mood. I use tea tree oil as a morning toner, making me feel more awake, energized, and fresh!

4.  When used as a spray, tea tree oil can control mold and mustiness, preventing germs from lingering. I spray the mat cleaner on my pillow in the morning to keep germs off, and it smells like a spa when I jump in bed at night.


To Make Your Own Tea Tree Oil Disinfectant Spray, you will need:

Small spray bottle
Tea Tree Oil
Water
Essential Oil of your choice
**I used a Rosemary Lavender for an energizing, but calming scent.

Combine in spray bottle: 1 cup of water, 12-15 drops of tea tree oil, and 12-15 drops of essential oil.

If there is something that I can create or use in my own home that doesn't contain chemicals and lots of additives, then I am hooked!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Veggie Eats: Spinach and Kale Pesto


My Italian Mama is an extremely good cook, and I credit any skill I have in the kitchen to her! 

This pesto has been adapted from her recipe, and one that I crave frequently, perfect for those days when you just need a little Italian comfort food in your life. The spinach and kale provide extra nutritious greens, and a different, yummy bite than your traditional all-basil pesto. Serve over gnocchi, quinoa pasta, or with a bruschetta as seen here!

This sauce is far better than any pesto you buy out of a jar, and...it's HEALTHY...no guilt included!


Ingredients:

Fresh organic basil, 4-5 cups 
Garlic cloves, 3
Pine nuts, (2) 1/4 cups
Olive Oil, (2) 1/4 cups
Kale, large handful
Spinach, large handful
Lemons, Juice of 2
Black Pepper
Crushed Red Pepper

In a large food processor, blend basil, garlic cloves, 1/4 cup pine nuts and olive oil, and juice of one lemon. When pesto reaches a creamy consistency, add kale and spinach to basil mixture, so processor is full. Add the second 1/4 cup pine nuts and olive oil, and blend again till pesto becomes creamy. Add black pepper and crushed red pepper to taste.

**Makes enough for a large bowl of pasta. If you make too much, the extra will freeze well in an airtight container.


For the Bruschetta:

Chop cherry tomatoes and basil, and add to a bowl with olive oil, garlic, and juice of one lemon. Mix together all ingredients. Add black pepper to taste. 
Serve over a baguette with your spinach and basil pesto!

Buon Appetito!

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Little Things: Giving Thanks

Here are a few of the little things that made the holiday weekend one to be grateful for:

1.  Super-packed, pre-Thanksgiving donation class to raise money for prevention of human trafficking in India.

Photo Via

2.  Cooking an Italian Thanksgiving with my mom and sister. My mom's health has prevented us from cooking and having a holiday that included too much work and stress the past few years, so it meant the world to be in the kitchen cooking together again.


3.  Crawling back in bed the morning after Thanksgiving, instead of battling the crowds for Black Friday shopping, which I have promised myself I will never do!


4.  Celebrating a second Thanksgiving, and also a second birthday with my guy's family.


5.  A much needed reunion dinner with high school friends. Unfortunately, we were having way too much fun drinking wine and catching up, we didn't take a picture together, so I have this little gem from our glory days...thank goodness we all look better with age! :)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Guilt-Free Thanksgiving...It Can Be Done!

Photo Via

We are one day away from Thanksgiving...the one day of the year it's a requirement to fill up your tummy way past it's limit, with your closest loved ones!

...Which can be a DANGER zone for anyone trying to maintain a healthy diet!

Here are a few tips on how to make it a guilt-free, family and friend filled event, with cooking, drinking, and of course, loads of EATING!

1.  Start your morning with some physical activity...a run, some yoga, or a walk at the beach. Your metabolism will be running more efficiently, and your mind will be clear and relaxed to deal with any stress that may come up throughout the day.

2.  Eat a nutritious breakfast, so you're not famished by the time you get to Thanksgiving dinner. If you don't have a lot of time, a banana or protein smoothie will be better than nothing.

3.  Bring a healthy dish, so you know you can guarantee at least one nutrient-filled dish. I plan on making this ...and this would be a good option as well!

4. Focus on the company, and not the cheese plate! When you are more focused on catching up and having quality conversation with your loved ones, food will come in second, preventing a binge.

5.  Don't be hard on yourself if you do splurge and go overboard a little bit. It's one day of the year, and you'll be back on track with your healthy ways tomorrow. You will gain more weight stressing and dwelling about the giant meal you consumed, then if you accept that this is not an everyday occurrence!

Have a healthy and happy Thanksgiving!
Have gratitude for everything you are blessed with!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Veggie Eats: Everyday Brussel Sprouts


So often these yummy little guys get such a bad rap! I hear people "yuck" and "ekk" when you start talking brussel sprouts...but they are missing out!!

If not prepared correctly, this cruciferous vegetable can be a little bitter, so that's why we're gonna change all that with a really simple preparation that I whip up a few times a week. 

Brussel sprouts are a staple in this house...just as much as water!


