Vegan Treats!

I love dessert. Always have, always will.

What  I don’t love, is eating desserts that are full of refined sugar, preservatives, additives, and other gross stuff that my body doesn’t need. Over the past year I have been making more and more raw desserts, and treats that are actually good for you.

Going through my Pinterest “Vegan Dessert” board last night, I decided on two quick recipes to try out. One being a chocolate/peanut butter crunch cup, and the other a raw peanut butter cookie ice cream sandwich (which will have its own post later this week.)

The recipe for the crunch cups came from The Honour System. Where has this site been all my life?! This woman has an entire section of vegan recipes that she shares, and they ALL look incredible.

All the crunch cups consist of is:

peanut butter

cocoa powder

maple syrup

coconut oil

sea salt

vanilla extract

crispy rice cereal

I followed the instructions and mixed the peanut butter, maple syrup, and coconut oil in a pan on the stove, then added the cocoa powder, then salt and vanilla, and finally the crispy rice cereal.

I used a few silicone liners to dollop some of the mixture into, then popped them in the freezer.

Crunch cups

Fifteen minutes later…They came out great! Perfectly sweet with a nice crunch, and the peanut butter:chocolate ratio could not be better.

Finished crunch cup!

Next time I make these, I’d love to experiment and swap out some ingredients for others. Maybe agave in place of the maple syrup, some cashews or walnuts in lieu of the rice cereal, or maybe I’ll try some raspberries for a PB&J-like effect! I better calm down over here.
Crunch cup devouring in process

I love the simplicity of this dessert and how easily you can customize it to your own tastes. Recipes like these are what make being a vegan so easy and delicious!

In my next post I’ll show off those raw peanut butter cookie ice cream sandwiches I made! Please trust me when I tell you that you need them in your life.

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Thawing Out

Living in Massachusetts this past winter has been less than ideal. The snow storms just seemed to keep coming one after another, and it really had me indoors for basically the entire season. Being cooped up with a baby and a dog for months on end was not my favorite life experience I’ve had so far, let me just leave it at that.

All jokes about cabin fever aside, my state of mind really was in a rough place and it was wearing me down. I found myself in a bad mood or stressed nearly every day. Finally, the temperature has been consistently above freezing (I never thought I would use the word “balmy” to refer to a 35 degree day) and the mountains of snow are beginning to disappear. Our dog has been able to run around outside again, and bringing Willow with me to the store or for a drive is less of an ordeal. Not to mention the glory of opening the windows every once in a while and letting in some fresh air!

One thing that has really helped turn my attitude around (apart from the wonderful spring related things I’ve already mentioned) is Reiki. This month I am returning to my Reiki Master classes, so I have been doing my best to be diligent in my self-care and meditation. I also got a private Reiki session from my teacher for myself as a little recharge last month, and I have been participating as a practitioner in the local monthly Reiki clinics (where I work on clients with other practitioners.) What a significant difference it has made! I have so much motivation and energy, and my focus on gratitude for all that I have (one of the Reiki principles) has shifted my thought process completely. I wake up every morning with a positive outlook and ready to tackle any situations that arise. I feel calm, happy, and balanced.

Reiki is a truly powerful tool, both to receive it and give it. If you have yet to experience the benefits of this energy healing, you should find a local practitioner and book a session. Also, often times practitioners offer an “intro” class for those who are interested and want to learn more about Reiki and its background. IARP (International Association of Reiki Professionals) is a great site to find practitioners in your area.

Soon I will be offering my services as a Reiki II practitioner in order to continue my practice and expand it beyond family and clinic clients. I will post my offerings on here until I complete my Master course and create a separate site for my practice. If you are in need of Reiki for any reason (stress, depression, anxiety, illness, etc.) please do not hesitate to contact me before my offerings are posted! I am always willing and ready to help those in need of Reiki.

Now I am off to enjoy this abundant sunshine and explore today’s opportunities; I hope you do the same!

Elderberry Syrup & Vegan Gummies!

Taking a small daily dose of elderberry syrup is a great way to support your immune system, as it contains vitamins and antioxidants. These berries have actually been used medicinally for hundreds of years, but probably most notably in 1995 when the juice was used to treat an influenza epidemic in Panama. I think that is so cool!

The only problem I have run into regarding elderberry syrup is the price for a bottle. It is not cheap! On Amazon you can buy a 4 oz bottle for nearly $12. If you are taking the recommended 2 tsp dose for daily maintenance, you are going to run out very quickly. The best solution is to just make some yourself!

I bought a pound of dried organic elderberries for just under $20, and the recipe I used (here) only called for a half cup to make the syrup! I ended up with about 2 cups of the syrup, or enough to fill a small mason jar. (This picture below was taken after I used part of the syrup for the other recipe in this post!)

