Paleo Sweet Potato Casserole from PaleoLeap.com

This is a keeper! Not only is it warm, comforting and delicious, but it’s also kid friendly! This is a perfect addition to my winter menu. A great balance of good nutrition, sweetness and easy prep.

Ingredients

  • 6 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks;
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped;
  • ½ cup full-fat coconut milk;
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder;
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract;
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon;
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, butter or clarified butter;
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and then start by filling a large sauce pot with water and place all the chopped sweet potatoes in it. Place the saucepan over a high-heat on the stove-top and bring the water to a boil. Continue cooking the potatoes for anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes, basically until they are tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from heat and strain the excess water.
  2. Return the sweet potatoes to the pot they were cooked in and drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil, butter or clarified butter on top of them. Using a masher or hand-mixer, mash the potatoes until smooth. I tend to prefer the texture to be slightly clumpy, but to each their own! As you continue to mash, slowly pour the coconut milk in, followed by the vanilla extract. Once it has been mixed well, give it a taste to see if it requires any salt and pepper. I found it to be just perfect how it was, but a little salt cuts on some of the sweetness. Transfer the mashed mix into a baking dish, or better yet, a casserole dish and set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, toss the walnuts in the remaining oil or butter. Sprinkle with the cinnamon and cocoa powder  and then give it another good mixing. Evenly cover the mashed potato mixture with the topping, put in the preheated oven and cook for about 20 minutes and, once finished, indulge!

 

Sweet Potato Casserole

Dandruff…What’s The Deal?

I confess, when I was younger I went through a stage where I had dandruff. Store bought shampoos helped, but at the time I never really thought about WHY I was getting dandruff because I was just so focused on how to get rid of it. Things like dandruff are your body’s way of signaling you that there is an imbalance. As with any health related symptoms, it’s important to look at the root cause of the issue, rather than simply treating the symptoms.

The good news is, I haven’t had dandruff in many years! I am happy to report I no longer have to worry about those ugly flakes finding their way to my shoulder. So what causes it? Dandruff is frequently cause by a type of fungus called Malassezia. It can be present in many of us in normal amounts, but when the body is out of balance, it creates the opportunity for this fungus to grow out of control and present itself in the form of dandruff. So what’s my secret? Probiotics! By flooding my gut with good, healthy bacteria, it helps it to fight off the bad guys like Malassezia and prevent them from growing out of control. A diet low in or free from sugar, dairy and yeast is also helpful, as fungus feeds on them.

When looking for a probiotic, I suggest going for something high end. They should always be refrigerated to maintain potency. I also prefer that they be gluten and dairy free, as those can feed the yeast/fungus you are trying to starve.

If you’ve got dandruff there is a natural alternative that is better for your overall health than the toxic shampoos and treatments you find in the drug store. In this study thirty patients with seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff were asked to rub diluted honey on their scalp and massage for 2-3 minutes every other day, then leave it on for 3 hours. Itching was relieved and scaling disappeared within one week, while skin lesions were healed and disappeared completely within 2 weeks – those who continued the treatment once per week had no relapses. Twelve of the 15 patients who did not continue the honey regimen relapsed within 2-4 months.

How To Use Raw Honey for Dandruff according to mommypotamus.com

Wet hair, apply diluted raw honey (90% honey and 10% water). Massage into scalp for 2-3 minutes, then let it sit for three hours while you catch up on your favorite show, read, or fold laundry. Rinse with warm water. If desired, follow with 1/4 cup vinegar and 3/4 cup water to seal the hair cuticle and make hair shiny.

Repeat every other day for about two weeks. In the study, participants reported that their dandruff was gone within two weeks. Those who continued the honey treatment once a week after that had no relapses, while those who did not relapsed in 2-4 months.

