Nourish Your Body. Feed Your Soul. Shine Your Light.

Category: Products I Use (Page 1 of 11)

Top 10 Highlights of Natural Products Expo East 2018

Imagine if Whole Foods and just about every natural food store you know of had a trade show and you got to sample something from every vendor.

That’s pretty much what happens at the Natural Products Expo each year, and it’s like trick-or-treating for food nerds like me. Thousands of health practitioners, retailers, wholesalers, press, and bloggers come from all over North America and even beyond to get the scoop on the latest trends in the natural products industry. The show just so happens to be held in Baltimore, my hometown, so I have a 25 minute drive to get from my driveway to the expo.

It’s awesome.

As a blogger who writes about these products, I have the opportunity to attend each year, and it’s always one of the highlights of my fall. I share what I find with all of you and often sample and feature these products in the workshops and cooking demonstrations I teach at companies. As many of you know, I have a gluten-free, dairy-free focus in my food choices because of what I’ve found makes my body feel its best. Expo is a great place to go to find out what’s coming soon, so I can fill you in ASAP. I had fun hanging out with Elyza Dolby and Colleen Howell. Expo is even better when you go with friends!

Each year, I notice a few trends that tend to characterize the expo, and I bring them back to you to make your life easier, better and more delicious. I focus on dairy-free and gluten-free options as well as upgrades to on the go meal and snack foods and some supplements and herbal remedies worth considering!

*Friends, I want to offer this one caveat before I share my updates and trends with you. Regardless of what the trends are, I still focus my eating around my whole foods – mostly plant-based, full of colors, packed with nourishing fats, protein and fiber. To learn more about what matters most to me and what my personal food philosophy is, I’ve got you covered here.*

**If you want to know where these products are sold near you, go to the product’s website and look for the “Store Locator” or “Find Me Near You” page on their site and search by zip code.

RNK’s Top Expo East Trends & Finds

On-the-go nourishment is getting easier and more delicious.

I’ve written before about my top tips for eating healthy on the go, and I’m excited to see so many companies finding ways to prioritize both food quality and convenience. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner on the go, it’s easier than ever to eat well, even when you’re busy.

Some of my favorite newbies to the scene are Purely Elizabeth oatmeal cups (less than 5 grams of sugar per container, which is wayyyy less than most on the go oats), Sprout Living drinkable oats (try the spice or mocha flavors!)Wildscape frozen meals (which are made with totally real food ingredients – they have one gluten-free and one vegan option), Grainful meals, and Path of Life frozen sides.

I was also excited to see the team from Swapples, one of our on-the-go breakfast staples, at Expo for the first time! We love their grain-free frozen waffles. They also won Best of Show at Expo East by Veg World Magazine! Congrats, Rebecca and team! 🙂

New snack bars are aiming for lower sugar.

I aim for a single digit sugar content in the bars that I buy, and the new ones coming to market fit the bill (or are like 1 gram off!). I’ve written previously about my top real food snack bars in this post, including what I look for in a bar (protein + fiber + low sugar), but I’ll need to update it with some new options from this year. Because I travel so much, I don’t always have the opportunity for a full sit-down meal, so sometimes snacking on a bar is my best option. (Hummus and veggies and trail mixes definitely work, too!) 

This year’s bar standouts included Purely Elizabeth‘s granola bars (if you like her granola, you’ll love the bars!), Primal Kitchen‘s collagen bars, This Bar Saves Lives (eat for a cause!), evohemp cookie and brownie bars, and Enjoy Life’s allergen-free breakfast bars. For meat eaters, my hubby’s favorites for protein-rich bars that are also low in sugar are Country Archer Jerky Co. (Herb Citrus Turkey bar and Sweet BBQ Pork are his top two) and EPIC bars.

Mushrooms are cool and are being reinvented.

Whether it was in a zesty thai mushroom jerky or immune-boosting tinctures, teas, and hot chocolate mixes, mushrooms are in, and for good reason. I’ve written about the anti-cancer, immune-supportive properties of mushrooms in this GBOMBS post.

A few of my favorite mushroom-centric products are featured below. A few brands I love are Host Defense teas and immune-boosting sprays and drops (expect to see these in upcoming immunity workshops!), Four Sigmatic chocolate milk and latte mixes, Purely Elizabeth’s new grain-free granola bars, and Pan’s mushroom jerky, to name a few.

Beans, beans, good for your heart!

