Pesto & Chicken Zucchini Rolls


Pesto Zucchini Roll-Ups from For The Love Of They say necessity is the mother of invention, and 9 times out of 10, I would say that is definitely how I roll in the kitchen. Mondays are when my parents come over to help out with the kids and spend some time with them, and most of the time, my mom brings over a new dinner recipe to try out. She’s retired and constantly scouring cookbooks, looking for new recipes, and new guinea pigs to try them out on. This week she decided to make a lasagna using some new oven bake noodles she found, and while I of course couldn’t have the gluten-goodness noodles, nor the tomato sauce, I wanted to make myself a dinner that would sorta fit into what the family was eating. I immediately thought of a zucchini lasagna, but then I decided to get all fancy, hence these zucchini rolls were born. IMG_9476 I’ve seen zucchini rolls floating all around Pinterest, so I know the concept is nothing new, but I had a hard time finding a recipe that would work for the cleanse; all either used ground beef, the vast majority used tomato sauce, which is a nightshade and a no-no on the cleanse. I already had the cashew cream made so I knew I could use that as a base to replace the usual ricotta/parmesan mix, but now I just needed something to give the rolls a bite, to replace the tomato sauce. Pesto popped into my head, and a meal was born. IMG_9478 You’re going to want to start by slicing or putting your zucchini through a mandolin. Go for 1/4″ thick slices if you can.  IMG_9481 If using a mandolin like mine pictured here, I found a good trick was to start by passing the zucchini through the mandolin, very carefully guiding it with your hand. Once the zucchini had reached the part of the mandolin where it could sit in it, then add the cutting guard and continue to pass it through. I learned to do this after clumsily trying to pass the extra long zucchinis through with the blade guard on, and quite a few of my slices snapped in half. IMG_9483 Once you have your slices all ready, lay them out on a baking sheet and lightly brush them with a coating of olive oil. This will give them some extra flavor and help them get a bit softer. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 7-10 minutes, just till they’re pliable enough to work with.  IMG_9485 Now you’re just going to start smearing on your ingredients beginning with your cashew cream, then pesto, and then your pre-cooked ground chicken or turkey.  IMG_9489 If you have trouble finding a pesto sauce that doesn’t have dairy in it, you can seriously whip up your own in minutes. Think outside the conventional pesto box of basil + pine nuts, and go for any other type of soft leafy green and a mild tasting nut. For this batch, I used a salad mix I had on hand which was arugula + baby spinach, and cashews, and it may just be the best pesto I’ve ever made. Your ratios are simple, 2 cups of greens + 1/2 cup olive oil + large handful of nuts, about 1/2 cup + salt to taste. Blend up in a blender or food processor and done! Add in more oil if need be, but these ratios are usually pretty full-proof. IMG_9493 IMG_9495 You don’t want to overstuff these or they will be more difficult to roll up, so be stingy, and just plan to have about 5-6 rolls to satisfy you. IMG_9498 IMG_9502 You can roll them up and then place them in a small baking dish, but I found that just tucking them in together nice and tight, on the baking sheet I was already using, worked just fine and meant one less dish to wash. Once all rolled up, bake in the 375 oven for 10 minutes, then broil for another 1-2 minutes to set them up nice and firm. You’ll find that once they are baked, they stay together fairly well, and aren’t so delicate. I cut mine in two, but my husband popped each one in his mouth whole, like a sushi roll. Pesto Zucchini Roll-Ups from For The Love Of Pesto Zucchini Roll-Ups from For The Love Of Now at this point, I’d like to offer two other suggestions for assembling these. If you want to cut your time in half, then you could simply layer these ingredients flat in a baking pan, like a traditional lasagna. Like I said, that was my original plan, I just decided to do something different since I had my mom there and she was helping manage the kids. But if you’re crunched for time, go for this method.

Another idea I had, which would work great if you don’t have a mandolin, is to slice your zucchini in thin rounds, and layer them flat like a lasagna, or layer them in cupcake baking tins, and have individual little lasagnas. If you have ramekins, you could do the round coins in those as well, then no fussing with trying to pop them out of the baking cup. Just some ideas. These are hard to mess up, so feel free to experiment.  Pesto Zucchini Roll-Ups from For The Love Of You can get the recipe for the cashew cream in this post, but stay tuned, as I’m going to be posting this recipe separately for ease of use, in the next few days. I’ll update the link once I do. The printable recipe for everything else can be found below though. Enjoy, and please let me know if you give these a try. My kids aren’t keen on zucchini, but my husband and I love these, and are worth the effort to make them for a special treat for us. In case you’re wondering, the second night I made these (yes, I ate this 2 nights in a row), I went ahead and served the kids the ground chicken separately, and served broccoli because none of them like zucchini, and rice on the side. So it was a separate meal, but fairly manageable to throw together for them. I don’t do this often, but sometimes there’s no please everyone and I won’t be deterred from trying new things or enjoying the things I love, just to please everyone.  Does that make sense?

Pesto & Chicken Zucchini Roll-Ups
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Cook time
Total time
This healthy and tasty dish is great for a special weeknight meal and is gluten, dairy and grain free, making it both Whole 30 and Paleo friendly.
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4
  • 1 pound cooked ground chicken or turkey, reserving leftovers for another meal
  • 1 batch of cashew cream, see recipe link for ingredients & directions
  • 1 container dairy free store bought pesto, or if making your own, note ingredients below
  • 2 cups soft greens including basil, arugula or baby spinach
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup mild nuts like cashews or pine nuts
  • 3-4 medium size zucchinis
  • ⅛ cup olive oil for brushing zucchini
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Begin by cooking your ground turkey or chicken, by simply sauteing on the stove top, and set aside.
  3. Slice or mandolin your zucchinis, placing them on a baking sheet.
  4. Brush zucchinis with a light coat of olive oil, then place in the oven and bake for 7-10 minutes.
  5. Add your filling ingredients to the zucchini slices, starting with the cashew cream, then the pesto, then sprinkle the chicken or turkey on top. Gently roll up each zucchini and place topping side up, nestling each roll into each other, to help them stay together.
  6. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes, then broil for ½ minutes to help them set.
  7. Serve with a side salad.


