Tag: holistic medicine

Finding Balance

Balance is such a tricky thing. On the one hand, it’s very straightforward. Take a balance scale for example. To achieve a balanced scale two items of equal mass are required. Add or take away from either mass and an immediate unbalancing occurs. Life, however, isn’t so simple. The scale is much larger, the additions and subtractions more subtle, the concept of balance itself much more elusive.

That being said, as I enter my 24th year, I have never been more aware of my own need and desire for balance. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, the last two years of my life have been focused on almost nothing but. My healing journey has been largely a quest to find and maintain balance… physically, mentally and emotionally. It’s not been easy and I’m far from there but I am becoming more aware. For me, that’s a major step.

As I write this I’m simultaneously pondering on the irony. While I’m more aware of what balance means to me (if you haven’t already, defining that for yourself is a good starting point), I’m also just as aware of how far I am from achieving it.

I’m in a season of change, of transition. I’m hustling to juggle two jobs whose lines between part time and full time have become blurred (I’m so grateful for them both). While those jobs are taking up a majority of my time, I still have my horse and other animals that require daily care. I’m doing my best to maintain two blogs while also trying to squeeze in extracurricular learning and activities to get the most out of my work experiences. And amid all of the other normal day to day tasks required of us all, I badly want to re-incorporate a yoga practice but have yet to figure out how… or when.

I’m trying to give myself some room to breathe and unwind each day because I’m finding more often than not, I need that, especially at the end of a long day. I’ve been asking a lot of a body that I’ve been incredibly careful with for two years now and while the reminders are there, it’s responded to my requests better than I could have hoped. I am aware however that what you withdraw, at some point, you must put back in. I’ve learned that, if nothing else. Honestly, it’s been a bit overwhelming but in the best way possible. Perhaps you can relate.

There are lots of people (you are likely one of them) that have just as much if not way more on their plates than I do. For me, learning how to fit all of the puzzle pieces together is a challenge but one that I welcome with open arms. During these transitions in life, I think we need to allow ourselves the space and grace to readjust. How often are we our own toughest taskmaster? Breathe and just flow with it for a while.

A calm has been washing over me when it starts to pile up because I know that I’ll figure it out. I know I’ll find the balance that I’m looking for. Whether in the form of a daily cup of tea, a chapter in a book that’s purely pleasure, or a few minutes in the morning devoted to some stretching and meditation, the opportunities are there for the taking. I guess my hope is that if nothing else, this will remind you to look for those opportunities too but also give yourself the time you need to find them.

How do you find balance?

My Year in Review

As I sit here writing this on the first day of January, 2019 (*cough*… procrastinator… but I have been busy) I’m reflecting on the year that’s passed and the one that’s now upon us. I’m thinking about the places I’ve been blessed enough to travel to, the experiences I’ve had and the beautiful people I have met. And WOW… what a year it has been.

On the health front, more progress was made.

  • I began 2017 with a diagnosis of Adrenal Fatigue and an almost daily battle to just “get through”… to get through the grocery store, the trip to the barn, the anxiety, the day in general. I started a new supplement regime aimed at improving gut health, sleep and energy in appropriate proportions, upped my self-care game on the physical, mental and emotional front and began to heal. Over the last month I retested and learned that my adrenals have significantly improved from one year ago. A welcome surprise and wonderful confirmation that the work I’ve put in over the last year is paying off.

This year I had many different opportunities to travel.

  • In March, I spent a week in Georgia visiting my parents and siblings and I flew down again over Thanksgiving to spend the holiday with them.
  • In May, I traveled to the Maryland / Washington DC area for a business event combined with an afternoon of sightseeing and then went on to New York City to deliver an Equicizer to the personal assistant of Bernadette Peters, who, at the time, was starring in the Broadway show, Hello Dolly. While in New York I got to attend a performance of Hello Dolly, my first Broadway show, and afterwards had the opportunity to tour backstage.
  • As my health improved with the weather, my love of traveling became a desire to do and see even more. I applied for a passport and planned a trip to a place that has been romanticized in my mind since I was a little girl… Prince Edward Island which is situated off of the coast of New Brunswick in Canada. I drove myself 21 1/2 hours, stopping halfway to spend a few days with my family in Massachusetts where we took a day trip up to Boston before I continued on my way.
  • I spent five and a half weeks on Prince Edward Island, traveling the island and exploring it’s beautiful coastline. I even got the chance to spend a day in Nova Scotia driving around the gorgeous countryside. I tried my hand at waitressing and realized I wasn’t half bad. Ultimately, PEI was everything I had dreamed it would be and it allowed me to grow and expand as a person.
  • I took three trips home to Michigan this year. One in the springtime to visit my grandparents, another in the fall where my siblings and I made great memories camping among the sand dunes off of Lake Michigan on the western side of the state (I wonder how often we forget to appreciate the beauty in our own “backyards”?) and a third over Christmas to spend the week with my family.

I had a few personal milestones as well.

