Mini Keto Cheesecakes

My kids are always wanting some kind of ‘dessert’ after dinner so I’ve been trying to create healthy versions of favorite treats. I want to continue to encourage healthy habits but I also don’t want them to feel deprived because I think that’s a recipe for disaster. Nothing creates a stronger desire to have something than being told you can’t have it, so I feel like finding a happy medium – that being fun treats that are actually fairly healthy – is important. My husband also has this tendency to come down looking for dessert-y snacks before bedtime and since we’ve been transitioning to a keto diet, I decided I needed to come up with some options or we weren’t likely to stay on track. And by we, I mean him – because I don’t tend to have any post-dinner food cravings except for maybe wine. And I’m not sure if there’s a keto option for that.

My plan was to make a low carb pound cake, but then my husband comes downstairs and starts rambling on about cheesecake. And then my son started going on about cheesecake. And then the next thing I know, it’s 10pm on a Thursday night and I’m pulling cheesecake out of the oven. No idea how that even happened. But, we had some awesome cheesecake the next day so I guess it’s a good thing it did. Awesome, low-carb, low-sugar, gluten-free, moist, creamy and delicious cheesecake. Yum.

I pretty much used my standard cheesecake recipe with a few relatively swaps for the sugar and the graham cracker crust. I would have expected it to come out less tasty than the original, but honestly, it tasted just as great as always, minus the sugar and gluten. So, I think this is going to become my new ‘standard’ recipe the next time I’m jonesing for some cheesecake.

Jo-An Fabrics had these cute little mini springform pans on clearance after one of the holidays last year and I’ve had the damn things sitting up in my closet since then. They worked perfectly for this, but I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t use a regular spring-form pan and just make a full-sized cake if you wanted to. Baking time would have to be adjusted, but I would start with double the mini-cake time and go from there. The mini’s took about 15-20 minutes so a full-size should take 30-50 I would say, possibly a bit longer depending on your oven.

Now, before you get too excited thinking you can start eating all this awesomeness with complete abandon, remember that it’s still a DESSERT. A healthier one, but still something that should generally be regarded as a treat. And if you’re trying to lose weight, you might want to avoid doing what I did – which is sitting down and eating an entire mini cheesecake in one sitting. Because it’s super easy to do. And there’s a LOT of calories in these babies. Healthy fat calories, but calories nonetheless. Enjoy them, just maybe not every day if you’re trying to lose weight. 😉

Mini Keto Cheesecakes

Low-carb, Mini Keto Cheesecakes. 

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 5 people
Author Allegria1231

Ingredients

  • 1 Stick Butter Organic, Grass-Fed, melted
  • 2 Cups Blanched Almond Flour
  • 2 Each Eggs room temperature
  • 2 Tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 3 Tsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 Cup Whole Milk Yogurt
  • 4 Tbsp Erythritol/Stevia blend I used Pyure Brand
  • 16 Ounces Cream Cheese Full-Fat, softened

Instructions

Make Crust:

  1. Melt butter and combine with almond flour. 

  2. Divide the almond flour mixture across the mini spring-form pans.

  3. Spread the almond flour into a thin layer in each pan, pressing down evenly to create a firm, solid layer. 

  4. Bake at 350F for about 5 minutes until starting to brown. If the crusts start to bubble up, take a fork and gently poke the surface of the crust. 

Make the cake filling:

  1. Beat the cream cheese and sweetener until combined, add eggs one at a time and continue to mix until fully combined. Add vanilla, lemon juice and beat until mixture is smooth and glossy with no lumps. 

  2. Divide the batter evenly across the 5 mini tins, shaking the tins gently to evenly distribute the batter in each pan. 

  3. Place all the tins on a rimmed baking sheet - arrange the tins so that you have room in the center to place a small oven-proof cup of water. This will help keep the cakes from drying out. Bake at 350F for about 15-20 minutes or until the cakes are mostly set - you want the centers to be just a tiny bit jiggly when you pull them out, they'll continue to set out of the oven. 

 

Continue Reading

5 Awesome Ways to Turn One of the Ugliest Vegetables into a Beautiful Meal

One of my goals for 2018 is to eat more weird vegetables. I was listening to a podcast a few months ago about how most Americans don’t eat enough vegetables and even those who were eating the recommended amount of veggies, weren’t getting enough diversity and basically consuming the same 3-4 types. The USDA statistics on vegetable consumption in this county are pretty pathetic – with most people consuming less than 1.5 cups a day versus the recommended 2-3 cups – despite repeated attempts from every health-promoting organization out there to beat into our heads the importance of vegetable consumption for optimal health and disease prevention. The top vegetables by consumption in this country according to the USDA are potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce and onions with potatoes winning the race by far and usually in ‘sub-standard’ forms in terms of preparation (read: chips, French fries, etc.).

