No Time to Make Bone Broth? No Problem!

I’ll start off by saying that this post is about bone broth, but I feel like I need to acknowledge some things about my post from last Tuesday first. 

So last week I took a big risk by sharing that things over in CWB land haven’t been going so great. As a self-proclaimed bone broth aficionado and healthy living blogger, it can feel self-sabotaging to admit that things aren’t always going perfectly well in my kitchen and in my body. There’s the fear of losing face, and maybe even losing credibility to you guys, but I felt like being honest about what I’ve been dealing with might bring to light that even professionals who have a body of knowledge and experience to tap into struggle from time to time. We’re all human, even those of us in the blogosphere who put on the rosy cheeks and share our fancy soups and potions every day. 🙂 

I’ve already started the process of turning my health (and sense of wellbeing) around, but it IS a process, and, like everything else in life, I’m taking it one day at a time. Thanks for some of the sweet notes I’ve already received in support of the struggle I shared on Tuesday — you guys are all so great, and I can’t express enough how much I appreciate the CWB community. 

Bone Broth Routine

One of the things that used to be part of my regular routine was making gigantic batches of bone broth and freezing them in jars so that I can use it every day. I let that go for a while, and (likely due to a number of other not-so-great food choices I was making) my skin started to erupt. I also mentioned a while back that I decided to go off of hormonal birth control, and as someone with PCOS, I’ve experienced a whole other set of annoying issues that I’m working on with an ND. You can imagine what physical symptoms like unwanted body hair, acne, and “backne” do to a woman’s self-esteem, so I haven’t been feeling so hot when I look in the mirror lately either.

But I can honestly say that I’m already feeling things shifting in the right direction, and part of what’s helped me jump back into the bone broth habit is getting some of the pre-made stuff to save me from the labor of making my own until I was able to make it a priority again (which I have — the freezer is again filled with jars).

That stopgap of pre-made broth is what I want to talk to you about today. 

free kettle and fire bone broth

Kettle and Fire Bone Broth

I’ve shared this company with you before, but when I did, it was called Bone Broth Co. They’ve since upgraded the name, the website, and the product line to include not only grass-fed beef bone broth, but organic chicken bone broth as well.

I’m in love with this product for a number of reasons, but one is that it’s the only high-quality broth you’ll find in a tetra pak. What does that mean to you? For starters, it means it’s a shelf-stable product, so it can go in your pantry until you’re ready to open it up for immediate use (no thawing required). AND it means that shipping is cheaper and requires less packaging because there’s no need for temperature control like there is with frozen broth competitors. 

So you might be asking yourself what the difference is between Kettle and Fire and the brands you see in boxes on your grocery store shelves. And I can’t emphasize enough the difference in quality between those products (even the ones that are calling themselves bone broth) and what Kettle and Fire delivers. 

Here are a few differences:

  • Kettle and Fire uses only organic or grass-fed animals to produce their broth.
  • Kettle and Fire uses only organic produce to flavor the broth, giving it complexity, not only in flavor but in nutrient profile.
  • Kettle and Fire cooks their broth for 24 hours, ensuring that every ounce of goodness from the bones lands itself into the broth you’ll be sipping.
  • Kettle and Fire is the ONLY shelf-stable broth on the market that actually gels in the refrigerator (believe me, I’ve done a few tests on this myself). 
  • There’s not a single shelf-stable broth on the market that can make ALL of these claims. 

Why does my bone broth need to gel?

A good, nutrient-dense bone broth will gel (like jello) in the refrigerator and need to be scooped out with a spoon into your coffee mug or sauce pan for warming (unless you’re into eating meat jello, in which case you’re my hero, and maybe a little weird). The gel indicates that the joint and skin-supporting nutrient collagen has made its way from the boiled bones into the broth. It’s also a good indicator that everything else you were looking for in your healing potion is in there, namely a substantial amount of protein and amino acids.

Amino acids

FAQ bone broth acne cureGlutamine is a big one for gut health and is prevalent in a well-prepared (gelled) broth. Its anti-inflammatory and healing properties support gut health, muscle development, immune strength, and internal healing — especially from illness or injury due to strong prescription drugs. If you’re showing signs of a leaky gut, glutamine-rich bone broth should be on your list of healing foods to start consuming right away.

Glycine offers a powerhouse of benefits, including joint and skin support, muscle-building and protection against wasting, the
building up of a healthy gut lining, immune support (even protection from certain cancers), and digestive support. It also helps stabilize blood sugar, which is key for those at risk of diabetes or insulin resistance. 

Arginine is another inflammation-fighting amino acid that’s been associated with lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, protection against mental deterioration, performance enhancement, and improved immune function.

Proline another amino acid essential in collagen formation, so it’s helpful in tissue repair and joint and skin support. It also supports cardiovascular function, contributing to the prevention of arteriosclerosis (or hardening of the arteries). 

All of these nutrients are what make up the healing elixir that is bone broth — the same liquid gold that helped me cure my lifelong acne.

Without the gel, there’s no way for you to know how long the broth was cooked, what the ratio of bones to water was, or how much of the good stuff you’re actually getting in each serving. The gel is the simplest and most obvious indicator to look for in order to know that what you’re getting is concentrated and top quality. 

FREE Kettle and Fire Bone Broth

If you’ve been curious about the healing powers of bone broth, it’s probably because you’ve been experiencing some form of gut problem. Whether it’s bloating or indigestion, IBS or IBD, food allergies or sensitivities, skin issues or hormonal imbalance, bone broth is one of the tools you need to help you get back to vibrant health. 

You could spend the next 4 or 5 weeks headed down the rabbit hole on the web in an attempt to learn about how to heal your gut. Combing through the fluff to get to truly useful health information can be a real challenge, especially if it’s not your area of expertise. Lucky for you, starting today, you have access to the Gut Health Super Bundle, which not only gets you the best resources for gut health on the web, it also gets you two FREE boxes of Kettle and Fire Bone Broth! Get into it!

free kettle and fire bone brothGut Health Super Bundle

This amazing selection of resources includes 5 e-Courses, 16 eBooks, 44 videos, and 846 recipes to get you well on your way down the path to gut health. You’ll begin your journey with the Getting Started Guide, which features the first four resources you need if this is all new to you.free kettle and fire bone broth

A great first eBook to flip through is Zero Effort Gut Health: 10 Shockingly Easy Changes Anyone Can Make For Better Gut Health! by Dena Norton. As a wellness coach, I like Norton’s approach of taking small, simple steps to affect long-term changes in overall health and wellbeing. I recommend picking just one of her steps as a starting point and mastering it before adding the next one in. Once you get this bundle, you’ll have plenty of time to make your way through all the resources for maximum benefit — and this year just happens to be the year that the folks at Ultimate Bundle have made massive improvements with how you can access the bundle online. You’ll have a special access page with your own unique login where all of the elements of the bundle are organized in a way that helps you find exactly what you’re looking for exactly when you want it. 

Here’s the thing though. The Gut Health Super Bundle is only available for a limited time. The wonderful experts and bloggers who’ve contributed their books to the bundle can’t afford to slash their prices for long, so you have until March 27th at 11:59pm EST to get your bundle and your FREE Kettle and Fire bone broth. 

More Free Stuff!

And there’s another bonus I almost forgot to mention. Get Kombucha is adding a $20 gift card to every bundle purchase. You’re probably aware of the importance of consuming probiotic foods to help support gut health. If not, you’ll learn everything you need to know with the Lacto-fermentation eCourse in the bundle. And then you’ll be able to go spend $20 at Get Kombucha to get yourself started on the living food journey. 

Don’t forget, this is a limited time offer, so don’t miss it. Get your bundle now. 

Gut Check: Confessions of a Burnt-out Blogger

I have a confession to make.

I haven’t been holding up my end of the wellbeing bargain. For the last year and a half or so, things in my corner of the world have been BANANAS, and I’ve let all the frenzy and urgency inch out some of what’s most important to me.

Simply put, I haven’t been taking care of myself in the ways I know I should — in the ways I want YOU to take care of YOURSELF. And I can feel it. I can feel it in my energy levels and in my digestion. I can see it on my face and in my midsection. I can feel it in my tight shoulders and clenched jaw. And it was all confirmed when I went to get a routine teeth cleaning and my dentist discovered my first cavity in like 15 years. I was shocked.

So today, I’m delving back into my long-lost love here at Cultivated Wellbeing — gut health. This first long post in quite a while will be part confessional, part educational, and part excitement to share what’s helped me get out of my rut. 

Consider it a life lesson in listening to your gut — or a gut check, in the literal and figurative sense. 

gut check ultimate gut health super bundle

Confessions

Because I know myself and my body pretty well, I’ve known for a good 6 months or so that something needed to change. But for some reason, until these last few weeks, I just couldn’t get myself to make even the smallest adjustments to get back on track.

Whether it was the winter blues, this election cycle, the full-on burnout I was feeling from work, or all the rain we’ve been getting, I just couldn’t motivate. And every day I’d wake up and tell myself that today would be the day I’d turn it all around — and then it wouldn’t happen.

Here are some of the things I’d been battling:

  • Craving sweets after every. single. meal. and giving in to the cravings 90% of the time
  • Skipping work outs regularly
  • Hitting snooze 4 and 5 times every morning before rolling out of bed exhausted
  • Getting to work late every day and still managing to work way too much
  • Finding myself constantly distracted and on edge
  • Making frequent concessions to food rules I’d had firmly in place for myself for years — too much dairy, too many fried foods, too many white, processed carbohydrates, meals with no vegetables (or not enough), and lots of dessert

And on top of all of that, I hadn’t been keeping up with the things I love to do. I hadn’t been blogging. I hadn’t been making kombucha or bone broth consistently. I hadn’t been feeling inventive in the kitchen or cooking as often. I wasn’t writing much of anything. I was down to climbing only a few times a month, whereas before I was going a few times a week. And even my succulent obsession was on hold — something I almost never stop doing, regardless of how busy I get. (I’ll blame that at least partially on the incessant rain, but it was all adding up to misery.)

