8.28.2015

Natural Laundry Products

Natural Laundry Products
Natural Laundry Products, Molly’s Suds
Natural Laundry Products, Smart Sheep Wool Dryer Balls

For the longest time, laundry was one of those categories that I didn’t really think had much connection to the world of health and wellness. Still, I’d sometimes interchange our conventional detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets with those marketed as “natural,” thinking that was “good enough.”

It wasn’t until both our dogs started to develop rashes and skin irritations that we learned that even those “natural” laundry products are nearly as problematic as conventional products. At the advice of our vet, we were advised to stop using dryer sheets and fabric softener, and switch to a truly natural detergent for anything that our dogs might have contact with (blankets, dogs bed covers, etc.).

But the reality was, we knew we needed to make this change, not only for our dogs’ health, but for our own as well. We discovered that the conventional laundry products we were using — even those supposed “natural” versions on the store shelves — were filled with serious health hazards. This survey conducted by the University of Washington uncovers the many toxic chemicals found in common scented household products, including carcinogenic hazardous air pollutants that are considered unsafe at any level of exposure, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Many of the chemicals found have been linked to a host of other serious health hazards, including respiratory, dermatological, and neurological issues (there are even reports of children having seizures after exposure to dryer sheets...wow). A subsequent study from the same researchers reports that hazardous and carcinogenic air was emitted from dryer vents from machines using top-selling scented laundry detergents and dryer sheets, posing a threat to personal, public, and environmental health.

I knew it was finally time to be more responsible about the laundry products we use in our household. The problem was, where would I find products that were truly all-natural, but still leave my laundry feeling soft and smelling fresh?

8.20.2015

Taste of Paleo 3.0

Taste of Paleo
Taste of Paleo
Taste of Paleo
Taste of Paleo
Taste of Paleo
Taste of Paleo
Taste of Paleo
Taste of Paleo
Taste of Paleo
Taste of Paleo

Going out to eat can be a bummer sometimes when you’re trying to follow a clean eating plan/Paleo diet. I have to be super paranoid when I order anything in a restaurant and ask a lot of questions just to make sure I don’t get sick from something on my plate. And as for fairs and festivals? Forget it. I can pretty much count myself out when it comes to eating anything at a public event like that.

So when I came across the announcement for the Taste of Paleo right here in southern California, I was so excited. The annual paleolithic food festival features vendors, products, sample tastings, food, drink, and speakers, all related to the Paleo lifestyle. I was a little nervous because it was about 90 degrees that day, and I thought we’d be outside baking in the sun (I don’t do well in high heat these days). But when Jeremy and I arrived, we were pleasantly surprised to find that it was a (mostly) indoor event complete with air conditioning! The eating area was on an outside patio, but there was ample shade and a nice breeze (along with live music), so it couldn’t have been a more perfect setting for this primal celebration.

It was so nice to feel relatively comfortable eating the food (I still asked plenty of questions about ingredients and how everything was prepared, but I felt very comfortable doing so in a setting like this). We tasted various dishes which were all delicious and healthy. Jeremy enjoyed some sangria, as they also offered cocktails (yes, even Paleo has cheat days), and there were several Paleo treat options for those who wanted to indulge a little. I even splurged on a grain-free brownie for dessert (while Jeremy had the dairy-free coconut ice cream), and why not? It was a special occasion, after all.

8.12.2015

Paleo Banana Bread (Nut-Free)

Easy Paleo Banana Bread, Nut-Free
Easy Paleo Banana Bread, Nut-Free
Easy Paleo Banana Bread, Nut-Free
Easy Paleo Banana Bread, Nut-Free
Easy Paleo Banana Bread, Nut-Free
Easy Paleo Banana Bread, Nut-Free

***I published my original recipe for Paleo banana bread in 2014, but since then, I’ve made a few tweaks. It happens to be one of my most popular recipes on the blog and a favorite among my non-Paleo family and friends, so I felt it was finally time for an update. I'm excited to share this new and improved version!***

One of the things I missed most after going grain-free was my mom’s “famous” banana bread. Her recipe was the best: my favorite sweet treat and the most moist and flavorful banana bread I’d ever tasted. But it consisted of my two mortal enemies: wheat flour and refined sugar. So I finally decided I needed to create a grain-free version that would rival, if not surpass, the original. It took lots of experimenting, but I finally perfected a grain-free version comparable to (if not better than) my mom’s.