Our family eats a fair amount of veggies, but I would have to say we’re probably still lacking somewhat in diversity across plant families. Limited availability and knowledge of how to prepare are probably the top to contributors to us sticking to our usual choices. Price is also a factor, especially if I have to hit Whole Paycheck to grab something too far out of the ordinary. Vegetables are still much less expensive pound for pound than pre-packaged goods or animal products, so I’m going to do my best to shift our plate a little farther toward the produce aisle and start getting even more creative with our veggie choices.

In light of this, I grabbed myself some Celeriac at Harris Teeter this morning. I’ve seen this vegetable come up in random recipes over the years, but I’ve never actually tried it myself. It’s pretty ugly and doesn’t look even remotely appetizing, but I grabbed a big one and it’s going on our plates tonight in one form or another. In doing some research, I’ve found some interesting facts about this new stranger:

  • Celeriac is also called celery root, knob celery, turnip-rooted celery and although it has a similar taste and smell, it’s NOT the same thing as the green celery stalks most Americans are familiar with.
  • Celeriac and celery are closely related, and come from the Apium graveolens family, but celeriac is cultivated for it’s root ball, while celery is cultivated for the stalks and leaves.
  • Celeriac and celery are NOT interchangeable in recipes – depending on the recipe, you might be able to get away with swapping one for the other, but they’re not an equivalent substitution.
  • Celeriac is a royal pain in the arse to peel and you want to make sure you get all of the fibrous exterior off before attempting to use the inner flesh. Look for ones that are more rounded and even, without a lot of crags and cracks that’ll make it even more difficult to peel.
  • The flesh will tend to discolor fairly quickly as oxidation occurs – similar to apples and avocados – if you’re not using it right away, dunk the pieces in some lemon juice to help keep them nice and white.
  • Celeriac is typically shredded and served cooked or raw in salads, soups or stews, and clocking in at only 60 calories per cup, makes a great non-starch swap for potatoes in a gratin or mash.
  • Celeriac is high in fiber and protein and contains a number of essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, K, a number of B vitamins and iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, potassium and calcium.

Here are five delicious recipes I found online if you’d like to be adventurous and try out this ugly beast in your own kitchen!

  1. Celeriac (Celery Root) Salad, courtesy of Wives with Knives
  2. Celeriac Pasta with Puttanesca Sauce, from My New Roots
  3. Cream of Celeriac Soup with Brussels Sprouts Chips from Simply Recipes
  4. Roasted Garlic Organic Potato and Celery Root Puree from Organic Authority
  5. Celeriac Risotto with Butternut Squash and Kale from Every Last Bite

 

 

For more information on Celeriac and it’s uses and benefits, visit:

https://www.dovemed.com/healthy-living/natural-health/7-health-benefits-of-celeriac/

https://www.natureword.com/tag/celeriac-vitamins/

http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2395/2

 

Continue Reading

4 Simple Tricks to Help You De-clutter Your Closet

I was so excited when my daughter had finally grown enough to start sharing clothes with me. Although she’s still quite a bit smaller and most of my stuff looks waaaaay cuter on her, it was still an exciting prospect to be able to effectively start doubling my wardrobe. That excitement quickly started to fade with the realization that the only one ‘sharing’ is me and my wardrobe has in fact, been continually dwindling. The two sweatshirts I bought for us to share last fall I’ve never worn and haven’t seen since, except when they magically make an appearance on my daughter. My winter coat has somehow now become ‘her’ winter coat. My socks have been disappearing out of my drawers at an alarming rate and all of my fleece has literally gone AWOL. The only items that seem to be safe right now are my underwear and pants and that’s only because my ass is twice the size of hers. If my weight loss journey ever aligns with her growth spurts, those items will move into the ‘at risk’ column as well. Part of the problem is, my daughter’s a slob. She’s got a large closet and a full-sized dresser, plus several sets of cubbies with drawers and yet somehow, her crap is still in piles all over the place. It’s no wonder it takes her forever to get ready in the morning! Clothes fresh from the laundry sit on piles at the end of her bed until eventually they get knocked off onto the floor and mixed in with the continually growing array of dirty clothes that are strewn about. Clearly she just walks around her room removing clothing as part of her bedtime routine. And when it’s time to ‘clean’ she typically just sweeps up all the clothes and tosses them into her hamper. I’m fairly certain there’s a large quantity of clothing in that room that never gets worn, just washed over and over and over again as it moves through the cycle of laundry–>bed–>floor–>hamper. Sadly, I’m pretty sure she comes by this sloppiness naturally – I swear it’s a genetic defect that just keeps getting passed down through the generations. My own mother will defend her cleanliness to the death, but every visit to her house confirms she has just as many hoarding tendencies as my daughter and I do. Although I will say she does seem to do a slightly better job of organizing the piles of ‘stuff’. I’m not convinced though that this isn’t a factor of her having half as many people in a house that’s twice the size.

