Unassigned: On Letting Go of Relationships

A few years ago, I let go of something.

A relationship, a friendship that had lasted 17 years.

But instead of feeling bitter about it, I’m grateful for what that relationship was in my life.

To everything, there is a season.

But why is it so hard for us to let go of relationships that once meant something to us but no longer do?

Why do we allow our fear of disappointing people to override our desire to release relationships so we can be free to move on with our lives?

We hold on to them when we should let them go.

All of us have been wounded in relationship. We’ve been wounded in childhood, as adolescents, and as adults. We’ve been wounded by relatives, classmates, teachers, and friends. Despite these wounds, sometimes we have trouble letting go of or releasing relationships, even if they are no longer serving us.

But letting go is difficult.

Being connected is core to our very nature and necessary for our survival. Maybe that’s why the thought of disconnection is so frightening and painful.  I love what Brene Brown has to say about the power of connection:

I longed to feel connected from the time I was a young girl, but I struggled. My parents were going through a rough patch in their marriage when I was at the highly malleable age of five. They separated briefly. It affected me. I feared rejection and being a burden or a disappointment to people.

As a kid, I was content to spend time alone and loved to read, write and make up my own activities. I did have friends, but I was never one to have a “group” of friends. I was excluded by and emotionally wounded by many of my peers, and those wounds further reinforced my fear of rejection.

Although I didn’t really have groups of friends, I can remember at each point in my life who my “best” friend was, and that really mattered to me; it made me feel special and wanted.

I chose to let go of one of those friendships a few years ago.

The turning point for me happened on my wedding day when a member of the bridal party gave a speech that felt more like a roast than a tribute. I was mortified, humiliated, angry, and sad. I didn’t know what to do but smile through it, masking how I was truly feeling in the moment. Afterwards, the wife of one of our groomsmen said, “If that happened at my wedding, I would have taken the microphone out of her hand.” 

Ouch.

I carried the pain of that moment with me for months but knew that I had to forgive her, so I could move on with my life. We ended up talking a few months later and exchanged tears in the process. She apologized and said she never intended to hurt me. I believed her, but the conversation made me realize how far apart we’d grown and how little we knew each other. Thought we tried to resolve what happened, I ultimately made the decision to move on from the friendship.

The truth is, we’d been drifting apart since starting college. We were friends with the history of our friendship but didn’t really know each other as adults. We had taken different paths. Ever since that time, I’ve wrestled with losing that friendship and still think about it from time to time.

About a year ago, I was reading the book A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson and landed on these words:

Relationships are assignments.

They are meant to teach us something.

We come together in relationship to teach and learn lessons that will help us grow and become more of who we are meant to be.

Maybe my relationship with that friend was over, and it wasn’t something to mourn but something to celebrate.

Relationships have varying levels of duration – brief, sustained, and life-long.

Some are chance encounters, brief interactions with people we do or don’t know. Think of two strangers who meet in line at the store or on an elevator; your interaction with a waiter at a restaurant; the cashier at Target. How we treat people in those brief encounters matters and is often an indication of how we will treat people in more intense relationships. If we treat strangers with unkindness or impatience, it’s likely that those negative behaviors will be magnified in more long-term relationships. The second level of teaching is where we’re going to camp out today, so I’ll come back to it.

The third level of teaching is characterized by life-long relationships. The presence of these people in our lives forces us to grow, but “just because someone has a lot to teach us, doesn’t mean we like them.” We can learn more about our own capacity to love in the midst of discomfort or in the face of seemingly irreconcilable differences than we do when we are comfortable and go unchallenged. Think about relationships that may be a thorn in your side but have taught you lessons about life, growth, other people and yourself.

Williamson describes the second level of teaching in this way:

a more sustained relationship in which for a time, two people enter into a fairly intense teaching-learning relationship situation and then appear to separate.

Think of the friendships from different points in your life. Bring to mind the people you have called friends or partners, even family members, who are no longer part of your life. Sometimes we struggle with how to talk about those relationships without bitterness. If we can come to see them as an assignment, perhaps we can appreciate them for what they were, even if they are no longer part of our lives.

What if I could view our relationship differently and appreciate it for all that it taught me? As I reflect back on my childhood friendship, here’s what I want to remember:

  • She loved my family. She thought my little sister, who she has known since birth, was the coolest and funniest kid and appreciated my brother in ways I didn’t.
  • She gave me permission to be playful and to not take myself so seriously. She laughed a lot and loved to make people laugh, and so did her family. We would sometimes tape improv skits at her house, and we played lots of games. Very few people in my life invited me to let loose and have fun the way she and her family did.
  • She welcomed me into her family as one of her own. I felt at home at her house. I got hugs and kisses from her aunts, uncles, siblings and cousins and was invited to family parties and other big events. Her kid cousin had a crush on me and got me a plastic, blue heart-shaped ring as a sign of his affection.
  • She was with me for special moments. She was there the day I found out my first grandparent died and the day my parents called me to tell me that my favorite pet, a guinea pig named Wendy, had passed away. I so vividly remember both of those moments and how she was there.
  • She shared my love of all things sentimental. She would give me homemade gifts, heartfelt letters, and those books from the Hallmark store that most people flip through but never buy. I still have them in my bookcase. She knew that personalized gifts meant a lot to me, and she honored that. I’ve held onto many of those gifts, letters, cards and books.