  • In July I decided to finally bite the bullet and start that blog that I had been sitting on for a solid year. I wanted a creative space that was my own where I could share what I’ve learned on my journey with others who might be struggling to find their own way through. Which brings me to thank YOU. I hope you know how much I appreciate your support and I look forward to this next year together.
  • This fall I started working on developing healthy recipes for myself and others, which also opened the door for me to work on my photography, a budding passion. In the process, I started to fall in love with real wholesome, nutritious food.
  • I was also able to dabble in the rescue work I love so dearly (aka re-affirmed my title as the crazy cat lady) with the rescue and re-homing of a couple of feral kittens. Then Archie came into my life. My miracle kitten. He’s been a joy and a testament to what a relentless spirit and some TLC can do.

Finally, I made some rather big decisions concerning my future.

  • As we entered fall, I began researching culinary schools and I discovered the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City. I became fascinated with their commitment to health supportive cooking. I took a trip back to Massachusetts to visit family and while there I took a day trip to Manhattan to tour the school and speak with the Director of Admissions. That trip cemented my desire to attend. Once they release their starting dates for this year, I’ll be applying to their 11 1/2 month fall training program.
  • In December I began to look for a part time job to save up for culinary school and stumbled upon the Culinary Vegetable Institute at The Chef’s Garden in Milan, Ohio. I interviewed for a position as a dishwasher and I’ve been accepted with open arms into a loving new community. I end 2018 blessed with two jobs that I love and a family of friends that continues to grow.

​~~~~~~~~~

​When I look back on this year it feels like three condensed into one. Until I stopped to really think about it, I didn’t realize how much I actually got done, how many places I traveled to, and the countless ways I’ve grown as a human being. Of course there were plenty of mistakes and tears along the way but that’s just life. I try to focus on the positive.

2018 was a great year for me. This post allowed me to reflect back on the many adventures and experiences it brought but there is one more point I want to make. Not every year will look this. And you know what? That’s okay. You might have had a stellar year or to the contrary, perhaps it didn’t go quite as planned. Maybe you didn’t get that job and the trip you hoped to take just didn’t come to fruition. Such is life.

By most accounts, 2017 wasn’t my best year. I was virtually forced to put everything on hold as my health finally screamed loud enough to grab my full attention and I decided early on that accepting the cards I had been dealt was the only way through it. It was a process. It was tough. I struggled and I still do. I wondered why and particularly why me but I didn’t give up and in retrospect, I can see now what I couldn’t always in the moment. My struggles strengthened me in ways I’m still not fully aware of and directed my path towards the passions I’m now consumed with. What a blessing 2017 was.

I find it helpful to think of life in terms of growth spurts. Some years you are going to have big, life changing events and opportunities that allow for growth that is obvious to anyone paying attention. Other years will pass more quietly but don’t underestimate the small, subtle growth that is still occurring, even if you’re the only one that can recognize it in the moment.

Gluten Free – by choice?

I do not have Celiac Disease. I won’t even go so far as to say I’m gluten intolerant. I personally know people who have tested negative for Celiac yet a gluten filled meal will send them running for the bathroom or leave them plagued by various symptoms. They might still indulge from time to time but they know the consequences. Thankfully, I have never experienced a reaction that extreme. For me, it’s more subtle and eating gluten free is a voluntary choice.

Last year’s birthday pancakes made from a gluten free mix.

The question of Celiac inevitably comes up, most often by inquiring friends or waitresses when I venture out. My response in the negative is usually followed by a somewhat quizzical look until I explain that I’ve had some health issues and I just feel better when I don’t eat gluten. I make a conscious effort to surround myself with people who respect my choices even if they may not fully understand them and I’ve been fortunate that my family and close friends have automatically fallen into that category.

I don’t make a big deal out of my dietary choices, in fact, my instinct is to stay as far under the radar as possible with things like that. I’ve never been one that likes to draw attention to myself and declining a piece of pizza is definitely attention grabbing. It’s something I’ve had to work on. You playing small does not help anyone. It prevents you from bringing awareness to areas that need it and potentially helping others who might be in the same boat as you.

I still get uncomfortable from time to time talking about my health issues and my food choices. Many people just don’t understand. Judgement has always been a fear for me but one I’ve made great strides towards overcoming and continue to work on. My blog has created a platform that has allowed me to be more honest and more authentic, with others and with myself.

I stopped eating gluten around April of 2017. Both the D.O. I was seeing at the time as well as my naturopath later on, encouraged it. I was experiencing a lot of nausea and stomach trouble and through my research had learned about gluten and at the minimum, the distress it can cause in your gut. Within days of completely eliminating gluten from my diet, my bloating decreased and my stomach issues improved significantly. Coincidence? Maybe. Worth steering clear of most things gluten? For me? Absolutely.

Before we go any further, let’s break it down…

What is gluten? Taken from the Celiac Disease Foundation, simply put, “Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat… Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together.” Wheat, barley and rye are the three main gluten containing grains. Non-gluten containing grains include amaranth, buckwheat, rice (brown, white, wild), millet, quinoa, sorghum and teff.

What foods contain gluten?  – Some common foods that typically contain gluten include pastas, breads, baked goods & desserts, cereals and sauces. Foods that you might not realize contain gluten but likely do include snack bars, chips, bouillon cubes, salad dressings, chili packets & other seasonings, soy sauce and more. Basically, if it’s pre-packaged, you need to check the ingredients. I was blown away with the amount of food stuff that contains gluten. Foods aren’t the only gluten containing items, many beauty products also contain gluten.

