Holy Chocolate Balls! Jude is turning 5.

WOW. Tomorrow I will officially have a 5 year old son. Words simply can’t express how grateful I am for being graced with the honor & privilege of being Mom to this rad little dude JUDE. For reals though, being a Mom is tough stuff- no matter how ‘ready’ you think you are for the job- You are just NOT.  I had NO idea what TRUE unconditional love looked like until Jude came along. It’s like all the vomit, poop, crying, screaming, crazy & trying times really showed ME what I was made of. As a parent, you really lay it all out on the line for your little person- there is nothing else like it. Such a blessing and a reminder that LOVE ALWAYS WINS. Perhaps some things in my childhood were not the best, but being a MOM reminds me that none of that really matters because as a parent, you are just doing the best you can with what you have. SO, the next time you see a Mom struggling to get her shopping done & keep her kids wrangled in- all at the same time- how about giving some grace & offering to help her- instead of judge her? After all, we are all in this together & I know I could have never done this without  the help of a small village of friends to turn to along the way. You know who you are. Thanks ladies! xo


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Thanks to you my dearest JUDE

– your strong will and curiosity keep me on my toes

-your humor reminds me to HAVE FUN DAILY and not take life so seriously

-your kind heart and desire to help others reminds me that kindness really can change the world

-your building and DIY nature makes me want to make more things instead of buy them

-your love makes me want to be a better ME

-your unique style inspires me to stay true to mine

-your desire to live a healthy life reminds me to take my own advice

-your zest for life makes me feel SO thankful to be alive

-your desire to stop, smell & pick the flowers for me makes me proud of the little man you have become

-your lack of desire to be like everyone else refreshes me

When you LIVE OUT LOUD you force me to do the same & for that I thank you.

Happy 5th Birthday my love.

I love you more than words. You stole my heart. You are the real deal. Shine On.

Love, MOM

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Jude is having a Lego + Boxing Birthday party this year. I’m super excited to teach him & his little friends some KIDboxing (hosting the party at the kickboxing gym where I work) + we will be doing some FUN Lego games too! I will post lots of pics after his party on Sunday 🙂

Tomorrow is Jude’s big day & he requested ‘anything chocolate’ -so I whipped up some gluten & sugar free  Birthday Brownie Balls to send with him to preschool. Get the recipe below! (if you have to avoid nuts at your school then just replace the almonds with sunflower seeds & the PB with sun butter).

Birthday Brownie Balls
 
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Serves: 14 balls
Ingredients
  • ¾ C raw almonds
  • 1 tablesoon raw cacao powder
  • 12 pitted medjool dates
  • 2 tablespoon all-natural organic peanut butter
  • Optional Superfood Add ins: goji berries, Enjoy GF choc chips, hemp seeds, chia seeds, coconut flakes (unsweetened)
Instructions
  1. Place almonds in a small food process or and process for about 30 seconds or until your almonds are finely chopped like almond meal. Set aside.
  2. Next, process the pitted dates until they become like a paste.
  3. Then, add the rest of the ingredients, including the almond meal, and pulse for an additional minute.
  4. Form dough in to balls and eat! If it is having trouble sticking, add a tablespoon or 2 of honey.
  5. *You can make them into bigger sized balls & then place them in cute cupcake wrappers- fun!
  6. **Need more balls? Double the recipe!

FYI: These are such a yummy snack- not just for birthdays 🙂

Keep it real! xo Branda

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Detox Your Life: Healthy Honey Swap!

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You might be wondering- what the heck is the difference?

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Is raw honey more nutritious than processed or filtered honey? While there is no official U.S. federal definition of “raw” honey, it generally means honey that has not been heated or filtered. According to the FDA, “nutritious” can be used in reference to the diet as a whole, not an individual food. Nevertheless, we often see or hear claims that raw honey is “more nutritious” or “better for you,” primarily because raw honey may contain small amounts of pollen grains that are often removed during processing or filtering.

Why is most honey filtered? According to USDA Grading Standards for extracted honey, filtered honey is honey that has been filtered to the extent that all or most of the fine particles, pollen grains, air bubbles, or other materials normally found in suspension, have been removed.

Honey that is filtered by packers is filtered for various reasons:

Many consumers prefer honey that is liquid and stays liquid for a long time.
All honey crystallizes eventually. Suspended particles and fine air bubbles in honey contribute to faster crystallization. Filtering helps delay crystallization, helping the honey to remain liquid for a much longer period than unfiltered honey. Many consumers prefer honey to be clear and brilliantly transparent.
The presence of fine, suspended material (pollen grains, wax, etc.) and air bubbles results in a cloudy appearance that can detract from the appearance. Filtering is done to give a clear brilliant product desired by consumers. For the filtered style of honey, USDA Grading Standards for Extracted Honey give higher grades for honey that has good clarity. <—- so basically they care more about how food looks instead of the nutrient value- ugh.

