Carrot Cake Slow Cooker Oatmeal

Hallelujah! He is Risen! If you are looking for an easy breakfast for the family this Easter weekend, here’s a new idea. I absolutely love carrot cake, but now that I am gluten & egg free, it is harder to enjoy these days. I’m satisfying this seasonal craving during breakfast, getting a serving of vegetables in with a bowl of carrot cake oatmeal that is gluten, dairy, egg and refined-sugar free!

IMG_3161Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of coconut or almond milk (can also use water)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/4 cups of steel cut oats (regular oats will not work!)
  • 1/2 cup of raisins
  • 1 cup shredded organic carrots (I used 4 medium carrots)
  • 1/2 cup shredded apples (or frozen pineapple as a variation)
  • 1/2 cup pecan or walnut halves
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup (or honey, coconut sugar or brown sugar)
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil or butter
  • Optional: 1/4 cup shredded coconut

Preparation:

  1. To prepare the apples and carrots, peel and then use a food processor with shredding disc.
  2. Add all ingredients into a glass pyrex bowl that fits inside your slow cooker and stir well to combine.
  3. Place the glass bowl into the slow cooker and then add water into your slow cooker (around, not in the glass bowl) to fill up to a little over halfway around the bowl.
  4. Turn slow cooker on low for around 8 hours (I do this overnight).
  5. It will be ready to serve immediately. Enjoy!

If you have leftovers to reheat (this makes a lot!), I add a little bit of water before microwaving.

Happy Easter, friends! Hope you have a wonderful time with your family and I pray you are all staying healthy (and sane) during this pandemic.

 

My Skincare Routine

Anyone else have acne-prone skin?  Even as a 30-something? It is something I have dealt with since puberty.  As a teenager, my dermatologist put me on antibiotics for EIGHT years to clear my skin. It worked, but at great harm to the rest of my body- read about my story here. Since then, I’ve been trying to battle breakouts constantly. While I am somewhat still trying to figure it out, my skin is now clearer than it has ever been, so I’d love to share what I have learned.

First- your skin is usually a reflection of what’s going on inside your body. We can try all the skincare products with little or no results. Stop trying to put a bandaid on the symptoms and find the reason behind your issues.

The majority of people suffer from breakouts due to hormonal imbalances. Whether you are suffering from acne or a multitude of other hormonal issues (inability to lose weight, fatigue, hair loss, blood sugar imbalances, mood swings), I highly recommend visiting a functional medicine doctor who can test your hormone levels.  Our environment, food and lifestyle (hello stress!) are all filled with things that impact our hormones. Most of us suffer from imbalances. It’s super important to understand your levels and find out how to adjust them- there are plenty of natural ways to feel so much better.

Another reason for breakouts can actually be from food sensitivities. Now that I’ve identified what mine are and started removing them from my diet, I realized how much of a symptom it was for me. Beyond food sensitivities, sugar definitely affects our skin (and immune system), so keeping it at a minimum is best.

Of course, there’s also the obvious reasons we break out- a build up of dead skin, dirt that clogs pores and bacteria that irritates pores and causes blemishes.  This is why products to clean, moisturize and protect are still important. We all have different skin types that require different routines and ingredients.

I have been deliberate to remove toxic chemicals from my home to reduce exposure to those harmful ingredients (many are hormone-blocking), both in our food and household products. As I ran out of my skincare products, I started looking for a safer replacement. Through my research, BeautyCounter stands out above the rest- they have a lot of products, they actually work, and clean ingredients are of utmost importance to them.I worked with my friend Kaity to figure out what products I should try based on my skin type (oily, acne-prone) and to prioritize within my budget. She was an awesome resource, so I definitely recommend her as a consultant. Here is the routine & products that have worked for me:

Morning & Night Hormone Balancing: Progesterone Cream – for natural hormone balancing, I use a dab (rubs in like lotion). I established the need for this schedule with my functional medicine doctor. I definitely notice my skin breaks out if I miss just one application.

Morning Cleanser: Countertime Lipid Defense Cleansing Oil – a gentle cleanser that leaves the skin feeling super moisturized.

