Oatmeal-Berry Cookies with Sunflower Seeds

oatmeal berry cookies with sunflower seedsWow, do I have an awesome cookie recipe to share. I haven’t baked in a while, and with Easter on the horizon, I thought I’d develop a new dessert. Put down the Peeps, peeps. Trust me, you do not want those ingredients anywhere near your stomach or your children’s stomachs. Let’s take a peek at what’s inside a Peep:

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 7.32.51 PMSo basically we have sugar, corn syrup (a.k.a. more sugar), and gelatin as the main ingredients. Then there’s Yellow #5, which has been said to cause hyperactivity and other behavioral effects in kids, and a few more undesirable ingredients after that. Lovely! Gimme summa that. Oh, and that gelatin? Pork-derived. So the next time you spy one of those cute little marshmallow chicks or marshmallow bunnies looking all sweet in an Easter basket, remember: sugar + pig = Peep. Haaaaappy Easter! See that little girl smiling in the bottom right hand corner? Well, her insides are not as happy. Let’s keep all of our bodies (because adults eat candy, too!) smiling on the inside and the outside this Easter, sound good? I have a recipe to make that easy for you. Enter: vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, and nut-free oatmeal-berry cookies with sunflower seeds.

IMG_1556IMG_1544These babies are dense, chewy, oaty, and perfectly sweet. I personally love raisins, but a lot of people don’t, especially kids it seems, so I used a combination of dried blueberries and chopped dried strawberries instead. Heavenly, I tell you, heavenly. Dried bloobs and strawbs are pretty pricey, but the recipe doesn’t call for much, and Easter only comes once a year! Although, I will definitely be making these more than once a year. This recipe is a winner. When I pulled the first batch out of the oven today, my mom literally grabbed one the second I set the tray down and took a bite. I was like, “Mom, they have to cool!” She disagreed…and then she ate three more. They really are that good. I decided to take after her and try one while they were still hot, and it was crazy hard to stop at one. It didn’t help that I baked these right before dinner time. Oops!

Oh, and the dough is drool-worthy. Look what goes into it…how could that not be delicious?

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Another ingredient people seem to hate on when it comes to cookies is nuts. Everyone loves trail mix, but God forbid you put nuts or raisins in their cookies. Am I right?! Don’t get it. To be a crowd pleaser, there are no nuts in this recipe, but instead just the subtle addition of sunflower seeds. I love sunflower seeds, and they’re very Easter-appropriate. This is the ultimate allergy-friendly cookie that health foodies and Peep lovers (ew) can both enjoy this holiday. Sorry Easter Bunny, but you and your preservative-filled candy are fired.

INGREDIENTS:

3 tablespoons chia seeds mixed with 6 tablespoons nondairy milk (I used hemp.)

1 1/2 cups gluten-free rolled oats

1 cup gluten-free oat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup melted coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup dried blueberries

1/4 cup chopped dried strawberries

1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds

PROCEDURE:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small cup, combine the chia seeds and milk. Give it a stir. The seeds will gel up in a few minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients (oats through cinnamon).

Give the chia and milk another stir. It should be gelatinous by now. In a medium bowl, mix together all the wet ingredients (maple syrup through vanilla extract), including the chia gel.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir until thoroughly combined.

Chop the dried strawberries on a small plate or cutting board. Fold them into the dough, along with the dried blueberries and sunflower seeds.

Place a dozen balls of dough (each slightly larger than golf balls) on the baking sheet, spacing them apart. This will be the first batch.

Bake for 11-13 minutes, remove from the oven, and let cookies cool for a minute or two before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. The second batch should yield about 6 more cookies.

Makes approximately 18 total.

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I was about to say that I wish this table always had a fresh plate of cookies sitting on it, but on second thought I realized how dangerous that would be. Actually, on third thought, considering how wholesome these are, I guess it wouldn’t be so dangerous. Cookies for breaky, anyone?

