Turkey & Eggplant Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed peppers are a perfect recipe for a family dinner or an easy meal prep, but of course, this recipe is without all of the heavy breading. The eggplant adds a delicious and hearty flavor to the mix that is truly more satisfying than the traditional recipe’s breadcrumbs. I also love how this recipe is so versatile, if you are not a huge eggplant fan, zucchini, summer squash or even sweet potatoes are a perfect substitute or addition. Also, for a vegan option, a combination of these veggies is a yummy alternative.

  

RECIPE:

  • 5 large red bell peppers
  • 2 pounds of organic, free range ground turkey (99% lean)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large eggplant, diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 2 tablespoon of coconut oil 
  • 2 teaspoons of oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons of organic tomato paste
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F
  2. Cost a large baking pan with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
  3. Cut each bell pepper in half and the out seeds and stem, then place face up on the baking sheet, and set aside 
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat
  5. Add in the turkey, garlic, onion, oregano and salt, and cook until turkey has browned on the outside
  6. Add diced eggplant and tomato paste, and cook until the eggplant is soft and the turkey is cooked through
  7. Remove the pan from heat, and drain the liquid from the pan
  8. Spoon the turkey mixture into each bell pepper half, making sure to really  stuff them firmly and full
  9. Bake for 15 minutes, the peppers should be soft and stuffing browned
  10. Serve warm with a sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley, and enjoy 

Greek Lamb Meatballs

 Meatballs are the perfect homey recipe, and so easy to make. I especially love these Greek style lamb meatballs because the citrus from the lemon really lightens up the flavor and is also a great vitamin C boost for immune and skin health. For a pasta alternative, I served mine over baked spaghetti squash with a bit of lemon juice and olive oil. These would also go great with a side of sautéed or baked vegetables, especially greens, tomatoes and kalmata olives.   

  

Recipe:

  1. 1 pound of grass fed ground lamb
  2. 2 clove of garlic, minced
  3. Zest of 1 lemon
  4. 3-4 thin slices of lemon
  5. 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  6. 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
  7. Sea salt
  8. Black pepper
  9. 1 spaghetti squash 
  10. Extra virgin olive oil

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F
  • Slice spaghetti squash in half, long ways, and scoop out the seeds
  • Lightly lather the inside with olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper 
  • Cover a large cookie sheet with foil, and place the squash face down on the foil
  • Bake for approximately 30-45 minutes, until it is tender
  • In a mixing bowl, combine the ground lamb with lemon zest, oregano, garlic, thyme, and a few dashes of salt and pepper 
  • Roll the meatballs, making about 10-12, and place in a 2-3″ deep cooking dish
  • Remove the cooked squash from the oven and carefully flip over to let cool
  • Places the lemon slices on top of the meatballs, and bake for 20-25 minutes
  • Once the squash has cooled a bit, use a fork to pull the squash from the skin, forming tender spaghetti strands
  • Place the spaghetti squash strands in a separate bowl add salt, pepper and lemon to taste
  • Remove the meatballs from the oven once they are cooked through
  • Serve over the spaghetti squash with a drizzle of olive oil over top, and enjoy! 

Cold & Flu Season Natural Remedy Must-Haves

Now that fall is in full swing, and winter is just around the corner, we all know that it’s that time of year: cold and flu season! Whether these influenzas are a result of being cooped up indoors, a lack of the sun’s source of Vitamin D or the cold climate, boosting your immune system is essential to prevention and treatment. These herbal supplements are researched natural remedies for protecting yourself from falling ill this season. Incorporating these foods and supplements at the onset of any cold or flu like symptoms may be a great way to amp up your body’s immune defense response. This is especially important considering the overwhelming onset of antibiotics resistant “superbugs.” These herbal and botanical remedies are great for stopping infections and influenzas in there tracks, and reducing the likelihood of more serious infections and illness.

  

Garlic:

Garlic is one of the most powerful naturally occurring antibiotics, particularly pertaining to fungal, bacterial and viral infectionsAllicin, the active sulfur compound found in raw garlic, has amazing healing potential, especially in relation to cold, sinus and flu ailments. Garlic is also a natural antibiotic, and unlike pharmaceuticals, it does not disrupt the normal gut flora, nor does it cause or contribute to antibiotic resistance. To reap the full benefits, garlic is best ingested raw, either cut into small pieces and swallowed as a pill, or incorporated into food. A recommended dose is about one to two cloves per day, typically starting with one and adding more since it may cause gas for some. If the garlic is cooked or dried, it not longer holds the same medicinal properties. Also, a tip for hiding the strong garlic odor after eating is to follow it with a bit of parsley, which is also great for detoxification and aids digestion, a double health bonus!

