Fall Flavors: Sweet Treats (all-natural, non-dairy, low-carb, paleo and keto friendly)

As most of you babes know, I LOVE FALL! It is my favorite season because I love the colors, the weather cooling down, the flavors, Halloween…I could go on and on. I am proud to be basic and I am proud to have fallen in love with fall. There will be a ton of delicious recipes for my favorite season, and I already started with some Apple Fritters. However, my fall baking has not ended there. In fact since that post, I have created 3 new recipes that fit my dietary needs, give me the flavors I crave, and are made with all-natural ingredients. I was going to do individual posts, but I thought why not treat you all to 3-in-1!

So, I am going to organize this to the best of my ability. I will of course give my inspiration for creation for each recipe, but I am hoping to make this not too long of a read. I know I have been making some really long blog posts lately (which have felt AMAZING to post) but I know recipes are sometimes left short and…sweet (;

Just so you babes know, these recipes do not require anything too fancy. In fact, I got most of my ingredients at Trader Joe’s. I try to make my recipes lower in cost so you all can enjoy without breaking the bank. I know there are a lot of healthier recipes out there that require ingredients that are $20 each and for me, I cannot justify that! I want to be healthy, enjoy my treats, and still be able to make my student loan payment. Also, I do not know if these recipes are possible to make with regular flour, sugar, or butter because that is not how I choose to bake. I have restrictions in my diet and my blog sort of revolves around those. You are always welcome to try them out with any different ingredients and let me know how it goes! I love hearing about your experiences in the kitchen, and I always cry when I get sent pictures of you babes making my recipes (because it makes me feel like I helped some taste buds!) So, let’s get baking!

Paleo Pumpkin Spice Bread (gluten-free, dairy-free, and low-carb)

IMG_3008_Facetune_25-09-2018-16-28-22Pumpkin bread is one of my favorite fall treats. I used to always grab a piece with a Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks before class in my college days. But, it’s definitely a lot more diet and budget friendly to make my own. I wanted to replicate the classic pumpkin flavor, while also making sure to include the spices that match pumpkin so well. With cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger…this bread not only tastes delicious but makes your house smell like fall without lighting a candle! It is a lot denser than typical bread, simply because of the flour used, but it is every bit as delicious and can easily be made as muffins!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup all-natural honey
  • 1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • Sunflower seeds as optional topping

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 °F and line a bread loaf pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the coconut flour, almond flour, spices, and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and add the honey, vanilla, and coconut oil. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Add the pumpkin puree to the wet mixture and combine until smooth.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and combine until you have a smooth batter. Be sure that there are no lumps!
  6. Pour your batter into the lined bread loaf pan, and sprinkle sunflower seeds on top.
  7. Gently place in the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

“The Laura” Chai Latte Spiced Cookies (gluten-free, paleo, keto, dairy-free, vegan, and low-carb)

IMG_2619_Facetune_11-09-2018-18-49-10Okay, so this one goes out to the wonderful woman I spent all of last fall living in the mountains with…Laura Young! She and I had both changed our entire lives to take on jobs that ended up being absolutely insane. We lived in cabins with no running water or bathrooms, barely any electricity, and the closest town was about 6 miles away and as small as could be. Neither of us lasted long (she lasted longer than I did, of course) because the working conditions were just awful. However, we did experience a lot of fun fall things together, including the strangest haunted house ever and pumpkin searching in the grocery store parking lot. But one of the best memories were the times one of us would make a Starbucks run, because the closest one was about 40 minutes away, we would always bring back a drink for the other. Laura’s favorite fall order is a Venti Pumpkin Chai Latte with Soy. So, in honor of me missing my soul sister (who is now starting a new adventure in D.C.) I decided to make her favorite drink in the form of an Emilee friendly cookie. Laura, if you are reading this, I love you and you better make this. And if you aren’t Laura, then you should also make it and know that these cookies (I made 16) were gone within 2 days at my house! So delicious!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/3 cup all-natural honey
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon cardamom
  • 1 tablespoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 °F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place all of the ingredients (yes, all of them!) in a bowl and combine with an electric mixer.
  3. When all ingredients are combined and a dough is formed, roll into a ball and store in the fridge for about 15 minutes.
  4. Once cooled, you can either form 2 inch balls and then flatten them, or you can roll out the dough and use cookie cutters to create shapes. I used the first method, but also tested the second, too!
  5. Place cookies on lined baking sheet and bake for about 8-10 minutes or until the cookies turn golden brown. I’ve found my oven to bake a bit differently than others.
  6. Remove from oven and allow the cookies to cool.
  7. Enjoy with homemade cashew milk, or your favorite fall drink!

Pumpkin Butter Thumbprint Cookies using Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Butter (paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and low carb)

IMG_3010_Facetune_25-09-2018-16-38-09Another one of my favorite treats for fall is Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Butter. It’s absolutely delicious and made out of some pretty clean ingredients. I love the depth of flavors, and that its less than $3 a jar. I’ve always loved thumbprint cookies, whether it is filled with jam or chocolate, but I haven’t tried making them since becoming gluten-free. Luckily, the cookie portion of this is very versatile and is what I consider to be a healthier shortbread. It’s soft and buttery but without actual butter! Plus the flavors in the cookies mix perfectly with the pumpkin butter on top! This is a simple recipe, and another crowd pleaser in my household. Just be sure to store any leftovers in the fridge in an air tight container so they stay edible (pumpkin butter does need to be refrigerated!)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut four
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup all-natural honey
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 jar of Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Butter

