7 Ingredient Cookie Dough Bites

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5 INGREDIENT ENERGY BITES

EASY, 7 ingredient peanut butter energy bites sweetened with dates and filled with oats, coconut, dark chocolate and chia seeds! Superfood filled with fiber, protein and healthy fats. 

I MADE THESE FOR MY SELF CARE WORKSHOP, AND I HAD TO MAKE ANOTHER BATCH BECAUSE WE ATE THEM SO FAST!

All you need is a food processor, 7 ingredients, and 15 min.

 

PREP TIME: 15 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 15 minutes

 

Servings:  (bites)

Allergy Friendly: Gluten-Free, Vegan 

Keeps in fridge for one week; in freezer for one month

Ingredients

·       1.5 cup dates (pitted // if dry, soak in warm water for 10 minutes, then drain well)

·        ¼ cup all-natural salted peanut or almond butter

·       1/4 cup dairy-free dark chocolate (chopped)

·       1 Tbsp chia seeds ( can sub for flax or hemp)

·       ¼ cup dried coconut flakes

·       3/4 cup gluten-free rolled oats

·       Cinnamon to taste (optional)

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Instructions

1.     Pulse dates in food processor or blender until they’re in small pieces.

2.     Add peanut butter, coconut, oats, dark chocolate, cinnamon, and chia seeds butter and mix until they form a cookie dough consistency. You don’t want it overly processed or too soft.

3.    Roll into small 1-inch balls. Should make about 10-12 balls 

4.     They may be a bit sticky. To set, pop in fridge or freezer for 15 minutes. If you can’t wait, feel free to enjoy! 


Feel Free to Comment below any modifications or how you enjoyed! Happy Baking!

Niyamas Series: Santosha

The Sanskrit word santosha can be divided into two parts: sam, meaning entirely or completely, and tosha, meaning acceptance, fulfillment, and contentment. When combined, they create a word that encompasses absolute contentment and acceptance. As the second Niyama, this contentment specifically addresses the contentment within the self.

 

Contentment, although a simple concept, I believe is one of the most difficult Niyamas to practice in the world we live in. In a world so identified with social media, we see the world through filters and photoshops. How can we begin to find contentment when we are forever comparing ourselves, and our reality, to someone else’s edited highlight reel?

 

The first step here is to disconnect with the idea that any of these concepts, such as beauty, income, age, intelligence, weight, etc. have a direct relationship to our happiness and self-worth. 

In fact, when we begin to use these concepts as a measurement of contentment, they often have an inverse effect. By outsourcing our happiness, we give away our power. We interpret the world through the lens, “I can only be happy if…” This leaves us always chasing, always discontent, and rarely present to the miracle that is existence. We become so focused on the rain tomorrow that we forget to feel the sun tingling on our skin in this moment. Change is inevitable. We must find acceptance and love with what is, so that when change does occur, it does not leave us devastated, void of the pseudo identities we had come to build our house upon.

 

This being said, Santosha does not foster stagnancy. There is often misconception and confusion around this part of Santosha. Contentment is not laziness. All my type A friends can take a sigh of relief. It does not translate to avoiding hard work and practice. It is finding tranquility and acceptance in the discomforts of that practice. 

 

When I began my yoga practice several years ago, all I wanted to do was a split. I was obsessed, driven by discontent in my practice. Driven by an ideal to look like a woman I had seen online. I didn’t realize behind that one photograph was a warm up, was years and hours of practice. One day, I pushed way to hard, far past my limit, and I damaged my hamstrings badly. I spent the next several years avoiding hamstring stretches because they were so uncomfortable, because they didn’t align with what I thought my practice had to look like. I was not content with where I was, so I avoided them, but this only made my hamstrings tighter, and so the cycle continued.

 

Over the past six months, I’ve began taking modifications and using props to stretch my hamstrings. I had no intention to do a split, because to be honest, I didn’t even consider it was in the ballpark anytime soon, but it was important for me to be good to my whole body. I found acceptance and contentment in my practice, even the hamstrings. Here is the crazy part: Last Sunday, I came into split for the first time. The funny thing is: it was by accident. I was in a yoga class, and I didn’t avoid the half splits like I may have in the past. I suddenly realized I had a lot more flexibility there.  

 

In contentment and radical acceptance, we allow ourselves the freedom to give and receive love, gratitude, and all of the gifts of the universe unconditionally. We disconnect from these oppressive constructs of worthiness to realize we were and will always be enough. It is in that state that we begin to be able to unveil the light within us and to share it with others.

Niyamas Series: Saucha

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Taken three years ago, this picture still remains one of my favorites. This was the place I truly began a journey that would deepen my practice and the way I both exist in my own being and interact with those around me.

 I wanted to begin a 10-week series where I will speak about the Yamas and the Niyamas, as they are the first two limbs of yoga according to Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in order to live a more purposeful life.

I have decided to start with the Niyama’s. Niyamas are the actions and duties we direct towards ourselves, the relationship we have within, and the interactions between our mind, our body, and our spirit. And for that reason, although it is the second, I always find myself compelled to begin here. I believe it is important to find peace within ourselves, so we can find peace with the external forces that surround us.

The first Niyama is Saucha (Sanskrit), or cleanliness. Although it seems obvious, there is much more than meets the eye here. Yes, of course it is important to maintain cleanliness of the home and of the physical body to our best ability. It allows us to navigate the world with less clutter, less baggage weighing us down, to feel refreshed in our bodies.