Cat’s claw:

Cat’s Claw is a powerful herb adaptogen derived from a vine bark that is indigenous to the Amazon Rainforest. It has been long used for its immune system stimulating and anti-inflammatory properties. A 1995 issue of Newsweek explained that Cat’s Claw “has been long used to treat asthma, ulcers, and cancer.” Along with many other uses, Cat’s Claw has shown to be a virus inhibitor, especially rhinoviruses (those that cause the common cold). Furthermore, according to in vitro studies, oxyindole alkaloids found in Cat’s Claw stimulate immune function, while alkaloids and glycosides have also shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Spirulina:

Spirulina is one of the oldest known food sources on the planet! This blue-green algae superfood contains almost every micro and macro-nutrient necessary for human sustenance. In relation to cold and flu prevention, spirulina has shown to improve human immune response by amplifying the production of natural killer cells, a type of white blood cell responsible for killing off viral infections and tumors. Also, the potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound found in spirulina, phycocyanobilin, has shown to clear out toxins from viruses like the flu, and thus help to treat it. A 2010 study published in the journal of Cellular and Molecular Immunology found that spirulina effectively provided antioxidant protection among an elderly clinical trail to prevent and treat anemia, as well as immunological dysfunction.

Curcumin:

Curcumin, the active compound found in turmeric, is one of the most potent anti-inflammatory agents found in nature! Along with being an anti-inflammatory, curcumin is also renowned for its’ antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. A 2003 study published in the Italian Journal of Biochemistry concluded that curcumin activates the hemeoxygenase-1 gene in the brain, which encodes for the production of the antioxidant bilirubin. This antioxidant is responsible for protecting against damage caused by influenza viruses, fighting free radicals, as well as protecting against dementias such as Alzheimer’s Disease. In addition to fighting free radicals and toxins, curcumin has powerful antiviral properties. In 2009, a study published in Emerging Infectious Diseases revealed that curcumin can decrease viral replication by more than 90 percent in laboratory cells infected with influenza viruses. Curcumin can be easily incorporated into cooking, with a recommended one teaspoon daily, or taken in capsules, typically ranging from 400 to 600 milligrams. If you decide to incorporate turmeric into your cooking, also make sure to add piperine (black pepper), as it increases absorption and bioavailability up to 2,000 percent, and if in supplement form, look for those that include piperine in the ingredients.

Echinacea:

This botanical adaptogen has been used in North America as a natural immune booster and infection treatment for over 400 years. Echinacea is especially used in the treatment of cold and flu infections. A review of 14 clinical trials found that the herb reduced the likelihood of catching a cold by 58 percent, as well as shortening the duration by one to four days! Moreover, in Germany, where herbal supplements are regulated by the government, echinacea is approved for the treatment of the common cold, upper respiratory infections, slow healing wounds and even urinary tract infections. This is due to its’ antiviral, anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties. Echinacea can easily be taken in supplement form or as in extract added to food, smoothies or tea.

Oregano oil:

Oregano oil is a must in fending off cold and flu season infections, especially considering its powerful antimicrobial, antibacterial and antiviral properties. A recent study conducted by British and Indian researchers found that oregano oil’s, particularly the Himalayan oregano variety, was such a powerful antibacterial that it effectively killed the bacterial superbug MRSA. Oregano oil is particularly high in phenols, a group of phytochemicals with antioxidant effects. Two of the prominent include Thymol, an anti-fungal and antiseptic known for protecting the body from toxins and promoting healing, and Carvacrol, a powerful anti-bacterial. In addition to helping ward off bacteria and viruses that can make you sick, oregano oil is also full of key nutrients like Vitamin C and E, zinc and magnesium, all of which are critical to supporting your immune system. To use, for sinus relief, put a few drops in a steaming pot of water and inhale. For viral or bacterial infections, dilute the oil in coconut oil, hold on your tongue for a few minutes, and then rinse it out. Or for an easier mechanism, softgel supplements are a great way to incorporate this herbal remedy into your routine.

Ginger:

Ginger is a great herbal remedy for treating or relieving the onset of cold or other respiratory pathogen symptoms. Ginger has high levels of Vitamin C and magnesium, which are key nutrients for fighting cold and flu viruses. The spicy heat of ginger is also great for breaking up sinus congestion by thinning mucus. Also, its’ anti-inflammatory compounds gingerols and shaogals,  as well as the active sesquiterpenes compounds help to kill rhinoviruses and relieve inflamed symptoms such as a sore throats. Ginger tea is one of the best ways to incorporate this root into your routine since the steam also acts as a natural decongestant. To make your own ginger tea, chop four to six tablespoons of fresh, organic ginger, boil the ginger in the water for about 10 minutes and then strain. For added health benefits add some raw, organic honey and organic lime.

Some of my favorite supplements for incorporating these powerful herbal and botanical remedies into my busy routine are from NOW Foods. Every morning I make sure to take Curcumin and Spirulina supplements, both of which are Non-GMO. Also, in the case that I feel the onset of any cold or flu symptoms, I make sure to have Echinacea extract and oregano oil handy, and also start to incorporate more raw, organic garlic and ginger into my diet. Another great health trick I love for aiding in immune support are the organic super herb tonics from REBBL. My favorite of which are the Hibiscus Mint, which contains Cat’s Claw, and the Ginger Citrus.

Staying Flexible: The Importance of Stretching

Many of us underestimate the necessity of stretching, and its’ benefits. For me, flexibility is never something that has come naturally. Maintaining and increasing your flexibility is essential for your joints, muscles and circulatory system, and lymphatic drainage especially as we age and muscle tightness increases. Furthermore, stretching can be a great mechanism to wake up, to relax, to warm up muscles and to ease muscle tensions. If you have an extra 15 minutes in your day, then you have time to fit these stretching sequences into your routine. Daily stretching not only increases your flexibility, but is great for improving posture, coordination, range of motion, relaxation, and stress relief.