This doesn’t sound like me, does it? Something had to give.

Gut Check: Literally

Because some of what I’ve been feeling has danced on the edge of actual depression, I’ve taken two steps to ease myself back into the groove of self-care:

  1. I made an appointment to talk to a therapist (more on that in another post)
  2. I decided to relaunch my crusade to spread the word about gut health (and include myself in the audience — I need to revisit all this info too!)

If you follow me on social media, you’ve already seen some of the second step in action. I shared the multi-part series I created on gut health. My “Why Gut Health Matters” series draws connections between gut health and other systems and functions of our bodies and offer suggestions for how you can take charge of your health by sealing your gut and fortifying it with healthy bacteria. 

The key to addressing the whole mashup of symptoms — from IBS to acne, from depression to auto-immune diseases — is in finding and stopping chronic inflammation. If you followed along in that series the first time, you might remember this infographic:

Why Gut Health Matters

Chronic inflammation manifests in so many bodily and emotionally felt symptoms, as you can see from the illustration. And cooling it down can feel impossible if you’re stuck in a rut (as I’ve been). I revisited this series because I needed to jump-start the healing process for myself after going on a “health hiatus.” But I also found another comprehensive resource that I’m pumped to share with you right now.

The Gut Health Super Bundle

The little note in my inbox from the folks at Ultimate Bundle sharing this amazing collection of eBooks, classes, tutorials, guides, and freebies couldn’t have come at a better time. It was actually exactly what I needed to see. It offered a gentle reminder of what I’d been neglecting and provided the tools I needed to get myself back on track.

I’ve had the opportunity to comb through everything in this bundle already, and it’s definitely safe to say that there’s something for everyone, no matter where you are on your health journey. And I really mean that. I say that because sometimes you see these types of bundled products online, and they’re either so basic that a simple google search could get you there for free, or they’re so esoteric that they’re not useful unless you have a PhD in the topic. This bundle hits that “Goldilocks” sweet spot — it’s just right.gut check: gut health super bundle

What’s Inside?

If you’re a gut health newbie (or you want a refresher), you can start with the Foundations of Gut Health and Getting Started sections, where you’ll have access to 4 eCourses and 2 eBooks.

If you have (or suspect you have) a gut-related health condition, such as hormonal imbalance (like me), IBS, candida problems, or gluten sensitivity (also like me), you can learn about how to address your concerns with the help of 6 eBooks and 3 eCourses. 

If you’re already on-board and ready to dive in and start making changes in your life and yummies in your kitchen, the Gut-Healing Foods and More Recipes sections of this bundle are right up your alley. There you’ll find 8 eBooks and 2 eCourses to help you get started making bone broth, fermenting your veggies, making kombucha, learning about cooking for special diets, and much, much more.

And then there are the bonuses, which I’ll be telling you about next week! I hope you’re on the edge of your seat, because the bonuses happen to be my favorite part of the whole bundle!

The bundle isn’t quite for sale YET, but it will be really, REALLY soon. I can’t tell you enough how much these resources have helped me dig myself out of the rut I’ve been in. I know they’ll help you too. 

Set a reminder for yourself now by clicking the button below so that you’ll get a little note when it’s time to buy. And stay tuned, because I’ll be telling you all about those bonuses really soon. 


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

Amazing Salad Dressing: Coconut Lemon Vinaigrette with Bitter Greens

Every once in a while I have a stroke of inspiration in the form of an amazing salad — and an amazing salad dressing to go right along with it. It might sound weird that I find inspiration in a bowl of lettuce, but my passion for creating great salad truly runs deep. (Almost as deep as my passion for creating a great soup, but not quite — maybe in the warmer months the salad wins … )

As a great friend of mine once said, “a good salad is the gateway to healthy eating.” Once you master something simple like a truly scrumptious salad, there’s no limit to the vegetables you can consume!

Really, you can  put pretty-much anything into a salad if you’re thoughtful about how the ingredients will talk to each other — including warm ingredients, which happen to be one of my favorite things to use to make a salad interesting. I sautĂ©ed some shrimp in coconut oil to toss into this salad, but roasted chicken or grilled lamb could also work with these flavors — or skip the meat and use this salad as a side dish for a larger spread. 

amazing salad dressing

Requirement: Homemade Salad Dressing

The most important ingredient in any salad is the dressing. You can ruin perfectly beautiful produce with crappy dressing, so don’t skimp on quality — make your own. I have a pretty strong opinion about store-bought salad dressing,  and also some really simple tips on how to make your own at home, so don’t get overwhelmed. I promise, it’s not hard, and you’ll thank me when you taste the difference.

In fact, the jewel of today’s recipe is actually the dressing. The whole salad is delicious, but rest assured, this dressing takes the ingredients from good to great. I served this salad at a dinner with friends, and the next morning I got a text asking for the amazing salad dressing recipe. It’s that good!

Amazing Salad Inspiration: the Mighty Kumquat

I found my starting point at the fancy natural foods market by my house. They had a basket full of beautiful kumquats right in the middle of the produce section, and I just knew I had to find a way to use them.amazing salad dressing

Unlike just about every other citrus fruit, the meat of the kumquat is sour, while the rind is relatively sweet.  Tiny enough to pop right into your mouth, the kumquat is meant to be eaten in its entirety, skin, seeds and all. And honestly, so much of what’s healthful about citrus fruit goes into the compost bucket — the rind and seeds take kumquats to new nutritional heights!

High concentrations of vitamins A and C, tons of fiber, riboflavin (part of the B complex), and antioxidants like beta carotene make kumquats a pretty fantastic source of goodness for your body.  I can’t get enough of them when they’re in season.

Palate Balance

Once I had my kumquats, I needed to offset the tart with some bitter, sweet, and umami. I went with frisĂ©e and red radicchio for the leafy bits (bitter). Then I remembered that I had leftover beets at home from a killer smoothie I made for work (sweet). Hint: You can get the pre-boiled beets at most grocery stores to make this step simpler.

I topped the salad with fresh-grated Pecorino Romano, an ingredient that’s good on just about everything (umami). 

And now the long-awaited amazing salad dressing … 

Coconut Lemon Vinaigrette
I promised easy for homemade dressing, but this particular one I'd say is one step up from beginner, only because it requires a special tool: an immersion blender. BUT, because we're going for a thinner consistency than homemade mayonnaise (the main reason to use the tool), I think it would work just fine to use a food processor or blender instead. It's only three steps, still pretty easy!
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Prep Time
3 min
Prep Time
3 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 egg (needs to be high-quality, because you'll be consuming it raw)
  2. the juice of 3 Meyer lemons and the zest of 1 of them
  3. 1/2 cup(ish) extra virgin olive oil
  4. 1/2 cup(ish) avocado oil (this is my favorite)
  5. splash of apple cider vinegar (I use this one )
  6. 1/2 tbs coconut milk (best coconut milk ever)
Instructions
  1. In a jar large enough to fit the immersion blender inside, add 1 raw egg , the juice of 3 lemons, and all of the oil
  2. Blend these ingredients in the jar to make a thinned out mayo
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients in and give another quick pulse of the blender
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/
That’s it, you’re done. Toss this creamy goodness into your salad, and you’ll be off to the races. Give it a try and let me know what you think!


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.

Seafood Stew: CWB-style Cioppino [RECIPE]

Soup might be my favorite thing ever. My more-than-mild obsession with soup has become a running joke between me and Loren — I say, “I love soup. Did you know that about me?” and he says, “No! I had no idea.” This week’s Seafood Stew with White Wine Reduction is a combination of an Italian-style cioppino and a “put whatever’s in your fridge into the pot” soup. It turned out amazing, and I made enough to last us all week for dinner. 

Cold weather brings out the soup-lover in me like nothing else, and I’ve gone as long as a week straight eating it for every meal (including breakfast!) more than once this season already. I love how instantly warming it is to lap up the steaming broth — and I hate being cold, so it’s truly a winning combination.

Soup is also a vehicle for my daily dose of bone broth, so it saves me a bit of time and an extra coffee mug to just eat it for breakfast.

seafood stew

Seafood Stew for Breakfast? No! (Sneak peek) 

I mentioned eating soup for breakfast, but this particular recipe isn’t one of the ones I’ve adapted for breakfast. While I’m definitely a person who will eat non-breakfast food for breakfast, I didn’t find myself wanting to eat seafood first thing in the morning. (If you’re into it, by all means, go for it! It just wasn’t calling to me in the morning hours.) I’ll share a “souper” simple breakfast soup with you soon, so get excited for that! There’s my big “sneak peek”!

In the meantime, enjoy this deliciousness, which can be served with rice, tiny pasta, a big hunk of crusty bread, or none of the above — I included a few sunchokes from the garden in this recipe, so that’s a small amount of starch if you’re trying to stay low(-ish) carb.

Intuitive Cooking

As usual, I did minimal measuring. That’s the beauty of soup — it doesn’t have to be exact. It also doesn’t have to have these EXACT ingredients. I opted for all wild-caught, fresh seafood. Clams are usually included in seafood stew. If you like them, knock yourself out. I don’t love them so they aren’t included. Crab is another delicious option that wasn’t available when I made this. You could also opt for larger shrimp or prawns, again not available when I made this.

Be creative! Have fun, and enjoy being in your kitchen! This one takes a while, but it’s worth it to have something awesome waiting for you when you get home on these cold winter days!