Whether it was a chickpea patty, hummus, chocolate-covered roasted chickpea or crunchy sriracha fava beans, beans showed up in droves this year. Beans have always been popular in the natural food community because of their high fiber and protein content, but it’s been fun to watch how the food industry has made them cool.

Here are some of my favorite bean-based products from Cedar’s Za’atar hummus, Enlightened roasted fava beans (soon to be rebranded as “Bada Bean”), Hempe chickpea tempeh patties, and Hodo ready-to-eat Moroccan-spiced tofu bites (good enough to convert any tofu hater).

Dairy-free cheeses have come a loooong way.

When I found out that dairy was a trigger for a range of health issues for me – from bloating and reflux to bronchitis and ear infections – I removed it from my diet and felt better within weeks. Since then, I’ve tried a variety of options for dairy-free yogurts, cheeses, chocolate, milks, ice cream, and other dairy-based products and have found some options that I really enjoy. For now, I’m just going to focus on the cheeses because, let’s be honest, they’re the hardest thing to change when going dairy-free.

A few cheese brands and products I love are Parmela Creamery (their nacho nutcheese is amaaaazing), Miyokos‘ Cheers to Cheddah (Wispride spreadable cheese fans, anyone?), and Treeline Cheese’s new Maple Walnut flavor coming out this fall.

Dairy-free milks and creamers are leveling up.

Next to cheese, I find that milk and coffee creamers are one of the things people really struggle to go without when eliminating dairy. Fortunately, there are so many options that will not make you feel the least bit deprived!

A few of my favorites are Oatly oat-based milk, Milkadamia macadamia nut-based milks and creamers, nutpods dairy-free coffee and tea creamers and Know Brainer‘s ketogenic (to learn more about keto, read this) creamers. Forager Project is rebranding their products with a green label, so be on the lookout for their yogurts and nut milks. Their full fat yogurts are also delicious!

Gut-friendly foods are everywhere.

From sauerkrauts and kombucha to apple cider vinegar drinks, gut-friendly foods continue to surge, which has been a trend for the past few years. More and more people are focusing on improving digestive health, and with good reason. I’ve written previously about my top ten tips for optimizing gut health in this blog post.

From Buchi’s Kombucha‘s new Kefir Soda (less sugar than kombucha and a pleasant fizz!) and Cleveland Kraut‘s  single-serve kraut packets, to Good Belly probiotic shots, and Bonafide Provision and Brodo‘s restorative broths.

My favorite local purveyor of fermented foods is still Hex Ferments in Baltimore, but if you’re outside of this area, try one of the brands above.

Purity of ingredients is paramount.

When it comes to packaged foods, it’s often easier to sacrifice purity of ingredients in order to optimize flavor or preservation. That’s why I’m excited to see so many companies committed to ingredient quality and simplicity. The shorter the ingredient list and the more easily I’m able to pronounce the ingredients, the more likely I am to buy it.

A few of my favorite finds in this category were Primal Kitchen’s ketchup, Jilz gluten-free crackers (holy cow, these were amazing and would be delicious with the hummus or cheeses mentioned above), Cappello’s gluten-free sweet potato gnocchi (omg), and Wildscape and Grainful frozen meals.

Chocolate is getting even better.

You know that shellac that you usually see on chocolate-coated candies? You won’t find it on Hu Kitchen’s new chocolate-dipped cashews and goji berry bites. These were two of my favorite new products at the expo this year. The tartness of the goldenberries combined with the richness and bite of dark chocolate were a killer combo. They should be in stores by Q1 2019.

Some of my favorite chocolate treats were Eating Evolved chocolates, Theo turmeric spice chocolate bar, Hu chocolate-covered hunks, and Better Bites chocolate covered cookie dough bites (these are definitely a special treat!). For a full round-up of my favorite dairy-free chocolate bars, check out this post.

Monk fruit is the new stevia.

Artificial sweeteners often get a lot of flack because of their negative side effects. One of the benefits of the evolving natural products industry is that we are finding better options to things like equal and sweet and low. Monk fruit as a natural, zero-calorie sweetener with a glycemic index of 0, so it’s suitable for diabetics. It’s about 300 times sweeter than sugar. To learn more about monk fruit and other natural sweeteners that I recommend, read this post.

You can find monk fruit in evohemp and Primal Kitchen’s bars, Lakanto’s chocolate and a variety of other products. There were too many to name, but you will start noticing this sweetener shift in 2019!

