Salted Chocolate Mini-Tart

IMG_6153Gluten-free, grain-free, vegan, refined sugar-free, paleo, and pegan.

I’m not a carb (pasta, bread..) kind of girl. If I’m in the mood for something a little sinful to satisfy my cravings, I’m headed for a treat in the chocolate department. However, even though chocolate seems to be my sweet tooth crutch, I still enjoy finding ways to make it healthier. These salted chocolate mini-tarts are insanely delicious, satisfying, and free of many of the common allergens. So whip these puppies up for your next get-together and see how many friends come back asking for details! To find the recipe, head on over to April’s website at The Thin Kitchen. You’ll find my guest post along with the recipe where you can adjust serving size to your liking. Just be careful, they’re a bit addicting!

 

IMG_6162-683x1024

Advertisements

Farmers Market Frittata

IMG_6224You can only make green smoothies, scrambled eggs, and pancakes so many times until you’re ready for something new. I’ll be honest with you, I’m a fan of breakfast routine and a creature of habit. The less thought and reasoning behind deciding what you’re going to eat for your first meal, the more energy can be spent somewhere else. However, sometimes you need to switch things up. Whether this change is just for you to keep things interesting, or perhaps you have a group of friends coming over for brunch, this single-serving frittata is right up your alley!

Not only is this dish incredibly simple to make, but it’s completely customizable. You can switch up the ingredients with whatever you have going on in the fridge. Have left over broccoli from the night before? Throw it in! Extra sliced turkey and ham from the other day? Add that. A little feta cheese and parmesan? Sure, why not?

To make things even more interesting, if you’re hosting a brunch-in with guests, try preparing a few options ahead of time. Cut up veggies and protein, set aside a few types of cheeses, and display a few herb and spice options for your guests to choose from. Not only will this technique give your guests the freedom to make their perfect frittata, but it gets them in the kitchen and excited to cook. Your guests will be so impressed when they see these incredibly delicious fritatta’s coming to their table. Print out this recipe ahead of time and let your guests leave with it in hand. They’ll be leaving happy, satisfied, and prepared to make this single-serving frittata all on their own!

Well, what are you waiting for? Get cooking!

IMG_6253

Ingredients

Filling

  • 3 slices of salami
  • 1 mushroom
  • 1/2 green onion
  • 1/4 cup steamed broccoli

Egg mix

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 TBS unsweetened original almond milk
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper

Toppings

  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • sliced green onion

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a 16 ounce ramekin with coconut oil.
  3. Chop filling ingredients and place in ramekin.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg mix until fully incorporated, light, and fluffy.
  5. Combine the egg mixture with the filling in the ramekin.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes.
  7. Pull from the oven and add feta cheese.
  8. Place back in the oven and broil for 4-5 minutes. (Burns quickly so keep an eye on the frittata).
  9. Remove from the oven and top with sliced green onion.
  10. Serve immediately!

IMG_6240

Why I don’t count calories (and am able to lose weight!!)

Over the years I’ve tried more than a handful of diets, lifestyle changes, and workout routines. My ultimate goal has always been to become as healthy as I possibly can, but fat loss was definitely an important factor in regards to the changes I made. One of the latest trends that has been sweeping the fitness community has been IIFYM, also known as If It Fits Your Macros. The one factor stemming from this lifestyle approach that I do appreciate is giving individuals the freedom to chose the foods that they like, and not restricting specific types of foods just because it won’t lead to their fitness goals. If you want some chocolate, have it, but just make sure it fits in your macros by the end of the day. For those of you that are not aware, “macros” stands for Macronutrients. The three macronutrients include: Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrates. Although this one factor helps individuals who are overcoming eating disorders and other mental blockades, I believe there are far more negative implications with this lifestyle approach than there are positive.

Many individuals that I know who follow IIFYM plans ultimately reach their goal physique and are able to get into incredible shape. Kudos to them. However, our bodies work beyond much more than simple mathematics. There are strategic biological changes and mechanisms happening in the body that can be much more influential on our health than just ensuring we are meeting our macro and caloric intake for the day. Ask someone on an IIFYM plan if they have ever taken their hormones into consideration. 9 out of 10 times I’m most positive you will get a no. You might actually get a few questions related to what hormones even are. IIFYM is an interesting concept to many. You can learn the exact amount of macros your body needs to get the physique you desire, but have you ever considered what is happening internally to your body? How about the liver damage that your body might be going through due to the excessive carbohydrate and sugar intake? How about the blood sugar rises due to the pop tarts or 2 cups of oatmeal with honey you might be consuming, especially in the morning? If you take a dedicated individual and give them a new diet protocol to adhere to for 6 months+, you’ll more than likely find that the individual can lose weight by all of these methods. But how about sustainability? How about mental focus and clarity? Are they satisfied after they eat? Are they constantly thinking about food? Can they live a productive life without wasting valuable time on counting calorie, macro, and other dietary measurements? And most importantly, is this diet improving their health in means of short term and long term?