Daily Style – Cold Weather Wear


IMG_9397 Coat – Splendid; Python leggings – Splendid now on sale!; Cashmere Sweater – old but similar here; Faux Leather Reversible Bag - Nordstrom; Hunters – estate sale but you can find them at Nordstrom; Bangles – Madewell & Alex & Ani; Hat – Yellow 108 via Prism Boutique

Aside from a rain trench I invested in 2 years ago, it’s been years since I bought myself a coat. Despite the common belief that we don’t have much need for them here in Southern California, it does indeed get cold, with parts of Southern California seeing snow last weekend. And for a native California girl, even temps in the 60’s makes me shiver. So I’ve been saying I needed a coat for a couple of years now, but the trouble is since it’s such a special purchase I won’t need all that often, I can’t seem to commit to a certain style or color. Do I want a shawl collar or double breasted, go with classic camel or back, or make it special with a pattern or bright red? Belted, not belted, short or long. I imagine if I lived somewhere that actually received a true winter, this decision wouldn’t be so hard. You’d have plenty use for a coat everyday for months on end, so you could justify buying multiple coats in different styles and colors. Here in Southern California though, the purchase seems a bit more special, therefore requires more thought. Does this make any sense? Good Lord I can’t believe I’ve diddered on for a whole paragraph about my inability to commit to a coat. IMG_9405 Anyhow, I saw this coat at Splendid back in November and I fell in love. It’s perfect for Southern California because it’s lightweight while being warm enough, and is the perfect silhouette to throw over sweaters, blouses and even dresses, and it works well with almost anything. There’s a part of me that wish it had a belt or a button, but then the relaxed easiness of it would be ruined. So I waited and waited for this beauty to go on sale. But it hasn’t so far, yet as luck would have it, when I happened to stop in the store 2 weeks ago, they were having a special promotion. Donate 5 new or gently used books to the store, and receive 50% off one item. Sold! I went and got some books, brought them back and picked up this “perfect for Southern California” coat.
IMG_9370 IMG_9365 I realize those living in places which actually get really cold are laughing at me and my loose interpretation of the word “coat.” But that’s okay, it’s all the coat I ever need for awhile, or at least until I get the courage to buy a bright red coat.  IMG_9362 IMG_9358 I’m still considering myself one of the luckiest women in the world, after scoring these Hunter wellies at an estate sale 3 years ago, for $25. The estate sale gods were smiling on me that day. And of course I’m still loving and getting daily use out of my reversible tote. I, like most of you, beat my purses up so bad, and so far it’s still looking just as good as the day I got it.
IMG_9423 I’m working on a post about some of my best clothing purchases of 2014, which I’ll have out this week, and I have to say this black cashmere sweater is hands down one of the best things I bought all year. I wear this thing multiple times a week. And these bangles are my newest favorite accessory I sport everyday. I got them on sale at Madewell a few weeks before Christmas and they still have them online. They come in a set of 3, and are large enough to fit over my large hands, and are also lightweight enough so they don’t drive me crazy all day. And they look great with my growing Alex & Ani collection.  IMG_9434 Hoping you all had a great weekend, and have a wonderful week ahead. Happy Monday all XO

21 Day Cleanse Meal Plan & Shopping List Week 2


21Day-Cleanse_Banner We’ve almost made it through week 1 of the cleanse, and while many of us were fighting the Friday night cravings, most of us stayed diligent and powered through. By now most of you should be feeling a lot better, although you may notice some cravings may be kicking in, now that the shock and withdrawal period are over. That’s okay, it’s natural and understandable, and is why I’ve added in a few more good-for-you indulgent snacks in the mix, for week 2.

I also did a few other tweaks to the meal plan, based off of some great feedback from the ladies in the private Facebook group. Many work outside the home, so they were looking for more simple meals they could prep for lunch, and even a few crockpot meals they could leave cooking while away. They also couldn’t do smoothies or juices in the afternoon. So I’ve included more salads and soups that could be made in advance and make for great leftovers. There are also several crockpot meals, and to fix the smoothie problem, I’ve simply duplicated the morning snack, in the afternoon. Remember, the point of the afternoon drink is to help aid with digestion, so if you have the means, you may want to stick with the morning and afternoon smoothie or juice; just repeat one of your favorites. If not though, don’t sweat it.

Don’t sweat it is a phrase I’ve used quite a bit this week. Remember, this is a plan you are striving to meet as much as humanly possible, but we are human after all. While I don’t want to encourage picking and choosing parts of this plan to follow, as you will feel the full benefits when you stick to the plan as closely as possible, I don’t want anyone beating themselves up if things don’t go perfectly. We all have busy and full lives with work and family obligations, so we just want to do the very best we can.

The grocery list is pretty well complete, but compare it to items you may have already purchased last week, or already have in your pantry; there is likely overlap. I’ve notated the addition of extra veggies to eat as side dishes and snacks, so purchase accordingly. And while I tried to scale the recipe back a bit to include less, this is still a lot of cooking for 1 week, so pick and choose the ones that sound best to you, and enjoy leftovers. Lastly, I’ve also done my best to notate any substitutions or eliminations that need to be made, I am human so forgive any oversights. Keep in mind that if the recipe calls for dairy, wine, butter, or a sweetener like honey or sugar, you can make the necessary swaps or eliminate all together.

I think that’s it! I wish you all the best of luck as we enter week 2, and of course make sure to ask me any questions you may have! Enjoy!