Hoarding tendencies and clutter-collecting habits are difficult to break, especially when they’ve been allowed to go unchecked for many years. Having all of that junk around does a number on your psychological health though and it really makes prepping to go anywhere or do anything more of a chore than it should be. Getting dressed in the morning, for example, would be a breeze if it didn’t involve having to hunt for missing socks or a tank to match that cute sweater you want to wear. Things out of place, in the way and taking up space is a drain on your energy, sapping your creativity and causing extra stress in your life. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got enough stress in my life, I don’t need my closet adding more. The trouble is, that closet is a hot mess right now and the thought of embarking upon some giant organizational effort has me literally breaking out into hives. So, I decided to do some research to see if I can find some methods that’ll help me ease that space into at least – a more reasonable level of chaos.

I have a hard time throwing anything away. Some of this comes from self-induced trauma involving me ‘giving up’ on a few favorite items of clothing, donating them in a fit of ‘organizing’ and then spending several years trying to replace those beloved items that I didn’t think I needed but miss dearly. Case in point – the leather pants I bought on a trip I took to Italy. I loved those pants. They fit me like a glove and were the softest, most comfortable and best made pair of pants I have ever owned. And like a dumbass, I DONATED THEM TO GOODWILL. Why? Because at the time, I’d just popped out a kid and was still roughly the size of a whale and we were moving to Florida. I’m pretty sure my thoughts at the time were something along the lines of: well, I’m a fat-ass now and we’re moving to Florida and no sane person in Florida wears leather pants. Dumb. I’m going to give myself a teeny bit of a break here and blame this mistake on my post-pregnancy brain, stress from the move and lack of sleep but dammit, it’s been 12 years now and I STILL regret giving away those damn pants!

In order to avoid another ‘leather pants’ incident, I’m going to do my best to try to make space in my closet mindfully, with a little  help from Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and the internet. Because I don’t have the time or mental fortitude right now to attend to the clutter sitch in one fell swoop, I’m going to attempt to institute some small changes to help me declutter in smaller chunks and hopefully establish a sustainable routine of clearing and cleansing my space. Here are the most doable tricks I’ve found out on the inter webs and what I plan to implement, starting today:

1 – Get a daily donation bin

Love this advice from Elizabeth Larkin on The Spruce. I’m just going to repurpose a laundry hamper for this and as I encounter items of clothing that don’t fit right, are completely out of style or have a layer of dust on them because they haven’t been worn since 1995 – I’m going to drop them into the bin instead of hanging them back up or shoving them into a drawer for “maybe someday”. If it hasn’t been someday in more than 5 years, it’s pretty fair to say it’s probably never going to happen. Let it go.

2 – Only keep things that “you need or that spark joy”

This one is straight out of Kondo’s book and it makes a lot of sense. If I haven’t worn something in 5 years, it’s probably a fair assessment that I don’t need that item. And yes, I’ve got clothes that have been in my closet – that I’ve packed and moved through 3 different states and 5 different residences. Why would I do something so stupid, you ask? Well, they’re clothes that I used to love, that I used to feel good in, that used to fit me and looked great on me. And I guess I haven’t given up hope that one day those awesome J. Crew pants will fit me again. The trouble is – they’re taking up precious space, they don’t fit and they piss me off every time I look at them. Not to mention, it’s not 2003 anymore and they’re not exactly in style. They also send me into this horrible body-shaming tizzy because no matter how much I work out or how cleanly I eat, my thighs just won’t get any smaller. And that’s frustrating enough in its own right; I don’t need my clothes making me feel worse about it. So I think it’s fair to say they’re not bringing me any joy – time to let them go.

3 – Pick a date and schedule a regularly-occurring ‘Donation Day’

Gathering up items for donation is awesome, but then if you let it sit around your house in piles for months and months, that’s not any better than leaving the crap in your closet. And I have a tendency to do this. In fact, I’ve got 15 bags of kids clothes taking up space in our gym right now because I’m waiting for this big ‘yard sale’ that I’m having um, never, because who the hell has time for a freaking yard sale? Even worse, I’ve been known to remove stuff that’s been sitting in donation bags and decide I “need” to have them – again – and then they go back to taking up space in my closet. Stop. The. Madness. Get rid of it. Pick a date, put it on your calendar and anything you’ve got piled up on that date goes out of the house.

4 – Pick a number 

I really like this idea from Joshua Becker on his blog, Becoming Minimalist. Joshua recommends picking a number and then pulling that many items out of your closet to start. That’s totally doable, I think. A great way to break a completely daunting task into smaller, more manageable chunks and goes along great with the daily donation bin. Pick a number – even if it’s just ONE – and every day find that one thing you can do without and dump it into the bin. Easy peasy.