Directions

  1. In a bowl, mix together all of the ingredients except the pumpkin butter. Combine until you have a dough-like consistency and roll into a ball. Place dough in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 °F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Using a tablespoon of dough per cookie, form into small balls. I was able to make about 15. Then, make an imprint in the center of each cookie with your thumb (get it, thumbprint cookies.)
  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown on top. Remove from oven and let cool for 1 minute. Then, repress your thumbprint down into the cookies and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  5. Using a spoon, fill each thumbprint with pumpkin butter.
  6. Let cool in the fridge for about 10 minutes to set!
  7. Enjoy!
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Side Effect #1: Self-Love Allowed Me To Love My Body

IMG_0626This one might seem like a no brainer; when you love who you are you most likely will feel better about the way you look; the mind and body are connected in very deep ways. But the way my body looks hasn’t been as much of a concern as how my body feels. Before I go into the difference between the two ideas, I want to explain my background with body positivity. I mainly want to go through my history so you can all understand that this is something I will always be up and down with, and I hope that you can find it relatable and realistic. Body positivity is the hardest part of self-love for me and it always will be.

I was never ashamed of my looks, until I was. I grew up on stage so I found confidence in myself very early on. I never felt like I was different or wanted to change the way I looked until high school. Bullying started when my weight began to change. Halfway through Freshman year, my body began to hold weight differently and gain weight easier. I was a cheerleader and heavily involved in theatre, and that was when I first started getting severely bullied for my size. I am sure that it was happening behind my back for much longer before it started being said to my face. But when I was finally told to my face by a classmate that I was too fat to play the part in the show that I wanted to play, I felt like that was what every person thought about me. I will never forget that moment and how it made me feel. It sent me into a downward spiral and it seemed to open a door of never ending comments about my only worth being my weight. It made me a mean, unhappy person who strived and begged for acceptance by my peers, which turned into manipulative and verbally abusive “friendships”.

I was told I shouldn’t cheer or dance because no one wants to see my fat jiggling around. My senior year (the heaviest weight I have ever been) I was called a whale in front of a majority of my classmates. I was told by my “friends” at the time that I was too fat to love, and that I needed to do whatever I could to make myself skinny before college began. This started another downward spiral. By the time college had started, I had already been accustom to hiding the fact I wasn’t eating and I was working out way too much. But I didn’t let anyone know this was happening because I “wasn’t skinny enough to have an eating disorder.” I believed this too, as the people in my life who I knew had eating disorders just so happened to also be smaller than I was. But starving myself and running 3 miles a day is a problem. Trying to hide it from others by occasionally eating a cupcake or half a burger but secretly hating myself for eating those calories and trying to run them out is a problem. Losing 50lbs from restriction is self-harm and it is a problem. But I was losing weight, so no one seemed to know happening in such a dangerous way. This story is one I will get into more in-depth someday, but overall my point is that just because someone who is “bigger” is losing weight does not mean it has been in a healthy way. Check in on them.

Suddenly, things changed. I got myself out of a toxic living situation, and out of toxic relationships by being cast in my college musical, and it brought new meaning to eating. I started dance classes again which made me feel whole. I knew I needed to actually eat in order to get through the classes, and with this slowly came weight gain. But it was at first in a positive way. I was gaining weight by going out to eat with friends and socializing. I felt good about my body because I was happy with my life. Surprisingly, I was okay with this. I realized that I loved that my body could create art and that the way I was built was just different than others. And my new friends never made me feel anything less than beautiful, smart, and strong.

Then things changed again, more stress and toxic problems happened causing my next struggle with eating: binging. I would restrict myself by believing coffee and bananas were enough to live off of until dinner, then eat 3 orders of Taco Bell. I was restricting then binging, and this was much harder to stop. I hated myself for it, but eating a ton of food at one time made me feel better mentally. I could eat a Chipotle burrito and chips for dinner, eat 4 pieces of cake afterwards, and tell myself that it was solving all my problems. But in the morning I would be disappointed when I tried to slide my jeans on that no longer fit. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the way I looked, because I still liked parts of my body, but I wasn’t feeling good. It didn’t feel good to not fit in my clothes and to wake up with pain in my stomach and bloating around my face.

Now, I will also explain that although I was eating bad, I also gained so much weight from the hormonal treatments from my chronic condition, adenomyosis. If this condition is new to you, read my post about my story here. I was on and off so many treatments, it messed with my body and mind. It created so much stress and imbalance that my weight gain was deemed normal by medical professionals. It was something I begged to not happen, but the doctors told me I would (while also telling me to lose weight…this was very confusing!). I allowed myself to use this as an excuse just to avoid talking about my binge eating issues. This went on until December 2017, when I weighed almost as much as I did my senior year in high school.

When I started my most recent health journey, it was because I was tired of feeling so incredibly awful. Feeling, not looking. I didn’t feel like myself anymore. It was partially stress/anxiety, but also partially my adenomyosis. So, my new, more understanding doctor and I made a plan. She wanted me to eat an anti-inflammatory diet. I became gluten-free and dairy limited. This was a main part of my inspiration for this blog, to make my new lifestyle a positive experience for myself. Through this, I’ve learned about eating foods that are simple and actually beneficial for you. I’ve tried new foods that are now a major part of what I eat, as well as began craving my own cooking verses eating out. Why? Because eating my own foods made my body feel better. Through this, I’ve lost 20lbs. Not by tracking calories or by restricting what I can and cannot eat, but by learning about balance and realizing how to properly fuel my body and better my relationship with food.

IMG_0488The thing that people don’t often associate with body positivity is weight loss. Because body positivity is all about loving the skin your in, which I stand behind 100%. But there is also the fact that sometimes the skin your in is unhealthy and is causing more problems than you realize. Even though I was okay with the way I looked 20lbs ago and definitely still flaunted what my mama gave me, I was extremely unhealthy. Body positivity, in my eyes, goes hand-in-hand with self-love. And with self-love comes self-care. And with self-care comes healthy habits. I started eating unprocessed and healthier foods as a way to take care of myself because I knew I wasn’t getting the nutrients I needed. I started working out again and pushing what I thought were my exercise limits in a healthy way because I knew I needed to move my body and gain muscles.

