Morning Rituals

Products.jpg

When I worked in tech I was completely addicted to my phone. I'd respond to coworkers before my eyes could fully open, and manage to become a complete stressed-spaz before walking out the door. Everything felt so urgent. Somehow, now, waking up at 5 AM and being out the door by 5:30 AM I have managed to bring calm to the start of my day, and it has totally changed my mental state. The quickness of my current routine has forced me to be both efficient and distraction-free, so I can arrive to clients focused. My tips on curating your morning routine:

No electronics
Fine, use your phone as an alarm. But don't you dare check emails, texts, or waste 15 minutes scrolling through facebook before getting out of bed. Immediately after you turn off the alarm, place your phone in your purse/workbag/pile of stuff waiting to leave the house with you. My phone stays in airplane mode until I'm at my car and need it for directions. A rule I like to give my clients is that they have to drink 20 ounces of water before they're allowed to look at anything on their phone. It's a good way to start a hydration habit and quit a phone habit. 

Choose what to wear the night before
Fashion minimalism, or even going as far as choosing a daily "uniform" is one way to remove unnecessary stress from your mornings. Fashion minimalists have more time to think about important things, and their days start off calmer without the added decision of what to wear each morning. If you're not ready to go full Steve Jobs in the fashion department, think about a capsule wardrobe as another (less boring) route to minimalism. I admittedly have not yet committed to a uniform or a capsule, but I do choose my outfit the night before, always. This is a rule my mama gave me when I was in the fourth grade and just entering public school (aka leaving the uniform world). Now, I absolutely never have to run around searching for what I need, it's neatly folded and ready to go, even on my sleepiest mornings. 

Meditate and find gratitude
Nope, I am not asking you to add thirty minutes to your already hectic morning. Ha! You've probably heard somewhere that adding 20 minutes of meditation per day or writing in a gratitude journal will change your life. It probably will, but there is absolutely no way that two thirds of my *get the fuck out of the house as fast as possible* morning routine is going to be spent on focused breathing or journaling. Instead, choose one activity - brushing your teeth, making your coffee, washing your face (anything you do every single morning), and dedicate it to gratitude or deep breathing. How does this work? While you wash your face, go through a list of people and things you're grateful for that day. Then, while your water heats for your coffee, do a breathing exercise (studies have shown that just 16 seconds of focused breathing is enough to make you calmer, happier, and improve digestion). Here's a simple breathing exercise I do daily:

close your eyes and stand or sit comfortably
Inhale for 4 seconds
hold the air in your lungs for 4 seconds
exhale for 6 seconds
repeat a few times, and return anytime you're feeling overwhelmed. 

Choose products that make you feel pampered
Life is busy, and the moments you spend washing your face or sipping tea might be the only relaxing moments in your day. It's worth spending a little extra on products that feel luxurious and calming, and more importantly products that are good for you and free of chemicals. Some of my favorite brands are Beauty CounterDermaplus, and Mario Badescu. I love candles from Candle Bougie and Diptyque. I buy my matcha from Panatea and definitely believe in investing in a big, cozy mug or to-go container that you love holding. 

Fuel your body
You might be like me and have zero appetite or time for real food first thing in the morning. That doesn't mean you can't get important nutrients into your system. Every morning, without fail I make myself a matcha tea (this ritual is the only reason I get out of bed some mornings). I don't really want food at 5 AM, so instead I amp up my matcha by adding almond milk, collagen protein, and coconut oil for a strong dose of antioxidants, satiating fats, and protein that has seriously changed my skin. Whether it's amping up your morning coffee or sitting down to a leisurely breakfast, do find a way to fuel your body in a way that it deserves each morning. I love smoothies and egg muffins for quick breakfasts (you can even have Daily Harvest do the prep for you)

Smoothie Prep

I recently tried Daily Harvest and loved the concept and taste (hello cacao blends that actually taste like dessert). I've been doing smoothie prep for a while now, putting ingredients into bags and freezing them at the start of each week. I like how Daily Harvest sends the ingredients in to-go cups, so I'm following suit by freezing mine in 16-ounce mason jars to limit plastic waste. During extra busy periods I plan on ordering from DH, but for cost purposes, it makes way more sense to make my own. Plus, it's fun to come up with blends! This Sunday, try putting your favorite ingredients into five mason jars, put on the lids, and stick 'em in the freezer. I've put together a few recipes that I love below. 

Mango Mint
Detoxifying and anti-bloat. It's also my go-to for green smoothie newbies
2 cups spinach
1 cup frozen or fresh mango
1/4 cup packed mint
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 cup coconut milk

Peach Pie
Brain Booster
1 cup frozen or fresh peaches
1 cup blueberries
1 date
1/4 cup oatmeal
1 tablespoon flaxseed
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Chocolate Shake
Fights stress and inflammation
1 banana
1/2 avocado
1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
1 date or tablespoon coconut nectar

Strawberry-basil
Immunity Booster
1 cup strawberries
1/2 large cucumber
5-7 basil leaves
1 tablespoon hemp seeds

Try them out and let me know what you think!


 

Resolutions

I love new beginnings. Most people are sad when the holidays are over, but (minus the hangover) January first is my favorite day of the year. I absolutely love writing resolutions, and I actually keep them in mind all year long. This wasn’t always the case - I used to write lofty goals that sounded great but weren’t that meaningful to me personally. I would write down things like “run a marathon” even though I don’t enjoy running beyond an easy jog on the beach and there was no real purpose to this goal other than checking it off some list. The meaning behind running a marathon was actually to stretch myself physically, but the method I chose was wrong for me. I’ve since changed my approach and choose only resolutions that will help me move forward in a meaningful way or habitual goals that are smaller but will help improve my life. If you couldn't tell, I am lil' bit Type-A and the way I write goals is by the SMART method (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely). I’ll go over that method later. 

First, let's touch on the stress resolutions sometimes make us feel
Yesterday I heard something on Maria TV that resonated deeply with me. As much as I love goal setting and thinking about the future, sometimes it also stresses me out. I begin to look at other bloggers, other photographers, other trainers and I obsess over the gap between me and them. I want to be where they are now, and it’s hard to accept the work that lies ahead. Maria Forleo (who is one of my favorite vloggers) went on to explain that wellbeing is based on a certain degree of tension between who you are today and who you want to become. Instead of feeling like a failure, embrace this gap as a statement on your drive and let that tension fuel your success. I really like this perspective.

