Banana Bread Muffins (All natural, Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Paleo/Keto Friendly!)

IMG_7295Banana bread is one of my favorite treats. I have never been wild about bananas (in fact the texture really freaks me out), but I love the flavor! I love the depth of flavor they bring to a simple bread recipe, so it is no surprise that I often let bananas become overly ripe just so I can use them in banana bread. However, the banana bread I am most familiar with is filled with butter and flour and things that make my stomach hurt and body feel sluggish. So I made it a goal to create the same comfort that banana bread brings but with a healthy twist (surprise, surprise).

Now, I love these muffins, but it was one of those recipes that I was nervous for my family to try because they are not as fluffy or full of buttery goodness. Thankfully, these muffins made my parents question the “healthy” factor. They could not believe it was only sweetened with Pure Maple Syrup and that the buttery notes were replaced by coconut oil! They loved the denser texture and the fact you could really taste the bananas. I was obviously thrilled and we consumed all 16 within 2 days.

I honestly do not have as many words as I typically have to share with my other recipes because there are no secret benefits and I am honestly not trying to convince you to try anything too new. These are simply banana bread muffins and if you are looking for a little comfort food in your life, these will give you that comfort without giving into bread made with potentially harmful ingredients.

Banana Bread Muffins Recipe

This recipe yields anywhere from 12 to 16 muffins depending on how big you make them. Feel free to heat them up and add almond butter before consuming. Trust me, it is a great treat!

Ingredients

  • 3 bananas; the riper the better
  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon baking power
  • 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • Optional: walnuts, coconut flakes, dark chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 °F.
  2. Peel and mash your bananas until smooth.
  3. Add eggs, maple syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla extract. Combine with a handheld or standing mixer.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix almond flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sea salt. Slowly pour mixture into the banana mix and stir until smooth. If desired, add optional ingredients such as walnuts, coconut flakes, or dark chocolate chips.
  5. Grease your muffin tins (or use cupcake wrappers) to make sure your muffins do not stick! Slowly scoop about 2 tablespoons of the mixture in each muffin tin. This should make 12 to 16 muffins.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes depending on your oven.
  7. Melt dark chocolate chips and drizzle on the muffins while cooling (if wanted!)
  8. Enjoy!

 

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Miracle Noodles with Steamed Veggies and Almond Butter Sauce (Dairy-free, Gluten-free, Paleo/Keto Friendly, Grain-free, and Vegan!)

IMG_7258What the heck are you talking about? Miracle noodles? What could those be? Well, if you haven’t heard of them, I highly recommend trying them. I have found them at most grocery stores, but I find them to have a good deal on them at Whole Foods (less than $2 per pack!) What are they exactly? Miracle noodles, also known as zero noodles, have zero calories, fat, and very few carbs. They easily replace regular noodles in any dish and trick your mind into thinking you are eating actual noodles!

Miracle noodles are made with 3 simple ingredients, none of them being harsh or crazy chemicals. If you read the package you will see the short list: water, konjac flour, and a calcium additive. Let’s break these ingredients down so you can understand what you put into your body, because although it might sound foreign, there are actually benefits.

Water: Well, I feel like I really don’t need to explain this one…

Konjac Flour: Konjac flour is made out of a fiber that comes from the Konjac plant. It can also be known as Amorphophallus, but can be called konjaku, elephant yam, devil’s tongue, snake palm, and voodoo lily. Do not be intimidated by these oddly descriptive names. It is honestly tasteless so whatever you mix it with, it will bind that flavor instead. A couple of health benefits that come from konjac flour are improvement in the digestive system, high fiber, and probiotics to help improve gut health. Think of it this way, higher fiber foods help keep us fuller longer, so it will also aid in weight loss!

Calcium Additive: This is a simple ingredient that is just old-fashioned picking lime. It is used to help the noodles keep their shape and stay completely natural. Do not let the word calcium fool you because it does not actually supplement calcium. Honestly, it does not harm or benefit you in any specific way!

Miracle Noodles are really simple to make, but you do need to thoroughly follow the directions. My mom instantly snuffed her nose up at these when I brought them home because she had tried them in the past but found them to be absolutely awful. I asked her how she made them, and she didn’t remember. I asked her if she followed the directions, she said, “Of course not!” So, my goal was to change her mind and create a dish that would fulfill a craving I constantly have…Asian Cuisine. I love Asian noodle dishes, but I am gluten-free, so between noodles (even rice noodles can mess with my tummy and they are higher in carbs than I prefer.) So, I like to play around with clean ingredients and create my own twist on dishes.

I am not sure what dish this is a twist on, but I know that it turned out delicious the first time I made it, and even better the second time. It’s spicy, nutty, savory, and full of flavors. I absolutely love spicy peanut sauces, so I made a spicy almond butter sauce for added benefits. I also added some of my favorite steamed veggies and crunchy peanuts on top for an added texture.

