Roasted Delicata Squash

delicataSquash season might be my favorite food season! And delicata squash is my favorite of all. Yes, even better than acorn and spaghetti and butternut and pumpkin. Haven’t heard of it? I hadn’t either until last year.  You’ll see them with the other squashes in the grocery store and they look more like decorative gourds than anything edible. They are named “delicata” for their delicate skin- so thin you can eat it.

Delicata squashes are narrow and yellow with green stripes (and sometimes orange too) on the rind. Select one that is firm and heavy for its size. Avoid ones that are more light green- they are not ripe. Even the ripe ones I have purchased have lasted a few weeks in my pantry before I cook them.

Besides tasting so yummy, my favorite thing about this particular squash is how easy it is to prepare and cook.  This is my recipe for the perfect roasted squash – the slightly sweet bites will melt in your mouth, with a perfect crisp to the skin.

Ingredients:

  • 2 delicata squash
  • drizzle of oil (I recommend olive, coconut or avocado)
  • salt & pepper

Preparation:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 420 degrees.
  2. Wash the squash since you will be eating the skin.
  3. Cut the squash in half length-wise. If you have trouble cutting it, pop in the microwave for 20 seconds to soften.
  4. Scrape out the seeds and stringy stuff (is there a term for that?) from the inside of your halves.
  5. Cut horizontally into 1/2 – 1 inch slices.
  6. Arrange on a roasting pan, drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper and toss. Split apart so each has its own spot on the pan.
  7. Roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes (depends on the thickness of your slices), taking out halfway to toss so pieces get equal time to brown on the bottom of the pan. It’s perfect when both sides are a light roasted brown.

Enjoy!!

 

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Natural Deodorant Review: Kopari & Alaffia

It’s been years since I found out how dangerous and toxic regular antiperspirant deodorant is, and since then I have been on a mission to find a safe, natural alternative that actually works.  I’ve tried A LOT of different kinds and brands and most have worked for awhile but seem to lose their effectiveness over time.  Maybe that’s the way natural deodorants go?

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I’ve been using a new natural deodorant for the past 6 months, through the hot Texas summer, and I’m still loving it, so I hope it’s okay to finally share this recommendation.

Kopari Deo has none of the bad stuff- aluminum, silicon, parabens or phthalates.  It does, unfortunately, contain fragrance, but I haven’t had a reaction to that like some do. It also doesn’t have baking soda, which makes it less of a skin irritant.

I do find that this deodorant lasts the full day. I wore it to Sea World this Summer and it passed that test! I love how smooth it is and easy to apply (more like a “normal” deo you would get at the store- I missed those). I love the very light scent. And I feel like this is a hydrating (coconut oil), non-irritating option that I can actually apply right after shaving.

Kopari has an auto-ship program that gives you a discount on the product + free shipping, so I get this delivered to my door for just $12 every 3 months. If you would like to try it for $10 off your first order, use this link. Plus – if you don’t love it, you can return it for free!

I also find that I generally need to switch up the deodorant I use, at least a couple times a week, in order for it to stay effective. I’ve been switching off with Alaffia Lavender & Activated Charcoal Coconut Reishi Deodorant. Alaffia is also free of parabens, phthalates, sulphates and aluminum, with the added bonus that it has no artificial fragrances!

There isn’t enough charcoal in this to irritate the skin (it is still a super smooth stick), but enough to provide a bit of an antiperspirant effect. It feels very hydrating and I love the light, natural scent in this one too.  I also like that you can get this at the grocery store for only $6, so makes it cheap and convenient. The only reason I don’t use it every single day is that it doesn’t last for an entire day like Kopari, but it is a really good “relief” option.

If it helps, here’s a list of what I’ve tried previously that worked at least for a bit:

    • Primal Pit Paste – my favorite in terms of the ingredient list, but didn’t last through an entire day.
    • Tom’s, Silver Shield & Lafes Crystal – all just simply stopped working over time.
    • PiperWai – the most effective natural antiperspirant I’ve found BUT I had a reaction to the charcoal during pregnancy and I’ve never been able to wear it again without major skin irritation (hormones??)
    • YoungLiving AromaGuard – actually very effective but I don’t like the price + shipping and the scent is a little strong to me.
    • Schmidt’s Rose Vanilla Natural Deodorant – I really wanted to love this one as it is easily available at the grocery store, cheap and smells great, but it just didn’t last a full day for me.