Shifting my perspective about our friendship from one of bitterness and anger to one of acceptance and appreciation has given me a sense of peace about it. Williamson closes out her insights about these “level two” relationships in A Return to Love:

During their time together, they will go through whatever experiences provide them with their next lessons to be learned […] what then appears to be the end of the relationship however, is not really an end.

Relationships are eternal.

What a hopeful perspective.

We may not talk anymore or even see each other again, but the impact of that relationship on our lives is eternal.

What if we were to view our relationships as assignments?

What if the people in our lives are “assigned” to be with us for a certain period of time until we learn what we are meant to learn from them before we can release them for their next assignment?

Are you holding on to a relationship, a person whose assignment is over, but you are refusing to let them go?

Have you considered that in order for this person to be freed up for their next assignment and for YOU to be freed up to receive future assignments, you may have to break off the relationship?

IT’S NOT EASY, but neither is being a relationship that is weighing you down, triggering anxiety or wounding you in some way.

Here are some steps to take to begin this process:

  1. Think of a relationship in your life that you’d like to release, a person whose assignment in your life you think has ended. Some signs of this are: when this person calls, I cringe because all they do is talk about themselves; they’ve hurt you in the past and have refused to ask for forgiveness and just make excuses when you tell them how they hurt you; they make you feel less about yourself; you find yourself making excuses to avoid spending time with them.
  2. Reflect back on the challenges that relationship has presented and consider any lessons learned or gifts it has given you. Make a list of both.
  3. Forgive the person for any wrongdoing. THIS IS THE HARDEST PART. Forgiving them means releasing yourself from the desire to see any harm or ill will come to them. It doesn’t mean you trust or want to talk to or see them again, but it does mean that you have the choice to release yourself from bitterness and resentment.
  4. If they are still a part of your life, I’d suggest doing one of two things. Let the drifting apart continue and don’t initiate any further conversations or get togethers. If the person is still calling you and griping about their life but never asking you about yours, and it’s been like that for some time, consider reaching out to them. Let them know you’ve spent time reflecting on your relationship and its future. You can let them know what you appreciate about the relationship and any lessons you’ve learned but that you see the two of you moving in different directions and wish them well. You can’t control how they respond, and it will likely feel pretty awkward, but for your own wellbeing and sanity, you may need to take a step like this. Consider that your fear of how the conversation will go will likely be more dramatic than how it actually does go.

Consider that this person may still have lessons to teach you – remember, you may not like this person and might not be able to step away from the relationship for whatever reason, so stay open to what lessons you may still need to learn from the relationship.

My hope is that this post gives you the courage to take a necessary step in a relationship in your life whose assignment is over. At the very least, I hope it gives you pause to consider that you are worthy of relationships that lift you up, challenge you to grow and learn, and invite you to become more of who you are meant to be rather than holding you back.

I’m Into It: Instant Pot, Kitchfix Granola + Food Art

It’s been some time since I told you guys what I’m “into” on here, but I’ve been keeping the updates coming on Instagram, so make sure you follow my Instagram page to get the latest recipes and inspirational posts each week.

Today, I have three recommendations for you, and all of them are related to the kitchen!

  1. A gadget
  2. A snack
  3. Beautiful art

To say I’ve been obsessed with the first item is an understatement. For the past month or so, Bill and I have been looking for recipes that require us to use only one gadget and dirty only one pot. As much as I love to cook, I HATE to clean, so having a device that makes the clean-up process easy goes a long way with me.

Meet, the Instant Pot.

Instant Pot

I remember seeing people post about this gadget around this time last year, but I couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about. “I have a crockpot,” I remember thinking to myself. “What’s so great about this instant pot thing?”

On Cyber Monday last year, the price went down so low that I had to snag one. Because I wasn’t totally sold even at that point, the Instant Pot sat in the box until August of 2017. I know I’m not the only one who does this! I’m going to bet that you have some boxed appliance collecting dust on a shelf or hiding so far back in a closet or cabinet that it’s not worth the effort to unearth it.

I can’t believe I waited so long to use this!

The Instant Pot has quickly become one of our top three must-have kitchen gadgets. Sure, it’s bulky and takes up a decent amount of space, but it makes cooking and clean-up SO SIMPLE. The Instant Pot is 7 kitchen appliances in 1: Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Steamer, Sauté, Yogurt Maker and Warmer. It prepares dishes up to 70% faster than cooking them the conventional way. 

Here are just a few of the delicious recipes we’ve made with the Instant Pot. Each one made enough to fill three quart-sized mason jars, which means lots of leftovers and less time in the kitchen during the week:

Buy It: On Amazon (wait until Black Friday or Cyber Monday – it’ll be worth it!)

Kitchfix Paleo Granola

I first found out about these guys a few years ago at the Natural Products Expo in Baltimore. I liked that their granola had a lower sugar count than other granolas on the market and that it was a grain-free option. Some people really struggle to digest grains of any kind – even gluten-free ones – so having options for snacks and breakfast that don’t contain grains is a big deal.

Their grain-free granola is a satisfying snack (full of protein, fiber and healthy fats), a balanced start to your day, and a pantry staple perfect for parfaits and even topping your favorite dairy-free ice cream. They do not contain refined sugars and are always gluten-free, non-GMO (not genetically modified), and paleo.