This recipe might seem impossible, because it is labeled as Dairy-free, Gluten-free, Paleo/Keto Friendly, Grain-free, and Vegan…how could something be all of those things and be delicious? Well, try it out for yourself and enjoy a very low calorie, high protein dish!

Miracle Noodles with Steamed Veggies and Almond Butter Sauce

This recipe yields one bowl that will fill you up for hours!

Ingredients

  • 1 package of Miracle Noodles; I used the angel hair
  • 1/2 cup carrots; I used baby carrots but use whatever you feel
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper; sliced
  • 1 cup broccoli
  • 1/2 cup mix of green onions, white onions, cilantro, and minced garlic
  • Optional: crushed peanuts for topping

Sauce Ingredients

  • 2 big tablespoons almond butter
  • 2 tablespoons coconut aminos (or soy sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seed oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Directions

  1. When you open your noodle package, they will smell fishy and off putting, but I promise after cooking they will smell like nothing at all! Start by draining them in a colander and then rinsing for about 20 seconds in cool water. Really make sure to rinse and mix around the noodles.
  2. Next, boil about 2 cups of water in a small pot. Put the noodles in the boiling water for about 2-3 minutes.
  3. This is an important step that should not be missed: drain your noodles and put the noodles in a medium preheated pan (about 6 or 7). Dry your noodles out for 5-7 minutes to get the best result. Then place in a bowl and set aside. These instructions are all on the package, but I thought I would write them here so it’s all included!
  4. Next, steam your veggies. Do this whatever works best for you, I personally reused my small pot from earlier and just boiled some fresh water to pour my veggies in. I’m all about less dishes.
  5. In your pan from earlier, sauté and soften your mix of onions, cilantro, and garlic in olive or coconut oil. Mix these immediately with your noodles for maximum flavor!
  6. To make the sauce, simply stir all the ingredients together in a small dish. Mix half of the sauce with your noodles.
  7. Place your steamed veggies on top of your noodles. Pour the other half of your sauce on top of the veggies. Top with crushed peanuts.
  8. Enjoy every single bite!

Barrel Tasting in Sonoma, CA.

Introduction

About 2 months before I graduated college, I was told by multiple professors to get myself a job that allowed me to take time to travel and explore. They said, “Take what you learned and apply it to places around the globe.” Sadly, I have yet to go overseas and apply all the knowledge I gained in the course of 4 years, but I do travel. In fact, the week after I graduated I booked a last minute flight to Colorado for 5 days, and surprisingly it turned out to be one of the best trips I’ve ever experienced. I love going places and not having specific expectations. I need to do that more often.

I am blessed to have some strong female friends in my life. So, when my girl Alicia suggests we all come over and spend a weekend doing some pretty extreme wine tasting, how can I say no? A weekend with my girls, wine, and sleepovers? Count me in! So, Kara, Kaitlin and I agreed to drive up to Sonoma on Friday night and spend the rest of the weekend at Alicia’s house. We paid around $50 for a wristband that would get us into some of the top wineries in the county for the entire weekend. Not a bad deal considering it typically costs around $35 to wine taste at a single winery. We were also lucky because Alicia and her housemates graciously allowed us to stay the weekend for free. So, a cost break down of what was needed?

  • Tickets to the Barrel Tasting event (~$50)
  • Gas for traveling (carpooling works great too!)
  • Food (breakfast, bring your own snacks, and dinner)

Honestly, I probably spent under $200 the entire weekend. Yes, I did end up buying 3 bottles of wine at the wineries, but we also didn’t eat out during the day and instead brought ingredients to make sandwiches, and brought easy snacks. I highly recommend always bringing your own food. As someone who has a restricted diet, I try to bring as much of my own food as I can. Of course I generally splurge on dinner, but bringing my own gluten-free bread and snacks was a life saver considering most wineries do not have gluten-free nibbling options. Let’s face it, we were drinking wine all day, we needed to make sure we had something in our system to soak up the alcohol.

Friday (Day One)

Kaitlin picked me up from work around 6:15pm. We headed over to our favorite Greek restaurant, Opa!, to eat dinner before driving. This was a great choice because we ended up driving for about 2 and half hours before finally getting to Alicia’s house at 9:30pm. Kara drove on her own and was also there, so the fun began! We had a classic sleepover that night with a movie and some popcorn. We were all exhausted from work and school and life, so we fell asleep quickly.

Saturday (Day Two)

We woke up and instantly, and I mean instantly, all needed caffeine. We took a quick Starbucks run before getting ready. Let me tell you, we did a great job getting ready so quickly because we were all chatty and trying out new makeup. We also all tried on a variety of outfits and options that we had packed. We knew there would be many picture opportunities, so we wanted to feel as confident as we could!