Seafood Stew with White Wine Reduction
Serves 6
an easy take on Italian cioppino with a few extra ingredients
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Ingredients
  1. 1 lb squid
  2. 1 lb white fish (I chose wild cod)
  3. 1 lb bay shrimp (also called "salad shrimp")
  4. 1 lb mussels
  5. 2 cups (or a large jar) seafood stock -- chicken or veggie stock works too if you don't have seafood stock
  6. 1 (26 oz) box POMI Strained Tomatoes
  7. 3 cloves garlic -- chopped or pressed*
  8. 2 lemons (finely zest one, largely grate the zest of the other, slice for garnish)
  9. 4-5 sunchokes, diced
  10. 2 large carrots, chopped
  11. 3-4 ribs celery, chopped
  12. 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  13. 2 tbs tomato paste
  14. 1 cup dry white wine (like a chardonnay)
  15. fresh herbs, chopped* (oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, or a combination)
  16. 2 tbs avocado oil or EVOO
  17. Real Salt
  18. Black pepper
  19. OPTIONAL: cracked red pepper, Pecorino Romano
Instructions
  1. Mince the garlic and set aside
  2. Clean the squid and chop them into 1-inch rings
  3. Clean mussels if needed
  4. Cut fish filets into 2-inch pieces
  5. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat
  6. Add chopped onion, carrot, and sunchoke to the oil and saute until tender
  7. Add garlic and stir until garlic becomes fragrant and golden brown
  8. Add the squid in and reduce the heat -- you want them to cook slowly over about 10 minutes to avoid them turning rubbery
  9. Add in the white wine and the large strips of lemon zest, raise heat again and cook for about 5 minutes
  10. Add the strained tomatoes, the tomato paste and the chopped fresh herbs (leaving a bit of parsley for garnish at the end)
  11. Raise the heat for a few minutes to get things boiling and then reduce down to a simmer and cover for another 15-20 minutes
  12. Add a generous pinch of salt and as much black pepper as you want (I used about a teaspoon) before covering
  13. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into the pot taking care not to allow any seeds in
  14. Add in the rest of the seafood and cook for another 5 minutes or until the mussels open and the cod is opaque
  15. Remove the large slices of lemon zest
  16. Serve over your choice of starch (or without one at all) and top with more fresh parsley, the finely grated lemon zest, and grated Pecorino Romano cheese.
Notes
  1. *I often have my garlic herb salt on hand to create short cuts in recipes like this. I included the garlic and herbs separately for those who don't have this wonderful blend on hand, but if you have it or something like it, feel free to use it instead of doing all the garlic and fresh herb chopping. I will often still add more fresh herbs to increase the green quota in a dish, but this blend will save you so much time in the kitchen. Just a word to the wise!
Adapted from Epicurious
Adapted from Epicurious
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

Seasonal Affective Disorder – Why am I Sad in the Winter?

seasonal affective disorder negative ions

Many of us (myself included) struggle to adjust to a loss of day light after we “fall back” into Standard Time for the fall and winter. Leaving work in the dark, getting less time outside in the sun, and feeling rushed in the evenings can all contribute to a sense of dreariness this time of year. Also, for me personally — I really hate being cold. But hating being cold isn’t enough to make a person SAD. Let’s get to the bottom of this together.

Defining Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Some people are more susceptible to the change in weather than others, but we all feel it from time to time in the winter. Even the snow bunnies feel it. A more severe version of the winter blues could the result of a biochemical change, resulting in Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

The Mayo Clinic defines Season Affective Disorder (SAD) as “a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons … a subtype of major depression.’

Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Problems getting along with other people
  • Hypersensitivity to rejection
  • Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain

These symptoms are pretty similar (if not the same as) other forms of depression, and just like depression, they’re more likely to affect women than men. But why are they grabbing folks in winter who are otherwise non-depressive at other points during the year? What’s so special about WINTER?

Why am I Sad in the Winter?

A few things are happening in our bodies (and in our lives) this time of year that could contribute to SAD — or even a less severe version of the “winter blues.” As I hinted above, a lack of sun exposure directly relates to a few of these, which I’ll explain as best I can.

Vitamin D 

Less exposure to sunlight means less vitamin D synthesis, which can sometimes mean a change in mood and energy for those who are sensitive. In a meta-analysis to review the connection between vitamin D deficiency and depression, researchers found a consistent correlation between low vitamin D concentration and depression in adults.

Combating the lack of sunlight with vitamin D3 supplements is a good idea for most of us here in the SF Bay, as we live far enough from the equator to be concerned about deficiency.

seasonal affective disorder circadian rhythm

Circadian Rhythm (aka, our body’s biological clock)

The quantity and quality of light that enters our eyes (specifically the retina) affects our natural body clocks, and when the light changes, our energy levels, motivation, mood, and sleep patterns can all change with it.

Insufficient sunlight (entering through the eye) causes the brain to do extra work to produce melatonin, which is crucial in regulating sleep and has been linked to an increase in depressive symptoms. We want enough melatonin to get a good night’s sleep, not too much, which can prove problematic.

When we stop receiving a flood of bright light in the morning, our brains and bodies lag behind. Some people adjust quickly, some people have a harder time adjusting.

“The body clock takes its cue from sunlight, especially that in the morning. But as you get up into the northern-tier states, there’s a 4½ hour delay in sunrise in mid-winter versus the summer … in the middle portion of the U.S., there’s a two-hour difference … This difference is enough to affect circadian rhythm timing and throw the body clock out of sync.” (WebMD source)

Conclusion: The change in light is a major trigger for Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Light Therapy

seasonal affective disorder sun boxWith sunlight in shorter supply during winter months, it’s important to get outside when the sun is out, to look up and soak in the rays. Take a brisk walk on your lunch break when the sun is at its highest. 

If the sun does come out before you get to work every day, consider taking a walk first thing in the morning, and face the sunrise as much as possible. Do what you can to spend time outside, even if it’s chilly.

But sometimes that’s not enough, and we need to take extra measures to get adequate light into our brains.

One of the most effective treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorders is light therapy. Using a special light box (or sun box) that contains special light bulbs that mimic the sunlight can activate the parts of the brain that regulate our body clocks. Facing a sun box in the morning for as little as 30 minutes — say, while you’re eating breakfast or getting ready for work — can have a dramatic impact on your mood. 

According to Michael Terman, PhD, director of the Winter Depression Program at New York Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University Medical Center, using a sun box “keep[s] your body clock on its springtime cycle during the winter, and that’s how the depressive symptoms are lifted.” Pretty crazy right?

I’ve actually been doing this for about a week now and can already tell the difference. Maybe it’s too soon to tell, but I definitely feel more myself after using the one linked above while I’m doing my hair and make up in the morning.


Warning: there can be side effects to using a light box, and since so many of my readers come here for skin issues, I need to be clear: If you take medication that makes your skin sensitive to light, including skin medications, some anti-inflammatory medications, and certain herbs, talk to your dermatologist or PCP before starting light therapy.

If you have bipolar disorder, light therapy could trigger mania, hyperactivity, or agitation. Talk to your doctor before giving it a try.


Negative Ions

seasonal affective disorder negative ionsThis is where we get into some interesting territory. Let’s start with a little background. 

Ions are atoms with an electrical charge (positive or negative). Negative ions are found in greater concentrations around waterfalls, mountains, and beaches — natural places, typically large bodies of water. Decades of research has shown a correlation between increased negative ions and increased serotonin

You can reap the benefits of negative ions by frequenting the environments where concentrations are naturally high, but in the winter, these places are often inaccessible. One winter option is to actually purchase a negative ionizer (affiliate link) for your home. Before you do that, take note that research on the efficacy of negative ions to reduce depression or anxiety is not conclusive. It’s a hypothesis that’s been tested with varying results. Give the linked research a look before you purchase. 

Cold and Flu Season

In working on this blog post I actually learned something new myself. In the wake of a viral infection, it’s common to feel depressive symptoms. Did you know this? I sure didn’t, but it makes a lot of sense. When your immune system is in high gear, so is inflammation in the body and brain — this is the natural progression our bodies go through to fight infection. It’s a good thing in the end, but it can sure make us feel like crap. Here’s a brief explanation from Psychology Today:

“Our immune, neurologic, and psychological systems are closely intertwined. When there is a foreign invader in your body, like the influenza virus, your cells produce proinflammatory cytokines, non-antibody proteins that activate and organize your body’s immune response (Raison 2006). These chemical proteins circulate throughout your body and communicate with your brain, which in turn produces its own cytokines. These brain cytokines lead to fever, fatigue, depressed mood, lack of appetite, lack of motivation, social withdrawal, poor concentration, and altered sleeping patterns. In other words, the physical sickness caused by the inflammatory response significantly overlaps with depressive symptoms.”

We learned from my series on gut health that inflammation is very closely tied to mental health, sleep, and stress. Depression is correlated with leaky brain (a permeability that can both cause inflammation and be caused by inflammation). So it shouldn’t have surprised me that an inflammatory immune response would trigger depressive symptoms.

seasonal affective disorder

Take Care of Yourself this Winter

This time of year can be brutal — I’ve already had two colds this year and December has only just begun. Take care of yourself by practicing good hand washing hygiene, staying away from sick friends, and staying home if you do come down with something. You can also boost your immune system by eating foods rich in vitamin C and zinc, avoiding inflammatory foods, exercising, getting enough sleep, and avoiding unnecessary stress.

Remember, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression — it can be tempting to isolate, to curl up with a blanket and Netflix, to eat too much raw cookie dough or an entire bag of chips when you’re feeling down. Do your best to resist these temptations: find support in your social network rather than trying to do it all on your own. Take advantage of any resources you might have to help you, and don’t be afraid to ask. 

If you’re susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder, these steps, in addition to experimenting with light therapy and/or negative ion therapy could make the difference for you this winter. Don’t forget to talk to your doctor before embarking on the light therapy journey if you have any relevant diagnoses, and take care of yourself. 


FTC DISCLOSURE: This is not a sponsored post but I will receive compensation if you use the links in this post to purchase Bone Broths Co. bone broth. I’m proud to call this company a partner and work with them to bring bone broth to as many people as possible. All opinions are my own.