I realized I wasn’t losing weight because I hated my body. I was losing weight because I wanted to take care of my body.

So yes, weight loss has helped me love my body. But it isn’t just because I look better, but because I feel better. I feel strong, I feel healthy, and I don’t wake up feeling bloated and with a stomach ache that lasts all day. There is absolutely nothing wrong with losing weight for health reasons. There is absolutely nothing wrong with loving yourself and your body enough to realize you need to change the way you eat and live your life. Do I still eat potato chips and Taco Bell? Sometimes, yes I do. But I have learned to eat in order to fuel my body, not to make my mind feel better. The way I choose to eat and exercise was made out of self-love and self-care. My weight loss has made me more body positive because I am taking care of my body. I am allowing myself to lose fat and gain muscle, and I will not apologize for loving my body then, now, or in the future.

August 2017 vs August 2018

I know that all of this was a lot, but the bottom line is that my body positivity and confidence is at the level that it is because of the relationship I have created with myself. Over the past 10 months, I have worked so incredibly hard at changing the inside of me and how I thought about myself, and I truly believe that it is showing on the outside. I know how cliché it sounds to say that the inside is what matters and that your inside will shine brighter than your outside, but I am convinced that this is true. I feel healthier, I love who I am, and I love the way I look.

Homemade Cashew Milk (no straining needed!)

IMG_2608_Facetune_11-09-2018-18-42-54I haven’t always been the biggest fan of nut milks. It was a huge adjustment to try to get used to almond and coconut milk. But, I knew limiting how much dairy I consumed (especially milk) would be best for my body, so I have trained myself really well to enjoy it! My favorite milk by far is cashew milk, but it is so much more expensive to buy a decent brand.

What do I mean by a “decent brand”? Well, I mean something with simple, and very few, ingredients that actually benefit our bodies instead of tear them apart. Did you know some brands of nut milk have added preservatives and chemicals so they do not expire as quickly? This makes me feel super uncomfortable because I am trying to find ways to better my health, and if I am giving up animal milk, I shouldn’t be swapping it for something with added chemicals! It is the same thing with nut butters. Read the labels between Jiffy and Sprout’s (which cost the same), and you’ll see that there more than just peanuts in the Jiffy peanut butter.

For awhile now, I’ve been considering making my own nut milk. However, I am uncomfortable with the amount of waste that can come from straining and being left with nut “pulp” (ew?) I know there are ways to reuse the leftovers, but this all seems like a lot of work for the average person. Plus, I know not everyone wants to invest in a cheese cloth or special nut milk bag. So, in true Emilee fashion, I decided to experiment in the kitchen and figure out a way to make some simple cashew milk without having too many complicated steps. And that is just what I did.

I was able to make my cashew milk creamy and dreamy all while controlling what ingredients were added. There are so many varieties of ways to make delicious cashew milk with all natural flavors and I want to make sure that you know just how easy this was. I used mine in my smoothies daily, to dunk in cookies (that recipe is coming soon!), and in a delicious homemade latte. The possibilities with your cashew milk are endless, and it is so easy to make!

IMG_2595One step that I do want to clarify is when I say to “soak your cashews”. This is really important because when nuts/seeds are broken down (such as in a blender or food processor), they release natural chemicals that can be harmful to digestion. The soaking process eliminates this release while also making the nuts/seeds creamier when broken down! It is a MUST if you plan to make milk without straining! I recommend 6-8 hours of soaking because it comes out smoother and with less of a grainy texture. Slow and steady wins the race!

Homemade Cashew Milk Recipe

This makes about 5-6 cups, but you can adjust the recipe to make more or less!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of cashews *note: they must be RAW cashews!
  • 3 cups of filtered water (plus some for soaking!)
  • optional ingredients: local all-natural honey, organic all-natural maple syrup, vanilla extract, unsweetened cocoa powder, cinnamon, lavender extract, sea salt, or anything else that you want to add to your milk!

Directions

  1. Measure your cashews and place in a bowl. Put enough filtered water in the bowl to cover all the cashews. Place the bowl in a cool, safe place with a light towel over it. Let your cashews soak for 6-8 hours. Remember, this is an important step!
  2. Drain the water from the bowl and rinse your cashews. Place them in your blender with about 1 cup of water to start. Blend for at least 2-3 minutes. This will be very thick and creamy. This step will help decrease how grainy it is.
  3. Then, add another cup of water and repeat the steps until it is at the desired consistency. If your cashew milk is still grainy, keep blending!
  4. Add your choice of flavors/sweeteners. For chocolate cashew milk, try adding 4 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder. For lavender honey, add 1/4 cup of honey, 4 drops of lavender extract, and 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract. For a fall flavor, add 3 tablespoons of cinnamon and 1/4 cup of maple syrup. Or for my favorite (and what I made above) add 1/4 cup honey, 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract, and 2 pinches of sea salt. 
  5. Blend your ingredients together and store in an air tight container in the fridge. Jars work best!
  6. Let it cool and enjoy for up to a week! It makes a great coffee creamer!

IMG_2610

Paleo Gluten-Free Apple Fritter Bites

Fall is my favorite season, and I am so glad that it is finally here. From the color changing leaves to the seasonal holidays, I love all things fall! As a recipe creator it is even easier to create yummy foods when you love all the different flavors. From apple cinnamon to pumpkin nutmeg to rosemary and thyme; this is where my taste buds want to live!