Like I said, many IIFYM users can get those short term goals and achieve the body they have always desired. But long term, their organs will slowly become weak, their bodies will become deficient in crucial vitamins and minerals, and realistically, there might not always be a scale available for use.

IMG_5992

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I wanted to transition the topic into calories. The topic you came here for and wanted to understand more about. Our bodies are incredibly smart and capable of doing so much. We were hardwired and designed to work in homeostasis. Your blood sugar rises, and your pancreas secretes insulin to lower the blood sugar. You get the flu, and body temperature increases (fever) so that the virus is in an uncomfortable state. Because the virus is in a weak state, your immune system can come in and attack it. Once the virus is eliminated, your fever goes down and your body temperature begins to normalize. These are all mechanisms of homeostasis. So why is it that our dietary intake versus body fat can’t work like this?

If we eat REAL high-quality food until we are completely satisfied (not stuffed) then our bodies should be able to work in a homeostatic manner and avoid weight gain. Well, the good thing is that this is true and it does work. The bad thing is that the majority of the population doesn’t eat real food. We don’t eat food that is satisfying to our tastebuds. We eat frankenfood that is full of chemicals, toxins, and ingredients that taste somewhat similar to food but isn’t actually food. These frankenfoods tend to be severely low in calories, because that’s what the population wants. We are afraid of calories and think it’s the evil “thing” that does wreak and havoc to our bodies. When in actuality, our bodies need and thrive off calories (from high-quality REAL food).

IMG_6004For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been following a ketogenic diet (High fats, moderate protein, and low carbohydrates). I’ll be sure to write a post soon in regards to this lifestyle switch with details related to its benefits, healing properties, and how to follow a ketogenic diet. But as of now, the focus is calories and how good they can be for our bodies. Simply stated, calories refer to energy. Yes, fats have many more calories than protein and carbohydrates per gram, but that also means that it provides our bodies with more energy than either of those options. Yes, diet coke has 0 calories and an avocado has 300+, but the energy obtained from the fruit is far superior to the coke, as well as the obvious nutrient density.

When you transition to eating a diet that is fulfilling and satisfying, you tend to not crave or be as hungry as often. When you eat high-quality REAL food, your body finds homeostasis naturally. Like I said earlier, I’ll be sure to discuss in detail about a ketogenic diet, but as for now just know that the majority of my calories come from good sources of fat; that means monounsaturated AND saturated fats. When you fill your plate with a large portion of dark greens cooked in grass-fed butter, fried eggs in ghee, nitrate-free high-quality bacon, and an organic avocado, you can’t help but be satisfied. These meals have high calories, which means it will give you energy to last for hours! You might not need to eat for 6-8 hours! (That’s another blog post on intermittent fasting) Ultimately, when you feed your body nourishing, satisfying foods, you tend to eat less throughout the day. So even though I’m eating a large amount of fat and calories within one meal, I might only need to get by on that one meal or maybe two throughout the entire day.

We need to refocus our mindsets on listening to our bodies. This type of approach is called intuitive eating. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. If you eat a nutrient dense meal that is full of healthy fats, and it gives you energy and satiety to last you 6+ hours without an additional meal, then go for it!

I don’t want to make this post too overwhelming so I’ll conclude by saying that by following this type of eating approach, I’ve not only improved my stress and mental health, but I’ve lost fat in the process! Yes, eating high-quality dietary fat can lead to body fat loss. If you’re interested in learning more or are curious about the ketogenic diet, write a comment below and I’ll be sure to follow up with you!

Lastly, I wanted to include a typical breakfast that I eat on a daily basis. I usually have bulletproof coffee in the morning after drinking a few large glasses of water. I’ll exercise, get work done, and then eat 4-5 hours after my coffee. So breakfast isn’t always in the morning, it’s just the easiest way to explain my first meal.

IMG_5990Ketogenic Breakfast

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 cups of broccoli (frozen)
  • 2-3 cups of spinach
  • 1 TBS+ grass-fed butter or ghee
  • 2 TBS water
  • 1 teaspoon himalayan sea salt
  • 3 pieces nitrate-free bacon
  • 2 organic eggs
  • feta cheese
  • avocado (optional)

Directions:

  1. Melt grass-fed butter in a large skillet. Add broccoli to the pan and let completely defrost.
  2. After 3-5 minutes, add spinach and water to the skillet. Let cook until spinach is completely wilted.
  3. Add sea salt to the vegetable mixture. (Research health benefits of salt!)
  4. In a separate pan, cook bacon until cooked to your desire.
  5. Pour out excess fat (keep it in if you want) and fry eggs in the remaining bacon fat. If you let the eggs cook on a medium temperature for long enough, the whites will cook and the yolk will remain runny WITHOUT having to flip the eggs.
  6. Place vegetable mixture on a plate with bacon. Top with feta cheese and avocado. Add an additional amount of salt to increase health benefits and flavor profile.
  7. Enjoy!

Why I deleted my Instagram?

