Friday, March 28, 2014

Simply Healthy Skin

I have struggled with acne for years. It started when I turned 12 and got worse from there. I went to a dermatologist for years and went from one topical medication to another. They would work for a while and then my skin would grow a resistance toward it and fight back. It was so frustrating! I didn't understand why my skin had to be so stubborn. "Just give in and leave me alone!" I would say while looking in the mirror. Ugh... it was terrible.

When I turned 21, I went off of birth control because I started to become weary of pumping all those hormones into my body. My emotions were out of control and I just wanted to be me again. What I didn't realize was that going off of the pill was about to completely throw my hormones off course in such a violent way that it left me with cystic acne. I thought I struggled with acne before; I was dead wrong. For about a year I wanted to hide in my house and never leave. I would put on a pound of makeup just to get the mail because I was so mortified. It's hard for me to think back to that time because it was such a dark place for me. But now that I am in the light, I want to share with you how I have been able to win in the battle against my skin. I always read about people's success stories and wondered "why isn't that me??" I thought I had tried every product out there. Nothing worked. I even tortured myself with a chemical peel. It felt like my face was on fire. Don't ever do that to yourself! When I finally realized that my problem wasn't topical but rather was stemming from internal problems, I was able to see results.

I was never a believer that what you ate could really affect your skin. I thought the belief that sugar consumption could cause acne was a myth. And maybe for some people, that's true. The problem with acne is that everyone suffers for different reasons. What helps one person may not help another. The trick is figuring out what works for you. In my case, I truly believe that I was suffering from Candida, a condition where the natural candida bacteria (or yeast) in your body is overgrown in your system. This can cause a huge number of side effects, such as abdominal gas and bloating, dizziness, headaches, fatigue, constipation or diarrhea, and acne! This is only a short list of side effects. It also causes you to crave sugar because the bacteria needs sugar to thrive. I know it isn't easy to cut sugar out of your diet, but try cutting down at least. I started by reading labels and becoming familiar with how much sugar was in everything I ate. I became strict. If I knew for a fact that I was going to a social gathering where there would be sweets, I would not allow myself to eat anything sugary the rest of the day and only pick one treat at the party. I got used to eating this way, even though it isn't always easy, and before long my skin got better! Not perfect by any means, but good enough that I didn't feel embarrassed anymore. A pimple here or there was nothing that I couldn't handle after what I'd been through.

Years later I became even more health conscious when it came to food. I switched to organic and eventually started eating Paleo. If you've tried every product out there and nothing works for you, eat a strict Paleo diet for 2 weeks and see what happens to your skin. I do fall off the wagon and eat a Gluten Free diet instead of strict Paleo and I see the difference in my skin after a while. Although not terrible, so long as I watch my sugar intake, it still doesn't compare to the glow my skin has when I eat Paleo. When I eat Paleo and skip sweet snacks, my skin is FLAWLESS. For the first time since I was 12, my skin glows with not a raised bump in sight. There simply are no words to describe how happy that makes me. I mean I could seriously run through a crowded street naked singing "I feel pretty, oh so pretty! I feel pretty and witty and bright!" but then I would probably end up in the nut house for a while and that would ruin my good mood. I guess what I'm trying to say is that although it's not always easy, if you're on the verge of a breakdown, give it a try. If it works for you, it's worth it!! And when you're dying for a sweet treat, refer to my post about Paleo Chocolate Brownies!

Okay, so I know this post is already super long, but I can't end a post about healthy skin without sharing a stupidly simple topical solution that I've found works amazingly well. When my skin isn't glowing and I'm experiencing PMS hormones, nothing works better to clear my skin in a flash better than a simple home made concoction of half water and half apple cider vinegar. This easy and super affordable toner is like a miracle in a bottle! The apple cider vinegar helps to balance and restore your skin's pH levels. I use half and half and it seems to work great, but depending on your skin type, you may need more or less apple cider. Experiment with it and see if it works for you. As for me, I'm in love!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Recipe Replay

I told Carolyn we should start doing some soft of spotlight on the blog where we each make the same recipe and compare notes. I don't have a snappy name for it yet, but since I literally JUST texted her and haven't heard a reply, I have some time. 

