May 24, 2012

Recipes: No-Bake Summer Delights

Mia and I have been loving my summer break from nursing school. Last semester was incredibly intense, so finals could not have come soon enough. I now have three blissful months to focus on my growing tot, and find ways to make each day amazing, while relishing in just the simple moments of our life as it is.
Come June, we will be relocating to another nearby city in the valley, and leaving our house of nearly 7 years. It is the house we brought our daughter home too when she was born, the house she took her first steps in and spoke her first words. It is a place that has offered a blank canvas which we have filled with the portrait that is our lives, and I wouldn't change a thing. Except that everything is about to change, as it often does in life.
I am looking forward to a chance at starting over in some respects, while silently mourning the loss of an era. Mia is growing daily, speaking longer sentences, comprehending more difficult tasks and emotions, and forming incredible bonds with her little buddies, which I pray last a lifetime, as many of mine have.

As I wake each morning in the grog of a never-long-enough dream, I think about what I can do on this particular day to stimulate, enrich and cultivate my daughter's life and learning experiences. Some days that entails involved art projects with glue, markers, stickers and cutouts from a dozen different sources, or  experimenting with old crayons on a sheet of wax paper over a hot plate. Other days it simply means spending an hour building a pillow fort, then making popcorn and reading books inside of it, or painting rocks we find outside. At the end of every day, I know one thing my daughter has taken away is the knowledge and feeling that she is loved and totally accepted just as she is now, and that will never change, even as she does.
Today, we decided a trip to the Zoo with her pals was in order. Upon arriving home, a cool tasty treat made for Daddy's birthday awaited us. My dear cousin offered up the recipe for an old favorite treat, and since my husband is on a Paleo/no-grain kick, I made a simple tweak so it would accommodate him and the need for a birthday treat.

Recipe via Hannah Wright:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Oat Cookies

1 C. Organic Coconut Oil
4 Tbsp. Organic Cacao Powder (raw is even better!)
1 C. Organic Peanut Butter
1 Tbsp. Vanilla (gluten free vanilla if you are Celiac or intolerant)
3 C. Oats (not instant, and gluten free if required.. Bob's Red Mill has gf oats)
Honey, agave nectar, stevia or coconut crystals to taste (I used approximately 2 Tbsp raw honey, then a dropperful of stevia, but you can experiment until you get the sweetness you desire)

Slowly heat coconut oil in a large sauce pan along with the cacao powder. Add the peanut butter, vanilla, and oats.
Using a teaspoon, place mounds of dough on parchment lined baking sheets or another flat surface, and allow to cool. Immediately store in refrigerator or freezer. If you live in a hot spot like I do here in Arizona, they may not harden at room temperature, so you will need to let them set in the fridge.

To mix it up, you can add coconut flakes, chopped almonds, or use crunchy peanut butter. You can also add pinches of spirulina, dark chocolate chips, or dried cherries -anything you're craving at the time. I think one time I will try it with sprinkles of bee pollen, or add in a little cayenne pepper! You could also substitute the peanut butter for almond butter.

So for my husband who is eating completely grain-free, I simply substituted the oats for organic, blanched almond flour, and they turned out just delicious, and he was thrilled. Next time I am going to try them with my organic quinoa flakes. So much yum and so many options!

Raw cacao as you know has so many amazing properties. It has amazing antioxidants -more than red wine, blueberries, acai, pomegranates or goji berries combined!! It contains magnesium (heart, brain, relaxes cramps, increases flexibility, increases alkalinity), iron (314% of the U.S. RDA!), as well as chromium (balances blood sugar), manganese, zinc (critical for immune system), copper, vitamin C, omega-6 fatty acids, PEA (a class of chemicals naturally produced in our bodies when we fall in love!), anadamide (an endorphin produces after exercise!), tryptophan (mood-enhancing), serotonin (stress0defense), fiber (soluble) and theobromine (antibacterial!). What's not to love!
And coconut oil is amazing for our bodies as well. Cocnuts and their products contain MCFA, which allow for sustained energy and fat burning. It is antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal. It helps regulate and support hormone production, and is a precursor to the anti-aging hormone pregnenolone. It increases thyroid function (metabolism!) helping with weight loss, and support healthy cholesterol formation in the liver. I could go on and on, but you get the picture. So although you're "indulging" in a delicous cool summer treat, these little cookies are actually quite good for you!!!

