How Essential Oils are Changing my Life

It’s been a little while since I wrote, but life has thrown me a few things and it’s taken a bit to finally get it into balance. One thing that I’ve been taking a lot of time to learn about and experiment with in recent months though, is essential oils. I had been using vitamin and health food store brands until one day my yoga instructor introduced me to doTERRA. While the health food store brands have been helpful, they smell beautiful, and I’ve seen the effect they can have on me; none of them compare to doTERRA.

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What makes doTERRA so special? This particular brand goes above and beyond the precious “organic” label by testing and re-testing their product to achieve “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade” status. To be considered organic, all a company needs to do is prove that the growing conditions of the plants are organic and organic certified pesticides are used. This doesn’t require prime growing conditions for the plant and it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re clean and free of the yucky stuff we’re aiming to avoid. DoTERRA on the other hand, sources all of it’s oils from plants that are grown in their natural, native habitats. The plants are harvested and distilled for their oils, where they’re tested for any unsavory chemicals. If they are detected, the batch gets thrown out.

How are these little oils life-changing, though?

Given the pure nature of doTERRA’s oils, you can take many of them internally to reap the benefits of the oils. They can be cooked with (vegan vanilla cupcakes with lavender scented icing, anyone? or perhaps some rosemary and oregano oil in that focaccia you’re baking?) They are also one hundred percent pure and never blended with any carrier oils, which if you do some digging- you’ll find many brands do. Because they’re pure, they absorb readily into the skin. I don’t know all the scientific nuts and bolts of it, so I won’t go into it without absolutely knowing how they work on a chemical and physiological level. I do know that by putting a few drops of lavender oil in the arches of my feet before bedtime will allow me to sleep soundly through the night. That rubbing a few drops of peppermint oil on my belly will nix any nausea. That rubbing a citrus blend of oils into my palms in the morning helps me to wake up and be alert with out that cup’o’joe. That rubbing a few drops of eucalyptus on my chest and getting into a hot shower or bath will stop a stuffy nose or head cold in it’s tracks. The list goes on (and on, and on).

Virtually all of the items in your medicine cabinet can be replaced with a natural alternative. For me, the realistic approach is to buy a pure oil that will last longer than the cheaper varieties as it will save you money in the long run while also delivering what it promises.

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Because doTERRA oils have affected me so deeply, I have made the decision to become a doTERRA Independent Product Consultant. I believe in the product, and I want to share them with anyone who is willing to keep an open mind and try them. I invite you to learn more about doTERRA by exploring my web page. I am more than happy to answer any questions you have, so feel free to comment!

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Making the Switch to a Natural Deodorant with Soapwalla

Once upon a time, I was a biology major. I wanted to be a doctor. I believed that new scientific inventions and discoveries were always not only the best, but the only solution. Until I realized that “Western medicine” simply treats an already existing problem and some scientific advances have begun to make us all weak in the knees, in a bad way. Science has brought us GMO’s, it has brought us pills to counter the pills to alleviate the symptoms of diseases that could have been prevented. I was, and still am skeptical of holistic solutions, and one of the tests that is always failed is by natural deodorants. Natural deodorants have a special way of leaving you smelling like a barn after only a few short hours, and on top of that you usually feel drenched. I have found the holy grail of natural deodorants.

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But why is everyone making such a big deal about regular, conventional antiperspirants? The active ingredient in antiperspirant deodorants is aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly. Most people will probably struggle to pronounce this, but that is not why we should not use it. How aluminum zirconium works is by being absorbed into the skin where aluminum ions cause the skin to swell enough to pinch the sweat glands shut so as to prevent any sweat from escaping. Many people believe this can cause infections. You know, those little red bumps you get in your armpits? I haven’t gotten a single one since I switched to Soapwalla’s deodorant cream (yes, I still shave my underarms). Many also subscribe to the belief that antiperspirants block your ability to release toxins, which to me is a bit far out there for my science background, but worth mentioning. The most pressing issue regarding conventional antiperspirants is their very possible correlation to Alzheimer’s and breast cancer, though there isn’t affirmative proof of this (…yet).