After getting ready, it was time for some morning mimosas. If this doesn’t tell you how extreme our weekend was, I do not know what else will. We literally pregammed before going wine tasting for 5 hours. Anyways, I actually opened my first bottle of champagne ever! It was a plastic cork so it took me awhile, but when I got that baby off, it FLEW! This moment was pinnacle and I just had to share (;

More of Alicia’s friends and roommates joined us. We had a designated driver and after a couple mimosas (coffee for her), we were ready to go! We packed into the car and started the 20 minute drive to our first stop where we would be picking up our weekend wristbands and getting our wine tasting glass. We had food in the back ready for anytime we needed it, and we had some really great music blasting. The excitement was building!

Rued Winery

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This was literally my first taste of Sonoma County wine. We checked in which took little to no time at all, and then we began tasting. Now, I have never “barrel tasted” before. What this means is we were tasting wine that was not fully developed yet, aka the wine still in the barrel. We also tasted bottled wine, but this just added something special to the entire tasting experience. We were tasting something that most do not get the chance to. Rued had great views, some amazing chocolate treats being sold (and sampled), and some great wines.

Top wine: 2016 Petite Syrah

Geyser Peak Winery

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Say hello to an absolutely wonderful place to take pictures! Yes, the wine was good as well, and they were selling a variety of tempting knickknacks and jewelry, but the lighting at this time of day was just stunning. The way the clouds had a peek of blue and made the grass look incredibly green…we had a full on photo shoot! These women clearly make me so incredibly happy!

Top wine: 2016 Walking Tree, Cabernet Sauvignon

Mill Creek Winery

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Yes, this is really what Mill Creek Winery looks like, and yes, it is in California. I felt like we were in a small, European town, but sure enough we had only traveled a little bit up the road. This winery brings up an important point, that most wineries are family owned and have been passed down from generation to generation. They told us the history of the winery and gave us delicious wine! A really great combination if you ask me, especially because I love knowing history of places.

Top wine: 2016 Roller’s Song, Cabernet Sauvignon

Armida Winery

IMG_0024At this point of the game, I had consumed more wine within an hour and a half than I ever had before, and I was starting to really feel it. However, I could not believe the view! This was one of my top 5 favorite wineries due to the view, food for sale, and the wine variety! We tasted about 10 different wines here, and they were a variety of red and white which was a nice change. I was also surprised how many barrels they had to taste from as well. I think part of it is that they are a bigger winery, which generally means they have more wine. There was also a food stand where they were selling chips, popcorn, drinks, and Alicia’s choice…hot dogs! This was a great reminder that we were going to need some food soon. So, we took some IMG_5818pictures of the absolutely stunning food and headed back to the car where we instantly started munching on the goodies that we had brought. Again, I highly recommend bringing your own food so that when you get hungry, you can just have your own mini tailgate in the winery parking lot.

Top wines: 2017 Chardonnay; 2017 Zinfandel; 2017 Estate Field Blend

Matrix Winery

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This was definitely one of our longest stops. We all needed more food, so we decided this was where we were going to make and eat our sandwiches. So, tailgate round 2? Oh yes. After snacking, we went in for more wine. At this point, I knew I needed a bit of a break, so I only tasted 2 wines. They were however, very delicious! Afterwards, Kaitlin and I took a walk and explored the vineyards a bit. The temperature was cool but perfect for a refreshing walk with some water (; We all needed some time to breathe at this winery, so we took our time and enjoyed it for all it was.

Top wines: 2017 Pinot Noir, 2017 Petite Syrah

Soda Rock Winery

We decided to drive to the opposite end of Heldsburg for the next few wineries. Soda IMG_5823 Rock is another one of my top 5. I absolutely loved how quirky and charming the winery itself was, not to mention how delicious their wine tasted! I wanted to buy a bottle, but it did not come out until 2019 (the downside of barrel tasting) and I don’t know where I will be for half of 2019. I will say that I also really enjoyed the winery workers. I enjoyed most of them at the previous wineries as well, but here, they made us feel like we were worth getting to know. Now, my favorite part is their rustic barn. It is so stunning and I think we were IMG_5842there at the most gorgeous time of day because the way the light when through the cracks and allowed us to take amazing pictures was just unbelievable. I could have spent hours just enjoying the inside of that barn.

Top wines: 2016 Twisted Rail, Cabernet Sauvignon; 2017 Runway, Malbec Reserve; 2017 Rockpile, Petite Syrah Grand Reserve; 2017 Los Amigos, Primitivo*

*This was the wine that will not be available until 2019…I am still heart broken about not coming home with a bottle.

