Recipe: Valentine Superfood Chocolates

Happy Valentine’s Day!

These are healthy and delicious candies to make for your Valentine or Galentine

Happy Valentine’s Day! I was lucky enough this year to celebrate Galentine’s Day this year with an amazing group of bloggers who made all kinds of health(ier) and delicious treats. Everyone made something unique and delicious. We were out of town the days leading up to the party so I wanted to make something super easy and no-bake. I also wanted to make something bite sized that would look pretty on a Valentine plate.

Thank goodness for my friend Rachael (Sweat and Repeat LA) who takes amazing photos and also for Whitney (To Live and Diet in LA) who hosted us in her beautiful home.  

Ingredients:

  • one large dark chocolate bar (17 oz) I use Trader Joe’s Pound Plus
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/4 cup coconut shavings

To Make:

  • line mini muffin tin
  • melt chocolate with a double broiler or with a metal bowl over a pot of boiling water
  • fill each muffin tin half way with chocolate
  • put almonds on top of chocolate and pour more chocolate on top
  • top with pomegranate and almonds
  • put in the fridge until hard and store in an air tight container

p.s. you can add any other type of nuts, fruit or toppings that you love

p.p.s. these are also perfect for the Bachelor

Oh yes and don’t forget to snap a picture and share with your love or your friends!

Imperfect Produce: Ugly Fruits and Veggies Delivered


Imperfect Produce is a produce delivery service that sort of works like an animal rescue organization. There are fruits and vegetables that aren’t “pure bread” and have something ugly or “wonky” about them that prohibit them from getting in to the super market.

This could be because the product is too big, too small, or too ugly or because there was an overabundance or the market changed their mind. This produce would go to waste if it weren’t for Imperfect Produce. They go in a rescue these fruits and veggies and find them a new home- yours!

When I got my box, I was so surprised to see that most of the produce looked like something I would certainly purchase from the store or at a farmers market.

How it works:

Order your box to be delivered (current delivery in Bay Area and Los Angeles). You choose between Regular Mixed Box, Organic Mixed Box, All Fruit or All Veggie.

The cost depends on what size you order and where you live.

Small Boxes range from $11-$17 and include 7-9lbs of produce

Medium Boxes range from $14- $24 and include 11-13 lbs of produce

Large Boxes range from $20- $43 and include 23-25 lbs of produce

This is what was included in my box:

The company is so cute with its marketing (see above photo) and have a great mission to decrease waste and hunger. They send a card that asks you to take a picture with the “wonkiest” piece of fruit or veggie you have in your box and post a photo and they will donate 5 pounds of food to a food bank.

They also share great tips for storing all the fruits and veggies.

Even better- there are recipes for how to use most of the veggies they send! Yay for new recipes and fun new ways to use the vegetables in my kitchen.

Head over to www.imperfectproduce.com to find out if they deliver to your neighborhood!

Building the Perfect Oatmeal

How to Build the Perfect Oatmeal

Imagine yourself waking up on a lazy Sunday morning- maybe it is snowing or raining outside and you just made a cup of coffee. You want to eat something nutritious, delicious and warm. You don’t want eggs. You want to just throw a lot of things in to a bowl and you want it to be good. Enter oatmeal. You can literally put almost anything in or on oatmeal and it will be good. BUT it is important to know the basics to build the best warm, nutritious and delicious bowl.

Perfect oatmealStep One: Pick your oats

Gluten free? Steel Cut? Zoats? Instant? Old Fashioned? This is all about preference, dietary needs and texture. Choose whatever works for you and then move on to step 2. For add ins, I like hemp hearts. flax seed, chia seeds, collagen peptides, apples or shaved zucchini. You could also add in frozen fruit like blueberries before you cook the oatmeal or add fresh berries on top (see step 3.)

Perfect Oatmeal

Step Two: Cook

Cook either on the stove or in the microwave depending on what you chose in Step One above.