Morning & Night Treatment: As I mentioned, most people break out due to built up dead skin cells & bacteria. Salicylic acid gently takes off the surface layer of skin so it is the best treatment for the dead skin cells and dirt. Benzoyl peroxide is the leading treatment to kill the bad bacteria on your skin BUT it is super harsh, so cannot be used at the same time as salicylic acid. I remember trying to alternate as a teenager and not seeing results. I really needed them both morning and night.

BeautyCounter uses an ingredient called bakuchiol in their Countertime products that is an extremely effective anti-bacterial without being harsh and drying, so you can use at the same time as salicylic acid. I apply these in this order immediately after cleansing and before moisturizing.

  1. Countertime Tripeptide Radiance Serum – has salicylic acid
  2. Countercontrol All Over Acne Treatment – has anti-bacterial bakuchiol

Morning Moisturizer: Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer – This has the perfect amount of coverage to even out the skin and has SPF for daytime protection.

Makeup Removal: I am obsessed with this microfiber Makeup Remover Cloth!

Evening Cleanser: Countercontrol Clear Pore Cleanser – I like this for daily gentle exfoliation and it makes my skin feel very clean and refreshed.

Treatment again, then Evening Moisturizer: Nourishing Night Cream

1-2 times/week, I do Deep Exfoliation and Cleansing with a couple different masks:

 

As Needed Spot Treatment – I love these natural Avarelle Acne Patches for when I have a breakout. The blemish disappears or is greatly diminished overnight.

Let me know if you try these products and see results! Good luck!

EverlyWell Food Sensitivities Test Review

Over the past couple years, I have been having gastrointestinal discomfort, pain and bloating that have gotten progressively worse over time.  In an effort to avoid a dramatic elimination diet that takes awhile and is hard to stick to, I tried keeping a food & symptom journal to track my reactions and figure out a culprit with no luck. It seemed that I would feel bad just about every day. When I saw that EverlyWell was doing a 30% off Black Friday sale on their tests, I decided to give the Food Sensitivities test a try.

A note on the difference between Food Sensitivities vs. Food Allergies… An allergy is a histamine response that the immune system produces (IgE antibodies) and occur immediately after consumption. Sensitivity is still an immune response (IgG antibodies), but typically not as severe and a different reaction – GI issues, acne, fatigue, brain fog, etc can all by symptoms- and can occur / last for days after consuming. This can make them quite difficult to identify (definitely my experience). The EverlyWell test is for Food Sensitivities (IgG).

The Process

After ordering, I received my kit in the mail just 3 days later. It came with simple instructions to do a finger prick for blood samples (something I was used to after having gestational diabetes).  I was a little unsure about my sample, so I emailed their customer service a picture and got a quick response that it looked perfect.

I dropped it in the mail that afternoon and received confirmation that the sample had arrived at the lab about a week later. Two days after that, I had my results. So, it was just under 2 weeks from ordering that I had my results.  Throughout the process, I was super impressed with EverlyWell’s communication– consistent emails updating the progress, great customer service when I had a question, and incredibly clear and easy to find information on their website.

Accuracy

The key thing to be aware of when you take the test is to ensure that you have had all the foods within the past 4 weeks so that it can measure your reactivity. Taking it during the holidays was perfect for me because I had a larger variety of food than I may have in a typical month.   Take a look at the list of foods it tests for and make sure you have consumed them before you take the test.

You might have heard about EverlyWell on Shark Tank- they have disrupted the health testing industry, offering at-home tests to the public, often for a much lower cost than you can get through your doctor (I would have paid 3-4 times the price with my doctor PLUS they are usually covered by HSA/FSA). These tests are sent to CLIA-certified labs that are industry leaders and results are reviewed by a physician.

In general, elimination diets are the most accurate to finding food sensitivities, but EverlyWell tests are 95-99% accurate. They recommend a combination for the most accurate identification of problematic foods to you- take the test to find out what foods you should consider eliminating, eliminate, and then 6 months down the road, re-introduce one at a time and allow several days to see if a reaction occurs.

The Results

The results provide a rating for the 96 foods, rated on a scale from High to Normal Reactivity. In my case, I rated High for Egg Whites and Moderate for Egg Yolks.