Resolutions - Method One
My first resolution method is to choose a word or theme, then put it in a place you will see every day. This method is really great for anyone who gets stressed out by a long list of to-dos. The idea behind this method is that your theme, with constant reminding, can serve as an inspiration to move your life in a positive direction. 

Last year, at the start of 2016, I was on the brink of heading back into tech. Working in fitness was simply not pulling in the money I needed, but the idea of leaving my dream was tearing my heart in half. I was crying weekly and felt like a failure. I was working so hard, but barely scraping by financially. As I was thinking about my goals, I chose a word to help me move forward: Hustle. Hustle was my theme, and every day I truly did hustle. I went from teaching group fitness and taking photography for my personal blog only to finding private clients that paid 4x my group rate and working for companies that actually paid me for my photography. I reached out to clients and companies hourly, and I got told no a lot. But some stuck. And then all of a sudden enough said yes that I was making good money doing what I love. Having 6 AM and 8 PM clients plus focusing to get photography done during daylight hours, every single day was exhausting; but I kept my word hustle in mind and I made it through. I’ve found more balance now and fortunately the threat of returning to my 9-5 is long gone. 

I’m going to use this resolution method again for 2017. Last year I was running around all day, every day, making money wherever I could. Normally running around and being unmethodical with my work would stress me the fuck out, but I had that word in my mind and I knew (for now) being a chicken with its head cut off was all good. This year, though, I have deeper projects that I want to work on, which will require me to pull back from that hustle and start focusing more. I'm going to pull back slightly working for others (and maybe watch a little less TV). I'll use that extra time to work on a few big personal projects (more on that later in 2017). This year my word is focus. What does your life need right now? Adventure, love, balance, spirituality? There are so many themes to choose from, but it has to matter to you. 

Resolutions - Method Two
I haven’t lost my love for specific goal setting. In addition to my theming, I like to set a few goals that are really meaningful to me. I've laid out this method step by step.

Step 1: Brainstorm freely, then get choosy. First, choose goal categories. Think back over the past year and what you are proud of and where you'd like to grow. (Category Examples: Career, Spirituality, Health, Relationships, Finances, etc). Next, write down anything and everything that sounds good in each category. Don't have any filter in this phase. During the "brainstorm freely" phase I usually start with about a million things to accomplish in each category. Pause after this step, even for a few days, and let all of your ideas roll around your mind a bit. 

Next, get choosy. Go through every item and ask “is this truly meaningful to me personally, or does it just sound good?” Typically this question narrows the list down to 5-10 goals total.

Step 2: Get specific. Once I have my 5-10 items (fewer is better people), I write them out in a very specific way. Let’s start with my Relationship category as an example. Alex and I were really good at finding new date spots in San Francisco and making it a weekly or bi-weekly effort. Since we’ve moved to LA work has been such a huge focus for both of us, it just hasn’t happened as often. We’ve also literally been at a wedding every weekend and have not explored our new city properly, so I’m kind of combining the two in my relationship goal:

        Goal: Have more date nights and explore LA together
        Measurement: Schedule one date each month, each in a new neighborhood of LA.

If I just ended with the “goal” portion of my resolution, it would be hard to know exactly how to accomplish it. It’s too general! When your measurement for success is unclear, you will likely get frustrated, bored, and forget the goal altogether. The measurement piece requires specificity. 

Step 3: Accountability. For this goal, I’m simply scheduling a time each month to remind me to come up with a fun date - simple! I'll get a calendar reminder and my inability to archive the email until it's done will force inbox-zero me to do it. For a more complex goal, like say…writing a book, you’ll need to break down the goal into small, achievable steps, and put a timeframe on each step. I’m a huge fan of using your calendar as an accountability buddy if you don’t have a business partner, coach, or friend to hold you to your word. If your loftier goal feels overwhelming to break down into steps initially, then just schedule time blocks to ensure forward movement. Example: If your goal is to write a book, but you have no idea how to break it down, make your action item to write for one hour every day. There’s no pressure to accomplish something specific, just to write. It’s possible that after writing for one hour daily for a few weeks you may gain more clarity on how to create more specific achievable steps. 

Step 4: Post it! Once you have your specific goals and accountability method set, print out your plan. Put it somewhere where you will read it daily. 

Happy resolution setting! Let me know if either of these methods resonate with you and what you’re setting out to do in 2017.

Holiday Weight Gain

I just read a New York Times article that expressed one concise (and slightly depressing) message: early fall is the leanest most of us will be all year. While lean isn’t the only indicator of health, our holiday weight gain is typically due to loosening the healthy habits we’ve created during warmer months. Starting now begins a whirlwind of sugar, too much booze, stress, and way less movement. While colder days, more parties, and temptations are inevitable this time of year, does it have to mean foregoing our health to participate? 

Up until last Christmas, I was always on the live it up now, lose it in the New Year bandwagon. Last year I decided I didn’t want to go through the holidays feeling lousy, so I made a few rules for myself that worked to keep up my energy and didn’t leave me feeling deprived.

Hydrate

Hydration will keep your circulation flowing, false hunger down, bloat at bay, and your skin looking supple and smooth. Many experts recommend a minimum of half your weight in ounces per day. Start each morning with a 16-ounce glass + the juice of 1/2 lemon. Keep a bottle with you at all times (I love this water bottle, which has time indicators to keep your drinking on track). Resist the urge to have that second mug of coffee which can dehydrate you, and reach for green tea or water instead.

Go green

This time of year heavier root vegetables come into season, and in our search for comforting food, fresh greens don’t always sound as appealing. Try to have a minimum of 3-5 cups of leafy greens per day, preferably in the form of a salad right before lunch and dinner. In addition to leafy greens, continue to enjoy a rainbow of vegetables! Aim for a minimum of 5 servings of vegetables a day, with an ideal goal being 8+.