5 – Decide up front where your things will go

Another great idea from Elizabeth Larkin on The Spruce. Part of my hang up with getting rid of stuff is that I know how much I paid for it and since money is always tight, I cling to those things as if they were cold hard cash. Trouble is – they’re not cash. They can, however, be traded in for cash, but it’s easy to overvalue these items and get hung up on how much they cost you versus how much they’re actually worth in terms of resale value. Make a point to divide up your things into two piles – donate and consign. Anything that’s consignment-worthy – items in great condition, like the pair of shorts your daughter ‘absolutely had to have’ but are now in the donate pile with the FREAKING TAGS STILL ON – take that shit to the consignment store and get some of your money back. If you’ve got a lot of time on your hands, you can try to post some of the higher-value items on Ebay, Craigslist or the Facebook marketplace, but you will literally make yourself crazy and end up hanging on to the clutter for an extended period of time if you don’t make your peace with the fact that you will never get back what you paid for these things. Let them go, it’s not worth the damage to your mental health to cling to these material things. Everything not in the consignment/sale pile gets donated. Pick a solid charity to donate to – one that will use the items to support efforts that are meaningful to you personally – it’ll make it easier to part with these items and you’ll feel good knowing your stuff went to help out people, animals or a particular cause that needs it more than you do.

And don’t forget your precious daughter in all of this donating action – if you find something that would look better on her, that you haven’t worn in awhile, that she might wear (a lot of that 90’s fashion is back in style and supposedly ‘vintage’ is in – holy crap this makes me feel old) – donate it to her cause. Maybe she’ll keep her hands off the stuff that you actually do wear.

Continue Reading

Do’s and Don’ts for Feeding Your Student Athlete on Game Day

feeding student athletesShe started with soccer back in elementary school and now, as a freshman in high school, my daughter’s sport of choice is Volleyball. She loves it. And she’s good at it (and I’m not just saying that because I’m her mom). Part of that success is due to natural talent, but the bulk of it is her love of the game, drive and hard-core work ethic. That girl busts her ass – on and off the court. Always looking to improve her performance, she’s been asking me to help her with supplemental workouts and figure out what foods are best to eat so that her training efforts are maximized. We’ve watched her teammates throughout the years struggle with their performance on tournament days and have noticed a distinct pattern – games after a lunch break are usually a hot mess. Personally, I’m not surprised – there’s typically just enough time to run to a local fast-food chain and grab a quick meal in between games. And when you’ve just spent the last hour running your ass off, food in general sounds amazing. I think parents approach the situation with good intentions – their kids are hungry, they know they’re burning off the calories and need to fuel up for the next round of games. But loading your gut with a pile of chicken nuggets, fries or a burger and a milkshake is a recipe for disaster on a normal day, much less an hour before a game. Even “healthier” options like a cold-cut sandwich aren’t such a great idea pre-game. Protein and fat take a long time to digest and convert into fuel. Clean sources of protein and healthy fats (NOT chicken nuggets and French Fries) are awesome when you’re eating a meal 2-3 hours before an event/workout, but when you’re trying to refuel within a shorter window of opportunity, these types of foods are going to limit your performance or worse, cause digestive distress. During exercise, your body diverts blood away from organs not in use – such as your stomach, liver, intestines, kidneys, etc. – and increases blood flow to the working muscles. This is a natural, involuntary process. So what happens when you’ve recently filled your gut with a load of digestion-intensive food and now have to get onto the field/court? Blood is still diverted to the working muscles and that load of food in your stomach now remains ‘stuck’ until your body has reached a post-recovery phase and normal blood distribution is restored to your internal organs. If they’re lucky, your child will be able to power through their game with minimal impact, but more than likely they’re going to end up with a stomach-ache or down-line digestive issues later in the day.

So, what do you eat? This can be a tricky question in my experience with youth travel sports. There aren’t always a lot of options for getting food quickly and often, there’s not a sufficient break in between games/matches to allow time to obtain and consume food. I always try to pack a small cooler of food when we head out for a tournament weekend – lots of healthy snacks and easy-to-digest foods like smoothies/shakes so my daughter can grab a quick and light meal during a break without worrying that she’s going to get a stomachache or suffer from reduced performance during her next match. Some of our favorites are:

  • Sushi – specifically California rolls – very easy to make at home or buy pre-made at the grocery store.
  • Fruit – bananas, berries, melon, pineapple, grapes
  • Celery sticks and sunflower butter
  • Plantain chips and guacamole
  • Chia pudding or chia fruit squeezers
  • Quinoa salad
  • Veggies and Hummus
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Baked sweet potato slices
  • Super-food protein shakes, such as Shakeology

If you’re in a situation where you didn’t have time to pack anything or the venue doesn’t allow you to bring in outside food, look for light, whole-food snacks containing clean-burning and easy-to-digest carbohydrates. If we have enough time in between games, I usually try to find a grocery store and head to the produce section to find pre-made versions of the items noted above in my pack list. If a fast-food joint is your only option, stick to the ‘side’ menu and make a light meal out of small-portion options of healthy foods.

