recipes

Probiotic-Rich Instant Pot Yogurt

By on January 8, 2021

Recently, my friend shared with me that she made yogurt from our favorite probiotic capsules. I have tried Instant-Pot yogurt a few times with yogurt cultures/starters and various milks. I haven’t had a successful batch until this recipe.

My friend shared her Instant Pot yogurt method with me, and I made a few adaptations just to make sure the probiotics would survive/thrive. I am blogging it now to share with you (and to have it for my future use). It is a 2 ingredient, very little hands-on effort recipe.

My kids eat yogurt every morning and we purchase 2 tubs per week. That adds up quite quickly. I love knowing the exact ingredients, that I’m reducing plastic consumption, and saving some money. The other thing that is a super bonus for me is knowing the probiotic strains I’m eating. I love Young Living’s Life 9 probiotic, and knowing it has multiplied and thrived in the yogurt means this is a super probiotic-rich gut boost!

One of my pet-peeves is a long blog prior to a recipe, lol. So, without further ado—

Instant Pot Yogurt Recipe

Ingredients/Equipment

Instant Pot (I used 6 quart)

Large jar for storage

6 Life 9 Probiotic capsules (or yogurt cultures, although I haven’t had the same success with other methods of culturing)

Tea towel

1/2 Gallon Organic Valley Whole Milk (2% works well too)

  1. Start with a clean Instant Pot, free of residue.
  2. Pour milk into the Instant Pot, close and lock the lid. Select Yogurt setting, then adjust pressure setting to boil. When the boil setting is complete, it will click back to yogurt.
  3. Carefully remove Instant Pot lid, being careful not to drop any condensation that has accumulated on the lid into the milk. I remove it carefully with the tea towel, catching any condensation.
  4. Check temperature of milk, making sure it has reached 180 degrees. Carefully, remove inner pot and sit in an ice water bath to chill the milk to 80-110 degrees. I did this in my sink.
  5. Set aside 1 cup of cooled milk. In a medium bowl, empty probiotic capsules, add cool milk and whisk until combined.
  6. Gently pour probiotic mixture back into milk pot and stir to combine. 
  7. Return insert into the Instant Pot. Select yogurt setting and set time to 24 hours.
  8. The next day, open the lid, stir and transfer to storage container.
  9. Will keep 2 weeks in the fridge.

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diet

Tips for Improving Gut Health with a Picky Eater

By on January 27, 2020

This entire blog was sparked when working to heal my middle son’s health issues by targeting his gut health. He is my canary in the coal mine. He is sensitive to many foods and environmental toxins. He has had a cold or virus almost every 3 weeks since August.

Something happened when Ezra turned 2. At his 2 year well-check his pediatrician said something along the lines of look out– you are entering the picky eating year. I was one of those moms who thought “that will never happen to me”– we eat a balanced diet, we only offer healthy foods and he loves his veggies.

Well… here we are, approaching year 3 and he has a very limited diet. Many times he refuses to eat rather than eating what we are serving. It is a control thing, not a palate thing. One day he loves asparagus and beans, the next day he will only eat bananas. It’s tricky.

It is “normal” for kids to catch 8-12 viruses the first year they are introduced to the public. My kid has caught them all. I do lots to help him fight them off, but how do I keep his gut in check when he won’t eat? It is a tough place to be when the nourishing foods you know will help are refused.

Something like 70-80 percent of our immune system is based in our gut. When our gut bacteria isn’t balanced correctly, our immune systems are compromised. Based solely on what my son *wants* to eat, I can see that his “bad bugs” want to be fed (fruit, crackers, etc) and no veggies. Even though fruit is “healthy” it still metabolizes as sugar. Nature’s candy, is how I like to think about it.

How do I help this kiddo out? How do I help support his healthy microbiome and immunity when what he will eat is limited?

