Avocado Mousse (Vegan, Gluten Free)

Dear Leah Renee, 

I’ve heard about avocado’s being used in smoothies and in place of butter in recipes, so are there some good desserts to be made with them too?  ~Nikki, PA 

Yes!  Avocados can be used to make guacamole, spice up a sandwiches, thrown into a smoothie for a creamy finish and dose of healthy fats, and in place of unhealthy or processed ingredients in recipes.  But here, they hold their own and carry the dessert recipe all by itself.  

Avocado mousse.  Yes, you can actually enjoy chocolate mousse minus refined sugars, cream, and dairy products.  

You will need these items: 

  • ingredients avo mousse1 ripe avocado
  • 1/4 cup pure cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk*
  • 2 TB date paste (soaked dates & blended into a paste)
  • 2 TB pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Any toppings (if) you want!  I used slivered almonds for some crunch and garnished with a strawberry.  

*if your almond milk is not the unsweetened variety, you can cut back on the syrup.  A little taste test will let you know!  A packet of stevia can also be used in place of the date paste and/or maple syrup. Please feel free to experiment with any other sweeteners you prefer (honey, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar…)

Toss everything in a bowl, a food processor, or high speed blender:

ingredients in bowl

 

I used an electric hand mixer in a bowl since there weren’t that many ingredients.  Using a rubber spatula, I scraped the bowl clean and filled my glass with the decadent, yet healthy, avocado mousse I just made: 

 

choc avo mousse complete

What are your favorite avocado recipes?

 

 

 

Personal Update #4 (Amenorrhea, Fertility Shtuff)

Warning!  This material is personal and if you enjoy this blog for health info and recipes, pleaseskip this post!  This is update number three on my journey to get my cycle back so I can have a happy, healthy pregnancy.  In other words, it may be entirely TMI ;) 

It’s definitely been a while since I’ve posted about this topic, and yes, it was intentional.  It’s not the easiest thing to share with the world.  But since I started, I feel that I need to continue.  And not just for the sake of follow-through, but for the reason I decided to in the first place; for any of the women out there, near and far, who are confused, questioning, suffering, or stressing over this issue.  You’re not alone, and this is something that so, so many women go through whether you hear about it or not.

Since my last update, I had the last and final test, HSG, that I stated was the only one left until I was “cleared” or not.  I took that on July 2nd, and that came out fine as well.  It was time to have a private chat with my doctor about my options since nothing pathologically (aka nothing definitively) wrong with me.  She let me know I had two options: to start inserting daily injections (in my stomach)  that contain hormones to make me start ovulating (well, that’s what we’d hope for) in which case I could become pregnant or IVF.  Neither of us wanted to explore the IVF option at this point since seeing that all the other tests came back normal, if not great, than there really wasn’t a reason yet to go there.  She said I have plenty of eggs, which is a good thing…until you start injecting me with hormones which means there’s a much greater chance of twins or triplets.  Oh, that’s just what I wanted to hear (I need sarcasm font)!!!  She actually said if she’s not super careful I could be the next octo-mom.  She was half joking.  Half.

So, that’s where I’m at right now (still).  I said I’d get back to her and let her know what I wanted to do.  It made me take a step back.  It made me want to reflect on all of this, and take some time off of being reminded of it constantly.  That meant stopping acupuncture for a while too.  My acupuncturist was very supportive of that decision since she could see I was stressed out about it.  She let me know I could call her at any time.

Now, the objective in the first place was to attempt to get my cycle back naturally.  I wanted to get all the tests done to see if there was anything medically wrong that might prevent me from ovulating at some point on my own.  Speculation has been being on the pill too long, working out too much, or weighing too little.  Which leads me to today….