If I’m such a skeptic though, why would I switch to a natural deodorant? I switched to natural because I feel it’s better to be safe than sorry. I like to avoid the used of parabens and ingredients that I don’t know the origin of. Ingredients that I cannot pronounce. These chemicals are absorbed into our skin, and if there is no proof that they’re either safe or dangerous, why not take the route we know is safe? So I went on the ultimate mission: to find a natural deodorant that leaves me feeling and smelling as fresh as a daisy. I stood in the natural food store time after time, smelling the deodorants in their tubes. Most of them smell lovely, but after a mere 4 hours of wearing them: barnyard. Then one day, by the recommendation of a fellow volunteer; I was directed to Soapwalla’s deodorant cream. Soapwalla was started in a little Brooklyn apartment by a woman who needed to make her own skincare products due to her very sensitive skin caused by systemic lupus. She decided to leave her law career to pursue her love for creation, and she opened Soapwalla to the public. All of her products are 100% vegan, never tested on animals, and are loaded with essential oils and all natural ingredients. Plus, there’s the added bonus that for we New Yorkers Soapwalla is local!

On to the deodorant cream: I practice vinyasa yoga. It is a form of flow yoga, not as athletic or fast paced as ashtanga, but it certainly works up a sweat and tests your strength in ways I’d rather not describe. For you ayurvedic followers, I’m also a pitta; i.e. I’m always hot. I wouldn’t say that I’m a profuse sweater, but I definitely wouldn’t want to go to a yoga class or for a run without deodorant on. And so one day I went and picked up Soapwalla’s deodorant cream and put it to the test. I opened it up to find a rich, creamy, pale yellow substance. It smells as it should, given it’s list of ingredients:

  • Simmondsia chinensis (Jojoba) Oil*; Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Oil*; Rosehip Seed Oil*; Butyrospermun parkii (Shea) Butter; Corn Starch*+; Sodium Bicarbonate+; Kaolin Clay; Vegan Kosher Glycerin*+; a custom blend of essential oils, including: Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender)*; Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree)*; Citrus Sinensis (Sweet Orange); Mentha Piperita (Peppermint)*; Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergaptene-free Bergamot)*; Non-GMO Vitamin E*+. (*: certified organic, +: food-grade)

Essential oils can be an acquired taste for some, they often smell somewhat medicinal. Once you’ve adjusted from artificial fragrances to naturals, though; essential oils are unbeatable. This deodorant cream doesn’t smell like your regular antiperspirant. It smells very much of tea tree, peppermint, and lavender; but after the tea tree begins to fade you can smell the sweet orange begin to shine through. I think it smells wonderful. Essential oils are completely absorbed through the skin, so you won’t smell anything at all after a few hours. Even with my old antiperspirant I started to smell a little ripe after a 16 hour day, but with this? My pits smell like nothing at all. I also have the added bonus of irritation-free, soft, smooth underarms! Something I NEVER had with an antiperspirant, even if they were marketed to promise smooth underarms after however many days of using it.

So why does this stuff work? Essential oils are naturally antimicrobial! But it doesn’t stop there, as a buffer sodium bicarbonate has been added to ensure freshness by absorbing any odors and both corn starch and kaolin clay have been added to aid  in sweat absorption. It’s also chock full of moisturizing ingredients that are gentle on even the most sensitive skin, gentle enough that I personally haven’t experienced any stinging or irritation even immediately after shaving.

So there you have it, our natural deodorant wishes have been answered by Soapwalla.

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Quinoa Chocolate Chip Chewy Granola Bars

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Granola bars were always a favorite of mine. I’m guilty of being especially fond of the Quaker Chewy bars, until the whole GMO thing came to light and the fact that they use milk powder in their granola mix (I know, right??). Late last night, the craving struck. I wanted a granola bar and I wanted it right then and there. Knowing I couldn’t eat my non-vegan roommate’s chewy bars, I starting digging around for ingredients to make my own. I climbed up onto the counter to get a better view of the contents of my cupboard. With the excitement mounting, I starting picking different grains and testing their raw crunch factor until I found a suitable mix for a granola bar.

And then I remembered the box of Theo drinking chocolate that I scored at the NYC Green Festival this weekend.

I had the makings for a chocolate chip chewy bar, and miraculously all of the ingredients are organic.

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Now, I’ve dabbled with making my own granola before, but this is my first bar excursion. I have to say that I’m quite pleased with myself.

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So what did I use to make these tasty little guys?

  • 1 cup of old fashioned oats (I used Bob’s Red Mill Scottish Ground Oats, but I think any slow cooking chewy oat will work)
  • 1/2 cup of raw millet
  • 1/2 cup or raw white quinoa
  • 1 tbsp unrefined coconut oil
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/4 raw honey if you’re a honey-vegan, use a scant 1/4c of agave if you abstain from it.
  • 4 shakes (about a 1/4-1/2 tsp) pumpkin pie seasoning. Apple pie will work as well, but it’s really just a mix of ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  • 3 tbsp chocolate chips
  • Optional- the Theo chocolate that I used already contains vanilla, but if yours does not add about a 1/2 tsp of vanilla paste or extract.