How do I substitute raw honey for sugar in recipes? When substituting honey for granulated sugar in recipes, begin by substituting honey for up to half of the sugar called for in the recipe. For baked goods, make sure to reduce the oven temperature by 25°F to prevent over-browning; reduce any liquid called for by 1/4 cup for each cup of honey used and add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for each cup of honey used. Because of its high fructose content, honey has higher sweetening power than sugar. This means you can use less honey than sugar to achieve the desired sweetness.

Why can’t I feed honey to my baby less than one year of age?
Honey may contain Clostridium botulinum spores that can cause infant botulism – a rare but serious disease that affects the nervous system of young babies (under one year of age). C. botulinum spores are present throughout the environment and may be found in dust, soil and improperly canned foods. Adults and children over one year of age are routinely exposed to, but not normally affected by, C. botulinum spores. Honey is safe to consume during pregnancy and lactation. While infants are susceptible to the infant botulism, adults, including pregnant females, are not. The concern for babies stems from the fact that infants lack the fully developed gastrointestinal tract of older humans. Since the mother is not in danger of developing this condition, the unborn baby is protected.

Does honey have an expiration date?
Honey stored in sealed containers can remain stable for decades and even centuries! However, honey is susceptible to physical and chemical changes during storage; it tends to darken and lose its aroma and flavor or crystallize. These are temperature-dependent processes, making the shelf life of honey difficult to define. For practical purposes, a shelf life of two years is often stated. Properly processed, packaged and stored honey retains its quality for a long time. If in doubt, throw it out, and purchase a new jar of honey!

GET LOCAL HONEY! Raw honey is great, but local raw honey is even better! Local raw honey contains pollen that is specific to your area and therefore can really help those local seasonal allergies. Taking a spoonful of raw honey once or twice a day is a great help. It is also advised to begin taking local honey a few months prior to the allergy season; this gets the pollen introduced into the body and gradually builds up the body”s tolerance to seasonal allergies. Visit your local farmer’s market for local honey & pollen.

DID YOU KNOW?

Studies have determined that children who get a dose of raw honey cough less and sleep better than those who get cough and cold medicines? Plus there are no side effects!

Raw Honey also boosts the immune system and helps the body fight the cold faster!

Cough and cold medicines are NOT recommended for children under 6 years old. They are not effective and side effects can be very dangerous. *Just remember that cough and cold medicines won’t cure your child’s cold or make it go away any sooner. And of course don’t give honey to children under 1.

Keep it real,

Branda

*Source for some of the info above: honey.com

Detox Your Life: Healthy Chocolate Swap


This is the time of year that we NEED to talk about chocolate! First, take a deep breathe. I would never tell you to stop eating chocolate because let’s be honest- it’s amazing BUT I do want you to chose a cleaner healthier version.

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Rule #1– NO milk chocolate period. Why? It lacks any type of nutrients and is so processed that you are basically just eating sugar & fat. AND it has weird ingredients in the label. For example what in the world is PGPR???? Remember: if we don’t recognize the ingredients then our body won’t either.

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I had to do a little research to find out what exactly PGPR was & here is what I found:

PGPR can be used to replace the traditional but more expensive cocoa butter as an ingredient in chocolate. Palsgaard’s website asserts, “Cocoa butter is an expensive raw material for chocolate manufacturers. By using PALSGAARD 4150 the chocolate recipe has lower costs in terms of less cocoa butter but also gives the benefit of having less fat.”

So it is basically some man made chemical that will probably be linked to cancer someday. All in the name of reducing costs right? Ditch the milk chocolate people!

Rule #2– Dark chocolate rules! Why? Because it is less processed and contains good stuff that is actually GOOD FOR YOU. Like what? I’m so glad you asked!

-Quality dark chocolate is rich in Fiber, Iron, Magnesium, Copper, Manganese and a few other minerals.

-Quality dark chocolate is a powerful source of antioxidants. Have you ever heard of a measure called ORAC? ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. It is a measure of the antioxidant activity of foods. Basically, researchers pit a bunch of free radicals (bad) against a sample of food and see how well the antioxidants in the food can “disarm” them.

IN A NUTSHELL: There is considerable evidence that chocolate can provide powerful health benefits, being especially protective against cardiovascular disease. But of course, this doesn’t mean people should go all out and consume lots of chocolate every day. It is still loaded with calories and easy to overeat on. Maybe have a square or two after dinner and try to really savor them. Be aware that a lot of the chocolate on the market is filled with crap. You need to choose quality stuff… organic, dark chocolate with 70% or higher cocoa content. Dark chocolates often contain some sugar, but the amounts are usually small and the darker the chocolate, the less sugar it will contain.