Look for foods like:

  • Potato salad
  • Kale salad or Cole slaw
  • Broth-based soups or bone broth
  • Fruit/fruit salad (without added sugar)
  • Green Salad
  • Yogurt (plain or low-sugar is best) or kefir
  • Baked potato with butter
  • Coconut chips
  • Avocado
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Sushi – California, nori or spring/summer rolls are all great choices and a lot of grocery stores carry these pre-made now

Avoid:

  • Fried foods – chicken nuggets, fish sticks, french fries, greasy potato chips, etc.
  • Heavy “comfort foods”
  • Breads, cakes, cookies, muffins, etc.
  • Candy – fairly easy to digest and provides a quick burst of energy that is short-term with a sharp decline that’ll hinder your performance and leave you feeling tired, irritable and mentally foggy
  • Meats and cheeses, especially in large quantities
  • Energy bars and drinks – these do not provide sustainable energy and are usually made of processed crap and sugar

Your child is most likely going to try to convince you they’re “starving” and I’m sure they probably feel like they are, but feeding them a bunch of garbage is not worth the negative impact to their digestion or athletic performance and the reality is, they’re better off not eating at all than eating a giant meal full of unhealthy food options prior to a game. The body has an amazing ability to generate it’s own fuel when it needs to and as long as your child is properly hydrated, they will be fine with a minimal amount of food in between games. When the last game/match is done, let them chow down on a healthy meal with lots of protein, fat and veggies to replenish their body’s energy stores. They’ll feel better and even if they don’t play better, at least you’ll know it wasn’t because of something they ate. 😉

 

Continue Reading

How two-factor authentication ruined my day and made me wonder if I need a Facebook detox

There’s nothing I despise more than an overly complicated process, especially one that leaves me in a frustrated tizzy. I’ve got a fair amount of technical knowledge, having done some programming in the past and spending several years in IT in a variety of analyst and management roles. So, it’s not like I’m a total idiot that doesn’t know how to work a computer. At some point over the past month or so, my iphone has become very confused about whether I’m me or my daughter in several apps. I’m pretty sure at some point, she logged into Facebook on my phone and when she did, it changed the associated Facebook login to hers for all the apps and websites that had been using my Facebook profile for login. So now, when I’m in Instagram trying to share to my Facebook page, even though I’m logged into my Instagram account and it shows my business page as being linked, when I try to share anything to that page, it wants me to log into Facebook and then blows up because it’s retained her login and she’s not an admin on my Facebook page.

There’s no option to change the Facebook profile that’s logging in, I just get this ‘hey, you’ve logged in with FB before do you want to do it again?” screen and my options are to log in as her or I can click cancel and it basically terminates the process and comes back with “well then no sharing for you”. No amount of unlinking, relinking, deleting, reinstalling, rebooting both apps managed to resolve this issue. I finally logged out of Facebook on all of my devices and then tried to log back in, hoping it would drop the auto-login through instagram. Well, now I can’t freaking get into Facebook AT ALL because earlier this year all my friends were getting hacked and I brilliantly decided to turn on the stupid two-factor authentication. So now it’s requiring some damn code as a secondary login and there’s literally no other option. The code was supposed to have been sent via SMS. I’ve been waiting well over an hour and still haven’t received a damn code. I get SMS notifications every time someone farts in FBland –  they’ll send me those in a millisecond if I don’t remember to adjust my notification settings, but the code I need to log in and finish dealing with this app issue – that takes them “up to 12 hours” to send a code. What. The. Hell.

In my impatience, I click on the help link and the help documentation tells me that if I’m not receiving a code via SMS, I have to use the “code generator” tool – which can be found… wait for it…..INSIDE the Facebook app (which I can’t log into) by clicking on the “bars” icon. Um…. Call me clueless, but how in the holy f$ck am I supposed to get into the app to click on these bars to generate a code to log into the app I can’t even get into in the first place? So, okay – more clicking around and it looks like my final option is to send Facebook a request with my ID to prove I’m actually me. Nice. So, I fill out that form and attempt to patiently wait for a response. Meanwhile – while I’m dicking around in this login loop from hell, some 9 year old in another country has probably already managed to hack into my account from the backend and is posting crazy shit and trying to get my friends to click on viral links. Awesome.

All I wanted to do was share the picture I posted on Insta to my FB page – should have taken 0 seconds. This is the kind of crap that makes me crazy – simple things that have become convoluted, overly complex time-wasters. Seriously, I’ve wasted at least two hours trying to troubleshoot this nonsense. And now, while I’ve been sitting here typing out this rant, Facebook support finally sent me an email – “hey, it looks like you’re having trouble logging in, just click this link to get back in instantly” So I click the link (after carefully double-checking to make sure it actually came from Facebook support) and where does the link go? TO THE F-ING PAGE ASKING FOR A F-ING CODE I STILL HAVEN’T GOTTEN!!! đŸ€Ż