6 Common Walking Mistakes to Prevent Back, Hip & Foot Pain

By Rachel Song

Walking is a great low-impact exercise for boosting cardiovascular health, strengthening muscles in the legs and glutes, and even preventing back pain common in those of us with 9 to 5 desk jobs.  The problem is that many people don’t learn how to walk properly as it seems like a fairly intuitive activity.  However, walking improperly not only prevents you from reaping the full benefits of the exercise but can also lead to injuries such as shin splints and foot pain.

Here are 6 common mistakes to avoid to improve your stride for a healthier walk:

  1. Over-striding

A natural tendency is to step out farther with the front foot when increasing walking speed.  This tendency throws off your natural gait, leading to a straighter knee, a harder heel strike, and a higher vertical leap which places even more pressure on the feet.

To avoid foot, shin, and hip pain, walk with shorter steps, pushing off harder with the rear foot to increase speed rather than compensating with a farther forward step.

  1. Limp arms

Letting your arms hang loosely by your sides while walking may be comfortable but they will act like weights pulling you back, putting pressure on your upper back and shoulders.

To walk more efficiently, keep your arms at a 90° angle and swing them forwards and backwards, keeping your elbows close to your sides and your hands below chest level at the forward swing.  Make sure your hands don’t cross the center of your chest as well—they should swing front and back, not to the side.  This natural swing will help elongate your upper back and shoulders to prevent tension as you walk.

  1. Looking down

It’s a natural inclination to look down at your feet while walking but unless you are on uneven or rocky terrain, it is more beneficial to keep your chin parallel to the ground and your head up.  This will lengthen your body, enhancing breath and lessening tension in your upper body.

  1. Not engaging your core

Walking without engaging your core leads to bad posture such as leaning back behind your hips or too far forward, which can put unnecessary strain on your lower back.

Keep your abdominals lightly engaged and your body tilted no more than 5° forward to keep your core activated.

  1. Overtraining

Walking mostly only builds the muscles at the back of your legs: calves, hamstrings, and glutes.  Therefore, continuous and repetitive walking can lead to an imbalance of muscle groups hazardous to the overall alignment of your body.

To combat this imbalance, throw in a few exercises for your quads and outer hips like squats, cycling, and outer leg swings.  It is important to keep your body aligned to prevent straining any one muscle group such as the hips.

  1. Wearing the wrong shoes

Hopefully this isn’t the first time you’re hearing that you need proper footwear to exercise properly.  Stiff or unsupportive shoes can cause a number of common foot condition such as Plantar Fasciitis, Metatarsalgia, and Bunions by restricting natural foot movement.

In contrast, properly designed & cushioned footwear from healthy footwear brands like Aetrex can prevent and even provide relief from these conditions.  The proper footwear should allow your foot full mobility while providing protection from natural wear and tear.

That’s why every Aetrex shoe features the “Healthy 3,” comprised of Lynco® orthotic support, memory foam cushioning, and Aegis® anti-microbial technology.

These attributes are perfect for walking: the orthotic is designed with arch support to minimize over-pronation, essentially stabilizing your stride and supporting the natural curves in your feet. The memory foam absorbs shock as your foot lands on hard surfaces, providing the proper cushioning needed to sustain long excursions.  Finally the Aegis® layer helps prevent odor and bacteria for a healthier foot environment.

This all may seem like a lot to remember but with some practice they should become a natural part of your routine and will lead to a healthier, well-balanced body! Good luck!

Got Cramps?

Do you experience muscle or menstrual cramps? Unfortunately, for many, they believe this is a normal part of life that we all just have to deal with. The good news is that muscle cramping is typically a sign of an imbalance in the body that can be remedied with proper supplementation and/or diet.

Calcium and magnesium are both associated with muscle function and the tendency of the muscles to cramp. Muscles contract when the calcium outside the muscle cells travels into the cells, which in turn causes the shortening or contraction of that muscle. With the stimulation of magnesium, the calcium is then released and the muscle relaxes. It has been shown that if the calcium in the extracellular fluid is low, the muscle will spasm/cramp as a result. When either calcium or magnesium supply is low, or when the two minerals are not in the correct proportion, cramps can occur.