Today I had a personal training session (you know those complimentary ones you get when you sign up and never take?!).  Part of the initial consult included a body fat measurement to see what my BMI was (Body Mass Index).  She pinched 4 places: my thigh, the back of my tricep, the side of my belly, and the middle of my belly.  She added up those numbers and got to the final result.  It was sixteen.  And there that is.  That could very well be the entire reason I am not ovulating.  Now, that’s not horribly low, but ‘normal’ starts at about 18.5.  For pre-pregnancy, maybe a tiny bit more. Is that definitely 100% the reason?  I don’t know.  But I do know that if you do not have enough body fat, you do not produce enough estrogen, and therefore cannot have a cycle.  It’s become more clear that I should probably bring up my body fat before I start injecting myself with hormones since I want to carry a healthy baby anyway.

I realize this probably sounds easy, but it’s not.  I lead a certain lifestyle eating very healthfully and exercising all which make me feel good.  I don’t typically eat when I’m not hungry, so it may be a little difficult adding and eating more.  At the end of it though, I would love a baby, so it’s important to be mindful and prioritize what I want my accomplishments to be.  Being a mom is one of them.  I am hoping by gaining gradually and getting my BMI up eventually, I will not need to have those shots.  Again, I will keep you posted!

Have you had a struggle with any of this or know someone who has?  Please feel free to share.

My Advanced Practice (Yoga)

Leah Renee:

Katie Horwitch.  This is a name you need to remember and be on the lookout for.  This girl oozes talent, creativity, and passion.  She is ALIVE, and what I mean by that is she is sincere, honest, relatable, grounded, reliable, and REAL.  I am proud to call her a friend.  Below is a poem she recently posted on her website, Katie Horwitch dot com.  It is so eloquently written. If you practice yoga, you will see the beauty in her words and truth. I am amazed. Please free to comment below!

 

10474034_10102690371605591_532101749887296932_n

“my advanced practice.”

My advanced practice is not a headstand
Or a handstand
Or that twisty arm balancy thingy I learned to do last year after days on end of trying.

 

My advanced practice isn’t how deep I twist

Or how floaty I get

Or how I move in rhythm with everyone else in the room perfectly without fail.

My level 3 class does not involve higher weights

Or quicker reps

Or all those fancy things people (still) do on a bike.

My advanced class is not 75 minutes, or 90, or a three hour stretch
Because really, who cares about numbers.

Do I impress you? That’s on you.

Do I seem weak? That’s on you, too.

Because my advanced practice happens that second I shift from asleep to awake
The SECOND I move for no one but me.

Have you ever reached your arms out in child’s pose, pressing through the ground, spreading your body so fiercely onto the ground you think it might stick?

Because let me tell you, that is something.

My advanced practice happens when I skip a pose,

Or two,

Or three,

Or a whole eight minutes in a row

Because it moves me so much that all I can do is lay there in awe.

My level threes happen in the quietest moments, the longest holds,

The times when I can feel my soul coming alive not from a shape but from a spark inside.

 

Because my advanced classes and level X practice happens in less than 60 minutes, or 30, or 20, or more, or 90. My advanced practice is not about a number I can show off because “oh look how strong I am for going so long” – it’s about working and living and breathing smart, intention, intuitively.

 

It’s about “modifying” (I hate that word) pushups on my knees and then not the day after, it’s about sleeping through my workout altogether and being EVEN MORE OF A BADASS. It’s about not the quantity of my perceived excellence, but the quality of my intelligently-used soul time that maybe only I feel inside. I hope I only feel it inside; it’s my precious fuel that allows me to keep going.

It’s not about what it looks like, it’s about what it feels like.

It’s not about touching my toes, it’s about touching my soul.

My advanced practice is not slow or fast, it is what I decide to feel right. It exists with no distractions, it allows me to meet myself every time without fail. My “power” class is the one in which I fall into a deep savasana, rolling over at the end to realize everything yet nothing is quite the same.

I love my twisty arm balance thingy and upside down is very nice.
But my advanced practice involves none of that.
Anyone who tells you differently has probably been in a beginner class all along.

Originally posted on Katie Horwitch.:

10474034_10102690371605591_532101749887296932_nmy advanced practice.

My advanced practice is not a headstand
Or a handstand
Or that twisty arm balancy thingy I learned to do last year after days on end of trying.

My advanced practice isn’t how deep I twist

Or how floaty I get

Or how I move in rhythm with everyone else in the room perfectly without fail.