 It is often I find in the abundance of meaningless things, those with sentimental value are often lost both literally and metaphorically, buried beneath heaps of meaningless objects that weigh the spirit down.

To address this first Niyama on a very literal level, I want you to consider something for a moment, without judgement of yourself or onto others, but only bringing a level of awareness.

 Is your home ‘clean’ if the chemicals you use to do so fill the air we breathe and coat the surfaces we touch with harmful toxins? Is your hair and skin ‘clean’ if your shampoo and soaps are filled with ingredients that poison your body. Does clean strictly apply to making everything sparkly on the surface, regardless of the harmful effects? 

 Our idea of cleanliness in the west, like many other things, is picture perfect, and it is based in consumerism, the marketing of an unachievable ideal in all aspects of appearance to sell toxic products. We are, and rightfully so, worried about the farming practices of our food, but what about the toxic chemicals we bring into our own home? The ones we pay for to bleach the shower that we stand in to get ‘clean’.

Flawless, what a vacant notion to work towards. Nothing lived in, nothing with character is perfect or flawless. Look at scars, or laugh lines, or the height marks on the wall at our house growing up. That is where all the heart is, the real sparkle, and there is nothing unclean about it. 

 

This all being said, it is not just what we use externally that Saucha is referring to, but also how we keep the temple of our body clean internally.

 

To begin, how do we nourish and keep our bodies clean beneath the surface? Do we fill our bodies with fuel that nourishes the temple that is the body, or do we fill it with processed food? 

 

Do we fill our bodies with food that supports local farmers, to the best of our financial ability? Do we know the type of life the animal products that we are eating had, as we are eating their energy?

 

How is the food we eat affecting our environment? Are we making a positive or negative impact?

 

Are we putting unnecessary substances in our bodies that are poison, artificial chemicals, drugs, and yes, even alcohol? 

 

This doesn’ttranslate to eating a raw, vegan, locally farmed diet, and never having another glass of wine. If that works for you both economically and in terms of health and lifestyle, wonderful. I know for myself that isn’t the case, but it is being mindful that are bodies are walking miracles, and we should treat them as so. It means practicing moderation, finding balance and overlap in what nourishes the body and what nourishes the soul.

 

Despite all this, I believe Saucha’s main purpose lies in purifying the relationship we have with ourselves by finding cleanliness in our minds and in our thoughts.

 

Do your thoughts towards yourself and towards others reflect a purified, peaceful mind? You can drink all the kale juice in the world and go to yoga twice a day, but if your reasoning behind it is directed by the ego, it will be very difficult to find peace and clarity.

 

There is a big difference between when we nourish our bodies with healthy food because we love them, because we want them to grow big and strong versus, when we enforce a strict diet of ‘healthy food’ because we hate our body, to punish it for overeating or for not looking a certain way. I put healthy food in quotes here, as with this mindset, I don’t believe that the food continues to be healthy but poisoned by our own self-loathing.

 

 I speak from experience.

 

 Do we go to the gym or yoga or kickboxing because it makes us feel empowered and strong and at peace, or do we go to punish ourselves for eating too much over the holidays? It is no coincidence that January in the busiest month at most fitness facilities.

 

Saucha encourages us to find a purification of the mind, to witness ourselves, our limitations, our strengths with non-judgement, to end the negative self-talk. Saucha encourages us to keep a clean inner space by witnessing the harmful commentary that goes on in our mind about ourselves and about others, and by witnessing it, realize that it is not our voice. It is the egos. 

 

It is only in this purified state we can begin to realize the ideals founded in that commentary are forged, created by fear, created by those with ulterior motives. Created by agendas in the dark side of consumerism and politics and power who latched on to the ego, asthey never stood a chance to penetrate the spirit, and they damn well knew it

 

The spirit is similar to your home. Just as those sentimental objects became buried underneath the heaps of meaningless objects, our inner fortitude, our purpose, our reason for being can become buried beneath shallow ideals of status and appearance and wealth. Some souls have very little to clean. Some may have much more to clean and may take longer to unbury it. Some may leave it buried forever. 

 

But that is the miracle of the spirit, and of Saucha, unlike the sentimental objects, you can never truly lose your reason for being. It is never too late. It lives inside you always, even when it is unseen. 

 

The light in me honors the light in you.

 

Namaste,

 

Lauren

7 Yoga Poses to Alleviate Lower Back Pain

The lower back, or the lumbar region, is an area that experts estimate over 80% of Americans feel pain in during their lifetimes(source). It makes sense: we sit all day, constricting our hip flexors and putting stress on the lower spine. That in combination with bad posture can be a recipe for a disaster! 

Yoga is a great alternative to offer a holistic relief for the pain and can help with preventative care for the future. Here, I have put together seven yoga poses for an easy, at home, everyday flow to ease lower back pain and assist in relieving discomfort.

1. Easy Pose W/ Arm Variation

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Come to a comfortable seat at the front of your mat with legs crossed. Place the hands slightly behind the hip bones shoulder width apart. Fingertips are facing the back of your mat, externally rotating the shoulders. If this is uncomfortable face fingers forward.

 Pressing down through the hands, lift through the chest and widen the collarbone. This helps reverse any slouching or muscle imbalances caused by looking at a cellphone or computer all day.