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Weekend Words No. 5

Doing the right thing is never pointless. If people know you did it, great. Feel good about yourself. If you don’t receive any praise for your good deed, even better! You don’t need anything in return. The return is already within you. One thing I can’t stand is when people only do the right thing or say the right thing or act the right way in front of certain people, but don’t truly live up to their so-called morals. That’s called FAKE. Do the right thing, always. If you don’t know what the right thing to do is, then do what you think is the right thing. Life isn’t always easy. Actually, it’s rarely easy. It’s a tricky bitch. Use your head, do what you can. But one thing you can always do is live with integrity. Do it for yourself, not for show. Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.

e3e201e5c948de94744245231617d22cHave a great weekend, everyone! I’m going shopping with my best friend this afternoon, and I’m super excited to catch up with her. I should be trying to save money, but I’m incredibly sick of my wardrobe at the moment. If anyone has any budgeting advice, send it my way! I’m thinking a blog post on the dreaded money topic will be in the works shortly…

Vegiversary

Yesterday was my one-month anniversary (my vegiversary) of being vegan again! I say “again” because I’ve been an on-and-off vegan for years. The lifestyle has always called out to me. I love eating a plant-based diet; it takes very little effort for me. When eating a certain way comes naturally to you, do not ignore that. Listen to your intuition!

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In the past, whenever I stopped being vegan and went back to life as an omnivore, it was not for lack of satisfaction with the vegan diet. It was always because of societal or convenience issues. I found that I was less social and not as “fun” when I was strictly vegan, and that it was “too hard” to live a normal life. I was sick of always being the odd one out. Simply put: I let go of something I felt passionate about because I wanted to fit in and make my life easier. But you know what? I’m okay with veganism making my life a little bit harder, because it’s something I hold dear, something that’s worth it to me. If it’s not worth it to you, I’m not going to try and convince you otherwise. Our bodies are our homes. Take care of yours the way you want to. Make it a place you want to live in.

I can’t predict the future; I can’t say I’ll be vegan forever. What I can say is that I have NO plans to ever abandon my veganism again. Now more than ever, I realize how doable it is, but more importantly, I realize that I shouldn’t let the opinions of others, or ideas about what’s “extreme” or what’s “normal” or what’s “healthy” or anything else for that matter, keep me from living my life the way I want to live it.

My mind and my body feel in-tune with each other when I eat this way. What goes into my mouth also feeds my soul. I feel no inner conflict when I eat an avocado or a tangerine, a dinner of tempeh and veggies, or a bowl of brown rice with kale. I’m at peace with my plate. I look healthy, I feel healthy, and my food makes me happy. I’m eating for myself and for nobody else.

So here’s to one month of being back on the vegan bandwagon, and many more to come! Don’t let anything or anyone stop you from doing what you love.

Weekend Words No. 4

I missed posting one of these last weekend, so I’m back with some words for ya. Since it’s Sunday night, I figure I’ll post something that’ll make sense for tomorrow morning. People always seem to set goals on Mondays. I’m here to remind you that it’s the little steps that matter, not doing everything all at once. Visualize something you really want to accomplish, and take this moment to plan out a baby step. Don’t be hard on yourself if you feel like you’re miles away from your goal. There’s only one way to get somewhere, and that’s by taking one step at a time! Contrary to our wishes (and sometimes our expectations), great things usually don’t happen overnight. Be patient, and stay positive. A single grain of sand might look insignificant, but if you bring enough of them together, you can build a castle. I remember a song from some animated movie I used to watch as a kid that sang, “Just put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking out the door!” For some reason that lyric has stuck with me all these years, and now I really see the wisdom behind it. We shouldn’t expect ourselves to do something grand every single day. Instead, we should see the grandness in taking baby steps, in continuously moving forward, even if at the end of the day it doesn’t feel like we’ve done much. Every step counts! Don’t let yourself get discouraged. Start small; you’ll get there.