 

 

There were 14 other foods in the Mild category, which means a smaller immune response, but ones that can definitely still cause symptoms.  Those included: Brewer’s Yeast, Eggplant, Garlic (sooo sad about this!!), Ginger, Gluten and Wheat (also quite sad about this, but kind of expected), Orange, Rye, Tarragon, Mushroom, Mustard Seed, Yogurt, Bell Pepper, Winter Squash (hope you all enjoy your pumpkin and delicata squash next fall!).

Takeaways

Since I have known my results, I have started to avoid those foods, but didn’t completely eliminate with holiday and birthday season the past couple of months. Now, my plan is to follow an elimination diet of all those 15 foods for the next 6 months.  After 6 months, I’ll start trying to re-introduce to see if my reactivity has gone away or not.  I can tell you that even with avoiding these foods lately (especially eggs), my skin has been so much more clear. I’m hopeful the other symptoms start to fade soon.

Ultimately, I am really glad I took this test. I was considering going on the AIP diet and still would not have removed garlic (which I have definitely noticed reactions to). I could have gone a long time still suffering symptoms before figuring out the cause. I would highly recommend testing first, then elimination to get accurate results.

Symptoms are not normal. If you are having digestive issues or fatigue or any other issues that make your life uncomfortable, I would encourage you to figure out what is wrong. If you would like to try this test or any of their other at-home tests (vitamin deficiencies, hormones, etc), you can use this link to get 25% off!

Quick Hash

Who loves a great hash!? This is on my regular rotation of dinners because it is so quick and easy + super versatile. It’s a great way to work in veggies and I love that it is great leftover for breakfast.

The key to making this super QUICK is using the slicing disc with your food processor. It’s amazing!! I didn’t use the shredding or slicing attachment for years and I’m embarrassed at how much time I used to spend chopping things and shredding cheese.  This brings food prep time down to seconds.

Ingredients:

  • 5 large red or golden potatoes or 2 sweet potatoes
  • 1 bag of Brussels sprouts (I’ve also used broccoli florets, which of course don’t require slicing, and I’ve added carrots too before)
  • 1 package of sugar-free pasture-raised bacon
  • sea salt + pepper + onion powder + garlic powder to taste

Preparation:

  1. Put slices of bacon on parchment paper on a large baking tray (I use this one: GreenLife Ceramic Cookie Sheet)
  2. Place in cold oven and turn to 425 degrees.  I typically cook for 10-15 minutes until bacon is crispy. Baking time will vary depending on your oven preheating time and the thickness of the bacon – keep an eye on it!
  3. While bacon is cooking, prepare potatoes & veggies. Clean and cut small enough to fit into the feeding cylinder of food processor.
  4. Slice the potatoes and veggies using the slicing attachment of your food processor.
  5. When bacon is cooked, transfer to paper towel lined plate, leaving the bacon grease on the pan.
  6. Add the potatoes and veggies to the pan and toss in the oil, adding more avocado or coconut oil if needed to coat.
  7. Season the potatoes and veggies, ensuring you use plenty of the sea salt.
  8. Place in oven and cook 20-30 minutes until browned and brussels are caramelized, taking out once mid-way to toss.
  9.  When potatoes and veggies are ready, crumble the bacon on top and serve.

Frankincense Essential Oil

Most probably only know about frankincense from the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth when the wise men brought Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (the last two are both essential oils). Just like in that time, frankincense today is an extremely valuable essential oil, which you will see reflected in its price compared to others. The name comes from Old French franc encens (“high-quality incense”).

Frankincense is one of my top five favorite essential oils. I use it nearly every day and it is well worth the cost to have on hand. It has a neutral woodsy scent that isn’t overwhelming to smell.

I mix a drop in with my face moisturizer each night. Cosmetically, it helps to clear skin of blemishes, smooths the skin and is anti-aging. The properties that help cosmetically also help emotionally (I put it on at night to calm before sleep) and physically. While it fights surface bacteria, it is also an effective immune stimulant. I use it on my & my daughter’s spine frequently when we are sick to safely kick our immune system into higher gear and recover more quickly.

Emotionally, it is extremely calming and can be smelled or used in a diffuser to reduce feelings of anxiety. It repels feelings of stress and brings focus.  It has been used in worship (think meditation) for thousands of years. I wrote a whole blog about that & essential oil use in the Bible here if you are interested.

Do you have frankincense? What’s your favorite way to use it?