Alexander Valley Vineyards

We were all really feeling that wine by the time we got to this winery. I was feeling it so IMG_5831much that I literally only took three sips of two wines before convincing myself to switch it up with some water. We were exhausted, but this winery was very comfortable and seemed to be family owned. They had a cute picnic area and even cuter gifts. The weird part about this winery were a couple of kids running around, but hey, they didn’t disturb us. Alicia and I found the door to the celler that was quirky and locked…but we still had a nice rest before the final winery stop.

Top wine: 2016 Alexander School, Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Lancaster Estate

IMG_5833Last, but certainly not least, we visited the Lancaster Estate. Talk about gorgeous! We had to take some small, and a bit confusing, roads to get there, but it was so worth it in the end. The vineyards made Kara and I want to run through them, but the ground was uneven and we were IMG_5834full of wine so, that was not going to happen. It was the end of the day, so the way the sun was hitting the hills was beyond how a picture could justify it. We spent some time trying some wines, then decided to rest up a bit and drink some water. The workers were kind and took the time to talk to us about the wine even if we barely tasted it. This ended up being such a calming way to finish up our day of extreme wine tasting.

Top wine: 2016 Lancaster Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon

Nap and Dinner Time

We drove back to Alicia’s house and it was time to take some naps. We all tore off our nice clothes and instantly put on something comfortable, wiped off all our makeup, and knocked out for a good hour. When we woke up, the wine hangover was real (and I am totally keeping it real by saying so). We decided we needed some greasy food and good atmosphere to fuel our bodies before heading to bed. Alicia took us to a restaurant a few minutes down the road called The Jaded Toad. This restaurant was wonderfully casual, fully equipped with corn hole and good music, but sadly our service was all over the place. It took awhile for someone to greet us and then when we were seated our waiter was barely there. However, the burgers were amazing (even Kara’s mushroom!) and the fries were perfectly filling. Overall, it was a great and much needed meal. We headed back home, took showers, and went to sleep quickly.

Sunday (Day Three)

Waking up on Day Three was much harder than Day Two. Kara and Kaitlin did a Starbucks run and Alicia and I started to get ready. We all went way more casual and comfortable on Day Three because at that point we were all so tired and not fully ready for the day. However, that quickly changed with some espresso and then some mimosas (again, I am unsure what we were thinking, but it truly put us in the wine tasting mood).

Chalk Hill Winery

IMG_5857First stop was Chalk Hill Winery. This was in the Windsor area and wow, was it stunning. The sun was shining and we were all happy to be there with delicious wine and gorgeous views. I could not believe the sights! The staff at this winery were very chill and informative. I really enjoyed most of the wines I tasted, and would definitely go back on a nice sunny day and enjoy what this winery had to offer!

Top wines: 2016 Syrah; 2017 Sauvignon Gris

Roth Estate

Right across the street was Roth Estate Again, stunning views, beautiful weather, and IMG_7152even better wine! We had a blast exploring the different areas along with eating a delicious polenta cake of some sort (it was gluten-free and I almost cried about it). The staff were professional and did not short us on tasting. It felt like there was always more and more to taste, and to learn. We spoke to so many different employees and all of them seemed so happy and proud of the wine they were selling. That honestly makes a huge difference in the quality of the winery. Overall, this winery is one I’d love to come back to and taste even more of their wine.

Top wines: 2017 Pinot Noir; 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

Merriam Vineyards

IMG_5893Merriam had some unique features. They actually had two very separate tasting rooms. This was also the first winery to have cheese and olive oil instead of just bread or bread sticks (again, another way to make my gluten-free body happy!) Their wine was absolutely delicious, but we ended up eating more cheese than wine, I am sure of it. The first tasting room had the actual barrel tasting and the second had wines that were available to buy that day. Of course, Kara and I noticed that they had their rosé on sale for only $10. We tried it and ended up actually liking it (which I was impressed by because I am super picky with rosé), so Kara bought a bottle…and I bought two…with no regrets.

Top wines: 2016 Malbec; 2016 Cabernet Franc; 2016 Bordeaux Blend; I bought their 2016 Rosé of Pinot Noir and have no regrets.

Christopher Creek Winery

I absolutely loved this winery and every single wine that I tasted. We were given a tour IMG_5895
guide who was absolutely wonderful to us. He was casual, yet professional, and informative without making me feel weird about asking questions. By the time we got to Christopher Creek, we had enjoyed a lot of wine. But their wines tasted so different that it was enjoyable even if we were already buzzed. They had a Port that Kara actually ended up buying and it was phenomenal. I regret not buying any of their wine, but it was a bit out of my budget.

Top wines: Literally all of their 2017 Pinot Noir variations. I would seriously recommend any and all of their wines.