Stove:

  1. Spray the inside of the pot with non stick spray.
  2. Fill with water and oats.  3/4-1 cup of water per each serving of oatmeal. Boil water.
  3. Once boiling, reduce to simmer and stir frequently until oats reach desired fluffiness.

Microwave:

  1. Fill microwave safe bowl with oats and water.
  2. Heat on High for 2 minutes. Stir and heat for another 1 minute.

perfect oatmeal

Step 3: Toppings

Do whatever you want here. Literally, whatever you think sounds good. I recommend:

  1. A nut butter- almond, peanut butter, sunflower. My favorites are Spread the Love, Wild Friends and Nutzo.
  2. Fruit- berries are a perfect topping but bananas and other less likely fruits work well too. I like persimmons , mango, coconut and figs. Dried fruit is another great topping option.
  3. Crunch- almonds, pecans, granola, hemp hearts.
  4. Other- yogurt, chopped up protein bar, cinnamon, brown sugar, jam, turmeric or other spices. 

I would love to know in the comments if there is anything else you like in your oats?

Mindfulness in 10 Minutes a Day

If you pay attention to health and wellness at all, I am sure you have seen that mindfulness is a hot topic especially in the past year. I have been interested in this idea for quite awhile and have talked about making it a part of my daily practice for the same amount of time.

In graduate school, I learned a lot about mindfulness and I even took a whole course at the Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) at UCLA while I was getting my MSW.  I encourage the patients and families I work with to practice mindfulness to help with pain, anxiety and depression. My mom is a big believer in mindfulness as well and has integrated a mindful awareness in to her life to help her chronic pain. But despite being a self-proclaimed believer in mindful meditation, it was not something that was a part of my daily routine.


What I Learned:

The idea of doing something new indefinitely is scary- so, I told myself I would start with 30 days and see how it goes. This is what I learned:

  1. It is difficult to find 10 minutes per day- okay, it really is not at all difficult but it feels like it. It is literally 10 minutes out of 1,440. Its no time at all so how do you find it? Mark it on a calendar, set a reminder, do it right when you wake up so nothing else can get in the way.
  2. I never regret meditation. I liken it to working out- do I always feel like doing it? No! When I do it do I always feel better, accomplished, healthier, etc? Yes!
  3. While I am only meditating for 10 minutes per day, it has created a more mindful approach to daily life for me. That being said, meditation is not magic. It is called a meditation practice because it certainly takes time, dedication and practice. However, adopting a 10 minutes per day approach can lead to a variety of health benefits.
  4. There are so many tools out there to help you!

There are a few really great tools out there to help you get started.

  1. The Headspace App. This app starts with “take 10” which is 10 days of mindfulness practice that help you learn how to meditate, how to be mindful and what the benefits are. They app also has animations that illustrate mindfulness which help it make a whole lot more sense. Lastly, the app lets you set reminders and mindful moments to sneak mindfulness in each day no matter where you are. Mindful
  2. Buddhify. This is mostly what I used during my month of meditation. I love this app because it has meditations for every situation. For someone just starting out who might not love the idea of sitting on a cushion and meditating quietly, this app is perfect. Mindful
  3. MARC– UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center has a list of guided meditations on their website. You can find them here.

  4. Books! I love the Headspace Guide to Meditation by Andy Puddicombe who is also the creator of the app. 

Guided meditation classes. There are many of these available in Los Angeles through Classpass or individual studios. Some include The Den Meditation and Unplug Meditation

I encourage you to try it for a week or month and stick with it as best you can. Look for more posts on mindfulness coming up.

 

Thinking of Detoxing? Read this First.

It’s January- shouldn’t I be “detoxing?”

detox

When I used to think “detox” a lot of images and ideas would come to mind- juice cleanse, lemon water and cayenne pepper, removing toxins, flat belly in 3 days- basically all quick fixes to get you where you want to be fast.

