Zucchini Stovetop Oatmeal

ucchini Stovetop Oatmeal

Have I sunk to a new low?  Am I really writing a post about how to cook oatmeal?  In all fairness, a year or two back, I was still only making overnight oats because I had no idea how to cook hot oatmeal, and much less with zucchini.  When I was growing up, my mom used to cook oatmeal in a way that involved way too much water so the oatmeal would boil and be left swimming in murky liquid.  It was often super mushy, too.  Like, when people associate oatmeal with being old people’s food, that is because they have suffered through bland, mushy oatmeal.  I was one of those people but I’ve come out on the other side with a revived interest in stovetop oatmeal.

zucchini stovetop oatmeal

No offense to my mama’s wonderful cooking, she just never measured.  Dishes don’t necessarily come out well or consistent if you don’t measure.  That is why I looked to Rachael’s Good Eats when I wanted to cook up some real good oatmeal.  Not just any oatmeal though—oatmeal with vegetables!  You’ve seen me throw zucchini into smoothies here and here but oatmeal may be my favorite way to use zucchini.

zucchini stovetop oatmeal

I’ve been taste-testing bowls of oatmeal over the past few months and I have finally found a method I like.  Rachael’s recipe calls for a little bit less oats and a scoop of protein powder.  That works as long as the protein powder you’re using tastes good.  Though, personally, I’d rather not add protein powder because it can overpower the flavor of oatmeal.  I use flax and chia seeds to bulk up the oatmeal and give it creaminess without mushiness.  Then comes the zucchini: an undetectable but healthful addition.  You could totally leave it out and the oatmeal would still be awesome but I promise it’s so worthwhile to try it with zucchini!  It makes me look forward to eating oatmeal! 🙂

zucchini stovetop oatmeal with toppings

As always, let me know if you give this a try by dropping a comment down below or hit me up on Instagram!

Zucchini Stovetop Oatmeal
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Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: Oatmeal
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1
This quick-to-make oatmeal is anything but mushy. The rolled oats are flaky and the seeds add a creaminess. The contrasting textures perfectly compliment each other. Plus, there is a sneaky serving of veggies!
Ingredients
  • I/3 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp ground flaxseeds
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup shredded zucchini
  • ¼ cup almond milk, for serving
Instructions
  1. In a small pot, heat half a cup of water on the stove. Once boiling, add in the rolled oats and cook for 1 minute on high, then, reduce heat to med.
  2. After the oats have started to absorb some water, sprinkle in the chia, flax, and cinnamon and stir, stir, stir! It is important to incorporate the seeds well so that they don’t clump. They will begin to gel and make the oatmeal creamy without compromising the texture of the rolled oats.
  3. Once incorporated, stir in the zucchini and cook for about 2 more minutes on medium before taking the pot off the heat. It may look like a measly amount of oatmeal but here’s where the magic happens: put the oatmeal into a bowl and pour the almond milk over it, stirring to incorporate. The hot oatmeal soaks up the milk and fluffs up nicely.
  4. Add addition milk if desired and your choice of toppings.
Notes
I topped my oatmeal with ½ cup strawberries, 1 tbsp Wild Friends Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter, 2 tbsp granola, and ½ tbsp flaked coconut.

 

A Week without Washing My Hair—Grease Training

Ever since Lee from America talked about how she was grease-training her hair, I decided that was something I wanted to try.  I would like to improve the health of my scalp and I am also concerned about my short hair drying out.  The elements and frequent washing can wreak a havoc on both so grease-training seemed like a great way to combat that.

Day 1 of grease training
Day 1 with fresh, clean hair. I showered the previous night and this is the first day in the second week of grease-training.
Day 1 grease training
Side view of Day 1 hair. I just straightened the front pieces to tame the baby hairs. The rest of my wavy hair was left to do its natural thing.

I’m still new to grease-training but basically, it involves taking time to let your hair and scalp develop its natural oils.