MORNING STRETCHING:

 Stretching first thing in the morning takes only a couple of minutes, and is a great way to get your circulation going and to wake up your body. After a long night of stagnant movement, stretching helps to increase blood flow to your muscles and joints, while also bringing nutrients to your cells. Beginning your morning routine with a stretching sequence is also a great way of relieving any lower back pain, especially by loosening the hamstring and back muscles. My go-to stretch sequence includes a few rounds of sun salutations. If you are not familiar with this yoga routine, it is a simple flow of movements that are guided by the inhale and exhale of the breathe. The synced combination of breathing and stretching movement is a great way to start your day with a mindful intention, as well as detox the body through deep breathing and circulation.

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PRE-WORKOUT STRETCHING: 

Stretching before a workout is crucial for preventing injury, and is a great way to warm up your muscles before a workout. For pre-workout stretches, it is best to focus on dynamic stretching that involves movement, as opposed to long holds. The goal of pre-workout stretching is to warm up your muscles, to increase your rotational movement and range of motion, and to activate your core. Prior to moving into a pre-workout stretch, it is important to warm up your muscles with a few cardio bursts, such as jumping jacks, jump rope or high knees. 

  • Standing Straight Leg Kicks: While standing on the balls of the feet, extend one leg straight out, reaching with the opposite arm. Repeat this alternating legs, until you have reached a total of 30 reps. Remember to keep both arms and legs straight, hips facing forward and to engage your core muscles. This stretch is great not only for warming up the core and limbs, but also loosening up with hamstrings.tumblr_m1g9x4k9vw1qcmrp8
  • Laying Single Leg Kicks: Laying on your back, lift your shoulder blades from the mat to engage the core. Extend one leg straight to the ceiling, grabbing a hold of either the calf or ankle, and extent the other hovering over the mat. Gently pull your leg towards your forehead with a double pulse by extending out the elbows. Continue this motion, alternating legs, Be mindful of keeping the core engaged, lower back glued to the mat, and shoulders and neck relaxed. By activating your core, the hips and mid-body should not sway or move, while also stretching the lower back, hamstrings and calves. Continue this for 10 reps on each side.imgres
  • Forward Walking Luge with Twist: Now that you have warmed up the core and lengthen your back side, this dynamic stretch is great for opening up the hips and increasing your range of motion. Step forward into a lunge, keeping the knee tracked over the toes. With the core engaged, twist your upper body towards the forward leg. Continue this with alternating forward walking lunges until you have reached a total of 30 reps25907d191a070d276ec0faa05cb956f6

POST-WORKOUT STRETCHING: 

After any workout, whether it’s cardio, circuit or weight, stretching is essential to your cool down. Static stretching post-workout is a great way to safely lower your heart rate, to relieve muscle tightness, and to reduce soreness. Depending on your workout, or focused muscles groups, your post-workout stretching may vary. I recommend holding each stretch for 30 seconds on each side, and using your exhale breathe to move yourself deeper into each stretch. Here are some of my favorite post-workout stretches, and touch on almost all core muscle groups.

  • Cobra: This pose is great for opening up the chest and abdominal wall. Laying down on your stomach, place your hands underneath your shoulders, next to your chest. On your exhale, press up through the palms, looking towards the ceiling to stretch the front of the body. Take a few rounds of breathe, and on about your third exhale, release yourself upper body to the mat. Repeat this motion two or three times.

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  • Half Split Stretch: Beginning in a kneeled position, plant one foot in front, with the foot flexed. Bend at the waist, and reach for your foot or ankle to stretch out the hamstrings and low back.Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 11.15.39 AM
  • Piriformis Stretch: This stretch is great for relieving tension in the hips and glutes! Laying on your back, raise your bent legs to align your knees over your hips. Cross your ankle over the opposite knee, and flex your foot. Reach your hands behind the uncrossed, bent leg, and using your exhale, pull the leg closer to release the gluteal muscles. images
  • Tricep StretchEither standing or seated, reach both hands over head next to your ears, bend one of your elbows, and then grab it with the opposite hand. Making sure to relax neck and shoulders, gently push the palm into the elbow to lower the hand down the back, and stretch out the triceps muscles.triceps_stretch2
  • Seated Spinal Twist: In a seated position, cross one leg over the other. Twist your upper body away from the your leg, rooting the opposite elbow to the knee. Using your inhale, lift your upper body, and on your exhale twist deeper into your stretch. Seated spinal twist not only relieves tightness in the shoulders, hips and spine, but also acts as a massage for the abdominal organs.spinaltwist_
  • Seated Straddle StretchThis seated stretch is great for releasing the back, hips and back of the legs. Begin in a seated V position, take a deep inhale and reach long and tall over head with your arms. On your exhale bend forward at your waist to release tensions in the low back. Using your breathe as a tools, start to lower your elbows with each exhale to get deeper into the stretch. To further extent your range of motion, lift your body tall once again, and on your following exhale reach for one of your ankles or feet, holding for at least 30 seconds on each side.Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 11.28.49 AM

NIGHTTIME & RELAXATION STRETCHING:

Feeling stressed, tense or experiencing muscle aches and soreness? These are some of my go-to stretches for relaxing both my body and my mind. Many of us carry stress or tension in our back, shoulders, and hips. Taking a couples minutes each night to relieve these tensions and tightness not only will increase your flexibility, but also help to relieve stress and improve your sleep. Here are some my my favorite bedtime stretches that I use to relax and meditate. 