Brussel sprouts pack a POWERHOUSE of nutrients, and because I can't give you a recipe without telling you how awesome it is for you, I've included a quick list of their nutritional benefits:

RICH in protein, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins A, C, E, K, iron, and potassium.
Fight inflammation in the body, and aid digestion.
Prevent retinal damage, and bone loss.
Protect against colon and prostate cancer.



Ingredients:

Brussel sprouts, 20 large
Olive oil, 4 Tbs
Garlic, 2 cloves
Lemon, juice of 2
Black pepper, 1/2 tsp
Red pepper, 1/2 tsp
Capers, optional, 1 tsp
Balsamic vinegar, drizzle or 1 cup for reduction

In a large skillet or wok on low heat, add olive oil, garlic, juice of 1 lemon, and capers. Clean and halve the brussel sprouts, and add to heated oil. Add black and red pepper, and combine all ingredients so seasoning and oil coat the sprouts. Cover and set on medium for 10-15 minutes. This will soften the brussel sprouts. 

While brussel sprouts are steaming, prepare balsamic reduction. Add balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan. Heat on medium-low. In about 10 minutes, balsamic will begin to reduce down and develop a syrup-like consistency. 

Once brussel sprouts are al dente (not too soft, not too raw), add juice of second lemon and brown further by heating on low, uncovered. Add additional pepper to taste. When they begin to get a little crispy, remove from pan, and drizzle with balsamic reduction.

Give these green, cruciferous beauties another shot, and you will reap the benefits!

Besides...don't you need to bring a side dish for Thanksgiving dinner?!

Friday, November 16, 2012

I ♥ Lemons!

Lemons Via

When Life Hands You Lemons, Make...EVERYTHING!


These detoxifying, and beautifully bright fruits are present in almost every recipe I make. Not only do they give a little zing to every dish, but they have innumerous health benefits as well. It has been found that starting your day with lemon and hot water will detoxify and cleanse your digestive system and liver.

Some of my favorite benefits of lemon include:


1.  They are extremely high in Vitamin C, and can fight off colds, flu, and throat ailments. Add lemon to your echinacea or green tea when you feel a cold coming on.

2.  The citric acid in lemon aids digestion, relieves constipation, and can prevent formation of kidney stones. I start my day with warm water and lemon just for these reasons, and the smell will wake up your senses.

3.  Lemon has preservative qualities. If you sprinkle lemon on your apples or avocados, you can keep them from turning brown, and extend their life.

4.  It can be used as an aromatherapy aid, as lemons lift mood and energy levels, helpful to those with depression, and going through menopause. It clears the mind allowing for better focus and concentration.

5. It has antibacterial and astringent properties, and can improve the appearance of dull skin. When applied to the skin as a toner, it acts as an anti-aging treatment.

Besides all of the above everyday uses, lemons look fantastic and bright in a bowl in your kitchen, which is personally one of my favorite uses!

**Try a few of my favorite recipes with lemon here, here, and here...with plenty more coming soon!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Veggie Eats: Butternut Squash Soup


Cooking is one of my favorite things to do to unwind and relax after a long day...but I also work full time, so I don't have a lot of time for difficult and lengthy recipes with tons of ingredients!

...Which is what makes this Butternut Squash Soup so divine! Most of the ingredients I had on hand, and it's super simple!

Ingredients:

Large Butternut Squash
Olive Oil, 1 cup
Pine Nuts, 1/4 cup
Roma Tomatoes, 2
Garlic Cloves, 3-4
Fresh Rosemary, 2 sprigs
Agave, 2 T
Crushed Red Pepper, 1 tsp
Sea Salt, 1 tsp
Oregano, 1 T
Black Pepper

*Makes about 6-8 servings.

For a creamier consistency, you will want to cook the butternut squash first. Cut in half lengthwise, and remove seeds. Bake at 400 degrees for 35-45 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, or use oven gloves, and cut butternut squash into cubes, removing skin as well.

Add all ingredients to a large food processor or blender. Heat over the stove to warm, and add black pepper to taste.

I served my butternut squash soup with a Rosemary Cashew "Cheese," modified from my Jalapeno Cashew "Cheese" recipe here. It tastes like a rosemary cream cheese/ricotta, and had me fooled that there was no dairy involved!

Not sure that could get any more simple!


I even found a heart in my squash!

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Little Things

Quote Via

I truly believe that the little things are really the BIG things in life, and as the week begins, it never hurts to look back and have gratitude, and recognize some of the little moments that make life so BLISSFUL!

A Few of the Little Things Last Week that Made Me Smile:

1.  Brisk but sunny Fall days, perfect for weekend walks by the beach.


2.  A long phone conversation with my sister in Seattle who is working her butt off in nursing school. Our phone calls are few at times with busy schedules, but always inspiring!


3.  A splurge at the market for my favorite oil which guided me to a new sauce recipe which I can't wait to share soon!


4.  Time with my absolutely adorable goddaughter. Her cuddles and smile melt my heart every time.



Find the little things that make your world SMILE this week!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Green Product I Love: My S'well Bottle


This little green bottle packs a lot of punch, and has been by my side since I bought it a few weeks back!