Before we delve into this any further, there are some things I want to mention about my hair texture: I recently cut my hair to as short angled bob but, when it was longer, it was easily frizzy and often wavy.  Now, it is somewhere in between wavy and straight, but with a decent fullness.  I usually style it with a straightener to smooth out the hair that frames my face or the rogue pieces at the back of my head.  Otherwise, au natural is easiest for me.  I’ve also got some Latina blood in me so that lends itself to hair with the potential to get majorly oily.

Day 2 grease training
Side view of my hair on Day 2. It’s a little bit flatter but my hair feels smooth without being weighed down.
Day 3 grease training
Day 3 hair doesn’t feel as bad as it looks. I brushed my roots so that the natural oils on my scalp would spread onto my hair and that flattened it out a lot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My hair was needlessly oily from over-washing.

For years my hair washing routine has been to shampoo every other day.  My second day hair will typically have a little more texture to it but the crown of my head is ready to be washed by the evening.  So, the first step in grease-training for me was to extend washing to every three days.  That felt uncomfortable to say the least.  After about two weeks of going through three day hair-washing cycles, I stepped it up.  I did four days with a hair rinse on day 2.  I’ll talk about rinsing a bit more but first, let me mention some tips I acquired tips from friends on Instagram who also don’t wash their hair frequently ( I won’t out you guys x D ) which I utilized during grease-training:

  • Dry shampoo was recommended and I know it can be a savior for many.  I used it a bit during the first two weeks but opted not to use it as I continued extending the days between washes.
  • Another tip I got was to wash my hair with only water and scrub it really well with my fingernails—I call this a rinse.
  • A final tip was to condition the ends of my hair during the rinsing time in the shower.

I tried all of these at some point but here’s the deal with the mid-point rinse: it helps get rid of the gunk that was building up on my scalp but that gunk just got shoved further down onto my hair.

Day 4 grease training
Day 4 hair feels thick. My mistake was rinsing it last night (evening of Day 3) because that seemed to only exacerbate the oiliness. If I didn’t know better, I’d think someone slathered texturing balm all over my hair.
Day 5 grease training
Day 5 and I’m feeling like I’ve done something wrong. It is REALLY oily and specks of sebum are present close to my hairline. Highly inclined to just wash my hair….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite how gross I felt, I pushed through!

The days following the rinse, I just accepted the “thick” look my hair had.  I mean, hey, at least it couldn’t get any worse.

I did two weeks of four day cycles with a rinse on day 2 and shampooed on day 4.  Finally, day 4 came around and I was like, why not try for 5?  Then on day 5 I said, let’s try to get to day 6 and then 7!  I jumped from washing my hair every four days to a whole week without washing.

Let me tell ya.  That first complete week of no washing was pretty damn greasy.  Especially because I squeezed some workouts in daily.  This week was also when I also rinsed my hair for the last time—it wasn’t working out for me.  My hair was an uncomfortable mess but I was optimistic it would get better.  The second time I tackled a week without washing, my hair lasted well for the first few days (see pictures) but needed some attention by day four.

Day 6 grease training
Day 6 hair has surprisingly less grease going on. My roots still feel oily but the texture of my hair itself is soft and full. It’s also getting back my natural waves.
Day 7 grease training
Day 7 and I want to hide in a cave. My hair has taken a turn for the worst and it feels like a greaseball.  Note: I didn’t take a picture of Day 8 hair but it looked something like this so I hid it in a ponytail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, it was screaming for attention.

My mom was disgusted when I told her what I was doing and told me I should brush my hair.  She reminded me that in the old days, when people wouldn’t shower often, ladies would brush their hair daily.  A daily brushing helpse to distribute the oils and keep their hair fresh.  I honestly never brush my hair but I decided to give it a go.  My hair felt really oily but it was no longer all concentrated at the crown of my head.  It felt like the oils were distributed through my hair but not in the thick way that my hair felt after rinsing.  I kept brushing the days following that until I finally washed my hair on Day 8.  For the record, I wasn’t aiming for eight days, I just didn’t get the chance on the evening of Day 7.  My hair felt relieved, instantly clean, and featherweight.