  • Heart Opener with Forward Fold: This stretch really helps to open up the chest and to release tension in the lower back, hamstrings and calves. Start by interlacing the fingers behind your back, release the shoulder blades down your back and pull your fingers back to open up the chest. Then, on your next exhale, keep your hips facing forward and forward fold. Hold this fold for 30 seconds.chestexpander
  • Laying Down Goddess: To help open up the hips and relax, this pose is a great meditative stance. Laying down on your back, bend your knees and touch the soles of the feet together to create a diamond shape. Pull the heels closer towards the groin for a deeper stretch. Place your hands either on your knees to gently push deeper into your stretch, or face them palms up by your side. Hold this pose for 2 minutes, while focusing on your breathing.Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 10.55.47 AM
  • Laying Spinal Twist: This laying twist is perfect for realignment, as well as low back, hip and gluteal muscle release. Twists are also great since they massage the abdominal organs, increase circulation to digestive organs and help rid the body of toxins. Laying on your back, spread your arms long on either side to create a T-shape. bend one knee in towards your chest, and cross it to the opposite side. Place the opposite palm onto the bent knee, using it to gently push deeper into your stretch. At the same time, make sure to keep the opposite shoulder planted to the floor. Hold stretch this for 45 seconds on each side.imgres-1
  • Child’s Pose: This is my absolute favorite yoga pose! Child’s pose is great for relieving tensions in the lower back, hips and shoulders. I prefer to do my child’s pose with toes together and hips apart for a deeper hip opener, but you can also approach this stretch with feet and legs together for greater emphasis on the low back. This resting posture is a great stress reliever and very restorative. Hold this pose for 1 to 2 minutes, while again, focusing on breathing.

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Easy Ways to Detox Your Skin

Aside from maintaining a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, and getting your daily sweat in, there are other great ways you can detox your skin to help attain that healthy glow. Your skin is the largest organ on you body, so it is important to keep it healthy since it is your body’s first line of protection against invaders and pathogens. Approximately every 27 days your skin renews itself, through a cycle of dying and regenerated skin cells. Nutrition is obviously an important aspect of healthy skin, since with the nutrients you feed your body, your cells rebuild themselves with. Though, these beauty tricks will give your complexion that extra boost, especially for protecting and rejuvenating your skin after being exposed to harsh environments, like sun exposure.

Scrubs:

Exfoliating your skin is one of the best things you can do for your skin, since ridding that layer of dead skin cells will help other moisturizing products to penetrate your skin more effectively. Not only this, but exfoliators actual help to increase blood circulation and stimulate the lymph nodes, helping contribute to internal detoxification as well. I recommend using a body exfoliator one to three times a week, as needed.

  • Balanced Guru’s Scrub Me: This is my favorite exfoliating body scrub! It is completely organic and cruelty-free, which I love! It is made of raw sugar, organic coffee, coconut oil and cocoa butter, so not only is it exfoliating your skin, but also hydrating as well. The coffee in the scrub smells delicious, and is really a great way to wake up in your morning shower. 

     Body Oils: 

    Body oils are a great way to feed your dry skin, particularly when using organic oils that have a superfood effect on the skin as a result of their powerful hydrating, firming and anti-inflammatory properties. I prefer using body oils to lotions since they are highly concentrated with hydrating all natural oils, which the skin can effectively and quickly absorb. Many people shy away from using oils on their skin in fear of causing breakouts or greasiness, but in fact it is just the opposite. It is actually when our skin is dehydrated and lacking those oils that it tends to overcompensate through the overproduction of oil, and potentially leading to can clog pores and trapped dead skin cells that cause bumps or acne. Body oils are especially great during the harsher seasons like winter and summer, since the winter’s dryness and summer’s heat can tend to leave your skin parched. I also love that body oils are multi-purpose, and great used as a hair mask or lip balm! Though, make sure to be using a body oil that consists of organic and all natural ingredients, so you know exactly what you are putting on your skin.