Is gluten bad for you? – I don’t think gluten is inherently bad. Our ancestors ate gluten containing grains for centuries but modern technology and farming techniques have ensured that the grains they ate were vastly different from the grains we eat today. This is a great article that goes more in depth.

Like with anything, too much of a good thing can turn bad. Unfortunately, gluten is now added to almost everything we eat and our bodies are on overload. Because gluten containing foods can be hard to digest, it’s often recommended that those with autoimmune conditions, especially conditions such as leaky gut, IBS, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohns, etc. remove gluten from their diet, at least temporarily.

Symptoms of Gluten Sensitivity – There are a wide range of symptoms that can range from stomach issues, nausea, gas, bloating and vomiting to headaches, fatigue, brain fog and joint pain. If you want to learn more, I encourage you to do a quick Google search.

Some additional things to keep in mind:

– Eating gluten free has become so much easier. There are whole sections in the grocery store dedicated to gluten free food stuff, but don’t be fooled. Many gluten free products contain ingredient lists that are ridiculously long and very unhealthy. Aside from gluten free pastas, soy sauce and seasonings, and along with the occasional loaf of gluten free bread, I steer mostly clear of gluten free touting products. I aim for fresh, whole foods instead.

The best salad I’ve ever eaten – spring 2018, Washington DC. Who said gluten free or “healthy” for that matter has to taste bad?!

– Many people think eating out gluten free is difficult and it can be, at first. Once you learn a few tricks of the trade, eating out gluten free will be a breeze. Many restaurants now include gluten free sections or alternatives in their menu. I live in a pretty small town in north central Ohio where gluten free eating is not common. I have not been to a restaurant yet where I can not find something to eat. You might have to modify the menu a little bit (burger with no bun, salad without croutons, an entree with no sauce, etc.) but once you explain your situation, I’ve found most restaurants are very accommodating.

– An at home elimination diet (removing all gluten from your diet for, say, 2 weeks) is a cost effective first step and can be extremely insightful. If you think you may have a gluten intolerance/sensitivity or even Celiac disease and want additional resources and help, talk to you doctor. If they don’t listen, find someone that will.

– I want to add one last point. Aside from gluten, I’ve also removed almost all refined sugar but I think it’s important to emphasize that I don’t view the way I eat as a restrictive diet, I view it as a choice. While I choose to eat gluten free a majority of the time, I will indulge in the occasional gluten containing meal under special circumstances. This might be during a period of travel where an opportunity presents itself to try something that is not readily available back home (such as Maryland crab crakes!). Aside from those occasions, I prefer to eat without.

Those with severe gluten intolerance or Celiac have to eat gluten free. I don’t claim to fall into either of those categories. I eat gluten free most of the time because my body simply feels better without it. Everything in moderation. I enjoy myself and I enjoy my life. For me, as I’ve said before, it’s all about the balance.

More soon on the subject of “labeling” yourself and why that can be a slippery slope. It’s something I’m working to change in my own life and I look forward to sharing more thoughts on it soon. In the mean time, look out for a fun blog in 2 weeks with a gift idea that just might be the perfect fit for those special people on your holiday shopping list! 

Pause and Reflection

I was scrolling through social media this past weekend when a friends post caught my eye. I quickly skimmed over it and kept scrolling. Then I stopped and back tracked. Wow, I thought… I can really relate to this. In a social media crazed world where it seems everyone but you is hitting that next “PR” I loved the reminder this simple message offered.

We’re constantly being faced with all of the things we aren’t doing (good enough, fast enough, “enough enough”) and this message was one to the contrary. It offered an opportunity for REFLECTION. That’s an opportunity that I don’t make time for often enough. When I find myself unhappy or getting too caught up in the hustle of life I try to stop myself and focus my attention to a couple of key areas that for me, either inhibit or encourage the moments of positive reflection that we all need:

SELF TALK – I’ll be the first to admit, I’m extremely hard on myself. I always have been and I probably always will be. I know there are many of you reading who can relate. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. My own internal “tough talk” has gotten me through many different situations in life, pushed me to reach goals I may not have otherwise reached and made me a better person for it. However, when that internal talk is nothing but “tough” it takes a toll, whether you’re conscious of it or not.

PERSONAL TIMELINES – I have a very forward thinking mind. When I was 13, I had the next decade planned out. How did that go? Ha, unsurprisingly, not exactly as planned… and thank goodness. How could I have possibly known what would make me happy now at that age? I’m not saying some don’t, but I sure didn’t… no matter how confident I was that I did.

Do I still try to nail down the details of everything I do ridiculously far in advance? Yeah, pretty consistently. I’m constantly thinking and planning ahead. But I do so with an acquired awareness that things may not go as planned and that’s ok. It has to be.

Goals will change as they often do. Thinking ahead is a wonderful habit to form but if you’re not careful, on your quest to be the next “best” you’ll forget to pause and appreciate the NOW. The now is all we really have, that’s where life is actually happening.

AWARENESS – When’s the last time you stopped and looked around? How many times do you walk into a place you’ve been countless times and notice something for the very first? Stop and think about that. Awareness can come in many forms. Dealing with health issues has increased my awareness exponentially… especially on an internal level. That can be a good thing or that can be a bad thing, depending on how you allow it to take hold. The combination of being a woman and living/traveling on my own has increased my awareness of my surroundings. Having children and pets increases awareness in yet another way.