Okay….and ONE MORE bonus one because I can’t help myself…

Supplements can be fun and not feel like a chore.

With gummies, sprays, and lozenge-style options, taking supplements doesn’t have to mean pill boxes full of tough-to-swallow horse pills. When I discovered I was clinically malnourished, I had to start supplementing to replenish what was lost. My body wasn’t able to properly break down nutrients because I’d been taking stomach acid blockers for a decade, so I turned to easy to digest supplements from the brand Nutrametrix.

While that may not be everyone’s situation, there are still some great options if you are looking for ways to make taking supplements more palatable. For those of you who are vegan, there is a high likelihood you will need to supplement with B-vitamins, especially B-12, so talk to your doctor about that. Many people are supplementing with turmeric these days because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Both B-12 and turmeric are now available in a fun and tasty gummy from Mega Food. Make sure your turmeric is combined with black pepper on the supplement label to optimize absorption.

If you are looking to boost your immune system, Beekeeper’s Naturals propolis throat spray is one of the top sellers on Amazon and a product I have used myself. They just introduced a NEW version for kids, so check them out on Amazon

Here are a few other trends I spotted that I haven’t found to be relevant to me but were really popular at expo, so I wanted to share them with you:

  • CBD oil is in everything. From water and honey to gummies and supplements, cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the chemical compounds found in the marijuana plant that is known to calm the nervous system, among other things. It showed up at every turn at this year’s expo and is legal to consume in Maryland and in other states. To learn more about CBD oil’s benefits and uses, click here.
  • Natural sleep aids are on the rise. It’s no secret that many of us struggle to get a good night’s sleep, which is why natural sleep aids are popping up everywhere from Som Sleep drinks to supplements.

If you’re not already hanging out with me over on Instagram, check out my page here. I share all of the latest and greatest food finds, recipes, blog posts and inspiration on that platform, and I’d love to connect with you!

I’m Into It! Swapples, Superhero Muffin & the Hidden Brain

Last summer, I started a series called “I’m Into It!” where I share some of my favorite recipes, books, websites, gadgets and brands. The last post from this series covered the reasons why we L-O-V-E our instant pot, so check that out here if you missed it!

Let’s move on to what I’m into today. I have three exciting recs in store for you, friends!

  1. One of our FAVORITE freezer staples.
  2. A killer muffin recipe that is filling enough for a meal.
  3. A podcast that is blowing my mind and will hopefully rock your world, too!

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you’ve seen me post about this first food, but if you haven’t, you’re in for a treat today!

Swapples

One day at MOMs Organic Market, I was walking through the freezer aisle and saw packaging that caught my eye.

Vegan

Paleo

Gluten-free

Swapples.

“What the heck is a Swapple?” I wondered. I’d never heard of them before.

I grabbed the package and noticed the simplicity of the real food ingredients (healthier “swaps” to traditional ingredients in packaged food). When I brought a bag home,  Bill and I fell in love with them immediately and always have a package in our freezer! Swapples are plant-based waffles made with whole fruits, veggies and spices. All of the waffles are made without gluten, certified vegan, and contain only about six ingredients! You can use them like you would use toast, a bagel, pizza crust or any other medium for stacking tasty toppings!

I’ve had the privilege of meeting the face behind the brand – founder Rebecca Peress. She is a dynamo and is so passionate and enthusiastic about what she does. She invited me to a Swapples tasting before they rolled out their blueberry flavor about a year or so ago and I met another blogger, Crunchy Kat, there, and we’ve since become buddies. If you’re not already a part of the Swapples community on Instagram, start following them! They post drool-worthy photos of some of the most creative Swapples meal ideas.

Flavors: Savory (Everything, Tomato Pizza, Garlicky Greens) and Sweet (Blueberry, Cinnamon).

Where to Buy: Find where Swapples are sold near you using this store locator.

Superhero Muffin

One of the best parts about my job is meeting hundreds of new people who can teach me new things on a regular basis. Whether I’m speaking at companies or conferences, I love meeting people. I believe that, if we’re open to it, we can learn something from everyone we meet.

Earlier this year, I was at a company facilitating a training about how to beat burnout and become our best selves, given my experience with burnout last year. In one of the sessions, I was asking everyone in the room to share their favorite apps, podcasts, books, and other tools that have helped them improve some area of their lives.