Protein and fat, three times a day

Have a palm size serving of high quality protein (think wild fish, chicken, grass-fed beef, lentils, and pastured eggs) three times a day. You can supplement with 2-3 tablespoons of collagen protein when you just can’t find good protein. I love this protein because it dissolves in any warm liquid (think tea, soup, or coffee), and has no taste. Add a serving of healthy fat to every meal (a drizzle of olive oil, a spoonful of ghee or coconut oil, 1/2 an avocado, a handful of raw nuts). These two macro-nutrients will keep you full and happy.

Five drinks per week

If you don’t drink alcohol - then don’t worry about this! If you do, allow yourself to drink five servings of alcohol per week through the holidays, never drinking more than two servings in a single day. This will allow you to participate without going overboard. Choose wine, champagne, light beer, and cocktails without added sugar (1/2 a lime, tequila, and club soda for example). And remember, drink an extra 8-ounce glass of water with each serving of alcohol! 

Choose your poison, twice a week

Around every corner will be a new temptation - pastries your coworker made, holiday parties with free flowing wine, and busier days that make exercise seem nearly impossible. While it’s tempting to say yes to every treat - follow the two-treat-rule. I suggest planning your treats (like a bowl of creamy pasta from your favorite restaurant on date night) rather than choosing spontaneously throughout the week (do you really need that mediocre-looking sugar cookie at every holiday get-together)? If you do choose an in-the-moment treat, ask yourself if it’s worth 50% of your weekly allowance - usually, it won’t be!

Increase your exercise

Yes, I said increase. Normally, we go gym crazy come January 1, as most of us have worn seat imprints into our couches by then. This year, join a new class, buy an unlimited membership, or get a trainer, now. As schedules become busier, exercise gets easily reprioritized to the bottom of the list. On Sundays, schedule every workout you’ll do that week and add them to your calendar. Treat these  like any other appointment (you aren't going to skip the doctor or a meeting with your boss just because you're not in the mood). Ideally, these will be friend-dates or with a trainer so you have accountability. Often gyms, boutique fitness studios, and trainers see a lull in business during these months so it’s a great time to ask for a deal.  Set a goal of 10,000+ steps per day, plus 2-3 days of strength training and 2-3 days of cardio per week. 

Get your zzz’s

Higher stress, increased sugar intake, and less movement can often mean a decline in the quantity and quality of your sleep. Aim for 7-9 hours every night. Some tips for sleep:

  • Set the stage: choose cool sheets (I love bamboo), have a clean, uncluttered bedroom, and never eat or work in bed. 
  • Get into bed an hour before you need to be asleep and turn off electronics. Read a good book instead.
  • Rub on some lavender oil or light a lavender-scented candle
  • Use a sound machine, earplugs, and an eye mask
  • Meditate or focus on your breath for a few minutes when you get into bed

If you find that you’re still too wound up to sleep (and healthy eating + exercise isn’t helping), consider adding natural supplements to calm you down:

  • 5-HTP (try 50-150 mg in the afternoon and again at bedtime) and GABA (try 100-300 mg at bedtime) are miracle workers
  • If sleep is still troublesome, try a magnesium supplement or melatonin (of course always talk to your doctor before taking supplements)

*always check with your doc before taking supplements.

Find activities that don’t center around food

Look, I am obsessed with good food. I fully comprehend the joy of a good meal with good wine and good company - in fact, I don’t think I can think of anything better. While these moments are wonderful, try suggesting other activities every once and a while. Try a turkey trot, apple picking, ice skating, or volunteering at a soup kitchen instead of always planning your next good meal.

Give yourself two days off this season

Whether you celebrate Hannukah, Christmas, Thanksgiving, or any other holidays - choose two of these days to take off from your healthy rules. Seriously, go crazy and throw the rules out the window - your willpower will get a much needed break and one day will absolutely not derail your progress. Notice I said day, not a week or month. Every party or stressful day does not need to be a full on binge. 

Happy holidays! I hope these tips help you feeling your very best during this wonderful time of year.

Scary good caramel apple bites

Halloween marks the beginning of the holiday season and the refined, sugar-filled sweets that usually come with it. No matter what your eating philosophy (vegan, paleo, gluten-free, or just an allusive "clean" diet) these caramel apples will satisfy your sweet tooth!

An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

The old saying still holds true – apples are full of benefits to keep us healthy and vibrant. They are rich in antioxidants that help lower our risk for diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Specifically, apples contain a type of antioxidant called quercetin, which has been shown to improve brain function and reduces our risk of conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Eat with the Seasons

Eating with the seasons is less expensive, healthier, and better for the environment. When we purchase fruits and vegetables that are out of season they are often from far away and have been picked before they are ready to be eaten. This means they must be refrigerated during travel and finish ripening off the vine (often under artificial heat). These conditions result in fewer nutrients, a change in texture, and inferior flavor. Our bodies often crave seasonal crops – like root vegetables in the winter and hydrating fruit in the summer. In autumn apples are in their peak season, making them the perfect fruit for fall cooking. This caramel apple recipe works well with any crispy variety, but keep in mind that the caramel will sweeten the apples so I recommend choosing a sour variety like Granny Smith for a more balanced taste.

Add Fiber and Choose Unrefined Sugar to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

The holidays often mean a higher consumption of sugar and carbohydrates, which can lead to dramatic spikes and drops in our blood sugar. Irregular blood sugar can leave us moody, stressed, and starving; not to mention it can put us at risk for diabetes in the long run. Adding fiber and choosing unrefined forms of sugar is a great way to combat these symptoms and ensure that we enjoy the holidays without unhealthy weight gain. The fiber in apples will slow the absorption of sugar into our bloodstream. Choosing unrefined sugar is also a good choise. Coconut palm sugar (made from the sap of a palm tree) is a great alternative to refined sugars and artificial sweeteners. It is lower on the glycemic index than most sweeteners, meaning it doesn’t raise blood sugar as rapidly as others. Coconut palm sugar also contains potassium which is important for fluid regulation and hydration. Be sure to buy pure coconut palm sugar, as some companies mix it with regular cane sugar - booo! 