 

I’m always open to suggestions! Native is currently next on my list.

Let me know what you think!

Beachbody LIIFT 4 Challenge Review

In 2018, I had a goal to lose 18 pounds. It matched the year well, but also with the amount of weight I gained during pregnancy.  While I was nearly back to pre-pregnancy weight almost immediately after delivering my 9.5 lb daughter, I gained it all back with breastfeeding.  I’d always heard from people that you should lose weight while breastfeeding from all the extra calories you burn- it’s not true for everyone!  This article does a great job explaining why if you fall into that group.

I was ravenous while breastfeeding, so it was hard to keep from eating. Even when I did practice self control with portion size or trying to cut carbs, my milk supply would tank so I couldn’t continue. When I weaned, I started trying to eat healthier to lose some weight, but my sugar cravings were huge. I would snack with my toddler and I still felt so hungry that it was difficult to portion-control. I needed a big change and when a friend shared with me about her results from Beachbody, I was ready to try it.

I joined an 8-week challenge and absolutely loved it, so I thought I would share with those of you who need something to get you motivated. Here’s what I loved:

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Going to a gym or group workouts are not my thing. It doesn’t fit well within my schedule and I don’t feel comfortable. I loved the access to Beachbody on Demand- doing the workouts any time I want from home. For this 8-week challenge, I did the LIIFT 4 program. It is 30-40 minutes 4 times per week, which felt so do-able. The routines were HARD, but every exercise had a modification option too.

I discovered that I really like the mix of weight lifting and cardio and that it works really well for my body. I improved significantly in strength- starting out with 5lbs as my heavy weights and ending up with 15lbs. There is a weight tracker so you can track the weight you use on each move and see how you improve.  I feel so much stronger and have more stamina and better balance. I could barely do a couple of modified push ups at the beginning, and now I can do 30+.

The other thing I liked about this program is that every day is different. Weeks do not repeat, so it keeps things interesting.  Typically, one day would focus on chest/triceps, one on legs, one on shoulders and one on back/biceps, always ending with a couple core exercises. I saw inches lost in each area and toning all over, but especially in my waist (6 inches lost).

Since doing this LIIFT 4 Challenge, I did the 21 Day Fix work outs during December. They were okay but I didn’t enjoy them nearly as much. I love that I have the flexibility to try out different styles and trainers, but I’ll be going back to LIIFT 4 soon.

Nutrition

Weight loss is mostly what you eat. I knew this would be my greatest challenge, but I was motivated to do it right. The program I did was part of the 21 Day Fix meal plan. You get containers mailed to you and based on your weight, you know how many containers of each food group you can eat that day: veggies, protein, fruit, carbs, nuts/seeds, oil.  Essentially, the focus is on veggies and protein.

I liked this model because it gave me some reasonable guidelines to follow. I never actually measured using the containers, but generally eye-balled the amounts and tracked how much I ate each day.  I was extremely strict about following the plan, BUT I did not follow it exactly when it came to healthy fats and fruit. I felt the program allowed more fruit than I really needed (3 servings), so I never ate that much. I also feel that it doesn’t allow for enough healthy fat. I didn’t hesitate to cook with coconut or avocado oil or to eat avocado or drink butter coffee or use as much Primal Kitchen dressing on my salads as I wanted (I didn’t go crazy like eating a stick of butter). Those healthy fats help us feel fuller longer and help us lose fat.

The other thing I like about the meal plan is that it allows for a couple of cheats. 1- three days a week, you can trade a carb container for a glass of red wine. I didn’t do it often, but it was nice to have the option. 2- you get one cheat meal each week, which I usually reserved for football-watching parties on Saturdays or date night. I would drink and eat what I wanted without worrying about it and always make sure I exercised the next day. Having this cheat meal to look forward to was helpful for me to stay motivated.

Ultimately, following the meal plan was most important to getting results- many people in the challenge group admitted to cheating multiple times per week and their lack of results definitely showed it.

The other part of this program is Shakeology. I was most hesitant about this because I am not a shake person. I am a big fan of “real food” and not using meal replacements. However, I looked into the ingredients in Shakeology and was impressed. It includes protein and dense nutrients, with only 7 grams of sugar, and is whole-foods based.  The nutrients include super-fruit antioxidants (to combat free radicals), adaptogens (to combat stress), a blend of super-greens, and pre- and pro-biotics and enzymes to aid digestion.