It’s funny how you take a week off Instagram and a handful of friends and family start calling you and ask if you’re doing okay. If that’s not a warning sign that social media has taken over, then I don’t know what is. I think we all know how much these social applications have taken over our lives and truly removed “social” from our society. In actuality, we are no longer striking conversations with strangers sitting next to us, our heads are buried in our phones while we wait in line, and not one meal can go by without taking a “birds eye view” photo. Yes, I am the first one to admit I have done all those, but I’ve learned to make changes and find a balance. Food photography is something a little deeper for me than just updating followers on what I eat that day. It’s a passion of mine that continues past social media. I use this hobby for this blog and it’s provided some great opportunities for me. But just because it’s a fun hobby, doesn’t mean it needs to creep into every aspect of my life. It doesn’t mean that every single meal needs to be photographed, edited, and thrown up on Instagram waiting for the followers to like and comment. It’s embarrassing to say how far I’ve let this application take me.

I wanted to list out some of the major reasons why I deleted my Instagram.

  • Constantly compared my photos to other “foodies”
    • Everyday I would scroll through a gigantic feed following 2,000+ followers. I’m sure you can only imagine how long that took and how much time I wasted looking through all those photos. But the big thing for me was how I never felt good enough, my photos never seemed colorful enough, or inspirational enough. I wanted more likes and followers and I had to work hard to produce higher quality photos to get that recognition. How awful is it living a life where you get excited about new followers and comments on a photo? Where you see other Instagram accounts that provide mediocre photos that attract followers in their sleep? Thankfully, I finally realized how awful this mindset and habit was. I realized that all I was doing was putting myself down and lowering my self-esteem. There are FAR greater things to do in this world than compare myself to another Instagram account. What a waste of time, energy, and happiness I was taking.
  • Compared myself to the rich and famous
    • Yes, I’ll admit that I followed a handful of wealthy, rich kids on Instagram. Social media is a very interesting thing, whereas you choose to show the photos that you want. I’m sure there aren’t too many accounts out there that show their bad days, their messy hair, dirty room, and love-handles. Of course not. People put out the best image that they can and that’s what the viewers see. Nobody lives a perfect life, yet we get a front row seat into another world that we assume to be perfect. That’s not reality. You might see photos of jets, tropical vacations, and a driveway full of fancy cars, but that doesn’t mean they have true happiness. I realized I had to stop comparing my life to the rich and famous. I need to be happy and blessed with the life I live and grow from there. 
  • Compared myself to the fit accounts
    • I’ll make the assumption that a large handful of Instagram users follow some sort of fitness account. It’s good to a point. The photos can be inspirational and motivating to take the steps to put you in the right direction of a healthier life. You might be sitting on the couch watching tv, while scrolling through your feed and see this girl bust her butt on a workout. It might be the one thing that gives you motivation to get off the couch and get moving. I’m into that. But what I found to be an issue for me was comparing my body to those that I followed. Once again, I never felt good enough, skinny enough, or strong enough. Since deleting the app, I’ve learned to love and appreciate my body more. I’ve learned to be thankful for everything that I can do, physically, and not focus on the things that I’m incapable of doing. 
  • Wasted so much time
    • I could easily spend an hour on Instagram before bed and first thing when I wake up. It was usually the filler throughout the day to cover any caps that I might have had between work, school, and play. Besides the time spent taking photos, editing them, publishing them, and finding the best hashtags to suit the photo, I was wasting an enormous amount of time just searching through accounts looking for inspirational photos. I was listening to an interview the other day where a man goes into a hospital and asks a variety of questions to patients who were critically ill. One of the questions that stood out to me was, “If you had any regrets or could go back in your life to change something, what would it be?” A majority of the answers were “to stop wasting time on the things that don’t matter”. A handful of people even mentioned social media. At that point, I began to realize how much of my lifetime I was truly wasting. When my time approaches, I don’t want to look back regretting any time I spent in my life. I want to be fulfilled and satisfied with every single thing I did on this planet. 
  • Wasn’t living in the present
    • I think this one is pretty obvious to most people. You go to to the farmers market, out to lunch, or to the beach with friends and family. You whip out your phone and take photos of the scenery, the people, the food, the flowers, and anything that attracts your attention. You might sit on your phone and edit the photo for a few minutes until it meets your satisfaction. You post the photo. Within the following minutes, you constantly go back to the app to check if you’ve gotten likes and comments, or possibly even gained a new follower or two. But what you’re really doing is missing out on what’s really around you. You’re too consumed taking this inspiring photo that you’re not actually living your life. And by “you”, I mean me.

I think this has to be one of the most embarrassing things to admit, but I want to put it out there because maybe somebody else is doing this and it might shake them up. I can’t remember when it was, but I remember posting a photo of myself on the couch reading a book. Instead of actually reading the book, I spent my time editing it, posting it, and scrolling through my feed. I never actually read the book that day! Looking back, I roll my eyes at what I did, but I’m happy that I can see now how ridiculous my actions were. Fortunately for me, I now spend my free time sincerely reading books, listening to podcasts, walking the parks, and trying to become a smarter, healthier, and better version of myself everyday.