Ingredients

1/4 cup pistachios, shelled
1/4 cup shredded coconut
3 large apples
1 can coconut milk (full-fat)
1.5 cups coconut palm sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Also needed

Candy thermometer
Candy sticks

Step 1: To make the caramel, add coconut milk, sugar, and salt to a pot. Hook a candy thermometer to the inside of the pot, so that it is submerged in the mixture without touching the bottom. Heat over medium, stirring regularly until liquid reaches a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Continue to cook, for 20-25 minutes until caramel is thickened and has reached 240 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 2: While caramel cooks, finely chop pistachios. Place chopped pistachios and coconut into two piles on a flat surface (like a chopping board). Set aside.

Step 3: While caramel continues to cook, prepare apples. Peel apples, then use a melon baller to scoop small balls out of apples, avoiding the core and seeds.  Pierce each apple ball with a cake pop stick and set aside.

Step 4: Once caramel is finished cooking, remove from heat. Lay out a sheet of parchment paper and lightly grease with coconut oil. Let the caramel cool to 180 degrees then stir in vanilla. Once vanilla is combined, start dipping apple pops into caramel.  Swirl each apple a few times to let excess caramel drip off and ensure an even coating. Dip caramel covered apples into pistachios and/or coconut if using.

Step 5: Refrigerate the bites for at least an hour before serving! TIP: I recommend placing these on greased parchment paper so they don't stick as they cool. 

Olive Oil

Something that pisses me off  more than anything is when large, irresponsible brands take a health trend, or a truly healthy food and reproduce it in a dishonest, cheap manner. Enter: olive oil. 

Olive oil is by no means a new health trend. The Mediterranean diet (and thus, olive consumption) has long been touted for its heart health benefits and slimming effects. Regardless of your style of eating, it's likely that you are buying and eating olive oil. There is also a high chance that the olive oil you're buying is hardly olive oil at all, but rather a mix of some olive and a lot of cheap vegetable oil and dye (it's estimated that 70% of olive oil sold in the U.S. is not pure). WTF is wrong with the world?! 

So, how do you know if your olive oil is 100% olive oil?

Check for harvest date. Not "packed date." HARVEST date. This is by far the best test. In order for a company to include a harvest date, the contents must all come from the same batch of olives, and nothing else. I now challenge you to go to a standard grocery store and you will maybe find one or two bottles with a harvest date out of dozens. 

Choose dark bottles. Responsible olive oil producers know that olive oil is fragile, and requires protection from light and heat. Once you're home store your olive oil in a cool, dark place. If you buy olive oil in large batches, store most of it in a cool, dark place and keep a small amount in a dark bottle for easy access.

Buy locally. Get to know your local farmers and buy from them! This is my rule for almost everything, but I know it's not always possible. California Olive Ranch (on the right side of my second picture above) is a brand that sells in most grocery stores and is tried and true.

 

 

Cashew Milk

It seems like they are making milk out of everything these days...almond, soy, hemp, rice, you name it, they've milked it. My personal favorite is cashew for it's taste and the simplicity of making it at home. A few important notes about this creamy treat:

Soak Cashews to Access Nutrients

Many traditional cultures have soaked nuts for centuries, but this practice has been lost in modern society. Raw nuts, seeds, and legumes all contain small amounts of enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid. Phytic acid helps protect nuts and seeds so that they can grow and germinate. Enzyme inhibitors bind nutrients, preventing them from sprouting too early. This serves the nuts well, but when consumed by humans, they can be hard to break down without light processing, like soaking. Without this process, you may notice digestive irritation and your body won’t pull out all of the nutrients nuts contain. This isn't just true for cashews - all nuts, seeds, and grains like rice and quinoa will benefit from this process and your digestive system will thank you!

Simplest of Nut Milks

Unlike some other nut and seed milks, cashew milk is made with the whole nut. While I think all homemade milks are worth the extra effort, cashew is particularly simple since no straining is required – just a quick blend and you’re done! This also means that all of the nutrition is consumed since you aren’t draining the meat out, so you get all of the fiber with your milk. Fiber is crucial for maintaining digestive health, warding off chronic disease, and improving skin conditions like acne by helping remove toxins from your system.

Cashews for Maintaining a Healthy Weight

I'm really glad we've ditched the idea that fat makes you fat - probably my least favorite food trend of all time. Cashews are full of good-for-you poly and monounsaturated fats as well as four grams of protein per ounce, and including them in your meals will increase satiety, so you don’t overeat. They also help sustain you longer between meals and snacks, so you won’t find yourself mindlessly snacking or starving by your next meal. Sometimes I use cashew milk as a base for my matcha tea (I blend it with  matcha, a bit of collagen protein, vanilla, and a date) for a delicious morning ritual that keeps me going until lunch. Yum! 

Ingredients:

1 cup raw cashews
3-4 cups filtered water
2-4 Medjool dates, pitted
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of sea salt (and optional 1 tablespoon for soaking)

Step 1: Place cashews  and dates in a bowl and cover with one inch of water (with optional 1 tablespoon of sea salt to further break down phytic acid). Let soak for at least 2 hours, or overnight. 

Step 2: Drain and rinse cashews. Place cashews, three cups water, dates, vanilla, and a pinch of salt in blender. Blend for 60 seconds, or until completely smooth. Test thickness of cashew milk, and if you prefer thinner consistency, add up to one cup of additional water and blend until smooth.

Step 3: Pour cashew milk in an airtight container. Stored in the refrigerator, it will last up to a week.

 

My Beauty Routine

Growing up, my eating was a far cry from healthy. I was in dance, gymnastics, or cheerleading for 3-4 hours six days a week and maintained my 110-pound frame (and endless energy) eating McDonalds and greasy pizza multiple times a week. When college rolled around the activity stopped, and even with my efforts in the gym and dieting, my weight ballooned 20 pounds by the end of my freshman year. That 20 pounds on my 5'3 frame pushed me to begin my initial research and eventual passion for healthy eating and fitness. It took me many years to quit dieting and eat intuitively, and that journey is by no means over. What I put in my body has become a way of life, but what goes on it is a recent discovery. As it turns out, the toxins in our products can be just as damaging as our food choices, but many of us rarely think to read the ingredients on the back of our products. Since natural beauty is just finding its footing, good products take a bit of hunting. Below are a few of my favorite toxin-free skincare products:

Chamomile Cleanser by Dermaplus: Ah, Dermaplus. This little boutique skin shop is one of the gems in San Francisco I miss most. If you're lucky enough to be in San Francisco stop by for a facial. No matter where you live, you can now buy their hand-mixed natural products online. There is not a single product I don't love, but this chamomile cleanser is my favorite. It has natural oil, making it gentle on your skin, but it still foams up so you feel like you get that deep clean. 