Protect Sensitive/Blemished Skin with the Best Natural Sunscreen

I’ll start this post out by saying that I’m a huge fan of Botanic Organic skin care. Today I’m going to give Nancy Newsom (founder of Botanic Organic) the floor to share how best to protect troubled skin (acne, sensitive, blemished) during the sunny summer months with the best natural sunscreen. I met Nancy at a women’s entrepreneur event in San Francisco over a year ago, and after trying out a few sample products, I was hooked. We discussed my years of skin drama (and my eventual cure), the scarring that resulted, and the best ingredients to use for topical skin care to help keep my acne-prone skin looking its best. In fact, we’re working together to get my favorite products to you at a discount, but more on that at the bottom of this post.

Mineral Sunscreen (Natural Sunscreen)

One thing Nancy insisted on without giving me even an inch of leeway was the need for a daily facial sunscreen. The word “natural,” as in “natural sunscreen” is implied here, because BO products are among the cleanest you’ll find out there. I make that distinction, because some of the chemical sunscreens (even those designed for sensitive skin) are so questionable that you might actually be better off without them — wear a hat and call it a day. I haven’t done enough research on my own to draft a solid post about this topic, but here’s a quick reference from the Environmental Working Group that explains some of the risks of chemical sunscreen, including endocrine issues (something women with PCOS certainly don’t need). 

I’ve always hated putting sunscreen on my face. I hate that gross slick, that heavy feeling, that non-breathable gross glue that passes for natural sunscreen that you find on the shelves at Whole Foods (and I used to work there, so I’ve tried a LOT of them). Remember that stuff from the 80’s that was made in fluorescent colors trying to make slathering straight zinc oxide all over your face seem cool by making it pink or green or orange? I think it was called Zinc. Or Zinka. I can’t tell if this awesome picture I found is actually from the 80’s or if this is a new product that’s trying to be as “cool” as the one from the 80’s I’m thinking of.

best natural sunscreen

photo source linked

ANYWAY, you get the idea. But in the spirit of practicing sun safety as we approach what will likely be our warmest summer on record, I asked Nancy to write a guest post showcasing her “Toni-friendly” sunscreen options. Hilariously, she starts off right away with the ingredient I just complained about — zinc oxide. And I’m happy she did — I actually learned something about how and why it’s good for problem skin, and I bet you will too. 

Both of natural sunscreen products she shares are great — I use them without complaint, which is definitely saying something. In fact, I’ve already written a review about the Raspberry & Green Tea Daily Defense Moisturizer as part of my Summer Travel Skin Care strategy. It’s my favorite facial sunscreen of all time. 

Take it away, Nancy!

Zinc Oxide for Sun Care and Acne-Prone Skin

nancy newsom botanic organic best natural sunscreen

– Nancy Newsom, Founder and CEO of Botanic Organic

At Botanic Organic, we’re big fans of zinc oxide for skin care because of its ability to both protect and repair skin. Zinc oxide is an inorganic compound that can prevent sunlight and ultraviolet rays from penetrating the skin and can also act as a barrier to protect skin from outside irritants. As a sunscreen, zinc oxide reflects ultraviolet rays away from the skin and provides protection against sun damage. It is particularly effective against long-wave UVA rays and appears to block out the harmful rays without actually penetrating the skin. (The two choices for sunscreen on the market are chemical barriers and physical barriers. Zinc Oxide is a physical (mineral) barrier and doesn’t pose the potential health risks mentioned in the EWG article linked above.) 

Sun Exposure for Acne-prone Skin

Why should acne sufferers be particularly careful about wearing a sunscreen? Tanning appears to cover up redness and dry up the surface of your skin, making some blemishes fade away temporarily. In reality, tanning causes skin irritation, especially if you stay out a bit too long and burn yourself. This adds to redness and leads to peeling, both of which may later aggravate the appearance of acne. Tanning also breaks down collagen. Collagen is one of your prime defenses against wrinkles because it keeps your skin elastic. When skin loses collagen, not only are you more likely to see wrinkles but your pores may appear larger as well.

Sun Exposure for Acne Scars

Those who are dealing with discoloration or scarring from acne may be tempted to sit in the sun to “even out” the dark marks or “camouflage” them with a tan. Unfortunately, sun is the last thing your scars need. Scar tissue is different from normal skin. Scars are less resistant to ultraviolet rays and much more prone to sunburn, especially if they are fresh. Prolonged sun exposure can also permanently darken a scar, especially in people with darker skin complexions. Therefore, scars should be protected from prolonged, direct sun exposure year round, not just during the warmer summer months. Using a sunblock on your face every single day is extremely important for this reason.

A sunblock containing zinc oxide may help to prevent scarring and hyper-pigmentation with moderate acne. Additionally, some potential scarring from severe acne might also be avoided with regular use. By reducing inflammation and encouraging proper collagen growth, the skin is able to repair itself and prevent future damage. Please remember that you may be at risk for increased sun sensitivity if you’re using an acne treatments. Products such as Accutane, Retin-A, and even over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide ointments recommend avoiding sun exposure due to an increased sensitivity.

 botanic organic best natural sunscreen

Natural Sunscreen, Antiseptic, Anti-inflammatory, Antimicrobial, Antioxidant … 

Sun blocking benefits aside, zinc oxide has mild astringent and antiseptic properties making it useful for acne and wound care. It is suggested that zinc for acne is effective because it can kill bacteria that causes red bumps during breakouts. By killing bacteria, the inflammation is reduced and pores can then be easily cleaned. It may also reduce overall inflammation and its antioxidant properties can help reduce skin damage during breakouts. Zinc oxide has been used for a number of dermatological conditions beyond acne, including infections, rosacea, pigmentary disorders (melasma), and basal cell carcinoma. [1]

High SPF zinc sunscreens can feel a bit thick and chalky for daily wear on face and neck. With this in mind Botanic Organic developed Raspberry & Green Tea Daily Defense Moisturizer. We designed this formula to encourage everyday use and included 11% zinc-oxide to provide a significant physical barrier to reflect UVA/UVB rays. Our customers who suffer from blemished skin find that it helps to control oiliness and acne without feeling heavy on the skin. Additionally, vitamin and antioxidant rich oils which are good for acne, provide organic nutrients to replenish skin and guard against environmental depletion. Green tea extract and sea buckthorn oil soothe redness and promote skin cell regeneration to aid in repairing UV damage. Shea butter, raspberry seed, buriti fruit and hemp seed oils have the natural ability to absorb a spectrum of UV radiation and therefore provide an extra degree of sun protection.

Read other Botanic Organic product reviews

Simplify Your Skin Care: Double Cleansing with Botanic Organic

Summer Travel Skin Care Made Easy with Botanic Organic


BO + CWB = <3

Great news! Nancy and I are joining forces to offer you an exclusive discount on all of my favorite Botanic Organic products! As soon as the page is built, you’ll be able to go straight to the products I use to help keep my skin looking great, and try them out for yourself. They’re all natural, organic, pure, and gentle — so clean you can eat them. We’ve been talking about doing this together for quite a while, and I’m so happy it’s finally happening! Stay tuned!


Resources

1. Mrinal Gupta, et al., “Zinc Therapy in Dermatology: A Review,” Dermatology Research and Practice, July 10, 2014; http://www.hindawi.com/journals/drp/2014/709152/.

Cook-Ahead Meal: Italian Turkey Meatball Recipe

turkey meatball recipe

It’s been a while since I shared a recipe, and this Italian turkey meatball recipe has been on the docket for literally months at this point. It actually took me a while to dig up the pictures I took. Life has been BANANAS lately in the way of making time for CWB, which makes me simultaneously sad for the blog but excited for all the things that are happening in life outside of this project. I hope you haven’t forgotten about me in my infrequent posting lately! I hope to get back to at least weekly posting now that I’ve gotten a better handle on my routine. Now, on with the show!

turkey meatball recipe

Kitchen Hack: Cook-Ahead Recipes

Speaking of life being bananas, making time to cook every night has become increasingly challenging, so in an effort to continue to eat at home (and at a decent hour) while still getting everything else done, I’ve started making bigger pots of food and eating them for many meals — including lunch the next day. This is not a new concept by any stretch, but sometimes it’s hard to actually carry out in the CWB household. Sometimes, we plan to eat the same thing for a couple of nights and then we gobble it all up at once (not a great plan for me, zero consequences for the tapeworm I live with). 

Still other times, I intend to make enough food to eat for a few nights and then freeze the rest for next week, but then I forget about it and it goes bad in the fridge. And I really REALLY hate wasting food. Not good.

All this is to say that making meatballs can be the answer to a lot of these problems. So today’s kitchen hack is really just MEATBALLS. I mean, obviously this can apply to lots of different foods, but meatballs are SUCH an easy thing to make and freeze, and they’re small enough that they’ll cool while you’re eating dinner and be ready for the freezer by the time you’re done (no forgetting about them!) In fact, if you feel as strongly as I do about having a few meals for now and a few for the freezer, you might even double this recipe (depending on how many people you’re feeding at home). 

turkey meatball recipe

Cook-Ahead Italian Turkey Meatball Recipe

This recipe fed us for a night or two, me for lunch a few days, and we even invited a couple of friends over for dinner and finished them off with them. Depending on how hungry you are, 2 or 3 will do the trick.

Each time we ate them, we did something different — that’s the beauty of a really tasty meatball. It isn’t limited to just pasta and tomato sauce. It can work as a meat dish all its own with whatever sides you want; it belongs in Italian Wedding Soup (or any broth-based soup); it can sit on a bed of greens for a salad; you can even eat one with your eggs and greens in the morning. They’re a lot more versatile than you think. And the dirty dishes for this project include 1 cutting board, 1 chef’s knife, 1 cookie sheet, and 1 bowl. That’s it. 

Enjoy!

