My Pocketbook-Friendly Go-to Gluten Free Flour Mix

Last night I discovered my new go-to gluten free flour mix with 3 simple ingredients:

  • Rice flour
  • Almond flour
  • Coconut flour

I was making a recipe that called for 2 cups of flour and I used the following measurements:

  • 2/3 cup rice flour
  • 1/3 almond flour
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour

 

Let me tell you this is a winning combination that helped me make, quite possibly, THE BEST banana bread I have ever made! It truly rose up like a bread and was better held together while still being deliciously moist.

I find that mixing my own gluten free flour is much more economically sustainable than purchasing the already-made stuff from the grocery store.  For example, even one of the cheapest gluten-free flour mixes I’ve seen advertised is around $4.00 for 22 oz (2.75 cups).  I would have used almost $3.00 worth for this recipe alone. 

Instead, I spent less than $1.50 on the flour:

  • 32 oz (2 lb) bag of almond flour $11.32 (12 recipes that call for 2 cups of total flour)=$0.94 for this recipe
  • 8 oz bag of coconut flour $0.99 (3 recipes that call for 2 cups of total flour)=$0.33
  • 16 oz bag of rice flour $0.60 (3 recipes that call for 2 cups of total flour)=$0.20

Total spent on this recipe: $1.47

 

I spent half as much on the flour called for this recipe as I would have with some of the cheapest prepared store-bought mixes! That means I got to combine two of my favorite hobbies: baking and saving money: win-win! 🙂 

Refreshing Blackberry Mint Spritzer with Coconut Rum

So I know that alcohol isn’t necessarily the healthiest item in the kitchen…but I did have a package of blackberries that I needed to put to good use so here we go!

Ingredients:

1 bunch fresh mint

1/2 cup fresh blackberries

Coconut rum

Mineral water

Ice

 

Ingredients to make the Blackberry Syrup:

1 cup blackberries

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup granulated sugar

Juice of half a small lemon

Combine ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat

Stir together occasionally until mixture reaches a boil

Boil for 2  minutes, stirring frequently

 

Remove from heat and let cool, stirring occasionally

Muddle several fresh blackberries with 2 sprigs of fresh mint in a glass

Add ice

Pour 1 oz of coconut rum over ice

Add 1/3 cup of mineral water

Add 3 tbsp of blackberry syrup

Stir, serve and enjoy!

¡Viva la Cuba!

When I heard that travel was opening up for tourism in Cuba I was thrilled and knew that I had to do it-and fast in lieu of our current administration.  Luckily I have a fun boyfriend who goes along with my adventurous whims!

Planning this trip, like many trips I take, was almost half the fun.  I was so happy to search for the best deals I could find as I am a very frugal traveler and an all-around lover of great deals.  To my pleasant surprise, it was much more possible to travel to Cuba on a shoestring budget than I imagined.

Per Person Cost:

$224.00 Flights to/from Orlando

$203.56 Flights to/from Havana

$50 Cuban visa (purchased at the gate on the way to Havana)

$70 Staying with a local in Havana

$150 Local transportation, food and drinks

Total: Under $700 for a week’s trip to Cuba!

 

I highly recommend making this trip while it is still possible.  Floridians are especially lucky because there are so many direct flights from Tampa to Havana for around $200 roundtrip-this trip is easily doable on a budget of under $500 if you live in Florida. 

Travel requirements include a current passport and a Cuban visa.  The easiest way to get the visa is to purchase it directly from the airline at the gate (hats off to JetBlue for making it so convenient and easy).  In order to get the visa you must select a reason for travel.  “People-to-people” is the best option for non-educational, non-governmental tourists.  I qualified for this travel reason by staying with locals, using the local transportation system and supporting local restaurants.  I will admit, I did go to a popular hotel on a couple occasions to use the internet (be prepared, you will not find wifi accessible in most places).  

I typically avoid touristy places when I travel internationally, I prefer to culturally immerse myself and go “where the real people go.” I converse with the locals and do what they recommend.  This is easy to do in Cuba as the culture is very warm and open.  I had the chance to practice my Spanish as well, which was an added bonus.  We met some awesome people who were very friendly and helpful in sharing ideas of what’s fun.  We went to the beaches where the locals told us they like to go on the weekends.  They were full of happy people of all ages swimming and enjoying life in the sun.  It was super fun and there was yummy cheap food being made in stands near the beach where they also sold ice cold Cuban beer-my kind of place!

Traveling to the beaches was an adventure as it requires going by car.  There is nothing quite like riding along the Cuban coast in an old imported car from the early-mid 1900s.  It’s truly impressive how well people take care of their vehicles, and I really appreciated the opportunity to experience what felt like stepping back in time.

Besides visiting the gorgeous beaches my favorite activities were riding bikes around the city and eating/hanging out at some amazing restaurants that were in walking distance from our host.  We also enjoyed some delicious fare that our host graciously prepared for us.  I especially loved the breakfast as there were so many delicious tropical fruits like fresh mangoes, bananas and guava-and the juices! Forget about it!