Skin oil by Beauty Counter: Beauty Counter is one of my new obsessions. I have long listened to Balanced Bites, and they often talk about this brand (also highly recommend this podcast). I was always scared of skin oil at the thought that it would make me breakout. I tried it at the recommendation of a friend and now use it nightly. Beauty Counter has different types of oil depending on your skin type, but with our new move to LA and new use of AC I find I need the hydrating oil.

Hydrating Moisturizer by Dermaplus: I tend to alternate between moisturizer and oil depending on how my skin is feeling. I prefer to use lotion underneath makeup. Whenever I'm in the mood for lotion, this hydrating moisturizer by Dermaplus is my absolute favorite.

Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer: I use this as my daily suncreen. It makes my skin incredibly smooth and provides just a touch of coverage. If you prefer a matte look or need extra coverage you may find this doesn't work for you - but I love it!

Charcoal Bar by Beauty Counter: This charcoal bar is my go-to when I need that extra deep clean feeling. You can use it on your body or face and it leaves you feeling squeaky clean but not stripped. 

Collagen Mask by Dermaplus: This is the product to use when your skin is at 911 status. 20 minutes with this sheet mask and you will watch fine lines disappear and dewiness return.

Rosewater Mist: I carry this bottle around with me everywhere! You can use it anytime you're feeling dry, or if your makeup needs a refresher. It's especially great on travel days to avoid the drying out effect of airplanes. 

Dry brushing: Dry brushing is a great daily (or every-other-day) habit to form. Just 5 minutes before your shower will increase circulation, exfoliate your skin, and improve breakouts and ingrown hairs.

Collagen Protein by Bulletproof: Okay, so this is something you consume, but it is my #1 tip for beautiful skin. When I started putting collagen protein into my tea each morning, everyone in my life noticed - just by looking at me. Bulletproof should probably be paying me at this point because I am not shy about crediting this product. Not only does it give you a boost of protein in the morning (8 grams per tablespoon) but it is incredible for joint health, muscles repair, and has a powerful anti-aging effect on your skin. 

Breakfast Parfaits

This parfait is the perfect treat the next time you're craving sweet . Not only is it good enough to be dessert, but it's also dense with nutrients. The cashew cream base adds a lightly sweet richness that pairs perfectly with the tartness of the berries. It's topped with protein-rich chia seeds, goji berries, and lemon zest. It’s the perfect amount of crunch along with some serious antioxidant power.

Now is the perfect time to add berries into your diet — they are in season through the end of summer, meaning nutrition and flavor are at their peak (but frozen berries harvested at peak season are great to use at all other times of the year). Blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries are nutritional powerhouses, boasting the ability to slow signs of aging, prevent chronic disease like cancer and diabetes, and fight inflammation. Berries are low on the glycemic index, meaning their glucose will enter your blood stream more slowly than other sources of glucose, helping to prevent the release of insulin due to blood sugar spikes.

The cashew cream adds a decadent quality to this parfait, and the healthy fat and vitamin content make it the perfect way to start your day. Cashews can help keep you fuller longer so you can avoid the sugar crash that pastries or cereal often lead to. Cashews are also full of magnesium, a mineral essential for healthy elimination which is why we recommend taking Eliminate for better digestion.

The toppings in this parfait not only add texture and flavor, but each ingredient is full of its own unique benefits. The lemon zest adds a dose fresh flavor to each bite and is the most alkaline forming food, helping fight acidic conditions in the body. Lemons are rich in vitamin C making them great for immune support. Goji berries are loaded with beta-carotene and the antioxidant, zeaxanthin, both of which promote skin health and prevent aging. Contrary to what their sweet taste might suggest, they are loaded with protein from essential amino acids. Chia seeds are the last of this powerhouse-topping-trio. They are rich in anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids and contain good amounts of fiber, complete protein, and vitamins.

Ingredients:
12-ounce raspberries
6-ounce blackberries
2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar
2 cups cashews, soaked for 3 hours or overnight
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons chia seeds
zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons goji berries

Step 1: Rinse berries. Set blueberries aside. Place blackberries and raspberries in a sauté pan with coconut palm sugar. Cook on medium-low for 5 minutes, occasionally stirring and mashing with a spoon, until water has been released from berries. Increase heat to medium-high and bring berries to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 8-10 additional minutes, or until berries have thickened slightly. Pour berries in a bowl and store in fridge covered.

Step 2: After soaking cashews, drain and rinse. Place cashews, dates, vanilla, and sea salt in a blender. Blend until smooth (about 60-90 seconds). The texture will resemble greek yogurt. Put cashew cream in the refrigerator. Let both the berries and cashew cream cool for at least 1 hour.

Step 3: While berries and cashew cream cool, prepare parfait toppings. Zest 1 Meyer lemon. roughly chop goji berries. Mix zest, berries, and chia seeds together in a bowl. Set aside.

Step 4: Evenly divide berry mixture into the bottom of 4 small containers or bowls. Spoon a large dollop of cashew cream mixture evenly over berries (you may have some left over). Gently spread cashew cream into an even layer. Top with goji berry mixture and blueberries. You can store these parfaits in the fridge for a few days, or serve immediately. 

This recipe was created, by me, for The Clean Program (www.cleanprogram.com)

Quinoa Crust Vegan Pizza

Usually gluten-free, vegan, or any mention of the word healthy is guarantee that Alex will dislike whatever I'm making (our pup, Tyson, does not discriminate). So, when he devoured half of my first effort at this quinoa crust pizza, I knew I had done something right. Since the first version was covered in cheese, which makes everything delicious, I wanted to try a healthier option. This vegan version ensued, and is not only delicious but filled with fiber, antioxidants, and serious anti-aging power. 