Besides all the negative things Instagram created (our I created) in my life, here are some of the positive things that deleting that app brought:

  • More productive
    • Within two days, I was getting more done than I had in weeks. Instead of filling all the gaps in my day with scrolling through feed, I was using that time more wisely to get assignments done, do more research, and fill in my day with things that make me happy. Instagram was an excellent source of procrastination, so removing that from my day made huge improvements on my productivity.
  • Sleeping better
    • Without buzzing on my phone an hour before bed, I was reading and slowly calming my body down to prepare for sleep. I could easily play around on Instagram for an hour+ before bed, and once I removed that, I began to fall asleep much earlier.
  • More social
    • It makes sense that when you take your head away from your phone and bring your focus back to real life, you tend to have more meaningful and social conversations. I now can leave my phone upstairs when I go to the rest of the house. It’s no longer such a dependent distraction in my life and I can easily move throughout my day without it attached to my hands.
  • More educated
    • Instead of buzzing through Instagram all day, I’m now spending this extra time reading or listening to educational podcasts. I can’t keep from buying new books each week because I’m constantly inspired by the new knowledge and research available. I want to constantly keep learning and increasing the amount of knowledge I have in regards to health and fitness.
  • Less stressed + more satisfied
    • Since removing the main tool that allowed me to constantly criticize and devalue myself, I feel so much happier. I feel less stressed and more satisfied with the person I have become. I now wake up with a lighter feeling on my toes and a more positive outlook on my day. I’m not as dependent on my phone and it feels undeniably freeing.

I”m not saying that I will permanently keep this app deleted. I might re-downnload it next week, in 2 months, or maybe in 6 months. But as of now, I’m at peace with the direction my life is taking and I couldn’t be happier.

Low-Carb Diet + Greens, Eggs and Ham Frittata

IMG_5823I was having a discussion with a customer the other day in regards to body happiness and satisfaction, particularly among women. Doesn’t it always seem that women are never happy with their appearance? We are always looking for a new diet or lifestyle change that will finally give us the body we have always dreamed of. I think this lack of satisfaction has many different factors that contribute to this conclusion, but nonetheless this still seems to be an issue. Unrealistic expectations, social media influences, and constant judgement and comparisons seem to be some of the biggest culprits.

On a positive note, within the past two years there has been a shift away from the “diet” approach to more of a lifestyle change. By this I mean, diets tend to be more temporary and drastic changes that are not long-lasting; examples: cayenne pepper/lemon juice/maple syrup cleanse, severe caloric deficit, and cabbage soup. Whereas, lifestyle changes tend to be realistic, long-lasting, and  can have permanent health changes; examples; vegan, vegetarian, and paleo.

Luckily for me, my constant research in this field has stirred me away from the fad diets and led me to believe lifestyle choices were the best and most effective approach for achieving my health goals. Throughout the past ten years, there have been a few that I have dedicatedly practiced; gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, and raw vegan. It’s funny how throughout the years, the beliefs and opinions on these lifestyle changes have dramatically changed. Raw veganism used to be a practice that people believed to be the best for health, yet many didn’t have the willpower to fully comit. But as research continues to grow and develop, we are seeing that this practice really isn’t the best choice for optimal health. There are always new diets popping up and I think it takes years of research to truly determine if it’s the best approach to optimal health. Research aside, I think implementation is one of the most conclusive factors in determining which lifestyle is best for you. Everyone is different. Not one diet will be best for each and every person on this earth, and thats why it’s important to test things out for yourself and figure out which approach makes you feel your absolute best.

IMG_5821

That being said, I’m currently testing a new approach out. Long gone are my raw vegan days. This lifestyle practice was much too hard on my digestive system (even though there is an abundance of naturally occuring enzymes), wasn’t the most enjoyable, and most importantly, it drove my family nuts. Right now I’m playing with a low-carb diet. The research that I’m digging up is based off a ketogenic diet and putting your body in a state of ketosis. According to Medical News Today, “ketosis is a metabolic process that occurs when the body does not have enough glucose for energy. Stored fats are broken down, resulting in a build-up of acids called ketones within the body.”

Long story short, when you limit the amount of carbohydrates you consume, your body has to utilize something else for fuel. In regards to a low-carb diet, your body will access its stored fat for energy. It’s a bit trickier to get into a state of ketosis than one might think. Once you get past the fact that you’re giving up bread, pasta, and anything related to sugar, you have to break down the uncommon sources of carbohydrates and limit those as well. For me personally, I’m not the biggest fan of bread, pasta, and wheat-based dishes. I’ve been slowly reducing my fruit intake so giving those up (except for post-workout- I’ll explain in detail in another post) hasn’t been too difficult. The challenge for me is finding carbohydrates in the least expected of foods. Spinach, kale, sprouts, nuts, and chia seeds are all ingredients that I love using, yet have a hidden amount of carbohydrates that you wouldn’t assume. Now let’s be clear, I’m not saying these foods are bad for you in any sort of the matter, I’m just saying for the lifestyle change I’m currently adapting to and the health goals I’m looking to achieve, carbohydrates are something I’m trying to avoid. If you want to know more about why I’m doing this, how to do it, and have any sort of concerns, feel free to comment below and I’ll be happy to share my input with you.

