Four Week Body Upkeep Challenge: No-poo & dry brushing explained

I’m in the middle of the first week of my personal mind, body & spirit upgrade challenge. This first week has been pretty breezy so far, which was kind of what I had intended. I made most of my challenges progress to be harder as each week passed so when setting up my first week I chose goals which were already commonplace for me. In this blog I’m going to explain why I included no-poo and dry brushing in my Upkeep challenge.

NO-POO – I should start by saying the ‘no-poo’ phrase has nothing to do with your bodily functions, much to everyone’s relief right? No-poo has become more popular over the past few years in the natural/organic bloggersphere and after reading this article and this one my curiosity was piqued. People try the no-poo for several reasons, I’ve listed some of my own below. The basic idea is to stop shampooing and conditioning your hair – which does NOT mean you stop showering albeit you do shower a bit less often :). I like to workout in the morning so I think the biggest challenge for me will be resisting the urge to use the free shampoo and conditioner provided at the Fitness Center where I work. My lovely friend Betsy has been using the no-poo method for several weeks now and she brings her own bottled baking soda and apple cider vinegar (from here on referred to as ACV because I’m too lazy to type it again) to mix with water when she’s ready to shower. She’s brilliant and I’m going to be stealing her idea! Day 2 of my challenge I had already scheduled a haircut so my hair was shampooed there which means I will probably won’t be washing my hair (even with the baking soda mixture) for several days. I’m excited to get this started and even try some new shampoo and conditioning recipes I recently posted on my pinterest board! Doesn’t the Coconut Milk Shampoo sound divine?

* It’s cheaper than standard shampoos/conditioners * I want to use products more natural on my hair * Using natural products is better for the environment * It can conserve water which is also better for the environment * It can reduce scalp irritation and produce a natural shine *

My sweet friend Betsy taught me all she knows about experimenting with no-poo

My sweet friend Betsy taught me all she knows about experimenting with no-poo

DRY BRUSHING – I first read about dry brushing when reading Kris Carr’s book Crazy Sexy Diet. I’ve mentioned this book several times on my blog and if you’re interested in the reasons why I have chose this particular path to healthy living you should buy yourself a copy or checked it out from the library! Dry brushing boasts many benefits for your skin, as I’ve outlined below, and it is incredibly simple to do. You start with a body brush – there are several varieties available in almost any drugstore. Many will be labeled as wet or dry body brushes. Choose one in which the bristles are not synthetic and have a softness about them. You can control the amount of pressure put onto your skin as well, the idea is it shouldn’t lead to skin irritation but circulation.  You should brush your body in long sweeps towards your heart, I use some circular motions when I’m getting rougher areas (like my elbows), but the lymphatic system benefits stem from brushing towards your heart. I usually dry brush in the morning before my shower or at night before bed. If I do it at night I usually try to apply a moisturizer, like coconut oil, on the rough patches a few minutes after the dry brushing.

* It promotes tighter skin and can reduce cellulite * It sloughs away dry skin, improving skin texture and feel * It can increase cell renewal and blood flow * It helps your lymphatic system release toxins aiding in digestion & kidney function  *

Has anyone else tried dry brushing or a no-poo experiment? I love hearing what you think about your own missions to improve your life and your health!

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Four Week Upgrade Challenge: Body, Mind & Soul – Part 1 Body

In the words of Beyoncé, ‘lemme upgrade you’. It’s time to upgrade and eliminate – but in a manageable progression. I’m sure everyone has heard you can make or break a habit by doing it again and again over an extended period time, i.e. 21 days, 30 days or 4 weeks. The science out there is usually based on experiences rather than clinical experiments, but we all know someone who started getting up early for 3 weeks straight and now, “it’s just habit”. In the spirit of this thought and the idea that practice might make perfect I’ve created a four week challenge for myself that will cover three different aspects of my life which I’d like to upgrade. Read more about creating and breaking habits here, I found the article very intriguing.
This first post is going to cover the Body part of this challenge. I started this challenge yesterday so I’ll be posting my progress as I go!