After waiting almost the entire day to get a response from Facebook help, I was rooting around the inter webs looking for information that might help me hack into my own account – sad, but true – desperation will make you do crazy things! I happened upon an article that listed ways of getting into your Facebook account, which triggered a tiny remote memory in my head from earlier this year where I had apparently printed out some tiny sheet of single-use backup codes that would help me get into my account if I got locked out. After another hour trying to remember where I put the damn thing, I was FINALLY able to get in – hooray!!! And now I’m going to stop and think about my security settings and how wise it is for a 46 year old woman with two kids who lives in a zoo to have to rely on a tiny sheet of paper hidden in her overburdened desk drawer as the sole means of accessing her FB page in the event this ever happens again…and maybe I should spend some time thinking about how irritated I’ve been all day about not being able to get into stupid Facebook – addicted much? 🧐

Continue Reading

How mushrooms made me a better person

I’ve never been huge fan of mushrooms. I’ve always found them to be kind of strange in texture and taste – rubbery and a little too earthy, almost like eating dirt. I absolutely despise them raw on salads. The fact that they’re parasitic in nature, often found growing in dark, damp locations, on dead plant matter and sometimes the backs of insects – ew! – doesn’t make them any more appealing. Even their classification conjures negative images – fungi…fungus. Not something I want to be eating. Or do I?

Several weeks ago, I listened to an awesome podcast by Rich Roll featuring Tero Isokauppila, the founder of a company called Four Sigmatic and a mushroom expert. It was absolutely fascinating and frankly, I’ve been a little obsessed with mushrooms ever since. I’ve known for a long time that there were health benefits to certain types of mushrooms. My family has been consuming copious amounts of Shakeology for years and while I credit it for our greatly improved immune function over the past 8+ years (that and the fact that we generally avoid eating crap), I guess I just kind of glossed over the fact that the formula contains 4 powerhouse mushrooms, each with a boatload of purported health benefits. These are just FOUR of the roughly 270 mushrooms known to have therapeutic or medicinal benefits, but let’s take a look at all of the amazing benefits each has:

Maitake

Maitake is the Japanese name for the mushroom Grifola frondosa, often referred to as “hen of the woods”, “ram’s head” or “sheeps head”. These mushrooms are typically found growing in clusters on the base of oak trees. They have been shown in studies to inhibit growth of cancerous tumors and boost immune function. In traditional medicine, this mushroom has been used to treat diabetes and hypertension as it has properties that help regulate blood sugar and lower blood pressure.

Reishi

Reishi is the Japanese name for the kidney-shaped mushroom, Ganoderma Lucidum, which are often found growing on dead or dying trees or old tree stumps and logs. These mushrooms are also called ‘king mushrooms’ or Ling Zhi in Chinese. They’ve been shown in studies to:

  • reduce inflammation,
  • improve anxiety and depression,
  • boost immunity,
  • lower blood pressure,
  • reduce cholesterol and insulin resistance,
  • inhibit cancer cell and tumor growth,
  • improve liver and kidney function,
  • improve sleep and
  • aid gut health.

Quite a list of benefits for some strange looking growth on the side of a dead tree! One caveat with this type of mushroom, however is that it’s not always recommended for people with auto-immune conditions as it can further stimulate immune response – not a good thing if your immune system is already attacking your own body.

Chaga

Chaga mushroom, is a Russian name of Inonotus obliquus, a parasitic mushroom commonly found on birch trees that’s been used  as a folk remedy in Northern European countries for centuries. Chaga is a potent antioxidant and adaptogen with anti-bacterial properties and has been shown in studies to help:

  • reduce the growth of certain types of cancer (namely colon and liver),
  • reduce inflammation,
  • reduce spikes in blood sugar,
  • protect against dangerous blood clots
  • balance immune system function
  • boost exercise endurance
  • improve cognitive function

Some caveats: Because of it’s ability to stop blood platelet aggregation, Chaga should not be taken in conjunction with blood-thinning medication. People with auto-immune diseases should also be wary, as Chaga could make symptoms worse.

Cordyceps

Unlike the other three mushrooms which typically grow on dead or dying trees, Cordyceps mushroom is an entomopathogenic fungus – which means that it typically grows on the external surface of insects and eventually bores into the insect and kills it. Charming. Despite its description sounding like something out of a flesh-eating zombie flick, this mushroom purports a host of impressive therapeutic benefits, some of which are:

  • anti-aging benefits (yes!)
  • prevents the growth of cancerous tumors
  • reduces inflammation
  • increases energy
  • improves stamina and boosts athletic performance
  • reduces reproductive problems and sexual dysfunction
  • protects against cold and flu
  • improves liver function and assists in detoxification

Cordyceps has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. Cordyceps is also prized as a general longevity and immunity tonic in Ayurvedic Medicine. Because of it’s immune-boosting capability, it may not be appropriate for those with auto-immune conditions.