To avoid cramping, it’s important to ensure that your diet contains an adequate amount of both calcium and magnesium and that they are present in the proper proportions. Diets high in whole fat dairy products, homemade bone broths and leafy green vegetables will provide proper amounts of the necessary nutrients. If your diet is less than perfect, you can always supplement as well. There are many oral supplements available, and you can learn more information about which supplements may be right for you by visiting your local health food store, supplement shop or even online.  For leg cramps, I also like magnesium lotion, applied directly to the legs. I find this particularly effective in relieving leg cramping, even in children experiencing “growing pains.”

 

 

Strengthen your Feet & Prevent Common Foot Conditions with these 5 Exercises

By Rachel Song

Even some of the most health-conscious people neglect their feet.  It’s easy to do until you start to feel discomfort, which is highly likely with studies revealing that a majority of Americans have experienced foot pain, approximately 75%!

Aside from wearing shoes that provide proper support and cushioning from healthy footwear brands such as Aetrex, exercising is a great way to maintain your foot fitness!

These 5 quick moves are great for strengthening and stretching vital foot muscles that may help in preventing or relieving common foot pains:

  1. Toe grip

Drop a pencil on the floor and use your toes to grip and lift it off the floor. Hold the grip for 10 seconds and release. Repeat the exercise five times with each foot.

  1. Toe presses

Stand with feet hip width apart and grip the floor with your toes for 20 seconds and relax.  Repeat 10 times.

  1. Resisted toe extension

Toe-Abduction-stretch

Wrap an elastic band around all five toes.  Stretch your pinky and big toes in opposite directions as far as you are able, resisting the pressure of the elastic band.  Hold the extension for 5 seconds and release.  Repeat the exercise 5 times with each foot.

 

  1. Calf stretch

Sit with one leg straight out in front of you and the other bent comfortably inward towards your body.  Wrap a towel or exercise band around the ball of the extended foot and pull back on it gently.  Stop and hold the position for 10 seconds when you feel a challenging but still comfortable stretch in the arch of the foot and the calf.  Repeat the stretch 5 times on each leg.

Seated-Calf-Stretch

  1. Take a walk!

Walking is the best exercise for your feet as it promotes healthy blood circulation and muscle development.  Aim to take several short walking breaks throughout the day and go barefoot whenever possible to target the smaller muscles in your feet that are confined in your shoes all day.

Include these simple exercises along with healthy footwear providing proper arch support, cushioning, & alignment in your daily routine to recover or maintain your foot health!

Strawberry Shortcake Skillets from PaleOMG.com

Valentine’s Day will soon be upon us! I have been looking for a healthy dessert that I can share with the kids and my husband that is “Valentiney” (is that a word?). I came across this amazing recipe from PaleOMG.com and I can’t wait to try it! It looks out of this world!
Ingredients
Skillet Biscuits
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • ½ cup arrowroot flour
  • 2 tablespoons coconut flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon coconut oil to grease skillets
  • 2 teaspoons coconut sugar
Macerated Strawberries
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Coconut Whipped Cream
  • solid portion from 1 can of chilled full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
For the Skillet Biscuits
  1. Whisk the dry ingredients together until they’re well incorporated and all clumps are broken up.
  2. Whisk the wet ingredients together and then add them to the dry. Stir until the mixture is even.
  3. Grease two 6” oval skillets with the coconut oil.
  4. Using a #40 scoop (or just a big spoon that equals about 2 tablespoons), drop balls of the dough into the greased skillets. You should get about 7 drop biscuits for each dish. Sprinkle the top of the biscuits evenly with the coconut sugar.
  5. Bake at 350 F for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Let cool then top with the strawberries and coconut whipped cream.
For the Macerated Strawberries
  1. In a large bowl, mix the strawberries with the coconut sugar and lemon juice.
  2. Set covered in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving.
For the Coconut Whipped Cream
    1. Add the hardened coconut cream from the can of full-fat coconut milk to a chilled mixing bowl with the honey and vanilla extract. Beat on high for 5-7 minutes, or until stiff peaks form.
    2. Store in the refrigerator until just before serving.