Elderberry syrup

That’s 16 oz of syrup: already 4 times the amount in the ready-made bottle. So believe me, it’s worth it! I did use agave instead of honey to make the syrup vegan, but I stuck to the rest of the recipe pretty much word for word.

I decided to use part of my new homemade syrup in another recipe to add some variety: I made vegan gummies! Here is the base recipe I worked off of (which I have used in the past and had great results) but here are the alterations I made:

1 1/2 cups tart cherry juice
1/2 cup homemade elderberry syrup
1 1/2 tsp agar powder

Whisk the liquids and powder together in a small sauce pan on high heat, and bring to a boil for just a couple of minutes. Don’t let it boil over or you will have a gelatinous mess on your hands (been there, done that). I used tart cherry juice in place of the white grape because of the remarkable health benefits from the tart cherry (anti inflammatory, antioxidants, better sleep, to name a few), plus I didn’t want to use anything that would make the gummies any sweeter than they would already be with the elderberry syrup made with agave.

I poured the mixture into a measuring glass so that I had a spout, and then filled up my pig molds. I popped them in the fridge for a couple of hours to let them set and get jello-like. Since I made these specifically as a different way to quickly take in some elderberry goodness, I chose not to add any chopped fruit like that linked recipe suggests. I do recommend it though, when making the regular jello!

Vegan elderberry gummy

I was ecstatic when I found that original base recipe because I had no clue there was something so simple out there that could be used to make vegan jello. On top of that I now have a great go-to recipe for making my healthy immune boosting gummies.

Vegan elderberry gummies

The Headstand

I first became interested in yoga probably close to a decade ago, but it has really been the past 5 years that I have become serious about it. After giving birth last May, I struggled to get yoga incorporated back into my daily life. Recently I made the decision to just firmly MAKE the time for yoga.

I watched a documentary on Netflix about yoga last week called Yoga Is and it really refueled my passion. Although I do use yoga as a means for getting exercise in my life, it holds so much more potential than just a simple work out. It challenges me, and the rush I get from finally mastering a pose is unlike the feeling I ever got from running or riding a bike. The movie really explains how yoga has the ability to be a spiritual experience for people, and I find that to be true for myself. When I fully immerse myself into a session of yoga, I feel renewed and recharged from within.

My favorite asana (or pose) is salamba sirsasana, which is a supported headstand (part of where the name of this blog came from). After doing this pose, I feel absolutely incredible. Like, “on top of the world” incredible. I actually did this during pregnancy, especially when I was having a rough day.

Here I am at 29 weeks!

Headstandbentkneesmarked

Headstandmarked

The benefits from salamba sirsasana are fantastic. Not only is it great for helping to improve balance, posture, and general upper body strength, but it also increases blood flow to the brain, stimulating the nervous system, and can help with digestion. It’s a great way to work on your abs and leg muscles, too. I consider it to be the total package, and I have been making it my mission to do this headstand at least once a day.

**I am not a certified yoga instructor (maybe someday), so here is a good guide for achieving the supported headstand.

I am working on putting together a good morning routine that is easy to stick to (with salamba sirsasana being part of it, of course) so keep your eyes peeled for that as an upcoming post if you are looking for a new way to energize yourself for the day.

Namasté!

Teeth!?!

Teething. We’re doing it.

Okay, actually it’s just Willow but it may as well be Pete and I also since it’s affecting the whole household. Will’s first tooth (bottom front) cut through in November, and ever since then I have been doing as much as I can to make the process more comfortable for her…and us.

One thing I bought almost immediately was an amber necklace from The Art of Cure. Amber is fossilized resin from trees, but they look like stone. When Willow wears the necklace, the amber gets warmed up by her body heat. This causes the release of succinic acid, which is a natural analgesic. Nature’s Tylenol! She also gets a calming effect, it lowers her stress levels, and she is getting a boost to her immune system among many other benefits. All of this makes her far more comfortable during this teething process, and it is extremely apparent: I can always see a difference in her general behavior when I forget to put the necklace on.

Amber necklace

Since amber is millions of years old, the necklace and it’s healing properties never “expire,” though I have seen people online mentioning “recharging” the amber by placing it in the sun for a period of time. How necessary that is, I can’t say but I suppose it would be worth a try if you were worried that it’s effectiveness didn’t seem up to par.

In addition to having Willow wear the amber everyday, I also give her pulsatilla in liquid form. I didn’t want to use any of the over the counter teething gels or baby Tylenol or anything like that. I wanted something homeopathic. I kept running into the problem that all homeopathic pellets I could find were made with lactose. Being vegan, I wasn’t interested in using something with that as an ingredient, so I went on the search for liquid alternatives.

I ran into another problem.