The breakdown:
In a wide shallow pan, (I used a 12″ nonstick saute pan), turn the heat up to medium high and add your coconut oil. Once it melts spread your oats, quinoa, and millet. Toast them up until they start to smell nutty and get to be a golden brown. Don’t let them start to smell like burning popcorn, if you start to smell that then take them off the heat and give them a stir. If they’re still pale in most places, turn the flame down to medium. Add your salt and cinnamon mix/pumpkin/apple pie seasoning and stir it all up. Now you’ll want to turn the heat down and let it cool until it’s warm to the touch. I know raw honey can be a pain to work with, so make sure the granola is still warm enough to make it easy to distribute the honey but not too hot so as not to denature the healthy properties of it. If you’re adding vanilla, the time to do it is along with the agave or honey. Once your agave/honey (and vanilla, if applicable) are evenly distributed into your granola, wait until it cools a bit further until you add your chocolate chips. I stirred mine in a little too soon and the chocolate melted a bit. Once you’ve mixed all of your ingredients together, line the bottom of a loaf pan with parchment or wax paper and press the granola into the pan and let cool. After they’ve set, turn the granola brick out onto a cutting board and slice into 1″ sections.

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Coconut Curried Chickpeas

Not even two weeks ago we were getting warm, sunny, beautiful weather. For the past week though- cold and rainy. What more do you want on cold, rainy days than to cozy up in a fluffy blanket with a warm bowl of something delicious? And a book, of course. In my endeavor to make something hot and yummy, I rummaged through the cupboards to see what I could whip up.

Curry? Check!

Coconut milk? Check!

Chickpeas? Perfect!

And so it began- my experiment with making anything curried. Now I’m certainly no expert, and this is relatively mild in comparison to the curries I’ve tried that are made by others who actually know what they’re doing, but it’s still delicious and hit the spot for me on a chilly day.

chickkypeasWhat will you need?

  • 1 green bell pepper, diced or julienned
  • about a 1/2 dry pint of white button or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • a big handful of baby or 2 regular sized carrots, diced
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic, or about 2 cloves
  • 1 13.5 oz can or about 1.5-2 cups of chickpeas (if you’re using bagged, make sure to soak and blanche them first!)
  • 1/2 of a 13.5 can of coconut milk (shake if you’re using full fat, or skim the cream off before shaking, whatever you desire)
  • 2 tbsp curry powder (I prefer without ginger, and I used a Jamaican style)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • and the secret ingredient- a pinch (less than a 1/4 tsp) of cinnamon!
  • optional- a few shakes of red pepper flakes or hot chili powder to your taste

First things first, you might want to make a  big ol’ pot of basmati rice. If you’re doing this, start it before you start making the chickpeas so they’ll finish at the same time.

For the chickpeas, start by heating up a 12″ saute pan or any relatively shallow pot. Heat up the pan over medium high heat and add your coconut oil and salt. Once you hear the salt begin to sizzle, add all of your veggies, chickpeas, and your garlic. Saute them until the edges of the onions just begin to go translucent. If your onions are browning, turn the heat down a little- we don’t want any caramel action in here. Once your onions begin to go translucent, add your coconut milk, curry powder, cinnamon, and chili or red pepper flakes. Stir it all together and let it simmer until the liquid reduces to half.

Serve over basmati rice with whatever veggies your heart desires.

Enjoy!

 

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Perception of Beauty

I don’t have a recipe for you today, but I’m working on a new cupcake recipe that I’m excited to share with you! Hopefully I’ll have it up within the next few days.

That’s not the reason I’m posting, though. Last night I was dawdling around on Facebook and stumbled onto this video: 

Now I know Dove and Unilever aren’t cruelty-free or vegan, but the message this video gives is so important for people to see. This video is part of the Dove Real Beauty Campaign, which is mostly aiming towards women; but I feel the message reaches more widely than just the female audience. Seeing this makes you wonder and try to reflect on how you see yourself, versus the beauty others see.

So what can we do to see the beauty others see in us? Why must we focus so hard on the negatives? The imperfections? Most of us have already come to terms with the fact that media is all photoshopped and airbrushed, but why are we still holding ourselves to that “standard”? Why would we be “more beautiful” if we had a smaller nose; less freckles; fuller lips; no wrinkles etc. Why can’t these features contribute to our own unique brand of beauty? For some reason, we can look around at all of our peers and see their beauty. Sadly, we’re entirely reluctant to see ourselves through the same lens.