Cook-Ahead Italian Turkey Meatballs
Yields 18
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 lbs turkey (1/2 light, 1/2 dark)
  2. 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  3. 1 large egg
  4. 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley (stems removed)
  5. 1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese
  6. 1/2 tsp REAL salt
  7. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  8. 1/4 tsp red pepper flake
  9. 1/2 tsp lemon pepper
  10. avocado oil for greasing the pan
Instructions
  1. preheat oven to 375
  2. add all ingredients to a large bowl and mix gently by hand
  3. form meat balls about 1.5 inches in diameter (slightly bigger than a golf ball) and place them about 1/5 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet
  4. bake for 15 minutes
Notes
  1. makes 18 to 20 meatballs
  2. great for freezing for later
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

5 Key Nutrients for Healthy Skin [INFOGRAPHIC]

I’m excited to share a guest post today, featuring an infographic that focuses on nutrients for healthy skin created by Samantha Thayer. Samantha is a Health Educator and blogger in the health and wellness space, and we met on the interwebs because of a shared passion for holistic health and wellness.

Acne Cure

CWB covers a wide swath of topics (because I have a wide swath of interests) but one of the biggest reasons people are drawn to this site is for skin health information — specifically acne remedies. I had some seriously miraculous luck in clearing up my lifelong acne a couple of years ago, and since sharing my experience and some science behind why it worked, I’ve made connections with readers and bloggers across the globe who have either experienced similar results or are looking for answers for themselves. From time to time, I come across someone like Samantha who has a simple, easy-to-implement message that I think would be helpful to my readers in their quest for healthy, clear skin.

Heal from the Inside Out

The most important message I want those of you suffering with skin issues to receive is that healing starts from within. No amount of creams or potions will work topically if you aren’t providing your body with the right nutrients for healthy skin. What you eat matters, and this infographic is a great depiction of how to take care of your skin by feeding yourself properly.* 

*If you’re a regular follower of this blog, you know that I’m not a big fan of low-fat dairy. I still chose to share this infographic instead of asking Samantha to redo it for my audience, so I’m making this brief caveat and offering a suggestion in its place. You can find my personal views on low-fat or skim milk in my post 7 Foods you Think Are Healthy But Aren’t.

I wouldn’t be sharing this post from Samantha if I didn’t stand behind the claims she makes.

Samantha shares vitamin A as one of the key nutrients for healthy skin. I agree with her on the importance of vitamin A; but there are other, more ideal food sources of vitamin A than dairy of any kind (which frankly I think shouldn’t be consumed at all if you have acne), such as fermented cod liver oil and organ meats.

If you want to consume dairy, I recommend full-fat dairy that comes from organic, pasture-raised animals, preferably raw. Even then, if you have acne, something as insulinogenic as dairy should be limited if not totally avoided until you get your skin under control, and from there I’d recommend proceeding with caution.

Eat Healthy Look Healthy: 5 Key Nutrients for Healthy Skin

– Samantha Thayer, B.S, CHES

nutrients for healthy skin

It might surprise you that what we consume is just as important as the products we use topically when it comes to keeping our skin healthy.  It’s important to get the nourishing nutrients we need in order to look and feel our best.  

So, what are the most vital nutrients for healthy skin? And how do we find them in the foods we eat? 

  1. Eat foods rich in Vitamin A.  This vitamin is important for overall skin health.  Foods rich in vitamin A are carrots, organ meats, cod liver oil, and dairy products.
  2. To help prevent age related issues caused by sun exposure, make sure you get plenty of Lycopene in your diet. Some foods that contain Lycopene are tomatoes, guava, and watermelon! 
  3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids help nourish the skin and regulate oil production. Fish, flax seeds, and eggs are all examples of foods high in Omega-3s.
  4. Vitamin C. This vitamin can help fight wrinkles. Some foods that are rich in Vitamin C are sweet potatoes, squash, melons, and citrus fruits.
  5. Vitamin E helps repair damaged cells. Get the benefits by eating nuts and seeds.

Supplements for Healthy Skin

It’s also very important to have a healthy digestive tract to keep your skin looking great. (Learn about the connection between gut health and skin health.) Here are some additional nutrients to include in your diet to help keep your gut and skin healthy:

Fiber – Foods rich in fiber will help your digestive system remove waste and cleanse from within. Fiber also feeds the good bacteria living in your gut that protect your gut lining, preventing the skin and other health issues caused by leaky gut.

Probiotics – These healthy bacteria will help balance the flora your digestive tract, keeping less helpful bacteria and yeast in check. Probiotics are also helpful in supporting a healthy immune system and keeping inflammation in check. 

Digestive Enzymes – Enzymes assist in the breakdown of the foods you’re eating. While the human body is capable of producing its own enzymes, it’s sometimes helpful to supplement if you find you’re having particular absorption issues that could be manifesting in your skin. 

Check out the infographic below that illustrates the importance of proper nutrition and a healthy gut to help keep your skin healthy!

nutrients for healthy skin   

This article was contributed by Samantha Thayer, B.S., CHES, who is an online education and outreach specialist for USANA Health Sciences.  Infographic design is by Taylor Romney and used with permission.  For more information on health and wellness, feel free to visit us at her blog, What’s Up, USANA?.

4 Ways to Stay Hydrated for Weight Loss

I’ll go ahead and say that the hormonal shifts I’ve experienced since going off of birth control haven’t done wonders for my waistline. I spent a couple of months in total distress about what felt like an out-of-control rising of the number on the scale due to hormonal fluctuations. All told, it ended up being just enough weight to make my clothes uncomfortable and negatively impact what I saw in the mirror. And it felt like it would never go away. 

I focus a lot on positive self-image here at CWB, and I go out of my way to insist that a few pounds here and there really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. But sometimes attacking extra pounds is just that — it’s not loaded with meaning if you know why it’s happening and you’re approaching it healthfully and mindfully (ie, de-coupling weight from self-worth).

I’m almost back to the size I was when I got off hormonal birth control back in the late fall, so I can confidently say that the work I’m doing is working. And in addition to some diet changes (which I’ll share in another post), one of the things I’m doing is making sure I’m drinking LOTS of water. 

Weight loss isn’t just about vanity — it’s about being healthy, happy, and confident — and as long as we can have a healthy approach and mindset around this touchy topic, I think we can have a productive conversation about it. Don’t you? Awesome. OK, let’s talk about how integral it is to stay hydrated for weight loss.   

stay hydrated for weight loss

Stay Hydrated to Avoid Extra Snacking

Staying hydrated keeps us from being tricked into eating more than we really need. It’s actually pretty common to confuse thirst for hunger, so we can use that information two ways for our weight loss strategy.

First, if you find yourself hungry between scheduled meals (and yes, I certainly think you should schedule your meals, preferably 3 to 4 hours apart, if you’re trying to lose weight), consider that maybe you’re thirsty instead. Drink a glass of water or a mug of caffeine-free herbal tea before diving into a bag of chips. You might find that the hunger subsides and you’re able to wait til your next meal to eat.

Second, drinking water before a meal accelerates the feeling of satiety. A recent study showed that when obese adults drank 16 oz of water before each meal, they lost 9 lbs over the course of a 12 week period as compared to the control group. These results were due to the effect of starting the meal with a partially full stomach — satiety was reached sooner with fewer calories per meal

Another study from the University of Illinois found similar results: “People who increased their consumption of water by one, two or three cups daily [independent of meal timing] decreased their total energy intake by 68 to 205 calories daily and their sodium intake by 78 to 235 grams. They also consumed 5 grams to nearly 18 grams less sugar and decreased their cholesterol consumption by 7 to 21 grams daily.”

So the two big takeaways to remember here: We sometimes confuse thirst for hunger, and water itself can make us feel fuller faster. Kicking off a snack with a big glass of water could 1) curb the craving entirely or 2) reduce the size of the snack you’re about to eat. Both awesome things when you’re trying to lose a few lbs.

Stay Hydrated to Avoid Sweet Cravings

I mentioned earlier that we can sometimes confuse thirst for hunger. Taking thirst a step further into the more sever territory of dehydration, not only do we think we’re hungry, now we’re experiencing cravings.hydration for weight loss

Cravings due to dehydration can take the form of any kind of food, but often, we crave sweets. Why? Because our organs require water to function properly and process the nutrients we take in. Specifically, the liver uses water to release glycogens (a form of glucose that gives us energy) and other components of energy stores. When we don’t have adequate water in our system, adequate glycogen can’t be processed — and that’s when the sugar craving strikes.

For me personally, the sugar cravings can really get out of control, so this is particularly relevant. Using water to control sugar cravings hadn’t really crossed my mind before, but it works.Humans are more than 60% water, so think of it like oil in an engine. Without the oil to allow things to flow properly, metal grates on metal and the engine stops — or worse, burns up and is destroyed. By drinking adequate water, we become well-oiled machines, working just fine without unneeded 

Track Your Daily Water Intake

While there isn’t an official standard for how much water an individual should drink, a simple guideline for weight loss is to drink (at least) half of your weight in ounces. It’s a super easy way to come up with your daily goal for water consumption — with very little math. So a 150 pound person should aim to drink 75 oz of water per day. It might mean more trips to the bathroom at first, but you’ll get use to it.

You can’t change what you don’t track.

If there’s anything I’ve learned as a coach and as a guinea pig for my own ideas and lifestyle strategies, it’s that there’s absolutely no way to know what works if you don’t keep track of what you’re doing somehow. There are so many simple ways to track — especially now with personal apps at your fingertips to make that job easier. But seriously, a simple pen and paper work great too. Or a picture. Have you ever started a diet or any kind of big change and actually taken “before” pictures? (If you have checked out my most popular post about how I cleared my acne, then you know that I’ve done this more than once.) You live with yourself every day, so you don’t see changes over time, so that picture is worth a thousand words. You have to set a baseline so that you can know when something’s changed. 

And in the case of tracking your water, you’re using that measurement not just as a baseline but as a way to set a goal for yourself. You’re way too busy to keep track of each ounce of water you drink. That’s a ridiculous request. But you can most certainly use a bottle, jar, or glass with a known capacity and track how many times you fill up. If you drink out of a 24 oz bottle and you weigh 150 lbs, set a goal to have at least 2 bottles of water throughout your day at work, and aim to get the fourth bottle and those few extra ounces (75 oz total) in before your head hits the pillow. Everyone can count to three, right? Another option is to get a container that you know can fit your total water needs for the day and just use it as a pitcher — some people really like to drink out of a glass instead of a bottle, so this would work great for them. Easy peazy.

hydration for weight loss

Drink Water

Soda isn’t water. Coffee isn’t water. Tea isn’t water. Sports drinks aren’t water.