As I write this, I am on my third cycle of a full week without washing (and second week without any rinsing whatsoever).  This week has definitely gone by much smoother and less oiler than last.  My hair actually felt great and looked fresh most of the week!  I attribute that to brushing it well on Day 3 and continuing to do so daily there on after.

My takeaway is:

Grease-training doesn’t happen overnight.  It took me a good month to build up to four days without shampooing my hair.  Now I can last a full 7 days and my scalp and hair feel decent.  More importantly, they don’t look like a greaseball.

Oily roots are the result of natural build up.  So, sure, you can spray dry shampoo on them but that doesn’t help the hair itself.  I opted to use the scalp’s oils as a conditioner for my hair when I gave it the daily brushing.

And the brushing—that makes the biggest difference.  I use a nylon bristle brush though a boar bristle brush would probably be most effective.  If that’s something you want to invest in.

It’s a bit too soon to tell if my scalp and hair are “healthier” but it feels good.  My hair is definitely not dry and I haven’t had to use styling products at all.  I like the way it naturally falls and it holds well in pontytails, buns, or braids.  As far as grease-training goes, it would be cool to be like Shailene Woodley and only shampoo once a month but I’m going to stick with my cycles of 7 days for now.

Avocado Miso Zoodles Recipe

avocado miso zoodles

Avocado jazzes up any dish and I’ve never once regretted putting a few slices on my food.

When in doubt, add the avocado!

With that being said, we all have our favorite ways to eat avocado:

Toast

Salad

Guacamole

All delicious options but I am constantly trying to think outside of the box for how I can make foods different.  I like trying new dishes so I’m excited when I can find a use for an ingredient, like avocado, that wows my taste buds.

 

avocado miso zoodles

I’ve whisked up an avocado with lemon juice and water to make a salad dressing before, and that’s pretty good, but the addition of miso is next level unami.  I could eat miso on its own (I totally scoop a bit out of the tub with my finger each time I open the container.  Anyone else?).  I could also eat avocado on its own (perhaps with a dash of salt).  Put these two powerhouse ingredients together and you’ve got something amazing!

avocado miso zoodles

I originally saw inspiration for a kale noodle bowl with avocado miso dressing from Sarah at A House in the Hills.  Sarah uses buckwheat noodles but I opted for some good ol’ zoodles.  I peeled my zucchini before spiralizing because I’m concerned about pesticides (see more here) but use organic or wash yours really well.

Also, the instructions on Sarah’s recipe left me a little unsure about serving size but my recipe, as written, makes a good-sized dinner for one.  The plant-based dish is light but satiating thanks to beans and the delicious avocado miso sauce.  Speaking of which, the sauce is generous enough to coat the noodles as well as any add-ins you may choose.  I felt like the dish was filling on its own but feel free to add extra protein or veggies, if desired.

avocado miso zoodles

 

Avocado Miso Zoodles
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Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Vegan, Vegetarian
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1 bowl
Ingredients
  • ½ a small avocado
  • 1 tbsp miso paste (any variety)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2-3 tsp water to thin
  • 2 cups chopped kale, packed
  • 1 small zucchini, spiralized
  • ½ cup white beans, rinsed
  • Everything But the Bagel Seasoning or sea salt and sesame seeds to garnish
Instructions
  1. Mix sauce ingredients in a serving bowl, adding more water if needed. Set aside.
  2. In a cast iron skillet or nonstick pan, slightly warm the kale—just until it begins to wilt.
  3. Add zoodles and kale to the bowl and stir to coat with the sauce.
  4. Top with white beans and Everything But the Bagel Seasoning or sesame seeds.