For those who are intrigued on this method for fat loss, I would recommend doing some external research on “ketosis”, a “ketogenic diet”, and a “low-carb diet”. There have been numerous studies done on dietary fat and its connection to chronic disease. Whereas fat has always gotten the blame for creating these diseases, carbohydrates are actually the culprit. When we begin to decrease the amount of carbohydrates we consume in the diet, that’s when we will begin to see a positive turn in health within individuals but also as a nation. Fat is not the problem. Fat is not making you fat. Carbohydrates is what we need to be more cautious of. With that being said, I’ve included a recipe for one of my favorite low-carbohydrate recipes; Greens, Eggs and Ham Frittata! Let’s get cooking!

IMG_5815Ingredients

  • 1 cup kale
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 TBS ghee
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup egg whites
  • 3 pieces of deli-sliced ham; chopped
  • 1 TBS melted grass-fed butter (optional)
  • 1/8-1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 1/8 cup raw pine nuts
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp seasoning blend
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder

Directions

  1. Pre-heat over to 350 degrees.
  2. Melt ghee in a medium skillet. Sautee kale and spinach for 2-3 minutes. Pull of stove-top and chop.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites, and melted butter (make sure it’s cooled down just a little).
  4. Add seasonings, baking powder, chopped ham, and greens to the egg mixture.
  5. Take a buttered muffin tin or silicon mold and pour egg mixture in, almost filling to the top.
  6. Bake in the over for 25 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and top with feta cheese and pine nuts.
  8. Turn over to broil and continue cooking for 5 minutes or until the cheese and pine nuts begin to get toasted.
  9. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Simple Kale Salad

IMG_5742It’s safe to say that this is my most requested recipe. Many times dessert recipes tend to steal the show, leaving the savory and “healthy” meals as scraps for the birds to pick at. Okay that might have been slightly exaggerated, but you get my point. For those who stick their tongue out or roll their eyes when kale is mentioned; I get it. It’s a tricky green that takes more than a dressing to get right. There’s some technique behind a kale salad, but I promise you it’s not too hard. Kale is full of so many nutrients that it’s honestly difficult to say no to the health benefits.

How about we make a deal? You give kale one more shot with this recipe. If you still truly despise it, then kick it to the curb and enjoy something else! You have to love what you’re eating, whether it’s healthy or not. Too many people get down on themselves for not eating each and every meal that claims all these health benefits. Nobody is going to like it all. As a matter of fact, I HATE eggplant. Bread it, fry it, hide it in lasagna; I’m not a fan! Find healthy foods that you truly enjoy, and represent those ingredients wholeheartedly in your meals. Now, let’s get to it!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 10 ounce bag chopped kale
  • 1 lemon; juiced
  • 1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar* (I use Bragg’s)
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 2 tsp olive juice (juice in glass jar of kalamata olives)
  • 2 large pinches salt
  • 1 tsp tahini or/ original hummus
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 avocado; cubed
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives; chopped
  • 1/4 cup feta; crumbled
  • 1/4 cup roasted almonds; chopped
  • small handful basil; julienned
  • *optional toppings: dried cranberries, pistachios, apple slices, pear slices, hemp seeds…

Directions

  1. Add chopped kale to a large bowl.
  2. Add lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, olive juice, salt, tahini/hummus, black pepper, and garlic powder to the kale.
  3. Mix with tongs or clean hands for 5+ minutes.
  4. Let kale mixture sit while you prep the remaining ingredients.
  5. Add remaining ingredients and toss entire salad for 2-4 minutes.
  6. That’s it! You’re done!

IMG_5733

IMG_5723See, that wasn’t that difficult, was it? The trick behind kale is letting it marinade in a dressing for a few minutes. Too many people assume that you can pour a dressing on top, throw in some ingredients, and it should be good. Kale needs a little TLC to taste delicious. My favorite part about this salad is that it can be made in only ONE bowl. How great is that?! There is no need to make a dressing in an individual container and then pour it on top. Do it all in one bowl and make it simple on yourself. You might be surprised with the addition of tahini/hummus, but it truly adds a great flavor. Also, don’t be shy on tossing the kale. It really does need some mixing to break down its fibers. Combining acid (lemon juice and apple cider vinegar) with salt brings a similar practice to the kale as it does for raw fish. When you combine those ingredients to raw fish it slowly begins to “cook” the fish. Same concept with the kale, but instead of cooking it, it makes it more readably digestible. Enough chit chat, get to it!

*Raw apple cider vinegar is the only vinegar that is alkalizing on the body. All other vinegars are very acidic; stay away from those. When you’re at your local health food store, make sure to look for “raw” and/or “with the mother” on the bottle. The mother is part of the beneficial bacteria that is produced from the fermentation process. Don’t hesitate using that part in your recipe; it’s great for your digestive system! Disease grows in an acidic state-the more alkalizing you can make your body, the healthier you can become.