Upgrade Body Challenge – this section involves three different categories which relate to body: Diet, Exercise & Upkeep

Diet – I’ve broken down my eating challenges to progress as the weeks pass. My goals include cutting back on dairy, gluten, alcohol and increasing the amount of raw meals I eat each week. My challenges each week are broken down like this:

Week 1: Only consume dairy & gluten 3-4 days. Limit alcohol to 1-2 drinks for 4-5 meals. Prepare 2-3 raw meals for lunch or dinner.

Week 2: Only consume dairy & gluten 2-3 days. Limit alcohol to 1-2 drinks for 3-4 meals. Prepare 3-4 raw meals for lunch or dinner.

Week 3: Only consume dairy & gluten 1-2 days. Limit alcohol to 1-2 drinks for 2-3 meals. Prepare 4-5 raw meals for lunch or dinner.

Week 4: Only consume dairy & gluten 1 day. Limit alcohol to 1-2 drinks for 1-2 meals. Prepare 5-6 raw meals for lunch or dinner.

I’m really interested to see how my body will react to this slower progression of eliminating some of these foods from my diet. I don’t consider myself a big dairy or gluten consumer, but I am interested to see how hard it is for me to get through week three and four. I have done elimination diets which were much stricter and I do find eliminating dairy and gluten from my diet leads to a flatter stomach and less problems with stomach cramps and bloating. I’m never going to be able to keep away from bread and cheese forever, but I am willing to upgrade my eating habits and enjoy it less often. When I do eat it, it is going to be as close to the farm or as fresh from the oven as I can find. I’ll pay a bit more, but since I’ll be eating it less often the expense should even out.

Exercise – I’ve always loved to be active, I am an avid runner and an amateur swimmer and weight lifter. I enjoy yoga, pilates and spin classes and really think when it comes to exercising variety is the spice of life! My goals include getting a proper sweat and keeping my body toned while keeping a little jolt of something new into my exercise routine. I also have had a goal I’ve been working on for a while to be able to do the splits and so I’m including my split stretches in the challenge to keep myself on point. Over the entire challenge I’ll be doing some sort of exercise at least 5 days a week, reserving the 6th day for at least Yoga or Pilates workout.

Week 1: Exercise 5 days. 1 day swim or spin. 1 day yoga or pilates. Split stretches 4-5 days. Full body weights 2 days.

Week 2: Exercise 5-6 days. 2 days swim or spin. Yoga or Pilates 2 days. Split stretches 5-6 days. Full body weights 2-3 days. Try a new workout class.

Week 3: Exercise 6 days. Swim and spin 2-3 days. Yoga and Pilates 2 days. Split stretches 6-7 days. Full body weights 3-4 days. Try a new yoga class.

Week 4: Exercise 7 days (one day is light yoga or Pilates). Swim and spin 2-3 days. Yoga and Pilates 2 days. Split stretches 7 days. Full body weights 4 days. Try 2 new classes.

In general my goal is to make sure I do get my heart rate going at least once everyday, even if it is a gentle stretch yoga class or online video. Also, I want to incorporate more swimming or spinning into my routine and this challenge will keep me in the water or on the bike. Don’t get me wrong I love the pavement and running is always my go to, but this will be a nice change.

Upkeep – My love for life means I intend to live a long and healthy one. Which means I have to take care of myself and taking care of my outside is what this section is all about. My goals in this section are to be diligent with dry brushing, taking care of my skin and avoiding products which contain toxins that could be harmful to your body. Also – always wearing sunscreen! Throughout the blog posts I’ll get into more detail about dry brushing, no-poo project and cleaning out my cabinets of toxic products. Since I had already started to adapt these practices into my daily routine I’m not going to progress into these habits, but instead set them for the entire 4-week period.                                                                                                                                                                                                            4 Week challenge: Sunscreen every morning and before going out in the afternoon. Dry body brush and moisturize every night. Begin the no-poo project in lieu of shampooing my hair. Once a week do the coffee scrub detox. Purge all products which score above a 2 on the EWG Skin Deep website.