Awareness can paralyze you or it can open you up to the world outside. The choice is yours. If you allow yourself to grow from it, then the more aware you are the more prepared you’ll be to recognize the small victories and appreciate them for what they truly are – not in comparison to everyone else – but in respect to the work it took to reach them and how far you have come. Outside recognition is always nice but not all victories are met with cheers and accolades and not all need to be. The personal ones are often the most meaningful.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

It hits me at random times. It could be a song, a smell, a place… I’ll stop and I’ll look around or I’ll pause and I’ll reflect. Old memories, old friends, old goals and dreams will flood in. In those moments I think back to the me of “yesterday”… the me of last month, last year and beyond. I smile and continue on. I am a better person for all that I’ve been through. I’ve grown in so many ways as a daughter, a sister, a friend, a human being.

Take a pause… stop what you’re doing and reflect a moment. Acknowledge the path you’ve tread and the miles you’ve navigated. Allow yourself a moment of peace and appreciation. You’ve come far my friend. Continue on.

 

My Chocolate Addiction

I’m a chocolate girl through and through. In my family, a dessert isn’t a dessert unless it incorporates some aspect of chocolate. I have learned to appreciate fruity pies and other things but when someone says “dessert” my mind automatically conjures up a piece of chocolate cake. Cheesecake. Chocolate cheesecake… if beggars can be choosers.

Growing up, my grandma would hand make beautiful themed cakes for all of the grand kids birthdays (there’s 12 of us). While she’d always incorporate some other flavor into a small section of her elaborate creations for those poor souls who didn’t know the joy of growing up in a chocolate addicted family, when it came to choosing a flavor for the bulk of the cake no questions were asked. It was going to be chocolate. Those cakes remain one of my dearest childhood memories.

When I cut out sugar 14 months ago and a few months later decided to continue with a diet that excluded refined sugar, I quickly realized I would need to get creative. We’re talking crisis mode. Chocolate and sugar often go hand in hand. You’re going to be hard pressed to find chocolate based desserts or even chocolate bars that do not contain added refined sugars unless you make your own. So what was a girl to do? Google! There are tons of recipes online that use refined sugar alternatives and having baked my entire life, a made from scratch solution was just what I was looking for. I was determined to find the perfect recipe before my birthday arrived.

That’s when I discovered Chocolate Covered Katie. She has created an extremely popular healthy baking blog. After a quick glance at her website I knew I had found my girl. Katie’s recipes include healthier alternatives to many of your standard baking ingredients, such as refined sugar. It did not take me long to settle on her Refined Sugar Free Chocolate Cake which features both gluten free and vegan options. I’ve made this cake 3 times now.

Once of the things I love about Katie’s recipes, is that she makes them as customizable as possible. In place of cows milk, I’ve used almond and coconut milk in the past and I opt for coconut oil and a gluten free flour blend. I also use equal parts Hershey’s Natural Unsweetened Cocoa and Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa for a richer chocolate taste.

My taste buds have changed over the last year with the reduction in my sugar consumption and I’ve found that the called for 1/2 cup of maple syrup makes the cake too sweet for me. I reduce it slightly to between 1/4 – 1/2 cup (depending on who will be joining me in consuming… I’m unashamed to admit that I have eaten the entire cake by myself… not in one sitting of course!). I usually double the recipe using (2) 8′ round baking pans and I also add in 1/2 cup dark chocolate baking chunks per layer (so a full cup when doubling the recipe). That’s probably not necessary but again, I love chocolate and, why not?

Katie has many frosting recipes and glazes on her website as well but when I originally made her cake recipe I did not have the correct ingredients for the frosting recipe I had selected, so I found and have continued to use this 5 Minute Vegan Chocolate Frosting instead. I’d love to find a delicious refined sugar free peanut butter frosting recipe. Katie has a slew of them on her website. Mmmmm… that would be a winning combo right there.

When I don’t want an entire cake taunting me from the kitchen, I opt for a single square from chocolate bars that are comprised of at least 88% dark chocolate to cure my cravings. These bars generally have 6 grams of sugar or less per serving. A serving is usually half of the bar. The bars are often broken down into 12 squares so when you reduce the serving size down to 1 square per serving, that’s less than 1 gram of sugar! Not bad and just enough chocolate to give me the fix I’m looking for. Here is one of my favorites. This is another. What’s your “go-to” chocolate?

Healing Starts at Home

We’re surrounded by it. The commercials, the magazines, the relentless ads featuring cure all solutions for every condition under the sun. Often times it involves purchasing one or more products, a slew of supplements or subscribing to some bundle of promises neatly packaged. A healthy person may not give these advertisements a second thought. Some of them even come across as obviously scammy in nature. Under normal circumstances, they might not have drawn your attention either. But when you’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, you notice.

If you go so far as to dig deeper into these products you’ll likely find avid supporters who swear by them, say the products pushed them over the hump on their path towards healing and they will never purchase from anywhere else. Then you’ll find customers who will never touch the same product again. Your mind will acknowledge the latter but it’ll keep coming back to the former…what if this is the answer I’ve been searching for… what if…

While there’s nothing wrong with investing into health products or supplements (I take a handful myself and they’ve been instrumental on my own journey), these items do add up and it does get expensive. Then it becomes stressful. I think that sometimes we get so wrapped up in finding “the one solution” – the “answer to our prayers” – that we overlook the place where true healing starts: at home.

Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating right? Are you consuming mostly unprocessed foods? Are you spending some time outside under the sun each day? Are you meditating? Are you taking time out of your week for some form of yoga or exercise? Are you on good terms with your family, your friends and your coworkers?

I encourage you to create your own checklist and once you have it, quiz yourself on a regular basis. If you find that your daily life is not serving your physical or mental health, then you can take all of the supplements and follow all of the advice that you can get your hands on and you’ll never receive the full benefits. They might help you for a while but sooner or later your body and your mind will rebel. And the climb out will be longer and harder than it was before. This is the truth.

It’s hard, I get it. But no matter what I try, I always come back to the basics… personally, I feel better when I’m in bed by 10pm. I don’t know why that’s such a struggle for me but it is. I love dairy – especially cheese – but I know my body does better without it (all things in moderation). Even though I have to force myself outside on some days, I always, almost immediately, feel better for having done it. Strenuous exercise just isn’t in the cards for me right now but yoga… that I love and that I can do. And as a highly empathetic person, I feel everything… I do my best to pick my spots and pick my people because I know if I put too much on my plate or associate with negative nelly’s, the weight of those things is immobilizing and I’ll be no good to anyone, myself included.

Be gentle with yourself and be kind. But don’t forget to also be honest. If you’re at square one right now, I feel you. I really do. Take a deep breathe and find one thing – just one – that you know has a positive impact on your health (physical or mental) that you can implement immediately. It could be a 15 minute walk during lunch to clear your head and get some fresh air or maybe exchanging the drive thru for a more nourishing lunch that in reality, only takes a quick trip to the store and a couple of minutes each night to put together.

Start there and build… slowly, gradually, setting yourself up for success. Once you’ve done all that you can, add in those supplements for support and research those products you’ve heard so much about if you believe they might really help you. But don’t overlook the healing that starts at home, for that’s where the true healing begins.

Quinoa and Sausage Stuffed Portobellos

I was at the grocery store not long ago, in the vegetable section, selecting some mushrooms to use in dinners for the upcoming week. Sitting right next to the containers of whole and pre-sliced button mushrooms were these beautiful Portobellos and right next to those were some smaller, stuffed mushrooms. They caught my attention but as I bent over to grab some I hesitated. Honestly, they didn’t look all that appetizing in their commercially prepared form but I loved the concept! Generally, when given the option, I prefer to eat things as unprocessed as possible so I thought, why not make my own?

 

I love mushrooms but truth be told, the big Portobellos can be a bit intimidating… at least, they’ve always seemed that way to me. I was quite happy to discover that they’re very easy to work with. If you don’t like mushrooms to begin with, you may not be a fan no matter the size but those of you that do, whether you’ve worked with Portobellos before or not, will love this recipe. Not only are my Quinoa and Sausage Stuffed Portobellos super tasty, they make wonderful leftovers as well.

 

 

I realize sausage is not exactly a “health food” but you can easily substitute ground beef, ground turkey or even more vegetables in place of the ground sausage to opt for a more heart healthy version. I decided to stick with the sausage in my recipe because it’s so flavorful and alleviates any need to add additional seasoning, which may be a factor if you don’t have a lot of extra time.

 

Quinoa is another main competent of this dish and for those not familiar, quinoa is not only high in protein, it contains all nine essential amino acids! One of the few foods that can boast that fact. (What are amino acids? Great question! This article breaks it down in a detailed way that is very easy to understand.) I’m still at the experimental stage with quinoa. On it’s own it can be a bit plain and tasteless but combined with other things? It blends very well, adds a cool texture to the dish and is packed with nutrients, which is why I opted to use it in this recipe.

If you’ve never cooked Portobellos before and haven’t tried quinoa, consider today’s recipe a challenge and a stepping stone! I’m constantly trying to bridge the gap between what I know I’m capable of and the potential that’s just waiting to be tapped into. Cooking is a great way to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Most of the time you’ll be rewarded in the tastiest of ways and you’ll have fun doing it!

Have you made one of my recipes? I’d love to see your pictures!! Use hashtag #IncrediblyYou, tag me on social media (kayla_jarvinen / Instagram or Kayla Jarvinen / Facebook) or send me an email with a photo of your finished product! I’d be honored to get your feedback and I’d love to see your beautiful creations <3 

Quinoa and Sausage Stuffed Portobellos
Prep Time
25 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
55 mins
 

Gluten Free / Dairy Free / Refined Sugar Free 

Course: Main Course
Servings: 6
Calories: 333 kcal
Author: Kayla Marie
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup Red Quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium Onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 medium Zucchini, cubed
  • 7 bunches Broccoli Florets, chopped
  • 2 tbsp Ghee (or your cooking butter/oil of choice)
  • 1 lb Ground Sausage
  • 6 large Portobello Mushrooms
  • 1 jar Ragu Simply Marinara
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil. 

  2. Add rinsed quinoa, cover and reduce to a simmer until all water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

  3. While the quinoa cooks, cut up your garlic, onion, zucchini and broccoli. 

  4. Heat 1 tbsp. ghee (or your cooking butter/oil of choice) in a large skillet on medium heat.

  5. Add your chopped garlic and onion to the skillet and brown.

  6. Once your garlic and onion are browned, add in your chopped zucchini and broccoli.

  7. While your vegetables are browning, prepare your portobello mushrooms. Cut off the stems and if desired, chop them up and toss inside pan with other vegetables. Scoop out gills with a spoon and discard. 