  1. Prebiotic/Probiotic supplement. Taking a boost of prebiotics and probiotics support and balance out the microbiome. I have found a kids formula that tastes good and he enjoys taking. It is now part of our morning routine.
  2. Fiber supplement I choose one that contains fructooligosaccharides. Fructooligosaccharides are prebiotic fibers that are low-calorie, non-digestible carbohydrates which aid in immunity, bone health and the growth and balance of important bacteria in the digestive track. Simply put, it is what the good gut bacteria like to “eat”. These are found naturally in foods like asparagus, onions, chicory, etc. Since getting him to eat veggies is an issue, I have found a shake that he enjoys and I give it as a treat. The thing I noticed was that after giving him these two supplements together for about a week he started eating a better variety of foods (veggies and meats, woo-hoo). I will also add spinach, a scoop of green powder, or avocado in the shake so it is disguised.
  3. Grazing Tray another way I get him to eat a better variety is make a grazing tray and put it on our table with our art station. I put cut up veggies, proteins (like nuts), olives, cheese, dips and other things he often refuses. He will snack without thinking as much when he’s engaged in an activity.
  4. Limit Snacks Ezra eats the majority of his calories in the early part of the day. He also really enjoys snacking. After lunch, I limit snacks so that he has a healthy appetite at dinner time. This still doesn’t always work if he’s already decided that he doesn’t want our dinner.
  5. Continually offer and plate our normal meals. I cook nutritionally dense foods. He WILL often refuse, or just drop the food on the floor. However, some days he will eat it all without an issue. I also keep the fruit and crackers out of sight and only offer what is reasonable in a day.
  6. Being part of the process sometimes entices him to eat. He enjoying helping me mix or cut (soft) things and serve them on colored dishes that he chooses is an incentive. I praise him for how good his cooking is and often he will put a few bites in his “mouf”. I also let him choose between two veggies or will turn meal prep into a color, phonics or counting game. He’s very into these things right now, so it holds his attention.

These are my tricks these days for dealing with my toddler. This too shall pass, although his health is always at the forefront of my mind. Especially since he is in this phase of being a germ incubator. Feel free to comment or contact me and I will share what supplements have been working for us if you’re dealing with the pickiness and sickness phase.

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diet | recipes

Simplifying Dietary Changes

By on January 17, 2019

The Struggle is Real

The holidays are over and I am still having trouble getting back on track with my diet. These are the thoughts that have been floating around in my mind:

Carbs taste good, I’m pregnant, just one more day, it’s just “social” eating, one more treat, I’m tired of cooking, cleaning, planning, purchasing.

There ya have it. All excuses to not be my best self. Have you ever had that dialogue floating around in your mind?

I KNOW changing my diet changed my life. I found a healthy, stable weight, my periods returned like healthy clockwork, my son’s medical issue resolved, my feelings of anxiety released, and countless other benefits.

Why, oh why are bad habits so hard to break? Why is convenience more important than health?

Last night, I really had to give myself a reality check. I’m going to deliver a baby in just a few short months, and I do not want a repeat of my last birth experience. Plus, I want my body to bounce back so that I’m not telling another story of postpartum depression or healing difficulties.

Three Tips to Simplify

Simplifying the diet is key. I’ve had to adapt so that I’m not cooking and cleaning all day, or having to run all over the state finding appropriate ingredients.

How have I simplified?

1. Shopping in bulk and mail order has been #1. I found a local source for high quality meat, and place a big order about every 2 months.

Our Costco membership has also been amazing and saves quite a bit of money. We can find compliant cheeses, vegetables, grain-free products in bulk, nice cooking oils, avocado oil mayo, almond flour, compliant salad dressings and several other staples. Scheduling this every 4-6 weeks keeps our pantry stocked and minimizes our trips to run out for just an item or two.

Amazon Prime or Thrive Market are excellent sources to find items that aren’t as accessible in the mainstream market. For me, I would have to drive an hour to a grocery store or health food store that carries compliant baking items.

2. Meal planning is also important. I used to be able to replace a meal with a protein shake to lighten my cooking load. Being pregnant has required that I eat 3 meals and only use shakes for protein rich snacks. Have you ever tried planning 21 meals a week? Its laborious.

Batch cooking and freezing is a good method to lighten the load or just having a plan for dinner by 10 am tends to work for me. Unthawing meat, knowing what veggies need prepped and just general timeline can make the task easier.

Cooking enough food to have leftovers for lunch is also a time saver, or cooking a bigger batch of a favorite that can be eaten over the course of several days for lunch.

3. Instant Pot

I have had my instant pot for about a year and wasn’t sure if I loved it or not. It is not something I use daily but it works wonders to cook a good, healthy, nutritious meal very quickly. I love it for soups and stews or to cook a perhaps frozen chicken very quickly to use for multiple meals.

These are just my tips and tricks that help me stay focused and on task with what I’m putting in my body. I am going to share one of my favorite lunch, batch cooking recipes. I make enough for several days and serve on a bed of greens with a few Simple Mills grain-free crackers. It’s both healthy and satisfying.

Lemon Tarragon Chicken Salad

2 lb. pasture raised chicken breasts

3 stalks of celery, diced

lemon juice

4 Tbs chopped, fresh tarragon

avocado oil mayo (Chosen Foods brand, I buy at Costco)

handful of dried, unsweetened cranberries

1. Drizzle chicken breasts with avocado oil and lemon juice, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake at 375 degrees for about 25 min.