When I did the Whole 30, people continuously called it a cleanse or detox and I would get so annoyed because of the negative connotation I had with the word detox and everything I described above. When I really started thinking about it though, the Whole 30 was pretty much exactly what my preferred definition of a detox is- it is filling your body with whole foods and eliminating food that doesn’t serve our overall health to make us feel good.

I don’t believe in a “clear history” button- I believe what we put in our bodies impacts us no matter how we flush it out but I do believe in a good detox or reset that allows us to get started or increase the momentum toward our health and fitness goals. In addition to detoxing our bodies, eliminating negativity and cultivating a positive environment can do wonders for our overall health so be sure to consider this as a part of your healthy lifestyle!

detox

A detox doesn’t have to mean less of everything- a detox should include more:

  • fruits
  • veggies
  • proteins like chicken, fish, lean meats or eggs
  • water- try it infused with fruit or cucumber to make it more exciting!
  • self- love
  • mindfulness

In order to feel your best, a detox should encourage you to have less:

  • dairy like milk, coffee creamer, yogurt, cheese
  • wheat like bread, cookies, cake, pasta
  • sugar- that includes artificial sweeteners
  • alcohol (I know)
  • self- criticism
  • stress
Try some of my very favorite clean eating recipes:

Clean Breakfasts

Paleo Sushi

Green Curry and Cauliflower Rice

If you can spend a few days or a week eating whole, unprocessed foods I believe that your energy, mood and skin will improve,  your clothes will fit a little better without feeling deprived.  I even think you will feel good enough to get started on a consistent workout routine to keep you feeling motivated and energized. Find whatever detox means to you- whether it is strict clean eating, eliminating soda, quitting fast food or meditating for 5 minutes each day or putting your phone away at 8pm and just do it. I promise it will be easier than drinking cayenne pepper and lemon water. 

detox

 

Brunch Series: Paleo Pancakes

Paleo Pancakes: Happy New Year!

paleo pancakes

I love brunch. I love making it, I love sitting down to eat it with a hot cup of coffee at home on a Saturday or Sunday morning. I love it so much that I am starting a brunch series which basically just means I will post more brunch recipes which hubs is pretty stoked about because he gets to eat more brunch!

paleo pancakes

Most of the time, I eat breakfast (which is definitively NOT brunch) in the car or at my desk. On those days when we sit down and really enjoy brunch, I want to make sure it is delicious and indulgent but does not make me want to spend the whole day on the couch.

These pancakes are made in a blender in 5 minutes or less and you can add any other fruits or veggies you might want to experiment with. I add apples but they would also be good with zucchini, banana, added almond butter, etc.

I love these pancakes because 1. they are pancakes and 2. because they go perfectly with coffee 3. hubs loves them 4. you can add anything to them 5. they are easy to make 6. they are delicious! 7. you can cut them in to shapes for all holidays (see photo below)

paleo pancakes

Recipe

Brunch Series: Paleo Pancakes
Recipe type: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Paleo
Cuisine: Brunch
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10 small
 
These delicious Paleo pancakes are perfect for a healthy yet indulgent brunch.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (optional, but helps for rising)
  • 5 large eggs
  • ¼ cup packed almond flour
  • ½ cup coconut flour
  • ½ cup arrowroot powder
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 apple shredded or chopped
  • anything you want for toppings. I like sauteed apples, yogurt, berries and honey.
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in to a blender or food processor.
  2. Do not put the flour in first or it will get stuck in the bottom and you will have very thin pancakes... (speaking from experience)
  3. Heat coconut oil in a non stick skillet
  4. Pour pancake mix on to skillet and cook pancake until starts to bubble then flip
Notes
If you do not regularly eat a paleo diet, these ingredients might seem overwhelming but you can buy almond flour, arrowroot powder and coconut flour in stores. Trader Joe's has all 3 but you can also order them on amazon or through an online merchant like Thrive Market.