Guest Post: Strawberry Shortcake Skillets

Beans…A Great Source of Plant Based Protein

Beans are a wonderful way to add high-quality, plant-based protein to your diet. They are high in iron, B vitamins and fiber, and are versatile enough that you may never tire of them. Dry beans stay fresh longer when stored in a cool, dark place (rather than on your countertop). Don’t use beans that are more than a year old, as their nutrient content and digestibility are much lower. Also, old beans will not soften, even with thorough cooking. Follow these steps when preparing beans:

  1. Check beans for rocks and shriveled or broken pieces, then rinse.
  2. Soak for six hours or overnight, with water covering four inches higher than the beans. Small and medium-size beans may require less soaking—about four hours should be enough.

Note: If you’ve forgotten to presoak the beans, you can bring them to a boil in ample water to cover. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let stand for one hour.

  1. Drain and rinse the beans, discarding the soaking water. Always discard any loose skins before cooking, as this will increase digestibility.
  2. Place the beans in a heavy pot and add 3 to 4 cups fresh water.
  3. Bring to a full boil and skim off the foam.
  4. Add a small piece of kombu (seaweed) and a few bay leaves or garlic cloves for flavor and better digestibility.
  5. Cover, lower the temperature, and simmer for the suggested time. Check beans 30 minutes before the minimum cooking time. Beans are done when the middle is soft and easy to squeeze.
  6. About 10 minutes before the end of cooking time, add 1 teaspoon of unrefined sea salt.
  7. Cook until beans are tender.
1 cup dry beans Cooking time
Adzuki 45-60 minutes
Anasazi 60-90 minutes
Black (turtle) 60-90 minutes
Black-eyed peas 60 minutes
Cannellini 90-120 minutes
Chickpeas (garbanzos) 120-180 minutes
Cranberry 60-90 minutes
Fava 60-90 minutes
Great northern 90-120 minutes
Kidney 60-90 minutes
Lentils* 30-45 minutes
Lima beans 60-90 minutes
Mung 60 minutes
Navy 60-90 minutes
Pinto 90 minutes
Split peas 45-60 minutes

*do not require soaking

All times are approximate. Cooking lengths depend on how strong the heat is and how hard the water is. A general rule is that small beans cook for approximately 30 minutes, medium beans cook for approximately 60 minutes, and large beans cook for approximately 90 minutes. Be sure to taste the beans to see if they are fully cooked and tender.

Digestibility

Some people have difficulty digesting beans and legumes. They may develop gas, intestinal problems, irritability, or unclear thinking. Here are a few techniques for preparing and eating legumes that will alleviate most problems.

  • Soak beans for several days, changing the water twice daily, until a small tail forms on the beans.
  • Use a pressure cooker. This also cuts down on cooking time.
  • Chew beans thoroughly and know that even small amounts have a high nutritional and healing value.
  • Avoid giving legumes to children under 18 months because they have not developed the gastric enzymes to digest them properly.
  • Experiment with your ability to digest beans. Smaller beans like adzuki, lentils, mung beans, and peas digest most easily. Pinto, kidney, navy, black-eyed peas, garbanzo, lima, and black beans are harder to digest. Soybeans and black soybeans are the most difficult beans to digest.
  • Experiment with combinations, ingredients, and seasonings. Legumes combine best with green or non-starchy vegetables and seaweeds.
  • Season with unrefined sea salt, miso or, soy sauce near the end of cooking. If salt is added at the beginning, the beans will not cook completely. Salt is a digestive aid when used correctly.
  • Adding fennel or cumin near the end of cooking helps prevent gas.
  • Adding kombu or kelp seaweed to the beans helps improve flavor and digestion, adds minerals and nutrients, and speeds up the cooking process.
  • Pour a little apple cider, brown rice vinegar, or white wine vinegar into the water during the last stages of cooking. This softens the beans and breaks down protein chains and indigestible compounds.
  • Take enzymes with your meal.