Crust:
3/4 cup quinoa, soaked for 6 hours
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 clove garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Toppings:
1/2 zucchini, thinly sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
3-4 compari tomatoes, quartered
4-5 basil leaves, ribboned

Sauce:
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon oregano
2 garlic gloves, minced
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt + pepper

Vegan parmesan:
1/2 cup cashews
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
salt to taste

Cooking:
2 tablespoons ghee

Step 1: Place quinoa in a small bowl and cover in water so the grain is completely covered. Cover and let sit overnight (or for a minimum of 6 hours).

Step 2: Place a cast iron into oven and preheat oven to 425. Drain quinoa in a fine mesh strainer, and rinse until water runs clear. Place oil, water, baking soda, salt, and garlic in blender. Blend until completely smooth - it will resemble waffle batter. Take hot pan out, put 2 tablespoons of ghee into pan, and then pour in quinoa batter (smooth it out until it fills the whole pan). Place pan back in oven for 10-15 minutes, flip, and place back in for another 5-10. 

Step 3: Make sauce. Add 1/2 chopped onion to sauté pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sauté until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for another 1-2 minutes, being careful not burn. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, salt and pepper. Simmer for another 10 minutes and set aside to cool. Once cooler, blend until smooth. 

Step 4: When crust is finished cooking, top with sauce and veggies. Bake at 425 for another 10-15 minutes, or until veggies are to desired doneness.

Step 5: While pizza bakes, make parmesan cheese. Place all ingredients into food processor or blender and pulse until finely ground. When pizza is finished, let cool for 5-10 minutes and then top with cheese and basil.

Superfood Powers: Nutritional yeast! This superfood is dense with nutrients and protein - with 8 grams in just one tablespoon. It is also full of B vitamins, including B-12 normally found in animal sources. Sprinkle away.
 

Carrot, mint, almond pasta

Yesterday we surprised my grandma for her 90th birthday. She's one of those women I can't quite explain to people who don't know her, but "full of life" is the phrase I find myself going to when trying. She gifted me my passion for health and food, and I found myself reflecting on my gratitude to her over the past few weeks as we prepped for the party. She lives each moment like there is no past and no future, just pulling the joy out of the present effortlessly.

I'm dedicating this dish to my grandma and in honor her southern roots, it is full of brown butter flavor.

4 cups spiralized carrots

1/2 cup mint leaved, chopped

1/2 cup raw almonds, chopped

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt and pepper

Step 1: Brown butter. Melt butter over medium heat. Cook, stirring regularly, until it turns light brown and a nutty aroma forms. Watch the butter the whole time, it goes from browned to burnt quickly! Pour butter into bowl and set aside.

Step 2: Wipe out the pan. Add olive oil. Add carrots, salt,  and pepper and cook over medium heat until slightly softened, 3-4 minutes.

Step 3: Add almonds, mint, and butter. Toss to combine and cook for 1-2 more minutes. Serve immediately and top with more almonds, mint, and salt. I topped mine with a poached egg :)

Superfood power: Mint! Mint relaxes the muscles in the digestive system, keeping aches and bloating away. It also stimulates digestive enzymes which help us absorb nutrients from food more effectively. Bonus: it's in season now! To store, fill a mason jar with an inch of water, cut off the bottom of the mint stems and place mint in jar. if there is room, close lid, otherwise loosely place a plastic bag over mint. 

Matcha 101

Matcha is a powerful form of green tea. The entire tea leaf is stone-ground into a fine powder and consumed whole, rather than the traditional preparation of steeping the tea leaf in hot liquid. Matcha is thought by many experts to provide even greater benefits than traditional green tea, due to the consumption of the whole plant.

It boasts many benefits

It helps keep your weight in check. It helps increase the activity of brown fat cells, which helps prevent obesity. People who drink 1-3 servings of matcha per day weigh an average of 8 pounds less than non-tea drinkers.

It keeps you calm, happy, and focused. Due to the concentration of the amino acid l-theanine, it may decrease feelings of stress, prevent anxiety, and increase focus. (Maru, 2015)

It gives a better kind of energy. The high concentration of l-theanine (about four times what’s found in regular green tea) slows the release of caffeine into the bloodstream. You’ll notice a much steadier increase of energy, and a much slower drop of energy compared to other caffeine sources like soda or coffee.

Say goodbye to inflammation. A high concentration of polyphenols helps lower inflammation in the body. It's recommended to consume polyphenol-rich foods several times a day.                     

Say hello to deeper detoxification. It supports the detoxification processes in our body, specifically the detoxification of toxic mineral accumulation.

It's antioxidant rich. Specifically, flavonoids. Flavonoids help increase the activity of antioxidant enzymes in the small intestine, prevent damage to cholesterol molecules, and provide protection against many chronic diseases including cancer and heart disease.

Creating a tea ritual

Purchase proper tools and high quality tea. My personal favorites are Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco (if you live in SF go have the matcha shake) or Pana Tea (www.panateamatcha.com). For drinking, it is best to buy ceremonial grade tea.

 Preparation is important for maintaining Matcha’s flavor:

1. Place ½-1 teaspoon Matcha tea in cup.

2. Use your whisk to first break up powder, before adding liquid.

3. Add 10 ounces of water, heated to 180 degrees.

4. Quickly move whisk in an “S” shape around mug until the powder is fully dissolved.

You can make matcha into a creamy drink using nut milk and honey. My personal favorite drink is 1 teaspoon of matcha, 1/4 cup raw cashews, 12 ounces hot water, a pinch of sea salt, 1 tablespoon raw honey, and cinnamon. Put all ingredients into a blender for 30 seconds and drink immediately! Add bulletproof collagen for a boost of protein and nutrients in the morning. 

Seasonal Bites: April

Spring has officially sprung and produce has shifted into detoxifying bites, like the April picks below. 

Strawberries: I am so excited to see these back at the farmer's market. Nothing is better than a juicy, sweet strawberry, and this is the time of year to get them. Eat them solo, or cut them up and top with a little cashew cream (blend raw cashews, dates, vanilla bean, and water) for a creamy, clean treat.