What can we do to embrace the looks we have rather than try to come up with ways to wear masks? This video is a start. Instead of focusing on the dark circles you got from staying up a bit too late, maybe emphasize your gorgeous brown eyes. Have a  prominent nose, like me? Maybe it’s time to start embracing it instead of wishing you could afford a nose job (guilty). Maybe you have strong cheekbones, maybe you have a round face, an angular jaw… each one of us has the power to be beautiful. It’s already there, it’s just a matter of opening our eyes to see it.

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A Tofu Scramble and Thoughts on Confidence

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Being a woman, and having female friends, our confidence is something that is relatively easy to shatter, and like trust; it can take a very long time to earn it back again. We can break our own confidence, or it can break at the will of another’s harsh words; simply a look by another, or worse, just by seeing someone walk by. I don’t even mean confidence about only our physical appearance. Society has shaped itself into something that has made every one of us very vulnerable and what we look like, do, or believe is only okay upon receiving the approval of the majority.

Knowing this fact, how many days do you look in the mirror and throw on an outfit that you might like, but are worried someone else might think you look ridiculous? You try a new hair do out, you like it, but you’re afraid you just “can’t pull it off”, you don’t want to wear make-up, or you do want to wear make-up one day; but decide against it because of how other people might react to this different facade? Have you ever stood in front of the mirror in your 2 piece swimsuit and thought for a second “wow I actually look pretty hot!” but decided against wearing it? What about all that “embarrassing” music you have in your ipod? Don’t want people to see it? Collect something that you don’t want people to “judge”
Why?

We’re always second guessing ourselves! Maybe it was a cruel ex who never thought we looked good enough, maybe it was a parent that was just a little too hard on us, maybe we got picked on in school, maybe one friend (as much as we claim to appreciate it) is a little too brutal in their honesty. We can even blame it on the media; dictating what’s cool to do, wear, listen to, watch, speak like, look like, weigh, and what’s not. Where do you think these fad diets come from? It’s all some bologna to get you to fit the cookie cutter mold we’ve been trained to look up to. Everyone in their own shape and size is beautiful in their own way, some are naturally very thin, and some are heavier.

Regardless of whom or what may have kicked our confidence out at the back of the knees; upon talking to several women in recent weeks and realizing just how low our confidence is as a whole, I think it’s time to really sit back and think about why we look upon ourselves with such disapproval, and think of reasons why we shouldn’t. Confidence isn’t really something that just happens. Think of it like getting over a bad break-up. Can you get over someone if you don’t try? No, you can’t. You cry, and you cry, and you cry some more, but if you’re only thinking about how much you miss your S.O., then how on earth are you ever going to get over them? You need to think of why you broke up, and why you’ll be okay. You have to think of what you can do. That’s how confidence works. Why is it gone? Why did I let go of it? Don’t I deserve to have it back?

My confidence didn’t used to be what it is today, and it will continue to grow and change. Life is rough, and I’ve had my years in the toilet; everyone has their tough patches. There was a time when I would see my reflection and feel nauseous at what I saw, because of my weight, my face; I would look and see not only my physical appearance, but what a “loser” I thought I was. One day I realized how my being so hard on myself would influence the most important person in my life: my little sister. If I keep doing this to myself, will she pick up on my traits? Will she feel so terrible about herself if it’s okay for me? That day, I forced myself to strip down in front of a full length mirror and say ten things that were beautiful about myself. 5 physical, and 5 personality. I think the first day I did this I was up until 4 in the morning with nothing to say to myself. I forced myself to keep doing this until I started to believe it. In the morning while getting ready I would finally not have to think about it, and a compliment to myself would pop into my head. I encourage you all to try this, male or female. No one has to know that you’re doing this so don’t feel embarrassed… I know it feels silly but I really think this helped to pick me up from a very unhappy place.

I think it’s fair to say that we all have at least one outside person in our lives that tells us how beautiful or handsome we are. I can say this because I already know that we are all beautiful people; inside and out. I was lucky in finding a boy that really opened my eyes to this, and helped to really BELIEVE what I had been telling myself since I was 16 years old: “you are beautiful”, and this means something to me, because he actually knows and believes this, pure and simple.

I’m here writing this to you all right now to be to you; what his eyes are to me.