I’ve been focusing on adding a variety of mushrooms into my regular diet – medicinal mushrooms in dried powder form and fresh mushrooms in my recipes. Mushrooms have tough cell walls which make them indigestible if not cooked. Mushrooms also contain small amounts of toxins that can be problematic when eaten raw, but that are destroyed by the cooking process. They taste immensely better when you cook them anyway, especially if you sautĂ©, broil or grill them with a healthy fat. They have a decent amount of protein and add bulk without adding many calories. They take on the flavor of any sauces or seasonings you use, so they work well in a multitude of recipes. Mushrooms are a good source of riboflavin and niacin as well as selenium and potassium. If they’ve been exposed to sunlight they also contain vitamin D (you can do this yourself to boost the D content of your mushrooms). They have a meaty texture when cooked properly and I’ve used them in a variety of soups and stews to add more heartiness without adding more meat. Over the course of the past month I’ve been using a mushroom blend in my coffee and I have to say, I really feel like it’s improved my focus, given me more energy and reduced some of the symptoms of inflammation I’ve been experiencing in my advancing age. 😂

***Mushrooms aren’t for everyone and of the more than 10,000 identified species, less than half are edible so make sure you get yours from a reputable supplier or do extensive research before attempting to forage your own. If you have any questions about your personal health and whether mushrooms may help or harm you, please talk with your doctor.

Continue Reading

4 simple things you can do to start losing weight today

I don’t know too many people who aren’t trying to lose a few pounds. Aside from a couple of annoying people I know who somehow manage to eat like total shit, never workout and still look amazing, most everyone I know is on some kind of diet. I’m not a big fan of diets in general, mostly because they end up being too time-consuming or involve too much sacrifice or too much change at one time and frankly, the research shows that they just don’t work. So, instead of trying to stick to any particular diet, or counting calories, policing every bite of food and doing all kinds of math trying to figure out if my input is greater than or equal to my output, I decided to focus on making a few simple tweaks to my lifestyle. Within a week, I had lost a few pounds and noticed a marked reduction in this bloated belly thing I had going on. I was also sleeping better, waking up less stiff and creaky and feeling more energetic and focused throughout the day.

1. Drink more water, less alcohol

Somewhere along the line, I got into this bad habit of drinking a glass or two of wine before bed. I’m sure it was fueled in part by all that ‘health’ advice floating around out there that touted the benefits of drinking red wine. The wine-tasting club my husband and I joined probably didn’t help either. There’s something about boxes of wine piled up in your basement that just screams “drink the wine! drink ALL the wine!” The problem is that even if there are some health benefits, it’s really not enough to balance out the negative effects especially when consumed in excess. Beer and wine have calories, and sugar – so even if you’re just having 1-2 glasses a day, that’s roughly 800-2000 calories a week (depending on whether you’re drinking beer or wine and 1-2 glasses a day) of beverages that aren’t providing your body with much, if any, nutrition. Alcohol is also a toxin. As far as toxins go, it’s kind of an awesome one in that it relaxes us and makes us feel good and is socially acceptable – but it’s still a toxin and your liver and kidneys not only need to work extra hard to process and filter it out of your system but they do so at the expense of any fat-burning that may be going on. Basically, until that alcohol is metabolized and filtered out of your system, fat-burning mechanisms are on pause. Not a good thing if you’re trying to fit into your skinny jeans again. Alcohol has also been shown to reduce the quality of your sleep, increase food cravings and lower your inhibitions – so you’re more likely to eat a bunch of garbage, make poor choices, do something embarrassing and then wake up tired the next day. Alcohol also messes around with your hormones and as a woman in my late 40’s, the last thing I need is anything else screwing around with those – Mother Nature is doing enough of that herself these days.

Anyway, I’m not giving up booze completely, but I also don’t think I need to have it every day or even several times a week. So I decided to just save it for special occasions – and truly special occasions, because let’s face it – we can come up with all kinds of things that are “special” when we know there’s a reward involved. Hell, with the way my life’s been going lately, making it to bedtime with a shred of my sanity still intact is a “special occasion”.

It’s tough to break out of a habit that you’ve been engaging in for awhile so I found that I had to substitute something else where my glass(es) of wine were and try to form newer, healthier habits. So now I’ve gotten into a different habit of having a glass of kombucha (I put it in a wine glass so it feels more special) or hot tea, or water infused with lemon or fruit/herbs/cucumber. After less than a week of doing this, I noticed that I was sleeping much better (less waking up in the middle of the night) and this bloated belly thing that had been plaguing me started subsiding. More than a month later I’m feeling less inflammation in my joints, my brain seems to work better and while I still don’t have six-pack abs, my stomach is flat and my skin looks much better. And I find that I really don’t miss all the wine as much as I thought I would. In fact, I’ve been to several holiday parties recently and just didn’t even feel like drinking much at all. And instead of blowing through bottles of our wine-club wine, I’m saving them for pairing with special dinners, gifts and truly momentous occasions.