I’ve focused on water with a quick mention of herbal tea for a specific reason. It’s because other drinks (including sports drinks!) don’t count toward your water count if you’re really shooting for hydration and weight loss. Coffee and tea are diuretics and do the opposite of keeping you hydrated, not to mention that they’re often accompanied by cream and sugar. If you want to drink them, go right ahead, but they don’t count toward your trackable daily water intake. (And consider dropping the sugar.)

We’re talking about weight loss here, so surely you know that sodas aren’t included in this list at all — diet or otherwise. These drinks contain not just the undesirable high fructose corn syrup or fake sugar, but also sodium and caffeine. None of which is helpful for staying hydrated. (Although caffeine in moderation — and especially from green tea — can sometimes be helpful for weight loss.) 

As for sports drinks, they’re also loaded with sugar and salt. Sure, sodium is an electrolyte, but unless you’re severely dehydrated or finishing up a huge race or physical undertaking, there’s no reason to sip on sports drinks. There’s certainly no place for sports drinks in an office or in front of the TV.

The common thread through this whole section is this: DON’T DRINK YOUR CALORIES. Drink water.

Infuse Your Water with Natural Flavors: Fruits, Herbs, Fresh Spices, or Veggies

If water is boring to you, try infusing it with natural flavor. And as I said up top, most herbal teas are fine to count in your total water intake — as long as they’re not taking up the bulk of your daily water intake. 

Infusing your water is super simple. You can infuse one serving of water (more work) or you can get a pitcher or dispenser and fill it up with your desired flavors (less work). If you let it sit for a few minutes or even hours, the flavors become stronger. Just make sure to refrigerate it after a few hours to make sure nothing gets funky.

Here are a few fun suggestions:hydration for weight loss

  • ginger lemon: peel and slice or crush fresh ginger, slice some lemon (and even squeeze some)
  • strawberry basil (or mint): slice the strawberries, toss the basil or mint in whole
  • blackberry fennel: slice fennel bulb and greens, toss the blackberries in whole
  • cucumber mint: slice the cucumber, toss the mint in whole

Herbal tea: this one is tricky. Any tea you’re drinking for hydration should first and foremost be caffeine-free. Caffeine is actually a diuretic and does the opposite of what we want — it’s dehydrating. Herbal teas include things like chamomile, fruit teas (make sure there’s no sugar or fake sugar), and hibiscus tea. There are so many herbal teas to choose from, but some herbs have medicinal properties so make sure you know what you’re drinking before you start guzzling herbal teas. They make for a great alternative to coffee if you’re looking for something warm and a great alternative to iced tea if you want something cold with a bit more flavor.

Water for Weight Loss

So that about covers it. Water helps stave off sugar cravings, curbs your appetite, and decreases over all calorie consumption if you drink enough of it. It’s crucial as part of any successful weight loss/maintenance strategy, and essential for the proper function of our organs. As the weather starts to warm up and you find yourself outside basking in the sunshine or taking a brisk walk after lunch, have a bottle of water in tow. Stay hydrated to stay safe and healthy, and drink you way to a healthy weight too!

Free Coconut Oil Just for You

Coconut oil has slowly made its way into the main stream, and I couldn’t be happier about it.  Admittedly, I live in my little Bay Area food bubble, and things I see as commonplace are “weird” or “crunchy” in other parts of the country, but I challenge you to check your local super market and see if there isn’t at least one choice for coconut oil on the shelf!

Better still, if you haven’t yet experienced the joys of having this delicious, healthy source of fat and flavor in your kitchen, I challenge you to get yourself a free jar

FB_Nutiva_1200x628

Yes, a FREE jar of coconut oil

Find out how to get your free jar

But first, let me tell you about why you might want to try it out (if you haven’t already).

Coconut oil has historically been demonized for its high level of saturated fat. But the fat in coconut oil is different. (The saturated fat debate in general is fodder for another separate discussion, but if we’re in search of the “good” saturated fats in the world, coconut oil is at the TOP of the list!)

The main type of fat present in coconut oil is medium­-chain triglycerides (MCTs), fats that the body can burn off quickly for an instant burst of energy. The body doesn’t tend to store MCTs in adipose tissue (fat) in the body, so many prominent paleo bloggers, biohackers, and other nutrition experts are touting coconut oil as an aid for weight loss.* I will put a little asterisk there, because while I don’t advocate counting calories, calories do count. If you start adding a big scoop of coconut oil to your daily diet but don’t change anything else, chances are you’re going to be consuming more calories than usual — not the best weight loss strategy. But eliminating inflammatory, processed oils and replacing them with coconut oils could do wonders for your waistline.

What I WILL say is that lauric acid, an MCT found in coconut oil, is akin to a miracle substance (I won’t say drug). It’s anti-everything: microbial, viral, fungal, and parasitic. It’s an amazing compound that doesn’t harm the good bacteria in your gut but can help take care of the bad stuff in and around you. It’s certainly great for problem skin and for all sorts of homemade products for your body and household.

Check out an amazing guest post by a good friend of mine and coconut oil evangelist, Dana Gelsomino, to learn 9 reasons you should have coconut oil in your life.

Uses for Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is not just great for cooking — although yes, it is great for cooking. It’s a high-heat oil that can be used for frying, baking, roasting and grilling.

Here are the ways I use coconut oil nearly every day of my life:

  1. Facial cleanser (check out my Vibrantly Healthy Skin protocol)
  2. Skin moisturizer (either alone or in homemade hand salve or lotion bars )
  3. Cooking breakfast (I love it with eggs. Some people don’t. Give it a whirl.)
  4. Scooping into smoothies
  5. Calming my dog’s rashes (and trying to prevent her from licking it off)
  6. Roasting
  7. Sauteing vegetables
  8. Stir-frying shrimp (last night I made shrimp with coconut oil, coconut aminos, and top-quality fish sauce. They were perfection.)
  9. Make up remover

Other less daily uses include:

  1. Gunk remover
  2. Baking
  3. Oil Pulling
  4. Deep hair conditioning
  5. Fatty Coffee
  6. Pancakes
  7. Chocolate bark

It’s clear I could go on forever. Coconut oil is really an amazing ingredient to have in your kitchen.  

This week, Thrive Market is offering all first­-time members a FREE full­-sized (15 ounce) jar of Nutiva organic, fair­ trade virgin coconut oil! 

Claim your jar before they’re gone! CLICK HERE.  The free coconut oil applies to new members only, but if you are already a member like I am, you can get 10% off your purchase at this link (and pick up some of those coconut aminos while you’re at it). Full disclosure: There is a $1.95 shipping charge for the coconut oil. This still ends up being about 13 cents per ounce, which is an amazing deal.

Don’t miss your chance! Get yours today!

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–> Pin this offer to share with your friends! <–


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

New Year Reflection: Finding Space for the Creative

I’ve waited to write a New Year post, because I have mixed feelings about using January as a jumping off point for big life changes. After all, it’s still the dead of winter. Any physical health goals that involve weight loss, increased activity, or eating fewer calories is sure to be a challenge when you’re freezing or stuck inside, so I don’t feel right about trying to get you amped to make all these changes when doing so when the weather warms is likely a better choice to actually get the results you’re looking for.

New Year Reflection

This post is different from my usual posts. It’s more of a reflection as I gaze forward, backward, and inward, and examine how I’m living and feeling right now in this moment. My goal with this type of deeper sharing is to encourage you to reflect in the same way — and write it down. Actually verbalize your observations and reflection, even if it’s just for yourself. You’d be surprised at how helpful it can be to put things into perspective as your direct your energy into new goals for 2016.

New Year Reflection

I’m more than slightly obsessed with succulents. This is my first propagation mandala, inspired by so many beautiful works of art on Instagram. Making time for more quiet, meditative, creative projects like this is part of my plan for 2016.

A Year — or Decade — In Review

So, 2016 is here — I’ve officially been out of college for over a decade and out of grad school for just shy of 5 years. That’s bananas! Adulthood, womanhood, professional career, home-ownership, marriage, dog-parenting, gardening, owning a vacation vehicle — these are all external markers of where I am right at this moment. I’m someone who’s doing things. 

But what does that really mean? Is a list of interests and accomplishments really what life is about? Do these things represent who I really am at my core? Does what I “do” define me?

I don’t think so. Not totally anyway. 

I’ve realized that the big, gigantic life events that can be all-consuming (like being in school, planning a wedding, and buying a house) are all checked off the list — a list I didn’t consciously realize I was keeping. When I went back to Texas for the holidays, I realized that, while my career is going through some pretty exciting transitions at the moment, I really didn’t have that much of an update for my family and friends. I don’t want to be one of those people who’s always talking about work, so I tend to hold back on that — especially with friends that I rarely see — because I’d rather talk about something more substantial/personal/interesting. At the moment, there’s nothing exciting on its face to share with people I only see once or twice a year. And I’ve realized something about that.

That’s ok. 

It’s ok that I don’t have a big update. I don’t need to prepare talking points about my life’s accomplishments to have something valuable to contribute. Yes, my personal insights are based on experience, but they’re also rooted in introspection and self-discovery.

I think there are some folks waiting for Loren and me to decide that we’re having a baby. And to be honest, I don’t think that’s going to happen. That topic always comes up at one point or another when I go back to Texas (or when I’m around friends with kids), and because I’ve been ambivalent for so long, I allow (and even invite) the conversation at times, because I feel the need to hash out my trepidation. But I’ve pretty-much covered it at this point. There’s not much new to discuss on that point either. And I’ve realized something about that.

That’s ok too.

