Monthly Archives: December 2011

The New Year’s Resolution You’ll Commit To.

I often receive e-mails from astrology.com that are playful and entertaining. They’ll send topics like “GreenScopes,” your daily green tip customized per astrological sign. Most of mine are typical Gemini tidbits, like “quit trying to do everything and focus on one important change.” What? Me, scattered? Can’t commit to one topic in a blog? No way.

Ahem.

I decided to scroll through today’s “FoodScope” e-mail and reached a separate article that looked interesting: “The One Resolution You’ll Keep in 2012.” Well, what could I lose by clicking? I thought. Like most Astrology.com articles, it was short and sweet. I decided to read through each sign, relate my particular friends to their respective signs, and gained a little insight into what could potentially be helpful for them in the new year. I also have injected some of my Gemini finesse into reconstructing the article’s advice for you, reader. Here’s my take on your 2012 resolution suggestion:

Aries – Your dynamo personality and innovative ideas are currently two separate entities. Come January 1st, assemble these two into a ground-breaking idea, business plan, or career venture. Shamanistic calligraphy? You can do it.

Taurus – 2012 is the year of awakening for you. For example: purchase a book on Iceland, swing by a used bookstore for “Learn Icelandic,” and you’ll be all set for a trip by October to see Aurora Borealis. Your mind is urging for this kind of expanded perspective on life.

Gemini – Corral your inner untamed multitasker and give it a to-do list. This year is the perfect time to narrow your focus and get the things you want done. You know, the important and creative things.

Cancer – You are comfortable inside your inner sanctuary. Your most thoughtful, provoking moments are found there. Challenge yourself this year and share those insights with others. They are dying to hear what you have to say. Promise.

Leo – Spend some extra time with your air sign friends this year. Start observing the art of communication at it’s worst (Gemini), best (Aquarius), and somewhere inbetween (Libra). The potential to improve your own skill is greatest now. “Before you speak, ask yourself…does it improve upon the silence?” -Buddha

Virgo – Spending extra hours at work or school? Juggling too many projects, or not enough? Next year, begin to schedule in one of the most important projects on your calendar: rest. The planets are literally giving you the extra breathing room.

Libra – What is your life’s purpose? Are you truly living “the dream?” Libra is a dreamer, but a level-headed one. Your projections are doable and once January 1st hits, your mission is to answer these questions with confidence.

Scorpio – To love another is to love yourself. Scorpios struggle with intimacy, and in many cases missing a connection with others correlates with a lack of self-love. 2012 is your special year to take care of yourself by listening to your mind and body. Respect its wishes and take time off when you need it.

Sagittarius – Who needs stress? Not you, that’s for sure. Shake up your schedule by throwing in a new activity that you enjoy. As a matter of fact, switch it up as much as you can! As long as you make room for relaxation, the new year will be a breeze.

Capricorn – The year of the romantic: 2012. For you, Capricorn, seek out opportunities to show love to family, friends, and a special someone in your life. Even if you’re unattached, revisit your relationship to the idea of love and (maybe) redefine it.

Aquarius – “Wherever you are, be there.” This is your theme for the new year, whether you like it or not. Use this to your advantage: when you are working, be the worker. When you are visiting friends, really be with them. This change of focus will be ground-breaking for you.

Pisces – You are the zodiac’s biggest dreamer. The world is your canvas, and you’ve been painting a beautiful design since you were born. The world may have disappointed you, and your paintbrushes may have been set aside for some time now. Take a chance and open up your heart. You will not be disappointed.

Read more articles here.

Is your suggestion relevant to you and your life? How does astrology fit into your life? Do you believe it or find it entertaining?

Koge Cookies – Dark Cranberry & Spiced Cocoa

Meet my blog buddy and trusted furry feline friend, Koge.

My boyfriend and I adopted him last year just after Thanksgiving. When I met him he was sitting by the window while 4 other kittens were playing with each other. He was one of the older cats. My boyfriend went straight for the kittens, and I smiled as he cuddled with them all. Yet something kept me looking at the cat by the window (who was named Jackson at that time). I walked up to him and said, “Hey, little buddy.” He turned around and yawned. I (quite hesitantly) held my hand out to pet him. To the surprise of both of us, he walked right up to me and crawled onto the top of my shoulder. He was so big only his arms and head could make it there, and he nuzzled himself against my face. I looked to my boyfriend, and we both had a face that said this is our cat. But we didn’t take him home that day! We came back a week later and adopted the little guy. Jackson didn’t exemplify his personality or how we saw him, and so his name became Koge (which means “burnt” in Japanese). He has a white heart shape on his belly.