 As you use the hands as a lever to lengthen and lift the spine, tuck the low belly in.  This helps to create a small arch in the upper thoracic spine (upper-mid back) while protecting the low back. By drawing in the belly button, we avoid dumping into the lumbar spine (low back).  

Activate the core muscles and find stability using the core. Back is in a straight line, not rounding or arching. 

Lengthen and lift on the inhale. Tuck on the exhale. This first pose is an excellent time to find the breath and find your Zen.

Stay here for 2-5 min.

2. Thread the Needle

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Thread the Needle is a great pose to incorporate every day. Because so many of us sit all day, are hips are constantly in a flexed position. This can create tight hips and hamstrings, and when any muscle is tight, the body learns to use other nearby muscle groups to compensate for that tightness. This creates muscle imbalances, and in terms of tight hips, it can lead to back pain. By opening up the hips and hamstrings, we are creating a fuller range of motion. With a fuller range of motion, less responsibility falls on the spine to allow movement, decreasing back pain. This pose stretches the hips, spine, and outer thighs gently and with control.

Start in by lying on your back, and lift the feet off the ground, so they are hips width distance apart. The lower leg (calves and shins) are parallel with your mat, creating a perfect 90-degree angle with the upper leg (quads and hamstrings). The outside of the right ankle comes to the left thigh right above the knee. Right foot flexed throughout pose. Clasp the hands either behind your left leg or around the shin, depending on flexibility. Flex the left foot.

Tuck the belly in, creating no space in between the spine and your mat. If you aren’t feeling a stretch here, pull the left thigh in closer to the body (keep that foot flexed), while you push the right knee out. These alternate movements deepen the stretch while maintaining the correct form. If you’re bringing the left knee closer, the right shin is still in a straight line from knee to foot. 

 Hold for 2-5 min and change sides.

3. Gentle Spinal Twist

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This gentle spinal twist with bent knees is a great for relieving tension in the entire back, as well as the neck. It allows you to gently massage and strengthen the spine without placing too much stress on it. 

Lay on your back and hug the knees into the chest. Arms release to a T-shape on the floor creating a 90-degree angle between the arms and the side body. Slowly, using the core strength, lower both knees to the right. By activating the core during this movement, the spine is protected, and the movement is stable and controlled.

The belly is tucked protecting the spine so there is little or no space in between the spine and the floor.  The gaze can be neutral at the ceiling or the head can turn to face to opposite hand. 

Both shoulders are on the floor. Option to put a block in between the legs if there is a gap. Using the core, come back to a neutral position. 

Stay here for between 2-5 minutes or longer. Repeat on opposite side.

4. Cat and Cow Pose

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This simple movement stretches the hips and the entire spine. It also teaches us to move with the breath. Come to hands and knees in a table pose. Tops of the feet are pressing into the mat. Knees are stacked under the hips and hands are stacked under the shoulders. 

On the inhale (cow pose),lift through the chest and widen the collar bone creating a small back bend in the upper middle spine, as you do this draw the naval in towards the spine. This helps to avoid overarching the lower spine. The triceps are rotating towards the body, as the shoulder blades move down the back. 

On the exhale (cat pose), using your core,round the entire spine, draw the navel in and up, and release your neck. Allow the crown of the head to move towards the floor. Imagine a scared cat associated with Halloween. That is essentially what you want to look like.

Personally, I like to keep my core tight and active throughout these movements. I find it trains the core to be active instead of overworking my spine and back muscles. It also keeps me from overarching. If you have a tendency to overarch your low back, I recommend you try it this way!

Move through these poses with the rhythm of your own breath, and feel free to take any other movements (hip circles, etc.) that feel good for you.

Complete 10-12 slow rounds.

5. Downward Facing Dog

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Downward Facing Dog helps to lengthen and open up the spine. It also helps stretch the hamstrings, which when tight, often lead to lower back pain.

Coming from your hands and knees, tuck the toes, press through the hands, and push back to down dog. I love to use my core to pull me up and back to Down Dog super slowly—give it a try!  In Down Dog, start with the knees bent and lift the tailbone towards the ceiling creating a long, straight spine. Pelvis draws up and back. Rotate the triceps in towards the face, as you pull the shoulder blades down the back creating a long neck. Hands press firmly into the mat. Sloooooowly, start to walk your dog (stretch one leg straight at a time—heel reaches towards the ground) If this feels good, and the back isn’t rounding, straighten both legs and reach the heels towards the mat.

You want to avoid rounding the back here. A good way to tell if this is happening is you will feel a shift in the pelvic girdle’s position. If you find your back rounding, when you try to straighten the legs, bend those knees. Otherwise, the purpose of this pose is defeated creating more stress on the spine. The reason why you’re rounding is because the spine is compensating for the tightness of the hamstrings. Leave your ego at the door and bend your freakin’ knees (speaking from experience)!

Stay here for 2-5 min

6. Sphinx Pose

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The Sphinx is a great pose for warming that spine up for back bending, especially if you lack flexibility in the spine and back. It builds muscle and gently arches the spine. Sitting often can cause compression in the lower back. Sphinx pose gently promotes the natural curvature of the spine without putting it as risk.

Start by lying on the belly. Bring the feet hips width apart with the tops of the feet pressing into the mat. Elbows are under the shoulders. If this creates pain in the low back slide the elbows forward. 

Discomfort in normal in yoga, pain is not. For all my overachievers, yes, there is a difference.