But this made me think about a recipe we already both tried: Super Fudgy Paleo Brownies from Gluten Free on a Shoestring. These are AWESOME. When I first made them I made them about three more times in as many weeks. Then I moved states, forgot where I packed the pots, and this recipe totally left my radar. But then earlier this week I remembered them and all their deliciousness and I got a little peeved that I allowed myself to run out of coconut flour, something that's a b%#&h to get when you now live in the middle of nowhere. 

So while I fantasize about having these soon (my coconut flour is being delivered tomorrow....I checked), let me tell you my small changes.

Unlike Carolyn, I didn't use stevia. Not a fan of stevia or it's funny after taste. Instead I totally omitted the coconut sugar. I used Enjoy Life chocolate chips which are already sweetened, so the last thing I wanted to do was add honey AND sugar. No way. I also used a heaping tablespoon of honey (about 1.5 Tablespoons measured). I'm conscientious of my sugar, so if I followed the recipe I would have slipped into a sugar stupor and awoken three days later on the kitchen floor with dried, crusted chocolate around my mouth. I also ground the almond flour using a coffee grinder. I do this with any recipe. I hear the Honeyville almond flour is already pretty fine, but I use Bob's Redmill. It's easier for me to get and I don't mind taking a minute to pulse it.

With that say, WOW. These are amazing. Let's face it, Paleo recipes tend to have two textures: hard as a rock or pre-chewed baby food. But these were delicious and had a great texture. And here's a tip: *if* you're feeling in a super fudgey mood, why don't you pop those puppies out a minute or two earlier and let them sit before you cut them. They're almost like a torte at that point, except without the fancy title.

So head on over to Gluten Free on a Shoestring and get on with your fudgy self. And feel free to let us know what tweaks you made, if any!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Spicy Bean Taquitos

Spicy Bean Taquitos

2 cups refried beans
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons bacon fat or butter
12 corn tortillas**
1/2 – 1/3 cup chicken broth
1 cup cheese, shredded
Guacamole, queso, or salsa for dipping

In a medium skillet, sauté jalapenos in bacon fat until soft, about 1-2 minutes. Add beans and stir until warm. Set aside.

In a small skillet, heat a couple of tablespoons of broth. Dip one tortilla into broth for about 5 seconds. Flip and wait another 5-10 seconds until tortilla is soft and pliable.

Transfer to baking sheet. Add 1 spoonful (about 2 Tablespoons) of beans and a sprinkling of cheese to one edge of the tortilla. Gently roll, placing seam side down on the cookie sheet. Repeat process for remaining tortillas, adding small amounts of broth to the pan as needed to soften tortillas.

In a 400* oven, bake taquitos for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and crispy.

Note: These taquitos freeze well! Simply SKIP BAKING and place entire cookie sheet in freezer. Allow taquitos to freeze completely, about 2-3 hours. Once frozen, remove and store in a container. To heat, place desired amount of taquitos on baking sheet and cook at 400* for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. 

** It's my personal opinion that GM (genetically modified) ingredients, which includes corn, will be the cause for a zombie apocalypse. Therefore, I use non-gmo corn tortillas as well as organic ingredients even if I don't specify that in the recipe. Though it is your decision to select what is best for your family, I strongly encourage you to learn more about the dangers of GMO foods and industrialized farming. It is YOUR body. Don't let someone else, including the government, dictate what is healthy for you to eat. Educate yourself and make your own decisions!

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Cup of Simplicity When You Want To Scream

You ever have those days when you'd rather lock yourself in a fallout shelter than listen to one more person utter another inane word? Yeah, me too.

When you're feeling a bit overwhelmed, try making yourself this deliciously simple recipe. I find it goes best with a good book or a favorite TV show. *cough* Downton Abby *cough*

Warm Vanilla Milk
2 servings

3 cups milk (whole is best!)
2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Stir together. Warm over low heat. Take a sip and find your center!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"Will Kill For Chocolate..."