Today’s recipe is inspired entirely by CCK’s Hot Chocolate Cookie recipe. While I was busy making these cookies, however…

Koge kept by me the entire time, curious as to what I was making (or doing, for that matter).

There are two versions: Dark Cranberry, and Spiced Cocoa. The differences are slight:

dark cranberry koge cookies

  • 1 cup of almond meal
  • 3 tablespoons cacao powder, carob powder, or cocoa powder
  • 3 pitted medjool dates
  • Dash of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup raw cacao nibs (or chocolate chips)
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil (solid at room temperature)

I started with a heaping cup of almonds, ground in the food processor until it became a meal. Then I added the rest of the ingredients into the food processor. Run it until all ingredients blend together well and (in some cases) a ball will form. If not, no problem.

Spoon out dough into round shapes and drop onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 355 degrees for no more than 10 minutes (9 minutes was the sweet spot for me). Let these cookies cool before eating. I promise they will be much better that way. The smell will call you, beckon you even, to take a bite. Refuse! Eating these cookies hot does them no justice :)

spiced cocoa koge cookies

  • 1 cup of almond meal
  • 3 tablespoons cacao powder, carob powder, or cocoa powder
  • 3 pitted medjool dates
  • Dash of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup raw cacao nibs (or chocolate chips)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil (solid at room temperature)

Pro tip: Refridgerate some of these puppies overnight. They make great chocolate-craving snacks straight from the fridge ;)

A Sugar-Free Sweet Tooth

What a contradiction. Oxymoron!
Call it what you will, I’ve started to rethink our relationships with food. So many stories of people losing control of their appetites, portioning, and falling victim to emotional eating.
It’s a very real issue, and it’s vital we eradicate it as soon as possible. Food is for appreciating: the Earth has gifted us with ways to sustain ourselves. May it be animal, plant or mineral. Regardless of our dietary choices, this obstacle remains present. Even in my own life, I’ve struggled with portion sizes, eating the right foods, and feeling confused about when I was full or not. After many years of trial and error, my knowledge has greatly improved my daily habits and taught me how to make better choices.

Actually making those choices, however, is another story.

The lovely Alex over at Spoonful of Sugar Free has launched another one of her Sugar-Free Challenges for 2012! Been thinking about dropping sugar too? She kicks it up a notch: no artificial sweeteners, unrefined sugars, or even stevia – my saving grace half the time. She does allow fruits in moderation. One thing I appreciate about this challenge is the support system being set in place– she has made a “checklist” available for you to use when monitoring yourself on the challenge.
Check out the main page to get the details. It begins January 1, 2012.

YUM!

Plus, with options like these I’m pretty excited to make this decision. A challenge friendly peanut butter chocolate cake – click for recipe.

Are you going to join in on the fun? Comment, share, and tweet about this challenge. Don’t forget to comment below, and let me know you’re going sugar free for a month!

What’s one thing you would miss most about going sugar free?

The Importance of Fat – An Ancestral Survival Mechanism

A fatty acid. Looks cool. :)

JinJee, the beautiful raw food blogger, recently posted her thoughts on those who refrain from consuming over a certain level of fat in their diets. “I understand that a lot of people have difficulty digesting fats and I’m sure that has something to do with damage from the SAD diet, but…after 3 months to 2 years raw…the system will be healed enough to be able to happily ingest the fats that are necessary to thrive.”
Frankly, being a person who has (quite often) struggled with maintaining an “ideal weight,” I found this a little weird. I know for a fact you have struggled with this at least once, too. How? You don’t know what’s really the truth! Check this out:

Here, my weight should go no lower than 127 and no higher than 159 — 143 is healthy.
Here, my weight should go no lower than 117 and no higher than 157. No weight is said “ideal.”
And here, my weight should be no lower than 138 and no higher than 151. Apparently, I’m underweight here.

But trust me when I say I feel like I could lose the muffin top — even at my present “ideal” weight.

Why do I mention this alongside JinJee’s fat story? Because this fear of weight, gaining or losing too much of it, directly coincides with my fear of fats. Think about it. When you tell someone you are overweight, or think you could lose a few pounds, it’s never said that way. Instead, it’s “I’m fat, I have to lose this chub, this jiggly fat!” Yet, the fats we consume are not the fats that surface underneath our skin. Most surface fats are fat cells that have expanded to make room for additional sugars in the body that are stored for later use (running a marathon, or from a mammoth for example). Basically, if you burn 1800 calories in a day, and you consume 1900 calories of sugars and carbohydrates, 100 calories of those sugars get stored in fat cells, swelling them over time. Cellulite? That’s what the swelling looks like. You can imagine those extra 20 calories from a pump of syrup at Starbucks add up quickly. If you make this trip every day, in a year you will gain over two pounds (365 x 20 = 7300 calories, 3500 calories being a pound).