My two favorite flavors are the Cocoa Sea Salt (also made with freeze-dried raspberries!!) and the Lemon Berry Chia. Other flavors include Original, Vanilla Berry, and Honey Pecan.

Buy It: Create an account at Kitchfix.com and receive 20% off your first order using the code NEW20. You can also buy Kitchfix on Amazon and use this zip code search to find where it is sold near you.

Marcella Kriebel Art + Illustration

I first found out about Marcella’s art at Artscape, an annual festival in Baltimore celebrating local art and artisans. I was drawn to her watercolor images of fruits and vegetables and knew I’d ultimately want to hang them in our kitchen once we renovated it.

Her prints are beautiful, unique, and full of vibrant colors. In addition to hanging them through our house (the Brassica and Rosaceae prints above are hanging in our kitchen and a pomegranate print is in our hallway), I’ve purchased these as gifts for other food lovers.

From her Illustrated Feast Watercolor Prints to greeting cards, frames, illustrated cookbooks and custom signs, Marcella has an incredible gift of turning food into art with paint and water. It’s amazing!

Buy It: Check out Marcella’s website or her etsy page.  It’ll be a feast for your eyes!

That’s what I’ve been into lately, my friends!

Let me know if you have an Instant Pot (and what your favorite recipes are!), whether you’ve tried Kitchfix granola and if you end up buying some of Marcella’s amazing artwork. I love hearing from you and what’s going on in your lives, so send me a note to let me know 🙂

Savory Sweet Potato Kale Hash

Most of us think of breakfast as a type of food – bagels, cereal, pancakes, waffles, eggs, toast, etc.

I like to think of breakfast as a time of day. Anything goes!

I usually have a smoothie or oatmeal, but sometimes I want something savory and have leftover chili or soup or recipes like the one I’m sharing today.

People who start the day with a protein-rich, veggie-packed breakfast tend to have fewer food cravings later in the day. Most of us – especially women – start the day with a sweet meal that contains very little protein (i.e., most granola bars, bagels, cereal), which sets us up to have more sweet cravings, hormonal imbalances, mood swings, and low energy.

Want to balance out all of that? Try this dish.

Rich in fiber and nutrients from the sweet potatoes and kale, this meal will nourish you and fill you up. The protein comes primarily from the chicken sausage from my favorite company – Bilinski’s.

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Ordinarily, I’m not a fan of sausage, but here are just a few reasons why we love this product:

  • They taste delicious. We always have a package in our fridge, and these sausages are one of my husband, Bill’s favorite foods.
  • Their chickens are free range and pasture-raised, raised humanely and respectfully, and given access to plenty of natural sunlight and space to roam about. They are never treated with growth hormones or antibiotics.
  • Bilinski’s sausages have NO gross casing– so there is no pork or lamb casing to remove! That’s the main thing that weirds me out about most sausages.
  • All of their sausages are gluten-free and wheat-free.
  • Only whole, clean ingredients are used (you’ll never see generic “spices” or “flavorings” in their ingredients lists!) and each ingredient is always fully listed.

We buy them at MOMs Organic Market or Whole Foods, but if you want to find where they are sold near you, use their store locator.

Combine the protein-packed goodness of these sausages with the fiber-filled veggies and a few simple spices, and you’ll have a dish that is perfect for any meal. You can even put an over-easy egg on top to add even more flavor!

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Savory Sweet Potato Kale Hash

This dish is perfect for any meal but we love it as a filling and nourishing breakfast that is packed with flavor, protein and fiber. 

Course Breakfast
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Author Rachel Druckenmiller

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or avocado oil
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes peeled and diced
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled and minced
  • 6 cups kale destemmed and chopped
  • 5 scallions sliced into rounds
  • 3 Bilinski's sausages Wild Mushroom is delicious!

Instructions

  1. In a medium skillet over medium heat, add a drizzle of olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Cut sausage in half lengthwise and place cut-side down on skillet. Heat until browned, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and cut into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

  2. Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add sweet potatoes, sage, cumin, salt and pepper and saute for 12-15 minutes or until sweet potatoes are cooked through and fork tender. After about 10 minutes, add garlic and stir to combine. Add a few tablespoons of water to prevent potatoes from sticking and to speed up the cooking process. 

  3. Add kale to sweet potatoes along with a few tablespoons of water and toss to combine. Cover with lid to steam kale, about 2-3 minutes. 

  4. Add diced sausage and scallions and toss everything to combine. Serve warm.

Apple Cinnamon Smoothie

I love this time of year.

September and October are my favorite weather months, and I love the changing colors of the leaves on the trees here on the East Coast.

As fall comes and winter follows, a lot of us will be changing up our diets a bit to reflect the change in seasons. We’ll be adding in more warming, grounding foods like soups, stews, and chilis. We’ll be incorporating more herbs and spices in our meals. We’ll focus on flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, sage, rosemary and thyme.

YUM!

Why not start the season off with one of everyone’s favorites…apple pie!

I have to admit – I’m more of a crisp/crumble girl than a pie person. But I know apple pie is one of those comfort foods that makes a lot of people very happy, so today’s recipe is my best attempt at recreating it…smoothie style!