One person wrote down a book I hadn’t heard of – Run Fast Eat Slow – which was written by athletes for athletes. I don’t consider myself an “athlete,” but I checked out their website and align so much with their philosophy around food and love their concept of “indulgent nourishment.” (Isn’t that the coolest phrase??)

They focus on using fat for flavor and performance, don’t obsess over protein, and know that restrictive diets do more harm than good. In my initial scroll through their website, I stumbled upon an AMAZING recipe that I’ve made about three times in the past few months. They’re called Superhero Muffins and are great for a grab-and-go breakfast. I’ve taken them with me for snacks and breakfast when traveling. They’re also gluten-free 🙂

Try the Recipe: Here is the recipe for the Superhero Muffins!

Hidden Brain Podcast

I’m not even sure how I first stumbled upon the Hidden Brain podcast. I think it came up as a recommended podcast, since Bill and I have been listening to another fascinating podcast – Revisionist History with Malcolm Gladwell.

Hidden Brain is an NPR podcast that uses science and storytelling to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, shape our choices and direct our relationships. The topics are intriguing, and I’ve listened to multiple episodes in a row when traveling. They are inspiring, informative, and really get you to think differently. I love being intellectually stimulated, and this podcast does that while also keeping me emotionally engaged.

Subscribe: Check out the Hidden Brain podcast and listen to past episodes on the podcast app on your phone or here on their website. Here are a few of my favorite episodes (because of my interest in relationships and thought patterns and how to improve them!):



Reader Feedback

How about you? Have you tried Swapples or Superhero Muffins? Do you have a favorite podcast that you love listening to? Feel free to leave a comment below 🙂

The Ultimate Guide to the Best Dairy-Free Chocolate Bars

One of the things I love to do on this blog and on social media is give you recommendations for the best products to buy to help you save time (and money!) at the grocery store. I’ve been wanting to write today’s post for years but never took the time to do it, but with Valentine’s Day approaching, I thought now was the perfect time!

I consider myself to be a qualitarian, which is just a fancy term coined by Dr. Mark Hyman that means consuming the highest quality foods and ingredients possible, as often as possible. If you haven’t checked out my food philosophy to learn more about my approach to eating, you can find it here.

When it comes to quality, I’m not just talking about fresh, organic fruits and veggies. Every food counts.

Including chocolate 🙂

That’s why I look for chocolate that has been fairly traded, has a short and simple ingredient list, and is organic (just like the other plant-based foods I consume!). Each of the brands I recommend have dairy-free options and many of their bars are gluten-free. Spoiler alert! Dove, Hershey’s, Lindt, and Ghirardelli aren’t on the list.

It’s time to upgrade your chocolate!

Believe it or not, only 5% of the world’s chocolate is made in a way that respects the humans who grow the beans and environment. Here’s one of my favorite videos from Equal Exchange about why fair trade matters. It’ll open your eyes and give you the nudge you need to upgrade your chocolate the next time you’re at the store.

Supporting a company that exists for a noble purpose, other than just making money, is one of the most important ways you can vote with your dollars. Every decision makes a difference and has the potential to impact the life of someone you may never meet, so buy consciously.

I opt for 70%+ dark chocolate to maximize the health benefits, but start lower if you’re not used to it yet. Your taste buds will adapt! The longer you let the dark chocolate melt in your mouth, the more the enzymes in your mouth activate the sugar in the chocolate to make it taste sweeter and more pleasant.

By the end of today’s post, I bet you’ll have the urge to make a grocery store run and stock up on some chocolate bliss 🙂

Pure Chocolate by Jinji

This is my #1 chocolate choice. Even though it’s mostly truffles and other treats and not mainly bars, I had to include it.

About four years ago, I discovered this gem in the heart of Baltimore and befriended the muse behind the magic, Jinji Fraser. It’s been voted Best Chocolate in Baltimore, so I’m not alone in my love for these raw, vegan chocolates.

I wrote a whole blog post about their chocolate and her story a few years ago, but the good news is that you don’t have to be local to Baltimore to enjoy her bliss-filled treats.

Where to Buy: For a full selection, visit the storefront in Belvedere Square Market. You can also find Jinji chocolate products in stores. Learn more about her Cacao Crossings subscription service to bring them to your home.

Charm School Chocolate

Another Baltimore-based brand that’s making its way around the U.S., this 100% dairy-free, vegan chocolate line includes milk, dark, and while chocolate bars. On their website the meticulous process by which their chocolate is made. It’s clear how much love and intention goes into each batch, from bean to bar. I love how incredibly smooth this chocolate is and how it melts in your mouth and coats your tongue.