A Health Story: Seeking a Diagnosis

Illness is isolating. Undiagnosed illness can be even lonelier. You are so desperate to find an answer and are just trying to make it through a day. On top of it all, many friends, family and doctors think you are being over dramatic or question if you are making it all up. If you are in this place right now, I’m so very sorry.  Something that helped me when I was in that place was to know that I wasn’t alone. For someone to simply believe me or to just say that they’ve been there before.

Today, I’m sharing another health story because I find those so encouraging. We may not always experience full healing, but there is so much to learn from suffering in illness and it is incredible to see how people grow in those experience.

This health story is from a person very near and dear to me- my brother.  He has been struggling with episodes of symptoms for 5 years now without any answers. His story could be so discouraging, but instead it is filled with hope.  He has shared his story directly on his blog, which you can find HERE.  Be sure to check out his other posts- he has traveled the world and has such interesting content there from his many adventures!

Lastly, if undiagnosed illness is part of your story, I want to say that I’m always here to listen. In church on Sunday, the first week of Advent which is focused on hope, we studied a surprising passage – Psalms 13. But truly it was so filled with hope and so relevant to my brother’s story (and maybe yours too), that I had to end with sharing it:

O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die….

But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.

Potty Training

Before my daughter even turned 2, she started showing interest in going potty on the toilet. As annoying as diapers can be, they somehow seemed easier than a potty-trained toddler needing to visit the public restroom constantly and not making it long on car trips. So I delayed it for a few months, knowing it was time to start, waiting for me to be ready more than her.  In early January, we decided that the cold weather was a perfect time to stay inside for a week and go for it. Success! Our girl was daytime potty-trained before her 2nd birthday.

I had no idea there was so much to learn about potty training. So many ways to do it and opinions.  If you are nearing this stage with your little on, here are a few recommendations:

9781501122989_p0_v4_s550x406FIRST- read the book Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right. It’s a super quick read, and funny, and filled with practical tips.  The author takes a long weekend inside & naked approach for teaching them initially, and then moving to no-undies for a stage until they get it. I appreciated that it taught about the signs your toddler will show, skills I have continued to use since.

She does not use a reward system, but rather simple praise and normalization of using the toilet to make them feel like a proud, big kid.  This worked really great for us.  However, several months into being potty trained, my husband and I went on our first vacation away from our daughter and she completely regressed when we got back. She stopped going on the potty AT ALL. It was so frustrating and it wasn’t until we started using jelly beans or M&Ms as a reward that she started using the toilet again. Eventually, she forgot about the reward and it became normal again, and has been since.  We occasionally still use the treats to convince her to go before a long car trip.

We prepared our daughter & kept her interested in the potty-training idea a couple ways:

  • We started reading the lift-the-flap book A Potty for Me! to her. She loved it and wanted to read it daily / multiple times each day / on the potty.
  • downloadWatched the Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood episodes about going potty & sung the songs from the show constantly:
    • Season 1, Episode 11 is free to watch on Prime. The song goes: “If you have to go potty, stop and go right away. Flush and wash and be on your way!”
    • Season 3, Episode 23. The song goes: “Do you have to go potty? Maybe yes. Maybe no. Why don’t you sit and try to go.”
    • Download the Daniel Tiger Parents app to your phone- you can play the songs there and watch related clips from the show.

And finally, a few must-haves to get:

  • For the very early days of potty training when you may have zero seconds to make to the toilet, it helps to have this portable potty in the room with you. $5 well spent!
  • We liked this removable toilet seat for $8.  We also ended up installing this toilet seat in our downstairs bathroom with a toddler seat built in- it looks much nicer and is super easy to install and to clean.
  • A couple of step stools
  • Wet/Dry Bag – I had these from cloth diapering, but they really come in handy when potty training for the diaper bag. Keep an extra set of clothes in there for accidents and then you can just put the soiled clothes in there to bring home and pop directly into the washer. These are also great for the wet swimsuits coming home from the pool!
  • Flushable Wipes – no one told me these are ESSENTIAL. I ended up getting these delivered via Prime Now the second day we were stuck at home potty training. They live by all our potties and in my purse now for on-the-go.
  • Make some foaming hand soap to make washing hands fun!
  • Coffee & wine. You’ll need it for that first weekend 🙂 You can do it, mama!

Good luck!