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  • Balanced Guru’s Hug Me: This organic body butter is one of my favorites, and consists of  coconut oil, cocoa butter, babassu oil & vitamin E. This body oil is one of the most quick absorbing that I have ever used, and smells great from the coconut oil! Coconut oil has such great benefits for your skin! The long chain fatty acids in coconut oil are great for minimizing moisture loss through the pores, while the high levels of Vitamin E help to repair damaged and aging skin, since it is essential for collagen production.
  • Egyptian Magic: Egyptian Magic has been all the rage among celebrities like Lauren Conrad and Kate Hudson. This oil is made predominately composed of bee products, including bees wax, royal jelly, propolis, bee pollen, honey as well as olive oil. Honey is known for its antibacterial properties, making it great for treating skin ailments, like acne or eczema. Also, bee pollen and propolis’ high nutrient content work great to aid anti-aging and skin cell growth, by providing a high content of nutrients and enzymes as well as having high antioxidant levels to fight oxidizing effects that can lead to cancer and aging.
  • Passionate Skincare’s SkinFood: This body oil is packed with organic oil superfoods, including coconut oil, hemp oil, beeswax, jojoba oil, rosehip oil and manuka oil. Although a bit more oily than other body oils I have used, this is great if you skin is feeling particularly dry and to lather all over your body before bed. The hemp oil has great benefits for your skin since it actually mimic your skin’s natural sebum. Furthermore, the jojoba oil is not only hydrating but helps to absorb the other oils deep into your pores. Finally, the rosehip is great for treating scarring, blemishes and stretch marks, while the manuka oil acts as an antibacterial to treat skin disorders and invaders.

Essential Oils: 

Essential oils can have great benefits for your skin, especially since they are a very concentrated source of vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants. Essential oils are very beneficial, particularly through aromatherapy, in helping to enhance our body’s natural detoxification process. Our skin is exposed to toxins everyday, whether it is from pollution, the environment or makeup products. Essential oils are a great way to help rid toxins from your skin and body, and can be incorporated into your beauty and skincare regiment through a variety of ways. Some of my favorites are to add a few drops to my body oil for topical use or as a massage oil, to add it to a hot bath which is great for both respiratory benefits from the steam, as well as skin, and also to use it in a hot towel compress.

 

  • Lavender Oil: Lavender oil is known for its antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, making it great for treating skin disorders like acne, dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, acne scars, sunburns and blemishes. I especially love adding this to a hot bath, because of lavender’s calming effects, and it is great for alleviating ultra dry or chapped skin. Lavender is also a great post sun exposure remedy since it works great for treating any type of burn! You can apply it topically by itself, or, as I prefer, to use with a body oil to maximize skin hydration.
  • Lemon Oil: Lemon oil can be a great natural remedy for both dull or oily skin. Since lemon essential oil is a natural astringent, it can help to remove access oil and revitalize the skin’s surface. Also, its’ antiseptic properties are great for fighting infection and inflammatory causing bacteria, such as those that cause acne or for treating minor cuts. Also, lemon oil works great for topical use, especially if applied with a body oil on dry or rough areas of skin  in order to repair it, due to its high levels of Vitamin C.

Clay Masks:

Clay masks are a great way to immediately draw impurities and toxins from your skin. Clay masks are particularly great since they act as a sponge to absorb excess oil and impurities from the skin’s surface, while also having a hydrating effect. When masks are applied, the soft, wet phase allows the skin to reap the benefits of the nutrients of the mask. Then, as the mask dries, it starts to constrict, thus stimulating blood circulation. Though, it is best to rinse off the mask before it reaches a completely dry and cracked phase, since this can also dehydrate your skin. For best results, rinse off once the masks is dried, and still slightly sticky. Clay masks are great for all skin types, and are also effective at unclogging pores, reducing pore size and plumping dull and tired skin.

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  • La Mav Green Clay Detox Mask: I absolutely love this mask! It is perfect for all skin types, and especially great for congested, dry and dull skin. The natural fruit extracts, lavender extract and lemon balm extract are great for exfoliating the skin, rebalancing your natural pH and evening your complexion, while the aloe vera and rose really hydrate and revive dull or tired looking skin. Finally, the green and white clay used in this mask are really effective at clearing the skin’s surface impurities and unclogging pores. I typically use this once to twice a week, but you are able to use it up to every other day.
  • La Mav DNA Phyto-Guard Pink Clay Mask: This clay mask is another great option, but particularly great for dry or sun exposed skin! This mask’s pink clay is a bit more targeted at skin purification and removing damage from pollution. Furthermore, the Moringa Extract is known for its protective qualities, guarding your skin from pollutants, smoke and heavy metals. Also, the Cassia Alata Leaf Extract helps to protect cell DNA from UVA and UVB rays’ damage. Finally, the Vitamin E and Acai oil help to restore hydration to the skin, and enhance the skin’s ability to regenerate healthy cell and collagen growth, as well as protect against oxidizations’ damaging effects.

Lemongrass Squash Soup

Fall is officially here, which means it’s time for comfort food! Soups are one of my all time favorite comfort foods, and are a great way to sneak tons of vegetables into your diet. Squash is such a versatile and delicious vegetable, and is packed with beta carotene, the compound our body uses to produce Vitamin A, Vitamin C and more than a quarter of our daily recommended fiber. While lemongrass is full of A, B-complex and C vitamins, and is also a great for supporting healthy detoxification as a result of its diuretic properties. This recipe is a perfect lunch since its thickness and high fiber content keep you full and satisfied. Another reason this soup recipe is so great for the fall, a.k.a flu, season, is that it is full of heat stimulating foods that are great for detoxification and immune support. Ginger, garlic and cayenne’s heat stimulating properties are great for promoting blood circulation that helps detoxify the body of bacteria and toxins. Not only this, but these foods are also highly anti-inflammatory, which is bad news for pathogens, considering that they flourish in inflammation. Furthermore, cayenne is a great agent for breaking up mucus in the body. While garlic has been found to be an effective natural antibiotic, and ginger as a natural anti-fungal.