  8. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  9. Push veggies to the side of the pan and add 1lb ground sausage. 

  10. Cook meat thoroughly, breaking up big chunks with a wooden spoon as it browns.

  11. Once meat is brown, remove from heat and add cooked quinoa to pan. Combine the veggies, browned meat and cooked quinoa.

  12. Spread a thin layer of the mixture onto the bottom of a 13 x 9 non stick baking dish. 

  13. Brush the outside of the portobello mushrooms with 1 tbsp ghee (or your cooking butter/oil of choice) and place inside the baking dish.

  14. Fill mushroom caps with remaining mixture.

  15. Top with desired amount of marinara sauce.

  16. Bake for 30 minutes until mushrooms caps are thoroughly cooked.

  17. Plate and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

-1 clove of garlic is equivalent to approximately 1 tsp bottled minced garlic

-I only used 4 Portobello Mushrooms when I made this recipe. There was a significant amount of stuffing left over, which I spread along the bottom of the baking dish. If using 6 Portobello Mushrooms like I recommend, you will have enough leftover stuffing to lightly layer the bottom of the baking dish but stuffing ingredients can be increased if more leftover stuffing is desired.

-If you don't have a large enough skillet or pan, you can cook the meat in a separate skillet and combine with the veggies and quinoa at the end.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

I love hummus. Love to the point that while I’m a total rule abiding date checker with most food items, I refuse to let a single drop of those container’s delectable contents go to waste (and at an average price of $5-$6 per container, really, who can afford to??). Hummus goes great with so many things. And it’s such a versatile snack.

I’ll even use hummus in place of salad dressings on my sandwiches or as a spread atop burgers. It’s also a handy sidekick when you’re trying to get more veggies in at snack time. A tablespoon of creamy hummus can transform any carrot stick, cucumber slice or pepper wedge like you wouldn’t believe… I’m not fooling anyone am I? Alright, well I suppose it’s helpful to like veggies to begin with. Corn chips and pita bread are two more standard hummus go-to’s.

Then we have all of the flavors hummus boasts – Roasted Garlic, Sun Dried Tomato, Mediterranean style, and of course, good old Classic. I even came across *gasp* AVOCADO hummus. Two of my favorite foods combined into one. You bet I’m going to try that one out. The list just keeps on going. There’s a flavor for just about everyone. One of my personal favorites is Roasted Red Pepper and, interested in learning how to make it myself, I set out to create my own hummus recipe.

When I began experimenting with hummus recipes this past spring, one thing I was surprised to learn was how easy it was to make hummus. To my relief, the ingredients were very easy to find. All the die-hard hummus makers are laughing at me now. But seriously, one of my pet peeves with healthy recipes is the amount of strange ingredients you come across that you either can’t find or will likely never use again and I just assumed hummus would be one of those recipes.

It’s not. And a lot of it comes down to personal taste preference. Aside from the Tahini (Sesame Seed Paste), an ingredient you may or may not be familiar with – which, by the way, is worth a Google to learn about the medley of other things it’s awesome with – hummus is very straightforward and the ingredients are easy to find.

The best part? Once you have the ingredients for your favorite hummus recipe, you are all set! Most hummus recipes have a similar base with an assortment of spices in varying amounts and many of those ingredients will last you a long time. If you want to change things up, you can easily experiment and switch up the flavor combo with a couple of tweaks or substitutions.

Aside from the yummy flavors and wide variety of snacks that can go along with hummus, it makes a wonderful side dish for a multitude of occasions, from a delicious after school snack for the kiddos to the perfect center piece for an appetizer party platter. Football season has just gotten underway here in the states and while I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a huge sports fan, I am a huge food fan and I’m looking forward to putting together another platter like the one pictured above, to share with some friends this coming weekend.

With that, I hope you enjoy my Roasted Red Pepper Hummus as much as I do!

What’s your favorite hummus recipe? Have you tried mine? I’d love to see your pictures!!! Use hashtag #IncrediblyYou, tag me on social media (kayla_jarvinen / Instagram or Kayla Jarvinen / Facebook) or send me an email with a photo of your finished product! I’d be honored to get your feedback and I’d love to see your beautiful creations <3 

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
Prep Time
10 mins
 

Gluten Free / Dairy Free / Vegan

Course: Side Dish, Snack
Servings: 6
Calories: 54 kcal
Author: Kayla Marie
Ingredients
  • 1 15oz Can Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans), drained, liquid reserved
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. Chickpea Juice
  • 3 tbsp. Tahini (Sesame Seed Paste)
  • 1 medium Lemon, freshly squeezed
  • 1 medium Clove Garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup Sweet Roasted Peppers, diced
  • 3/4 tsp. Cumin
  • 3/4 tsp. Paprika
  • 1/2-1 tsp. Salt
Garnishes (optional)
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic, minced
  • Sweet Roasted Peppers, diced
Instructions
  1. Drain chickpeas into a bowl, save and set aside drained liquid.