To begin my wonderful fall recipe series, I wanted to take advantage of the delicious apples a family friend brought over, fresh from her tree! They are Macintosh, so they are a perfect balance of sweet and crisp. I couldn’t wait to use cinnamon as a pairing flavor to the perfect apples, but I knew I wanted to be a little bit more creative than an easy apple muffin.

I woke up this morning craving donuts with my coffee. When I would get donuts in the past, I would always get a glazed old-fashioned and an apple fritter. I love the sweet and fruity surprises that apple fritters brought, and that’s when it hit me. I should make an Emilee friendly apple fritter. Aka Paleo, gluten-free, no refined sugar, (and mainly dairy-free)…Thus my creation!

I didn’t want these to be overly sweet or overly heavy. Instead, I wanted an apple fritter that I could use as my morning carb so I would be less tempted to make a breakfast quesadilla (I got addicted and my body deserves better lol). So, I chose to make apple fritter donut holes so I could eat 2 or 3 and be satisfied while also having a properly portioned amount. I also didn’t want to have to try to figure out yeast or anything like that because I am not ready for that kind of commitment. But these little babes turned out amazing! I had no idea that on the first try I would get something so perfectly yummy and my craving satisfied. Not to mention, I now got to have donut holes with breakfast for the next 4 days without ruining my dietary needs. It’s overall a win win.

Paleo Gluten-Free Apple Fritter Bites

I was able to make about 16 2-inch Apple Fritter Bites from this recipe. I probably should have doubled it because my family ate a fair amount as well! And mind you, my family usually questions what I make (but then they try it and are in love!)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of finely chopped apples (Granny Smith or Macintosh work best!)
  • 1 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1/4 cup all-natural honey
  • 2 tablespoons almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon liquid coconut oil mixed with 1 tablespoon cinnamon (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Then, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine almond flour, coconut flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking powder.
  3. Next, add the eggs, vanilla extract, honey, and almond milk. Be sure to mix this well so all the ingredients are fully combined.
  4. Carefully fold your apples into the mix and try to get them evenly dispersed in the batter.
  5. Using an ice cream scoop or spoon, take about 2 tablespoons of batter and roll it into a ball. Place the balls on the lined baking sheet about an inch apart from each other (they should not expand!)
  6. This step is optional, but helps bring moisture into the donuts. Melt 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and mix in cinnamon. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat each donut with the coconut cinnamon mix.
  7. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown.
  8. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes to cool down. Another optional tip: drizzle a tablespoon of honey across the top.
  9. Enjoy while wrapped in a cozy knit blanket, smelling a fall scented candle, and while sipping a pumpkin spice latte (;

Should I Stay, or Should I Go?

IMG_0570I grew up with parent’s who took me on adventures. I do not mean that we always went somewhere exciting or new, but they made even the short walk down the block to get slurpees an adventure. Adventure runs through my veins similarly to the way blood runs through; rushing to my heart quickly, and then my head soon after. However, I never experienced the adventures of constant travel until after I graduated from college. Being bit by the travel bug has brought me through unforgettable experiences and leaves me feverish for more. I guess you could say I really and truly relate to Belle when she sings about wanting “adventure in the great wide somewhere” and wanting it more than she can tell.

Let’s back track a bit to after I graduated from college. I wrote an entire post about it that you can read here, but let’s go over the basics! I went to college in Ventura County and had the time of my life. I then got offered what I thought was a dream job back up in the Bay Area, where I grew up. It was in a small mountain town about an hour from my parent’s house. At first, it was an ideal situation. I was working a job that I thought would be something that would last forever, while also getting to heal from some situations that occurred within my last few years in college. I loved it at first, then suddenly, things took a 180 and now I am doing what I do now. And as wonderful as my life currently is, I am starting to feel way too routined.

But this post isn’t just about having a craving for adventure, but more about what the next step in my life should be. Currently, I am studying for the GRE (which I will be taking mid-September so it’s coming up quickly), as well as applying for my top graduate schools, working for the dance company, building my online health/fitness coaching business, and also volunteering at the hospital and breast cancer center…so it’s going to be a busy fall season! However, I will not be attending school until Fall 2019…so yes, I have an entire year to do more amazing things; and I will not waste that year. I want to travel more, experience life more, and give myself some new beginnings.

Initially, my plan was to move back down to Southern California in January. As of now, the schools I want to attend are down in the LA area and I think it there is a possibility of spending the rest of my life there. I love the communities and friendships I’ve made while down there and I love being able to jump in the car and go to the beach, mountains, and city within 3 hours. Yes, I get that in the Bay Area as well, but I think that I have simply outgrown this area. Especially now that a majority of my closest friends in this area have now moved away. I’m itching to begin a new lifestyle; I am ready to move out of my family’s home (even though they are the best), be on my own, and be living in my twenties!

Like I said before, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the life I am currently living. I have a wonderful family, a great job, I’m getting to work hands on with patients, and I am saving money…but the other day I realized that just because the life I am living is fine, doesn’t mean it is the life I should be living.

IMG_0569In the past, I had a lot of fear when it came to living in new places. I lived in the same house, in the same room, until I moved for college. From there I had living drama and some crappy roommates (but also a really great one <3). It gave me a lot of experience but also made me nervous to live with new people and in new places. However, I overcame my fear when I moved back up to the small mountain town because I worked at a camp and lived on-site in a cabin. Now that cabin barely had electricity, had no bathroom, and no cell phone service. This cabin was basically a studio apartment with no kitchen, bathroom, or balcony. Just a plain room. As much as I loved to hate that cabin, I also loved the experience of living in a new town and making new friends and starting a new life..even if it was just temporary. It made me realize that there is a lot of adventure out there and I am young, single, and in need of living my life to the fullest before settling in on a career.