2. Cool and dice chicken breasts.

3. Add diced celery, tarragon, salt, pepper, and enough mayo to coat thoroughly. Approximately 1/2-3/4 c. Mix well. Add 1-2 Tbs. lemon juice and cranberries and mix again.

4. Chill and serve.

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health research | hormone balance

Hormonal Balance & Fertility Optimization

By on January 8, 2019

My journey into natural health began because I struggled with PCOS and was told at an early age that I would probably need help conceiving. I distinctly remember hearing that at 15 years old, and the only thing I knew I wanted for my adulthood was to be a mom. I did have trouble getting and staying pregnant, for awhile.

At a point in my adulthood journey I started reading about how diet, exercise, environmental toxins, and even emotions can wreak havoc on our hormones. In the United States, infertility is actually becoming quite an epidemic and has a very high price tag when undergoing medical intervention. I don’t know about you, but for me medical intervention did not feel right, I felt there was a “why” and a “how” right before my eyes. I just had to find it out for myself. I am glad I did, because I have found success and health, and have watched many other couples do the same.

It is possible to create an optimal environment for conception, restore both male and female fertility, or just age gracefully by taking a few simple steps to cleanse and nourish your body.

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Managing our Chemical Load

Many variables have to be in aligment for proper hormone balance. The first thing I suggest doing is taking a look at your environment and assessing your toxic load. This is part of life that we do not have complete control over, however we can minimize the exposure in our homes.

Petrochemicals in our environment are often a huge culprit in hormone imbalance. They mimic estrogen, even in men, who do not naturally produce estrogen.  Estrogen dominance can create problems in females releasing eggs, or if eggs do release and fertilize, may have difficulty attaching to the uterine lining. Men can suffer from impotence, mood swings, and many other ailments.

So, assessing and cleaning out our homes and replacing with products that contain the least amount of chemicals possible is desirable. Toothpastes, shampoos, lotions, make-up, cleaning products, etc. all can be major hormone disruptors. Our skin is our largest organ, and will absorb anything and everything that we put on. Learning to read labels and being wary of words like “fragrance”, which actually means chemical cocktail!

 

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Food as Medicine

Our diets are also cause for concern. In previous blogs, I have shared the most successful dietary protocol for my body. It is really important to realize that factory farmed meats, artificial flavors and colors, as well as foods that contain phytoestrogens (soy) can be damaging for our delicate hormonal balance. Sticking to a whole food diet, eating humanely farmed meats, removing grains and sugar typically do a world of good.

It is also nearly impossible to meet all of our nutritional requirements from diet alone. Even the “perfect” diet can spark some questions. What was the length of time the food traveled to get to your plate? How was it grown or processed? What do you clean your fruits and veggies with?

High quality, whole food nutritional supplements can help us meet our nutritional requirements. Whole food supplements of the highest quality are necessary so that our bodies can actually absorb and assimilate the nutrients from the supplement. Common supplements that you pick up at big box stores are from synthetic sources, so our body immediately works to eliminate them or can have a toxic response trying to process the vitamin.

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Gut Health

In natural health, it is found that women who suffer from hormonal imbalance tend to have problems with their bowel and liver functions. When our bowels are stagnant, or the liver is not performing optimally, the toxins our body would prefer to release are sent directly to the sex organs. Cleansing is a way to “flush the pipes”, so to speak.

Following a gentle cleansing protocol can reset the system to prepare for a pregnancy. Following these steps typically take about 3-4 months for hormones to begin to regulate, however each individual is different depending on toxicity and gut/colon health. For gut cleansing, I prefer 4 specific types of supplements.

An herbal cleansing supplement is the first thing I use and recommend. This gets the digestive system moving. Even if you are “regular” it does not mean that you are actually actively releasing the excess hormones. A multi-complex digestive enzyme is also key. Most people do not have adequate enzyme activity in the gut to actually break down and assimilate all of the food that is consumed.

The supplement will replenish the digestive enzymes and help the body stay at an adequate level. A fiber supplement  is also helpful and will bind free estrogen in the system and allow it to pass. And a high-quality probiotic will feed the good bacteria and allow the microbiome and immune system to flourish.

Cleansing the gut allows the toxins to release from the body, and healing to occur. Following the dietary recommendations will speed up the healing process. I also like to use the collagen HA supplement I mentioned in a previous post, since it truly helps to close the seal on “leaky gut“, which so many of us with autoimmune conditions suffer from.

Love Your Liver

The liver controls many, many functions in our bodies. Saving and supporting your liver is also a key to hormonal health. The liver is the major filtering organ of the body. It is known that impaired liver enzymes are cause of recurrent miscarriages, and that most estrogen metabolism takes place in the liver. Once the colon has been cleansed, the liver can do a better job releasing and removing the toxins from our bodies.