So I’m on day 2 of week 1 so there’s not really much to report just yet, this weekend I’ll have successes and road blocks to share I’m sure. Tomorrow I’ll blog about how I’m challenging my Mind in this three part upgrade 🙂 . Have you ever challenged yourself to make or break some habits? I’d love to hear what helped and what to avoid as I venture into this journey!

My very best,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     J’aime

Veggie pizza on an herb pizza crust – bonus, it’s gluten free and vegan!

Gf herb pizza crust
I LOOOOOOVE pizza! I love the chewy crust, the tang of garlic, the melted cheese and the rich sauce. In a perfect world I wouldn’t get bloated with stomach cramps from wheat or have skin irritations and stomach issues caused by cheese. In a perfect world I would eat pizza everyday and never see any negative effects on my health. Alas – my world is not perfect. So, I still eat pizza. I eat the dairy and wheat stuff every so often, but it is still very few and far between. In the space between waiting for the next piece of pizza I’ve been tinkering with some alternative recipes which I can have more often without the negative health effects. 🙂 yay! I made this pizza about a year ago when I first began flirting with vegan and alternative recipes. I decided to experiment one Friday night when Patrick and I had decided to stay in and have a movie and beer night. He agreed with me – this pizza turned out veggie-delicious considering what it was missing! It helps to have someone to taste test with you who is really supportive and has an iron stomach just in case ;0).

For the crust I used this recipe from Local Betty. It calls for xanthan gum (I omitted it) and various GF flours. I only used the GF flour baking mix I had on hand, which already has xanthan gum in it – hence the reason for my omission! It also calls for an egg (also omitted) and some cheese. I included soy cheese I had purchased for the topping instead of the parmesan cheese suggested. I know what you’re thinking – I changed it up quite a bit. But – in my defense, I’m lazy and I was in a rush to make us some delicious pizza. The sauce was my own recipe. Tomato paste, agave nectar, salt, pepper, onion salt, minced garlic (I pile on the garlic), lots of Italian seasonings, basil, etc. Then came the toppings: all the veggies you can think of. Tomatoes, peppers, olives, broccoli, onions: I pretty much just grabbed handfuls of everything we had on hand. I then topped it with some delicious vegan cheese. I had picked a mixture of cheddar and mozzarella which I think gave it some nice variety.

Word of advice – I cooked my crust until it was a golden brown before topping it with anything. That prevented the crust from getting too soggy once the sauce and pasta were added. Voila – a delicious pizza piled high with veggies and on a crunchy on the outside chewy on the inside GF crust! Mission accomplished 🙂

Vegan Pizza

Has anyone else had any luck attempting a gluten-free pizza crust? What do you like? Do you get as annoyed as I do at the complicated recipes out there? Share your questions and triumphs with me, I’d love to hear them!

 

She’ll Be Waiting in Istanbul – Part Two

It’s been several weeks, but I’m finally ready to blog the second part of our adventures in Istanbul. I realize now we had done so much on our first day there is less to write about. How many times can I write about drinking hot tea for an hour as we talked politics and philosophy before someone reading this starts an eye roll. Well, this is precisely what we did – and unashamedly so. We would wander into little spice shops off the street and Patrick would watch me attempt to curb my indecisiveness for long enough to pick a tea to bring home or a sweet to try.  We also walked through the palace gardens again and had tea up on the cliff near the palace which had a fantastic and windy view of Asia.

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For lunch we went into an Ottoman restaurant where we had more tea and dined on a vegetarian dish with some flat bread. I was especially interested in eating there because I wanted to sit on the huge pillows on the floor and get the full experience. Luckily our knees survived the cramped assault while we dined.