I’m not going to use this space to explain why Loren and I don’t want to have kids. If you’d actually like to hear about that, let me know in the comments and I’ll do a follow-up. But for now, I’ll assume that you know all the major reasons a couple might decide not to have kids. We pretty much hit all of those. I will say though that I really like being around other people’s kids, and I would like to make more time in my life to be able to do that.

New Year’s Resolutions

I resolve this year to recognize more quickly when I get caught up in doing doing doing.

I resolve this year to master the art of stillness.

I resolve this year to listen when creativity calls me.

Last year, my New Year’s Resolution was to start a mindful meditation practice. To be frank, I didn’t succeed in creating a daily practice. I did succeed in awakening my senses and becoming a more deliberate person, but the practice itself didn’t stick, and some of the habits I was hoping to break at the dawn of 2015 are even more entrenched at the dawn of 2016, namely the constant need for stimulation. There will be moments in time when I look up and realize that I’ve either been reading a screen, listening to a podcast, or sleeping for days and days without any sort of break in the noise. No silence. No room to empty my brain and make space for something spontaneous. And I realize that I need silence — stillness.

I actually wrote a song about this very thing when I was in college. Well, it’s about a lot of things, but the main point was that I’d learned to access myself — my truth at the time — in silence. And I’ve realized that I need to learn that skill again. That’s where creativity lives. I’m reading Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic right now, and it’s all about accessing your creativity in the face of fear. She defines bravery not as the absence of fear, but courage in the face of fear. Not an original idea, but resonant nonetheless. 

I’ve never considered myself a fearful person when it comes to expressing creativity, but I can honestly say that I was absolutely the most brave (read:fearful but did it anyway) I ever was musically in deciding to add this song to the album I was recording. It’s a pretty big departure in style from anything else I ever wrote in all the years that I wrote music, but it was so true to who I was when I wrote it. It was one of those songs that flowed out and kept going and going — I was channeling something — but I was pretty nervous about adding it to my otherwise folky- girl-with-guitar-style album. In case you want a glimpse of me from a previous life, here it is:

It might seem vainglorious to be inspired by my own art, but to be perfectly honest, I really feel like there’s an element of who I was back then that’s gotten lost, and I’d really like to find it again. So I’m fine with using my own art as a jumping off point, or a place to get back to in my quest for being open and still. 

So yeah, I don’t really know where this post was headed when I started it, but this is where it ended up. With a song written by a 20-something version of myself from 13+ years ago and some resolve to find a piece of that person inside of who I am today. And to do that with some silence and contemplation. As I mentioned earlier, my career is going through some major shifts, so I think these resolutions are my preemptive strike against burnout. And my sincere appeal to the creative energy around me to come in and set up shop the way it used to when I was younger. 2016 is going to be the year of making space for the creative. 

Your Turn:

February is almost over, what have your NYR’s been about so far? Are you thinking of revising them? Do you have a plan? Have you considered where creativity might fit into your year? I’d love to know. Please share in the comments below!


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

Salvadoran Guacamole: Avocado Egg Salad Boats [RECIPE]

Today’s avocado egg salad recipe is one of those things that should have occurred to me a long time ago. For some reason, it required a rushed morning of grabbing some hard-boiled eggs from the coffee shop and needing to use a nearly expired avocado for me to think about combining these two glorious foods. And why not really?

Eggs are delicious and quite possibly one of the most nourishing foods on earth. By design, they exist to support and build life, right? And avocados — they’re creamy, they’re rich, they’re full of healthy fat (namely monounsaturated fat) and fiber, and they NEED to get eaten or they turn to brown mush. Honestly, I know a few people who don’t like avocado, and I’m really not sure how to cure them of their wrong-ness on this topic. It’s sad really. 

Her’s my fancy equation for those of you who enjoy a good visual from time to time.  

Eggs: nature’s perfect food + Avocado: nature’s perfect fat = Toni’s perfect snack

avocado egg salad

A Recipe’s Evolution

Call me late to the game on this recipe all you want. I know. When I googled “avocado egg salad,” I realized that this was not an original idea in any way, but I’m still sharing my own version of it with you today, because my recipe is awesome, and it makes me happy to share awesome things with you. It’s also simple with only a few ingredients, and that makes me happy too. Prepare as I walk you through my experience of innovating something that I wasn’t aware was already a “thing.”

Eggs and Avocado Mash: Beta test 

I started out that first morning just mashing the two things together with a fork and adding a pinch of salt: 2 eggs, 1/2 a decent-sized avocado. When I took a bite, I wondered why I hadn’t been doing this for years. I also knew there would be more iterations of this heavenly combination of foods on the horizon. It was delicious, but I knew I had some ideas on how to kick it up a notch.

Avocado Egg Salad: Version 1.0

Next I tried adding some of my homemade salad dressing and chopped scallions to the mix. The dressing I used was pretty much identical to the linked recipe, except no orange and a little apple cider vinegar added. This version was divine, but I hesitated to share it, because I though that asking you to make a salad dressing before you made the egg salad was asking too much. Granted, it’d be awesome if you just made a batch of dressing and jarred it in your fridge all week, but in the event that you didn’t do that, I didn’t want to confuse things with too many steps and prep. This iteration was already creeping too far away from my mission of SIMPLE.  

Leftovers: Version 2.0

Believe it or not, I was able to eat leftover salad the next day without it being a gross brown blob of mush. It wasn’t quite enough for breakfast though, so I added another egg, a bit more avocado, and a squeeze of lemon. I tossed it my tote to go to work and as I dug in at my desk, a coworker said, “What are you eating?” When I answered with “avocado egg salad,” another coworker said, “Hey, that’s Salvadoran Guacamole!” I had no idea just now unoriginal this idea really was.

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Salvadoran Guacamole, CWB-Style: Ready for Launch

After a lovely morning of gardening, Loren and I needed a snack, and I decided that this was my chance to perfect this recipe for sharing with you! In the spirit of how this whole thing started, I pulled out some romaine lettuce that needed to get eaten and spread the leaves out on a plate to make boats for holding the goodies. And then I got to work on the recipe I’m sharing with you today. 

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CWB-Style Salvadoran Guacamole: Avocado Egg Salad Boats with Smoked Paprika
Serves 2
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Prep Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 hard boiled eggs, peeled
  2. 1 avocado
  3. 1 stalk celery, chopped
  4. juice from 1 lemon
  5. 1 chopped scallion
  6. 4 or 5 springs fresh cilantro, chopped
  7. Salt and pepper to taste
  8. OPTIONAL: smoked paprika
  9. 4 large leaves romaine lettuce
Instructions
  1. Scoop avocado and eggs into a mixing bowl
  2. Mash the two together with a fork (you might need to start off cutting up the egg, depending on how easily it comes apart with your fork)
  3. Add all chopped veggies, herbs, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to mixing bowl and continue mixing with a fork
  4. Divide the mixture between the 4 lettuce boats and sprinkle each with smoked paprika
Notes
  1. Prep time doesn't include the time it takes to hard-boil and peel the eggs. Cook times depends on how you like your eggs, but can be anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes. Then if you want to let them cool in an ice bath, that takes a little more time. If you're me, peeling an egg can take anywhere from 10 seconds to 10 minutes, so I chose to leave this whole process out of the prep time.
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/
 Salvadoran Guacamole AKA: Avocado Egg Salad

Sweet and Savory Spaghetti Squash Waffles [RECIPE]

Today’s spaghetti squash waffles recipe was born out of a need to use an incredible surplus of spaghetti squash, which landed in my kitchen after my first experiment with a grocery delivery service. It’s the kind of service where you go online and select your items and then someone goes to the grocery store of your choice and shops for you. I had never done this before. It was fun going through the online list of items and picking out the foods I wanted delivered. It took surprisingly longer than I thought it would, but most definitely less time than going to the store myself would have. So I was excited at this new-found extra time I’d have because of this convenient service …

Womp Womp 

While I won’t say that I was entirely satisfied with the service (or that it’s worth the up-charge on every item, the tip for the shopper, AND the delivery fee), I will say that it was definitely a learning experience as far as “being specific” is concerned. There are elements of grocery shopping that you take for granted when you do it for yourself — things you don’t necessarily think about, because they’re inherent to you and your family. You know what you’re shopping for. You know how many people you’re shopping for, and how quickly these people will eat the food you buy/cook.

I have two people in my household, and I added one spaghetti squash to the list. When I saw my bags of groceries sitting on my doorstep, I was shocked to see that one of the grocery bags was almost entirely filled with one.gigantic.spaghetti squash. It was literally the biggest spaghetti squash I’ve ever seen. As an aside, I also ordered a few root veggies, thinking I’d do a nice roasted root side for dinner one day that week. I ordered one parsnip as part of that combo, and got the saddest, tiniest little parsnip I’ve ever seen. Here’s a size comparison:

sweet and savory spaghetti squash waffles

Anyway, this post wasn’t meant to be a bashing of home-shopping services. I know many people find them useful. And if it weren’t for this incredibly sized spaghetti squash, I never would have thought to come up with this kitchen hack or recipe. So there’s a silver lining, per usual.

Leftovers + Waffle Iron = New Creative Meal! It works for a lot more than just squash. In fact, I saw some pretty cool ideas right after Thanksgiving using leftover cornbread stuffing, veggies, and all kinds of other goodies. Start experimenting!

Size Matters

Apparently, in the world of spaghetti squash, size really does matter. I baked this thing using my favorite, super simple method for making winter squash. Stick it in the oven whole. I’ve done this many times with many different types of winter squash, and spaghetti squash in particular has come out great in the past. I could use a fork to fluff out the “spaghetti” strands and top it with my favorite paleo sauces. This time, with this gargantuan, the fluff yielded big chunks rather than “spaghetti.” I thought maybe I hadn’t cooked it long enough, but the flesh was definitely cooked.

Still as delicious as any other spaghetti squash would be, I decided to get creative with my chunky squash, as I knew we’d be eating it for days. And these beautiful waffles were born!