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Detox Your Life: Healthy Oil Swap

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Do you cook with vegetable/canola oils? It’s time to make the healthy swap to coconut oil.

Many people think that cooking oils like corn, soy, safflower, sunflower and canola are good for their health just because they’re made from vegetables or plants. But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, these oils are probably the worst oils you can use for cooking. One reason is that they are loaded with omega-6 fats or polyunsaturated fats. What’s more, when these oils are heated, their antioxidants become damaged and oxidized, adding more toxic burden to your body.Instead of these unhealthy cooking oils, opt for a wiser and safer choice like virgin coconut oil. Virgin Coconut Oil Offers Better Benefits Than Other Cooking Oils Virgin coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the kernel or meat of matured coconuts. For many years, it was vilified and accused of causing heart disease and other health problems. But now, many health experts are recommending this oil, claiming it to be one of the most healthful found on Earth.

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Virgin coconut oil is highly recommended for cooking because it is stable enough to resist heat-induced damage. It is even better than extra-virgin olive oil, which is great when used as a salad dressing or mixed in cold dips but can be a problem when heated. This is because olive oil’s chemical structure also makes it susceptible to oxidative damage.

Coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) or medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are smaller and more easily digested by your body, so they do not get stored as fat. Meanwhile, vegetable cooking oils contain long-chain fatty acids or long-chain triglycerides (LCTs). LCTs are larger and are difficult to break down, adding to your body’s toxic burden.

So, the next time you’re planning to use vegetable oil for your meals, reach for virgin coconut oil instead. Not only is it better, nutritionally-speaking, but it also boasts a richer, sweeter flavor that will certainly complement any dish.

Coconut oil is so versatile and good for you. It’s great for the kitchen and has many personal healthcare uses, such as moisturizing dry, winter skin. It’s the go to oil our home!

*Some info above provided by Green Living

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Maple Quinoa Squash

Maple Quinoa Squash
 
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Author:
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 1 delicata squash (I used delicata but you could use acorn or another type)
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1-2 tbsp chopped red onion
  • 1-2 tbsp raisins or unsweetened cranberries
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • coconut oil
  • sea salt & cinnamon to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Slice squash in half & scoop out seeds (save the seeds for roasting!) I peeled my delicata squash (optional) and then massaged it with coconut oil as well as lightly greased the glass baking dish with coconut oil.
  3. In a bowl mix up the quinoa, red onions, raisins or cranberries, and coat with most of the the maple syrup.
  4. Scoop the mixture into the squash halves & then drizzle with a little bit more syrup + sprinkle with salt & cinnamon.

 

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Try This Weight Loss Drink- NOW!!!

Did you know that you can lose weight by ditching all sugary drinks and just drinking WATER!!?
 It’s that easy, yet people are still drinking loads and loads of sugar instead!

 I know there are people reading this and saying “Well, I drink sugar free drinks- so I’m fine”- WRONG!!! Check the ingredients and you will find some type of artificial sweetener that is even worse for you than sugar!!! Yuck!

 Sugary drinks have absolutely no nutritional value and are a waste of time (and calories for that matter). And please tell me your not giving these drinks to your kids! If so, you might as well just hand them a bag of sugar and start putting money away for their future dental work. Plus when your kiddos stop listening to you and start climbing the walls instead- (this is called a sugar high which is also followed by a sugar crash/meltdown status)-you cannot get angry with them because their poor little bodies certainly cannot control a blood sugar spike of that size!

So come on, just do it! CUT THE SUGAR! Clean eating means cutting all of the added sugars out of your diet and the  best place to start is with your drinks. I bet you will save approximately 500 calories just by switching to drinking water only.

PLUS WATER IS SO DELICIOUS & REFRESHING!!! Now go fill up a reusable water bottle and drink up!! Need some flavor in your water? Add fruit- melons, berries, lemons, limes, and even cucumber adds some great natural flavor.

Yum 🙂

Dinner at My House: Clean Eating Sushi & Sesame Slaw

Sushi!!! So yummy!!! Most people head out to a restaurant to get some, but its actually pretty easy (and fun) to make -so I encourage you to try it!

I made rice-less sushi rolls last night (these are paleo friendly), but I have also posted instructions for brown rice sushi rolls if you scroll farther down the page.


Ingredients: You can really choose anything you want to put inside! I used shrimp (steamed/cooled), mango, scallions, avocados and red peppers. I also made my toddler a roll that contained: smoked salmon, avocado, and cucumber (cut into matchstick size pieces). *The seaweed paper is very chewy so if you are giving it to toddlers be sure they are only getting very small pieces!