2. Go to Bed

Sleep is one of those things that we tend to shrug off like it’s a nuisance activity instead of a critical and necessary state of renewal and repair. If you’re all fired up about losing weight and you have to choose between an extra hour in bed or an hour at the gym, your tendency will probably be to drag yourself out of bed and hit the gym. Seems to be a no-brainer – if you want to get ripped, you can’t blow off the gym, right? The problem is – if you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re creating a hot mess of hormonal nonsense that is counteracting your workouts. A large number of studies have been done over the years that indicate a strong link between obesity risk in adults and children and short sleep duration. Not getting enough sleep has been associated with weight gain even in preschool age children. A study by researchers at UC Berkeley found a correlation between sleep (or rather, lack of it) and increased BMI in adults and adolescents. Even one hour less sleep each night had a rather sizable impact on their BMI over a 5 year period.

3. Sit less, walk more

Sitting is killing us – literally. Yet many of us spend more than half our day on our asses. Even if you’re getting enough exercise, all that time on your posterior is wreaking havoc. Prolonged sitting has been correlated with increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, back pain, increased anxiety, slowed metabolism – the list goes on and on. We were meant to move, not sit in one position for extended periods of time. It’s tough when you’ve got a desk job, but there are things you can do to mitigate that. Take frequent breaks, switch to a standing desk, go for a walk during your lunch break, walk around when making phone calls, have walking meetings with co-workers, etc. Instead of sitting on the couch watching TV at night, do some stretches or yoga on the floor. If you’re like me and you get really focused on a task, so much so that you kind of lose track of how much time you’ve been spending on it – set a timer so you’re reminded to get up and stretch or move at regular intervals.

4. Eat less sugar

This one should be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people still think sugar is no big deal. But it IS a big deal – and they shove that shit into everything. If you do nothing else with your diet, just stop eating foods that have added sugar. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel after you get through the initial withdrawal. And there will be a withdrawal period, especially if you’ve been eating a lot of that crap. Sugar is a drug – and probably the most insidious, because it’s perfectly legal, highly addictive  – studies have shown that it acts on the same part of the brain as opiates and amphetamines – and it’s deadly. And no, I’m not being overly dramatic. Sugar consumption has been linked to a multitude of health issues as well as increased weight gain, hormonal issues and reduced immune function. The scary part is, the average American consumes 30% more sugar than they did just 30 years ago – twice as much as in 1900 and 45 times more than people did 300 years ago! Is it any wonder we’re all fatter and sicker than ever? According to the USDA, the average American consumes 180 lbs of sugar a year! That’s insane! Anyway, one easy way to have a huge impact on your diet is to focus on added sugars – if you try to avoid eating anything with added sugars – you’ll avoid most of the crap food out there. You just have to be careful about reading labels, because sugar has about 60 different names and manufacturers like to be tricky. If you find label-reading exhausting like I do, just focus on consuming fresh foods and keep the packaged stuff to a minimum – and avoid anything with more than a few, recognizable ingredients. Fresh foods take a bit more time to prepare, but you’ll make up this time by not having to do all that reading. 😉

 

Continue Reading

Welcome to my crazy life!

Welcome! I started this blog because I enjoy writing about and sharing insights into the craziness that is my life and frankly, I needed a place to put it besides Facebook because it’s MINE and I don’t want Zuckerberg (or anyone else) owning it. I’m selfish like that. I can’t say for sure what this blog may end up transforming into, but my intent is to share my thoughts on the world and anything else that I think other people need to hear (ha!) or might be even remotely interested in.

I love learning, trying new things, and most importantly – sharing things I’ve learned, especially when I feel like it’s something that has not only changed my life for the better, but could potentially do the same for someone else. Because at the end of the day, that’s what we’re all striving for isn’t it? To grow and get better, whatever that means to you personally – whether it be to make more money, be more successful, get healthier, live longer, have a better relationship with the people in your life, feel more fulfilled and happy… the list goes on and on.

My life in a nutshell is a giant swirling mass of chaos. I’ve got two kids – one’s a full-blown teenager and the other is about to be. They’re about as different as they could possibly be, which tends to cause a lot of drama around the house. My husband and I are older, wiser and less-adorable versions of them. Again, tends to cause a fair amount of drama. Add in a dog, two cats, two guinea pigs, and a rabbit and you’ll start to understand why my life is literally, a zoo. That being said, I’ve heard before that your physical life is a representation of what’s going on in your head and I can totally see how this might be the case in my world. My brain is a hot mess. My interests are varied, my talents are broad and my passions are as fluid as my mood. I envy those people who know clearly what their calling is, what their passions are and what their purpose is in this life. I’m still fairly clueless about what my purpose and calling is and selfishly hoping this blog will help me flesh that all out. 🙂

Anyway – I hope this blog makes you laugh, makes you think, teaches you something, inspires you to try something new, changes your lifestyle habits in a positive way and if nothing else, makes you feel better about your own life.

Continue Reading