In addition to being delicious, it's really easy to make! This recipe is comprised of only a few wholesome Paleo ingredients. In particular, I use coconut flour in lieu of nut flours and/or other starches, making it healthy and easy to digest (I prefer not to bake with nut flours when possible, due to the inflammatory nature of nuts when consumed in large amounts). You can read about why I love all-things-coconut here.

But the true secret to any good banana bread? The bananas, of course! The key (in my opinion) is to use a lot of bananas, and very ripe ones at that. (They should be very brown…just keep them refrigerated until you're ready to use them.) The natural sweetness of the bananas means that I only need to add a small amount of honey. Therefore, it’s lower in sugar and completely refined sugar-free, as opposed to conventional banana bread recipes. Adding some dark chocolate chips gives it extra decadence (just be aware that they will raise the sugar content), but it’s equally as tasty without the chocolate.

So enjoy this new take on an old family recipe, which preserves the moist and delicious nature of the original while providing a few extra health benefits. The only bad thing about this banana bread? You might want to devour the whole thing in one sitting. So please, proceed with caution:

8.06.2015

Easy Cucumber Salad

Easy Cucumber Salad, Paleo and Vegan
Easy Cucumber Salad, Paleo and Vegan
Easy Cucumber Salad, Paleo and Vegan

There are five reasons I love making this salad:

1. it’s perhaps the easiest recipe on the planet;
2. it allows me to enjoy a raw salad that doesn’t include raw leafy greens (unfortunately, I can no longer tolerate raw leafy greens and some other raw veggies due to having two partial colectomies);
3. it contains only five ingredients (not including seasoning);
4. it’s Paleo (and vegan);
5. it’s refreshing, healthy and delicious!

That pretty much sums it up. Although it’s sometimes fun to experiment with more complicated, creative recipes, most of the time, I’m more likely to stick to my nutrition plan if I have meal plans and recipes that are quick and easy to make. Plus it’s a great alternative to the raw leafy green salads I can no longer eat. The prep time is about five minutes: just chop, drizzle, toss, and serve!

7.31.2015

The Autoimmune Solution (Book Review)

The Autoimmune Solution (Book Review)

According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), an estimated 50 million people suffer from autoimmune disease in the United States (that’s about 1 in 5 people). The National Institute of Health recognizes a much more conservative number at 23.5 million, but that number is still higher than the estimated amount of those with heart disease (22 million) or cancer (9 million). In other words, if an autoimmune disease (such as Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, endometriosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and type 1 diabetes) or an “associated” autoimmune disease (such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue) is not affecting you personally, chances are, it’s affecting someone you love right at this moment. Furthermore, autoimmune disease is something that anyone could likely develop in the future.

In The Autoimmune Solution, Dr. Amy Myers provides a comprehensive look at autoimmune disease and in particular, how food and other toxic elements in our environment affect our immune system and set off inflammatory responses. This inflammation can result in all sorts of symptoms, from frequent headaches and eczema to digestive issues and joint pain, and if not treated properly, can eventually accumulate into what we recognize as autoimmune disease. Meaning, even those who don’t currently carry an autoimmune diagnosis are potentially at risk.

For me, this book really hits home. I especially love the fact that Myers provides a unique point of view: she is not only a medical doctor, but also a patient. Diagnosed with her own autoimmune condition (Graves’ disease) while still in medical school, Myers experienced the frustrating web of dismissive (and sometimes, condescending) doctors, harsh medications and (sometimes, ineffective) treatments, all while being told the myth that these were the only ways to treat her condition. I felt like I was reading my own story, having been told that food and nutrition had no significant impact on autoimmune disease, and that conventional medical treatments were my only option. For me, believing this myth led to a dark, downward spiral of debilitating side effects and an illness that grew exponentially worse. Knowing that Myers had been in this position herself makes her perspective all the more powerful. I can’t tell you how many times I wished that some of my doctors had a better understanding of what I was going through — if only they could walk in my shoes, even if for a temporary time, so that they might have at least some idea of the pain and symptoms I was experiencing. Not that I would wish my condition (or any other autoimmune condition) on anyone else, but I do believe that having this experience would make them better doctors. The fact that Myers has this personal experience plus training and experience as a medical doctor, makes her perspective incredibly special.

Although medicine has it’s time and place, Myers believed that despite what the conventional doctors told her, there had to be a better way. So she began to research it. She discovered the power that diet and lifestyle have on our health, and developed a method in which patients can use food and other lifestyle changes as “medicine” to either heal, reverse or prevent illness in the first place. While she provides plenty of anecdotal success stories, her entire protocol is supported by proven science (so if you’re looking for evidence-based information, Dr. Myers provides it.)