  2. Rinse chickpeas and remove skins, if desired.

  3. Add chickpeas, 1/4 cup chickpea juice, tahini, lemon juice and garlic to a food processor.

  4. Process on high until well blended. 

  5. Scrape the sides of the food processor and add the sweet roasted peppers, cumin, paprika and salt.

  6. Process on high until creamy. If more liquid is needed, add remaining 2 tbsp. chickpea liquid and process until incorporated.

  7. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish as desired with olive oil, garlic and diced sweet roasted peppers.

  8. Refrigerate until chilled and serve.

Recipe Notes

-If you're feeling ambitious, dried chickpeas can also be used. 

-While I did not do so, many people take a few extra minutes to remove the skins from the chickpeas to make a creamier hummus. If you peel your chickpeas, less liquid may be required. For more information, here is a great article with some tips for peeling chickpeas!

-1 medium lemon is the equivalent to approximately 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice.

-1 clove of garlic is equivalent to approximately 1 tsp bottled minced garlic.

 

 

Peanut Butter Banana Protein Smoothie Bowl

I’m SO excited to be at the point where I can finally start sharing recipes with you all!! When I first began seriously considering starting a blog I knew that no matter what, I wanted there to be a recipe section. Growing up I was an avid baker thanks in large part to the influence of my grandma’s, both of whom I spent many hours with in the kitchen whipping up delicious desserts. By the time I was diagnosed with mono I was struggling to gather the energy to simply shower, let alone spend any quality time in the kitchen and when I began experimenting with my diet not long after, finding things to bake that contained ingredients I could eat became a real challenge.

I did get back in the kitchen and I did eventually discover a whole world of really yummy gluten / sugar free desserts (some of which I’ll be sharing with you) but as I cleaned up my diet and discovered the power of real, nourishing foods, I was surprised at the amount of satisfaction I found in preparing them. I fell in love with the art of cooking. Baking is, in many ways, an exact science and while it will always be one of my first loves, in cooking I found the freedom to create.

I launched Incredibly You during my trip to Canada over the summer and due to time constraints and other things, I just wasn’t able to put the prep time and thought into properly launching the recipe section of my website. BUT I did have plenty of time to come up with lots of fun recipes ideas I’m now beginning to work on!!

It didn’t take long to decide what recipe to post first. It was a no brainer really. Every morning I start my day off with a protein shake. I LOVE protein shakes for so many reasons, the top 3 being:

1. They’re filling! and with a balanced combo of protein/fat/carbs, they carry me through the morning until lunch time without the urge to snack.

2. They’re quick and easy to make on the go.

3. They’re the perfect base for a smoothie bowl and SO MUCH FUN to customize!

I used Vivo Life Perform Protein Powder in today’s recipe but any protein powder and flavor will do. That’s totally up to you! Another reason I love this recipe is because I hate unnecessary messes and having to lug out my big old blender for single serving endeavors. If you have a magic bullet or something equivalent, that will do the job just fine!

If you like a thicker base or are looking for a more calorie dense meal replacement or snack option, a whole banana can be used and half of an avocado can be added. Avocado is a great way to up your healthy fats and it takes the delicious creamy factor of the base to another level. (Keep in mind you might need to increase your liquid content if you make these additions.)

Tip: When bananas have reached my desired level of ripeness (I don’t like them mushy!) I cut them into chunks and freeze them for my protein shakes and smoothies. I find this also reduces the amount of ice that is needed. Fresh banana can be used, but you may find more ice is necessary.

I’m sure you’ve heard the often repeated mantra that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Whoa, whoa, whoa. I can already hear my no breakfasters groaning 😉 Today’s recipe can be used in a variety of ways. If you’re like me and wake up starving, it’s a great way to begin your day. If you’re not, that’s ok too. It also makes a wonderful pre/post workout snack or (again, if you’re like me) a “just because you need a snack” snack. It’s highly customizable and can easily be used as a meal replacement if desired. For all of my fellow peanut butter / banana addicts, this one’s for you!

Have you made one of my recipes? I’d love to see your pictures!! Use hashtag #IncrediblyYou, tag me on social media (kayla_jarvinen / Instagram or Kayla Jarvinen / Facebook) or send me an email with a photo of your finished product! I’d be honored to get your feedback and I’d love to see your beautiful creations <3

Peanut Butter Banana Protein Smoothie Bowl
Prep Time
5 mins
Total Time
5 mins
 

Gluten Free / Dairy Free / Refined Sugar Free / Vegan

Course: Breakfast, Meal Replacement, Snack
Servings: 1
Author: Kayla Marie
Ingredients
Protein Smoothie Base
  • 2/3 cup Nut Milk*
  • 1/2 cup Crushed Ice
  • 1 scoop Protein Powder**
  • 1 tbsp. Peanut Butter
  • 1/2-1 Banana, frozen
Optional Toppings
  • Chopped Pecans
  • Chopped Walnuts
  • Sliced Banana
  • Cacao Nibs
  • Coconut Flakes
  • Flaxseed
  • Peanut Butter Drizzle
Instructions
  1. Combine all of the ingredients for the protein smoothie base in a blender and blend on high speed for 1 minute or until thoroughly combined.