  
RECIPE: 

  • 2 butternut squashs
  • 5 cups of leeks, chopped
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped
  • 8 cups of organic chicken broth (or organic vegetable broth for a vegan recipe)
  • 2 teaspoons of salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • organic olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F
  2. Cut each squash in half, and rub the insides with olive oil
  3. Place orange side down onto a cooking sheet, and bake for about 40 to 50 minutes, or until tender
  4. In a large soup pot, add the leeks, lemongrass, ginger, and drizzle over some olive oil. Sautée over medium heat until softened, but not brown.
  5. Once the squash are cooked, let cool for about 10 minutes.
  6. Over simmering heat, scoop the flesh out of the squash into the soup pot, along with salt and cayenne.
  7. Cook over simmer for about 20 minutes, or until squash is quiet soft.
  8. Add 8 cups of the broth of your choice to the mixture, and bring to a boil.
  9. Cool the mixture, then in batches, puree the mixture a blender.
  10. Add the puree back to the soup pot, and if needed add additional broth.
  11. Adjust salt and cayenne levels if needed, and enjoy!

*Tip: If needed, add additional broth after reheating, as it may thicken.

My Health, Fitness & Beauty Travel Essentials

I absolutely love traveling and exploring new destinations! Although, with flying, the battle to eat healthy and exercise seem like a daunting task! Of course it is okay to indulge and relax, I know I do, especially when it comes to exploring new cuisines and laying by the beach. Though, it’s important to remember that moderation is key! Maintaining your health on vacation is essential to minimize jet lag, and assure that fatigue or illness don’t get in the way of your travel plans! That is why I always make sure to pack these health, fitness and beauty essentials to stay healthy, minimize muscle loss and of course keep my skin glowing and looking fresh!

  

HEALTH:

  1. Balanced Guru Travel Size Energy Mists: The anti-microbial, antibacterial, healing and balancing benefits of essential oils make them a great travel companion. For travel-induced insomnia, I like to use Balanced Guru’s Truthful or Intuition Energy Mists , since the Roman Chamomile and Lavender have calming, soothing and sedative affects. For jet-lag and fatigue, my go-to is the Understanding Energy Mist, since the Frankincense, Cypress and Ginger help to fight exhaustion while increasing alertness. I love using these on the plane if I am trying to relax, or need to wake up before landing. Just spritz a little in the palm of your hands, rub it between, and gently inhale it in! They are also great for spraying in a steamed shower or bath, as well as onto your pillows.
  2. Exo Protein Bars: Don’t be stuck eating the processed and GMO airplane food and snacks. I always make sure to come prepared with my own array of healthy snacks both for the plan and on my travels, one of my go-to snacks are Exo Protein Bars. These are great because they have 10 grams of protein, to keep you feeling much satisfied than the complimentary peanuts and pretzels. I also like to bring a few extra for breakfast if I am in a pinch, and want to avoid eating unhealthy breakfasts. Indulging in local treats is a great way to experience a culture, but it doesn’t mean you need to eat a croissant every morning just because you are in Paris. Having healthy substitutes allows you to still indulge, but also have a back up!
  3. Justin’s Maple Almond Butter Single Serving Packets: Along with my bars, you will also always find Justin’s Maple Almond Butter in my carry on, and definitely accompanied by an apple or banana! The maple almond butter from Justin’s is seriously out of this world, it seriously takes so much will power to not eat the entire jar! Which is why their single serving packets are great not only as a self control assist, but so easy to throw in your travel bag. I also love that almost anywhere while traveling you can pick up a quick apple or banana, and voilà, you have a healthy snack! Almond butter is also rich in magnesium, which most of us are deficient in and even more essential for health while traveling!
  4. Magnesium Supplements: Magnesium is a mineral used by every organ in your body, and by some estimates, almost 80 percent of American adults are deficient. Maintaining healthy magnesium levels is important for overall health, but is even more critical when traveling. Magnesium is used in several processes in our bodies, including creating energy in the body through ATP (adenosine triphosphate) activation, digestion, acting as a precursor for neurotransmitters like serotonin, is a building block of DNA and RNA synthesis, muscle and nerve activation, and detoxification of heavy metals, chemicals and environmental toxins. As a result, magnesium is key for shaking off jet lag, since it is needed for muscle relaxation and the biological processes that aids the body in undisturbed sleep. Along with sleep, magnesium is critical for relieving travel stresses, since magnesium has shown to have a mood stabilizing effect. Also, a lack of energy may also be a result of magnesium deficiency, since this mineral is critical to the process by which our body transports energy within our cells, through ATP. Finally, traveling can also disturb the body’s digestion and bowel regularity caused by airplane cabin pressure and the introduction of new foods. Magnesium supplements can help to soften stool and to relieve travel induced constipation and irregularity. I reccomend using Magnesium glycinate since it is the most easily absorbed and bioavailable form.
  5. Spirulina Supplements: Getting your greens abroad can be tricky, which is why I always have spirulina tablets handy. Spirulina is a powerful blue-green algae superfood, and is an easy item to throw in your bag since you can purchase them in tablet form. They are great for alkalizing the body, a powerful detoxifier, purifies the blood and increases oxygen levels, and is rich in vitamins and minerals. Definitely a travel must for keeping energy and vitals on point. 