When you purchase a bottle, you are supporting WaterAid, which provides safe, hygienic, and sanitized water to the world's poorest communities, as well as cutting down on the waste of plastic bottles that are disposed of each day.

Aside from the green benefits of this bottle, it looks super sleek...I get asked about it often in work meetings, and it is made of double stainless steel, so liquids stay cold for 24 hours, and hot for 12 hours!

I put it to the test, and brought my S'well with cold water to my 100 degree hot yoga class, which is pretty much always impossible to maintain a cold water bottle throughout the whole class, and SUCCESS!

Not only that...Every Sunday I take my dog for a long walk and play session down at the beach, and my coffee is usually cold by the time we're done, but the S'well passed that test too!



To snag one up for yourself, you can find them here. I know I'll be buying a few more for holiday gifts this year, and I have to say the wine bottle size could come in pretty handy for some outdoor strolls through Christmas lights!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Veggie Eats: Creamy Balsamic...Without the Cream


I hate to break the news to you, but those salad dressings you buy at the store, the ones that say they're low-fat...less this...less that...well they're full of sugar and hydrogenated oils, and there's an easier, tastier alternative out there! Yay!

It's so EASY to make your own dressings, and I guarantee once you start, you'll never buy another bottle of processed salad dressing again!

Tahini
is the star player in most of the dressings that I whip up, and gives it a creamy, nutty taste! Tahini is a paste made from ground up sesame seeds, and is usually used in making hummus. It contains a laundry list of B vitamins, increases metabolism, aids in your immune and nervous system functioning, and promotes vibrant skin and muscle tone.
**Tahini can be purchased at your local health food store, like Whole Foods, and is usually near the nut butters.**

To Whip up Your Own Creamy Balsamic:

Gather...
Tahini, 3 T
Balsamic Vinegar, 1 T
Olive Oil, 1 T
Lemon
Black Pepper, to taste

In a small bowl add tahini, and juice of 1/2 of a lemon. Add balsamic vinegar and olive oil till you reach a creamy, not-too-oily consistency. You don't want to add too much balsamic vinegar, or you'll get a really tart taste. Add black pepper to taste.

You're now ready to take your salads to the next level, and enjoy their full nutritional benefit! My favorite use of this dressing is drizzled over cooked veggies and quinoa...comfort food at it's best!


Monday, November 5, 2012

More Bean for Your Buck!



If you're like me, and you use beans daily as a protein, then you know it can take multiple cans to get through the week, and can cost $1-$2 per can! I know that's not gonna break the bank, but buying in bulk can get you weeks worth of beans for the price of one can! That means more $$$ for that coffee addiction!!!

To find your inner cost-saving bean goddess...or god, follow these easy steps:

1.  First, you'll need to visit your local market where you can buy foods in bulk...that would be Whole Food or Sprouts for me.

2.  Once you get your dried beans home you will want to rinse them to get rid of any excess dirt. Place them in a bowl, and soak with about 3 inches of water above them. You don't have to soak them, but doing so reduces the acid that makes you gassy and gives you the toots!

3.  Once beans have soaked for about 12 hours, overnight is best, bring a large pot to boil, and add beans.

4.  Once beans have come to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cover. Simmer for 1-2 hours until beans are soft..

I store my beans in mason jars, which you can buy at your local hardware store, and freeze any jars that I'm not ready to use. Now you're all set to make salads, hummus, chili...and oh yeah these Roasted Garbanzo Beans...




These Roasted Garbanzo beans are quick and easy, and have been my go-to snack lately...sorry Kale chips...

In a large bowl, combine beans, a splash of olive oil, lemon, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and cumin. Place on a baking sheet at bake at 425 degrees for 10-20 minutes until crispy.

That's it...enjoy as a snack or replace as croutons in your salad! It's like a healthy CornNut! 

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Few Things I Learned From My Dog


Meet LILY...Cute huh?!

This little dog has taught me so much about life and love, something which, unfortunately, is hard to find in people at times, as love can often be conditional, with some judgement...jealousy...and selfishness mixed in! I know I probably sound like the crazy dog lady, but she really has brought so much joy and LIFE into my everyday. I was never a HUGE dog person before, but this little gal has sure got my heart strings!

Here are a few life lessons I've learned from Lily...

1.  Sometimes you just need to roll around in the grass and have a little fun!! At times, life can be so serious and overly scheduled and planned, that it feels good to let loose and enjoy, even in the craziness of things!

2.  'Unconditional' love is given and shown even when things aren't going so perfect, or when it's not returned...real love is never 'conditional'

3.  Greet the ones we love with great excitement and enthusiasm, as if you haven't seen them in years...our time with them is precious!

4.  Take time each day to stop and 'watch the birds'... s l o w d o w n, and enjoy the small moments!

5.  You don't have to eat everything in your bowl everytime...eat to live, and don't let food control you. Don't be hard on yourself for enjoying some treats every so often as well!

I know this list may sound a little silly, but sometimes we take ourselves so seriously, it's fun to find light in the little things.
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