Hands and forearms press firmly into the mat (creating a sort of resistance), as you lift through the chest and widen through the collarbone. Shoulder blades move down the back.  Legs are pressing firm into the mat and feet pointed. Gaze is forward.

Stay here for 1-3 min, increasing as you find more flexibility.

7. Child’s Pose

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Child’s Pose is one of my absolute favorite poses. It’s calming, centering, and helps to lengthen and stretch the lower back. It stretches the inner thighs, hips, and assists in stabilizing the spine. It is especially important to practice after a back-extension movement, or in laments terms a backbend (Sphinx Pose in this practice).

Knees can come together or apart. The big toes are touching. The tops of the feet and shins are pressing in to mat. Lengthen through the sternum, and slowly bend over the knees until you find your edge. Arms can be extended out in front or alongside body. Rest the forehead on a block or on the mat. The hips reach towards the heels, as you lengthen through the hands (if arms out in front) or the crown of the head (if arms alongside body.). 

With every inhale allow yourself to lengthen, and with each exhale, sink a bit deeper into the forward bend.

Hold for 3-5 min

In conclusion

Your lower back is a huge part of your core and supports the whole torso and the body. It is so important to take care of it. Even if you don’t have back pain now, preventative care is so important. Sit less and move more. Find a yoga teacher who focuses on alignment, because without that, all of those fancy poses are useless and unattainable.

 I offer privates at all different price points if you are interested in deepening your practice (Find more info here).Although privates are more expensive than a group class, you are also getting instruction for your specific body and tendencies, which makes all those group classes way more useful.

Sitting less, moving more, and stretching and strengthening the back goes a long way. However, if you are having persistent pain in your lower back, it's always good to check it with the doctor to make sure nothing more serious is going on.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor (I know, what a shock!). But seriously, if you’re having consistent back pain, go see your local chiropractor and doctor to get a medical opinion.

Easy Coconut Whipped Cream (vegan, paleo)

Yes,  I said vegan. This whipped cream is delicious and thick, can be made paleo, and if you’re anything like me,you’ll be eating it by itself! The best part about this recipe though is how easy it is.  It took me literally five minutes!  My only regret is how long it took me to make my own!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 can of coconut cream refrigerated overnight for at least 8 hours (I get mine from Trader Joe’s. You can use coconut milk but you have to strain out any water in the can yourself). If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, Thai Kitchen and Native Forest have great coconut creams as well.
  • 2-4 tbs of your added sweetener. I wanted to go old school, so I used organic powdered sugar. I recommend maple syrup as well (specifically if PALEO)
Whipped cream with all of the ingredients

Whipped cream with all of the ingredients

DIRECTIONS

  1. Refrigerate your sealed can of coconut cream for at least 8 hours. A full 24 hrs is best.

  2. Put your mixing bowl in the freezer for at least 10 min. before you use it. I use a standing mixer and detach the metal bowl. If you use a hand mixer, just make sure the bowl is steel, glass, or ceramic because you want it to stay as cold as possible.

  3. Open the can and drain out any water. You do not want water in the bowl. It will make your whipped cream more like whipped skim milk, and (speaking from experience) for a very lonely hot cocoa.

  4. Beat with your mixer for at least 30 seconds or until you see small mounds in the whipped coconut.

  5. Add 2-4 tablespoons of your choice of sweetener. Beat for another 15 sec.

  6. Add one teaspoon of vanilla. Beat for another 15 sec, or until all ingredients are uniformly mixed.

  7. Enjoy!

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Homemade Apple Cider

It’s apple season, and what better way to spend a gorgeous afternoon than a beach run with my pup and apple picking! Luckily for me, I live in New England, and there is an abundance of apple farms in my area! I went to Brooksby Farm in Peabody, which I would highly recommend! It is a beautiful farm and has plenty of treats in the barn! I got a pretty big haul because I’ve been wanting to make homemade apple cider for a while, and it is actually the easiest thing ever. 

Ingredients

  • 10 apples (I used Honey Crisp, Russet, and Granny Smith)
  • 2 pears (ripe) 
  • 1 orange
  • 1/4 lemon
  • 5 organic cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice 
  • 1 tsp all spice  (optional) 
  • 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup (depending on preference of sweetness) of pure maple syrup 
  • 4 slices of fresh ginger (optional)
  • 2 tsp of nutmeg or 1 whole nutmeg (depending on what you have) 

Directions

  1. Wash all the fruit and slice into quarters. Don’t worry about the skin, seeds, or stems. Everything gets strained out later. Place the fruit into a big stock pot.
  2. Place the five cinnamon sticks and the spices in the pot. 
  3. Slice up four pieces of ginger, if you want to use ginger, and put it in the pot.  Don’t worry about peeling the ginger. It also gets filtered out.
  4. Fill the pot with water, so the fruit is completely covered. I left about an inch and a half between the water and the rim of the pot. 
  5. Bring to a simmer over high heat stirring occasionally. Reduce to medium-low heat. Cover your pot and let cook for 2 hours.
  6. After 2 hours, use a potato masher (the back of a spoon also works fine) to mash the rest of your fruit. It’s fine to be creative here. You’re just getting all the juices out, so mash whatever way you please! *just not with your hands this water is boiling hot! 
  7. Let simmer on low for at least one more hour. I left mine on for a little longer for a juicier cider. 
  8. Strain using a pasta strainer.
  9. To get the most out of the apples. Strain through a fine mesh strainer or a cheese cloth. I strained mine again with a cheese cloth. This helps to squeeze out all of the fruits’ leftover juice, and also creates a pulp free cider.  