Some of their flavors include Vanilla Bean White, Coconut Milk Chocolate, 70% Dark Belize, Vanilla Bean Rice Crisp, and Coconut Milk Chocolate Maple Pecan. Depending on the season, they release limited edition bars like Caramel Malt and Black Sesame.

Where to Buy: Buy them on their website or find where they are sold near you here.

Equal Exchange

A few years ago when I had the opportunity to speak at the WELCOA National Training Summit in Orlando, I did an activity with all of the attendees and invited them to savor a piece of dark chocolate. The company whose chocolate I used was Equal Exchange. This chocolate is some of the smoothest and creamiest out there.

Equal Exchange puts people and the plant before profits and elevates the sourcing of their ingredients. Their organic cacao and sugar are sourced directly from small-scale farmers co-operatives in Latin America.

With flavors like Dark Chocolate Mint, Dark Chocolate Almond, Dark Chocolate Orange, Dark Chocolate Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt, Dark Chocolate Lemon Ginger with Black Pepper and cacao content ranging from 55% to 88%, there is something for everyone, no matter where you are on the chocolate preference continuum.

Where to Buy: Find them online on their website or in stores. Locally, I’ve found Equal Exchange at MOMs Organic Market, Whole Foods, Wegmans, and Giant.

Alter Eco

These are some of my favorite bars and other chocolate treats. Not only do they have a wide variety of chocolate bars, but they also make decadent truffles and chocolatey clusters.

If the description below doesn’t make you want to try one of their treats, I don’t know what will 🙂

Plucked from organic trees in the Peruvian Amazon and Ecuadorian Coast, our cacao beans journey to the base of the Andes Mountains, where they are transformed into some of the world’s finest cocoa products. The final destination is Switzerland, where expert chocolatiers craft our unique and habit-forming bars and truffles.

Their cacao beans from Ecuador and Peru, and their products are always fair trade, organic, non-GMO and never made with soy lecithin (a common ingredient in chocolate bars that acts as an emulsifier).

Some of their dairy-free options include Dark Salted Almonds, Deep Dark Sea Salt, Super Blackout (90% cacao!), Dark Quinoa, Dark Cacao, Dark Almond, and Dark Mint. All of their chocolate bars (except Dark Salt & Malt), truffles, quinoa pouches, and rice pouches are Gluten-Free Certified.

Where to Buy: Buy them online or use their store locator to find where they are sold near you.

Goodio

I first found out about this company at the Natural Products Expo in Baltimore and fell in LOVE with their Chai flavor. The company was started in Helsinki, Finland by Jukka, who used to work for the gaming company that created Angry Birds. On a quest to optimize his own health, he ditched dairy products and started adding raw cacao and noticed significant changes in how he felt.

Goodio’s cacao is sourced from South American and African farms. What I love is the company’s commitment to sustainability and integrity. As their founder said, “There has to be greater transparency in where our food comes from, how it’s sourced, and how it’s treated.”

I couldn’t agree more!

All of their chocolate bars are vegan and made from raw cacao that is stone ground in Helsinki for three days. Here’s a quick look at their story.

Goodio brings unique flavor combinations through their bars, including Chai (my #1), Ginger and Lemongrass, Wild Blueberry, and Cranmary. They also have some familiar staples like Mint, Coffee, Sea Salt, and 80% dark Peruvian (Nacional), among others.

Where to Buy: Use their store locator to find where they are sold near you. I buy them at MOMs Organic Market in Maryland.

Hu Chocolate

Last summer, Bill and I went to NYC for a long weekend and hit up Hu Kitchen, a paleo restaurant, about three times. We had to grab one of their paleo, vegan chocolate bars while we were there, and I’m glad that we can find them closer to where I live, too.

Their dark chocolate is stone ground organic and fair trade, and it contains NO dairy, GMOs (genetically modified organisms), emulsifiers, soy lecithin, gluten, refined sugar, cane sugar or sugar alcohols.

They have fun flavors (some with punny names), including Why the Fig Nut?, Almond Butter and Puffed Quinoa, Cashew Butter and Vanilla Bean, Salty, Vanilla Quinoa Qrispy, Hazelnut Butter, Crunchy Mint, Crunchy Banana and Simple Dark Chocolate.

Where to Buy: Find them online and in health food stores near you. We buy them locally at MOMs Organic Market.