PS I am doing a giveaway on instagram this week! Head on over to enter @balancebride

Setting Goals and Intentions for the New Year

 

I don’t necessarily believe in New Year’s Resolutions- at least not in the traditional sense. When someone talks about resolutions, I imagine full gyms and juice cleanses that last a few weeks or month at most. I DO believe in setting intentions and goals for the New Year that include actionable items that we can achieve over time. I especially like setting daily, weekly and monthly goals to achieve which is much less daunting than saying something you are going to do for an entire year. It is also a good idea to set goals in each category of life including work or school, friends and family, health and wellness, etc.

goals intentions resolutions

Here are my top tips for creating attainable goals and setting intentions for the new year:

Number one:

Do not set one large, vague and unattainable goal- no “I want to lose weight” or “I want to save more money” that is just a recipe for failure. Try to break it down however works for you. It takes motivation, planning and commitment to reach any goal including a New Year’s Resolution.

Try this instead:

Choose a few things you want to do more of and a few things you want to do less of

or

make a list of new habits

or

choose one word or phrase to act as a mantra for your year. For example, if you want to spend less time on your phone or social media (one of my goals) maybe you focus on being “present” as your word of the year.

or

take one or two large goals and break them down in to smaller, more manageable monthly goals. For example, instead of “I want to exercise more”, maybe you say- “I want to take 10 fitness class a month.” Or instead of “I want to eat healthy” you would say, “I want to make dinner at home 4 nights a week”. These are tangible items that you can do each day, week or month that will lead you toward your goals.

Number Two

Whatever you choose to do, make sure to write these intentions and goals down somewhere where you can track your progress or write down the steps you have taken to achieve your goals. I love this template from Thirty Handmade Days to help you keep track of your goals and resolutions. You can also write them in your planner or put them at your desk or on your refrigerator.

Number Three

Have someone hold you accountable and support you. This should be someone who you trust to have your best interest in mind and who will really question you if you start to move away from achieving your goals. Maybe you have a fit friend who loves to exercise- ask him or her to help hold you accountable for your fitness goals. Maybe you and your husband order take out during the week- it is important for him to know your goal of cooking at home so he can help support you.

Here are my 2017 health and wellness resolutions: 

Be More Mindful

  • practice mindfulness for at least 10 minutes each day
  • take mindful breaks at work or at home when I feel myself getting caught up or stressed
  • share mindfulness with friends, family or patients at work who I think will benefit
  • take at least one mindful class per month

Use My Phone Less

  • Continue to use Moment to track my phone use
  • Turn phone to airplane mode after 9pm when I am at home
  • Put my phone away when I am eating, in a group or out with friends

Apologize Less

  • Replace “I’m sorry” with “Thank you”
  • Instead of: “I’m sorry I was late” say “Thank you for waiting for me”
  • Instead of: “Sorry I spilled in the kitchen again!” say “Thank you for always helping me clean up when I spill”
  • Instead of: “Sorry” for literally no reason at all, take a mindful moment.

I hope you all have a wonderful 2017 and remember that a year is a really long time so please be patient with yourself and do not give up on your goals even if you aren’t perfect in January! xo

Food to Heal: How Foods Can Help Us Decrease Inflammation

All your resolutions in one delicious delivery

If you follow me on Instagram you might know that I am working through the Well + Good's list of 2017 Wellness Trends that I can afford.  The first trend (and one that is certainly in my price range) is eating inflammation-fighting foods. One thing that many of us do already is substitute inflammation fighting ingredients for ones that we know to cause inflammation. For example, nut-based cheeses, zoodles, paleo pancakes all replace dairy, sugar or wheat which are known to cause inflammation. In additional to staying away from foods that cause inflammation, we can increase our consumption of foods that help decrease inflammation in our bodies. While we are bound to see "new" anti inflammatory research and products on the market, there are plenty of foods we already know about that can help to fight inflammation especially if they are enjoyed after a challenging work out.