Oil Pulling…A Great Technique to Improve Health Naturally

Have you ever heard of oil pulling? It’s one of my favorite natural ways to improve your health naturally, not just in your mouth, but in your body overall. Oil pulling has been used in India for thousands of years to clean teeth, whiten teeth naturally, remove harmful bacteria from the mouth and improve overall health. It has only recently (in the past 20-30 years) made its way into the US.

When oil pulling, oil is swished in the mouth for a short time first thing in the morning before putting anything else into your mouth (including water). The oil is able to remove plaque and extract toxins without harming the teeth or gums.

When researching online, you can find testimonials from people who have experienced amazing health benefits from oil pulling, including improving skin conditions, headaches, arthritis, asthma, infections and even liver issues in addition to improved oral health.

I have been using oil pulling off and on for a few years now. I personally like using raw, organic first cold pressed coconut oil because it has natural antibacterial properties and I also like the taste. Some of the benefits I have personally experience include: less sinus congestion in the morning upon waking, less oral sensitivity, whiter teeth, better breath and less gum recession.

So now you’re wondering…what do I do?

  1. Put 1-2 teaspoons of  solid organic coconut oil into the mouth and let it melt.
  2. Swish for 20 minutes. According to Dr. Bruce Fife, author of Oil Pulling Therapy, this amount of time is long enough to break through plaque and bacteria but not long enough that the body starts re-absorbing the toxins and bacteria. The oil will get thicker and milky as it mixed with saliva during this time and it should be creamy-white when spit out.
  3. Spit oil into the trash can. It will have gotten thicker and milky from mixing with saliva. Don’t spit it into the sink and definitely don’t swallow it. It is full of bacteria and it will wreak having on your septic system.
  4. Rinse your mouth with warm water by swishing a few times, then spitting. I like to swish then spit about 3-4 times after I spit out the oil, just to make sure I got it all out.
  5. Brush your teeth.

Oil pulling can be a great tool to add to your wellness regimen. There’s really no harm in incorporating it into your daily routine and you can see wonderful health benefits as a result.

Happy pulling!

The Power of Meditation…

For thousands of years, meditators have claimed many benefits for their practice. Regular meditation can be an effective treatment for stress, worry, lack of focus, relationship problems, addictions and more. It creates peace of mind and wellbeing, improves focus and creativity and strengthens relationships.

Through meditation, your brain physically changes, even though you’re not aware of it re-wiring itself. Meditation activates the ‘relaxation’ part of our nervous system which supports stress management. It also affects awareness and allows you to put stressors and “to-do” lists on the back burner by filtering out that part of your thought process. Researchers have found that after just 11 hours of meditation, practitioners had structural changes in the part of the brain involved in monitoring our focus and self control.

Researchers have found that, compared with the people who didn’t meditate, those trained in meditation concentrated and stayed on task longer. It has also been shown that the majority of practitioners see a noticeable reduction in anxiety and anxiety related behaviors.

Meditation has also been shown to improve relationships, including marriages. It can improve mindfulness of how the couple treats each other as well as improve communication and connectedness.

Try this amazing five-minute meditation from Dr. Alejandro Junger. (http://www.cleanprogram.com/group-detox-cleanse)

*Commit to daily practice and make note of the changes in your behavioral patterns*

Step 1: Get Comfortable & Breathe

Sit up in a chair with your back straight. Place your feet flat on the floor under your knees. Rest the palms of your hands on your thighs and relax your arms. Look straight ahead but try not to focus anywhere in particular. Instead, notice everything in the room at once.

Take a deep breath and start feeling your feet. Feel them touching the floor or the inside of your shoes. Feel the temperature, the humidity; feel the texture of your socks. Feel your feet intensely from inside. Do not “think” about them, just feel them, sense them.