Anti-inflammatory Mango Smoothie Pear & Sunflower Butter Roasted Cauliflower & Farro Salad, no feta Repeat am snack Roasted Sweet Potato & Cauli Rice w/ Ground Turkey
Godzilla Juice 1/2 roasted sweet potato wtih cashew cream & nuts Mason Jar, Chickpea & Farro Salad, sub honey & skip feta Repeat am snack Slow Cooker Chicken & Sweet Potato Kale Stew no tom. sauce
Berry Mint Kiss Smoothie Veggie Slices & Hummus or Paleo Almond Spread Carrot & Chickpea Soup Repeat am snack Crockpot Creamy Lemon Chicken & Kale Soup
House Special Veggie Chips & Guacamole Leftover soup Repeat am snack Weeknight Chicken skip pan sauce, with steamed veggies
Hula Hydrator Smoothie Rice Cakes & Almond Butter Pan Steamed Chicken & Broccoli with brown rice Repeat am snack Crockpot Cilantro Chicken with cauli rice or brown rice
Berry Mint Kiss Smoothie Hazelnuts & Golden Raisins Leftovers Repeat am snack Halibut Packets with Squash Date Compote, serve with fave veggie or rice
Godzilla Juice Crunchy Mix of plantains, goji berries, golden raisins & fave nuts Crunchy Root Salad sub coconut nectar for honey Repeat am snack Turkey Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms, serve with fave veggie

Download a printable copy of the 21 Day Cleanse Meal Plan Week 2.

Download a printable copy of the 21 Day Cleanse Shopping List Week 2.

Anti-Inflammatory Power Mango Smoothie


Power-Mango-Smoothie This smoothie came about last week when I realized I hadn’t followed my own grocery list to the “T.” I was going to make the Tropical Turmeric Cleanser, and I had failed to pick up frozen pineapple. I was also in the throes of sugar detox, and it is advised the best thing to help combat that awful feeling of seasickness, is with lots of protein. So I let that smoothie be the template for this one, and made some minor major tweaks to make it suit my own tastes and needs.  Power-Mango-Smoothie-Ingredients I added in hemp seeds, a powerful complete protein that would ensure I got a much needed extra dose of the stuff. Hemp seeds are one of the widely hailed “superfoods” and while I won’t make wild and powerful claims of its healing properties, I do know that in a smoothie, the taste is well-hidden, but topped on salads and oatmeal, it adds a nice and subtle mild crunch. I also subbed spinach for kale because I notice that kale in my smoothies, but not in my juices, has a tendency to give me an upset stomach.

I did make sure to leave in the turmeric, because we could all use more turmeric in our lives. The bright orange root looks very similar to ginger, and can be found in most grocery store produce sections. If you can’t find it though, go ahead and sub in powdered turmeric, but only use about 1/2-1 tsp, as its powerful stuff.  You’ll notice that the inclusion of both the ginger and turmeric in this smoothie gives a subtle dose of spice, and nicely offsets the sweet frozen mango flavor. Turmeric is widely known as being a powerful anti-inflammatory food, and is often prescribed by both holistic and traditional western medicine doctors as a way to help combat a whole host of symptoms. I’m using it almost daily to help with my backaches. By the way, if you are using fresh mango, go ahead and use more ice.

Combine all the ingredients in a powerful blender and blend up. I have this Vitamix Professional Series model and I have not been disappointed with its performance. This makes 2 smaller servings or 1 very large and generous serving. I find it easily feeds myself and my trusty sidekick Hayden, who’s always around and ready to gulp down any smoothie or green juice I make.  Power-Mango-Smoothie-With-Turmeric


Anti-Inflammatory Power Mango Smoothie
Prep time
Cook time
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This protein packed smoothie is not only delicious, but also anti-inflammatory.
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Serves: 2
  • 1 heaping cup frozen mango
  • 1 heaping cup fresh baby spinach
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup coconut water
  • 1 knuckle size knob each of fresh ginger and turmeric, peeled (use 1 tsp powdered turmeric if you can't find fresh)
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 tbsp hemp seeds
  • 1 cup ice (use 2 cups ice if using fresh mango)
  1. Combine all ingredients in a powerful blender and blend till smooth


21 Day Cleanse Update


21Day-Cleanse_Banner The babysitter has been here since 8 am, and I’ve been sitting in front of my computer screen for at least an hour, trying to type up my article for Babble, and go through emails. I feel almost completely worthless though, in terms of getting anything accomplished which requires actual brainpower. I slept for over 8 hours, but I still woke up groggy and with a headache. The sugar withdrawal is killer today, as I feel like I’m dealing with an intense bout of seasickness. I honestly didn’t think the first few days would be so hard this time, seeing as how I’ve already given up caffeine, so it would be one less withdrawal to deal with, but it seems I’m not getting away scot-free this time. After a month of parties, baking and lots of eating out, there was obviously more sugar in my system than I thought. IMG_9755

I know I’m not alone, as others in the Facebook group have also professed to feeling like crud, and it’s only day 2! Well, I’m here to tell you that it gets better. I can honestly say that misery does not always love company, and I feel terrible that quite a few ladies are experiencing the debilitating headaches, queasiness and brain fog that comes with a sugar and caffeine withdrawal, but I assure you this is a normal part of the process. If you’re doing Whole 30, you may already know this and have braced yourself. A few tips to help you manage the pain better, speaking from experience. IMG_9756

1. Make sure to eat and drink protein. In my excitement to build a meal plan, I failed to account for this by placing green juices front and center each morning for the first few days. It’s the one thing I would go back and edit about the meal plan this week. While greens do indeed have some sort of protein and carbohydrates in them, they are not a “complete protein”, and so if you are experiencing major withdrawal symptoms, switch out the green juices for the first few mornings and go with a protein packed smoothie. Several of the ones I listed for your afternoon drink will do just fine, and I shared another great protein-packed smoothie this morning on IG. I’ve shared the recipe below so you can print out, sorry for the not so pretty picture. Other than that, eat cleanse-friendly protein for lunch and dinner, and especially at your snack time. Protein is the key to balancing blood sugar and insulin and cutting cravings. IMG_9834

2. Drink lots of water! Water will not only help flush you out but will supply much needed oxygen to your blood supply, helping to decrease feelings of fatigue and increase energy and mental clarity. Chug, chug, chug.