Vizlay Winery

IMG_7153Tucked away and overshadowed by Christopher Creek, Vizlay Winery opened their barn to us and it was again, some of the best wine I have ever tasted. They also had a variety of snacks (score!) so we ate a lot of different cheeses, and then got to tasting. While tasting, I said how much I truly enjoyed the Port at the previous winery. A woman tasting next to me said that their 2015 Zinfandel tastes just like a Port. Surely enough, it did. And just like that I was sold on the $28 bottle of delicious wine. I still have yet to enjoy it, but I am hoping soon an occasion will come up where I can share it’s beauty and relive the taste!

Top wines: 2016 Zinfandel; 2016 Petite Syrah; 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon; I bought their 2015 Zinfandel and again, I have no regrets.

Harvest Moon Winery

IMG_5901We drove a little further for this one, and honestly I am so glad we did. Not only did we pass a goat farm on the way there (my very favorite animal!) but, it was a nice change of scenery. Of course, you could still see the hills but what was fun about this area was that it was flatter and more ranch style. This winery in particular was a really great place for events. There was a gorgeous private pool area and they had a lot less barrels to taste, and a lot more of their premium wines. The tasting room was nice and had a lot to look at and a lot of room to stand. The employees took their time and made sure that we tasted everything while they explained their processes and how they go from grape to glass. Kara and I really enjoyed their bottle of dessert wine that was sweet yet savory and not too overwhelming like the Ports started to be. I was very close to buying that bottle, and honestly I am so sad that I didn’t! $32 just felt like too much at that time.

Top wines: 2017 Sangiovese; 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon; The delicious wine I wanted was the 2017 Estate Late Harvest Zinfandel!

Hook and Ladder Winery

IMG_5902Ah, the very last stop. The exhaustion was so real, and the weather was suddenly hotter. But I was ready to conquer this final destination. Sorry I didn’t capture a better picture, but I was so over it by this time! I actually didn’t end up tasting too many of their barrel options (they had so many!) but more of their bottled wines. I liked what I tried in the barrels so Kara and I went inside to explore their bottles and see if we liked any enough to make another purchase. Sure enough, I did! This wine part of their “vintage” collection and was smooth to sip but left me wanting more and more! I was hooked (see what I did there (; ) on their wine. But, none the less, I was also exhausted and ready to chug a gallon of water and eat some food. See, today we weren’t as great about eating, and I was really feeling it. But, it was a great ending to the day and a cute winery to end the weekend at!

Top wines: 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon; 2016 Zinfandel; 2017 Chardonnay; I bought the 2013 Zinfandel for only $15 and I cannot wait to drink it again!

Resting and Driving Home

Like I said before, I was exhausted…okay and I was drunk…but what do you expect after drinking as much wine as we did!? I ended up staying behind with Kara and Alicia because Kaitlin was ready to drive back, but I was too overwhelmed to sit in a car for a long period of time. So, Kara graciously agreed to drive us later that night. We ended up getting Taco Bell, and before you judge me, that is one of my top 3 favorite fast food chains and I refuse to ever say otherwise. It was also just what I needed at the end of this long day. We went back, took some naps, and had some serious girl time. But then, it was time to go home…at 9 PM (oops!) But, we got home safely, and I completely crashed the instant I got home.

Final Thoughts

IMG_5838Sonoma is unique and has  a lot to offer but for a lot cheaper prices. If you are a vino and live anywhere that you could get to the Bay Area without spending too pretty of a penny, there is another Barrel Tasting event in May. I highly recommend looking it up and considering a girls trip, you will not regret it. Prepare to drink wine, prepare to bring your own food, and prepare a list of places that you want to go! I am so grateful for these wonderful women and the new friends I made this weekend. I had such a great getaway and I cannot continue to go through life with their support and love. Until next time, cheers!

5 Basic Essential Oil Blends

My Relationship with Essential Oils

img_6261-2.jpgI first learned about essential oils in college. I suffered from really awful migraines (you know, the ones where the light burns and you vomit from dizziness and pain…) after having multiple concussions (cheerleading and car accidents…). It was starting to affect my dance class attendance and my professor one day handed me a roll-on bottle. She told me to rub it on my temples, neck, and upper shoulders. This worked almost instantly. I had been prescribed so many pain killers that I ended up being allergic to, told to take way too much ibuprofen, and just rest when I didn’t feel well; none of those solutions worked. But this bottle of magic changed my life. I would feel a migraine coming, roll some oils on, and continue my day. Pure. Magic.

I then started exploring other uses for essential oils and my professor would tell me as much as she knew. I started using lavender oil to help me calm down, unwind, and get some sleep. I used eucalyptus oil on days my allergies would kill me. I was obsessed within a few months. In college, I also took a course on Alternative Medicine and Therapies, which of course included a lecture on essential oils. I was happy to share what I knew and to learn even more from that point. I started convincing my friends and family to try them out too. At first, my family was very resistant, but then one day my mom asked if she could try something for her sinus headache. My mix was the only thing that helped her.