My Updated IUD Experience

Two Mondays ago I received the copper IUD and, while I stand by just about everything I wrote in my initial post, I do want to share some crucial lessons I have learned.

Lesson number 1:

The period does last a little longer than normal: Prepare!

As I mentioned, my periods are regular, short and virtually non-problematic thanks to a healthy diet and consistent exercise routine.  This time I did experience an additional 3 days of bleeding.  Instead of lasting 4 days it lasted about 7.  I made sure to carry extra mini-liners in addition to using my Athena cup almost every day of my period instead of only 1 or 2 days.

Lesson number 2:

There is more discomfort: Pamper!

I almost never have cramps and when I do I would rate them around a 1 on a 0-10 pain scale.  This time I did experience cramps that I would rate a good 3-4 out of 10.  There was really only one day of cramping and I only had about 4 actual cramps that day, and a couple more randoms during the week.  Being the self-loving nurturer of my sacred femininity that I am, I went out and got some wonderful epsom salt with lavender oil and had several hot, relaxing candlelit baths to pamper myself during the week.  I highly recommend doing this whenever you’re dealing with cramps, sore muscles in general or just having a bad day-it’s amazing how wonderful it can make you feel, especially while listening to your favorite relaxing music.  🙂

Lesson number 3:

The bleeding is heavier: Iron up!

My biggest lesson from my IUD experience is that anemia is real!! Thus, I’ve learned that I need to ramp up my intake of iron, vitamin C (for adequate absorption of iron) and vitamin B12, which will help prevent the ever-so-lovely draining sensation of being anemic.  

See what had happened was…by the 3rd day I was really getting my flow on and I was at the point where I was feeling a little tired but not really weak or drained.  That was a Tuesday, which is one of my work out days.  So away I went and I got into my iron pumping until I started to feel a little tired.  I gave myself a little rest and then went for one more set-that was all it took to push me into the hole that is an anemic state.  I almost passed out on the gym equipment.  I took a few minutes, got up and walked the five feet to the couch in the lounge area and that was all the energy I had.  I couldn’t even get up and walk the 20 yards to where my boyfriend was working out to tell him that I didn’t feel well and needed to go home, I had to text him! Luckily, he is a very good boyfriend and helped me to the car and drove me home where he cooked me a delicious meal of ground beef and avocado tacos (Tuesday=Taco Tuesday in our household), of which I ate about a pound.  No joke; I seriously ate 3/4 of a pound of ground beef in one sitting.  Not bad for a pseudo-vegetarian! 

The next day I made a shake to help boost my iron stores (recipe to come!) and then I cooked up the other pound of ground beef that I had bought and devoured nearly all of it in one sitting with a fried egg on top.  Side note: it’s amazing how much wisdom and intuition our bodies have as on Tuesday afternoon I bought two pounds of red meat when I rarely buy animal protein at all.  Our bodies know what we need before we even realize it sometimes-how amazing is that?!

Thankfully, I am currently feeling back to my normal self, but it took about 4 days to nourish my body back to homeostasis.  No worries though, because this time next month, I will be ready! 🙂

My IUD Experience

Hello! Today I’d like to share my experience with two different types of IUDs (intrauterine devices).

This is what it looks like...
This is what it looks like…

My motivation for trying the IUD for the first time two years ago was the fact that I am personally not a fan of taking a medication every day, and I am definitely not a fan of hormonal birth control.  I am sensitive to hormones and have found this out over a long time of trial and error from daily pills to rings that are left in all month and then removed and thrown away.

What has personally worked best for me has been condoms, however there have been occasions where I have had to go through the unpleasant experience of taking the morning after pill…more hormones.

So I decided to try out the IUD, which has been shown to be 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.  I actually did try out the hormonal one first because, quite frankly, I was terrified of the stories I read online and heard from a friend about heavy, painful periods brought on by the copper, non-hormonal IUD.  Plus, the staff at my gyno’s office assured me that the hormones were so limited and concentrated that I shouldn’t feel any effect.  At any rate, I could always have it taken out (which I eventually did) so I gave it a whirl.

I was surprised to find that it actually bothered me that my periods were almost non-existent and I couldn’t ever tell when they were coming.  It made me feel depressed that I didn’t understand what my body was doing, like I was disconnected from myself somehow.  My boyfriend observed that while I was on it I was “flat” and not my usual self.  I also did not have the same interest in sex that I had previously.

So that wasn’t working for me and I had it taken out at my next annual.  Since then I created habits of taking much better care of my body with regular exercise and healthier nutritional choices.  Along with losing about 20 pounds of excess weight, I noticed that my periods were nearly painless and were only lasting about 3-4 days.  My PMS symptoms had all but disappeared.

