Sugar-Free Peach Parfait

Sugar-Free Peach Parfait
Sometimes in life it comes down to tough decisions.

For example, when your iPhone gets really full and you have to delete some music. That’s when you have to have to ask yourself the hard questions. Questions like… do I really need this much Katy Perry music? Does anyone?

When hard questions like this come up, you also have to stop and analyze yourself. I mean… what does it say about you that the most played song in your iTunes is 3 am by Matchbox Twenty. You must be lonely?

There’s only one thing to do while you contemplate these hard decisions and life questions… you have to eat some sugar-free peach parfait.

If you’re one of the folks jumping on the no-refined-sugar bandwagon, you’re gonna love me for this one. And even if you’re not, I promise you won’t be able to tell the difference between this and a “typical” dessert that does involve refined sugar… well, except that this one might taste better. :)

This dessert revolves around seasonal, ripe peaches and my secret ingredients – cashews and dates – to create a creamy, dreamy parfait that’s gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, and works wonderfully for folks with dietary restrictions, raw foodies, plant-based folks/vegans, and folks following a paleo lifestyle.

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Mexican Cucumber Salad

Mexican Cucumber Salad

Everyone keeps talking about it being the “end of the summer.”

Shhh… no, it’s NOT the end of the summer. It’s the height of the summer!

It’s the best time of the year when amazing things like peppers, zucchini, cucumber, greens, peaches, and herbs in season! Nope, it’s not the end, my friends… I think it’s just the beginning. (Okay, not really, but just go with me on this one…)

I’ve been really bored of my lunches lately. If you’ve been in a food rut too, don’t worry, you’re not alone. I typically opt for a simple salad during the weekdays (you can see my Healthy Trader Joe’s Meal Plan for tips and ideas), but lately I’ve been bored of my classic mix of greens, tomatoes, bell peppers, and balsamic vinegar.

So, I decided to take everything in season and put it together in a yummy salad tossed with a little salt and cumin. Yes! You can add beans to this salad to make it a hearty vegetarian/vegan entree or serve it alongside a protein source of your choice. Either way, it’s a quick and easy way to break up the food rut and excite your taste buds.

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What I learned from Yogathon 2014

What I learned from Yogathon 2014

On August 16th and 17th, 46 cities around the world participated in the 3rd annual Yogathon. Thousands of people came together to deepen their practice of yoga while sending good vibes out into the world (all funds raised were donated to Care for Children, a program dedicated to providing free education to rural youth in India).

I haven’t shared much about my yoga practice here on the blog so before I go on to talk about Yogathon, I think I have to share more about how I found my way to yoga.

For my entire adult life I had always wanted to be a “yoga person.” In my mind, a “yoga person” looks something like a mix between Ani DiFranco (you know: funky, tattooed, and super hip) and the most beautiful, feminine long-haired goddess you can imagine. I do have a tattoo and I currently happen to have long-hair, but for many, many years I just couldn’t actually get into the practice of yoga. And believe me, I tried.

I tried every kind of yoga class there was at various yoga studios, gyms, and even using videos to practice at home. It wasn’t my cup of tea. I found yoga boring and torturous. I would spend the entire class whining in my head and looking at the clock, wishing it was over.

Then, last October, during a stressful transition in my life, I found my way to yoga. I joined a small studio around the corner from my apartment and began going four times a week, doing a mix of hot and flow yoga. For the first time in my life, practicing yoga felt right. Fast forward ten months and I can’t believe that I’m still practicing – and enjoying – yoga. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t always look forward to going to class and sometimes it still feels like a pain to be there, but yoga somehow allows me to connect with myself in a way that I haven’t before.

When I found out about Yogathon 2014 and learned that it was the first year Seattle was participating, I decided it was time to challenge myself. I had finally gotten to the point where I could comfortably make it through an hour and a half class, but the idea of participating in a 3-hour event with 108 sun salutations? That was a whole new level.

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How To Eliminate Sugar From Your Diet

How to Eliminate Sugar from Your Diet

Refined sugar is on the out right now – and for good reason. I feel like everyone I know is trying to eliminate refined sugar from their diet and talking about how sugar is evil.

Well, I’ll be the first one to tell you that I have a sweet tooth and I really enjoy indulging in dessert from time-to-time, but I stay away from refined sugar.  My preference is to consciously eat something sweet when my body craves it and opt for treats like seasonal fruit or homemade desserts sweetened with dates, raw honey, or pure maple syrup.

Before we go any further, I want to address a question I know many of you have:

What’s the difference between “sugar” and “refined sugar”?

When we eat whole foods that contain sugar in the form of fructose - for example fresh fruit or carrots – the glucose is part of the whole food so it breaks down slowly in our bodies because it also contains fiber to slow the digestion of the natural sugars. The fiber helps to regulate blood sugar levels and the whole food provides a range of nutrients. Sugar from fresh fruits and vegetables isn’t something to be too concerned about.

Instead, my concern is refined sugar. Processed or refined sugar comes from the sugar cane or beet plant, but the problem is that during the processing, the sugar cane or beet plant is stripped of all its nutrients except the glucose. This makes it nutritionally void, and as a result, it has a very different impact on our body and acts like a drug. For the purposes of today’s discussion, I want to focus on cutting back and/or eliminating refined sugar from your diet.

My hope is not to scare you into never eating sweets again (especially when there’s so many sweet options that don’t include refined sugar), but instead to help you to become more conscious about all the places you might be eating refined sugar that you aren’t aware of and try to eliminate it as much as possible. In my opinion, this is the scary part because sugar is in everything.