Serve hot 

I like to garnish with a cinnamon stick or anise star! When storing, pour into heat safe containers that seal. Cider stores in fridge for about five days! Just reheat, and enjoy! 

 

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Homemade cider ready to drink! 

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

So as I’ve mentioned before, my sweet tooth is  out of control!  I will always pick the chocolate over the chips and the ice cream over the cheese! It’s just who I am! This all being said, I believe that food should be nourishing to the body, and my passion is making delicious food that uses wholesome ingredients and lots of love!

I’ve been perfecting this recipe for a while now, and I have finally got it just right! These cookies are always a hit at parties, and my last boss (who owned a bakery and cafe) raved about them and asked for the recipe! So if you’re looking for some holiday cookies to bake, or simply to satisfy a raging sweet tooth (sorry I’m projecting), these cookies are perfect! They are gluten free, soy free, vegan, and delicious! I even sneak in some Ayurvedic healing spices for extra healing properties!

Ingredients  

  • 1/4 cup unrefined coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup smooth nut butter of your choice (I use Peanut Butter) 
  • 1 cup gluten free rolled oats
  • 1 tbs ground flaxseed
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup raw cane turbinado sugar 
  • 1/4 cup Vermont pure maple syrup A grade (amber color) 
  • 1 1/2 tsp of Vanilla
  • dash of pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp of ginger
  • 1 tsp of turmeric
  • 1 tsp pink himilayan salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda 
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips (I cut up my own dark chocolate, and sprinkle it in! It’s way cheaper and less processed than buying vegan dark chocolate chips) 

 Makes 12-16 jumbo cookies

Directions 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the flaxseed with 3 tbs of warm water for 30 seconds. Set aside for 5-10 min. (This is your egg replacement) 
  3. Beat your coconut oil and nut butter together in your standing mixer or hand mixer (I just got a stand mixer from TJ MAXX with the paddle attachment, and it is LIFE CHANGING) 
  4. Add your turbinado (brown) sugar and maple syrup. Beat for another minute. 
  5. Add in the flaxseed mixture, then add in the vanilla and turmeric.
  6. Beat in the oats, almond flour, coconut flour, salt, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, ginger, and baking soda one at a time (this helps a consistent flavor)
  7. Throw in 1/3 cup of chocolate chips. If your are using dark chocolate bars like I did, just cut them up into small pieces, measure, and mix them in! I like to put flour on my hands and hand mix them, but a mixing spoon also gets the job done.  
  8. The dough should be a bit sticky. Don’t try to add flour if it seems different than your typical chocolate chip cookie.  I am speaking from experience, unless you want chocolate chip granola, put down the flour.
  9.  Shape the dough into 1-2 inch sized balls. I like my cookies on the bigger side, so I always lean towards 2inches or more. 
  10. Place the balls on the parchment lined baking sheet after you roll them. Flatten the balls on the cookie sheet so they are still about half an inch thick. This helps get those jumbo cookies, as they will spread out even more when baking.
  11. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Mine needed exactly 12 min. For crispier cookies, bake 12-15 min. 
  12. Allow the cookies to cool for a half hour.  I’m inpatient, and it’s a cool fall day, so I may have cheated and put my cookies on the porch to cool.

I like my cookies soft, so I keep them at room temp, but if you like a crispier cookie just throw them in the fridge! Hope you enjoy this delicious, guilt free recipe! Feel free to comment below with any questions or let me know how it goes!

The only hard part about this recipe is stopping at one! 

The only hard part about this recipe is stopping at one! 

Easy Vegan Dark Chocolate

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved chocolate. Growing up, I had a major sweet tooth that has definitely blossomed with age. Although I love all sweets, I’m definitely a purist. My favorite treat is without question dark chocolate. This being said, my partner (who is the only person I’ve met who gives my sweet tooth a run for her money) and I go through a lot of chocolate and not just any chocolate. We like our chocolate to be fair trade, non-gmo, organic, vegan, high cacao content, and well, taste amazing—but we’re not picky, I swear ;) ! We also don’t want to pay an arm and a leg! This is where things get tricky. There are some amazing brands out there; and although, I really think they’re worth the 5$ price tag: at the rate we go through chocolate, we could’ve afforded to go on vacation!

This last spring I finally decided to get creative. Why not make it? How hard could it really be? So it turns out, chocolate is actually one of the easiest things to make. Seriously, you start with three ingredients.

  • 1 ¼ cup Coconut oil or cocoa butter

  • 1 1/2 Cacao powder ( I like my chocolate dark. If you don’t, adjust the cacao to ¾ cup or up the sweetener. You can also use cocoa; it just isn’t as nutritious as the superfood cacao!)

  • 4tbs Your choice of sweetener—adjust quantity for your taste/lifestyle (I typically blend cane sugar and monk fruit sweetener which gives it a stone ground taste, but this one is really up to you)

  • 1 tsp of sea salt (optional)

  • 1 tsp of cinnamon (optional)

  • 1 tsp of vanilla (optional)

I’ll be honest. Cocoa butter does work better because it is more solid at room temp and creamier. Honestly though, it’s just not something I have on hand all the time, and I find coconut oil to work just fine. Since I use coconut oil in everything, I always have it, and it works best for me!