As a side note, I have found my new little miracle. Earth Balance brand has developed a peanut butter made with coconut oil. Amazing! I am on jar one and in love. Mia devours it, and asks for "more!" on her toast, or apple slices.

The second no-bake summer desert is a recipe repeated to me by a gal at Whole Foods, and man is it to die for! It is what Mia now refers to as "ice cream!!!!" to my joy. I call it....

Arizona Orange Delight

2-3 C. Frozen pineapple chunks
1/2 C. Coconut Milk
1/2 Banana (frozen)
1/2-1 C. fresh organic carrot juice (I use my juicer)
1/4 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg

Blend all ingredients, adding more coconut milk as necessary for consistency, but you want it rather thick. Pour into individual size glass or plastic wear, and freeze! Mia always enjoys a small bowel full right away, and then since it does harden quite a bit, I will usually pull a container out before I start preparing lunch, or prior to a swim to ensure it is soft enough to eat when we're ready.

Enjoy! And enjoy these days of summer, as hard as it can be at certain moments having our babes in our faces 24/7, remember that there will be a day when we'll wish they'd at least return our call or text, and relish that they are still wrapped around our fingers, begging for our attention and influence.


March 3, 2012

Sick Stress

Ever notice how you tend to catch that cold or flu everyone has right after a few sleepless nights, or after a big event or deadline? How about when you've been running yourself ragged with work, school, life and parenthood, and maybe baby is teething and you're lacking Zzzz's? Do you think there is any connection between the two? Absolutely!

Physiological responses to stress include immunological responses. The immune system differentiates between self and nonself, so that under normal conditions the body does not treat one's own cells as threats, in the way that the immune system treats bacteria, viruses, parasites or toxins.

Typically the immune system reconizes bacteria as a threat and attacks them. An antigen on the surgace of the bacteria cells identifies the bacteria as invaders. After being exposed to a particular antigen, the immune system remembers how to respond to that antigen and prepares to respond with anitbodies when the same antigen appears at a later time.

However, a virus sometimes creates an antigen very similar to a naturally occuring protein and the immune system attacks as if it were a threat. Problems occur when the immune system misinterprets antigens and responds too strongly, leading to an autoimmune illness.

The mechanisms through which stress affects the immune system are unclear. A prolongedj state of stress causes disease. Stress makes people ill as a result of:
1) increased levels of powerful hormones that change our bodily processes;
2) coping choices that are unhealthy, such as not getting enough rest or a proper diet or use of tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, or other substances; and
3) neglect of warning signs of illness or failure to adhere to prescribed medications or treatments.

So how can you avoid illness related to stress? When you know you are about to be faced with a stressful situation, or when you first realize you are stressed, make a point to avoid things that will further tax your body, such as excessive caffeine, alcohol or drugs.

Also avoid things like prolonged sun exposure, dehydration, etc., anything that puts your body under duress. Then, make a point to get some extra Zzzz's if at all possible. Use a natural sleep aid such as melatonin (0.3-1 mg, 1-2 hrs before bedtime) if the stress is keeping you awake. Try and use relaxation techniques such as yoga, stretching, meditation, or just closing your eyes somewhere safe and relxaxing for as little as 10 minutes.
Take a bath, or workout, whatever you usually do to effectively release stress and tension. Just get it in! Acupuncture, accupressure or a massage can help to relieve stress and balance tha excessive hormones circulating through your system.

Drinking lemon water and raw, freshly made green juices can help bolster the immune system as well as detox, helping to unburden the body. But beware, excessive detoxing falls under the category of stressing out your system, at least initially. The end result is fantastic, but never start a detox during a time of sickness or stress.