In this recipe, I used avocado for creaminess (you won’t even taste it!), an apple and a date for sweetness, and cinnamon and nutmeg for a punch of flavor. The hint of lemon juice adds a bit of tartness to this recipe, which you could probably recreate by just using a Granny Smith apple instead of the Gala apple that I used. You can add spinach to create a Green Apple Smoothie, if you’d like. It’s a great way to get in an extra dose of veggies.

Because of the apple and the oats, this recipe isn’t as silky smooth as some other smoothies, but the flavors are on point. My friend Kat taste tested it for me before I finalized it and she said she was a bit skeptical of the combo of ingredients…but it turned out great!

Happy Fall!

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Cinnamon Apple Smoothie

As fall foods make their way into our kitchens and bellies, let's celebrate all of the flavors of fall with this seasonal smoothie!

Course Breakfast
Cuisine Smoothie
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 1 person
Author Rachel Druckenmiller

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almond milk unsweetened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 medium apple cored and quartered
  • 1 Medjool date pit removed
  • 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • pinch sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons rolled oats gluten-free
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 avocado flesh
  • 2 scoops unflavored protein powder Vital Proteins and Tonic are my fave brands
  • 1 cup ice cubes

Instructions

  1. Blend all ingredients except ice cubes in a high speed blender until evenly combined. Add ice and blend until smooth.

Recipe Notes

Add 1 cup of baby spinach for a "green apple" smoothie. 

How I Recovered from Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)

Prior to February 2017, I had never heard of Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). I had just been diagnosed with it after being sick for four months and not knowing why.

Fast forward seven months, and I know more than I ever thought I would about EBV because of the incredible coaching and guidance I have received from my nutritionist, Kasia Kines. An acute form of mono, EBV occurs more frequently in immunocompromised people, especially after periods of prolonged or intense stress or hormonal changes. The stress that had been accumulating in my life up to that point had nowhere else to go, so it took me down for the count.

As I wrote in a previous post, EBV has been a gift, even though it has been frustrating, confusing and overwhelming to deal with. Since sharing my story, multiple people have reached out to me asking me what I did to treat the virus and quiet it. The truth is, once you get EBV, you always have it, so once it’s been activated, you have no choice but to make some changes to your lifestyle. Most people have the virus in their body but never experience its activation. I had the perfect storm of circumstances come together to turn it “on”.

I’ve since learned how to calm it down, restore my immune system and get my energy back, and that’s what I want to share with you today. I’m forever grateful to my nutritionist, Kasia, for guiding me through this healing process. If you know someone struggling with EBV, tell them to contact her!

1) Rest

This was the most important thing I did.

And one of the toughest.

I had to prioritize sleep more than ever before. In the past, I could easily get a second wind at 10pm and just keep going until midnight reading, writing or watching mindless TV. After EBV, sleep was no longer a negotiable behavior. I consistently got about nine to ten hours of sleep each night in the three or four months following the diagnosis. My body needed additional time to recover and repair itself, so I gave it what it needed. Getting inadequate sleep suppresses the immune system and can trigger a cascade of hormonal changes, which can trigger EBV reactivation.

I also gave my body a break from movement. Any physical exertion at all seemed to set me back, so that meant no exercise for several months. Gentle walks and gentle stretching or yoga every now and then seemed to be okay, but my body needed to rest in every way, including physically. It took me almost six months to recover the vigor I once I had physically, which was frustrating but necessary. Since then, if I’m feeling mentally or emotionally run down, I am more aware, and I choose to be gentle with my body and movement on those days.

I love taking epsom salt baths, started reading even more than usual, wrote in my journal A LOT, listened to music, read my devotional, and was frequently diffusing calming essential oils like lavender and frankincense.

2) Slow Down + Create Space

Yup. This sucked. I didn’t want to do it. I thought I could keep being superwoman and superhuman.

EBV was the only thing that got my attention and made me take changes to my life seriously. Hormonal changes due to stress and even that time of the month can trigger EBV, so reducing stress is super important.

Prior to the virus, I would jam pack every day and week with as much excitement as I thought I could handle. Sometimes that meant four speaking gigs in one week, often with new content. I had no idea how exhausting that was for my mind and body, even though I love speaking. I had to email my boss and our CEO letting them know the seriousness of the virus and asking for support in terms of time and staffing. I knew I had to protect my calendar, which meant no more than two speaking gigs in any week. Period.

Slowing down meant saying “no” to people, late night socializing and exciting “opportunities”, so I could take care of myself and respect my need to create space in my life.

I’m still working on this, but I am so much more aware when I’m heading in a not so good direction that I catch myself before I go off the deep end. I also started seeing a therapist to start processing and working on some of the emotional and psychological factors that cause me to run myself into the ground. I know I have a lot of emotions inside that I have not acknowledged or addressed that send me into a spiral, and I am committed to getting to the root of them, too!

3) Connect to Community

As someone who finds it easy to be alone and crawl into a hole when I’m feeling down, I’ve learned in the importance of reaching out to people and bringing them into the muck with you. I can’t tell you the number of people who were praying for me, with me, and over me during this time.

I felt like there was an army of love behind me, pleading for my healing.

There were multiple days when I was at an 8-session spiritual gifts training at my church and was so sick I just sobbed out of desperation and pain, and people weren’t repelled by it; they came closer to me. When I was at my worst, people were checking in on me, asking how I was doing, sending sweet text messages, and stopping by to see me. I’m so grateful for all of the people who loved me so well through this period of time.