I think we turn to medicine too quickly. I 110% believe in doctors, hospitals, and modern medicine (I take hormonal birth control pills and have a prescription nausea pill that are in my life) but I think there are a variety of ways to heal our bodies without always turning to medicine. Alternative medicine is all about what you put in, on, and around your body. It matters what you eat, it matters what chemicals are on your skin, and it matters what air you breathe in. This is exactly why I started my wellness journey, so I could discover ways to heal my body without putting harmful chemicals or pills that give me awful side effects in my body.

I am writing this article based off of what works well for me. I know there are a lot of people out there who share their own knowledge of essential oils, so I am here to share what I know and what I have found to be best for my body. I invite you to try what I have discovered, and tweak anything if needed! Let me know if you do, because I am always to try new things.

Ways to Use Essential Oils

  • Aromatherapy: This is probably the most common way to use essential oils because it is simple and makes the room smell amazing. Essential oil diffusers are designed to mix water and oils to create a mist of essential oils. The air will be full of wonderful scents and all the benefits. Simply fill your diffuser with water (making sure not to get any cords wet), add a few drops of your oils, turn it on, and enjoy. I’ve had a few diffusers that only seem to last a couple of years at a time (mind you I use mine for at least 10 hours a day). I am currently using my little brother’s old one (see, I turned my family on to oils) and I actually love it. Here is the link on Amazon. Mine is dark brown and has pretty decent settings!
  • Topically: Essential oils are immediately absorbed by the skin because they are fat soluble, however you should never apply them directly to the skin without being diluted first. This was a mistake I used to make and I actually damaged my skin, so be careful! To dilute or mix your essential oils, use a what is called a carrier oil. A carrier oil is cold-pressed and do not evaporate like essential oils. I personally use coconut oil or castor oil, but I know others who use almond oil, grape seed oil, jojoba oil, and avocado oil as well. Be sure to buy a carrier oil that is all natural and if possible, organic. I will tell you more about the different places to apply your oils later in this article, but some common place are your wrists, temples, feet, neck, and abdomen.
  • Steam inhalation: This usage is great if you are using oils for colds or allergies. They can also be beneficial to your skin! To do this, boil about 3 cups of water and transfer to a bowl. Add 3-6 drops of oil to the water. Place the bowl on a steady, flat surface. Cover your head and bowl with a towel and never get closer than about 10 inches from the bowl. Slowly, inhale the steam and take deep breaths.
  • Ingest/Internal Usage: If you have good quality oils and they are appropriately marked, you can actually ingest your essential oils. Adding oils to water is a great way to get the benefits while also drinking a flavored drink that keeps you completely hydrated. You can also add them to plain sparkling water for a customized fizzy drink, use them in tea for even more flavor, and even in cooking/baking. I once made delicious lavender/lemon cupcakes that were fully flavored from essential oils. It is a great way to get benefits and be creative!

5 Basic Essential Oil Blends

In this post, you will see I use Plant Guru essential oils. This is my preferred, all natural brand, so please keep negative comments about my choice to yourself. I know everyone has their own preference and this is mine! I love how high their potency is and the therapeutic grade quality of the oils! You can find them on Amazon; this pack is a great deal, and a really great place to start. I just went over this with my girl Kara today (;

  1. Goodnight Blend- Lavender, Frankincense, and Sweet Orange This blend is IMG_6256-2what I use in my diffuser on most nights. I recently featured it on my Instagram story for those who follow me there (@wellnessandwelldrinks). These oils all help relieve stress and add calmness to the room as I sleep. Lavender oil, one of my favorites, reduces stress/anxiety, helps improve sleep, and can cure headaches. Frankincense oil can help focus the energy in the room, and help with your sinuses. Sweet Orange boosts your immune system, eliminates toxins, and helps brighten your mood. I also use this blend in a spray bottle with water that I mist over my bed before I sleep. I find myself waking up less in the night as well as waking up feeling refreshed instead of groggy.

  2.  Shark Week Relief Blend- Lavender, Peppermint, and Frankincense Ladies, IMG_6267this one is for YOU! I just told my friend about this wonderful blend and I’m excited to hear back about her results! We just learned that lavender can relieve stress, and that includes stress on the body caused by cramps. It will help your body relax and ease the tension. Frankincense is also really great for relieving inflammation, which is what causes a lot of the cramping and pain during your period. Peppermint is the BEST pain relief oil! It cools and relaxes your body and provides great pain relief. I apply this topically with coconut oil on my lower abdomen a few times a day.