Banana Tahini Shake – My current FAVE

Alright, alright, alright!  How is everyone doing today?  It is Tuesday and it’s time to break out the tahini! Can that be a thing?  Move over tacos, it’s Tahini Tuesday! XD

Banana Tahini Shake

It’s no secret that smoothies are my favorite thing ever and if I can sneak some vegetables in them, that’s even better.  Too much fruit in a smoothie can spike my blood sugar and leave me crashing with hanger mid-morning.  That doesn’t mean fruit is a no-go, it just means I need to include a little something extra to stabilize my energy and keep hunger at bay.  A recent discovery that I’ve made in regards to my smoothies is the power of HEALTHY FATS.

I used to be so scared of using oil or eating peanut butter and avocados (not necessarily together), but now I know that a moderate amount of fat is A-okay!  I eat mostly plant-based so when I include healthy fats, I add a satiating element to my meals, too.

Banana Tahini Shake

So, back to the Banana Tahini Shake!  Technically it could fall under the “smoothie” category but it is so rich and comforting that it feels like a shake to me.  Shakes are usually loaded up with ice cream, dairy milk, and sugar but mine is sweetened with banana.  It’s more than healthy enough for breakfast for sure!  Plus, the addition of tahini really helps round out the smoothie/shake.  It is…

Uniquely satisfying,

Subtly sweet,

And perfectly thick.

I have been digging this for weeks now and I’m very excited to share it!  Let me know if you try it out 🙂

Banana Tahini Shake Header

 

Banana Tahini Shake
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Recipe type: Breakfast
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1
Zucchini adds fiber, tahini adds satiating fats, and banana brings home the sweetness in this simple Banana Tahini Shake.
Ingredients
  • ¼ large frozen zucchini (about ½ cup chopped)
  • 1 med frozen banana
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • a dash of black pepper
  • ½ inch knob of fresh ginger, frozen (I like the zestiness of it but you can sub ground)
  • 1-2 tbsp of tahini,
  • 1 serving of plant-based protein powder, optional
  • ¾ cup - 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • Barbaras Bakery Puffins or other cereal, optional
Instructions
  1. Add zucchini, banana, and ginger to a blender or food processor and ¾ cup of almond milk. Blend away! Then add the spices, tahini, and protein powder. Add more milk, if needed.
  2. Serve the smoothie in a glass with some low-sugar cereal of choice, if desired. Best enjoyed with a spoon and straw.

Understanding Hope: A Change in Perspective

I was just re-watching a Tea Talk video from Nikki Phillippi where she spoke with Instagram sensation, Tifforelie,  about how to find hope even in the midst of frequent pain or hardships.  You can watch the video here, if you’re interested.

Tiffany described her own hardships with careers, marriage, and finding her passion.  I have not been through the experiences that Tiffany has but I have been feeling frustrated with my own circumstances lately.  I understand how important outlook can be in inspiring personal change, betterment, or good fortune.  Thus, the discussion in the Tea Talk is a welcome source of inspiration.  I felt I could relate to a couple of points discussed in the video.  In fact, by the end of it, I was so grateful to hear that they, and others in the comments, share my same thoughts.  What particularly struck my interest was how Tiffany mentioned that she used to look at someone under hard times with judgmental eyes.  She would offer pity rather than optimism or hope to lift the person up.

I think instances of pain—especially pain that is unfamiliar to us—often receive that sort of reaction.  It feels almost instinctive to extend sympathy but that is not the kind of reaction I would want to receive.  Nor is it how I want to look at others.

The Tea Talk video gave me a lot of nice ideas to consider.  It all goes back to that saying, “treat others the way you want to be treated”.  Except…TIffany’s way of thinking advocates for extending hope and positive vibes by thinking positively of someone else.  Not just so that someone else will think kindly of you, but, to extend hope and positive vibes into the universe.  There is a deeper understanding of others, and ourselves for that matter, that we can tap into if we try.  I feel encouraged to reframe my perspective and think less critically about how others may be living their lives.  There is no reason to fill myself with negative thoughts of others or to waste time creating them.