When I start graduate school, it will be a lot of focusing on getting my career where I want it to be. I finally know what I want career wise and I am ready to work towards that…next fall when I start school. But right now, I am not truly sure what is stopping me.  The main things being:

  • Leaving and failing.
  • Money.
  • Disappointing myself/family if I fail.
  • Falling in love with somewhere that isn’t necessarily CA.
  • Not loving where I am living and hating it all.
  • Not making friends.
  • Getting a job I hate.

But these reasons are all “what-if’s”. They are all things that could happen. I’ve always been a planner, and over the past year, I worked on my becoming so much more spontaneous and I love it! But, maybe this is too spontaneous. Maybe this is too much. But what if it turns out to be one of the best experiences in my life? What if it allows me to grow as a person in absolutely brilliant ways? Again, it is filled with what-if’s.

So, what better way to blurt all my thoughts out than blogging? I have so many wonderful people who follow this blog and email me or comment about what I have written. I am hoping maybe, just maybe, I reach someone who has done something like this before. Moved for about a 5-6 month time span in a place where they know possibly no one and have maybe never even been. What would you do? Would you stay where it is safe, where you can save money, and where you can continue your typical routine…or would you change it all for an adventure that may or may not be successful? Comment below or send me an email!

What I Ate During My 6 Days In New York (and only gained 1lb!)

If you follow me on Instagram (@wellnessandwelldrinks), you know that I went on a crazy, whirlwind adventure to New York (Manhattan and Brooklyn) and I want to share with you as much as I can. Food was of course, a major part of the trip and my family had a great time trying all sorts of New York favorites. Unfortunately for me, I do have dietary restrictions due to my adenomyosis. My body needs certain foods everyday, and I need to stay away from many foods including gluten, most grains, most dairy products, and too much red meat. Anything that can cause an abundance of inflammation is not my friend! I was still able to indulge and enjoy even with my dietary needs. And the best part? I enjoyed myself while only gaining 1lb! Most likely from all the walking I did, and that most days I had my Shakeology for breakfast…but it still impressed me. I did not take a picture or write notes for every meal I ate, but I did try to get as much as I could with all of you in mind! So, I hope you enjoy some of my favorite foods, drinks, and restaurants I discovered while in the city!

The Good

GF Avocado Toast from Grass Root Juicery.

IMG_8522This is probably one of the best things I have ever put into my mouth. I will forever crave this creamy and perfectly spiced avocado toast. The most dangerous part? This place was only one block from where I was staying in Willamsburg, Brooklyn. They had so many goodies, but I knew this was the right choice because ya girl needs her greens to function. I was grateful that they could accommodate gluten-free needs by offering all toast on a gluten-free bread alternative. On the menu, it says the gf avocado toast is topped with sunflower sprouts, crunchy seeds, and aleppo pepper…as you can see in the picture, they were very generous with all of the goods!

While I waited for my toast, I looked around the store. They had many delicious sounding juices, as well as a ton of different holistic wellness products. Aka, it was my dreamland. Sadly, the service left more to be desired as I waited over 20 minutes in the less than busy shop for my toast. But, I will say that it was 100% worth it. In fact, it was so good, I ended up stopping by again on my last morning. I got their dreamy avocado toast yet again, and I tried their Berry Green smoothie. What I loved most about the smoothie was that it tasted so natural and I could tell there was no added sugars. The ingredients in the smoothie were filtered water, blueberries, raspberries, banana, spinach, organic almond butter, cinnamon Puffins cereal (which is GF…and delicious.) I was stuffed until lunch later that day.

Overall, I would highly recommend this delicious and nutritious place. I have heard that they have a location in San Francisco as well, so I might just have to drive to SF one day (;

GF Roasted Eggplant and Bell Peppers Sandwich and Side Salad from Fabiane’s Cafe.

IMG_8403Another one of my favorites, but I think I will say that to all of the food I ate…but on a real level, this was absolutely to die for. I love eggplant, but I hardly ever cook it (hmm maybe I need to make an eggplant recipe soon..) But, when it is an option at a restaurant, I almost always order it! I am so glad that I did, because this was just WOW! Fabiane’s Cafe and Pastry is located in Brooklyn not far from East River State Park. I loved that they had gluten-free options all over their menu. Not to mention how cute the location was on the corner of Bedford and N 5th street where there was plenty of people watching to do.

I loved the flavors in this sandwich. Along with the roasted eggplant and bell pepper, there was some sort of cheese and sauce that really brought it all together. The salad was a perfect side salad containing a mix of greens and delicious balsamic dressing. What I liked the most was the bread. It was the best gluten-free bread I have ever had and it was toasted like a panini which made it crispy on the outside but still have a soft layer on the inside. My mouth is honestly watering still thinking about this delicious meal and pretty healthy meal!

My mother enjoyed a Greek salad and said it was also to die for, while my older brother indulged on their all day breakfast Strawberry French Toast. I liked the service, the food, and the location, so there is no reason for me to not recommend it to you!

Avocado Cobb Salad from Max Brenner.

Yes, Max Brenner is known for their delicious chocolate, and don’t you worry…later on you will learn what chocolate treat I indulged in. But, we actually went there for lunch and sadly, they were seriously slacking on their food for those with dietary restrictions. However, that does not mean their food wasn’t fantastic. I was craving avocado and a salad even before knowing my limited options, so it all worked out for the better.

IMG_8548I am not usually someone who eats bacon because I am extremely picky with it…and honestly I am just not a fan of pork products in general. But, for some reason, in New York I had bacon not once, but twice. Honestly that’s more times than I have it in an entire year. So, yes, this salad had crispy bacon and grilled chicken (sorry veggie and vegan followers.) I have absolutely no regrets about this order either. The salad also included chopped egg, avocado, mixed greens, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, bleu cheese crumbles, and a side of citrus dressing. That dressing was a life changing dressing. It was tart, but also added some sweet and fresh flavors to the vegetable heavy salad. What I also appreciated was the amount of protein this salad had between the eggs and meat. I would definitely recommend it.