Just to clarify acid/alkaline in ingredients like lemon juice and raw apple cider vinegar: The taste might be acidic, but inside your body they are much different. They are internally alkalizing and do wonders for your health. According to Bragg Live Foods, consuming raw apple cider vinegar prior to eating a meal can help boost your digestive system. “Five minutes before each meal, take 1 Tbsp distilled water with 3 tsp raw, Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar. Hold it in your mouth for a few seconds, then swallow it to stimulate saliva.” Saliva contains digestive enzymes that start the break down process of your food before it even hits your stomach. The more saliva, the more digestive enzymes, the better!

Mushroom Sliders

IMG_5689I’m always on the search for quick, easy, and healthy recipes that I can whip up in the kitchen. Especially now since I’m tweaking with the macronutrients in my diet, finding new recipes can be a bit of a challenge. Luckily for me, I came across an Instagram account that dramatically helped me out! If you don’t already follow him, check out @fitmencook. Not only is he extremely fit and in shape, but he can make some serious delicious recipes. He shares the recipes throughout Instagram, Youtube, and his Facebook channel so it should be easy for you to find some new recipes.

One that stood out to me earlier today were these mushroom sliders! Juicy, flavorful, and very simple to make. I bought all of my ingredients at Trader Joes, but you should definitely be able to pick them up at any grocery store. If you’re looking for a low-carb, tasty meal, full of protein and nutrients, give these sliders a try! You can easily switch up the ingredients by alternating different types of vegetables, meat, and cheese. Try a mexican style burger with jalapeño cheese, chicken, guacamole, and pico de gallo. Or give it an italian spin with prosciutto, basil leaves, and mozzarella cheese!

IMG_5694

IMG_5697Ingredients

  • 6 large mushrooms; stem removed
  • 6 pieces of deli meat (ham, turkey, beef, chicken)
  • 3 slices of a medium tomato
  • handful of spinach
  • 3 large basil leaves
  • 6 small slices of cheese
  • 1-2 Tbs BBQ sauce
  • 3 kebab skewers

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place 3 mushrooms cap side down.
  3. Add small handful of spinach into the bowl of each mushroom cap.
  4. Top with tomato slices.
  5. Add basil leaves on top.
  6. Fold up two slices of deli meat and place on top of the basil.
  7. Place cheese on top.
  8. Spoon small amount of BBQ sauce on top.
  9. Place remaining mushroom caps on top of the burger.
  10. Stick kebab skewers through the center of the burger.
  11. Place on baking sheet, wrap foil around burger to prevent it from tipping, and bake for 20 minutes.
  12. Remove from oven and dig in!

Today I filmed a short video on how to build these burgers. Check out my Instagram page @nicolejanaye to find out how to make these bad boys! 

Stuffed mushrooms with bacon, brussels, and butter

IMG_5629I would be lying if I told you “all or nothing”, “black or white”, and “extreme” were not words people used to describe me in the past. Things have changed quite a bit, but I can catch myself dabbling into those areas from time to time. The “extreme” lifestyle is something that I’ve truly put an effort into changing. I think many food bloggers find their ultimate balance in life because they’ve explored those rocky slopes into extreme territories when it comes to food. Veganism gave me balance, a new understanding about food and the way it should be used to heal our bodies. I’m no longer vegan, but I do credit that lifestyle to where I’m at now and the balance I’ve achieved when it comes to food and eating.

I think one aspect that shows my progress with balance is with the latest food trends that have come into the public eye; paleo and the ketogenic diet. Paleo has been around for years and years, but has been become popularized lately because of the numerous studies done on digestion and proper nutrition to heal our bodies, as well as the crossfit lifestyle that has boomed. A lot of the food I tend to eat fall under the paleo category. I avoid gluten, dairy, and processed foods, but I will include feta and some hard cheeses every once in a while. I try and eat real food that’s as close to nature as possible. Since I’ve scratched out ‘vegan’ from words that describe me, I don’t tend to put labels on myself. I think doing so puts you in a trapped box that is bound to be attacked and criticized by other individuals when you decide to eat something that doesn’t fit to those dietary standards. I eat what makes me feel best and I’m not going to put a label on it. As far as the ketogenic diet or ketosis, this is somewhat new territory to me. The basic concept behind a ketogenic diet is high fats and low carbohydrates. Mainstream media, big business, and the medical industry has drilled into our brains that dietary fats, especially saturated fats, should be extremely limited or even completely avoided. However, there have been numerous studies indicating that saturated fats and heart disease have absolutely no correlation.