I have learned that there are foods that cause inflammation and foods that fight against it. Food either makes you healthier or unhealthier but there is no such thing as a neutral food as everything we put in to our bodies or on our plats add to or take away from our overall health. That is not to say that we should always only eat food that makes us healthier because indulging is important too but as a whole, our goal should be to eat a diet that overall contributes to our health.

Food as Medicine: How to Naturally Decrease Inflammation in your Body

Inflammation is one of many aspects of our health that can be greatly affected by food. I have seen such a change in my overall feeling of health since I started paying attention to the ingredients in the food that I choose to eat. Consequentially, I have added more inflammation fighting foods to my diet and I limit the foods I know to cause inflammation in my body.

About two years ago I was experiencing chronic pain with no real identifiable origin; my hips always hurt and my legs often ached. I was going to Physical Therapy and nothing was helping. I thought it was a combination of my boot camp style work outs with a lot of running, jumping and pavement pounding and bad genetics and I thought I would be in pain forever.

Changing my work outs from boot camps to lower impact workouts including spinning, barre and Pilates definitely helped my pain but that wasn't the whole picture. At the same time, I also started eating clean, unprocessed and nutrient rich foods more often. My chronic aches and pain almost disappeared after a few months. Now I know when I eat too much sugar or drink too much alcohol that my body will ache due to inflammation from these foods. I certainly still take an anti-inflammatory medication here and there for pain especially if I am trying to sleep or work but this change caused me to truly see the benefit of natural healing with food.

Food as Medicine: How to Naturally Decrease Inflammation in your Body

Inflammation is a natural and necessary component of healing and protection for the body but too much inflammation can be painful and harmful to your overall health. Below is a list of ingredients you can include in your post work out snack or meal to fight inflammation. Of course, the foods you choose is dependent on each individual and the way you respond to certain foods. I recommend slowly adding some of these ingredients in to your diet especially post work out and see how your body feels.

Food as Medicine: How to Naturally Decrease Inflammation in your Body

Foods to Fight Inflammation

  • almonds or almond butter
  • avocado
  • basil
  • bell pepper
  • brussels sprouts
  • carrots
  • cauliflower
  • cayenne pepper
  • coconut
  • cucumber
  • cilantro
  • ginger
  • garlic
  • dark leafy greens like kale, mustard greens, spinach
  • onions
  • beets
  • squash
  • sweet potato
  • turmeric
  • fish
  • olive oil
  • cherries



Food as Medicine: How to Naturally Decrease Inflammation in your Body

 

Some recipe ideas:

 

Food as Medicine: How to Naturally Decrease Inflammation in your Body

Take a look through your favorite recipes- I am sure you already have many of these ingredients in your meals or you might be able to easily add some to  up the benefits of your already healthy meals.

I am not about categorizing "good" and "bad" foods but just as important as the foods that reduce inflammation is to know what foods can increase inflammation.

Again, everyone is different but for most of us, these foods in high quantities can cause inflammation and lead to a higher likelihood of aches, pains and slower recovery times.

Food as Medicine: How to Naturally Decrease Inflammation in your Body

These inflammatory causing foods include wheat, dairy sugar, alcohol and fried foods. Of course, all of these foods can contribute to inflammation but some people are more sensitive to certain food groups. It would be difficult to cut out all of these food groups (although not impossible) so I recommend finding out which cause inflammation for you specifically and then reducing that food group as best as you can. There is no need for a complete diet overhaul here- just a few additions and a few subtractions to make a big difference in how you feel.

If you want to follow along as I move through the Wellness trends of 2017 (and maybe find some of my own) follow me on Instagram.

Paleo Buffalo Chicken Casserole

This is so easy, so paleo, so gluten free, so Whole 30 and so good. Hubs decided that this was his “signature dish” back when we did the Whole 30 and he amazed himself with his cooking skills and with how something so healthy can be so good. We made it again recently and remembered just how much we love it.

img_9580

If you want this dish to be completely Whole 30 compliant, you will need to use your own homemade ranch but this time we aren’t doing Whole 30 so we used ranch from Trader Joe’s. I love this recipe for homemade ranch.