My family all ordered delicious meals too. My younger brother ordered a BLT, my older brother ordered fries and lots of chocolate treats, my dad had their mac and cheese, and my mom had the chicken Alfredo. There was nothing but happiness around the table and the venue was really cool too. I would recommend this place if you are in the mood for chocolate and all sorts of delicious food.

The Bad

Okay, just to clarify, I mean “bad” as in it no health benefits whatsoever aside from the happiness in my soul. They were not bad at all, just absolutely delicious!

Basic Burger from Williams Burger.

Okay, this was a local spot in Williamsburg that was a couple of blocks from our home base. My family was in the mood for warm food after a day of being caught in a storm, but more importantly, we wanted to be somewhere causal, comfortable, and a spot where we could people watch the locals. Williams Burger (we fell in love with the witty name) had high reviews online, so we decided to take the walk over. It was the calm after the storm, and right when we walked in, we knew this was the place to be.

IMG_8521The staff honestly made this experience that much better. They were warm and welcoming the second we walked in. But it wasn’t that fake kind of welcoming, it was genuine and made me want to stay as long as I could. I took a look at the menu and was pleasantly surprised that a small place like this had a gluten-free bun option for their burger. Score! I ordered the Basic Burger with gorgonzola blue cheese on a gluten-free bun. It came with all the fixings (lettuce, tomato, red onion, and house cured pickles) along with a hardy side of fries. I ordered the burger cooked medium and it was cooked to perfection. I loved how juicy and meaty it tasted (again sorry veggie followers) but it wasn’t overly salty or greasy. It was honestly a perfect burger!

A funny experience we had here happened after I had devoured half of my burger. I looked at my mom and dad’s burgers and noticed my bun was the same as my dad’s but my mom’s looked different. Immediately, my family and I panicked because we thought I got the wrong burger (my mom ordered the same on a regular bun.) It was terrifying because my body reacts horribly to gluten now that I am gluten-free and I had eaten so much of it already. We called the waitress over and she immediately went to check with the chef and manager. They had gotten the order wrong, but luckily, it was in our favor. They gave my dad a gluten-free bun by mistake, so it was all okay! And get this, my dad even truly enjoyed the bun lol. But the staff were amazing about the situation and it only made us adore them even more.

I highly recommend this restaurant for a casual, and laid back night. They had a great beer/wine selection (we didn’t drink, but could have!) as well as many options on the menu. It is a cute and cozy restaurant and I hope to one day go back and experience more time there!

Marshmallow Chocolate Chip Shake and Fries from Shake Shack.

IMG_8638Okay, I know some of you might think this is nothing special, but Shake Shack is an East Coast delicacy and I come from the land of In-N-Out…aka it was necessary to go here and experience a shake for all that it is. This day was my favorite. I ended up seeing Spongebob: The Musical with my best friend Anissa, and after the show she took me to her local Shake Shack. I have absolutely no regrets about the amount of calories I consumed here and can proudly say I will probably never pass up one of their shakes. They are just too darn good!

I ordered the Marshmallow Chocolate Chip shake which I believe was one of their specials. Wow, that baby was sweet. It was the brilliant flavor of marshmallow without the sticky mess, and the chocolate chips added a nice crunch and depth of flavor. The whipped cream wasn’t that gross, “fake” tasting whipped cream, it was delicious and tasted so fresh. (I am not even trying to be dramatic when I write this; I am seriously analyzing their food!) I also ordered their fries because why not? My immediate reaction was that it tasted what I imagine frozen fries will taste like when I cook them…but they are actually crispy. I appreciate good fries because if I am going to indulge in something like that, I want them to leave me feeling on top of the world. That’s what crispy In-N-Out fries do to me, and luckily Shake Shack’s did the same. Not to mention I got to enjoy it with some really amazing company.

Of course Shake Shack is recommended. definitely one of the best shakes I’ve ever devoured!

Coppa Catalana from Cannoli King.

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This was another really hilarious and fun experience. My family is Italian by marriage (my grandmother married into a HUGE Italian family), so we wanted to expereince Little Italy. We wanted authentic food, the delicious smells, the warming accents…we wanted all the cliche and fun. We were not disappointed when we entered Cannoli King. We decided to go here because we wanted some delicious sweets, and I am so glad that we came. The service was awful, but the experience was one of it’s own.

IMG_8513We read the menu probably about 5 times (it’s HUGE!) and we each decided to get something unique. I initally wanted creme brûlée (I know it’s French lol), but fate was not on my side…they were out! So, I tried something that I honestly did not know what it was…but it was gf and I was going for it! Coppa Catalana is essentially creme brûlée, but theirs was a frozen custard and it was absolutely refreshing and amazing. It was a hot day, so the creamy and cold custard cooled me down quickly. The topping (aka caramelized sugar) added a great flavor and texture to the custard. It was different than anything I have ever had, so I really enjoyed every bite! My mom had some sort of homemade coconut sorbet (I tried it and WOW!) while my dad got a sampler of their cannolis. He wished they were bigger, but he still said they were yummy!

But what made this experience the Italian experience we wanted was the owner. I mean this in the best way that he was just like The Godfather. His accent, personality…it was perfect. Overall, I recommend this dessert palace for all of the Italian goods. I wish I got to try their gelato, but during my next trip I will have to!

The Naughty

As you know, I drink. I mean obviously because part of my blog name is “well drinks”…so of course I had some alcoholic treats while in NYC and wow they were one-of-a-kind deliciousness.

Watermelon Margarita from West End Bar & Grill.