I am currently on a strictly gluten free, aiming to be Paleo diet. In a perfect world I would eat 100% Paleo 100% of the time, but let’s face it, I’m a human being! And… I’m a female which occasionally means that I would kill for chocolate.  Today happens to be one of those days.

Here’s the good news. Just because you’re craving chocolate, it doesn’t mean you have to eat pure junk. Sometimes I eat a natural piece of dark chocolate and it satisfies my craving and then I’m able to get on with my day. Today the craving went beyond plain chocolate and wandered into the warm fluffy brownie type of chocolate. Any woman reading this should understand how a craving works. In order to satisfy a craving you have to go beyond the element of flavor. There’s also consistency, temperature, and texture to consider. One time I was dying for mint chocolate chip ice cream and my husband came home with mint brownie ice cream. Imagine his surprise when I told him that ice cream was COMPLETELY different than what I asked for. When I daydreamed about eating that ice cream, there was ecstasy over the flavor of the ice cream and the crunch of the chips! When you bite into brownie… no crunch! I did forgive my husband because I understood how crazy I must sound to him, but I did not go to bed that night feeling content.

Anyway, back to today. I was dying for a brownie and then at exactly the right moment, my step mother messaged me like an angel from heaven and sent me a Paleo brownie recipe that sounded really really good. The best part was I had all the ingredients I would need right in my cabinets.

You can find the recipe at Gluten-Free On A Shoestring 
I adjusted it a little by using ¼ cup of stevia rather than using coconut sugar. I also only used 2 tablespoons of coconut oil rather than 7. I really felt that would have been too much. Let me tell you, they are DELICIOUS. I actually have a lot of self control, but I couldn't stop eating them. My husband even loves them. Success!

 Now my craving is satisfied and I get to go to bed content.

Monday, January 6, 2014

"Show Us Your Pits!"

For the past few months I've been experimenting with homemade deodorant. The stuff you buy in the stores, no matter how many "natural" labels they slap on it, inevitably has some sort of crap in it. I apply the same rule to my outer body as I do my inner: If I can't identify the ingredient I'm not using (or eating) it. You see, that whole "If you can't pronounce it don't eat it" thing isn't enough for me. I can pronounce plenty of words I don't care to eat, ie aspartame, monosodium glutamate, dog doo. They roll off the tongue easily and yet I still remain highly opposed to their consumption. And while I can't attest to the palatability of neither deodorant nor dog poo, I can tell you neither is all that healthy.

I'll save you from the anti-antiperspirant rant as I'm sure you know the dangers, but in my efforts to regain health and live as naturally as possible, I've been doing a lot of  research into homemade deodorants, more research than what should be required to simply not smell like a dirty hippie who just awoke from a three-day bender.

After months of failed trials, it seems I've finally found it. Get a pen. Here's the recipe:

Lemon juice.

That's it....lemon juice. All the mixing and melting and purchasing hard-to-find ingredients on Amazon and the answer was in my fridge the entire time. 

Now, I will honestly say I've only used it for a week, so I cannot vouch for it's long-term use. After all, baking soda and coconut oil rocked until it began giving me a rash a few months in. But I can say this is the only option that has worked as well as baking soda and has thus far had no adverse effects. Personally, I poured some store-bought lemon juice into a spray bottle, slapped on a cute label (because labels make me happy), and stored it in the fridge. In the morning I spray a spritz or two under my arms and go about my day without the slightest hint of stank. I was so excited, especially since my last attempt at deodorant was such an epic failure, I made my husband smell my armpits. Yeah, we have that kind of relationship. 

So if you're like me and you cringe at the idea of slathering propylene glycol on your body, or if you're simply looking to save a few dollars, try lemon juice. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised! And, let's face it, the last thing Whole Foods needs is another stinky hippie.

Photo Credit: Dog