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We would wander into little spice shops off the street and Patrick would watch me attempt to curb my indecisiveness for long enough to pick a tea to bring home or a sweet to try. I loved the spice shops and this picture doesn’t do them justice. P1010562The bright saffron and the aromatic teas would hit you the second you stepped into the shops. They were beautiful and vibrant and were full of smiling Turkish faces happy to help you make your purchasing decisions. Patrick really liked the Turkish Delights. We would buy a box of it each day and somehow the next day we were in need of another one. My favorites were the ones rolled in shredded coconut with bits of hazelnuts or pistachios in them. You can see some of the sweets from the spice shops in this picture. P1010563

P1010509We also had Turkish coffee! I would never miss a chance to try new foods and drinks when I’m in a new city and culture and the Turkish coffee we had in the street was better than I thought it would ever be.

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Enjoying his Turkish coffee and being a good sport about my need to photograph every moment.

One of the must sees in Istanbul is the Grand Bazaar. It is a fantastic shopping area with traditional Turkish items like tea sets and scarves and also a place to find a knock-off Burberry bag or Louis Vuitton shoes.P1010535

I’m ending this post with this picture because it wraps up me and Istanbul rather nicely. Sitting on a cushioned seat, in the middle of an alley, sipping warm tea across from the man I love.

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Cheezy & Creamy Avocado Sauce with Veggie Noodles

I love a good pasta, I mean who doesn’t right?! I love every type of noodle: fettucine, angel hair, macaroni, gnocchi and every type of sauce: marinara, alfredo, pesto to name just a few. In my quest to alkalize my diet I had to find a place for pasta and sauce, or at least a delicious and satisfying alternative. Months ago a friend shared a recipe with me from Hungry Girl which uses avocados in an alfredo sauce recipe. The avocados offer a creaminess to the alfredo sauce along with healthy fats and nutrients. Using avocados as my base I’ve created a delicious, raw sauce which tastes divine especially served with veggie noodles. The sauce is incredibly easy to make which makes this entire recipe a breeze to whip up in a pinch. The basic sauce includes avocado, almond milk, raw cashews, nutritional yeast (although not a raw ingredient it adds an extra cheesiness) garlic, salt, and pepper. DSC04120DSC04122

Turn on the blender and voila – sauce is ready to pour!

The blender will actually warm up the sauce a bit, but for those not too focused on a raw sauce can nuke it in the microwave for 15 seconds or in a saucepan at a very low heat. Pour the sauce over broccoli slaw & julienned carrots and stir.

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Cheezy & Creamy Avocado Sauce

1/2 avocado

1/4 – 1/2 c. almond milk (unsweetened)

1 – 2 T nutritional yeast (more if you’d like to add some cheesiness)

1/8 c raw cashews

1 T minced garlic (I LOVE garlic so feel free to use less if you aren’t as in love with it as me)

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp pepper

Blend the ingredients – add more cashews if you’d like to thicken it or add almond milk to thin the sauce to your desired consistency. ENJOY! DSC04118

Do you have a favorite pasta sauce or recipe? If you do I’d love for you to share it with me!

Creamy, Green, Alkalizing Smoothie

I have my boyfriend to thank for the obsession of craving a smoothie everyday. He introduced me to the power of the magic bullet and taught me the tricks of the trade including the ability to mask spinach in a berry banana smoothie. I’ve slowly begun to upgrade his original recipe to include more and more greens, in an attempt to create a highly alkalizing smoothie.

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This is a delicious and filling mid-morning snack and gives me a chance to load up on vitamins and minerals in one fell swoop. This powerhouse smoothie gives me a lot of energy and keeps me full on those days when I need to have a late or lite lunch. Here’s the recipe for my favorite green smoothie adapted from Kris Carr’s Green Guru Smoothie. I love the Amazing Grass Green SuperFoods Berry Powder and I add a scoop in my recipe. It has wonderful greens such as spirulina, wheatgrass, alfalfa, and organic chlorella (which benefits were shown on Dr. Oz). Not to mention it has a lot of antioxidant ingredients like goji berries and maca.