Lastly, make sure you don't slip on any nutrition, meals, supplements or prescriptions during that time. Make sure you are eating properly, even if you have choke down some raw almonds and carrot sticks, make sure to give your body ample protein to combat excess blood glucose (comes with the stress teritory). Trying these simple things may help to fight off the next cold or flu lurking around the corner when you feel some stress coming on. The faster and better you learn to cope with and reduce stress, the longer life you will have, and less illness/disease along the way.



Source:Potter & Perry 7th Edition, Mosby Elsevier, St. Louis 2009

January 9, 2012

Green on the Go!

It has been so long since I've posted. I come up with great posts constantly, jot down notes, even start them in a Word doc, but they rarely get finished these days. Life seemed to go into warp speed the moment Mia started walking, er, running, and hasn't slowed down!
My little peanut is my whole world. She fits beautifully into mine and Steve's world, and we have perfectly adjusted to being a family of three, raising a tiny tot full of vigor, imagination, energy, curiosity, and energy beyond that which you can imagine, even for a toddler!
Keeping Mia healthy and training her pallet have been top priorities over the past months. Developing her taste for not only nutritious and healthy foods, but new and different foods on a regular basis. Every time I am at the grocery store I look for a new piece of produce that may catch her eye, such as star fruit, her recent favorite. She has developed a preference for ethnic food, just like her parents enjoy, and nibbles on treats like roasted seaweed, kale chips, raw cashews, purple carrots and fresh green juices I make her.
Juicing has become a huge part of our lives since I finally talked Steve into letting us get one several months ago. Prior to that I was driving to our nearest juice stand weekly, and making green smoothies daily. Now that I have my juicer, life is even better. Mia helps, and she gets so excited when she sees me preparing to to make "juuuuuuuuice!" We wash our vegetables, cut up the larger pieces, and I very carefully allow her to assist me in putting the pieces down the chute.
We get a straw, and she drags me into her little play house, which is her favorite spot to "dwink juuuuuuice!" (I highly recommend making healthy snacks "fun" with your tot by creatively developing a special place to indulge. Mia and I drink juice in her playhouse, we eat almond butter and apples out on the grass, and lately have been noshing on roasted seaweed in the tree!)


With my nursing program starting in one week, I know that life is going to get even more hectic around here. I know that I am going to have to "give" in several areas. Being the perfectionist that I am, I have already been challenged in parenting with "letting go" of things I cannot have control over. I am sure you have been faced with the same challenge! Now I will be pushed to my limits I am sure, but I am purposing to have the attitude of compromise, and appreciation for the moment and the way things are in that moment. I will likely have to "give" on having a perfectly clean, organized house all the time. I will probably have to "give" on having laundry done promptly, and before the baskets are full. I will certainly have to "let go" of having amazing and creatively healthy meals, made from scratch each night. I am going to have to find a way to keep my family healthy and well-fed in quicker, easier ways. Juicing is one of the methods I will use to get lots of raw veggies and fruits into them.
Over the next two years my number one priority will be my daughters health and happiness, as well as Steve's. My number two priority will be the nursing program. But when I am with my daughter, I will be with her and not distracted by a messy house, or what I should be preparing for dinner. I refuse to clean instead of read to her, I refuse to fold laundry or cook unless she can "help" and it is a fun thing for us to do together. I will not allow myself to become overwhelmed by all the things I "should" be doing, but I will simply do the very best job with what is at hand. Finding the balance in being a "working" mom is something I will have to work hard at, and something millions of women and moms out there are doing at the same time. What an art it is!