Directions

So it’s pretty simple. First, pull out a baking pan, and line it with wax paper. You can also use rubber ice cube trays for perfect squares, but I don’t mind mine different sizes. It gives them character! This will be used to solidify your melted chocolate!

If you have a double boiler, things are going to be a lot simpler. You can get cheap ones on amazon, and honestly, they just make things so much easier for many recipes.

If not, add about  2 inches of water to a saucepan and heat to a simmer on medium-high heat setting. Reduce to medium and put your ceramic or glass mixing bowl on top. The biggest thing here is to have the bowl not touching the water, it should look similar to a double boiler, as it’s the same idea! Personally,  this is not ideal for me—too many moving parts. But if it works for you, Godspeed!

If you do have a double boiler, it’s the same process. You put the water in the bottom half, and it leaves space between the chocolate in the pot and the burner—this helps the chocolate not to burn!

The double boiler ready to be whisked!

The double boiler ready to be whisked!

Once it is simmering set it to medium. This is when I add my coconut oil. Allow it to melt until it is liquid. Next, add your cacao and your sweetener. At this point you can turn your burner off and move the pot to another burner. The biggest thing here is not letting the sugar burn. Whisk it until you have no clumps! After this, the world is your oyster! Add whatever you like! I like to add sea salt, vanilla, and cinnamon! Sometimes, I even add nuts or peanut butter! It’s really all up to you! How much you add is also up to you! If you like really salty chocolate, add more salt! The kitchen is about being creative and having fun!

Next thing we do is pour the melted chocolate on the pan you lined with wax paper earlier. After that, you simply put it in the freezer. Voilà, you have dark chocolate!

Melted chocolate poured onto the lined pan from earlier + a golden retriever never far when mama’s cooking!

Melted chocolate poured onto the lined pan from earlier + a golden retriever never far when mama’s cooking!

I keep my chocolate in the freezer because I like it a bit crunchy, but if not I suggest keeping it in the fridge. It just doesn’t do great at room temp! Personally, I think this is a small price to pay for delicious, organic, and vegan chocolate on hand! I use Wilderness Family Naturals raw cacao powder, Topwil unrefined and cold pressed coconut oil, and a mix of Lakanto Monkfruit sweetener and Wholesome Turbinado Sweetener! These brands work best for me!!

If you make this recipe, let me know! Comment or tag me on Instagram at @localinourished! Enjoy friends XOXO!

 

Natural Dog Shampoo

As  many of you may have already realised, I have a little fur baby golden retriever named Annabelle. It’s funny how quickly an animal can  become your baby!! When we got Annabelle, I was a nervous new dog mama. She was so tiny, and I wanted to make sure everything she ate or I put on her was safe! This meant reading EVERYTHING. I researched dog foods, shampoos, allergies, etc. I looked into which  essential oils and herbs were toxic to dogs and which were safe. What I realised through all this was that a lot of trusted, popular brands were filled with chemicals!

Here’s the thing, Annabelle is a white golden retriever. Her favourite thing is the world is getting really dirty! She loves sitting in puddles, rolling around in seaweed or dirt (she doesn’t discriminate), or mud wrestling with her Uncle Wyatt (my dad’s German shepherd puppy)! This meant I had to find a non-toxic doggie shampoo that worked. I spent hours researching, and although I did find one that worked and was not filled with chemicals, it was expensive!

I looked at the ingredients and realised I had most of these in my house. I thought about the research I had already done on oils and herbs for dogs. DUH, I could just make my own, and that’s exactly what I did. I did a lot of trials before finding the right balance of ingredients (and a lot of pinteresting), but this is the doggie shampoo that works best for our family!

LoCali Nourished Dog Shampoo

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 1 cup Castile soap

  • 1/2 cup Aloe Vera

  • 2tbs of coconut oil

  • 1 cup warm water

  • 3-4 drops of rosemary

  • 1-2 drops of peppermint

  • 1-2 drops of lavender

I like to put all my ingredients in a glass bottle, cap it, and then shake, shake, shake! Shake that botttle!

 All of these ingredients are very cleansing and antibacterial. They are also very moisturising and don’t dry out the skin. This essential oil blend is great for skin irritations because the lavender and rosemary helps to soothe the skin. Annabelle is a little nervous about baths, and the lavender also helps to relax her! Lavender is fantastic for a nervous dog, in baths and in general! Lastly, the peppermint can help prevent fleas and ticks. It makes me so happy to share this recipe, and I hope you enjoy it! Animals are such blessings to a home and a life, and I love spreading a message for their health too! They don’t get to choose, so as responsible mommy’s and daddy’s, we must choose wisely and advocate for them.  Feel free to reach out, and let me know how it worked for your fur baby!  Pictures are ALWAYS welcome!

Annabelle post her bath with LoCali Nourished shampoo

Annabelle post her bath with LoCali Nourished shampoo

Let's Talk About Broth Bay-Bee

Today, I wanted to touch on something that has changed my health dramatically and something that I consider an absolute health game-changer! That little something is bone broth, bay-bee (for those of you wondering- yes, I did sing it out loud, and thank you for getting the reference.)   

Although this healing elixir appears to be new and trendy, it has actually been used for centuries both for its medicinal and nutritional properties. This protein soluble broth is easy to digest due to its solubility and is soothing to the gut! It has health benefits ranging from anti-aging to bone health to fat burning properties and so much more. It’s been consumed for 1000s of years by our ancestors! 