Most liquid homeopathics are made with an alcohol base. That just didn’t sit right with me. Finally, I found L.A. Naturals. They use a water base! Problem solved. I purchased a bottle on Amazon (click here for the direct link).

Pulsatilla

I settled on pulsatilla in the first place after reading this about pulsatilla versus chamomilla for teething. It opened my eyes to the fact that all babies teethe differently, and there is no one size fits all remedy. Reading about the differences in the two remedies led me to choose pulsatilla, since Willow’s behavior fit the description to a ‘T’. She is very clingy, and her cries when in pain are sad, not angry like those of a “chamomilla child.” She mainly just wants to be held. Before we started using pulsatilla there was a LOT of comfort nursing happening.

The treatment is very simple and painless: I spray the pulsatilla just once into Willow’s mouth a few times a day. I try to mainly do this when I notice any signs from her that lead me to believe she is uncomfortable, like rosy cheeks or rubbing of her ears. So far she has cut four teeth, and two more aren’t far behind. I feel confident that Pete and I are doing the best we can to make this process easier for her.

What remedies have worked for your teething kids?

Cloth Diapering

Flats. Prefolds. All-in-ones. All-in-twos. Fitteds. Inserts. Liners.

Using cloth diapers can seem…intimidating. There are many different ways to go about it, and all of the options can make your head spin. Before Willow was born last May, I researched the topic until my eyes practically rolled out of my head. It was overwhelming, to say the least.

I ended up finding a blog post by Young House Love (here) that got me interested in using all-in-ones. I figured that the less I had to do, the easier the process would be. I followed YHL’s lead and decided on BumGenius Elementals. BumGenius is a well known brand, and Elemental is their line of diapers that uses organic cotton, with the absorbent layers already attached. They had me at “organic.” I really liked the idea that these diapers, with their many snaps, could adjust to fit until it is time to potty train. Plus, we ended up receiving 12 of our 27 diapers as a gift which helped us save even more money in the long run. I am all about saving money whenever possible.

Open diaper

Since we didn’t buy any of our BumGeniuses in newborn size, we used mostly Seventh Generation brand disposables until Willow fit into the cloth at around 7 or 8 weeks. First we tested the waters by starting with these cloth wipes (and our homemade solution of purified water, tea tree oil, and vitamin E oil), then dove in completely and never looked back. No rashes, no blowouts, no endless trips to Babies R Us or Target (though I do love me some Target).  Also, instead of traditional ointments or creams we just use organic coconut oil if Willow’s skin looks a little dry and/or red.

Solution

One thing I have had to learn along the way is proper upkeep of the diapers. After a while I noticed that when a diaper had urine in it, there was a strong smell. After some research, I learned that this meant there was an ammonia build up. To remedy this, I needed to “strip” the diapers. A lot of sites told me to use bleach to do this–I wanted to go a more natural route.

First, I washed all of the diapers on HOT 3 times, with no detergent at all. I added an extra rinse on each wash. On the last wash, I put 3 drops of tea tree oil in the prewash compartment, and added 3 extra rinses; one rinse for each drop to ensure that all the oil got out. Tea tree oil is known for its ability to kill bacteria and fungus, so I felt way more comfortable using it as an alternative to bleach. Going forward, my wash routine is always: prewash, hot wash, rinse, extra rinse. I continue to put one drop of TTO in the prewash compartment, and I use Charlie’s Soap for the detergent in the main wash.

Willow continues to grow as the days and weeks go by (she is already almost 9 months old, where does the time go?), and the diapers keep adjusting to fit her along the way. If we ever have a second child, I’ll be able to use these same diapers all over again. You gotta love something that is sustainable, adorable, and easy on the wallet all at once!

Diaper stack

Welcome To My Life

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Hey!

This is my very first post, so I thought it would be best to explain why I created this blog in the first place, and what I hope to offer.

I became vegetarian in 2003, then vegan in 2007. Although I haven’t been eating animals for what feels like forever, it has really only been the past several years that I have become truly passionate about the food my family and I eat. I now enjoy making as much at home as possible, with my intention to create meals that are as healthy and good for us as possible. I am NOT great at creating my own recipes (I tend to throw things together and hope for the best a lot of the time), but I am getting good at trying out recipes I find and altering them to my tastes. So there will be plenty of that!

In addition to blabbering about food, I will often talk about some other loves of mine: yoga, reiki, and natural living. From posts about my morning yoga routine, to meditation, to using homeopathic remedies and essential oils, I will cover all of that and everything in between.

I am looking forward to sharing my experiences, and I will always include links to original recipes, yoga routines, articles on natural alternatives, etc. Credit should always be given where credit is due, and I am happy to promote others who are on a similar path to healthy living.

Happy reading!