Keeping my own health in tact will be a challenge, and I am nervous about that. I have received many emails from moms who are faced with that very challenge, who have asked for ideas for health on the go. It is so difficult in this fast-paced world to keep your health whole while being in a million places at one time, wearing so many hats. You women who have hit your stride, my hats are off to you! It is difficult, yet doable. I know this from examples I've seen, and from the last 8 months of juggling I've done personally with full-time online classes and being at at-home mom. Now I'll be really put to the test as I'll be in class and hospitals training for the next two years.
My strategy at this point is lots of juicing (when at home, and for on the road), using some time on the weekends to shop and prepare simple and easy healthful snacks to take with me, and to make sure I get at least 6 hours of sleep per night.
The kind of go-to snacks I will keep handy and available are:
-Raw almonds
-Pre-cut and bagged portions of cucumbers, celery and carrots
-Green apples
-Justin's Almond Butter (single-serving packets, life-saving!)
-Hummus in mini-plastic/glass containers to grab 'n go
-Green juice first thing in the morning, and one to-go in a glass jar (I know the enzymes die quickly, but it is better than nothing in the middle of the day when I have a break from labs!)
-Green smoothies (if I have time to make them in the morning to take, in addition to juices)
-Goat cheese and homemade almond flour crackers (my favorite gluten-free gal and her recipe: )
-Water, water, water!

I know that I won't be able to work out the way I have been over the past two years, but I know enough about myself to know that I need to do something  every day, even if it is just 20 minutes of yoga before bed, or 4 sets of single and double leg wall squats. Hopefully I get to run at least 3 times per week, that is my goal, along with 20 minutes of weights 3 times per week.
One of my all-time favorite 20 minutes kick-your-a** cardio/weight workouts is Jillian Michaels: 30 Day Shred videos (number 2 and 3 especially). If all you have is 20 minutes, she will give you a run for your money! I also always revert to my 100/100/100, wall squats, and just a 30 minute run with Mia in the stroller does the trick. For abs, my go-to is Ab Ripper X (P90X) because it is only 16 minutes long, along with Abs/Core + (P90X). I do yoga before bed, even if it is only 15 minutes of it, and I will lay over my textbooks in plank pose, until every muscle is shaking, while I study. You can always squeeze it in, and that is what I'm about to become an expert on! I hope.
If I can do all of that, and keep my body properly nourished, I should be okay. I will have to continue working on my anxiety over being a busy "working"/student mom, and release my fears of my daughter feeling like I don't have enough time for her.

I recognize that I am entering a whole new era of mommyhood, one that I have not navigated, nor have I mentally prepared for, so I am choosing to take each day with stride, and focus on health and wellness for myself and my family, and the rest will hopefully fall into place. So "Hello!" messy house, overdue laundry, 5am mornings, eating on the run, tired eyes, and a whole new chapter in my life.

Here are a couple of Mia and I's favorite juice recipes, packed with raw superfood nutrition:

Mia's Orange Delight:

5-6 Organic large carrots
2 Organic green apples
Chunk of ginger root (cut off about a half inch from the root)

Juice and enjoy!

Mia's Green Goodies":

1 Large bunch organic spinach
1/2 Bunch organic parsley (or more)
1 Bunch red or green organic dandelion greens
2-3 leaves of organic swiss chard
1-2 Organic green apples

Juice and serve immediately!




October 22, 2011

Recipes: Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Gluten-Free Almond Flour Chocolate Chunk Cookies

These delicious little treats taste exquisite fresh out of the oven -and they only take 15 minutes to make, so they are a perfect delight to whip up on a moments notice. They are made with protein and nutrient rich almond flour, sweetened with raw coconut crystals (palm sugar) which is a low-glycemic index food -win! I got the basis for the recipe from my favorite gluten-free blog,, but made some changes to suit my liking.

2 1/2 C. Almond Flour (must be blanched, and for some reason Bob's Red Mill brand doesn't work well. I order my almond flour from
1/2 C. Raw Coconut Crystals
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 Tbsp. Organic Vanilla (gluten-free)
1/2 C. Organic Coconut Oil
1 Organic Egg
1 C. Super Dark Chocolate Chunks (I love using Bakers Semi-Sweet Chocolate Squares -I chop them into chunks myself)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Combine wet ingredients in a smaller bowl and mix well, then combine with dry ingredients. Stir in chocolate chucks.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and form dough into 1 in. balls and space approximately 1.5 inches apart. Bake at 350 for 7-10 minutes (usually 9 minutes works for me, 8 if they are smaller size balls of dough).