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Chlorophyll

Good day! Is that greeting a thing? Do people say that in real life? I feel like it’s kind of a European thing. I don’t know. (What do I know?) The only person I ever hear say, “Good day to you!” here in LA is my super cheerful next-door neighbor. It always makes me happy when he says it, so maybe I should start saying it to people. We could all use a little more cheer, especially on Mondays. I happen to love Mondays, but I know a lot of you weirdos out there don’t. Don’t hate–appreciate! Mondays are the perfect starting point for a kickass week. You don’t need a new year to feel motivated. All you need is a Monday.

How did I start my Monday? I slept in (7:30 is sleeping in for me), oil pulled (still going strong with this!), drank chlorophyll water, took my probiotic and currently prescribed doses of Chinese herbs (such a nerd), and drank a cup of Tiny Tea with hemp milk (more on this product in a future post).

Taking care of myself in the morning is key to the rest of my day. Today is a rest day from exercising (which I usually do in the morning), so I had a little more time for things like chlorophyll water. Yeah, let’s talk about that. Chlorophyll. That word you learned in seventh grade biology. Or probably even in elementary school as “the stuff that makes plants green.” Whelp, I drink it now. Vegan hipster status just went up.

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Chlorophyll is indeed the molecule that makes plants green, as you learned in elementary school. It also facilitates photosynthesis, the process of converting sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into glucose, which is our main source of fuel. That part you probably learned in seventh grade bio. What you might not have learned at all is why chlorophyll is so incredibly nourishing and healing to our bodies.

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Some little facts on chlorophyll’s amazingness:

IT’S BASICALLY BLOOD. Chlorophyll closely resembles hemoglobin, also known as our red blood cells. From what I gather, hemoglobin is pretty much the human chlorophyll (but don’t quote me on that). It’s what gives our blood that signature red color. Hemoglobin and chlorophyll are almost identical in molecular structure. In hemoglobin, the center atom is iron. In chlorophyll, the center atom is magnesium. That’s the only difference!

BETTER BLOOD = SAY BYE BYE TO FATIGUE. I like to refer to blood as the liquid of life. (I guess some people would call that water, but I’m kiiiiinda a vampire.) So much of our health and wellbeing is dependent on the state of our blood. Chlorophyll is an incredible blood builder and blood detoxifier. It replenishes our blood and increases our red blood cell count by putting a continuous flow of energy into our bloodstream. Since hemoglobin is what’s responsible for delivering oxygen to our cells, and because chlorophyll increases hemoglobin, consuming chlorophyll directly increases our oxygen levels. You guys, this stuff is a huge energy booster. Chlorophyll can do wonders for people who suffer from fatigue. Seriously. If you’re tired all the time, give it a try!

IMMUNITY. You already know that chlorophyll increases oxygenation, but it also alkalinizes our blood. Did you know that disease can’t thrive in an alkaline environment? That’s why so many disease prevention and treatment diets emphasize eating alkaline foods. Disease-promoting anaerobic bacteria also can’t survive in the presence of oxygen. Double points for chlorophyll! This makes the green stuff a great catalyst for fighting disease. It’s an awesome immune system enhancer.

DETOXIFICATION. Ah, the word everyone seems to love so much. Chlorophyll has pretty impressive detoxification properties. It’s one of nature’s most significant chelates. It binds to toxins and heavy metals such as mercury, and removes them from the body. Chlorophyll also aids in liver health, and cleanses the colon by stimulating the bowels.

ANTI-INFLAMMATORY AND ANTIOXIDANT-RICH. Inflammation is the root of so many of our problems, which is why the term “anti-inflammatory” is seen floating around the health world so frequently. Chlorophyll is high in vitamins A, C, and E, which all have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Chlorophyll is a wound healer and infection fighter. Being rich in vitamins A, C, and E also gives chlorophyll strong antioxidant power. Talk about neutralizing free radicals!