IMG_8424My mom, older brother, and I met up with my best friend Anissa before my mom and I headed to my first official Broadway show: Chicago (yes, I was lucky enough to see two shows!) We decided to find a place where we could share some appetizers and get drinks. We came across West End Bar & Grill because it was right near the subway AND theatre. The atmosphere of this restaurant gave me bougie yet modern city vibes and I was loving every moment.

The watermelon margarita was part of their happy hour and wow was it delicious. Not too strong, not too sweet, but just what you look for. The salt around the rim made it even more delicious. In fact it was so good, I had two. We also ordered a Mediterranean plate with cucumber salad, hummus, some sort of dip, and olives…and it was so refreshing and delicious. Plus, their fries and siracha aioli (my obsession tbh) were just as amazing. We actually devoured one round of fries and needed more! Our server was very kind and made our time their even better. It seemed to be busy after work spot for most, but it was one of those places where you just feel really great about the vibes.

I would definitely recommend this place, however I will warn you that their food is pricey. We actually didn’t even look past the appetizer section of the menu, but judging the price and portions, it’s a little bit more than we typically spend. Worth the deliciousness though!

Dark Chocolate Martini from Max Brenner.

IMG_8549I told you would let you know what chocolate treat I indulged in. Again, Max Brenner is a restaurant dedicated to chocolate goodness. I loved how diverse their chocolate menu was, especially that they had dark, milk, and white chocolate choices on nearly everything. They understand the chocolate taste bud diversity!

So, my mom, older brother, and I decided since it was his graduation day (and because we are us) that we would get a drink to celebrate. Now, I am not a sweet drink kind of girl to begin with, so this was really stretching my limits. But, I was there and I wasn’t going to bail out on my drinking pals, so I chose a martini because in the past I’ve had decent martinis. Now, I used to be a huge vodka gal…until I discovered tequila and realized alcohol doesn’t have to taste horrible, but I do occasionally have a drink with vodka in it. I am also not someone who likes the idea of creamy alcohol, in fact it really grosses me out, but again, I was here to try it. I do not know the specifics, but what I do know is that it came in a dark chocolate or milk chocolate option. I will never not choose dark chocolate.

When I was served this delicious drink, I was in awe of how pretty it was and how amazing that chocolate covered strawberry looked. I took a sip of the martini and that baby was strong. It wasn’t awful though, it was chocolatey and good for what it was, but it definitely wasn’t my thing. But, that strawberry is something I will dream about for the rest of my life. It was covered in chocolate with crunchy, crispy hazelnut pieces. I literally savored every bite and was close to tears when it was gone (again, I am not being dramatic…) That was one of my absolute favorite foods I have ever tasted. Just WOW.

Again, I would recommend Max Brenner for a fun, chocolatey experience! If you’re there and drink, try one of their specials for the fun of it!

But you’re so happy and outgoing!…You don’t have anxiety.

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Photo by: Makena Volzing

If I had a dollar for every time someone said this to me, maybe I would have enough money to better educate others on mental illness. I am overall a happy and positive person, but that does not mean that I don’t have my own struggles with mental illness. I think sometimes we truly believe that those who help others and take the time to smile at strangers do not have struggles. I am often told that because I want to be in the mental health field, I should have full control over my own mental health. Yes, that is partially true, but I am only human and I can only do my absolute best. I have never been one to fully speak out about my anxiety, but at this time in my life, I know that by speaking out about it, I can help others. This is my story; I am in no way saying that this is the only way anxiety affects us, but this is how it affects me and my life. This is my anxiety; this is my mental illness.

As a young child, I showed various symptoms of anxiety. I was highly emotional, unable to control myself, I panicked in situations most children do not, and I had fears that were unexplainable. I can remember how upsetting it was to not understand why I felt the way I did. It was frustrating for my family, especially my parents, because I would become hysterical but none of us understood why. Eventually, my parents took me to both group and solo therapy sessions. I was about 9 years old when they finally said it was clearly anxiety. However, this did not mean that I was going to miraculously get better. It meant that the fight and the journey was only beginning.

I do not remember a ton of exact details. But I do remember in 6th grade my anxiety symptoms started becoming physical. I had this fear of going to school, and I would almost daily get a nauseated stomach ache, go to the office, and get picked up by my mom. I would then feel completely fine when I got home. I remember just being afraid of leaving my house, and this is also when I developed my number one fear: vomiting. I am terrified even now as an adult of anything having to do with throw up (yes, this is a challenge while working with kids.) I was afraid of getting carsick, I was afraid of throwing up at school, and I was afraid that anywhere I went, someone would vomit.

I eventually was told by my parents and the school that I could not be going home anymore. So I started seeing the school counselor…almost everyday. I would be fine one second, then go running to the office crying and demanding to see her right away. What was even scarier was not understanding why this was happening to me. I remember we tried to use a mediation tape that would help guide me through breathing exercises to calm me down. But I also remember just being such a wreck all the time and my parents being just as clueless about why this was happening as I was.

Things did start to get better, I started learning how to deal with my fears a little better and I had less hysterical moments. However, my anxiety shortly turned into me becoming easily manipulated by others because my head told me I needed as many friends as possible. No, I never did anything absolutely awful, but I did do a lot of things to other people that I regret. But it was because I allowed myself to befriend others that made me feel like I had an abundance of people around me so that I could feel supported. Sadly, I didn’t know that a majority of my “friends” were actually tearing down my self-esteem which in turn, allowed my anxiety to creep back up and be extremely present my senior year.