Mint: We often forget the power of herbs in the presence of leafy greens like kale and spinach. Mint packs a powerful dose of anti-inflammatory nutrients and is a well-known detoxifier. It helps the body digest food and prevents bloat. Just smelling mint can be an energizing practice - try it right before a workout. I have been putting mint on everything - whole leaves are making it into every salad and I'm soaking them in my hot lemon water I have each morning. As soon as this Whole30 experiment is over I am putting a bunch into my first drink.

Meyer Lemon: These are a sweeter variety of lemon that are peaking right now. They have a slightly darker color, like an orange and a lemon had a baby. Most of the nutrients  in lemons actually live in the skin, so make zesting a regular practice for brightening a dish's flavor and adding a dose of antioxidants. 

P.S. The three of these produce picks, with spinach, olive oil, and sea salt make a delicious salad! And now that I think about it, a delicious cocktail as well...six days and counting.

Breakfast for the week

I'm 18 days into Whole 30.  I'll do a deep dive into the experience once I'm finished, but I am a big fan, to say the least. One of the main reasons is that I am actually sleeping. I've suffered from insomnia for most of my life, and while my frustration with the issue has never subsided, I had sort of accepted it. So, while not waking up at 3:00 AM every day is doing wonders for my energy, it doesn't leave me quite as much time for breakfast prep each morning (really, not complaining here). Hence, these egg muffins for the perfect grab-and-go breakfast:

Spray a muffin tin with nonstick, or coat with ghee (ghee will give better flavor). Fill the cups with any veggies you like (I like to make each muffin a little different so I don't get bored). I used sautéed asparagus, mushrooms, raw zucchini, tomatoes, spinach, and onions. Beat 12 eggs with salt, pepper, and cayenne, and pour over the veggies. Only fill the tins 3/4 full as the eggs do rise. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Store in a closed container for up to a week. 

Stair workout

Being a barre devotee keeps me happy and challenged, but I do occasionally crave some variety (particularly the outdoor kind). I live a straight one mile shot to the Lyon Street steps, and it tends to be my go-to spot - especially with the sunshine hitting San Francisco. With eight flights and seriously gorgeous views, its a cardio lover's heaven (and if you're like me and didn't get the cardio-loving genes, the views will distract you).

Here's a great 30 minute stair workout - and no, you don't have to live in San Francisco to take advantage - just find a set near you!

1. Sprint up steps as fast as you can, jog down
2. Walk up steps at a fast pace, two stairs at a time, jog down
3. Moderate jog up stairs, one stair at a time, jog down

Once you've gone up the stairs 3x complete the following:
25 turned out squats (feet slightly wider than hips, toes to 11 and 1 o'clock, sink seat to knee height and hinge your torso forward, then return to standing)
20 alternating lunges (step right foot back into lunge so front knee is over front ankle and back knee is under hip, then step back foot forward to standing position and repeat on other side - this counts as one)
Plank with knee pull - 1 minute (the middle of your wrists should be lined up with the outside of your shoulders, pull your right knee to your chest, set it back and then repeat on left; try to keep your hips still, if movement is uncomfortable just hold a still plank)
20 pushups (hands wider than shoulders, you can do this up against a wall or on the ground)

Repeat everything (stair runs through bodyweight exercises 3x).

Don't forget to stretch!

Food Prep

Yesterday I started Whole 30. Deeply fearing a dry 30 days, I guzzled down a month's worth of red wine the night before starting. Smart. Fortunately, I chopped, spiralized, and roasted my little heart out on Sunday, meaning hungover and tired me was able to make it through the day effortlessly.

Meal prep is something I do every week. It makes five minute meals realistic, and significantly lowers the temptation to speed dial your favorite takeout. 

Some prep suggestions:

  • Spiralizer: zucchini, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and many more can all be made into noodles and stored until you're ready to cook.
  • Food processor: If you don't already have one, buy one now. My favorite thing to make is cauliflower rice. Just pulse whole cauliflower until it makes rice-size pieces. Store in a covered container for up to a week. 
  • Smoothie bags: place the ingredients for your favorite smoothies (greens, fruits, powders, nuts) into single serving bags and freeze until you're ready to use. You can make a month's worth at a time if you want! Your morning will involve the simple task of adding liquid and pressing start.
  • Broth: Chicken and veggie broths are super simple, much healthier than than the store bought kind, and you can freeze for months. 
  • Chopping: chop broccoli, squash, lettuce, garlic, onions, brussel sprouts, asparagus, etc. into ready to cook sizes so your chopping board can stay away all week.
  • Roasting: to take the chopping one step further you can do all of your roasting at the start of the week as well. I recommend slightly under cooking, you can pop them in the oven for just a few minutes when you're ready to eat.
  • Hardboiled eggs: you can grab them as snacks, breakfast, or salad toppers throughout your week for easy, instant protein.
  • Slow cooker packs: just like smoothie packs, stick all of your ingredients for a slow cooker meal into a zip lock, pour it in the morning of, and you'll arrive home with nothing to do. One of my favorite slow cooker packs is putting together steel cut oats, nut milk, and your favorite sweetener into mason jars and popping them into a water filled slow cooker the night before.
  • Grains: cook grains at the beginning of the week (like rice, steel-cut oats, and quinoa) so they're ready to go. You can make huge batches and freeze in individual servings to have a month's worth done.
  • Marinades, sauces, and dressings: Mix together a few meat marinades or salad dressings. You can marinade meat the morning of or freeze meat and marinade together for use later on. Divide the dressing into baby mason jars for ready-to-use servings. Store homemade pasta sauces in the fridge, or freeze into ice cube trays for single-servings (I love doing this with pesto, which you can add to everything from pasta to eggs to meat).

Happy prepping!

 

Seasonal Bites: March

Spring is (almost) here! I blinked and winter was gone, but I'm not the least bit mad. Spring is my jam - the feeling of renewal, the produce, and the spring cleaning. (Yes, cleaning made my list). I do a big clean once a year, where every belonging is scrutinized for necessity. Sunday I had a giant burst of motivation to get it done before spring officially starts and eight overstuffed garbage bags later, I am entering March feeling organized and light. This got me thinking about other areas that need renewal, and I'm definitely craving the same shift in my health. 