Gary Taubes has many books about this phenomenon; check out his Google Authors video if you have a lunch break.

Carbohydrates are not the evil that must be avoided. They are a new food that we haven’t entirely adapted to yet in human evolution. Stephan Guyenet, Biochem graduate (from UVA, my old locale) and Neurobio Ph.D. (from my current locale, UW), wrote an intriguing article about his argument on this question: How equipped are we, on a cellular level, to consume grain?
Because this topic will be discussed in its own post later on, I will end this point with Guyenet’s statement on wheat (check this out, gluten-free’ers!): “The fact that up to 1% of people of European descent may have celiac disease attests to the fact that 7,000 years have not been enough time to fully adapt to wheat…nearly half of genetic Europeans carry genes that are associated with celiac…we haven’t been weeded out thoroughly enough to tolerate wheat, the oldest grain!”
Fats, on the other hand, are a macronutrient that our bodies are well-equipped to work with. Every single process of fat digestion exists in each person’s body. Unlike grains, which can have problematic proteins that our single-stomachs are unable to break down entirely, fats are broken down by the stomach, the liver, the pancreas, and the small intestine. The liver creates bile and the pancreas creates pancreatic lipase which obliterate the atomic structures of fats into tiny little digestible bits. The body has every tool in its biochemical tool kit to achieve energy from this macronutrient. Grains inhibit absorption and disrupt digestion with phytates, which also prevent you from using any of the additional minerals or vitamins from other foods.
As you can see, carbohydrates can cause inflammation, allergy-like symptoms, digestive upset (which can lead to weight gain or loss), and a whole slew of other symptoms the world is only beginning to discover. Fats provide you with the correct environment to absorb fat-soluble vitamins: D, E, A, K, and your essential fatty acids. Those nutrients we’re finding mass deficiencies in: how convenient.
Fats also lubricate the body: literally. Your skin, nails, and hair will have the oils whizzing through your bloodstream to soften and strengthen your collagen cells, bones, and eyes. Imagine never having dry eyes, applying lip balm, or having to use a heavy moisturizing conditioner. Consume enough healthy fats, and you will get there. JinJee offers a great paragraph or two on proper sources of fats in a raw vegan diet, or your own diet (as it fits). “The Whole Grain Scam” gives some advice on proper preparation of grains: simply soaking and sprouting them.

I would like to conclude this post by saying that everything is best left in moderation. Just like life can be too exciting, too frightening, or too frustrating at times — it is never constantly overstimulating. We elegantly navigate our lives in a state of fluidity, harmony, and balance. We reach our most elevated highs and darkest depths, always rising or falling to come back to our center. It is the journey that completes us, and defines our lives. Not one mistake, or one success. Our choices are our gifts. Choose wisely.

Would you be hesitant to eat more fat-containing food, based on your previous knowledge of it? Do you feel like no-grain diets are a fad? What does your daily diet normally consist of?

Very Muddy Buddies (Dark Chocolate Lab Chow)

Recipe name inspired by my parent’s bear-dog, Buddy!

When I visited my mother for Christmas last week in Atlanta, fun and games ensued.

We played Nuts! (One of the best card games around. And that’s coming from an Uno master!)
We went to Chick-Fil-A. Twice! (My boyfriend secretly loves it.)
We played Catch Phrase, and I got to watch my stepdad and boyfriend bond over Battlefield 3.
We also made a lot of food. I prepared CCK’s Hot Chocolate Cookies, and these grain-free, sugar-free vegan cookies. One unexpected treat we made were Muddy Buddies: sugar-free, gluten-free and vegan!

At least, mine was. ;)

If you don't mind all the sugar, house vegan made a great vegan version!

If you don’t mind all the sugar, house vegan made a great vegan version!

ingredients

  • 3 cups Corn Chex
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (JUST peanuts and salt, nothing else.)
  • 2T cacao (or carob) powder
  • 1T coconut oil
  • 8 drops liquid stevia (or 1/2tsp powdered)

First, add the peanut butter and coconut oil into a bowl. We microwaved it (time-saver) until melted. You may use the double boiler method for non-microwavers. Once the peanut butter and coconut oil are combined, stir well. Add in drops of stevia, and stir again. Now you are ready to dump in the chex, one cup at a time. Gently fold them into the mixture, stirring to ensure they are all evenly coated.
Prepare a plastic bag with 2 tablespoons of your carob or cacao powder. Pour the wet Chex into the plastic bag. Add 2 (maybe 3) more tablespoons of your chocolatey powder. Seal the bag well. Now shake! Do a dance, toss the bag around and make sure all Chex are covered and muddy.