Then came college; a new city, new people, and a new chance. This triggered my anxiety for obvious reasons, but also for reasons that weren’t easily detected. I had a really tough time with roommates my freshman year and I would constantly feel like I was losing my mind. I had the same symptoms as I did in middle school: I wanted to go home. But I was an adult, I knew I had to learn to push through. But, as most of you know, pushing through is not healing; pushing through is not the solution to the overall problem. So, I again knew I needed extra help and saw the therapist on campus. I am so grateful to this day for her compassion and understanding when she asked me to just tell her what was going on and I immediately broke down sobbing. She confirmed that what I was feeling was valid and that we would find solutions together. So we did. She helped get me out of my completely toxic living situation as well as proactively checked in on me. As an adult, you think you can and should do it all on your own but without my therapist, I would have definitely dropped out of school. I finished Freshman year strong, and I felt better.

Then, things changed in my life again. Something else I do not often speak out about is the Title 9 case I went through during my college career. It is still very much a fresh, open wound and I cannot yet put into words the amount of destruction it had on myself as well as others in my life. This case made my mental status go from knowing how to get through the anxious moments to never not being anxious. This was because I was afraid of being on campus, which meant I was afraid of going to classes and going to my on campus job. But this time, it was different. This time, my anxiety was 110% caused by something that was very, very real. I was afraid of these things because I was afraid of a person. My anxiety continued to get worse and worse as this case continued to get worse. I would have panic attacks in the restroom, leave classes when triggering topics were brought up, and constantly call my parents when things were just too much. It was truly dangerous, and it continued to be a serious problem even after graduation. Although this case is now officially “resolved” on paper, it still deeply effects who I am and how I act in certain situations.

This past year, I was able to start to really control my anxiety again. I was able to return to happier mindset and breathe in the good while breathing out the bad. However, recently, I have been experiencing more and more panic attacks. In fact this past Sunday, I had one on an airplane. In case you’re wondering, no, I do not have a fear of flying. However, I do fear flying because I still fear vomit. I get carsick, and sometimes planes can cause me to get pretty motion sick. Not to mention, other people around me have thrown up on planes so it really makes me extremely nervous when it comes to my vomit fear. Sunday, my flight was 45 minutes of pure turbulence…and I mean extreme turbulence. I have never been so terrified on a plane and the fact that I could not escape made it even scarier. I was shaking, I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and the entire plane was jumping up and down. What’s worse is that I cannot just avoid flying for a little bit, but I have to fly this upcoming Sunday from California to New York. So yes, I have some emotions to work through and things to figure out.

I am not sure the true reasons why I have been feeling this way, but I do know that ultimately I am in charge of what I should do. I know that psychologists and counselors can help me, but I also know that it is tough to admit you need to see someone when you are working on studying to become a therapist. I think that is the really tough part for me in this state and time; knowing that I have the tools to help others work through panic attacks, but not being able to use the tools on myself. But I know that I need to be gentle and kind to myself. I know that I need to do whatever I can to try to get in tune with my mind and get to the bottom of this. It isn’t easy, and it does not happen in a day, but I am willing to put in the same amount of work into my mind that I put into my body.

Somethings that help me work through my anxiety on a daily basis include:

  • Dancing it out. Dancing connects your body and mind, creating a state of equilibrium and allowing you to work through your emotions. It also raises endorphins, boosts your mood, and allows you to focus on movement and music rather than your anxiety. Just turn on some of your favorite songs and move how ever your body tells you! Trust me when I say to dance it out; I did my Capstone on Dance/Movement Therapy.
  • Essential oils. Lavender, lemon grass, and peppermint have become my best friends. I have a blend that I put on constantly, and I also put it in my diffuser to help release their powers in my room. Lavender reduces stress, lemon grass is a natural mood booster, and peppermint helps with the physical side of anxiety such as nausea and headaches.
  • Being open with my friends and family. Sure, they will not all understand, but when you explain to those who are close to you that you are having a tough time, they could surprise you and help you. If you aren’t comfortable with this, trying seeking help through your doctor or support groups. You do not have to go through anxiety alone, and that is such an important thing to remember.
  • Being honest with myself and giving myself time to heal. I used to bottle up my anxiety until it exploded into full blown panic attacks. I’ve noticed that the more I allow my emotions to release and give myself time to take deep breaths and focus, the better I am in the long run. Let yourself cry, let yourself scream, let yourself laugh. Allow your emotions to run their course. I do this often in the shower and in my bedroom while I am alone and letting myself be vulnerable. However, I am also know to release emotions and stress during yoga. No, I do not scream, but sometimes I cry a bit because I am letting my body fully release all toxins.
  • Relaxing. Make the time to relax. If you are like me and almost always on the go, you need to make a change to your life. You should schedule at least 30 minutes of your life to be just yours. It isn’t selfish, it is practicing self-care. Whether it be 15 minutes in the morning, and 15 at night, or all 30 minutes during a lunch break…unplug and do something for you! I like to practice yoga, paint, meditate, cook/bake, and pet my sweet puppy. If I am out and about I like to treat myself to lunch, fit a spot to lay in the sun, go on a walk, or even just go on a drive.

Now, I realize that these options are not going to get to the bottom of your anxiety, and I do not think that they replace seeking professional help. However, I do think that these are ways to help yourself learn more about you and your anxiety. I believe in therapy and counseling (I mean, it’s my future career) but I also believe in taking time to get in tune with yourself and the power that can have on your relationship with your body and mind.

If you have anxiety, please know that you are not alone. Yes, your mind is uniquely yours, but you do not have to go through this feeling lonely. If you need help, call a friend, family member, or the Panic Disorder Information Hotline: 1-800-64-PANIC (72642). Reaching out is the hardest step, but when you do, you are already making so much progress. Anxiety is something that you will always have inside of you, but you can get to a place of control. Always remember, your health (both mental and physical) is the most important thing. You cannot be you without your body or mind, so allow yourself to come first.