Eating Evolved

All of their products are certified organic, dairy free, gluten-free, paleo, and vegan, and they don’t contain any additives. They use coconut sugar as their sweetener of choice, which has a lower glycemic effect than other sugars. In addition to selling yummy chocolate products, they also have dozens of free recipes on their site that use them.

They sell dark chocolate bars and coconut butter cups (Caramel Sea Salt, Banana Cream, Mint Cream and Strawberries and Cream) as well as chocolate bars with flavors like 72% Signature Dark, Almond Sea Salt, Crunchy Caramel, Midnight Coconut, Cashew Milk, and Cashew Milk and Almonds. Their recently released Keto Cups (high fat) are likely to be popular, too, considering the popularity of that trend.

Where to Buy: Find them online and in stores like MOMs Organic Market and Whole Foods Market, or use their store locator to find them where you live.

Salazon Chocolate Co.

With Jinji, Charm School and Salazon Chocolates all originating within a half hour of where I live, I feel like one lucky woman 🙂 Fortunately, you don’t have to live in Baltimore to buy their products!

Salazon’s 100% USDA organic, Fair Trade certified, Hispaniola cacao beans sourced from CONACADO, a democratically run cooperative of small-scale producers in the Dominican Republic. These farmers grow their cacao using sustainable practices and put great care into their work.

These bars are gluten-free but are made in a facility that also handles peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy and milk, so if you are super sensitive, be aware of that. All of the bars are vegan except for the Sea Salt & Caramel Bar. Here’s a peek at some of their flavors: 57% Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt; with Sea Salt and Turbinado Sugar; with Sea Salt and Black Pepper; with Sea Salt and Coffee. 72% Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt & Almonds, with Sea Salt and Coconut; with Sea Salt and Cayenne; with Sea Salt; with Sea Salt & Orange Zest.

They recently rebranded, so be on the lookout for their new packaging the next time you need a chocolate fix.

Where to Buy: Buy them online or find them near you using their store locator.

Theo

Theo’s model is based on a core idea – chocolate can be made in a way that allows everyone in the bean to bar process to thrive.

Now that’s the kind of company I want to support. Theo was the first organic, fair trade certified chocolate maker in North America, and they remain committed to pushing the industry forward today. To learn more about what makes Theo different, click here.

A few of their gluten-free, dairy-free options include: Black Rice Quinoa Crunch 85% Dark, Coconut 70% Dark, Raspberry 70% Dark, Salted Almond 70% Dark, and Ginger 70% Dark. I also love their Salted Dark Chocolate Almond Butter and Peanut Butter Cups, which are vegan as well.

Where to Buy: Online on the Theo website and in stores like MOMs Organic Market, Whole Foods, Wegmans, Giant, and other natural food stores.

Divine

Divine Chocolate is co-owned by the 85,000 farmer members of Kuapa Kokoo, the cooperative in Ghana that supplies the cocoa for each bar of Divine. As owners, they get a share in the profits, a say in the company, and a voice in the global marketplace.

Flavors include 85% Dark Chocolate, 70% Dark Chocolate and Mint Dark Chocolate; Dark Chocolate with Pink Himalayan Salt; Dark Chocolate with Toffee and Sea Salt; 70% Dark Chocolate with Raspberries; Dark Chocolate with Hazelnut Truffle; 70% Dark Chocolate with Ginger and Orange; Dark Chocolate with Almonds; Dark Chocolate with Mango and Coconut; Dark Chocolate with Almonds and Raisins; Dark Chocolate with Hazelnuts and Cranberries.

Where to Buy: On their website, Whole Foods Market, Amazon, Walgreens, Giant, and some Target stores.

Endangered Species

If you care deeply about the environment, especially about wild life, you may want to switch your chocolate to this company.

10% of our net profits are donated annually to current 10% GiveBack Partners; each is guaranteed a minimum annual donation of $10,000 and is free to use the funds on projects they deem most important. With over $1.3 million generated in the past three years alone, each chocolate purchase adds up to big support that helps wildlife thrive.

They are the first American-made chocolate using fully traceable fair trade beans from West Africa.

Here are a few of their dark chocolate flavors: Sea Salt and Almonds; Forest Mint; Peppermint Crunch, Lemon Poppy Seed; Cinnamon, Cayenne and Cherries; Cacao Nibs; and 72% Dark Chocolate.