A healthy body weight is important for a healthy liver, as is limiting chemical exposure. Dietary choices have been the key for my liver health. Removing sugars, grains and  getting most of my carbs from vegetables has been the best way to support my liver. Making these changes have helped me release inflammation, belly fat, and pain that I carried in the upper, right portion of my abdomen.

Moderate exercise is also very helpful. Just a 15 minute walk per day can keep the flow and release going in the area of the liver. If we are stagnant, our organs become stagnant. There are also some very nice supplements and essential oils that will support healthy liver function.

 

Stress and Exercise

Another hormone killer is chronic stress. The stress hormone cortisol is often referred to as the “death hormone”. Why? High cortisol levels changes our blood sugar levels, slow digestion, changes cardiac function, lowers immunity, increases inflammation, decreases thyroid, among many other things.

We have this hormone to protect us in times of danger, but chronic stress leaves us living in this state much of the time.  The autonomic nervous system controls our stress/relaxation response, and can be addressed and nourished in several ways.

Yoga and mindfulness exercises can work wonders in reducing chronic stress. Our breath is powerful in rewiring our stress response and something as simple as taking slow, rhythmic, deep breaths can massage our organs and reduce our cortisol levels.

Since this post is so wordy, I will save a few mindfulness exercises for a future post.

I am also aware that I have shared a lot of information in one post. I am always happy to elaborate or point you to more resources that may be best for you– so feel free to leave a comment or contact me directly if this info sparks any questions.

 

 

 

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diet

Spring Clean(s)ing

By on March 29, 2018

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This week is Spring Break for my son. I live in Florida so the Spring Break celebrations are in full swing, our town is booming! For me, Spring is a time for purging and cleansing. My closet was tackled yesterday, and as I was working on the dreaded closet I remembered that I have been pursuing my diet change for about a month. A cleansing of sorts.

During this month, I have recognized several things about autoimmune diet changes. Lists and suggestions are just that, suggestions. Every body is different, and learning what will heal your body is a matter of trial and error. Within 5 days of the diet switch, Ezra’s labs began trending upward. I will be interested to see how he improves at his next visit. I have been reflecting on the healing of my physical chaos. For my work, we have a FaceBook group where I often post live videos. Occasionally, they will pop up in my feed and I can catch a glimpse or hear my voice from the past, and I can see and hear how off kilter my body truly was.

Anxiety has always been my “diagnosis”. Toward the middle of my pregnancy it was out of control and postpartum I went through many swings. Since removing many foods from my diet, I am learning that foods are often the trigger to my anxiety. For years I searched for answers to the anxiety and panic. I would often feel very jumpy, agitated, racing heart/thoughts, shallow breath, and many other uncomfortable feelings. Until I removed offending foods from my diet, I would have never realized the effect they had on my body. Now, I am very aware of the dis-integration that can occur from eating  certain foods.

Previously, I would awaken jumpy and anxious each morning and sometimes it would take until lunch to calm my inner environment. Now, I am recognizing that the way I interact with certain foods is what causes this feeling. One of my biggest culprits are tree nuts, or nut flours. Especially almond flour. I have made a few treats with these ingredients or I will snack on nuts in the evening before bed. When I do this, I wake up the next morning with the same shakiness.  When these items are eliminated, I wake up with a clear mind and balanced body.

Sugar substitutes, even natural ones also cause this response. My body almost immediately has a fight-or- flight reaction. My muscles will tense in my head, neck and shoulders and often I will have a dull headache. When I eat the foods made with alternative sugars, I  do not feel satiated and will almost immediately go into the mindless eating. All of this occurs just from the taste of sweet, regardless of where the sweetness is sourced from. My body and mind are now having to work together. I am working to make food choices that will feed the good bacteria in my gut so that I can rid the bad. Often, food cravings are linked to the “bad guys” in the gut asking for more “food” to keep them going. Having an awareness that this is whats going on physiologically makes the changes/choices easier. I’m not saying it IS easy. As I run around town doing my errands, driving through Starbucks or Chick-Fil-A are sometimes my biggest fantasies.

When I am having those meltdown moments and am contemplating giving up all my work for convenience or a moment of pleasure, all I have to remember is how I felt for most of last year. A quick mental inventory of the panic/anxiety, shakiness, shortness of breath, and abdominal pain will often clear the cobwebs and remind me of why I chose this path. I know it is probably a weird comparison, however thinking of my nice clean closet, rid of all the clutter and accumulation of the year (s) was my thought this morning. When you have an environment that is tidy, it is easier to notice when something is misplaced and impeding the flow of the space.

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