 Before, I continue on how Bone Broth is made or why I drink it, I do want to be clear that I only buy my bones from a local farmers market where I personally know the farmers. On the rare occasions I choose to consume animal products, the source is very important to me. If you do decide to integrate bone broth in your diet, please keep in mind that the health benefits are going to be significantly better in bones from pasture raised and grass fed, humanely treated, and hormone free animals. It’s better for the animals, the environment, your community, and of course YOU. 

How do I make it?

Essentially, bone broth is made by roasting the bones and then simmering bones in water for 24-48 hours. I add apple cider vinegar to the broth because this helps extract all the incredible compounds and minerals. After 30 Min, I like to add all my veggies. I also add ginger, black pepper, turmeric, and medicinal mushrooms. That is just a personal touch to make it a more powerful elixir for inflammation, immune support, and chronic pain. 

But let’s get to the good stuff! So why’s it a superfood?  

Bone broth reduces joint pain and promotes healthy bones. 

In my opinion, bone broth is one of the best remedies for achy joints and bones. Researchers have found bone broth has naturally occurring glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate (source) both of these compounds are found in our bones and play a huge role in bone health. In fact, they are often prescribed in the form of pricey supplements for ailments such as arthritis!  

As we age, collagen in our joints deteriorate. For many people this can happen at faster rates due to injury, excessive use, diet, etc. When you’re making bone broth, compounds such as gelatin, magnesium, calcium, sulfur, and phosphorus are extracted from the bones. In turn, these compounds help support strong, healthy bones in our body.  

 A good indicator you made your bone broth correctly is that it should solidify slight in the fridge. If it looks like Jell-O, you’re on the right track! It has this appearance due to the gelatin extracted from the bones. The bone’s cartilage has naturally occurring collagen; gelatin is simply cooked collagen! Gelatin provides a cushion for your joints and allows the joints to glide alongside each other without friction.    

Heals a ‘leaky gut’ 

 “Leaky gut syndrome” is essentially a deterioration of the stomach and intestinal linings. Leaky gut is attributed to many different factors, from allergies, food intolerances, toxins, ETC. Nonetheless, it leads to toxins and bacteria leaking into the blood stream. Bone broth is filled with compounds called amino acids. Amino acids help to increase healthy bacteria in your digestive tract (probiotics) and prevent inflammation.  

 Boosts the immune system.  

 Bone broth can also help boost the immune system(source) ! I’m sure we can all think back to a time when we were sick and someone gave us chicken soup to soothe us. It’s no coincidence that when you’re sick you crave chicken soup and that it’s a comfort food. Although, processed soups no longer have the same healing effects due to the array of toxins and flavorings (like beef cubes or MSG), being highly processed, and often containing very little actual animal stock, this craving did not come out of thin air. The body is craving something easy to digest, soothing, and filled with amazing healing compounds! The body is incredibly smart, and it knows what we need! All we have to do is LISTEN. 

 Dr. Stephen Rennard, M.D. who studied chicken soup for 15 years in over 1200 studies found chicken soup had immune boosting properties on a cellular level that could result in anti-inflammatory affects and possibly reduce symptoms if you have a virus.  

 Furthermore, this boost in immunity may be a result of a healthier gut (due to bone broth). Unhealthy guts can cause the body to attack itself. I personally believe this is a huge factor in the increase in autoimmune disorders. When the gut is healthy, the body’s natural immune responses are back in order.  

Bone broth helps support healthy hair, skin, nails, anti-aging   

As the saying goes, you are what you eat!  

Your hair, skin, and nails are all made up of collagen! My beauty care routine is 90% what I put in my body and 10% what I put on it. Healthy hair, nails, and skin come from within.  Collagen is responsible for promoting healthy skin and shiny hair. The skin cells that deflate over time and impact the youthful appearance of skin is partially caused by the loss of collagen and lack of collagen production that occurs as we age. When you drink bone broth, masses of personal testimonials and research suggests, it increases collagen production and may result in a more youthful appearance!  

Collagen is also linked to improved hydration of skin and a reduction in aging such as wrinkles, fine lines, and saggy skin. Bone broth has been linked to the reduction of cellulite and promotion of weight loss. This is because when your body lacks collagen (a naturally occurring compound of bone broth), the connective tissue breaks down and turns to cellulite.  

Final Thoughts 

Research has found that bone broth can also help in a multitude of ailments ranging from sleep problems, memory, hormone health, sexual health, etc.! Many people also use it in alternative fasting as well! This superfood, I believe, is not only something to try but something to integrate into your healthy lifestyle! I try to eat bone broth in a soup or a warming cup at least a few times a week. With autumn upon us, it is an excellent addition to my evening walk with my puppy Annabelle! Good Luck everyone, and drink your broth bay-bees! 

Why I’m Oil Pulling, and Why You Should Be Too!

So, I’m sure many of you have heard of the phrase oil pulling at some point. Recently, it seems to be gaining popularity in the health world. However, before you write this off as just another health trend. It is important to realize this ‘trend’ actually has a rich history around the world. It is a highly regarded tradition in Ayurveda (a holistic system of medicine), which originated 3000-5000 years ago in India. In Ayurveda, it is often also referred to as Kavala Graha. 

But what exactly is oil pulling? 

Pretty much exactly what it sounds like.  Oil pulling is taking oil—I prefer coconut oil, and swishing it around your mouth and in between your teeth!  

What’s all the hype about? 