If you’re going through a difficult illness, REACH OUT to people. ASK FOR HELP. BE VULNERABLE. It’s one of the best things I ever did and that lesson has stuck with me ever since. I feel closer and more connected to my friends and larger community than ever before.

What a gift.

4) Supplement***

Kasia was incredibly helpful and knowledgeable in this area. She was in the process of finishing her final PhD project for a degree in Functional Nutrition and had selected EBV as her topic of choice. Lucky for me! She put me on antiviral, immune-boosting, energy-restoring supplements, which I have listed below.

Exact dosages should be determined by a healthcare provider with experience with EBV.*** For that, Kasia has no equal.

  • Licorice Root Extract (NOT Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice): One of the strongest anti-viral foods out there, I took this every either in the form of tea or a capsule from Vital Nutrients. Licorice root is contraindicated for people with hypertension, as it increases blood pressure. My favorite tea brand is Buddha Teas Licorice Root tea. I buy it at MOMs Organic Market.
  • Selenium: strengthens and protects the nervous system; antiviral
  • L-Lysine: strong antiviral amino acid
  • NAC: anti-replication of the virus and cell system support (energy)
  • Vitamin D3 + K2: increases energy levels and immunity, boosts mood and balances hormones; antiviral
  • B-vitamin Complex: supports balanced moods, healthy energy levels, and the nervous and immune systems
  • Vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin NOT cyanocobalamin – read the label): strengthens the nervous system and increases energy
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: prime modulator of inflammatory hormones
  • CoQ10: a natural antioxidant synthesized by the body that can improve energy production in cells
  • Magnesium: anti-inflammatory for nerves; nerve calmer; reduces constipation
  • Vitamin C: strengthens immune system and flushes out EBV toxins from the liver
  • Vitamin A: immune system support
  • Turmeric: active ingredient curcumin helps strengthen the endocrine and central nervous systems
  • Probiotics: digestive system support. Make sure to get these from foods like naturally fermented sauerkraut (HEX Ferments, Farmhouse Culture, Bubbies brands). Otherwise, use a high quality probiotic with a variety of strains (at least 8 different kinds) and 10-50 billion CFUs.

A few other supplements and herbs I didn’t use that can be helpful are red marine algae, nettle leaf (get in tea form), 5-MTHF, lemon balm (tea form), elderberry, red clover, star anise, rose hip tea, cat’s claw.

***As with any health condition, especially one as serious as EBV, consult with a trusted health care provider. My choice would be Kasia!

5) Eat to Nourish and Heal the Body

Every bite I consumed was intended to calm the raging inflammation in my body and heal my digestive system. I was already dairy-free and gluten-free, which helped because gluten and dairy tend to be key triggers of autoimmune conditions and promote gut dysfunction. They tend to trigger EBV symptoms, too. I pretty much nixed sugar, alcohol, caffeine, corn (digestive irritant) and even eggs for a while because they can aggravate EBV, according to Kasia’s research.

Here are some of the main foods I consumed a LOT of because of their antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and gut-supportive properties.

Veggies: celery (whole plant and juiced), sprouts (I LOVE Potomac Sprouts Company sprouts), cilantro, spirulina, asparagus, spinach, artichokes, parsley, sauerkraut, fermented veggies, lettuces except iceberg, green beans, winter squash, zucchini, kale, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, fennel

Roots: garlic, ginger, turmeric (try this turmeric golden milk smoothie!)

Fruit: wild blueberries (try this blueberry avocado smoothie bowl), pears, bananas, red-skinned apples, blackberries, melons, raspberries, papaya, apricots, pomegranate, grapefruit

Other: coconut oil, bone broth, herbal teas made with licorice root, ginger, fennel, chamomile, nettle leaf, lemon balm, red clover or rose hips

That’s a wrap, my friends. I hope it helps you and anyone you know on a journey of healing autoimmune conditions or chronic illnesses like Epstein-Barr Virus. Be patient and give your body what it needs to heal, and it will respond.

Sending love and light to all of you!

My Top 9 Healthy Freezer Finds

We hear a lot about pantry staples and the essential items to stock in your pantry, but what about the freezer?

Years ago, mine was full of Vitatops, Fudgesicles, and Lean Cuisine meals. It took me some time to figure out that those weren’t the most nourishing choices and didn’t make my body feel very good.

Since then, I’ve upgraded my pantry and freezer staples to better support how I want to feel. All of the items recommended in this post are gluten-free, dairy-free, and many are either vegan or paleo.

Check out the video below for the top 11 items we (almost) always have in our freezer!