Enjoy with a glass of unsweetened almond or coconut milk -Mmm-Mmm Good!!!



October 3, 2011

Recipes: Balsalmic & Pesto Black Eyed Salad

This was another one of my spur-of-the-moment lunch creations. I knew I wanted salad, needed protein, didn't feel like meat, and wanted to feel like I just had something delicious and light for lunch.

Excuse the iPhone shot of the salad, as I was nearly halfway through eating it before I realized I forgot to take a picture of it for the recipe. :) Ah, Mommybrain.


1 C. Organic Baby Spinach
1 C. Organic Mixed Greens
Several leaves of fresh organic Basil, sliced
3-4 Organic, multi-colored sweet small peppers, thinly sliced
3-4 Organic Baby Bella Mushrooms, thinly sliced
1-2 Organic green onions, sliced
1/2 C. Organic Black Eyed Peas (unsalted, then sprinkle with a small amount of seasoned sea salt)
1/2 package of Organic Basil Pesto seasoning (I use Simply Organics when no time to make from scratch)
2 Tbsp. Fig Balsamic dressing (or plain balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of grapeseed oil)
1 tsp. balsamic glaze (if you have it, or reduced balsamic vinegar)
1 tsp. grapeseed or coconut oil

Toss spinach and spring mix together in a large bowl, along with the green onions, mushrooms and peppers. Place black eyed peas (well rinsed, then lightly sprinkled with sea salt) in a separate bowl, along with the 1/2 packet of pesto seasoning and 1 tsp. grapeseed oil, and mix together. Drizzle balsamic dressing over salad, then layer with the black eyed peas. Garnish with freshly sliced basil, and enjoy!!!



September 1, 2011

Beautifully Broken

See these two sand dollars? They are broken, like the hundreds on the shore in Pacific Beach, WA. Not all were broken, while walking with my daughter Mia, now 18 months, we found a dozen or so whole sand dollars, and she gleefully picked each one up and placed it in her pail like I’d shown her to do. Earlier that morning I’d gone for a run along the shore, under the crystal clear robin’s egg blue sky, with the salty mist in my lungs and the wind across my body, I ran my heart out in that exquisite moment of perfection. That is why I had to stop and look at the broken sand dollars. 
There they were broken, broken in my exquisite moment of bliss on that shore, and yet although broken, they were perfect. Perfect because they were right where they should be, at the edge of the ocean, right where they were supposed to be in that moment.
I saw that they were beautifully broken, not just half a shell. They were in that spot for a reason… if no other than to make my moment perfect.
I think that so often after child birth we girls can feel oh so broken, imperfect. We’ve been stretched, stressed, burdened, huge, heavy, and sleepless, aching, hurting, and all the while in love with our new bundle, yet we do not feel like ourselves (at least most of us don’t).
 Our bodies have been out of our control for nearly a year, and counting, as we adjust to postpartum differences, breastfeeding, and a myriad of emotions that we can rarely put a name to. It can be difficult, and some of us struggle with things long after birth… I myself still have a couple little quirky issues that linger from birth, and since I am still breastfeeding, I some days still do not feel like I have my old body back (as much as I love being able to continue breastfeeding).
So here is my thought in this moment… You are beautifully broken. You may not be completely back to normal no  matter how many ab exercises you’ve done, how many miles you’ve run to burn off the baby weight, no matter what your issue is, maybe you’re feeling broken just today… but it is beautiful because it is exactly where you are supposed to be in your own moment. You are supposed to be here, right now, with your new baby or toddler, feeling all these emotions and taking this journey not back to who you were, your old body and self, but a journey forwards, morphing into the woman you are becoming. The mother, the lover, the homemaker or working mom, it doesn’t matter.
This is your journey, your moment, and you are exactly where you are supposed to be, broken and all. Let yourself be in this moment and chose to see it as beautiful, and know that it is only temporary. Because love conquers all… love of one’s child, love of one’s self, and love of life. If you are broken, or just feeling broken, be beautifully broken, and don’t underestimate yourself. The best is yet to come, if you so desire.