FITNESS:

  1. Resistance Band: Trying to workout while traveling, well, doesn’t always work out! Tennis shoes take up too much valuable suitcase space, which is a problem for me since I am a chronic over-packer. Instead, I squeeze in a resistance band, along with two sets of sports bras and workout bottoms. Resistance bands are great for an anywhere, anytime workout. I try to get in at least 15 minutes per day of targeted strength circuits using body weight and resistance band workouts to maintain muscle mass, strength and tone. The worst feeling is coming back from vacation and seeing all your lost progress. Which is why each morning while traveling, before I get ready, I make sure to get my quick 15-minute workout in to keep up muscle tone and rev up my metabolism for the day.

BEAUTY:

  1. Egyptian Magic: Egyptian Magic’s  body oil is my travel go-to, and I refuse to leave home without it! It is the least greasy body oil I have ever used, and absorbs fairly quickly. It is also the perfect all-purpose product! I use this as my body moisturizer, hand creme, lip balm and hair mask, not only making it the perfect carry on essential, but is great for packing light. 
  2. Thayers Aloe Vera Toner: Thayer’s Aloe Vera Toner is a must on any trip, especially if you are flying. This alcohol-free toner really cleanses the skin, removes access oil and soothes without over-drying, which is crucial on a dry airplane. I use this every morning and night as a part of my skincare regiment, but also works great as a skin refresher in flight or after a day in the sun! The only downside is that the toner comes in a rather large container, so you must transfer the product into a travel size liquid container.
  3. Jane Iredale Lip Plumper: For an added pop of color while traveling, Jane Iredale’s Lip Plumper is a great way to revive a dull and jet lagged look. Made with Avocado and Jojoba Seed Oil, not only will it hydrate your chapped lips, but the Ginger Root Extract increases blood flow to your lips to create a fuller look. This line of tinted lip plumper also comes in a great variety of colors, my favorite being in Tokyo.
  4. Jane Iredale Active Light Under-eye Concealer: This lightweight, yet full coverage concealer is my travel lifesaver. Dark under eye circles seem to be a part of the package when it comes to flying and travel. Though, this creamy concealer pen is great for applying under the eyes, down the bridge of the nose, to the top of the cheekbones and around the bottom of the nose for reducing the appearance of puffiness, redness and dark circles. I swear, after I put this on, either alone or over a foundation, it looks like I have gotten the best night of sleep. Unlike other concealers, this formula is very light weight and blends well into the skin or other face makeup,  providing a very natural highlighted look. With only a small amount, this concealer really brightens up your face, especially your under eyes, giving you a flawless and energized complexion.

Asian Kale Salad

Kale salads are a great way to integrate this green superfood into your diet! Kale can often be too tough for salads, but this recipe is great for a lighter kale salad, and is super easy to make. I also love that you can leave this salad over night with the dressing already mixed without the kale getting soggy, but rather it marinates and actually tastes even better the following day. This salad is also great with cold and flu season approaching since it contains a good amount of garlic and ginger, both heating foods that can help detoxification. Garlic specifically is known for its powerful antibacterial and antiviral properties, digestive aid and is an anti-inflammatory. Ginger is also anti-inflammatory and acts as a digestive aid, as well as being antibacterial and stimulating circulation. Also, for added protein, this salad is great with grilled or shredded chicken!

  
RECIPE:

  • 2 bunches of kale (about 4-5 cups)
  • 1 bunch of green onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, diced (red or orange)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, diced
  • Black sesame seeds
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 bunch organic cilantro

DRESSING:

  • 1/4 cup organic olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger root
  • 1/2 lime, juiced 
  • Pinch of sea salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Clean kale and pat dry
  2. Chop kale finely into 1” strips, then set aside in a large salad bowl
  3. Add chopped green onion, diced bell pepper and tomatoes to salad
  4. Sprinkle 3-4 dashes of black sesame seeds into the salad
  5. Combine dressing ingredients in q small bowl and whisk until combined
  6. Add dressing to salad and toss
  7. Alice avocado and add to the top of the salad, and enjoy!

Interview: Noreen Diani, Founder of Organic Face Cosmetics

I interviewed Noreen Diani, the founder of Organic Face makeup, and she gave me the dirty on cosmetic toxins, her favorite beauty tips, and how you can protect yourself from harmful chemicals in your cosmetics. Noreen is a makeup artist by trade, and after suffering from cosmetic toxin induced illness, she began to dig deeper into the harmful chemicals hiding in cosmetic products she used on a daily basis. Noreen reveals that she “had fallen deathly ill,” and was tired of doctors telling her that she “had nothing wrong with her.” It wasn’t until one doctor suggested that she might be having an allergic or toxic reaction to the cosmetics she was constantly exposed to as a makeup artist. With this in mind, Noreen went home, emptied the contents of cosmetics bag, and began looking up the effects of her cosmetics’ ingredients when in contact with the human body.