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Transform your relationship to your problems

Transform your relationship to your problems

I want to start this post by sharing a passage from one of my favorite books, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff And it’s All Small Stuff by Richard Carlson:

“Certainly some problems need to be solved. Many others, however, are problems we create for ourselves by struggling to make our life different than it actually is. Inner peace is accomplished by understanding and accepting the inevitable contradictions of life – the pain and pleasure, success and failure, joy and sorrow, births and deaths. Problems can teach us to be patient, humble, and gracious.”

One of the biggest lessons I’m learning at the moment is how to change my relationship to my “problems.” In the past, my approach went something like this: a problem comes up, find a solution to fix it, and move on until a new problem arises.

The downfall of this approach is that there are always challenges arising in life and when you spend your life focusing on fixing problems, it takes away a lot of your energy that could be used elsewhere. My experience is that this approach makes me feel like I have to get rid of all of my problems in order to be happy, and when I’m not able to fix everything, it ends up making me feel disappointed and less-than. Can you relate?

For the past several months there have been a whirlwind of new challenges coming in my life and it finally made me open my eyes to the lesson that I need to learn: it’s impossible to fix all the problems that will arise in your life, but you can use them to become a better, stronger person and use each challenge as an opportunity to create happiness within (instead of constantly looking for external sources/solutions).

I truly believe that hard times give us the opportunity to grow and challenge ourselves in new ways. And, as much as I don’t enjoy the bad times, they make the good times feel so much more pleasurable.

I wanted to share this with you in hopes that if you’re dealing with challenges of you own (as we all are), you know you’re not alone and perhaps this simple shift in perspective will bring a moment of peace to your life the way it has to mine. I’m also sharing this because stress impacts our health and we can’t always remove the stressors from our lives, but we can change the way we let them impact us.

What lessons have you learned about dealing with problems/challenges? And, what are your favorite ways to reduce stress?

Summer Heirloom Tomato Salad

Summer Heirloom Tomato Salad

One of the best parts about life is experiencing new things. It’s so easy for us to get stuck in our ways, caught up in the routine of the day-to-day and forget all that exists outside of our comfort zone.

This week I challenged myself to do something a little different. The result? I’m now in love with Bollywood dancing. I joined a dance studio here in Seattle and have been trying out Bollywood and hip hop classes. So far, Bollywood is winning in my book… mostly because I can’t seem to pop my hips and shoulders like a hip hop dancer. :)

You know what else I tried this week? A summer heirloom tomato salad mixed with fruit. Yum. Maybe I can’t convince to try Bollywood dancing (it is fun though, I promise), but perhaps you can be persuaded to break the inevitable food rut and enjoy some heirloom tomatoes as well?

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Natural Beauty Products for Summer

Natural Beauty Products for Summer

I love creating my own natural beauty products. I remember being a twelve year-old kid and mixing olive oil and strawberries together to make my own lip gloss. I didn’t really know what I was doing (and to be honest, it didn’t work out well), but I think I had the right idea by trying to avoid chemicals on my skin when possible.

We’re right in the middle of summer and with the sunshine and heat, I try to keep my beauty routine as low-maintenance as possible. Here are some of my favorite natural and DIY beauty products and remedies for summer:

Shave with Coconut Oil to keep your legs soft and smooth all summer!

Make this DIY Margarita Body Scrub for silky skin. (Tip: don’t use this scrub just before going in the sun as exfoliating right before being in the sun can increase your risk of sunburn.)

Although this isn’t an antiperspirant (i.e. it won’t stop you from sweating), this DIY Natural Deodorant controls body odor even in the hottest weather.

Keep hair healthy by using baking soda and vinegar to wash your hair. I know that wounds weird, but it totally works!

If your scalp gets oily or sweaty in the heat, this DIY dry shampoo will take care of it in a flash!

For hair styling, skip the toxic hair sprays and opt for a natural beachy spray to give your hair gorgeous beachy waves or this sugar hair spray to keep hair in place. (Don’t worry – it won’t attract bugs!)

Wash your face with olive and castor oil to keep skin clean, clear, and moisturized.

And, if you get a little sunburned, try using fresh aloe or avocados to help moisturize the skin and treat the burn.

What are your favorite natural beauty remedies for summer?

 

How I’m shaking up my summer in Seattle

How I'm shaking up my summer in Seattle Next month I am celebrating my 10th anniversary of living in Seattle. How crazy is that?

There are a few things I’ve learned in my ten years about my beloved city.

1. The rumors are true. It rains. A lot. But you know what makes up for all that rain?

2. The summers here are gorgeous. This is the time of year that makes me want to spend every day outside exploring this beautiful city.

3. There really is a Starbucks on every corner in Seattle. Which is awesome for me because I actually like Starbucks.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably know that I used to drink coffee, gave it up for six and a half years, and then recently began drinking it again last fall. With the heat this time of year, I’ve been staying away from coffee and turning again to my old-favorite: iced tea!

Since I’m such an avid tea drinker, I was really excited when Starbucks started partnering with Teavana® and released their Starbucks Teavana® Shaken Iced Teas. Starbucks Teavana® Iced Teas are premium loose leave teas shaken by hand 10 times to mix and unlock the unique flavors. They come in three flavors:

• Starbucks Teavana® Shaken Iced Blackberry Mojito Tea Lemonade
• Starbucks Teavana® Shaken Iced Peach Green Tea Lemonade
• Starbucks Teavana® Shaken Iced Black Tea Lemonade

I personally love their iced green tea (I get it unsweetened to avoid sugar) and have been enjoying it as a refreshing pick-me-up in these hot afternoons.

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Starbucks through their partnership with POPSUGAR. While I was compensated by POPSUGAR to write a post about Starbucks, all opinions are my own.

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