3. Taper off, with caffeine anyhow. I recommend just going cold-turkey with the sugar, but if you are a major caffeine junkie, others have found relief by cutting their caffeine intake over the first few days, from drinking less coffee and/or replacing it with green tea. This will help ease symptoms, until you can eventually cut it out all together. It’s day 2, so even if you just have a cup of green tea this afternoon, it may help your symptoms just a bit, and aim to eliminate the tea altogether in the next couple of days. I’ve also heard great things about ditching caffeine with the help of Reishi Roast. Drinking herbal tea seems to help with the ritual of having something warm to drink each morning, as well as my favorite truly decaf coffee, Allegro, which uses the Swiss Water Method to achieve beans that are 99.9% caffeine free. Either way, by day 4 you should be feeling a lot better anyhow, so you may just want to power through it.

4. Don’t be a martyr and take some Advil. It seriously helps ease the headaches, and we’re not trying to win a pain competition here, just get through the first few days.

5. Rest, rest, rest! The most shocking thing I’ve learned about myself both times I’ve gone through caffeine withdrawals, is how much I disrupt my body’s natural call for rest, by filling it with caffeine. You may feel especially tired the next couple of days because you’ve taken away 2 very powerful stimulants; caffeine and sugar. Allow it proper rest. Also, consider scaling back on your normal workout routine. A brisk walk outside will help you feel a little more refreshed, but an intense bootcamp session or super hot yoga class may just leave you feeling sick and drained.

6. When all else fails, just press on. I promise it gets better and when you wake up feeling fantastic around day 6-7ish, you’ll be so happy you fought on.

It’s shocking to see how our bodies revolt when we eliminate sugar and caffeine from them, and is a powerful reminder of just how powerful this stuff is.

Some interesting reading material to consider, if you’re wondering why in the heck you even agreed to this in the first place!

Caffeine is one of those items that is still up for debate, and while I’m not here to tackle that debate, I think we can all agree that some of us have a better and healthier relationship with the substance than others. For me personally, I was addicted and the addiction led to awful afternoon slumps, and when I didn’t drink “good coffee” filtered through a Chemex, I got gross indigestion and reflux from the stuff.  I thought this was a nerdy and interesting read on what caffeine actually does to your brain gives you some things to consider, especially if you’re no longer seeing the “buzz” effects from it.

Going back to the afternoon slump, seems caffeine could intensify it, and if you want to get the best results from drinking caffeine, if you decide to go back on the stuff, this article explains the best time to drink it. Bottom line, it seems that caffeine interferes with our bodies natural circadian rhythms. If you suspect you may not have the best or healthiest relationship with caffeine, read up on some of the reasons why you may consider giving up the stuff.

When I found this infographic last year about sugar, and just how much of it we eat, I was floored. A picture is sometimes worth a thousand words, don’t you think? Did you catch the part about sugar being just as addictive as cocaine?

So tell me how is it going for all of you? Do you want to punch someone in the face yet, or are you still curled up in a ball? Hang in there, no matter what phase you’re in, we’re in this together! IMG_9836


Protein Packed Blueberry Smoothie
This protein packed smoothie will help power you through your morning routine!
Recipe type: Smoothie
Cuisine: Breakfast
Serves: 2
  • 1 Cup frozen blueberries
  • 2 tbsp. almond butter
  • 2 tbsp. pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp. hemp seeds
  • 4 whole walnuts
  • 5 whole cashews
  • 3-4 dates
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin coconut oil
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup water
  • *if using fresh berries, add a cup of your ice to your blender first
  1. Place all ingredients in a blender, in the order they are listed, and blend till smooth and creamy.



Roasted Sweet Potato Cauliflower Rice with Cashew Cream


Roasted-Sweet-Potato-Cauliflower-Rice-7 Last year (for me) was the Year of Cauliflower Rice. And I plan on extending that well into 2015 and beyond. I really believe that we are what we eat and can heal ourselves to a certain extent through the foods we eat. Over the past five years, I discovered a love for vegetables and simple, healthy recipes that I never dreamed could be possible. Roasted-Sweet-Potato-Cauliflower-Rice-5

I love that Andrea is sharing her journey to better health with all of us. It’s definitely inspired me to dial back and get those unhealthy habits that crept back in over the holidays back in check. Man those sugar cravings were hard to resist! I’m getting more in tune with my body and I’m noticing that those cravings go away when I feast on healthy, nutrient-dense foods and not on junk. So…let’s talk about this Roasted Sweet Potato Cauliflower Rice because I cannot get enough of it!