IMG_5625

Our bodies NEED fat. We need it to balance hormone levels, keep us satisfied and full, provide nutrition for the brain, and most definitely for fat loss. Fat is not the reason that our nation is becoming fat. Carbohydrates/sugar is the problem. Whether the sources of those sugars come from whole grain toast, rolled oats, bagels, or even fruit, carbohydrates break down into simple sugars in the body. My next post will be a more detailed explanation as to why sugar is causing so much harm on our bodies and how it’s preventing you from weight loss. But as far as the basic explanation of the ketogenic diet, it’s high fats/low carbs. I’ve spoken with a number of individuals who have seen great improvements with their weight loss by utilizing a ketosis diet to achieve these goals. Many of these individuals make fat roughly 80% of their diet. I’m doing tons of research on this diet and lifestyle and I’m going to slowly transition my body into it. (Trying to stay in the grey area and avoid “black/white”). I’m not saying I’m going to make it up to 80% fats, but I think it’s worth experimenting with and figuring out what works best for my body. Like I said, I most likely won’t go that high as far as percentages, but I’ll definitely make fats much higher of a priority in my diet. You’ll never know what works for you until you personally do it yourself. I’ve been increasing my fats for a few months now and I’ve absolutely noticed some positive changes. The three main changes I’ve noticed are:

  1. Loss of cravings
  2. Fat loss
  3. Better sleep

IMG_5639

Fat loss is my number one priority and goal, but the loss of cravings was a huge turning point for me. Sorry to generalize women, but that monthly cycle really changes our hormones up and makes us crave different foods. Chocolate was my game. I wanted some everyday. Even when I wasn’t on my period it was something that I needed to include each day. And I’m not going to lie, I’m not that type of girl that wants her glass of wine and one sliver of chocolate. Hell, hand me over half that chocolate bar and I’ll call it a day. So being able to tweak something in my diet that could reduce those chocolate cravings was a big deal to me.

Alright, since I’ve made you listen to that full schpeele, I’ll get to the good stuff. Since I’m adding more fats into my diet, while also watching my carb intake, this meal somewhat came into creation. Bacon. Brussels. Butter. What more could you ask for? Cheese? Oh yea, I added a little of that in there too! I said balance, right?

IMG_5642

Stuffed Mushrooms with Bacon and Brussels

IMG_5595Ingredients

  • 8 medium stuffing portabellas (trader joes sells them in packs of 6)
  • 4 cups shredded brussel sprouts (trader joes sells a big bag already shredded)
  • 4 slices bacon (look for no sugar added and uncured)
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes; sliced in half
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup parmesan reggiano cheese; finely grated
  • IMG_56112 Tbsp ghee (could also use unsalted grass-fed butter)
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2-1/4 tsp garlic; minced ( I love garlic so lean towards 1/4 tsp if you’re not the biggest fan)

IMG_5602Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cook bacon in skillet. Remove bacon when it’s 3/4 of the way cooked and put to the side.
  3. Pour out bacon fat, but do not wipe the pan out with a paper towel.
  4. Add sliced cherry tomatoes to the pan and let cook in the remaining bacon fat for 3-5 minutes.
  5. Remove tomatoes from the skillet and place into a large bowl.
  6. In the same skillet, add ghee and let melt.
  7. Add shredded brussel sprouts, salt, pepper, and minced garlic. Let sauté for 3-5 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Add 2 Tbsp of water to help cook down the brussels and make them more tender. Cook for an additional 3-5 minutes.
  9. Remove brussels from the pan and place in the large bowl with the cherry tomatoes.
  10. Pour panko bread crumbs into the same skillet (no need to add ghee or butter) and let toast until slightly golden. Then add the panko to the bowl.
  11. Chop the bacon into small bite-size pieces and add into the large bowl.
  12. Combine parmesan reggiano cheese with the mixture and mix until fully incorporated.
  13. For the mushrooms, take a paper towel and wipe the cap of the mushrooms to remove any excess dirt.
  14. Remove the stems from the cap. (You can chop the stems up and put into the stuffing if you want!)
  15. Place mushrooms cap side down and drizzle with olive oil.
  16. Fill the mushroom caps with 1-2 Tbsp of the filling. Add 1 Tbsp at a time and press down to compact it.
  17. Bake in the over for 10 minutes. Turn off the oven and let cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  18. Remove from the oven and serve immediately!
  19. Enjoy!

Everything will be okay.

Falling off the wagon sucks.

IMG_5561It’s frustrating, mentally and physically debilitating, and makes you want to hide under the comforter and sleep all day and night, but it’s just a part of life. You don’t hear the saying “life’s a roller coaster” for no particular reason. There are ups and downs in this journey and it’s all just a part of the ride. The bad thing about the downs is that it makes us feel defeated, depressed, and can truly debilitate our success in life. However, there is good news. There is only growth that can become of it and an opportunity to learn from these experiences. It’s an opportunity to acknowledge the weakness, plan to make changes, and act on those changes to become more successful.

Regardless of your reason of falling off the wagon, there is only one thing left to do. Pick yourself up and get going again. Just because you’ve messed up once, for a day, or even an entire week doesn’t mean you should keep doing it. Make your next step a positive one that leads you in the right direction. Do something that makes you feel happy, healthy, and motivated.

Moral of the story, don’t dig yourself further into the dirt when you’ve fallen off the wagon. Remember that nobody is perfect and we all step back sometimes. It’s okay. Acknowledge your failures, mistakes, and bumps in the road. These are the parts of life that make you the strongest. Brush yourself off and get back on your feet. Everything will be okay.