Where to Buy: Buy them at one of these online retailers or at MOMs Organic Market, Giant, Wegmans, Whole Foods, and other natural food stores.

Green & Black

“Green symbolizes our commitment to always sourcing ethical cocoa. Black stands for our high quality and the delicious intensity of our chocolate.”

This company’s new signature Pure Dark Chocolates are sourced through Cocoa Life, a holistic, third-party verified cocoa sustainability program, that will invest over $400 million by 2022 to empower over 200,000 cacao farmers.

Their organic flavors include Mint Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut and Currant Dark Chocolate, Ginger Dark Chocolate, Maya Gold Dark Chocolate, and 70-85% Cacao Dark Chocolate.

Where to Buy: Find them online and in stores like MOMs Organic Market, Whole Foods, Wegmans, and Giant.

And this last one doesn’t align with the fair trade model (as far as I know), so it’s not one of my personal top pics, but it is an option for diabetics because it has zero impact on blood sugar 🙂

Lakanto Chocolate

If you or someone you know struggles with blood sugar control or are consuming no added sugar in your diet, the monk fruit and erythritol-sweetened chocolate from Lakanto could be an option for you. It’s diabetic-friendly because it scores zero on the glycemic index due to its combination of sugar-free sweeteners. This chocolate is also vegan, gluten-free, keto, and paleo-friendly!

I’m confirming the sourcing of their beans (whether they meet the same standards as the bars above!), but for someone who wants chocolate without the impact of sugar, give these bars a try. The three varieties are 55% chocolate plain, with almonds and with cacao nibs.

Where to Buy: Find them online.

Aaaand that’s a wrap, my friends! This post was a labor of love, so I hope it helps you and those you love upgrade your chocolate to the best you can buy. Feel free to leave a comment below about your favorites and about any that I may be missing and should consider.

Chocolate Bliss Aphrodisiac Smoothie

I love chocolate.

I’ve been eating more of it than usual lately, so it’s been on my mind. No holiday in our house is complete without a box of Jinji chocolates, which are raw, gluten-free, and dairy-free.

They are the best chocolates on the planet.

I’ve also been whipping up some chocolate-based treats in my kitchen to share with friends and coworkers, including these no-bake mint chocolate bliss balls and these cherry chocolate brownie bites. We use raw cacao powder – chocolate in its purest form – as the base of those recipes. It’s packed with health and mood benefits like these outlined by Dr. Mercola:

Raw cacao powder contains more than 300 different chemical compounds and nearly four times the antioxidant power of your average dark chocolate – more than 20 times than that of blueberries

Cacao can improve heart health, cholesterol, stress levels, and inflammation, to list just a few physical advantages. Fringe benefits cacao releases into the brain include anandamide, endorphins, phenylethylamine, and serotonin, all sparking descriptives like “blissful” and “euphoric.”

Chocolate is known to increase neurotransmitters like phenylethylamine (PEA), serotonin, and anandamide (the “bliss chemical”) in the brain. That’s just one of the reasons we crave it and feel so good when we eat it.

I opt for raw cacao (not Hershey’s cocoa powder) as my chocolate of choice because in its raw, unheated form, its antioxidant properties and phytochemicals are most potent.

Today’s recipe pairs the blissful phytochemicals in chocolate with the libido-enhancing properties of maca powder.

Maca root is a cruciferous vegetable indigenous to Peru that has dozens of health benefits and is known for its energy-boosting, hormone-balancing, libido-enhancing powers.

It is an adaptogen, which is a “natural substance that works with a person’s body and helps them adapt; most notably, to stress. Adaptogens are a natural ally in dealing with persistent stress and fatigue because they work with regulating important hormones.”

Maca has a mild, malted taste and is a great smoothie add-in, which is how we’re using it today. Make sure you buy gelatinized maca root (it will say it on the bag) because it is easier to digest. I buy mine at MOM’s Organic Market, but you can also find it online or at your local health food store.

This smoothie is thick and creamy thanks for the chia seeds, flaxseed and frozen banana. It’s more like a decadent desert, but I enjoyed it for breakfast!

Nothing like a little chocolate and maca love to get the day started right and put you in the mood for whatever is to come 🙂

Chocolate Bliss Aphrodisiac Smoothie

This smoothie combines bliss-inducing chocolate and libido-enhancing maca powder for a delicious, rich and creamy treat.

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 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seed
  • 1.5 tablespoons raw cacao powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon maca powder
  • 1 Medjool date pit removed
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 frozen banana

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients except banana in a blender for about 30 seconds.