What she found was shocking, and the root of her illness became clear. She says it was really an “eye opener for me.” Not only are some of the commonly use chemicals found in cosmetics and personal care products carcinogens and highly toxic, but Noreen also explains that “there’s no need for these chemicals,” other than the fact that companies use them because they are cheap. What is even more astounding is that these chemicals are not even regulated by the FDA, despite the fact that they are causing harm to consumers. The European Union has banned 1,372 chemicals, while the US has banned a mere 10!

Of these thousand-plus chemicals that are legal for consumer use in the United States Noreen revealed some of the common and extremely toxic offenders you should look for in your makeup and personal care products! Noreen even revealed that she has had clients with chronic cystic acne, and after making the switch to organic makeup, their skin has completely cleared up. This is not uncommon considering the allergic reactions and inflammation caused by many of the chemicals used in most generic cosmetic products. Noreen explains that she found out she was allergic to red dye, a common ingredient in blushes and lipsticks, which was one of the chemicals responsible for her adverse reactions to the makeup she was applying. Along with an array of other chemicals, Noreen pointed out a few that she commonly sees and advises to look out for, but to also make sure and look up all ingredients in your products to assure their safety!

  1. Triclosan: Commonly found in products like lipsticks, hand sanitizers and even toothpaste this chemical is used as an antibacterial agent. Though, it has shown to disrupt thyroid function, alter some hormone functioning and bioaccumulate in breast milk.
  2. Phenylalanine: Noreen warns that many natural-claimed cosmetics will include this ingredient since it is naturally as an amino acid in egg, milk and meat protein. Though, the Phenylalanine found in these products is actually an isolated and processed form and is a classified neurotoxin, causing cellular death in the brain.
  3. Fragrance: This is the most ambiguous term found on any ingredient list, and it can include 300 plus other chemical ingredients that are not required to be listed under this title.

With the shocking results she found, Noreen was on a mission “to try to educate as many people as possible.” And from this mission, Organic Face had evolved as a source of top of the line cosmetics that was both organic and nontoxic! When I asked Noreen what her advice was to women in regards to organic makeup, she responded by saying: “Tell people to Google makeup ingredients and what happens when you inhale, ingest or absorb them.” She explains this is exactly what she did prior to her switch to organic makeup, and was appalled! By giving people this same discovery experience, Noreen not only is educating cosmetic consumers, but also challenging them to be active consumers. I love this, I think this is completely embodied in Organic Face’s hashtag, #whatsinyourmakeup.

Not only was I able to learn more about Noreen’s journey and the background of Organic Face, but I was also able to get some all-natural beauty tips from the organic makeup expert!

  1. Cinnamon Oil: Apply topically to the lips for increased blood flow, acting as an all-natural lip plumper.
  2. Natural Aloe, directly from the plant: After extracting from the plant, apply directly to the skin for a soothing and hydrating effect, especially great for sunburns.
  3. Olive Oil: Before bed, apply olive oil to the skin for smooth and glowing skin.
  4. Baking Soda + Water Paste: If you are experiencing breakouts, make a paste of water and baking soda and apply directly as a spot treatment or mask to dry up acne and to stop reoccurring breakouts.
  5. Half a Lemon: Cut a lemon in half and rub directly onto the face for a natural exfoliator, helping to get rid of dead skin cells and clear out clogged pores.

  Organic Face is one of my favorite lines of organic makeup, and really offers a superior line of products. One of my favorites is their bronzer and blush duo compact. This is great for adding a pop of color to your face, and Noreen recommends first applying the bronzer lightly from the ears along the jawline, as well as areas of the face that the sun naturally hits to give a natural looking glow.

Almond-Chia Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are an essential for any sweet tooth! I know that these were my favorite dessert growing up, especially the cookie dough! That is why I love this guilt-free Paleo and vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe. It is not only a delicious treat, but full of powerful superfoods like chia seeds, raw almond flour and coconut! For this recipe, I used NOW Foods raw almond flour, milled chia seeds, unsweetened, shredded coconut and vanilla extract! I love these, especially for baking, since they are all organic and Non-GMO, and are affordable! Also, NOW Foods has a great organic vanilla extract, which is Non-GMO, so I know that it is not made of  Synbio vanillin, a new GMO vanilla that was enetered the U.S. market! I have posted the links below for the following ingredients! I also make sure to use organic products whenever possible to reduce my exposure to GMOs, pesticides and other added chemicals.

Recipe: Yields about 12 to 15 cookies

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine water and milled chia seeds and whisk
  3. In a separate medium-size bowl, combine almond flour, coconut, baking soda, sea salt and chocolate chips, and mix
  4. Add coconut sugar, coconut oil, coconut butter and vanilla to the chia seeds mixture and whisk thoroughly
  5. Next, pour liquids into the dry mixture while whisking. Continue to whisk until combined into a dough
  6. Lay a sheet of parchment paper onto a cookie sheet
  7. Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls, slightly flatten, and place onto the cookie sheet
  8. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown
  9. Once baked, cool on a cookie sheet for about 10 minutes, and enjoy!