ODOR ERASER. Um, yeah, you heard me. Chlorophyll can help neutralize both bad breath and body odor! Is there anything worse than bad bad breath and body odor? Both are deal breakers for me when it comes to men AND friends. I know how that sounds, but it’s the truth. Not gonna apologize. I can’t be around you if you stink. Take some chlorophyll and then we’ll talk.

PROTECTION FROM CARCINOGENS. Carcinogen is a scary word. We hear it and our minds automatically start screaming, “Cancer!” at us, flashing red lights, and sounding alarms. It’s true, carcinogens are all over the place, and we can’t live our lives in a bubble. But that doesn’t mean we’re hopeless! We can protect ourselves to some degree, and chlorophyll can be a super sidekick in this battle. It’s been said that chlorophyll can protect us from carcinogens found in air pollution, toxins from cooked meats (for any omnivores reading this!), and even in fungus-prone foods like nuts and grains. It’s been said that chlorophyll actually blocks the absorption of these harmful contaminants, making it a topic of interest in the world of cancer treatment and prevention.

So, aside from eating a shit ton of greens, how can you get a hefty dose of chlorophyll? I’ve been using this liquid supplement, and mixing it into a glass of water. The first time I drank it, I didn’t use a straw, and my teeth were green afterward! Do not swish this stuff around. Definitely use a straw. With that said, happy drinking! I feel so energized after a glass of chlorophyll water. It’s such a powerful healer, and the cost is really reasonable. Plus, you feel super cool sipping on a dark green beverage. The taste is almost unnoticeable. It’s subtly sweet, maybe a little grassy. Even a kid would drink it. I highly recommend checking it out! You can find chlorophyll supplements at most natural food stores.

I Love Coffee and Coffee Loves Me

Happy Thursday!

I’m currently sipping on a café au lait made with hemp milk, and it is absolutely divine. If you follow me on Instagram, you already know that I love Groundworks, and that hemp milk is my new favorite coffee companion. Hemp milk lattes are heavenly. Seriously, I’m kind of obsessed. I’m also obsessed with almond milk lattes, but only if the almond milk is freshly pressed, like it is at Kreation. I still can’t get myself to like boxed almond milk, especially when it’s hot. Blech.

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I’ve tried multiple times throughout my life to give up coffee, and sometimes caffeine altogether. Not so much for health reasons, but because of the negative effects it can have on anxiety. Also because my teeth stain really easily (oil pulling has now completely solved this issue). Anyway, these anti-coffee bouts of mine never last long. For one thing, I’m human, which means I get tired. Sure, I could try to target the root of this problem (which is how I prefer to handle most ailments), but I rather just drink coffee. Sorrynotsorry. Another thing, I just love it. Who am I to deny myself this pleasure? Pick your battles, people. I’m all about that. All of us have our vices, and as it turns out, coffee isn’t so bad after all. Here are five reasons why you should keep sipping on that mud:

BRAIN FUNCTION. Coffee has been shown to improve memory and general cognitive function. Coffee makes a great friend during times when focus and concentration are vital. This stimulant effect happens because the caffeine in coffee blocks an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. When that neurotransmitter is blocked, your brain perks up.

ANTIOXIDANTS AND OTHER NUTRIENTS. Coffee contains tons of antioxidants. A study conducted in 2005 showed that Americans receive most of their antioxidants from coffee–more than they receive from fruits and vegetables combined. Obviously, this points to the major issue of Americans not eating enough fruits and vegetables, but it still goes to show that coffee is an antioxidant powerhouse. I’ll take it! Other nutrients are also found in coffee. These include riboflavin, pantothenic acid, niacin, thiamine, potassium, and manganese.

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PHYSICAL PERFORMANCE AND FAT BURNING. We all know that coffee gives us energy. Energy = enhanced physical performance. It increases our adrenaline and thus improves our physical abilities. Coffee also helps us burn fat. Yup, you read that correctly. Caffeine essentially tells your fat cells to break down body fat, making that body fat available as fuel.