A quote by Roald Dahl sums it up pretty well:

hope and positive vibes

 

 

No-Bake Almond Coconut Bars

I’ve got such a case of wanderlust right now; I can’t even handle it.  I want to be anywhere else but my hometown.  Has anyone else experienced this?

almond coconut bars

Every couple of months I get an overwhelming desire to move somewhere new.  A few years back in college, I was itching to head to Ireland for a semester abroad.  The experience surely would have been worthwhile but I played it (financially) safe and did not act on my dream.  Recently, though, all I want to do is move out of my hometown.  If you follow my Instagram, you might have heard me mention how I want to move out of California.  I currently live in the same hometown, or county, that I grew up in and I feel stuck.

Just yesterday I came across this article on Medium about how to live the life you want.  It might sound kitschy but inspirational articles and videos are all that get me by.  Anyway, the article’s author, Isaac Morehouse, stated something that really resonated with me:

“There’s something weird about staying in your hometown. It severely limits the definitions you accept for what makes you successful. Oddly, most of the hometown definitions of success have nothing to do with happiness. They have to do with becoming what everyone in your past expects or desires given who you used to be. It’s a sort of tether to a past self that no longer exists.”

 

almond coconut bars

As I read the article, and the above quote in particular, I felt understood like never before.  I really need a change from my same-old, same-old hometown.  It’s easier to say you want something to happen than to see it happen.  I’ve narrowed down where I want to go and have been applying to jobs left and right.  Unfortunately, I rarely hear back from any of the places I’ve put in applications. My guess is either:

A. No one wants to hire someone from out of state.

or

B. I’m oblivious of how under-qualified I am for the jobs that I’ve been applying for.

Ideally, I want to have some hope of acquiring a job before I move to the area I have in mind.  I’ve got some money saved up but not enough to keep me from wanting to play it safe.  (Thus, the reason I squashed my Ireland dreams in college).  Sigh.  It’s not an easy task to move out but I’m slowly working on it.

almond coconut bar ingredients

On a different note, something that is easy and does not require anyone to move (nice transition, right?) are these Almond Coconut Bars!  They are my ultimate favorite homemade snack bar.  They are inspired by the Balanced Goodness Coconut + Granola Go Macro bars but the ingredients are simplified.  You could totally make them into balls if you prefer small energy bites but I prefer larger bars, similar to the Go Macro ones.

almond coconut bars

They are ridiculously simple to throw together so if you make them, let me know! 🙂

No-Bake Almond Coconut Bars
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Recipe type: Snacks
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4 bars
Inspired by Go Macro Balanced Goodness Coconut + Granola bars. These bars are only four ingredients, naturally sweetened, and don't require any baking.
Ingredients
  • ½ cup (about 15 Neglet) sticky, pitted dates*
  • 2 heaping tbsp of almond butter
  • ¼ cup rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened desiccated coconut
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, puree the dates to a thick paste. Add the almond butter and pulse.
  2. Take the ¼ cup of rolled oats and add them to a nonstick pan. On a stovetop, lightly warm the oats until they smell/look toasted. Three minutes on medium heat should be enough.
  3. Add the warm oats to the food processor, along with the coconut, and process until combined.
  4. Mixture will look dry and crumbly but, as you pick it up with your hands, it should mash together. Add 2 teaspoons of warm water if the mixture does not mash together and process again (I didn’t need to add any).
  5. Separate the mixture into 4 balls and form into square-shaped bars.
  6. They will keep at room temperature for a day, or store in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Notes
*If your dates have been stored in the fridge or freezer, or simply aren't sticky, soak them in hot water to soften. I like to heat up some water in a pot on the stove and let the dates rest in the hot water for 10 minutes.

May Pole Day and a Fresh Salad with Pasta and Fruit

Today is May 1st, AKA May Day.

Fresh and Fruity Iceberg Salad with Pasta for May

In elementary school, this day was a big deal for the kids because they would get to participate in the May Pole Dance.  Also, by kids, I mean me.  I got to participate in the May Pole Dance along with my entire third grade class.