  1. Organic Berries, Dark Cherries and Tropical Fruit for Smoothies. The best deals I’ve found is the Wellsley Farms brand from BJs Wholesale Club. In the video, I referenced this cherry chocolate smoothie and this Caribbean breeze smoothie.
  2. Wild Blueberries. You can find these at most grocery stores, but we get a giant bag from BJs Wholesale Club. Blueberries are antioxidant powerhouses and great for the brain!
  3. Bananas. Peel ’em and freeze ’em! Use them in smoothies and to make this quick and easy banana ice cream.
  4. Veggies. We tend to keep frozen peas and edamame, two plant-based protein sources that are perfect for soups, stews, stir fries or salads. My favorite brand is Cascadian Farm because they are organic and not genetically modified.
  5. Homemade Broth. This is one of the best ways to reduce food waste because you use scraps from vegetables to make broth instead of throwing them away. Check out this post for a simple recipe for how to make your own vegetable broth from scraps! You can do the same for bone broth.
  6. Spinach. Do you ever buy those large clamshell containers of spinach and get to the end of the week having used less than you anticipated? Do you sense that the funky, slimy spinach smell is about to take over your fridge? I’ve got a solution! First of all, ALWAYS put a dry paper towel on top of the greens after opening containers like that to absorb moisture. Once you’re finished with the fresh spinach, you can just take the container (remove paper towel) and put it in the freezer. I use the frozen spinach in smoothies, omelets and soups.
  7. Brown Rice. Sometimes you’re in a pinch and don’t want to wait an hour to cook a pot of brown rice. If you don’t want to purchase an Instant Pot to expedite the cooking process, you can find frozen bags of precooked brown rice in just about any grocery store or Target. You typically get three bags in a box, and Trader Joe’s has one of the best deals on the boxes. We use brown rice in soups, stir fries, and other quick dishes.
  8. Swapples Frozen Waffles. Obsessed? That might be an understatement. Swapples put a new spin on a traditional waffle. They are made without gluten-containing ingredients, vegan, and paleo and can be used as the base of or topping for just about any meal. My favorites are the Tomato Pizza version (top with smashed avocado!) and Blueberry. You can find them in Maryland, Norther Virginia, and DC, and they are expanding into other markets now, too, including NYC! Use their store locator to find them near you.
  9. Hilary’s Eat Well Veggie Burgers and Mini Burger Bites. You have to add these to your grocery list this week. Their certified organic ingredients are real food, minimally processed and as close to their natural state as possible. Their veggie burgers do not have any weird, non-food ingredients in them and are corn-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, gluten-free, and nut-free. They taste DELICIOUS and my favorite flavors are the Mediterranean Burger Bites and the Hemp & Greens full-sized veggie burgers. They also sell salad dressings and are always coming out with new products. Use their store locator to find out where to buy them near you.

Two that I left off the list because we didn’t have any on hand at the moment were:

  • Beetnik Meals. They are one of the only frozen meals that I recommend because of the integrity of their ingredients…and they taste delicious! Bill takes them to school with him for lunches, and they are filling, tasty and nourishing. They’re the next best thing to homemade. Find them here.
  • Wild Caught Salmon. MOMs Organic Market sells a brand of this product, but you can also find it online at Vital Choice. Here’s what Bon Appetit has to say about wild caught salmon: “A happier, healthier, free-roaming fish delivers more salmon-y flavor and color. The color will be more intense and vibrant than that of the farm-raised stuff—more red-orange than pink— as will the flavor, which will be a lot more savory and complex.” Enough said 🙂

How about you? What are some of your freezer staples?

Blueberry Avocado Smoothie Bowl

Do you ever feel super full or bloated after drinking a smoothie?

It’s so easy to drink them waaaay too fast and fill our stomach with too much too quickly. For more on that, check out this post I wrote for mindbodygreen.

I’ve started favoring smoothie bowls over smoothies in a glass because eating a smoothie with a spoon slows down the rate of entering my stomach. I can put away a smoothie in a glass with a straw in a matter of seconds, if I’m being totally honest! But sitting down with a bowl and spoon makes me more mindful and slows me down.

Slower eating = better digestion!

Today’s smoothie bowl is full of some of my favorite things – blueberries, avocado, and a hint of cinnamon! The avocado makes it smooth and creamy, and the blueberries give it this amazing color. I also topped it off with a sprinkle of bee pollen from Beekeeper’s Naturals, which is full of protein, B vitamins, minerals and free form amino acids.

If you’re a fan of smoothie bowls, check out another recent post I shared with three of my favorite smoothie bowls, including the Berry Good Bowl, Berry Chocolate Bowl and the Shrek Bowl.

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Blueberry Avocado Smoothie Bowl

This is one of my favorite smoothie bowls packed with protein, fiber and healthy fats!

Course Breakfast
Cuisine Smoothie
Prep Time 5 minutes
Author Rachel Druckenmiller

Ingredients

  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder I love Amazing Grass pure vanilla protein superfood
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/2 zucchini peeled and chopped
  • sprinkle cinnamon
  • 1 cup almond milk unsweetened
  • 2/3 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen strawberries

Instructions

  1. Blend the first 5 ingredients in your blender until evenly combined

  2. Add the frozen fruit and blend again until smooth and creamy. Pour into a bowl to serve and top with some bee pollen!

 

Turmeric Golden Milk Smoothie {Vegan, Paleo}

Are you into golden milk as much as I am?

Maybe you’re wondering what it is and what all the fuss is about and have yet to try it.

After drinking golden milk from about five different places on a recent trip to Colorado, I was inspired to create this recipe. It takes a popular hot drink and turns it into a cool and creamy smoothie!

The base of this smoothie combines an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich, anti-cancer spice blend of turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger. Adding a pinch of black pepper helps the body better absorb the turmeric, so whenever you consume turmeric, make sure to pair it with some black pepper.