Beachbody makes the following benefit claims about Shakeology, and from personal experience, I would agree these are definitely true:

  • Lose weight
  • Reduce junk food cravings – to me, this was the most important one and it is what kept me drinking it daily. I simply don’t crave dessert or sugar after drinking it.
  • Provide healthy energy
  • Support your digestion and regularity.

I personally use the Vegan Vanilla Shakeology (I avoid dairy as I’m not very tolerant to it) and like that it is flexible to drink simply with unsweetened coconut milk and ice, but also to mix with berries and/or a half banana for a smoothie.  I add collagen peptides and spirulina powder as well for an extra nutrient punch. I use it as a snack replacement mid afternoon when hunger or cravings kick in.

Motivation

I think we all know- it helps to have a friend hold you accountable. I had my friend as my “coach” personally encouraging me, but also was part of a Facebook group with everyone participating. There was a prize at the end for earning points throughout- points for posting pictures of the shakes, sweaty selfies after exercising and for checking in each Monday with measurements and other results.  It was encouraging to see others posting and know I wasn’t alone.

Results

At the end of the 8 weeks, I had lost 12 pounds and 20.5 inches. The challenge ended just after Thanksgiving.  Through December, I continued to focus on protein and veggies, resisting sugar but indulging when I really wanted to, and kept up a 4-day per week exercise routine. I lost an additional 5 pounds after the challenge, narrowly missing my goal.  While I gained back a few lbs from Christmas and New Year’s champagne + dessert, I quickly lost those and more during a 10-Day Sugar Detox I did starting Jan 2nd. Since October 1 when I started with the Beachbody programs, I’ve lost 20 pounds!!

I’m motivated to continue towards more weight loss and toning this year, so I’ll be starting another challenge later this month. If you are interested in joining me to start off reaching your goals this new year, let me know!

2018 Recap

Family ChristmasIt’s almost 2019! My daughter is almost 2… so hard to believe! This year has been spent finding balance with being a mom and wife, working, caring for others and refocusing on my own health. I recently made some big changes to my diet and fitness routine and lost quite a few pounds and inches… I’ll be sharing more about that soon!

I like to do a recap each year with a list of all my posts to share with anyone who missed them.  Here it goes:

The most popular reader post this year was: What the Bible Says About Essential Oils

Recipes:

Product Reviews:

  • Greenlife Ceramic Cookware – ditch your toxic non-stick cookware!
  • Monat – loving this safe shampoo, conditioner and styling products
  • OraWellness – the best, most effective oral care that’s healed cavities!

For New/Expecting Parents:

Health Stories: Navigating health stuff can be challenging, and dealing with chronic or unknown/undiagnosed illness feels isolating.  Last year, I started sharing health stories, which I hope make you feel encouraged and less alone. I would love to continue this series next year, so please let me know if you have a story to share (anonymously or not).

Wishing you a healthy & hopeful new year!  May the Lord bless you abundantly!

*Photograph by Jessica Doffing Photography

Ceramic Cookware – Greenlife Product Review

Did you know that your non-stick cookware is toxic?  There are a few ingredients used to make the coating that are particularly dangerous.  When you use the pans to cook your food, heat (especially over 400 degrees) causes the chemicals to leach into the food you consume.

PFAS and PFOA, the chemicals in the non-stick coating that makes it resist grease, water, and oil has been shown in studies to:

  • affect growth, learning, and behavior of infants and older children
  • lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant
  • interfere with the body’s natural hormones
  • increase cholesterol levels
  • affect the immune system
  • increase the risk of cancer
  • change liver, thyroid and pancreatic function

Source: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry – CDC 

And two toxic metals commonly found in non-stick cookware are lead and cadmium, known to cause cancer and targets the body’s cardiovascular, renal, gastrointestinal, neurological, reproductive, and respiratory systems. Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Since learning all this years ago, I have been avoiding non-stick cookware and using stainless steel pots and pans instead.  But, I have been frustrated with how difficult they can be to clean.  I learned about ceramic cookware as a good alternative with natural non-stick properties, but most brands are very expensive. This year, I discovered Greenlife. It’s safe and free of PFAS, PFOA, lead, and cadmium. PLUS it is on Amazon Prime AND it is super affordable!