I think it was a whole month in advance that we started practicing.  My teacher would take a break from lesson plans a few times a week and take us outside to the field to dance with ribbons.  I can’t exactly describe how the dance went but it looked something like this. Our parents and the community got notified of the event (because 8 year olds dancing around a pole to create a ribbon braid is considered an event for a small town like mine, mmkay?).  It was also a rite of passage for children.  As a youngling in school, I saw the older kids participate and looked forward to the day that I would be so privileged to participate in the acclaimed event.

Fresh and Fruity Iceberg Salad with Pasta for May

Oh, and you might be wondering what May Day is and the meaning behind the May Pole Dance.  Honestly, I only ever participated in May Day at that elementary school of mine so I don’t know the exact history.  I believe the dance is ceremonial and dates back to really old times in England.  These days, especially in the U.S., we tend not to follow such traditionalist practices so it I think it is less common.  The dance and celebration that occur are in honor of the start of summer and the new life that it brings.  Thus, I felt it appropriate to share the story as I mention that I am so very into fresh recipes for summer!

Fresh and Fruity Iceberg Salad with Pasta for May

The warm weather has me craving chilled salads, sweet and juicy produce, and ingredients that won’t weigh me down.  I called this dish a Fresh Salad with Pasta and Fruit because that’s what it is.  It also has all of my favorite ingredients from chicken salad but without chicken 🙂 I know apples aren’t technically considered summer fruit but they’re around all year long!  Some light and crisp lettuce, plus, crunchy celery, adds to the hydrating factor of this salad.  A very important factor if you’re dealing with hot temperatures like me.  #SoCal

As always, I made this recipe based on ingredients I had in my fridge but change it up to fit your needs.  Some darker leafy greens would work nicely instead of the iceberg.  Even try dried cherries instead of fresh grapes.

Have a happy month of May!

Fresh and Fruity Iceberg Salad with for May

Fresh Salad with Pasta and Fruit
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Recipe type: Lunch
Cuisine: Salad
Author:
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 1 salad
The warm weather has me craving chilled salads, sweet and juicy produce, and ingredients that won’t weigh me down. It's kind of like a chicken salad but made vegetarian and I utilized what I had in my fridge. Feel free to change it up and sub in whatever greens you like.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups of lettuce of choice (I only had iceberg but some kale, arugula, or romaine would be lovely!)
  • 3 oz of Banza penne pasta (or other short cut pasta)
  • 1 small-medium sized apple, chopped
  • 1 small stalk of celery (or half a large stalk), chopped
  • ¼ cup of red grapes, chopped in halves
  • Extras: black olives, sliced in half, and chopped pecans
  • Dressing is: 2 tsp olive oil, 2 tsp apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp maple syrup, and ¼ tsp dried tarragon.
Instructions
  1. Set a pot of water on the stovetop to boil and cook the pasta for about 10 minutes or until desired doneness.
  2. In the meantime, chop up the veggies and fruit. Add all ingredients to a serving bowl.
  3. Drain the pasta water and let pasta cool for a minute before adding to the salad.
  4. Drizzle the dressing over all ingredients and enjoy!

Blueberry Coconut Smoothie Bowl

On cold days, on rainy days, on sunny days, or cloudy days, I will always be in the mood for a smoothie.  In fact, the jury is still out on whether I consume more smoothies in winter months or summertime.

Blueberry Coconut Smoothie Bowl

On a slightly related side note:

there was a lot of mud from the previous night’s rain when I made this smoothie bowl.  I didn’t let that stop me from marching outside in my boots to snap a picture. 🙂 The lighting is much better outdoors!  Plus, my neighbors would probably wonder where I’m at if they didn’t see me go outside to take a picture of my breakfast.  You know, ‘cause that’s the usual these days.

Anyway, this photo is from a while back but I’ve had this for breakfast a number of times since.  I rarely make the same smoothie twice but there is something particularly crave-worthy about blueberries that makes me want to have them in a smoothie several days in a row.  This simple smoothie is the best way to make that happen.