LOWERED RISK OF DISEASE. Coffee has been associated with a decreased risk of type II diabetes. It’s also been shown to protect the brain, in turn lowering risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Risk of liver cancer and liver cirrhosis are also said to be lowered with coffee consumption. Because coffee can lower the risk of so many diseases, it might help you live longer–score!

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MOOD. Coffee makes you happier. Nuff said. A 2011 Harvard study actually showed that coffee has the ability to lower risk of depression in women. :)

All in all, coffee is not nearly as bad as some people make it out to be; in contrast, it actually has a lot of health perks. Woohoo!

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I hope everyone has a fun weekend planned! Don’t drink too much green beer for St. Patty’s Day! I’ll be in San Diego this weekend, working at a fitness event. My best friend is coming to work with me, and we’ll be sure to find some healthy places to eat. If anyone has suggestions, throw them my way! Speaking of healthy restaurants, I’m about to get ready to go to lunch with an old friend at Cafe Gratitude. I love CG, and I haven’t been in a while, so I’m really stoked. Vegan noms are the way to my heart. Healthy food and good company make for a perfect day!

I probably won’t be partying at all for St. Patrick’s Day this weekend. Heavy drinking and super late nights mess with my sensitive system too much; it just isn’t worth it for me anymore. Does anyone else feel as though they’re way more affected by these things than others are? I still like to go out and have fun every once in a while (gotta live life), but I feel much more in tune with both my mind and body when I nourish myself and do what I truly want to do. I have plenty of friends who love to party. They come to me for at-home spa sessions and movie nights when they need to recover. Haha! My point is, be yourself, enjoy yourself, and don’t feel like you have to like something if you don’t. Just because it’s St. Patrick’s day weekend doesn’t mean you have to drink yourself into a green oblivion. But hey, if you do, there’s always coffee to help your hangover in the morning.

My First Experience with Oil Pulling

happy girl with toothbrushSo you’ve probably heard about oil pulling by now. It’s basically the new kale–that thing that’s been doing good stuff since ancient times and is finally getting its fifteen minutes of fame.

But in case you don’t know, oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic treatment for removing unwanted toxins and bacteria from the body. The process entails swishing a spoonful of oil around the mouth for about 20 minutes and then spitting it out. Sesame oil, refined sunflower oil, and coconut oil are the best oils to use for this practice. I used coconut oil this morning because I love the flavor.

Oil pulling is best done first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach. Simply put a spoonful (somewhere between a teaspoon and a tablespoon) of oil in your mouth, and gently swish for twenty minutes, lightly pushing and pulling the oil through your teeth. I thought I was going to find this disgusting, but I actually found it rather calming and therapeutic. Whatever you do, don’t swallow the oil! It’s full of toxins. If you can’t handle it for a full twenty minutes, spit it out and then continue the process with a fresh spoon of oil. I didn’t find it difficult, but I’ve heard the first time can be challenging for some. (That’s what she said!) <– (Sorry, I had to.)

After twenty minutes is up (I set a timer on my phone), spit out the oil, swish with salt water, and brush your teeth. I now have a separate toothbrush for using post-OP. While you shouldn’t eat before doing the dirty dirty, there is no time restriction on how soon you can eat afterward.

Now that you know how to do it, why would you ever want to swish a mouthful of oil between your teeth for twenty minutes?! Well, for one, it improves your smile. Whiter teeth and pinker gums all from swishing oil? Sounds good to me, especially because my teeth are super sensitive, and I can’t use conventional whitening products. It’ll also give you fresher breath. (Gross breath is one of my biggest pet peeves. This is a big win!) OP has also been known to help with skin issues like acne and eczema, allergies, migraines, insomnia, constipation, asthma, congestion, fatigue, PMS, hemorrhoids…the list goes on! Seriously, there aren’t many health problems and diseases that OP hasn’t been said to help with.