  3. Breathe Blend- Eucalyptus, Peppermint, and Lemon Grass Cold? Flu? IMG_6266Allergies? Feeling like you need to open your sinuses or lungs? This is a great blend for you. Peppermint’s strong scent helps relieve headaches and sinus pressure almost instantly. Eucalyptus has many benefits, but in this case will help relieve decongestion. Lemon Grass, if you knew me in college, you know I often use this as a perfume because I love the scent so much! In this blend, it helps kill off the bacterias and viruses that could be making you feel crummy. I like to use this in my diffuser on nights I feel a cold coming on, as well as apply to my temples and neck topically. I also use steam inhalation with this blend to relieve symptoms when I have a cold or bad allergies.

  4. Warm and Cozy- Clove Bud, Orange, and Cinnamon Okay, so this one doesn’t IMG_6260-2have a specific benefit, but it does make your room smell like a beautiful autumn day. If you are in the mood to get cozy and feel warm, this is a great blend.  Orange is a mood booster, Clove refreshes your senses and kills bacteria, and finally cinnamon decreases inflammation as well as helps relieve depression. So maybe there are some benefits, but I only use this in my diffuser when I’m missing Halloween season. I am also highly allergic to Cinnamon when used topically, which is why you should always test these out before spreading them all over your body. Cinnamon will stay in my diffuser and away from my skin!

  5. Post Workout Blend- Peppermint, Clove, and Eucalyptus Sore after working IMG_6262hard? Try making this blend! All of these oils will help aid in recovery and relax any sore muscles. I love putting 2-3 drops of each in a small dish, mixing it with coconut oil, and applying to my shoulders, lower back, and hamstrings after a hard workout! I love how it allows me to keep going during the day, and if I need it, I will apply again at night and allow my body to really get some rest! Be cautious about applying after a shower as the peppermint will become cooler the warmer you are. It can having a burning sensation and nobody wants that after a tough workout!

 

 

 

Kale and Lemon Immune Boosting Soup

IMG_5089.JPGI have a confession...I love soup. I love making it, I love eating it, and I love how many vitamins I can shove into one bowl. My family has been feeling sick on and off and I work with children/families, so I am exposed to a lot of germs. I need as many vitamins as I can get! Sometimes I make enough soup to share and freeze leftovers, but lately I’ve been making a fresh bowl of soup daily. It does not have to be complicated or simmer for a lengthy time to be delicious, especially when it’s a vegan soup! Meat tends to need more time in the pot, but herbs and veggies breakdown a lot easier. I also do not always need complex, flavor-building soup. Sometimes you need something simple, quick, and easy! I like to use as fresh of ingredients as possible, but if you prefer dried herbs or pastes, use what is best for you! Now, let’s talk about the benefits from this recipe!

Kale: this low calorie, non-fat, fiber rich, leafy green helps aid digestion, and helps promote iron absorption (hello vitamins B and C!) It is also a great source of vitamins K,  A, B1, B2, B3, B6,  and E. All the nutrients, and a great alternative to spinach or collard greens. If you are an avid reader on my blog, you know that I eat around 3-4 cups of kale a day, so I am personally a huge fan.

Garlic/Onions: Ah, the Allium family. Garlic, shallots, chives, leeks, onions..oh my! I love the flavors of all alliums, but garlic and onions are by far used most in my daily life. They help with cold and flu relief, as well as provide great anti-inflammatory benefits due to the vitamin C and manganese content. While you can get heartburn from both of these ingredients (my grandmother could not stand garlic), when eaten in moderation, you should be okay. I typically do not have side effects, so I eat a lot of garlic! Again, modify for yourself.

Ginger: I’ve been a fan of ginger for quite sometime now. I love ginger tea, ginger chews, and fresh ginger in soup. Ginger is typically known for its relation to relieving stomach pain. Whether it be motion sickness, nausea, morning sickness, or just an upset stomach, ginger is a great option to try! It is also known to help relieve cold and flu symptoms, as well as help reduce inflammation.

Lemon: Fresh lemon juice has so many great benefits. Again, a great source of vitamin C (do you see the theme here?), but lemon juice also promotes weight loss, aids digestion, and can help promote hydration. When making soup, add your lemon juice in when serving. Just like with all vegetables and fruit, it is best to consume them in the rawest form possible (if safe) so you can really get the nutrients than can be cooked out.

Kale and Lemon Immune Boosting Soup Recipe

I made a single serving for this soup, so feel free to double, triple, or make as much as you want! It’s easy to digest, low calorie, non-fat, vegan, gluten-free, and filled with immune boosting goodness!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup ginger, chopped in large pieces
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups kale, chopped
  • 1/2 fresh lemon, juiced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Pour water into a medium sauce pan. Add onions, garlic, and ginger. Bring to a boil and continue to let it boil for 5 minutes. Turn down the heat to medium low for 10-15 minutes covered.
  2. Remove ginger if you do not want to eat it in your soup. Personally, I do remove it at this point, but if you want to consume the pieces, go for it! Remember to remove the skin before cooking if eating.
  3. Add your kale. Let the kale cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Pour your soup into a bowl. Pour lemon juice into the soup and give it a stir. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Enjoy and try to keep the germs away!