Turmeric is a plant that grows underground and is a member of the ginger family. It has a long history of medicinal use, dating back nearly 4000 years, and it has been studied in numerous clinical trials for its therapeutic use. The primary compound in turmeric is called curcumin and its consumption has been correlated with a range of potential health benefits:

  • Protection against certain cancers
  • Treatment of arthritis and osteoarthritis
  • Support for those with inflammatory bowel disease
  • Reduce blood sugar
  • May help prevent Alzheimer’s disease

To learn more about this powerful plant, click here.

By itself, turmeric doesn’t taste that awesome and can have a bit of a bitter taste, but when it is combined with other spices (like in the case of curry powder or golden milk), its flavor is muted but its vibrant color shines through.

To make this a more substantial smoothie, I added a few scoops of my favorite collagen protein powder, which supports healthy tissue growth, and some cashews for a source of fat. If you’d rather use cashew butter or coconut butter, you can do that instead.

I usually have to mess with a recipe multiple times for sharing it with you, but this was a one and done kind of day! I hope you enjoy this delicious golden milk smoothie. Let me know what you think if you try it!

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Turmeric Golden Milk Smoothie

This cool and creamy spin on a popular hot drink is the perfect way to start your day!

Course Breakfast
Cuisine Smoothie
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 1
Author Rachel Druckenmiller

Ingredients

  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1 pinch black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon raw cashews
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweetener honey or pure maple syrup
  • 2 scoops collagen protein powder I use Vital Proteins
  • 1/2 zucchini peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup almond milk unsweetened
  • 1 banana frozen

Instructions

  1. Put spices through almond milk in a blender and blend until evenly combined. 

  2. Add frozen banana and blend until smooth.

Recipe Notes

To purchase collagen peptides from Vital Proteins, click here.

I’m Into It: HotelTonight, A Song & Ice Cream

What an exciting week it’s been!

Bill and I have been in Colorado celebrating our anniversary and a cousin’s wedding. We’re about two hours south of Denver in a small town called Salida. It is absolutely stunning out here!

I’m glad you guys have been so excited about the I’m Into It! series, so I have three more recommendations coming your way, including one that we used while on this trip!

App: HotelTonight

I first found out about this app last year when Bill and I were traveling to Wilmington, North Carolina to stay with my grandmother before he did the Half Ironman in Raleigh that weekend. It was approaching midnight and we still had almost three hours to go in the trip and know it would not have been smart to keep driving.

I discovered the app HotelTonight, which gives you great last-minute deals on top-rated hotels. You can book tonight, tomorrow or seven days out and will see the difference in price between what the hotel usually charges and the deal they are offering you. You book it through the app, quickly and easily, and the one stipulation is that you can’t cancel, and the fees are nonrefundable. But if you’re looking for a room with that little notice, chances are that you wouldn’t cancel anyway. I also like how they categorize the hotel by “type” (Basic, Solid, Hip, Luxe) and show you customer ratings.

On a recent trip to NYC, we had a less than awesome Airbnb experience and decided to bail on our place the second night because the accommodations were so awful. At 11:30 on a Friday night, we found a room at the Roosevelt Hotel on Madison Avenue and 45th for $115 for the following night! That was cheaper than the Airbnb room and SO much better! We’re currently in Denver celebrating our anniversary and a cousin’s wedding, and the first day we landed in Denver, we didn’t have a place to stay and booked one that morning through the HotelTonight app and had plenty of options.

We always call the hotel just in case to confirm whether their rate is cheaper than what we’ve found online. It never hurts to double check!

Try It: Download the app in the app store. And if you want to save $25 on your first booking, use promo code RADRUCKENMILLER.

Food: Nada Moo Ice Cream

I apologize in advance if this recommendation causes you to consume copious amounts of ice cream 🙂

I was at the Green Goddess Market in Lake Placid, NY a few weeks ago and was using a birthday gift card my mom had given me. I was trying to figure out what I could buy there that I couldn’t find at stores back home and came across Nada Moo Mmm…Maple Pecan dairy-free ice cream!

HOLY COW.

It was smooth and creamy and delicious, not icy like a lot of non-dairy ice cream can be. Not only that, but each serving of that flavor had 5 grams of fiber and only 8 grams of sugar (about half of what most ice cream contains!). You never see a single digit sugar content in ice cream that tastes this good. It’s still a treat and not a daily staple, but it is an upgraded one! Another perk about this brand is that it’s certified fair trade, meaning the people who make it receive a fair wage and are treated like human beings, and it’s organic! With fun flavors like “That Snickerdoodle Dough”, “Vanilla…Ahhh!” and “Lotta Mint Chip,” you’re going to want to grab a pint of Nada Moo the next time you’re at the grocery store!

Try It: You can search your zip code on their website to find where it’s sold near you or you can buy it at Whole Foods Market, Harris Teeter, and Roots Market, if you live in the Baltimore/DC area.

Song: You’re Gonna Be Okay by Brian & Jenn Johnson

As you guys know, one of the things I like to do on this blog is share honest and open stories about challenges I face to create a space where you can feel safe to do the same in your own life. One of my goals is to be a light in the world and bring hope to dark places, so as much as I share uplifting quotes and other forms of positivity, I also live in the real world and know that life isn’t rainbows and butterflies all the time.

In those moments, we seek comfort.

That’s what this song has been for me.