  2. Add banana and blend until smoothie and creamy. Pour into a glass and top with raw cacao nibs for some crunch and an extra chocolate boost!

Recipe Notes

Option add-in: 1 scoop collagen protein powder

I’m Into It! Grainful, Chickpea Croutons & Yoga with Adriene

I started this “I’m Into It” series back in the summer, and I’ve gotten great feedback from you about it, so thanks for taking the time to let me know what you think! With all the rage about Instant Pot these days (especially post-Black Friday and Cyber Monday), make sure you check out my last post in the series about my favorite Instant Pot recipes.

Today, we’re going to be looking at one of my favorite frozen meal options, what I use to add some crunch and protein to just about every salad I make, and take a look at my #1 channel on YouTube for at-home yoga classes. I hope you learn something that inspires you to take action and try one of these!

Grainful

I found out about these guys at the Natural Products Expo in Baltimore in September. I almost missed their booth because it was off the beaten path, but I’m so glad I stopped by. Grainful puts a savory spin on a breakfast favorite…steel cut oats!

Most of us don’t think that oats can be used for anything but oatmeal, but we’re selling them short when we think that way.

Grainful products are chef-inspired frozen entrees and meal kits made with 100% whole grain steel cut oats. They are certified gluten-free, non-GMO (not genetically modified), high in fiber and protein, and made with REAL ingredients. Many of them are vegan or vegetarian, too.

Most frozen meals have an ingredient list as long as your arm, but what I love about Grainful products is that I recognize everything on the ingredient list. Take my favorite meal they make – Tuscan Bean and Kale. Here’s the ingredient list:

Water, Kidney Beans, Garbanzo Beans, 100% Whole Grain Steel Cut Oats, Tomatoes, Kale, Tomato Paste, Onions, Garlic, Tomato Flakes, Olive Oil, Salt, Spices (Granulated Garlic, Parsley, Oregano, Basil).

That’s what the ingredients would look like if I were to make that dish at home, which is exactly how it should be. We don’t have to sacrifice quality just because we’re not making it ourselves.

Buy It: You can find Grainful products near you by using this store locator. Where I live (Baltimore area), you can find their products (frozen case and in the natural food aisle) at ShopRite, Safeway, Giant and Wegmans.

Biena Snacks

Over the past few years, roasted chickpeas have become a pantry staple for us. They are a good source of fiber and protein, make a great substitute for the crunch of croutons on a salad, and are a filling snack. I’ve even added them to trail mix for a protein boost and a hint of salt.

I love knowing the stories behind the companies I support, and Biena’s is worth sharing!

Biena started with Poorvi Patodia. While pregnant, she was searching for a healthier way to satisfy her snack cravings. Inspired by a favorite childhood snack, she started experimenting with roasted chickpeas in her own kitchen, developing a unique way to roast chickpeas to make them light and crispy, yet still maintain the protein, fiber and nutrients of a whole chickpea. Poorvi launched Biena in 2012, at a time when the trend around plant-protein snacks was still in it’s infancy.

They have a ton of flavors, but I’d say the Sea Salt and Rockin’ Ranch are my favorites. Both are vegan, too!

Buy It: Find Biena Snacks near you by using their store locator. For all of my local peeps in Baltimore, you can find them at Target, Giant, and CVS.

Yoga with Adriene

If I lived in Austin, Texas, I would want to hang out with this woman ALL THE TIME. I’ve been using her yoga videos for the past three years for my at-home practice. She posts hundreds of FREE videos on YouTube, and with 2.8 million subscribers, she clearly has a huge fan club.

My favorite series (so far!) is 30 Days of Yoga, but she has others like Morning Yoga, Yoga for Digestion, Yoga for Beginners, Yoga on the Road, and even Yoga for Anxiety.

If you’re looking for an easy way to move more without having to leave the comfort of your home, you have to check out her videos. You could even go through a series with a friend, so if any of you want to start one of her series and want me to partner with you, so we can hold each other accountable, let me know!

Try It: To subscribe to Adriene’s channel and check out all of her free yoga videos, click here.

There you have it, my friends! Those are just a few of the things I’m “into” at the moment.

What about you? Have you tried any new recipes or products that you think I should know about? Feel free to email me or leave a comment below!

With a whole lot of love and gratitude for YOU,

Rachel

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 🙂

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!

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. 

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?

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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