  2. Transfer protein smoothie base to a bowl or mug.

  3. Add desired toppings.

  4. Enjoy!!!

Recipe Notes

*I used homemade cashew milk in this recipe but any store bought nut milk will do. I have not made this recipe with dairy milk. Nut milk is generally thicker and creamier than cow's milk so keep this in mind if you opt for the latter; you may need to reduce the liquid to 1/2 cup or less depending on the contents and desired thickness of your smoothie base.

**Protein Powder recommendations: I discovered Vivo Life’s Perform Protein Powder last spring and I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. With a variety of flavors like Raw Cacao, Madagascan Vanilla (used in today’s recipe), Salted Maca Caramel and Acai & Blueberry the flavor combos are endless. Garden of Life Meal Replacement is another personal favorite and is a less expensive but still nutrient rich protein powder that you can find on Amazon. If you don’t already have a favorite, both of these are great, clean options!

Learning to Love the Process

I’m no stranger to working out. I’ve been exercising and coming up with workout routines for myself on and off for the past 10 years. I haven’t always been the most consistent with it but it’s definitely been a part of my life. Whether in the form of gym sessions or home based training sessions, I’ve amassed a nice collection of DVDs and youtube workouts, weights, resistant bands and other exercise related accessories over the years. I’ve dabbled in quite a few different areas from running, kickboxing and HIIT training to yoga. For the most part, exercising has been something I enjoy doing.

A morning spent cleaning the barn? While not your conventional workout, it counts in my book!

While I use to find it relatively easy to push myself in my workouts, my nutritional support had often been lacking. The research and dietary changes I’ve implemented in the last eighteen months has changed that but it’s been over two years since I’ve had any sort of consistent workout routine. Since the end of 2016, my health has been the dictating factor. My body simply hasn’t felt well enough to even think about doing any kind of semi-strenuous exercising… until recently. My health has improved significantly in the past couple of months and it’s had me thinking more and more about the idea of starting up an exercise routine again. So in true Kayla fashion, I wasted no time in signing up for a free month long trial of the fitness app, Aaptiv. I woke up the next morning, full of energy (well, mental energy at least) and excited to jump into my first 40 minute workout session – Abs, Booty and Cardio.

Things started off well but by the halfway point my heart was pounding out of my chest and I could feel my breakfast coming back up (ewww, sorry… honesty can be brutal!). I couldn’t get enough air. I tried breaking for longer and longer periods of time between each set of exercises but I just wasn’t recovering and I couldn’t catch my breath. I pushed on a little more and finally, with 8 minutes left to go, detached myself from my pride and quit. Pushing any further was just downright counterproductive. My body was spent.

I sat down for a minute before heading to the bathroom for a shower. I splashed some water on my face and realizing how shaky and lightheaded I actually was, sat down on top of the toilet to give my body another chance to recover. All at once the walls came crashing down and I was consumed by an overwhelming feeling of failure as the tears flowed. I sat on the toilet crying my eyes out for 20 minutes. They just kept coming. For eighteen months I have felt betrayed by my body and longed to feel strong again, to feel physically adequate.

“I thought I was starting off easy…” I texted my mom. “I’ve worked out over the years but never had the nutritional element to support it. Now I have that down and can’t do the cardio ugh I don’t know why I feel so discouraged. My brain wants to do more than my body can.”

In true mom fashion, she quickly replied with some sound advice: “Don’t do cardio stuff to start, you have been super busy. Start with more yoga; I’ll send you a link to a girl I like. You have come leaps and bounds compared to where you were, so look at all the ground you have covered versus the ground still to go. You will build up to it, you’re doing great,” she said.

“Thanks Mom,” I replied, “that’d be great. I haven’t even been doing yoga consistently and haven’t been getting enough sleep, my own fault. I don’t know why I thought high intensity would be best to start off with (insert laughing emojis). Laughing now. Pity party closing down. Love you!”

And just like that I realized how silly I had been and how right she was. Six months ago I had struggled to get through a grocery store. Since then I had planned and executed a six week trip to Canada, driving 21 1/2 hours each way on my own. I had undertaken a part time job as a bartender/waitress with no prior experience and had done so successfully. I had started riding horses again. I made new friends in a new country and pushed my body farther than I thought I could, farther than I probably should have. Through it all my body had been resilient, offering me more lee-way than it had in a long time. Why was I punishing it in return?

A necklace I purchased for one of my sisters serves as a great reminder for us all.

Why was I viewing my body as weak? Was it because I felt it didn’t live up to what I thought constituted as “strong?” Who’s definition of strong was I using? It wasn’t serving me well. Strength is not limited to what you see on the outside, I realized, as I thought about my journey over the past year and a half. In fact, I’m stronger now than I’ve ever been in so many ways.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the last couple of years is that it’s often the embracing, the letting go of whatever frustrations or expectations you feel like you’re just not meeting, that opens up the door to growth you may not have even realized was possible. It’s such an incredibly humbling but beautifully liberating experience. Maybe I’m just different (that’s entirely possible ha ha), or maybe I’m finally at a point in my life where I’m more open to receiving the lessons that so often present themselves if we’re only receptive, but these realizations seem to come frequently these days and I’m so grateful for them. I have every intention of building my body back up to what I know it can be. I still want those abs and the tight glutes too, and I’m confident I’ll get there. It probably won’t be tomorrow or next week or next month but it will be with eyes and ears open to what my body is telling me. Slow and steady. Learning to love the process.

Next week: NEW RECIPE POST!