You’re all on this journey, and we’re all on different levels. We need to learn to accept ourselves and better ourselves on a deeper level than looking like whichever celebrity. I am hoping that you are doing this to please yourself and no one else. I hope that envisioning your final “product” isn’t the only thing keeping you going; because I know that every single one of us deserves to truly love every single facet of ourselves, in progress or not. The journey is the part that really matters, I want you all to sit back and think about what you’re telling yourself to motivate you through this ride: You are already beautiful, and you deserve to be happier.

You hold all the power in the world to make yourself beautiful, and all it takes is the confidence to see it in your own reflection.

Now: On to the food!

Today we have a Tofu Scramble

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I normally don’t like tofu unless it’s marinated to taste like something else. I hate using it in frostings and dessert recipes. I don’t like it in smoothies. To me, it just tastes like mushy beans. Tofu scramble is the main exception for me.

In my pre-vegan days, eggs were my favorite food (that weren’t ice cream.) They’re versatile! They’re filling! They’re delicious! But those days are over, and I have no choice but to try to make tofu taste as amazing as possible- and that’s where this tofu scramble comes in.

The goods (This is how much I use to feed just myself):

  • 1/3 cup of extra firm tofu, drained and pressed, then crumbled
  • 1/2 medium green bell pepper, diced or julienne
  • 3 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • a small handful of seitan crumbles or slices
  • 1 tsp curry powder (make sure it doesn’t have ginger! if you don’t have this, just use cumin, coriander, turmeric- about 1/4 tsp each.)
  • a healthy pinch of sea salt (I like to use celtic grey salt)
  • a few cranks of fresh black pepper
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 3 tbsp of water or veggie/mushroom broth
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional!)

First things first, heat up your non-stick skillet. Add your olive oil and start to saute your onions and garlic with the salt, pepper, red pepper, and curry.

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Once your onions start to become translucent, add your mushrooms. They’ll only start to brown on the edges when you want to add your water/broth, seitan, and your tofu. If you don’t like your peppers raw, you can add them in now, but I like to save them for last so they’re nice and crunchy.

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Once the liquid is almost cooked off, add your nutritional yeast and turn off the heat. Mix it in so that the yeast becomes smooth, but you don’t want to keep it hot for too long so as to prevent the vitamin B12 from denaturing. Once that’s all mixed in, toss in your peppers if you haven’t already and eat up!

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Avocado Banana Pudding Fudgesicles

The weather is starting to get warmer, soon enough we’ll be chowing down on fresh produce and sipping yummy smoothies! Some days, though; it just gets too hot. Being a cold weather lover, I know I’ll have to start preparing myself for the heat good and early. April sounds about right.
So what inspired these little popsicles? I actually bought a sack of hass avocados a few days ago, and they’re starting to get a bit too soft. I also ran out of cashew ice cream, and I can’t be caught without when the chocolate craving strikes. Also, Nutiva is hosting a recipe submission contest to win a Vitamix blender! To enter your own recipes, you can enter by clicking:  Nutiva’s Superfood Recipe Giveaway. The link will take you to the giveaway page on facebook.

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Pinterest has become something of a little bit of an obsession in recent months. I pick some ideas from a recipe here, another recipe there, and love to create these franken-recipes, this one included. We’ve all seen the banana-peanutbutter-chocolate banana ice cream, and we’ve all seen the avocado chocolate pudding. While I love both, the banana version doesn’t lend a creamy “dairy” feel, and the avocado version doesn’t hold it’s structure well enough to make a popsicle- which is where I found this middle ground. The avocado provides a creamy taste good enough to feed to your non-vegan friends, and the banana offers strength and structure in freezing- plus, it cuts down on the fat! This mixture creates a wonderful pudding which can be used in many different applications including just eating it from a bowl, using it in place of sour cream in a chocolate cake batter, you can add it to brownies, you can make ice cream, or you can make pudding popsicles!

The goods:

  • 1 small-medium ripe hass avocado, diced
  • 1 small ripe banana, sliced
  • 2 tbsp raw cane sugar
  • 3 tbsp cocoa or cacao powder
  • 1 tbsp of coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp coconut butter/manna
  • 1/3 cup of water

Get your blenders and popsicle molds ready! Just put all ingredients except for your water into a blender and blend until smooth. If your blender isn’t strong enough or your mix seems a little too chunky, add water a tablespoon at a time until it become a pudding consistency. If you coconut butter is too hard to blend smoothly, pop the jar in a hot water bath until it’s spreadable. Once you have your pudding, you can chill it then eat it as is, bake with it, or put it in popsicle molds.

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