I bought the 12 inch frying pan and have been using it (nearly every day) for 8 months now.  It is still like-new and holding up well. Ceramic is strong, so it is less prone to damage/scratches and longer lasting.  It’s extremely easy to clean too- I never have to do any scrubbing!

A couple things to note about cooking with ceramic:

  1. Ceramic takes a little longer to heat up, but distributes heat very evenly and holds heat well (so will continue cooking after you turn off the heat). It’s something to keep in mind as you cook.
  2. You can use a lot less oil when cooking with ceramic and still not worry about it sticking.  I’ve loved the sear it gives on meat and how I can “fry” kale with just a spritz of oil.

Looking for a Christmas gift idea or something to ease the cooking and cleaning during this holiday season? Any of these would make a perfect gift to someone special or to yourself:

Try it out for only $25 with the GreenLife Soft Grip 12″ Ceramic Non-Stick Open Frypan

Or get the full set for only $85 – GreenLife Soft Grip 16pc Ceramic Non-Stick Cookware Set

If you like to bake or roast, get this set for $65 – GreenLife 6pc Cookware and Bakeware Set

This post is not sponsored, just sharing about a product I love!

Mashed Turnips & Parsnips

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Today I’m sharing an easy recipe that’s perfect as a Thanksgiving side!

Craving mashed potatoes but trying to stay low-carb? I’ve got a seriously great alternative for you… mashed parsnips and turnips.  If you are like me and can’t stomach the typical replacement, cauliflower (cruciferous veggies don’t agree with me), this is another option to try.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound organic parsnips
  • 1 pound organic turnips
  • 1 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • pinch of garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons grass-fed butter
  • 3 tablespoons full-fat coconut milk or heavy cream

Preparation:

  1. Peel the parsnips and turnips and roughly chop into 1-2 inch pieces (for faster boiling & easy blending).
  2. Put in a pot of water and bring to a boil.
  3. Boil for around 15 minutes or until tender (stab with a fork).
  4. Pour into a colander to drain the water and then put the veggies in a large food processor.
  5. Add the other ingredients (butter should melt quickly with the hot veggies) and blend until smooth, stopping to stir for better blending as needed.

I was shocked at how well this matches the texture of mashed potatoes. Since they are root vegetables, it has a very similar mild, starchy flavor to satisfy those cravings; it is just slightly sweeter. I hope you enjoy this super easy recipe!

Potato-Crusted Quiche

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On #mealprepmondays, I try to always make breakfast for my daughter and I for the week so it makes mornings easier.  This quiche, made with hash browns instead of pie crust, makes for a healthier version that’s still super yummy and filling.

As with ALL my recipes, this takes very little time to prepare and is really easy to make.  There is a lot of room to create in this recipe- using different meats and veggies based on what you like best or what is on sale that week.  My go-to is bacon & spinach but I’m always trying something new.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons of butter (or coconut oil)
  • 2 cups organic frozen hash browns (I use half a package of the Alexia brand)
    • I’ve also used frozen sweet potato fries for this if you want to avoid white potatoes.
  • 6 large soy-free pastured eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetables
    • I typically use what is leftover from dinner the night before- asparagus, bell pepper, frozen spinach have all worked great.
  • 1/2 cup cooked breakfast meat
    • I like to mix this up depending on what’s on sale/what I’m feeling. I rotate between bacon (look for organic + sugar-free), ham and breakfast sausage.
    • TIP: If cooking bacon, make less of a mess and use of an already heated oven by oven-baking it instead of frying.
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk (or heavy whipping cream)
  • 1/2 cup grated raw cheddar cheese
  • Sea salt & pepper

Preparation:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Put the butter in your quiche dish (I use this one, but a standard pie dish would work just fine too) and place in the oven to melt.  TIP: to make it easier to put in/take out of the oven, I put my dish on top of a cookie sheet.
  3. Put frozen hash browns in dish and spread around to evenly distribute and mix in butter.  Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Put dish with hash browns into the oven until slightly browned- typically around 20 minutes.
  5. Whisk the eggs with milk and salt & pepper. Add the veggies and meat and cheese and stir.
  6. When potatoes are brown and crispy, take out of the oven and add the egg mixture.
  7. Put dish back in the oven and cook until the eggs are puffed and set- around 20 minutes.

I’d love to hear your favorite combinations of meat & veggies to put in this!  Enjoy!