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Creamy, Green, Alkalizing Smoothie

1 banana

1 grapefruit

1/2 avocado

1 kiwi

1 bunch of kale

2 – 3 handfuls of mixed greens (I usually have romaine and spinach in my blend)

1 -2 cups unsweetened coconut milk

1 – 2 cups filtered water

1 scoop Amazing Grass Green SuperFood Berry Powder (I love all the nutritious benefits of this powder and the added flavor is a particularly great bonus)

This recipe makes 2 large servings, it will keep for a day or two in the fridge so you can have one serving the day you make it and the final serving the next day!

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Observe the creamy green smoothie!

I adjust my liquids based on my desired smoothie thickness. What about you? Do you have a smoothie recipe you are in love with and would prefer not to go without? I’d love for you to share your recipes or experiments with me!

Berry Baklava Granola

The flavor in this granola was a happy accident as are many things in this life I love.

My friend, Michelle, and I decided to embark on a quest to make some delicious granola the other night and were inspired by the Cherry Almond Paleo Granola from the fantastic blog Cook Eat Paleo. We rounded up our ingredients and got to work. I am a lover of nuts and seeds and especially a unique variety so as she chopped one set of nuts I just kept adding more. We ended up with a great variety of almonds, macadamia nuts (which amazing help benefits can be read about here), pecans, pumpkin seeds,  and sunflower seeds. We also had a nice variety of dried berries including cherries, blueberries, cranberries and goji berries (which are another super fruit you can read about here). We included a mixture of finely shredded coconut and coconut chips. The chips are larger and add a nice texture to the granola while the shredded coconut coated the berries which gave it an interesting flavor. In all honesty we just both had two different types of coconut and decided why the heck not use both. It was a great idea.

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Now comes the sauce, the delicious and surprising sauce which somehow managed a sweet, buttery flavor that was completely unexpected! It started with some agave nectar, vanilla flavoring and coconut oil I added in a hefty amount more vanilla (my bottle was so close to being empty I decided I might as well just use the whole thing right?!) and then a dash of cinnamon which turned into a hyphen instead. Hehe, okay so this joke may not be funny to anyone, but me, but when I googled to see “what is more than a dash” in order to get the right descriptor for the amount of cinnamon I put in the answer was “a hyphen” so I’m just going with it. Hey, it’s kind of late tonight and I’m in that kind of a silly, everything makes me giggle, kind of mood. DSC04140

I also added some sea salt which is more coarse than fine. While doing a little taste testing of the sauce before pouring it over the granola mix we came to a consensus. It tasted like… something. Something delicious and sweet and we just couldn’t put our taste bud on it. And then Michelle decided it tasted like baklava and she was right (we had four women in the kitchen who can attest to this). Something about the melding of creamy coconut oil and the hint of caramel in the agave nectar with the tang in the salt and cinnamon spice just became the perfect baklava storm. We poured it over the granola and proceeded to share the remnants in the bowl among the us all. DSC04141

It’s a simple treat, just a little chopping, some stirring and voila – you have some amazing nutrient rich granola to partake in.

Now of course you have three choices at this point:

1 – Take a spoon and dig in (minor assembly was required).

2 – Spread evenly in a cake pan and bake at 300 degrees for 40 minutes stirring every 10 minutes.

3 – Spread it onto your dehydrator sheets at dehydrate for 8-10 hours. (My fellow raw foodies will love this option I’m sure).

We chose to bake it and ended up with a delicious toasted and roasted granola filling the kitchen with scents of a berry baklava treat appropriate morning, noon or night!

I hope you take this recipe, make this recipe and then share what you thought, your edits and/or additions! J’aime (I love) exploring this granola recipe with friends and I hope you will too!

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Berry Baklava Granola

2 cups almonds, roughly chopped

1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped

1/2 cup macadamia nuts, roughly chopped

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1/8 cup dried cranberries

1/8 cup dried sour cherries

1/8 cup dried blueberries

1/8 cup dried goji berries

Sauce:

3-4 Tablespoons coconut oil

3 Tablespoons agave nectar

1-4 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon sea salt

Dash (-) and then Hyphen ( — )  of cinnamon

Bake at 300 degrees for 40 minutes stirring it every ten minutes.

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