My level 3 class does not involve higher weights

Or quicker reps

Or all those fancy things people (still) do on a bike.

My advanced class is not 75 minutes, or 90, or a three hour stretch
Because really, who cares about numbers.

Do I impress you? That’s on you.

Do I seem weak? That’s on you, too.

Because my advanced practice happens that second I shift from asleep to awake
The SECOND I move for no one but me.

Have you ever reached your arms out in child’s pose, pressing…

View original 336 more words

photo 3 (2)

Savory Carrot Muffins (Gluten Free, Low Carb, Refined Sugar Free)

Dear Leah Renee, 

I like to buy large bags of carrots but usually end up throwing a couple away at the end of their lifespan…any ideas what to do with the extra?  Thanks. ~Tamara, IL

The question of what to do with leftover carrots comes up a lot!  I too seem to have an abundance of them!  This recipe will help you (tastily!) use some up.  I know you’ve already made these carrot crackers I posted a while back, and this soothing carrot ginger miso soup, it’s time for something new.  If carrot cake had a healthier sibling, it would be this savory carrot muffin.  If you don’t have a big sweet tooth and want something that’s going to be a good breakfast muffin or mid-afternoon snack, you’ve found your match.

ingredients, carrot muffins

Ingredients (organic when possible): 

  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseeds
  • 1/4 cup raw honey or pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 6 TB coconut or grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 cup almond milk

mixing ingredients together

 

carrot muffins stirred well

What to do: 

Preheat oven to 350F.  Mix all the ingredients together well in a large bowl.  When all the ingredients are nicely mixed together, pour or place ingredients in to a greased muffin tin.  I used a mini-muffin tin so I got double the amount (well, not really, but it felt that way!).  Bake for 20 minutes. Let it cool, just a little bit, before enjoying!

muffins to go into oven

Yours will be larger if you use a regular muffin tin!  They will raise more too–I accidentally left out the baking powder!!!  I never said I was perfect ;)

 

carrot muffin, mini

 

How do you use up your leftover carrots?!  What’s your favorite carrot recipe?

Chocolate Bliss Balls Recipe (Raw, Vegan, Gluten Free)

Dear Leah Renee, 

What’s a simple dessert ball recipe?  I’m not a baker by any means, so if you have something that requires minimal effort and is quick, it would be appreciated!  ~Debbie, WA

I like easy recipes, and this one fits the bill.  If you’re craving something sweet (and have already made the black bean brownies and raw cookie dough bites a million times now), here’s another one to add to your recipe book.  Full of chocolatey goodness, it’s not so bad for you either.  Certainly better than putting away a bar of commercial chocolate!  It’s got protein, fiber, and antioxidants.  The best part: it’s no-bake and simple to make.

Here’s what you’ll need (honey is optional if you like it extra sweet):

Bliss balls ingredients

Take 1/2 cup cashews, 6 soaked dates (just soak them in almond milk or water for a couple hours, or use un-soaked if that’s all that’s available), and cacao powder in a food processor or blender.  I used my Vitamix, but I’d rather have used a food processor since it’s more difficult to scoop out! Blend until smooth, or in my case, a little chunky, either one is fine!  Exhibit A:

bliss balls in vitamix

 

Transfer to a bowl (have a little taste and see if the sweetness is to your liking. If you like it sweeter, add a TB of raw honey): 

bliss ball dough

And roll into balls (that’s the fun part):

chocolate bliss balls

You can enjoy them this way, or roll them in cacao nibs (I ground mine finer), goji berries, maca powder, coconut flakes…whatever you like!  But, I like chocolate, so the opportunity to add more won :)

Bliss Balls

Share with others, or consume them all yourself (not all at once, of course) ;)

 

What’s your favorite healthy(er) dessert?