Another great thing about this dish is how easy it is to add extra veggies. We had some leftover bell pepper and celery that needed to be used so we just threw those in the mix. This also makes plenty so we had it for 3 meals.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large spaghetti squash, shredded (see below for how to cook)
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 2-3 carrots, diced
  • and other veggies you like, diced
  • 2 lbs cooked chicken breast cut in to pieces
  • 1 cup Frank’s Red Hot
  • 1/4 cup Ranch dressing
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs

Directions:

 

Prep the squash- preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the spaghetti squash in half short ways and then in to rings. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 25 minutes.

img_9581

  •  Saute the onion and veggies  until soft (about 6 minutes)
  • Put the veggies in to a bowl with cooked chicken, hot sauce, Ranch, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
  • When the squash is cooked, take it out of the oven and shred with a fork. Add shredded squash to the bowl and stir.
  • Add the eggs to the bowl and stir.
  • Pour the mixture in to a 9×13 dish and bake for 30-35 minutes at 400 degrees.

Serve with green onions, avocado, ranch or more hot sauce on the side.

 

img_9585

Freezer Meal Prep

So I have been MIA for a looooong time. We moved, I took a big test for work and I was feeling a little overwhelmed. I decided to take a break from the blog and get back to it when I felt myself being pulled back. I have continued to post on Instagram and when I posted a photo of the freezer meal prep, I had so many people ask for the recipe that I knew it was time to come back for a post! Plus, today is the first day of another Fit Girls Guide challenge which always motivates me to share new healthy recipes. Learn more about FGG here.

My good friend recently had a baby who is absolutely adorable and it is so much fun to watch her as a first time mom. She is doing an amazing job but said that the one thing that is really hard is finding time to cook healthy meals. I wanted to help and figured that some freezer meals that she could throw in the crock pot would be a good place to start. I did some research and chose these 3 recipes. My friend is currently avoiding dairy so none of these meals include cheese or other dairy products, they are vegetarian, healthy and so easy to make. I made a bag for her and a bag for us!

Freezer Meals

Butternut Squash Chili

  • 1 1/2 lb butternut squash, cubed (I bought the pre cubed kind from Trader Joe’s and used a bag and a half)
  • 2 cans black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup leftover broccoli (this is the best part about chili- you can add any veggies you might have)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2-3 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup water

Directions:

  • Write the name of the dish and instructions for cooking on the bag
  • fill freezer bag
  • flatten and remove all the air and store in freezer
  • defrost in fridge overnight
  • place in slow cooker and add one cup of water, stir
  • cook on low for 8 hours

 

Coconut Chickpea Curry

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • two cans chickpeas, rinsed
  • 6oz can tomato paste
  • 14.5 oz tomato sauce
  • one can of coconut milk
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Directions:

  • Write the name of the dish and instructions for cooking on the bag
  • fill freezer bag
  • flatten and remove all the air and store in freezer
  • defrost in fridge overnight
  • cook on low for 6-8 hours
  • serve with bread, rice, cauliflower rice

 

Black Bean Fajitas

  • 3 bell peppers
  • 1 onion
  • one can black beans
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Directions:

  • Write the name of the dish and instructions for cooking on the bag
  • fill freezer bag
  • flatten and remove all the air and store in freezer
  • defrost in fridge overnight
  • cook on low for 6-8 hours
  • serve with tortillas, rice and any toppings you like

 

Tips:

  • If you are doing a few different meals at one time, I recommend using the food processor for the onions. This saved me from chopping 6 onions and kept my eyes from watering.
  • I would consider mixing them in a bowl and then adding to a bag especially to incorporate the spices.
  • You could add meat to any of these by browning or searing it and adding to the mix.
  • You don’t actually have to freeze these if you are going to use them within a few days. I didn’t freeze the butternut squash chili so I could cook it the next day.