I do not have a sushi mat so I used a piece of construction paper instead. Rolling can be the hard part (see detailed instructions/pics below). Don’t be too hard on yourself- it takes practice! Start closest to you and press firmly as you roll! I used avocado spread out to help seal the roll, but you can also just wet your fingers and dab the end to help it stick together.

SESAME SLAW: I whipped up a side of slaw with very few ingredients: Cabbage, red pepper, rice vinegar, sesame oil & sesame seeds.

Chop 1/2 head of cabbage & 1/2 of a red pepper (or throw it into the food processor like I did- this makes it finely chopped and perfect for little ones to eat too.) Splash of rice vinegar & sesame oil then mix it up and top with sesame seeds (optional). 

*Bonus Rolls: my hubby got home late so I threw the leftover sesame slaw, shrimp, avocado, smoked salmon, & cucumber into a roll for him and he loved it! He would have never ate the slaw by itself so it was a win win 🙂

If you prefer your sushi rolls with rice- check out these brown rice rolls:
Ingredients

  • 3 cups short-grain brown rice (Some packages of white rice specifically say “sushi rice” on them, but you don’t see this label as often on brown rice.  I’ve found that any short-grain variety is adequate.)
  • 4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • ½ pound raw shrimp (or cooked real crab…please do not buy anything labeled as an imitation!)
  • ½ pound raw sushi-grade tuna or salmon
  • 2 carrots, peeled
  • 1 cucumber, peeled
  • 1 or 2 avocados (depending on how much you like them)
  • 1 package of Nori (seaweed sheets)
  • Necessary supplies: bamboo rolling mats, saran wrap, cutting boards, a very sharp knife, soy sauce (and little dishes for dipping), chopsticks (which can be modified with a rubber band and piece of paper for the little ones), and a flat wooden or bamboo spoon
  • Optional supplies: toasted sesame seeds, wasabi, pickled ginger, toothpicks or skewers, and a bowl of water (to dip your fingers and spoon in to keep the rice from sticking)

Directions

  1. Cook the brown rice according to the package directions.
  2. Before cooking the shrimp stick a skewer or toothpick through each one from end-to-end so they will be “straight” after they are done cooking and will therefore be easy to cut into strips. Boil the skewered shrimp in the water for 3 – 5 minutes or until they are firm.
  3. Chop the cooked shrimp, raw fish, peeled carrots, and peeled cucumber into little julienned strips (pictured above). Similarly, slice the avocado(s), but save them for last since they could start to turn brown.
  4. Once the rice is done stir in the rice wine vinegar. Some sushi recipes also call for sugar to be added to the rice, but we think it tastes just fine without it. Also, it is best to use a wooden or bamboo spoon when handling the rice.
  5. Cut the sheets of nori in half long ways.
  6. Cover the bamboo mats with plastic wrap.
  7. Now it is time to get started (see pictures to the right and below)!
    • We think it is best for each person to either have their own cutting board and bamboo mat or at least only have to share their items with one other person.
    • Lay 1 of the half sheets of nori along the bottom of the plastic covered bamboo mat.
    • Completely cover the top of nori with a thin, uniform layer of rice.
    • If you prefer the nori to be on the outside of your sushi roll then leave it the way it is with the rice on top.  If you like the rice to be on the outside (like me) then flip it over .
    • Make a nice and neat row along the very bottom edge of the nori with whatever ingredients you’d like on the inside.
    • Using the bamboo mat as an aide roll it over as tightly as you can and keep rolling until it is closed up completely. Then squeeze down on the roll with a little force to really secure it together.
    • If the rice is on the outside (like the picture) we think it is best to lay a little piece of saran wrap over the top of the roll before cutting it. Using a sharp knife cut through the plastic and the roll until you have the desired number of pieces of sushi.
    • We believe in eating as we go when we have to work this hard for our food so enjoy!

Yield: 4 – 6 Servings

Enjoy!!!

 

‘Try It’ Tuesday: Apple Slices To Go

I don’t know about all of you, but there are so many exercises, recipes, projects & tips that I come across and say to myself  “Wow, I  really need to try that.”  I thought it would be cool to start sharing these ideas with all of you AND holding myself accountable to try some of these cool things I come across! SO this Tuesday (& every Tuesday there after)- watch for something new to try! Let’s start with this nifty little tip I came across:

Genius tip for taking apple slices to work (or anywhere on the go) and avoiding the brown!!!

*Bonus tip: always try to pair  a piece of fruit with some protein. Grab a handful of almonds or a spoonful of almond butter to go with your sliced apple- yum!
Now go ahead, TRY IT!!!