Step 2: Scan Your Body with Attention

After a few breaths, move your attention to your calves and legs. Feel and sense these for several breaths. Then move your attention from body part to body part, first to your thighs, then your bottom against the chair, then to your abdomen and lower back, your chest and upper back, your shoulders, your arms, your hands, your neck, face, and lastly your head.

Then let your awareness cover your whole body at the same time. The idea is to “scan” your body with your attention, stopping for a few breaths on each part. This practice will strengthen your ability to direct and hold your focus.

Step 3: Thank Your Monkey Mind for Sharing

You may notice that the moment you sit down, you start remembering things and feel the urge to act on them. This is part of the process. When those thoughts come and try to steal your attention away from your body, simply say silently to yourself, “Thank you for sharing,” and direct your attention back to your body.

If you feel discomfort or frustration and want to stop, just keep sitting calmly. Know that the discomfort you feel is not caused by the exercise itself. It’s what happens when you become aware of your baseline state, that underlying anxiety you are typically not aware of when the outside world is at full volume and your attention is far from your body.

Becoming aware of this underlying state is the first step toward dissolving it, and claiming back the energy it consumes.

Step 4: Where did that thought come from?

When you find yourself consumed by your monkey mind, try for a second to separate your attention from your thoughts and re-focus it on the present. Ask yourself: “Who is deciding that I think these thoughts? If I had a choice, would I be thinking them?”

Step 5: Use Anytime, Anywhere

This technique can also be used in the middle of any stressful situation like a business meeting or a job interview. When we are nervous, it is because our unconscious thoughts are interpreting, judging, measuring and expecting. This process takes energy and attention.

By re-directing our attention to our body and breath, we reclaim this unnecessary use of energy. It may be hard to remember to do this in difficult situations. Start with easy ones. Then try to do it in harder and harder ones.

My personal experience is that if I have the presence of mind for a split second to remember and start doing it, immediately the energy of the situation shifts, usually for the better. When you become more present, others in the room feel it as well.

Practicing being present will help clear out your mind. You will begin to be able to use your energy and attention to stay present and be more productive. This practice will also help you be more aware of the decisions you are making about what you eat.

Middle Eastern-Spiced Turkey and Zucchini Sliders from Pink-parsley.com

I’m excited to share this recipe because I LOVE sliders and because it’s quick, easy and healthy. I also love that it has a middle eastern twist to make it more exciting than just traditional sliders. These are great to serve for Superbowl Sunday!

Ingredients:

  • 1 large zucchini, shredded on the large holes of a cheese grater (about 2 cups of grated zucchini)
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 3 green onions, minced
  • 2 Tbs chopped fresh mint
  • 2 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 Tbs canola oil
First, make the sauce (recipe below) by whisking al the ingredients together in a small bowl.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.  Set aside or refrigerate until ready to serve.
To make the burgers, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Wrap the zucchini in  a lint-free kitchen towel and squeeze over the sink to remove as much moisture as possible.
Combine all of the ingredients (up to the oil) in a large bowl.  Mix with your hands or a fork.  Shape into about 18 burgers, each weighing about 1.5 oz/45 g (this is really easy if you have a kitchen scale).  At this point, the patties can be chilled for several hours in the refrigerator, or you can proceed with the recipe.
Add 2 tablespoons of the oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat.  Carefully add about half the patties to the pan, and cook about 2 minutes per side.  Repeat with the remaining oil and patties.
As you finish cooking the patties on the stovetop, transfer them to the prepared baking sheet, and arrange in a single layer.  Cook the patties for 5 to 7 minutes, or until they are cooked through.
Serve with the sauce, either as sliders, lettuce wraps, or as-is.
Sumac-Sour Cream Sauce
  • scant 1/2 cup sour cream (low-fat is fine, but avoid fat-free)
  • scant 2/3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs sumac

http://www.pink-parsley.com/2015/02/middle-eastern-spiced-turkey-zucchini.html