 

 

Antioxidant Summer Salsa

Dear Leah Renee, 
I usually purchase all my condiments because I’m kind of intimidated to do it myself. Salsa doesn’t seems too hard but I don’t know where to start.  Do you have a recipe you like?  Thanks! ~Lilly, MI
I just love making my own condiments at home.  We don’t always have time, the ingredients on hand, or the no-how, but with just a little planning and preparation you can make your own in no time! You’re right, homemade salsa is pretty easy, especially pico de gallo.  What makes it taste the best is the quality and ripeness of the tomatoes you use.  Depending on the season you’ll find the sweetness of the salsa will vary.
Tomato varieties
For this recipe, I used better boy tomatoes.  My personal favorite are heirloom tomatoes (you can use beefsteak red heirlooms for this recipe), but those are not always available.  Roma are a good option too.  Always organic when possible!
Chopping pico de gallo
Here’s what else you’ll need including those yummy tomatoes, pico de gallo ingredients:  
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • pepper to taste
  • squeeze of fresh lime

pico de gallo in progress

Directions: 

In a medium bowl, combine all your chopped and diced ingredients.  Add garlic and onion powder followed by salt, pepper, and squeeze of lime.  With a spoon, stir until all ingredients are nicely mixed together.

Note:

  • When chopping tomatoes, all juices that naturally get onto the cutting board are to be poured in with the tomatoes themselves.  This gives the pico de gallo extra flavor and heartiness.
  • This recipe can be served chilled or left out for a while at room temperature.  Tomatoes provide the most beneficial antioxidant, lycopene, at room temperature or cooked.

pico de gallo salsa finished

Serve with homemade tortilla chips and you’re good to go!

A Plant-Based Diet Isn’t Just for Vegans

Dear Leah Renee, 

I want to incorporate more vegetables and “whole foods” into my diet but I don’t want to be completely vegan or anything.  Can I have the best of both worlds?  ~Denise, CA

Good for you!  The power of vegetables is indisputable.  Study after study has found that eating more plant based foods contributes to greater health and well being.  Have high cholesterol?  Eat more veggies.  Diabetes?  More veggies.  Overweight? More veggies.  OK, you get the point.

veggie crudite at TFK

Our society loves to put label things. Heck, we like to label ourselves. It gives us a sense of belonging and a way to define our lifestyle. But you don’t have to; you can think a certain way, eat a certain way, or dress in a particular way that can vary from one day to the next.  You can love yoga but not be a ‘yogi’.

Case and point: just like any other category in your life, your diet too can be diverse.  You don’t need to commit to one way of eating all the time, every meal, every day. If it’s made up largely of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains, that doesn’t mean if you crave a burger you can’t have one!  No judgments!   I think the world we live in makes it a little difficult anyway.  You can go sugar free (I’m not talking about Splenda here, I mean sugar–real or fake) but still have a treat now and again.  Or a glass of wine!  It doesn’t mean you’ve fallen off the bandwagon and need to throw away your habits overall.  You really can have your cake and eat it too.

  “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others; it is the only means.” ~Albert Einstein

breakfast bowl with hemp seeds

There’s a lot of people that may even want to break out of the vegan mold, but have an identity that goes along with it that’s difficult to move past. On the contrary, there’s also a lot of people who may want to go more plant-based (like yourself), but friends and family they associate with and the lifestyle they lead could be altered and confused by that, making it difficult to start implementing changes.  We are not the only ones who label and judge ourselves, others do too.  But…that’s OK :) Let them.

Here’s a short list (it is truly endless!) of some plant-based foods to stock up on:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Leafy Greens
  • Starches
  • Legumes/Beans
  • Nut Butters
  • Seed Butters
  • Avocados (because that’s in a league of it’s own, right?!)
  • Soy (fermented like tempeh)
  • Whole Grains (rice, oats, quinoa…)
  • Oils
  • Veggie Stocks
  • Cocoa Powder (you like that one, don’t ya!)
  • Pickled & fermented veggies
  • Milks (coconut, almond, etc)

Regardless of what kind of lifestyle you lead,  it will vary throughout the years depending on your age, your emotions, your friends, you interests, and schedule.  No matter what goes on, making whole, plant-based foods a big part of your diet, even if it’s gradual, is one of the best choices you can make for your health!

eat food not too much