I'm truly in awe at how in sync our bodies' needs and seasonal produce are. We want comforting warm foods and winter provides hearty root vegetables. With summer heat we need hydration and nature gives us watermelon, pineapple, and tomatoes. As we enter spring and crave a cleanse from winter's heaviness, predictably nature provides it. Each month I'll give you these Seasonal Bites to talk a little bit about what you should be buying right now. 

March Bites:

Asparagus: This veggie could make the list for every month through summer, which is wonderful since asparagus is incredibly cleansing and so versatile. Storage tip: snap the ends off (they should snap easily if the asparagus is good quality). Stick the asparagus in a jar with the ends submerged in water and store in the fridge. This will keep your asparagus fresh and crisp.

Avocado: California avocados just hit their stride. Haas are the ones to go for now and they are as creamy as ever. If you've been buying California avocados all winter long, they have probably taken a bit longer to ripen. These will become soft fast so store in the fridge if you want to slow the process down (or just eat them all day one like me). Grab a spoon and throw some seasoning on them or make my favorite breakfast.

Spring (or Green) Garlic: This might be a vegetable you aren't familiar with, but please change that immediately. It combines the incredible flavor of garlic we all love, with the mildness and versatility of a sturdy lettuce. You can put it right on your sandwiches/salads raw or sauté it in ghee and olive oil, season with sea salt + pepper and toss with fresh pasta. Spring garlic will boost your immunity, is incredibly rich in iron, and like traditional garlic, it helps us keep healthy cholesterol levels. 

Poached Pears

We live two blocks from my favorite ice cream shop, Loving Cup. I used to stop by every other week or so, but then that turned weekly, and lately too often to admit on a health blog. So, I've been trying to come up with healthier desserts to satisfy my sweet tooth with slightly less sugar, hence this poached pear recipe.

On the topic of sugar, the amount in this recipe seems high, but know that the pears are only poaching, and you're not actually consuming all of this sugar!

2-4 pears, skinned, halved, cored

3 cups water

1 cup coconut palm sugar

1 vanilla bean

1 cinnamon stick

pinch of sea salt

Heat all of the ingredients except the pears in a medium saucepan over medium heat, until sugar is dissolved (about 5 minutes). Add pears and simmer for 15-20 minutes. The pears should be easily pierced with a fork but still firm. 

Serve the pears with mascarpone, honey, a drizzle of dark chocolate, or solo. They are also great with a reduction of the poaching liquid. I was shocked that something so simple turned out this incredible. It had the warm, nutty flavor we all love about pie and the mascarpone was the perfect creamy, rich partner. YUM!

Superfood Power: You've probably been told to eat an apple a day, but you'd be just as well off to replace that with a pear. They are high in fiber and contain boron, which helps the body absorb calcium, helping to prevent diseases like osteoporosis. 

 

 

A good Egg

Free-range, pasture-raised, cage free, organic, brown, white...umm what?! With so many diet philosophies out there, figuring out the right foods to eat feels complicated enough before thinking about how it got to your plate. Complicated, yes, but if you care about animal welfare it's important to understand what these different terms mean. And in case being humane is not at the top of your list, these terms also influence how nutritious eggs are, so read on. 

First...the labels

Cage Free: Unfortunately cage-free does not mean hens basking in the sun in free flowing space. It simply means chickens aren't in cages (but are still often indoors, with about a square foot of space each, never seeing a ray of sunlight).

Free-range: Ugh, not much better here. Hens must have "access" to outdoors, but the actual regulations on how often are loose at best so it's not necessarily different than cage free. 

Pasture-raised: Okay, we are getting somewhere! This actually means what you think it means. Hens have real access to grass and their natural diet of bugs (yep, that's a good thing). With that said, unless it's also labelled "certified organic" they aren't inspected. Bringing us to the next label...

Certified Organic: Hens have a diet free of antibiotics and hormones - which means you don't eat that crap.

To clarify...

Okay, I'm more confused now - what am I supposed to buy? Pasture-raised, certified organic eggs. Ideally from a local farm where you can trust the living environment. If possible, head to a farmer's market and talk to the sellers.

I don't care about the hen's living environment, can I just buy organic? Actually no, you should still buy pasture raised. First of all, just crack a regular egg next to one of these jewels and you will see the difference, in color, size, taste. They also have significantly higher amounts of vitamins (A, D, E, B-12, calcium, omega fatty acids, and the list goes on) - we are talking 2-3 times the amount. 

Conclusion: Keep buying eggs. Each time you purchase from these smaller, responsible sellers, you are casting a vote for quality food. Nutritionally, eggs are an absolute superfood, if you buy right! 

 

Homemade broth

 

You would think a career in health would mean fewer colds but teaching (and touching) so many students has me constantly fighting something. Last week I came down with a serious coldflu that had me in bed unable to do anything but text Alex requests for food and sick emojis #mancold style. I have a serious issue sitting still, so by day three when I was energetic enough to move around but too down to go outside, I had to find projects around the house. I have been wanting to make my own broth forever, but never got around to it. I had a frozen whole chicken, and enough vegetable scraps for this broth, which turned out delicious. Given my lack of a recipe, my assumption is that you can throw in just about any ingredients you like the taste of and end up with a tasty broth. 

1 whole chicken, cleaned

1 onion, halved

3-5 large carrots

3-5 stocks celery

2 bay leaves

5 cloves garlic

Place all ingredients into a slow cooker and add 10-12 cups of boiling water (depending on the size of your slow cooker). Cook on low for 10 hours. Strain the liquid into a large container and refrigerate until the fat comes to the top (this just makes it easier to remove). Skim the fat off the top, and store in the fridge for up to a week or the freezer for later use - just be sure to leave room for expansion if freezing. 

Conclusion: Homemade or store bought? I'm making my own from now on. The good, organic, local kind is ridiculously pricey and the cheap kind is watery and chemical filled compared with this stuff. For the price and the ease there's no question homemade is the way to go.

Superfood Power: Homemade broth (keyword, homemade) boasts many benefits like improving digestion, providing minerals like calcium, and boosting the immune system.