If you haven’t made cauliflower “rice” it’s so, so easy to do. You just need a food processor or blender and a head of cauliflower. The outer leaves and core are removed, the florets chopped a bit, then they go into the food processor or blender to be pulsed until finely chopped. The important thing is to not chop the cauliflower too much, or you’ll have mush instead of a rice-like texture. Roasted-Sweet-Potato-Cauliflower-Rice Roasted-Sweet-Potato-Cauliflower-Rice-2

Roasting veggies brings out the natural sweetness, which sweet potatoes already have going for them. I love the different textures in this recipe. The beans have a little bit of chew to them, the sweet potatoes are so creamy and soft after roasting, and the cauliflower resembles couscous (even though I’m calling it “rice”). Roasted-Sweet-Potato-Cauliflower-Rice-3 Roasted-Sweet-Potato-Cauliflower-Rice-4

I am 100% in love with cashew cream too. It’s such a great whole food replacement for sour cream. I add plenty of lime juice so it’s nice and tangy. If you forget to soak the cashews overnight like I always seem to, you can fake it by soaking them for a shorter time in boiling water. The longer they soak, the smoother the cream will be. You’ll have more cream than you need for this recipe – it’s easier to blend larger batches. Just pop it in the fridge in an airtight container and it will keep for a few days, or it can be frozen for a few weeks. (It’s really good with fresh fruit and a sprinkle of granola for breakfast.) Roasted-Sweet-Potato-Cauliflower-Rice-6 Roasted-Sweet-Potato-Cauliflower-Rice-8

This makes a fantastic, filling vegetarian main dish, or can be served on the side of roasted chicken, fish, or meat.

Roasted Sweet Potato Cauliflower Rice with Cashew Cream
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A hearty vegetarian dish, perfect for the cold winter months.
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Serves: 4-6
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut, avocado or grapeseed oil
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 medium-large cauliflower
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1½ cups cooked black beans (see note)
  • Juice of 2 large limes, divided
  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in hot water for 1-2 hours and drained
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Fresh cilantro, for garnish
  1. Prepare cashew cream - place drained cashews and juice of 1 lime into a blender. Puree until smooth, adding a little fresh water as needed until creamy and smooth. Add salt to taste, about ¼ teaspoon. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use. (You will have more than is needed for this recipe. Leftovers will keep for a few days in the fridge, or several months frozen.)
  2. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the sweet potato cubes with a little of the coconut oil (melted, if solid) and season well with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast for 20-25 minutes. Keep warm until ready to add to other ingredients.
  3. While sweet potatoes are roasting, remove outer leaves and core from cauliflower. Roughly chop. Working in batches if needed, place cauliflower in food processor or blender and pulse until finely chopped, but not pureed.
  4. Heat the remaining coconut oil in a large skillet. Add the diced onion and cook over medium heat until softened, about 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30-60 seconds more. Add the chili powder and cumin. Cook for another 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the cauliflower and cook, stirring often to prevent burning, for 10 minutes or until just cooked through. If it starts to stick to the bottom, add a little bit of water, but not too much. Add the black beans and roasted sweet potatoes; stir to combine.
  5. Remove from heat and squeeze lime juice over the top. Spoon out onto plates and add a dollop of cashew cream on top and sprinkle with cilantro.


What Worked In 2014


This week my friend Ann over at Modern Mrs. Darcy posted a list of several things that worked for her in 2014, and it inspired me to come up with my own list. Since 2014 seemed challenging, especially with the frantic pace we were sometimes running at, I have really tried to be more optimistic in the last year, and focusing on what worked seemed like a good exercise in positivity. I have to say though that it was somewhat hard coming up with this list, my mind automatically wandering to “what didn’t work,” since there’s always ups and downs in a party of 5. Alas, I came up with several things; some minor and some big, and it was helpful to take note of good practices I’d like to keep going in 2015.

1. Investing in a new bed
2014 was the year of insomnia and backaches, and I was sure replacing our 10 year old mattress would cure all my problems. While it didn’t help my backaches, it has certainly helped my insomnia. I consistently woke up between 2-4 am and had trouble falling back asleep, not able to get comfortable. The new bed feels ridiculously good to sleep in and within a week I was no longer waking in the wee hours of the morning. We bought a Dormeo Octaspring bed by the way, a memory foam mattress that is made up of lots of memory foam springs, so it sleeps cooler than the older memory foam mattresses. IMG_5767

2. New bedtime routine
Since I was really hell bent on getting more sleep in 2014, I also switched up my bedtime routine. Either during the kid’s own bedtime routine, or right after they went to bed, I washed my face, took out my contacts and brushed my teeth, and then got into my jammies. I was then already set for bed when I got drowsy. My old routine involved flopping on the couch to watch TV as soon as the kids went to bed, and then putting off going to bed because I was feeling too lazy to do the whole routine. I then ended up falling asleep on the couch, only to drag myself to bed by midnight, barely having the energy to brush my teeth let alone wash my face. This new routine helped me get to bed by 10pm most nights, which in turn helped me sleep a lot better.

3. Moving the boys in together
Having the boys share a bedroom was always part of the plan, but when we finally made that happen this summer, it was glorious. By having them share a room, we got an office back which in turn meant we recaptured our own bedroom, as my desk and computer had sat 12 inches from my bed for the last two years. And for the most part, the boys love sharing, although Syd gets frustrated when it’s nap time and he can’t play in his room. Not the end of the world though, and all around a great move I’m so glad we did.

4. My Time Magazine & Cooks Illustrated subscriptions
My friend gifted me the CI subscription and after the first issue arrived I wondered how I had cooked without it for so long, and I signed up for Time in late Spring, sure I’d never get around to reading it but wanting to have something “smart” in the house to read if I had the time. Turns out, when each issue comes, for both Time and CI, I immediately sit down and read through cover to cover. They have helped me to not just “feel” smarter, but have genuinely helped me become more informed and become a better cook. IMG_7230

5. Our CSA’s
Having failed before in the community supported agriculture (CSA) way of life, I wasn’t sure how we’d fare this time around, but since changing the way we eat, it’s become one of the things I look forward to the most each month. We belong to a produce CSA and a beef CSA, and both have ensured we eat healthy, organic and locally grown food each and every month, and they’ve helped us save some money too!

6. Sirius subscription
We got a 1 year free Sirius XM subscription when we bought our car last year, and it’s about the only thing I listened to all year long. It expired on December 24th and I already miss it. I loved the alternative channel, and it helped me find tons of new-to-me bands this year, and I also loved the news channels for around the clock world news.