Sweet and Savory Spaghetti Squash Waffles

I have slight variations on this waffle to make one sweet and one savory. Neither has a particularly strong leaning either way, but one is perfect for savory toppings (like avocado, some homemade salad dressing or even as the bottom of an open-faced sandwich), while the other is better suited for a sweeter topping like almond butter and bananas, pumpkin butter, or maple syrup and butter. Basically all butters!

All the other ingredients are the same. 
sweet and savory spaghetti squash waffles

sweet and savory spaghetti squash waffles

A Word on Maca Powder

I’ve added maca powder to this recipe for my own personal reasons, not because it adds much in the way of flavor to these recipes. But I wanted to include it here, because I thought it’d be a good chance to tell you about this awesome super food.

“What are my personal reasons?” you might be wondering. I’ve been feeling somewhat drained lately, and I’m concerned that my adrenals are taking a hit from all the work I’m doing (three jobs right now). As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I’ve also recently decided to go off of birth control after 11+ years of use, and as a result, I’m experiencing some wonky hormonal side-effects. 

While I don’t think I’ve reached the point of full-on adrenal fatigue, I’d like to prevent it before I get there, so I’m taking precautions. If you’re unfamiliar with adrenal fatigue and are curious to learn more, this is a great place to start for some basic info and links to more in-depth explanations. I haven’t yet been tested, but I’ve been super burnt out and exhausted lately, so I’d like to get ahead of my energy to avoid hitting the bottom.

After all, this blog is all about self-care, so I sure as heck better be taking care of myself, right?! My course of action so far has been to supplement with maca powder and another potent adaptogen formula (affiliate link) every day, and I can say with certainty that I’ve noticed a positive difference in my energy levels and ability to focus. I’ll share more about adaptogens in a future post. 

What’s Maca Powder?

sweet and savory spaghetti squash waffles

click to purchase through my affiliate link

Straight from WebMD: “Maca is a plant that grows in central Peru in the high plateaus of the Andes mountains. It has been cultivated as a vegetable crop in Peru for at least 3000 years. Maca is a relative of the radish and has an odor similar to butterscotch. Its root is used to make medicine. 

Maca is used for “tired blood” (anemia); chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS); and enhancing energy, stamina, athletic performance, memory, and fertility. Women use maca for female hormone imbalance, menstrual problems, and symptoms of menopause. Maca is also used for weak bones (osteoporosis), depression, stomach cancer, leukemia, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, erectile dysfunction (ED), to arouse sexual desire, and to boost the immune system.”

I’ve used maca on and off for years but this is the first time I’ve included it in a consistent daily routine. An occasional teaspoon added to a smoothie here and there never yielded any noticeable changes, but daily use has benefited me these last few weeks. The caveat, of course, is that I didn’t go about my change very scientifically. Desperate to feel better, I added my adaptogen formula and the maca at the same time, so I can’t say for sure if my better state of health is due to one, the other, or both. I plan to keep using the maca when the adaptogen formula runs out and see how I feel after a few weeks. On with the recipe!

  —> Pin this Recipe <—

Sweet and Savory Spaghetti Squash Waffles
Yields 6
Season one way for sweet and one way for savory, and use these waffles for any meal of the day! This recipe yields 6 regular, square waffles.
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Prep Time
6 min
Prep Time
6 min
Ingredients
  1. 6 eggs
  2. 1.5 cups cooked spaghetti squash
  3. 1/2 cup almond meal
  4. 3 tbs coconut flour
  5. 1/2 tsp salt
  6. 1/4 tsp baking soda
  7. OPTIONAL: 2 tsp maca powder
  8. For savory waffles: 1 tsp lemon pepper
  9. For sweet waffles: 1 tsp cinnamon
  10. Avocado spray for the waffle iron
Instructions
  1. Heat your waffle iron before you start mixing
  2. Mix all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl until well-incorporated
  3. Spray waffle iron with avocado spray
  4. Pour mixture over waffle iron
  5. Cook in waffle iron until browned and crispy (or less crispy if that's how you like them!)
Notes
  1. I included the time to cook the spaghetti squash in the "cook time" area above. If you've already cooked and scooped the spaghetti squash, this recipe takes only as long as it takes you to mix the ingredients and cook in the waffle iron. These waffles keep well in the fridge for up to 3 days and can be reheated in the oven when you're ready to use them.
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

 

Make the Most out of Your Slow-Cooked Meal + Lamb Shank RECIPE

It’s that time of year — the time when we dust off our slow-cookers to make hearty stews, chilies, soups, and braises. It might be my favorite culinary time of year, because I LOVE SOUP!!! It’s kind of an obsession. When it’s cold outside, I could eat soup at every meal, including breakfast. I never get sick of it. Ever! And once you bust out the slow-cooker, you step up the game with a ready-to-eat, home cooked meal waiting for you when you get home. What’s better than that on a cold winter evening? 

Here in the Bay, it’s been raining and cold — a weather recipe for feeling chilled to the bone. In both Ayurveda and in Traditional Chinese Medicine, a cold, damp winter calls for warming, grounding foods like soups, stews, hearty slow-cooked meats, and root veggies. This simple, slow-cooked lamb shank hits a home run in all of these categories.

make the most of your slow-cooked meal

Prepping your Lamb Shanks and Veggies

I love starting something in the morning and coming home to the aromas of dinner already made and waiting for me in the kitchen. I will say though, that when I first dipped my toe into the slow-cooker experience, I was surprised to learn that there can sometimes be a bit more prep than you’d expect if you want the best possible outcome.

Sure, you can throw everything into the slow-cooker raw and hope for the best, but you likely won’t get it. You could get something good, but not the best. The best is when you use time-honored cooking methods that bring out the most mouth-watering flavors in the foods you’re planning to toss into the slow-cooker. If you must toss everything in raw, I recommend sticking to vegetarian dishes, but even those are made better with a quick trip to the stove top before ending up in the slow-cooker. For meat recipes — especially red meats like lamb, beef, pork, and wild game — browning the meat first is an important part of the process.

Is it optional? Technically, yes. Do I recommend skipping it? No. Why? 

Make the Most out of your Slow-Cooked Meal

1. The Maillard Reaction

The Maillard reaction is a chemical process that takes place on the surface of the meat when you sear it on high heat (without burning it). It’s kind of like caramelizing, but it’s also a bit different. The Maillard reaction is what imparts that rich, nutty, meaty flavor to the cut you’re cooking. It alters the amino acids and sugars on the surface of the meat and melds them together for that beautiful, rich flavor we expect when we bite into a steak or a pork chop. Caramelizing involves sugar only, no aminos.

make the most of your slow-cooked meal

Common lore is that searing will seal in the juices, but that’s actually not true. Searing does not magically plasticize your meat into an impermeable surface. But that doesn’t mean that searing isn’t important. Even when you plan to toss your cut into the slow-cooker and immerse it in cooking liquid, starting with a good, hot, dry sear to brown the outside of the cut is crucial for achieving the rich flavor you’re expecting from the finished product. 

Skipping this step will result in a sad, grey-looking finished product that won’t be as flavorful as you’d hoped. And being disappointed in a slow-cooked meal (at least for me) is a much bigger bummer than being disappointed in something you threw together in a few minutes (even if the slow-cook prep took the same amount of time). I’ve made the mistake of skipping the browning step and ended up with a pot full of very bland, disappointing chili (yes, you should even brown ground meat).

2. Sauteing the Veggies

This step, while (again) technically optional, will ensure that your veggies impart the most flavor to your  slow-cooked meal. I remember the first time I saw a recipe that told me to saute all my veggies first, and I was like, “Whaaaat??? I can’t just throw it all in?? WTF?? I’m not doing that.” I’ve since learned my lesson (reference disappointing chili above). Sauteeing doesn’t take as long as caramelizing — you just need to cook everything for a few minutes to unlock the glory — it’s worth it. I wouldn’t skip it.make the most of your slow-cooked meal

Kitchen Hack: Timing Your Slow-Cooked Meal Prep

All this is to say that it does take a little bit of time to get your ingredients into the pot, but if you can give yourself 20 extra minutes in the morning to get this meal started before you rush out the door, you’ll thank yourself. All I ask is that you pull your meat out of the fridge before you do anything else so that it has time to warm to room temperature (or as close to it as you have time for) before you brown it. I recommend you take the meat out, do your whole morning routine (shower, make up, hair, walk the dog, whatever), and then get everything ready for the slow-cooker. 

Rosemary Citrus Slow-Cooked Lamb Shank
Serves 2
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
8 hr
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
8 hr
Ingredients
  1. 2 lamb shanks
  2. 5 ribs celery, finely chopped
  3. 2 large carrots, finely chopped
  4. 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  5. 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  6. 1 large root veggie of your choosing (potato, celery root, parsnip, sweet potato), coarsely chopped
  7. 1 naval orange, thinly sliced
  8. 1 cup bone broth or veggie broth
  9. 1 cup red wine (I used cabernet)
  10. 2 tsp salt
  11. 6 sprigs fresh rosemary
  12. 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  13. 1 tbs coconut oil
  14. 1 tbs avocado oil
  15. 1 tbs tomato paste
Instructions
  1. If possible, pull lamb out of the fridge and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes (preferably 45 minutes to an hour) before browning
  2. Heat the skillet and brown all sides of the lamb shanks
  3. Move shanks to the slow cooker (leave the cooker off for now)
  4. Toss coarsely chopped root veggies on top of the lamb
  5. Melt coconut oil on the heated skillet
  6. Add finely chopped red onions, carrots, and celery
  7. Allow to soften and sauté for at least 5 minutes
  8. Stir in finely chopped garlic and avocado oil, and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, taking care not to let anything burn
  9. Pour sautéed veggies over lamb inside slow cooker
  10. Add tomato paste, wine, broth, salt, rosemary, and thyme to slow cooker
  11. Top with sliced oranges
  12. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours
  13. Enjoy a nice, warm, home-cooked meal after a long day's work!
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/