Pour into a bowl and munch away! I love the interplay between the rich peanut butter, crispy and slightly salty corn chex with the almost fudgey texture from the chocolatey flavor. MMMM!

Side note: This Dark Chocolate Lab Chow is very muddy. It will stick to your fingers, and you are totally allowed to lick it off for more chocolate amazing-ness! However, I know that without a barrier, it can be a pain to have all that coming off of the chex. I wanted to try taking some unsweetened flaked coconut, blending it into a powder, and using that as my replacement for powdered sugar. (The original Muddy Buddy recipe, although terrible for you, has that characteristic white covering.) For now, that will be a future endeavor. If you decide to try it– let me know! :)

What is one recipe you can’t live without modifying? Are there any decadent treats you will never eat fat-free, vegan, ect.?
For me, I think it is a love-hate battle with peanut butter. I can’t modify a good vegan peanut butter ball cookie, or a peanut butter buckeye. It’s just wrong. I have grown a liking for PB2, which isn’t as bad as everyone says it is. I just don’t know.. nothing beats fresh peanut butter.

Spiced Tonka Bean Lip Balm

Who remembers Bonne Bell? This company created one of the most recognizable (99% nasal recognition) staples of my innocent, flavor-trading childhood: Lip Smackers.
i always traded for root beer.Every flavor that a little girl (or boy! Don’t worry, I don’t discriminate) could dream of was likely tested in BB’s secret laboratories. I remember waiting to see what new flavors would make their great debut at target. The more interesting the flavor, the more I had to have it. I mean, you had to look cool at recess and have the best hand to trade in, ya know?

Of course, being a child means that you don’t necessarily take the time to comprehend how such a great flavor got there in the first place. How do they make that wad of smooth wax smell just like a yellow skittle? And why the heck did they create a whole flavor just for the little yellow skittle?

You ever heard of cetyl acetate? Maybe? What about polybutene? No? Possibly you’ve heard of ozokerite? Not necessarily? Okay, okay, surely you can manage to somewhat understand what acetylated lanolin alcohol is.
All of these things are in lip smackers.

You ingest your lip gloss/stick/balm/butter. Doing this little bit of research has led me to believe that not everything is best left unnoticed. do they really need to add these things in? I believe the answer to that question, naturally, is no.
So, for this post I had intended to create some lip balms to give out as cutesy christmas gifts.
Iordered some recyclable lip balm tubes (from a very nice seller who gave me 11 instead of 10) and decided,
“Hey! I’m going to be awesome and show the world you don’t need all those fillers to moisturize your lips!” Not only that, but,
“My version will do a whole number on those store-bought brands.”
What I didn’t expect, however, was the savings in my wallet. That was a nice surprise: a very, very nice surprise.
The entire cost of materials I didn’t have on hand was 26.00
This included the recyclable lip balm tubes, soy wax, and shea butter: the main ingredients.
The recipe also calls for whichever essential oils you’d like to create your scent, and one 2oz bottle will typically flavor about 70 of those lip balm tubes (give or take 5 tubes).
Today, I made a small batch of this lip moisturizer. Eagerly awaiting their fill, my 11 lip balm tubes stood on the counter. I figured I would not fill them all, as the liquid seemed less than expected.
I ended up filling a small shot glass and an old lip balm container as well, with some left over material. So this recipe can easily make 15+ tubes. The shea butter and soy wax barely noticed they were used, and will create more than 8 more batches on their own.
So, roughly, one batch of 15 tubes of lip balm (including essential oil) is going to cost you: 3.88
Per lip balm tube: .26
Need I say more?

the ingredients

  • 2 ounces soy wax
  • 2 ounces shea butter
  • 6 drops essential oil (per each flavor) – I chose tonka bean & nutmeg

First, prepare your super fancy, top-of-the-line double boiler. In my case, it was a pan filled about 2 inches high with water, and a glass measure (with a spout!) sitting on the pan.
As the heat increases in the water, it will gradually warm and melt the wax and butter until it becomes a liquid. Stir to combine. It took about 15 minutes for my mixture to melt entirely.
At this point, take the measure off the pan and add the essential oil. Always add the oil last: it can evaporate from the heat! Pour your mixture into whichever containers it will be stored in. After about a half hour, it will harden: three hours later it is ready for gift-giving!


I can’t wait to give these on Christmas!