February Trader Joe’s Wine Picks

Trader Joe’s is one of my favorite places to shop. Their snacks are cheap, they have great all-natural options, and a lot of their food is gluten-free. Another huge perk is their IMG_4791_Facetune_09-02-2018-15-34-03alcohol selection. From brews to barrels, there are options for every budget and every taste bud. In college, I drank a lot of Two Buck Chucks (aka Charles Shaw) and occasionally would splurge on a $3.99 option. Now that I have a better hold on life, I buy wines ranging anywhere from $3-$12, but I still buy them from Trader Joe’s. Not only do they switch it up monthly, but there are some great options from around the world and it still fits in my budget. I thought I would go ahead and share with you the wines on my wine rack for February and why I recommend any (or all) of the four.**

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First up, Sara Bee Moscato. This sweet white wine is a product of Italy and has been on my top list for a couple of years now. It is a regular at TJ’s, and it is perfect for a sunny day. This golden hewed wine is sweet with notes of pear and lychee, as well as floral with aromas of elderflower. There is a slight honey-citrus zing as an after note. This is a richer Moscato, but does not have a fake, sugary sweetness. Instead the sweetness comes from the fruity flavors embedded in the wine. I personally like Italian wines because the naturally sweet flavors are a constant theme. I like Moscatos, but they are not my favorite because of how overwhelming the flavors can be. However, I find this wine to be refreshing and a nice way to end a warm, sunny day. Costing only $5.99 for one bottle, the price is even sweeter than the wine.

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Next, Kidia Sauvignon Blanc. This wine pours at a nice yellow-green color and smells clean, but intense. With hints of white currant, green apple, fresh herbs, and lime, this wine is fruity, elegant, and bold. It is a stronger wine with an alcohol level of 13.0%, but not overly powering. I will say I am a little bias as Sauvignon Blanc is my favorite type of wine and Chilean wine is my absolute favorite. I find wine from Chile to be refreshing, clean, and a bit on the citrus flavored side (which I am found of in white wine.) Kidia has the flavors I crave constantly, and is strong enough to enjoy a single glass to relax with dinner. I like wines that I can pair with creamy cheeses and a nice salad, and Kidia goes great with an arugula salad topped with goat cheese and dried cranberries (hmm maybe a recipe?) This wine is one of the most I have read that this wine can be sold for up to $15 a bottle, but at TJ’s I found it for just $5.99.

Blue Fin Riesling. Another classic from my college days. Riesling is similar to Moscato inIMG_4796_Facetune_09-02-2018-15-44-46 the sense it is easier for me to drink, but can get to the point where it is way too sweet. Thankfully, this wine is medium in body and acidity, creating a nice balance with flavors of lemons, pears, tropical fruits, citrus, and a hint of mint. Although this wine smells very sweet when the cork comes out, it has a slight tartness that makes this Riesling lighter. It has a crisp aftertaste, and unlike most sweet wines, it didn’t leave my mouth with the taste of alcohol. I once used Blue Fin as a base for Sangria. I made mine peach based with some citrus flavors, and it turned out really nice. I served this with a spicy chicken dish and salad tossed in a lemon vinaigrette. I highly recommend this combination as it pairs very nicely and enhances the Riesling’s flavors. Although you could pay closer to $10 for better Riesling, Blue Fin is $4.49 at TJ’s and great for a cheap wine!

IMG_4795_Facetune_09-02-2018-15-51-27Finally, Mbali Chenin Blanc Viognier. I have very little experience with Chenin Blanc or Viognier (I’m not even sure I can pronounce those correctly..sorry dad), but what I do have experience with is South African wine. The interesting part about this wine is that South Africa produces Chenin Blanc in a dry style, and Viognier is a very full-bodied wine similar to Chardonnay. Mbali’s blend is 79% Chenin Blanc and 21% Viognier. Surprisingly, Mbali is a bright and light wine that is very easy to drink despite the slight buttery notes. Flavors of melon, peach, pear, apple, and kiwi add enough sweetness and body without too much acidity within the after taste. What I like the most about this wine is how different it is from a basic Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio that I would order when I wanted a fuller wine. I would compare this to Sauvignon Blanc but with notes of honey and possibly vanilla. I like that it has a mix of rich flavors but isn’t too complex or heavy. I would pair Mbali with lighter dishes and fresh herbs. Plus, it was only $4.99, so I think it’s a great way to introduce yourself to new types of wines and blends!

**Disclaimer: I am NOT a wine expert. My father is, but I do not have the extensive knowledge or refined palate like he does. I am a vino, and a college graduate, so I like to find cheap wines that won’t taste like fermented sadness. Feel free to disagree with my tastes, but remember all taste buds are different and deserve to be respected!