Blueberry Coconut Smoothie
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Recipe type: Breakfast, Smoothie
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1 smoothie
Creamy coconut milk combines with frozen banana and blueberries to make a delicious rich and tropical smoothie.
Ingredients
  • 1 medium to large banana, frozen
  • ¾ cup of blueberries, frozen
  • ¼ cup of canned coconut milk
  • 1 serving of protein powder (optional)
  • Toppings: granola, blueberries, ground flax, coconut flakes
Instructions
  1. If using protein powder, add that to the blender first, followed by the coconut milk and frozen fruit.
  2. The smoothie might be tough to blend but it's perfectly thick with a small amount of liquid. Add a tablespoon of additional milk to the blender if the mixture is not budging.
  3. Scoop the smoothie contents into a bowl and add the recommended toppings, or, simply some coconut flakes to jazz up the tropical factor.
Notes
Prep time does not include freezing the fruit. A very necessary step for the ultimate creamy smoothie!

What Happens When You Stop Exercising (Intensely)

the day I participated in my first ever race

I have been a longtime member of the Tone it Up fitness community.  The Tone it Up girls, Karena and Katrina, put together workouts, a weekly schedule, and structure it to help women achieve fit and strong, bikini-ready bodies.  I actually found their workouts during their 2015 Bikini Series.  I really enjoy them but a persistent health concern required me to take a step back.  So, I had been following their daily workouts for a while but, in January 2017, I decided to take a break from exercise altogether.

At the time, Tone it Up had an exciting 6 week workout challenge happening.  I was also doing a Yoga Revolution challenge from Yoga with Adriene.  Tone it Up involves heart-pumping workouts, weights, cardio, and more.  While I did decide to take a clean break from Tone it Up, I did keep up with the yoga challenge.  My intention was to finish the month-long yoga challenge and then stop that, too.  Along the way I fell in love with yoga and I felt that the light movements helped put my mind and body at ease.  I touch on that a bit more later.

Basically, there were a couple of things that I did notice throughout the time I was not doing intense workouts:

The change in routine sucks

The first week of not exercising intensely was tough.  I was used to waking up each morning, strapping on my sneakers, and turning on a workout video.  My workout would usually last about an hour, then I’d top it off with around half an hour of yoga.  My muscles would be warm and yoga would help cool me down and stretch out my muscles.

As someone who enjoyed lifting weights and feeling that cardio high, it was something I did not want to give up.  Admittedly, I used to go about my day with a total body soreness that would not leave.  I would feel proud of each of my workout accomplishments but the persistent pain in my upper back was something I started to learn to live with. That pain completely went away two weeks after I stopped my intense exercise routine.  I still kept up with yoga which, at this time, became my sole workout.  My body began to crave yoga as a time to move and other simple activities like walking were pleasant.

You want to find that “high” somewhere else

I made sure not to let myself get obsessive and stack on several yoga videos just to make a “good workout”.  I would follow one video a day and have that be it.  The Yoga with Adriene videos that I followed (and still follow) are varied lengths but each one is fulfilling on its own.  It came to a point where I wasn’t looking to stay limber or fit from yoga but actually tuned in for some self-loving spirituality.  Though, that isn’t what this post is about.  So, let’s just say that it had a beneficial impact on my mind, body, and spirit—particularly at a time when I felt sad about giving up my previous workout regimen.

Muscles don’t just disappear

Over the course of a year with Tone it Up, I built up some pretty cute biceps that I am happy to show off in a sleeveless top.  I was genuinely scared that I would start feeling like a noodle (and looking like one, too) but my muscles have not abandoned me.  Perhaps, they are not growing like they would when I was challenging them with dumbbells but they get used in everyday activities.  I use them in downward dogs and planks in yoga, carrying grocery bags, and opening those really tight lids on jars.  In all seriousness, you can maintain a certain level of strength off of body-weight exercises and household chores.  It isn’t going to help you win a body building contest but it is good enough for me.

nutritious food doesn't need to be boring
kale salad with miso tahini dressing, lentils, roasted brussels sprouts + red onions, and chopped almonds.