IMG_5545

IMG_5565

Zucchini Boats

These boats will leave you completely speechless. They’re crispy, crunchy, moist, and juicy all in one bite. I promise you won’t regret making these bad boys. Fire up the oven and get cooking! 

IMG_5495Ingredients

  • 3 large zucchinis; sliced lengthwise in half
  • 12 cherry tomatoes; sliced in half
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil + 1 tsp
  • 2 Tbsp panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 tsp garlic; minced
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp fresh black pepper

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix olive oil, garlic, salt, and black pepper together in a small bowl.
  3. Use a grapefruit spoon (regular spoon will work too) and gently scrape out the inside of the zucchini and remove the seeds.
  4. Place zucchinis (cut side up) onto a baking sheet and coat them with the olive oil mixture.
  5. Place cut tomatoes inside the zucchinis.
  6. Drizzle with extra olive oil.
  7. Bake in over for 20-25 minutes or until soft to the touch.
  8. Remove from oven and top with panko bread crumbs and feta cheese.
  9. Adjust oven temperature to the broiler setting and bake zucchini boats for an additional 5 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven and serve immediately.
  11. Enjoy!

IMG_5509

IMG_5568

Changing Perspective

IMG_5457Deciding to become healthier can be such a daunting task. How can I give up smoking? I need to start working out 3-5 times a week. How will I fit this all in my schedule? How in the world can I meal prep when I have three kids running around the house? I’m a full-time college student working two jobs; I don’t have time to be healthier! Listen, I get it. I may not have three kids pinned to my leg, but the latter situation is one that I’m currently in. Time is always a hurdle, but the thing that will make the difference between making goals and actually achieving them is your perspective on the changes.

I’m currently finishing my Bachelor’s in Community Health Education, and also work for two health-related companies. The reason I mention this is because I’m constantly surrounded by individuals looking to become healthier. I hear their personal stories, listen to their hurdles, and work together with them to come up with solutions that they can implement into their lives to make the changes they are looking for. The most common response I receive from clients is how overwhelming it all seems to be. There’s too much on their plate, not enough time in the day, and the changes they need to make are so daunting that they are almost impossible from the very beginning.

But here’s where all this ends. Your perspective on becoming a healthier individual must change. Instead of having a negative attitude on the changes you need to make, try and think in a more positive light. And by this I don’t just mean get into your yogi state of mind and repeat to yourself “I love working out”, “This broccoli and chicken is so much better than pizza…” be realistic! Come up with small goals that you are able to realistically achieve AND that are phrased positively. Let me explain. Instead of having goals such as:

  • Stop eating processed foods
  • Limit the amount of soda per week
  • Stop smoking
  • Reduce carbohydrates in the diet
  • No more dessert

See how all of these goals are phrased in a negative light? Stop, don’t, limit. Try something like this.

  • Increase water intake each day
  • Walk 30 minutes at least 4 times per week
  • Drink one green juice once a week
  • Try a new workout class with a friend

Get my point? Just by rephrasing your goals, you make these challenges seem more attainable. Both sets of goals are designed to make you healthier, but the second group of goals seem much more fun to accomplish, right?

Moral of this post is to not be so overwhelmed when it comes to making healthier changes. Becoming a healthier individual can be such a fun and rewarding experience. Don’t focus on the things you need to stop, give up, and eliminate from your life, but focus on the positive things you can include, add, and compliment to your life! Once you start including these positive changes, the negative ones will begin to fade away. You will no longer crave the negative choices and behaviors. Your body will be fixated on all the natural and positive things you’re introducing into your life that the bad choices will naturally be eliminated.

And on that note, let’s get to the fun part where we can add this delicious, healthy recipe into our lives!

IMG_5467

Blueberry Protein Pancakes

Ingredients

1 cup non-dairy milk (almond, coconut, rice)
1 cup blueberries
3/4 cup coconut flour
1 serving vanilla protein powder
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract

*Optional toppings: Chopped nuts, chia jam (Blend 1/2 cup frozen berries + 1 Tbsp Chia seeds+ 1 tsp sweetener; let sit for 10 minutes), chococolate chips, toasted coconut, honey, grass-fed butter…

Directions

  1. Mix together non-dairy milk, chia seeds, and vanilla extract.
  2. Combine all dry ingredients (coconut flour, protein powder, baking powder, and baking soda) in a small bowl.
  3. Mix wet and dry ingredients together. Add additional milk if batter is too thick. Coconut flour absorbs a lot of liquid.
  4. Melt coconut oil in non-stick pan.
  5. Pour/spoon/ladle out batter onto hot pain. Size depends on how many pancakes you want. I used 1/4 cup.
  6. Sprinkle fresh blueberries directly onto pancakes.
  7. Flip once the pancakes begin to show bubbles on their surface.
  8. Cook second side for approximately 2 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. Top with your favorite ingredients!
  10. Enjoy! 🙂

IMG_5464