A few months ago when I was in the early stages of recovering from Epstein-Barr Virus, I was driving home from a meeting and heard this song. It made me think of my friend whose sister has been dealing with the impact of a horrific brain injury since last June and hasn’t been the same since. I thought of another friend who lost her first child in the third trimester of her pregnancy. I thought of yet another friend who has been battling a lifetime of autoimmune conditions and struggles to hold on to hope each day.

This song brought a sense of peace and comfort to all of those situations. I hope it does the same for you. Share it with someone you know who is going through a tough time. Maybe it bring them hope and encouragement.

And that’s a wrap, my friends.

What are you into this week? Feel free to leave your thoughts below! I love hearing from you.

 

I’m Into It: Ravensburger, Winks & Wise + Well

What a WEEK it’s been, my friends!

I’ll be sharing more about the full story with lots more pictures in an upcoming post, but a 50-foot maple tree in our backyard came down the other day as a result of a terrible storm here in Baltimore!

Dealing with our insurance company, roofer, tree remover, fence company and neighbors to sort out all of the logistics has not been the best ending to my week. But I’ll be sharing lessons learned in the process in a future post.

After the wonderful feedback you gave me when I announced the new “I’m Into It” series last week, I was excited to put together this week’s version!

PUZZLES: Ravensburger and Springbok

I was talking to my friend Jenn at the beginning of the summer, and she shared with me how she was committing to being more intentional about how she spent her time. No more Netflix binges or just spending hours watching TV each night of the summer. She would ask more of herself than that.

I started thinking about it. How often do we just eat dinner and then plop on the couch for the rest of the night watching hours of TV until one of us falls asleep?

A LOT.

I thought about how doing that didn’t make me feel connected to Bill at all. It usually meant I was staying up later than I needed to be watching yet another Jimmy Fallon episode that would be there in the morning.

So, I talked to Bill about it and asked if we could do something else that might help us feel more connected instead of checked out.

We decided to start putting together puzzles…and listening to Les Miserables or Broadway radio on Pandora. It really makes the night! I could listen to “On My Own” a thousand times over. Any other Les Mis fans out there?

This Beauty & the Beast puzzle has been my favorite so far. They even hid characters from other Disney movies – Bambi, Pinocchio, and the mice from Cinderella – in the puzzle!

The best brand of puzzles I’ve found is Ravensburger. The pieces snap together, so you know for sure when you’ve found a match. Springbok is another good brand, but some of their pieces are cut in odd ways, so it’s tough to figure out which ones are corners and which are not. Either way, I’d encourage you to buy yourself a puzzle this month to cut down on TV time!

Try It: Here is Ravensburger’s website and Springbok. We’ve bought a few at Barnes & Noble, but you can also buy puzzles on Amazon.

Blog: Wise + Well

The nature of my work gives me the opportunity to meet so many amazing people. Just over a year ago, I was giving a presentation at my company for our clients, and afterwards, I met Leigh Winters. I had been told that we needed to meet and that we’d have a lot in common.

She is delightful…and so is her blog, Wise + Well!

Leigh is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the blog, Wise + Well. She is a clinical researcher at Columbia University’s Spirituality Mind Body Institute and Columbia University Department of Psychiatry’s New York State Psychiatric Institute. In addition to studying and researching mind-body and mindfulness practices, Leigh is also a certified aromatherapist and Ayurveda specialist. She holds dual master’s degrees from Columbia University in Clinical Psychology and Neuroscience.

Her blog covers a wide range of holistic health topics, including aromatherapy, mindfulness, nutrition, fitness, and nature, among others. She is a regular contributor to the online lifestyle website, mindbodygreen, and her posts are so thorough, engaging and easy to read. Applying her training and the latest research, she wrote this recent Essential Oils Beginner Guide that is SO incredibly helpful. We’ve been using essential oils in our home for the past two and a half years, so I appreciate having the scientific backing for them from Leigh! You have to check out her beautiful Instagram feed, too!

Follow: Check out Wise + Well on their Blog, Instagram, and Facebook.

Book: When God Winks: How the Power of Coincidence Guides Your Life by SQuire Rushnell

My friend Samantha recommended that I read this book several months ago, so I took it on vacation with me and read it.

I tend to be someone who looks for meaning in any situation, especially challenging ones, because I believe we can learn lessons or receive gifts if we are open to it. In this book are dozens of stories of people whose lives were, in many cases, radically transformed as a result of seeming coincidences.  The author uses the term “God Winks” to describe these messages given to us on our journey, nudging us along the grand path that has been designed especially for us.

One of the stories, in particular, stood out to and stuck with me. Beth’s father had just passed away suddenly after a heart transplant. As she’s at the airport terminal crying, a man puts his hand on her shoulder and asks if she’s all right. She looks at him and recognizes him.

Kevin Costner.

He comforted her as she shared her story through tears and then invited her to join him at the set of a movie he was working on nearby. To make a long story short, Beth ended up visiting the set and meeting the film’s public relations executive, whom she ended up marrying within the year!

A horrible situation (the death of her father) ultimately led to a life-changing joy (meeting her husband). If you want to be uplifted, encouraged and inspired, I invite you to check out When God Winks!

Read It: Find it at a bookstore or online at Amazon.

That’s a wrap, my friends! What are YOU into this week? Feel free to let me know in the comments below 🙂 Have a great week!

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