7. Going back to a paper planner
After several missed appointments and consistently failing at getting through the to-do lists scribbled on scraps of paper, I went back to a paper planner in September, and it’s made me wonder why I even abandoned the darn thing. Do you know you’re more likely to remember things if you *write* them down? No wonder I’ve been a bit more reliable the past couple of months. I bought this Kate Spade agenda and I LOVE it! IMG_5917

8. Pinning inspiring quotes
As silly as this sounds, I got a lot out of finding inspiring, positive and upbeat quotes to pin, and not so ironically, it’s one of my most highly followed boards. I should get a job doing it in fact. I attribute it to the power of positive thinking, and by immersing yourself in the world of positive thinking, you can’t help but let some of it seep into your own mindset. It sort of reminds me of the story that came out this year about the guy who changed his life with his computer password.

9. Forcing family alone time
A social creature by nature, I have a hard time *not* making plans with friends and family. I love being around others, but this year, I made a solid commitment to myself, to give the social commitments a bit of a rest, especially on the weekend when the kids and Art really need to wind down. At first it felt really weird to not have something social planned Saturday and Sunday of every weekend, but eventually it felt right. And I’m pretty sure we’re all better for it. IMG_6986

10. Changing out my hangers to slim-line ones
For months I saved up BB&B coupons, and finally completed my project over the summer; to switch out all our old mismatched plastic and wire hangers to the flocked covered slim-line ones, and it’s made putting clean clothes away less of a chore, and saved us a ton of room in our small closet. IMG_6114

11. Changing everything about the way I drink my coffee
I’ve switched from a Keurig to a Chemex, switched from CoffeeMate to half and half with maple syrup, now to straight up black, and switched from full-fueled coffee to 100% decaf. It feels ridiculous to look back on this past year of coffee drinking and call it a “journey”, but in fact it was, and now I enjoy the warm tasty beverage each morning, with none of the ill side effects, including an afternoon slump and occasional heartburn.

Anything in particular work for you in 2014? I’ll share what didn’t work later in the week, so I can try and not make the same mistakes next year.

21 Day Cleanse Meal Plan & Shopping List


21Day-Cleanse_Banner The meal plan for this cleanse looks a lot different than last time, primarily because it’s a whole new season. When I went through this in late Summer, the focus was on grilled fishes and chicken, and lots and lots of salads. This time though, we are in the midst of Winter, and our diet should somewhat reflect the cold season, and the fruits and vegetables grown within this season. Eating with the seasons is not only cheaper and easier, but it’s better for you too (in-season vegetables and fruits are shown to pack a more nutrient dense punch), so you’ll find this meal plan filled with lots of warming and comforting soups, and plenty of winter vegetables and fruits. Of course there’s the occasional warm weather fruit thrown in, like mango, but I’ve noted what you should and probably will have to buy frozen.

Keep in mind that this meal plan is extensive, for the sole purpose of providing you with lots of ideas that could easily last you the whole three weeks. This specific meal plan is a lot of cooking for one week, so please keep in mind I’m not suggesting you have to or should cook this much; it truly is to provide you with ideas. The last time I was on the cleanse I ate lots of leftovers and made the same thing for a few days in a row, like the very same green juice or in the afternoon when I didn’t want to clean a juicer or a blender, I drank plain almond milk with an Aloha pack. So tailor this for your needs and wants and capability in terms of cooking. Also, these dinner recipes should easily feed a family of 4, so again, adjust accordingly if you have a larger or smaller family.

Lastly, I tried to tailor the meal plan with recipe ideas that used the same ingredients in numerous places, so there was less waste, and to try and condense the grocery and ingredient list. If you hate pumpkin or butternut squash for instance, there’s a lot of it on here, so feel free to get other ideas in the link I provided below, or on my Pinterest board. When you take a look at the grocery list, you’ll note that I’ve added EVERYTHING you may need for these recipes, including all the spices and oils, assuming you were starting with an empty kitchen. Since that’s likely not the case, don’t fret when you see the long list, just cross out what you already have on hand. I think that’s pretty much it. Let me know if you have any questions. I’ll try to provide some more ideas throughout the 21 day period, but this should definitely get you started strong. Good luck!

Simple Green Juice Apple & 1-2 tbsp almond butter Braised Lentils & Vegetables Almond & Date Smoothie 1 Pot Chicken Stew
Turmeric Beet Juice Roasted Chickpeas Rainbow Salad in a Jar Chai Gingerbread Shake Vegan Coconut Red Curry over brown rice
Carrot Beet Juice Handful of raw almonds & a pear Leftover Vegan Coconut Curry over brown rice Spiced Almond Milk, sub coconut nectar for maple syrup Roasted Chicken with Grapes & Olives, sub chicken broth in place of wine
Red Grape Cooler No Bake Lemon Macaroons, sub coconut nectar or date paste for maple syrup Chicken Burgers, Thai Style with steamed veggies or garden salad Thanksgiving In Your Mouth Shake Pan Steamed Chicken & Broccoli
Simple Green Juice Kale Chips Harvest Carrot Quinoa Salad Cranberry Pumpkin Smoothie Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash & Kale
Carrot Beet Juice Apple & 1-2 tbsp of almond butter Slow Cooker Creamy Pumpkin Soup Tropical Turmeric Cleanser Butter Nut Squash Noodles & Baked Salmon, sub coconut nectar for maple syrup
Turmeric Beet Juice Handful of walnuts & pear Crockpot Whole Chicken with steamed veggies Coconut water & Good Greens Aloha pack Leftover Roast Chicken Soup with Roasted Veggies

Download a printable copy of the 21 Day Cleanse Meal Plan.

Download a printable copy of the 21 Day Cleanse Shopping List.

Additional cleanse-friendly recipes.