Feeling good about my overall health as well as reproductive health, I started thinking about trying the IUD again after a couple of scares and subsequent morning after pill experiences.  I wondered if the copper IUD would really be such a traumatic experience if my cycle was as healthy as it is now.  I decided to go for it, I made my appointment at Planned Parenthood and had my new copper IUD placed earlier this week.  It was an uncomfortable procedure but I kept sending love and positive energy to the new inhabitant of my uterus and to my whole reproductive system and breathed through it.

 

I have to say, this experience has far exceeded my expectations.  I did have some pretty intense cramping from the time of my appointment until the next morning, but I treated myself to a glass of wine, heat packs and turning in early and when I woke up I felt almost completely back to normal.

As it turns out, my period started a little early and, aside from about 3 pretty intense cramps, there was NO difference between my period this week and my regular periods.  No excess bleeding, no intense pain.  I’m so glad that I did this for myself, there will be no more taking the morning after pill for me and I will keep sending love to my body and to the little copper blessing that is helping me take good care of myself.

Has anyone else had a positive experience like this? Not-so-positive experience? 

I invite any comments, stories or questions on the IUD or birth control in general.  I think that this is an incredibly important topic for all people, and especially women since the responsibility generally falls on us.  All are welcome to contribute and share! Good health to all 🙂

<iframe width=”100%” height=”450″ scrolling=”no” frameborder=”no” src=”https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/178160755&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true”></iframe>

Gluten Free Banana Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

The recipe is a title that is almost as much of a delicious mouthful as these muffins!

I like to add my own “flavor” to interesting recipes I come across, and today I did just that.  I was looking for a yummy way to incorporate the spiralized zucchini I had left over from dinner last night.  With this recipe I have thus combined my love for the two kitchen tools I find myself using more and more: my Vaggetti Pro (vegetable spiralizer) and the amazing Blendtec.

And away we go!

Dry Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups rolled oats (uncooked)
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Wet Ingredients

  • 2 ripened, brown bananas
  • 1 small zucchini (about 1 1/2 cup once spiralized)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tbs white vinegar

Steps

Wash zucchini and cut off ends.  Use the smallest blade on the Veggetti spiralizer to spiralize the zucchini and discard the leftover end.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease muffin tin with virgin unprocessed coconut oil.  Place oats and flours into Blendtec.  Pulse 5-7 times until the oats have been pulverized into flour and the flours are thoroughly mixed.  Add all dry ingredients except for the chocolate chips into large mixing bowl and stir well with wooden spoon.

Mash ripe bananas in medium mixing bowl and add in zucchini spirals.  Stir together until well mixed-zucchini should be completely wet with the mashed banana.  Add the rest of the wet ingredients and stir until well mixed.  Fold in dry ingredients with the wet.  Once mixed together fold in chocolate chips.  Mix well and pour the mixture into the muffin cups, they will each be about 3/4 full.

Bake for 25-30 minutes (you can check doneness with a toothpick/fork/knife).  Remove from oven and allow to cool at least 10 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is one of the ancient healing arts developed thousands of years ago in the ancient Chinese civilization.  As one of the pillars of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupuncture is an effective therapy that is currently gaining a wider acceptance in Western Medicine to treat and lessen symptoms of conditions such as headaches, labor pain, fibromyalgia, chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting and menstrual cramps, to name a few (Mayo Clinic, 2016).  The World Health Organization has also recognized 40 conditions for which acupuncture treatment is effective (UCSF, 2012).

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recognizes acupuncture’s ability to manage chronic pain efforts, although it maintains the politically correct skepticism and inconclusive statements; I personally wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that it is much more cost effective than prescribing drugs to manage pain…

As for me-as you can see-I am a believer! I was introduced to acupuncture by a dear friend (you can check out her website at www.AuriannaJoy.com) who sought healing in Eastern Medicine after discovering shortcomings of Western Medicine to simply manage the symptoms rather than treat and heal the cause of disease.  She found truth and healing in acupuncture and shared that with me.

I have now been experiencing the healing effects of acupuncture for the past 6 years and am grateful to the healing benefits it offers.  I can always feel my qi (that’s the TCM term for energy) flowing during treatment sessions and leave feeling either refreshed or relieved, as if weight is lifted from my shoulders.  For me, the mental and emotional aspect of healing that acupuncture provides is just as, if not more valuable than the physical healing it assists.  Anxiety, depression, pent-up emotions from many years in the past, these are just a few of the conditions that are released with the use of acupuncture.

Feel free to learn more using the Western and Eastern Medicine links posted below, and leave a comment or ask a question if you like.  Cheers!

 

Eastern

http://acupuncture.com/newsletters/m_nov16/res.htm

http://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/balanced-living/wellness-therapies/traditional-chinese-medicine/

Western

http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/acupuncture/basics/definition/prc-20020778

Acupuncture and Integrative Chinese Medicine

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/whatiscam/chinesemed.htm