7.14.2015

5 Things I'm Digging This Week

5 Things I’m Digging This Week, Fresh Homegrown Basil and Zucchini

This weekend was kind of a rough one for me. I dined out on Friday night, and although I enjoyed myself immensely, I got lazy and didn’t bother to ask questions to the server about how they prep their food before ordering. Chances are I got a good dose of gluten exposure (or possibly something else, who knows), because I spent the entire weekend fighting off intense abdominal pain, headaches, and nausea. Sometimes I get too comfortable when I’m feeling okay, I let my usual practices slip, and then I get sick and am immediately reminded of why I follow all these nutrition principles in the first place. Ugh! Fortunately, I’ve just finished preparing a nice pot of bone broth, so I’m going to start working on bringing down the inflammation this week and hopefully make a full recovery soon.

In the meanwhile, I wanted to share some fun stuff that I’ve been really digging this past week:

1. This Paleo Pesto-Avocado Sauce recipe is amazing! I was looking for a way to use the fresh basil my aunt gave to us from her garden (along with other goodies, like homegrown zucchini), and I couldn’t resist trying out this recipe. Using avocado instead of parmesan cheese is genius. It gives the pesto a velvety, creamy texture (plus it makes it dairy-free, Paleo and vegan). I added some extra seasoning and a little extra lemon juice, and it was absolutely delicious. Even my non-Paleo hubby hasn’t stopped raving about it since.

2. I came across this business/brand-building post by ByRegina.com and was totally inspired. Although it’s directed towards bloggers, the post (and really, her entire website) shares useful tips for anyone looking to to create and grow their business, and essentially, build their brand. So if you’re looking for some entrepreneurial motivation (or just some entertaining musings), you must check out this site.

3. I’m feeling inspired by this book list from Mindful Memory Keeping. I actually already have a couple of these books sitting on my bookshelf which I have yet to read, and I’ve been wanting to set more time aside for “leisure” reading (i.e. not just my usual health-related books). This might be just the push I need.

4. I’m loving this post from The Rising Spoon about how to identify healthy eggs. It’s a great resource for those who are curious about how to understand egg carton labels (which are often misleading) and find truly healthy eggs (from healthy, happy chickens). Side note: I hope to one day be able to raise my own chickens, but in the meanwhile, I think Vital Farms is a pretty trustworthy (and transparent) brand (yes, these eggs are expensive, but you get what you pay for when it comes to things like this).

5. These 20+ Home Organization Ideas from Lil’ Luna are so clever and creative. Seeing that there are other people out there just as excited about organization, perhaps Jeremy can now stop making fun of me and my beloved sponge caddy (pictured below). Am I the only one who keeps different sponges for different uses? (C’mon, back me up here, folks!) If you’re interested, you can get your very own storage caddy here.

5 Things I’m Digging This Week, Storage Caddy

(*Note: The last link in this post is an affiliate link from ShopSense which allows me to be compensated on a per-click basis. Please note that I only share or endorse products that I personally love or have purchased for myself.*)


7.10.2015

Home Office Makeover

Simple Home Office Makeover
Simple Home Office Makeover
Simple Home Office Makeover

Okay, technically this isn’t an actual makeover. We recently moved into a new home, so rather than making over an old space, I really started with a brand new one. But still, after years of working among scattered files and out of a workspace that lacked “inspiration” (to say the least), this feels like a makeover. (So there, let’s just go with it.)

With every move is the opportunity to make a fresh start, and that’s what this workspace is for me. Although it’s still a work in progress, I couldn’t wait to share what I’ve done so far. It’s a simple, mix-and-match balance of decor: I decided to choose some inexpensive, more affordable pieces so that I could spend more on others (a hodgepodge, if you will). I went with a desk from IKEA, for example, so that I could then splurge on this dreamy lateral file cabinet from Room & Board. The cabinet (which I purchased in the shell stain with steel hardware) not only has the capacity to house all my files in one place (I get giddy at just the thought of it), but also doubles as a workspace where my printer and scanner can be stationed, allowing my desk to remain clean and uncluttered (yeah…we’ll see how long that lasts).

Simple Home Office Makeover, Lateral File Cabinet
Simple Home Office Makeover

I decided to hang framed motivational messages (found at a local Home Goods store) on the wall to keep me on track, and remind me why I’m doing this everyday. (And as anyone who runs a business from home knows, we need all the motivation and inspiration we can get.) A bookcase and woven baskets (also from IKEA…what can I say, they worked for this space) provide further organization options.