Nutrition is crucial to wellness

At one time, I had the mentality that I was only working out so that I could afford to eat the sweets and desserts that I loved.  I would do some extra cardio just so I knew I burned enough calories to make that slice of cake after dinner well-deserved.  I was in a messed up place as far as my education on proper nutrition.

Thankfully, since switching to a mostly plant-based diet in fall of last year, I value everything that goes into my body.  I make healthy meals and snacks for myself, not because I’m trying to diet but, because I feel good when I fuel myself with nutritious food.  Meals filled with wholesome ingredients have kept me thriving.

I do not feel like a part of my routine is missing when I’m not participating in the kinds of workouts that I used to because my natural energy is usually pretty darn great thanks to my lifestyle choices.  I do appreciate the addition of higher intensity workouts and weight-lifting but it isn’t crucial to my well-being.  It has taken a long time for me to come to that conclusion.  I felt uncomfortable without exercise but it can be done.  I’ve survived!

So, if ever you feel like beating yourself up over missing a workout or even desire a break—you will be fine!  If you value your health, you will make decisions that align with your goals for overall wellness.  There’s different ways to approach that but I’m here to say exercise isn’t the only way.

 

Glyphosate in the Food Industry and Switching to Organic Produce

Delicious Seasonal produce

Lately, I hear more and more reasons why we should make the switch to organic food.  The organic label is thrown around a lot so I used to place little to no importance on it.  I figured it was good enough to be buying produce and eating as many colorful foods as I can.  Though, recent articles and news about glyphosate and its manufacturer have caught my concern.

Glyphosate is a chemical, known to most Americans by its commercial term, “Round Up”.  Agricultural industries used the chemical to combat weeds and also dry out certain crops.  Check out this article at Nature’s Path Organic for the full story on glyphosate and where it is used.

Sidenote:

Nature’s Path Organic makes delicious cereals and granola and they also have a wonderful blog.  It is filled with weekly articles on a number of plant-based nutrition, health, natural living, and other topics consumers should be aware of.  Even if you don’t buy Nature’s Path Organic brand products, you can still enjoy their educational blog posts and resources.

Anyway, there is a major problem in agriculture and the food industry when many crops are reliant on glyphosate.  Another recent article elaborated on the attempts Monsanto, a large manufacturer of glyphosate, has made to persuade the Environmental Protection Agency to label its product as safe.  Vani from foodbabe.com, goes on to showcase some leaked email communications between Monsanto and the EPA.  It is scary to think how many scientists have categorized certain products as safe for human use but are actually dangerous for us.  According to the same foodbabe article, glyphosate is a probable carcinogen that has become so ubiquitous in our environment that it does not stay on just GMO crops.  Glyphosate is sprayed; it goes into the air, possibly travels to organic crops, and suddenly there it is in a ridiculous number of products that we wouldn’t expect to find it!

The uncomfortable part is that, like I mentioned at the beginning, simply buying fruits and vegetables may not be enough.  Health is my highest concern and I make it a priority to nourish myself with only wholesome ingredients.  It is hard to hear that the bulk lentils that I buy or the whole grains in my favorite bread may have glyphosate traces.

It is likely that certified organic produce should be mostly-free of the chemical but is it even possible to go full-on organic for everything?

Personally, I have opted for organic in products (like tofu) that I know stem from major GMO crops (soy).  Still, it is difficult to make a change to buy all organic produce.  It can cost almost double to buy organic apples vs. regular apples but, in addition, there is a limited availability of organic produce.  Many grocery stores have an organic section that is a small fraction of the rest of the produce.  A limited budget and limited options make this consumer very concerned about how to proceed.

Had you heard of the glyphosate ordeal prior to reading this post?  What are your thoughts on organic produce?  Please share any thoughts in the comments.  I’d love to hear what you have to say.