BEST Ever Banana Bread (Gluten Free!)

This is…just delicious!! I couldn’t get over how deliciously moist and flavorful this turned out.  The first time I made it my boyfriend and I shared a small bowl of it with spoons and it was reminiscent of a banana bread pudding! The next time I baked it for longer and it had a much more solid bread texture.

**I updated this recipe on 11/17/18 to remove brown sugar and add Blackstrap Molasses, which has nutrients such as magnesium, selenium, vitamin B6, calcium and iron-yay!

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1 cup gluten free flour recipe
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Optional: 1/2 cup chocolate chips (mix into batter after all other ingredients have been combined into a homogeneous mixture)
  • Optional: 1/4-1/2 cup walnuts (sprinkle on top right before putting it in the oven)

Moist Ingredients:

  • 4 SUPER-ripe bananas (small-medium)
  • 2-3 eggs (if you use my flour recipe you want to use 3-1 extra for the coconut flour portion)
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 Blackstrap Molasses
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Grease a bread pan with coconut oil
  3. Add all dry ingredients into medium bowl and whisk together and set aside
  4. Crack the eggs into a large bowl and beat with a fork until well-mixed and fluffy
  5. Peel ripened bananas onto the eggs and carefully smash with the fork until the desired texture, I like mine on the chunky side
  6. Add the rest of the wet ingredients into the large bowl with the beaten eggs and smashed bananas and mix with the fork
  7. Slowly pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix carefully with a large wooden spoon
  8. Pour mixture into greased bread pan and bake for 55-60 minutes
  9. Remove from oven and allow the banana bread to cool for about 10-15 minutes before removing from the pan

Enjoy!

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:

  • 1/3 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=$0.94 for this recipe
  • 8 oz bag of coconut flour $0.99 =$0.33
  • 16 oz bag of rice flour $0.60 =$0.10

Total spent on this recipe: $1.37

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! 🙂

I am Thankful for My Life

I woke up this morning to another beautiful, sunny day and realized what a gift it is to be alive one more day!

 

I am so thankful to live in a country that honors being thankful with a whole day to reflect on the abundance of blessings that is bestowed upon each one of us.  I feel especially blessed on this day to be able to enjoy some time off of work with my boyfriend who has 3 whole days off from law school!! 😀

My day was not “traditional” by any means, but it was perfect to me: waking up slowly and relaxing in bed, working out at our local Y in preparation of Thanksgiving dinner-at Denny’s! 🙂 It was yummy and it was super fun to go into San Diego and take in the sights of Ocean Beach.

On the way home we caught some beautiful views on our scenic route.  Now we’re relaxing after doing some cleaning, cooking and baking-it’s gluten free brownie time! All in all, it has been a very simple yet perfect and joyful day.  I’m so thankful for the gift of choosing to do what I desire and the means with which to do so.  Right now that choice is to enjoy a gin & tonic and snuggle up to watch a movie.  I hope that everyone’s day was this good and that the week only gets better from here!

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 🙂

Here we go again…

Hello there! I’m back after nearly a year-long hiatus and I’m very happy to announce that in that span of time I have:

1) Completed my Master’s Degree in Nursing Science (Woo-hoo!!)

2) Traveled to Hawaii and Cuba (totally awesome!!)

3) Initiated my investment plan

4) Lost about 20 pounds!! (hell to the yah mon!!!)

I am soooo excited to share more about these experiences and to be getting back to my blog as a reward after all my hard work.  It’s going to have to wait just a liiiittle bit longer though because I am about to give myself some well-deserved love and care, starting with a hot bubble bath and a pedicure…I may even throw some red zinfandel into the mix!

Whatever your day/week/month/year has been like, I hope that you will take the time to ask yourself what you need right now to feel loved and cared for.  Got it? Ok, now hop to it! See you soon!

 

 

Check out my YouTube channel!

I am uploading videos on a semi-regular basis of things that I am interested in…mostly birds and plants as there is no shortage of those beauties in and around my home!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC02Me1IbQLbxO_nLmFjfbXw

Feel free to leave comments and any suggestions if there is something you would like for me to explore or investigate, I’m always ready for an adventure!