I was hesitant to try it for so long, and feel totally silly now. My younger brother has been doing it for about a month! Unacceptable–I’m supposed to be the holistic health nut of the family. Finally, after seeing this post on The Skinny Confidential, I decided it was time for me to give it a go. If Lauryn is doing it, I’m game. My first experience was a success, and I can’t wait to start OPing more often. It’s now an official part of my self-care routine.

So…have you tried it yet? If not, there’s nothing like the present moment! (Or, well, tomorrow morning.)

For more information on OP, I highly recommend this website. It answered every question I had about oil pulling. Read up! You’ll be amazed!

 

My Favorite Face Wash

I have a gem to share with you today! I’ve been planning to write this post for a while now. I think I’m going to make “My Favorite” posts a thing. Remember this post on my favorite toothpaste?

Most people who nourish their bodies from the inside also understand the importance of nourishing their bodies on the outside, but that isn’t always the case. A lot of people (especially women, because we tend to use more products than men do) are careful enough to eat a totally clean diet, but then slather their faces and bodies with chemicals! Um, news flash, those chemicals are most definitely making their way inside. I’m not just talking toothpaste and mouthwash here. Your mouth is not the only entry way into your body. (Yes, I’m aware of how dirty that sounds. Hah!)

my favorite face wash

Constituting 15% of our body weight, our skin is our largest organ. Let us never forget that. Let us also never forget that 60% of the products we use get absorbed into our skin. That is not a measly percentage, which is why I try my best to make my beauty routine as natural as possible. Not all the products I use are natural, but over time I hope to find more and more skin-friendly products to replace the conventional ones I still use. And then share these healthy products with you, of course! So, without further ado, let me introduce to you my favorite face wash. I’ve been using it for a long time, and can’t rave about it enough.

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I am seriously in love with Desert Essence. Since I’ve had NO contact with this company, you can feel secure that everything I say in this post is coming from my heart. Let me give you a few quick facts about the company:

They never test on animals.

A lot of their products are 100% vegan, and ALL are 100% vegetarian. (Some products contain small amounts of beeswax and/or honey, which some vegans care about, while others don’t.)

Most of their products are gluten-free. Their Organics line is 100% gluten-free AND vegan.

All of their tubes, bottles, and caps are recyclable and BPA-free! Super important.

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Now, onto the face wash itself. I use the Thoroughly Clean Face Wash–Original. It’s incredible. Even my cousins, who don’t care about natural products the way I do, use it simply because they love it, not because of the amazing ingredients. Being the wellness nerd I am, I obviously love it for both reasons. It’s gentle, cleansing, and will leave your skin feeling squeaky clean. No, seriously, your beautiful skin will squeak in appreciation. Not even joking.

I’m prone to breakouts as well as dryness (gotta love that wonderful combination skin…*sigh*), but this face wash keeps my skin clear and glowing. It prevents blemishes without over-drying, which is absolutely necessary for me. I love that it nourishes my skin with natural oils, without feeling like an oily cleanser. You just can’t beat these ingredients. Tea tree oil and awapuhi are both skincare rockstars. The only thing, literally the only thing, I have to warn you about this face wash is that it does sting your eyes if you get it inside. Just be careful on that front!

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You can find it at Whole Foods and other natural food stores. It really will be one of the best thing that’s ever happened to your skin. It’s also very reasonably priced, and lasts quite a while, because a little goes a long way! I keep a bottle by my sink as well as in my shower. It’s great for removing those last traces of makeup, too. Oil is truly nature’s greatest cleanser. I’ve never found a face wash I love as much as this one, natural or not. Plus, I feel great supporting such a wholesome, moral, and health-conscious company. Do your skin a favor and give this face wash a shot. It’ll become the new star of your daily routine.

Stay tuned for more “My Favorite” posts! I have some other winners I can’t wait to share.

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