Restart in 2015 With a 21 Day Cleanse


21Day-Cleanse_Banner I’m not too sad about seeing 2014 come to a close. As I sit here with a hacking cough, the second cold I’ve caught in December, I look forward to starting all over in 2015, with a new found respect for what it means to be healthy, and a new mission to try and make the most of the year, both mentally and physically. Of course 2014 had many bright spots, but my Hashimoto’s diagnosis was not one of them, and after going through a 21 day cleanse at the end of summer, it feels odd to go back and read that post, where I wrote how unlikely it was that I had an autoimmune disease. Joke was on me.

While the recent switch to gluten-free has greatly improved my brain fog and given me a new found spark of energy, I continue to suffer daily with grueling backaches, despite seeing a chiropractor and doing thousands of hours of yoga. I still need to write a recap of my first visit with my new Integrative Doctor, but one of the things she suggested I try for the backaches was to do another elimination diet in the new year, and see how I feel, as she suspects dairy may be part of the culprit. I’m willing to try anything at this point, and since way too many glasses of wine and cheese found its way into my mouth this month, I’m anxious to get started with another round of the 21 day cleanse on Monday January 5th. I invite anyone who is interested to join me, and have already had a tremendous response on Instagram, so if you’re willing to give this a try and looking for further details, read on. 219

Elimination details:

For 21 days, say no to these foods: dairy, eggs, red meat, soy, gluten, wheat, corn, refined grains, alcohol, soda, caffeine, nightshades and sugar in most forms, including cane sugar, maple syrup, honey, and refined sugar, and of course the vast majority of all processed foods. There are acceptable forms of sugar including date paste and coconut nectar. Most fruits are allowed with the exception of strawberries, bananas and oranges (limes and lemons okay).

For 21 days you’ll eat plenty of these foods: turkey, chicken, fresh fish (not raw), dairy free beverages including coconut milk and almond milk, nuts and seeds like cashews and almonds. legumes and whole grains like brown rice and quinoa, healthy fats including olive oil, coconut oil and ghee, and of course plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Full details of foods to avoid, and why, can be found through this link. 318

Purpose of the elimination diet:

This particular set of food categories can be extremely taxing on our digestive system, causing a lot of our bodily energy to go towards digestive work. When you eliminate these hard-to-digest foods, you free up much of the energy wasted on initiating immune responses. These foods can also be highly allergenic for certain individuals and by eliminating these foods, and then slowly adding them back in, you can see which, if any, you’re sensitive to. Besides, most Americans would benefit greatly  just by the simple removal or reduction of added sugars, soda and alcoholic beverages.

What a typical day looks like:

This elimination diet is more about giving your body a chance to rest and a heal, and less about “dieting” to lose weight. You will have a juice or smoothie in the morning, a mid-morning snack consisting of something like an apple and almond butter, a regular portion size lunch, another juice or smoothie in the afternoon as your mid-day snack, and a regular portion size dinner. You don’t count calories or restrict portions, eating until you are comfortably full, and are allowed to snack on healthy, nutrient dense foods. The idea behind the smoothies for breakfast and mid-afternoon snack, is just to give your body a chance to rest, as these are easier to digest. IMG_3017

How you’ll likely feel:

In the beginning, especially days 2-4, you’ll most likely feel terrible, at least I did. The caffeine and sugar withdrawals were horrendous, and I spent day 2 and 3 in a blurred, exhausted mental fog. Once you reach day 5 though, you’ll start to turn a corner and by day 7, you’ll most likely feel great. Just be prepared for that initial withdrawal period, and try to adjust your schedule and activities accordingly, in other words, if possible don’t sign up for anything too strenuous.

Once you’ve gotten over the tough part, you will likely notice an increase in energy, including less of an afternoon slump, improved digestion, improved mental clarity, and an overall lighter feeling, most likely because you’ll feel less bloated. While this cleanse isn’t about losing weight, by the simple elimination of sugary foods and alcohol, you will most likely loose some weight. By the end of day 21 last time, I had lost 6 pounds, going from 145 to 139 lbs.

Is this a detox?

The idea of detoxing has come to mean a lot of different things, and in the end, it really means something different to everyone. I recently read this article about detoxes, and I can’t say I disagree with it, which is why you’ll find me staying away from the detox word. So if this isn’t a detox, what is it, and is it necessary? I can only speak from my personal experience, but after eating extremely healthy for a year, nothing made me feel as good this year, as I did during the last cleanse. I don’t necessarily believe that I was really “flushing” toxins out of my system, but I absolutely believe that I was giving my body a much needed break by eliminating sugar, alcohol and caffeine. Whether tomatoes and eggplants were really causing my body any harm, I have a hard time believing, but no one can convince me that eliminating sugar and some other foods, was a bad thing for me.  All this to say, call it what you want, but I will personally be staying away from the detox word. IMG_3018

Tips and advice:

  • I want this to be an encouraging endeavor for all involved, so whether you’ll be joining me on this particular cleanse, or doing some other eating plan like Whole 30, all are welcome to join the Facebook group and follow along on Instagram for support. If you decide to join in, I urge you to at least give yourself 7 days to get the hang of it and see how your body starts feeling. Everyone has different schedules and demands, so if you find this to be too taxing to continue for 21 days, no one is going to fault you, but I encourage you to at least give it a week.
  • Keep it simple. I’ll be sharing some recipe ideas and sample meal plans, but if you have a tight schedule, and work outside the home especially, make simple dishes like a roasted chicken which you eat on a salad for lunch, and at night with some steamed veggies. Turkey patties or turkey meatballs are great in a pinch and are quick and easy to whip up. This doesn’t have to be complicated! Save the weekends for trying a new recipe or spicing things up a bit.
  • Use shortcuts like a great bottled salad dressing like Tessemae’s, which can be used for dipping turkey patties, marinading chicken breasts in, and of course as a salad dressing. Aloha packs are great too so you can add to water or almond milk for an easy and quick afternoon snack drink.
  • Eating out will be a huge challenge, I’m not going to lie. It is nearly impossible, especially at chain restaurants, to find a single menu item which does not contain one of the elimination foods. So keep this in mind when making your schedule. Smaller restaurants, where they make everything in-house, are much more likely to accommodate you by holding the sauce on cuts of poultry, or making a simple side of steamed veggies. If you must eat out, try to call ahead and ask if the kitchen will make accommodations for you.
  • It’s easier than you think. Yes, it will be hard, but if you are somewhat used to cooking at home, you can easily make a bounty of recipes and foods that are cleanse-friendly, and won’t leave you feeling bored or deprived. The hardest part will most likely be avoiding temptations like sweets, but in terms of cooking cleanse-approved foods, the possibilities are really endless.
  • My last bit of advice, is not to go out on a wild eating bender the day before you begin. Filling up on all your pleasure foods including sugar and alcohol the days before will leave you feeling especially miserable when you begin. Instead, try to focus on limiting sweets, caffeine and alcohol in the 1-2 days leading up to the start of the cleanse.

How is this different than Paleo or Whole 30?

Some grains and legumes are still allowed, while red meat and eggs are not allowed. You are also replacing your typical breakfast meal with a smoothie or juice. Other than that, they are nearly identical in terms of the elimination of sugar and alcohol, gluten and dairy, and focus on eating nutrient-dense foods.

Why this cleanse?

At the time when I first tried this particular program, I was desperate to try and feel better and anxious to get started. It was before my Hashimoto’s diagnosis, but after having my 7th case of strep that year. Because It’s All Good has a loose interpretation of the cleanse program, I saved myself time and frustration and just went with that one. And it worked! I felt fantastic, better than I had felt all year, and so if it ain’t broke, why fix it? While fault can be found in virtually all types of dietary programs, goodness knows Paleo and Whole 30 has seen their fair share of critics, I think this program is pretty solid and relatively easy to maintain. Is it perfect and do I believe in everything Dr. Junger says? Of course not, and I don’t believe you need to spend $400 on supplements and a guide, when you can do this for free at home. That’s why we’re going to do this together and with each other’s support. IMG_3022

Reintroduction phase:

While I’m sure many who follow along may be eager to fit into their jeans again after a fun-filled holiday season, and will rush to have a piece of pie and a glass of wine on day 22, I know some of those participating may in fact be looking out for their trigger foods. I for one will be slowly reintroducing dairy to see if I notice any ill effects. If you want to track your trigger food items, you can slowly reintroduce them, and this document will guide you along the way.

Recommended reading & supplies:

You certainly don’t need to have a copy of IT’S ALL GOODon hand to follow along, but if you do have the book, there are plenty of cleanse friendly recipes that you can follow to mix things up. In her book she refers to them as Detox friendly recipes, and a sample menu is found in the back of the book.

A Pinterest account will do wonders for helping you find plenty of foods to eat. Just look for recipes free of of the elimination foods, which are plentiful. Any whole 30 or paleo recipe, as long as it excludes beef or eggs, will work just fine, as will your typical “eat clean” recipes. I have a clean eating board on Pinterest which includes plenty of ideas as well, and will provide my own sample menu and recipes by the end of the week.

You don’t need a juicer or a powerful Vitamix 1363 CIA Pro to get through this, but if you do want to invest in a basic introductory juicer, Brevilleand Omegas are great, and a simple Jack Lalanne Power Juicer will also get you started just fine. And plenty of people also love Blendtec, Magic Bulletand Ninja Professional Blender , which are considerably cheaper than a Vitamix.

If you want a recap of my cleanse experience last time, you can read this recap post and this post, which goes into how to thrive on a cleanse.

If you aren’t ready for a cleanse, but are eager to turn a tide in the new year, perhaps you want to try something less restrictive like the 30 day challenge we did earlier this year. I put together a clean eating swapping guide, which will hopefully prove useful in your journey.

Wherever you are in your health journey, and whatever your goals may be, once again I encourage anyone interested in testing the waters or diving head first, to join us in the private Facebook group, and follow along with me on Instagram. We’ll begin on Monday, January 5th.

Please let me know if I’ve missed any thing, and of course ask any questions you may have!

Last Minute Doily Gift Topper


Doily gift topper

Every holiday season I try and come up with some new and creative gift toppers for holiday gifts. In fact, my family has started to look forward to these crazy gift toppers every year. It’s kind of fun because the gift topper becomes like a little gift itself. This year I have been particularly swamped with other tasks (read toddler and newborn) so I needed a gift topper craft that was simple, quick, and still lovely. I think this doily gift topper would make any elf proud!

Items you will need:

Doily gift topper

Doily gift topper

– Paper doily in varying sizes

– Sewing pins (but thumb tacks would work as well)

– A Styrofoam ball and knife

– Glue to attach the topper to the gift

Doily gift topper

Step 1: To begin, cut the Styrofoam ball in half. I used a regular kitchen knife for this. The flat side of the ball will lay flush with the gift box top.

Doily gift topper

Doily gift topper

Doily gift topper

Step 2: Next, insert a pin or tack in the center of a doily. Then gather the doily around the pin to create a ruffled flower look.

Doily gift topper

Doily gift topper

Step 3: Insert the pin into the rounded surface of the Styrofoam ball and make sure it is securely attached.

Doily gift topper

Step 4: Then repeat steps 2 and 3 until the entire rounded surface of the ball is covered in ruffled doily. To attach my gift topper to my gifts I used a hot glue gun.

Now how simple was that!? My favorite part about this gift topper is that is looks lovely for any occasion. Which means I will probably (most definitely) be re-using it for Valentines Day.

Doily gift topper