The idea is that the pure oils are able to pull the harmful bacteria, fungus, etc. From the mouth, teeth, throat, and gums without causing any harm (source) It has been shown in some testimonials help heal tooth decay, strengthen teeth and gums, naturally whiten teeth, and cleanse the entire oral cavity. There is research that suggests the health of your mouth is directly correlated with the health of your body, in Laymen’s Terms a healthier mouth can assist in a healthier body!  

In holistic medicine, the patient is treated as a whole (mind, body, spirit). Many holistic practitioners suggest oil pulling could assist the lymphatic system because of its ability to remove harmful bacteria and create a healthy environment for good bacteria to thrive. 

Some other possible benefits include:  

  • Prevention of diseases in the oral cavity, such as gingivitis 

  • Helps prevent bad breath 

  • Mental clarity 

  • Possible remedy for bleeding gums, dry mouth, and chapped lips 

  • Relief for migraines 

  • Weight loss 

  • Helps with an alcohol hangover 

  • Aids in reducing inflammation related to chronic pain 

There are many other claims and testimonials about the numerous benefits of oil pulling. However, they are not proven with conclusive scientific evidence, so I have just listed a few. I can say from my personal experience that I have noticed whiter teeth, chronic pain relief (I suffer from nerve damage in my neck from both Lyme Disease and a prior car accident.), and mental clarity. I also find the entire routine of oil pulling to be very meditative. 

What oil should I be using? 

This one is up to you. 

Personally, I like to use organic unrefined coconut oil and have found it the easiest to incorporate into my routine. I cook and bake with it all the time, so it’s always in the house! 

I find coconut oil works best for me due to its anti-microbial properties, it seems to whiten my teeth, and the taste is easiest for me to swish for twenty minutes.  However, Sesame Oil is what was traditionally used in Ayurvedic Medicine. In my research, people seem to find that effective as  well, and it is considered safe.  

While technically, any oil can be used, you definitely want to stay away from anything with artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. I also don’t recommend using any vegetable oils (this includes canola oil, corn, sunflower, commercial peanut oil, soybean oil, etc.) These oils cannot be extracted using pressing; therefore, they are extracted using chemical, unnatural processes, and in my opinion, unhealthy practices. 

 

So how do I oil pull? 

  1. Because oil pulling is considered a detoxifying procedure, you want to oil pull first thing in the morning. 

  2. Swish the oil around your mouth for about 15–20 minutes—it may seem like a while, but I do it while I make my golden milk, and the time just flies! 

  3. Spit out the oil into the trash. Do not spit it out in your sink—it will clog drains! 

  4. Get some water and swish that in between your teeth 

  5. Then brush your teeth—I use charcoal tooth paste! 

 

Let me know how it goes for you, and feel free to comment below with any questions or suggestions!!

Using Aloe Vera for Anti-Aging

With snuggle season upon us, if you're anything like me, you've already got your sweaters out and summer stuff packed away. We all know Aloe is great for sunburns, but before you pack it away with those cute summer sandals, let me tell you why aloe is a must all year round.

Aloe is great for sunburns, but what you may not realize is the other amazing benefits you may be missing out on! 

Aloe Vera is  a succulent from the genus Aloe. It grows naturally in tropical climates around the world, and the gel found inside has been used in traditional medicine for years and is now added to many pharmaceutical and beauty products.  I remember when I first started switching to more natural beauty products, I saw aloe everywhere. Obviously there was something to this, and the more I looked into it, I realized that aloe was a super plant, or according the the ancient Egyptian’s "the plant of immortality"!

In my opinion, Aloe Vera is one of the best Anti-aging remedies for the skin. About a year ago, I ditched many of my beauty products, and tried to simplify as much as possible. I try to follow the simple rule that if I cant pronounce it (or identify it without extensive google searching) I shouldn't be putting it on or in my bod.

 A 2009 study published by Annals of Dermatology, reported in female subjects over 45 given two different dosages of Aloe Vera over a 90 day period saw incredible results in a reduction of wrinkles. Drinking Aloe Vera helps produce collagen naturally, which keeps skin looking young!

More aloe vera = more collagen = less sagging skin and less wrinkles

Sounds pretty great right?

Besides encouraging collagen production, aloe has many detoxification properties. Applied topically, aloe speeds up healing and reduces the rate of infection. Applied on your skin it helps to repair skin damage from scars, burns, acne, etc. Aloe is a natural cleanser, and it doesn't come with a long list of harsh chemicals that many of the cleansers you'll find in your local drugstore do. It cleanses your skin without stripping it of natural oils and moisture that play a key role in keeping your skin glowing!

These healing and antibacterial properties work on the inside as well! Aloe taken internally may reduce toxins in your body and help skin shine inside out!

However, not all Aloe Vera is created equal.

You want to make sure that the aloe your ingesting or putting on your skin is fresh pressed pure Aloe Vera cultivated from organic plants and not from concentrate. Check the ingredients - you would be shocked at the chemicals in "Aloe Vera" found in many drug stores! I personally use Lakewood ORGANIC they have no preservatives or additives. You can find it at your local grocery store or online!

How I use it

I like to add little to my morning tonic of an organic strawberry infused apple cider vinegar and La Croix seltzer. It wakes me and my digestive system up and gets everything movin'!

I also use it in my hair and on my skin. I mix aloe and argan oil and spray like crazy! It keeps my skin and hair super moisturized and feeling so fresh!