Reversing the Wintry Bluster.

•February 22, 2013 • 2 Comments

*Apologies for posting this twice but it appears that the entire post was deleted.  Here it is again.

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I took advantage of growing up in Florida.  All of the things I loathed about Florida are actually what I long for these days.  I, surprisingly, miss the humidity to keep my hair healthy and my skin naturally moisturized all year round (come summertime I know I’ll be cursing the thought of stepping out into the scorching heat and humidity, but for now, I miss it).  The endless amount of sun (hello, Vitamin D) always kept me happy with a perfect glow to my skin; now my see-through skin craves every ray of sun/heat that peaks through the wintry skies.  No amount of hot tea or vitamin D packed foods can substitute 15-minutes of Southwest Florida sun!

So what am I getting at?  This winter weather has left me knee-deep in empty bottles of Aveeno lotion while sporting one dead head of hair.  My curls are lifeless – they’ve lost their spunk, their bounce, their shine and their vibrancy.   If you don’t believe me just check out the photos below.

One would think I should go to a salon and get a hydrating mask or some sort of treatment done to my hair, however, A. I can’t imagine spending that kind of money on a treatment for my head; B. there are a million excuses for not going; C. the truth is I refuse to put those chemicals on my head.  Those treatments essentially strip away the residue and grime of the winter environment.  Just check out any marketing ploy, they will straight up tell you that the treatment will “strip away the things that have left your hair feeling dry and frizzy and give your hair the boost it needs.”  I won’t fall for that.  I also don’t need any more chemicals in my body or want to pay that kind of money, so I created an at-home, do it yourself, all-natural revitalizing hair treatment that will “strip away” the unwanted damage to your locks and leave you feeling better than ever with a healthy and shiny mane!

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Moisturizing Hair Treatment

For Dull/Frizzy/Damaged Hair:

1/2 Avocado
1/2 banana
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sour cream or yogurt (I used yogurt)
1 egg yolk
 
- Blend avocado, banana and olive oil. 
- By hand mix in yogurt and egg yolk.
-Apply to hair – add heavily to ends and midsection to ensure the oils and moisturizing agents rejuvenate the dullest areas of your hair.  But do not forget the top of your head, as the scalp benefits tremendously.
- Let sit for 20-30 min with heated towel.  Using a heated hand towel, loosely wrap your hair in the warm towel.  This will ensure/ aid in the penetration of nutrients into your scalp.  To heat your towel soak it in warm water then toss it in the microwave for about 30 seconds, depending on thickness.
- Rinse your head in coldish water and style normally.
*Your hair may feel/look a bit waxy the following day.  Not to worry though because just give it another rinse as normal and you’re good to go!
 
Benefits of each ingredient:
Avocado – Oils add shine and restores health to hair with vitamins and essentially fatty acids
Banana – Amino acids help to protect hair from being damaged from the environment (hello dry wintry blustery air)
Olive Oil – Great for extremely dry, brittle hair (perfect for curly hair ends that don’t get the moisture required); also helps to ensure protection after treatment
Sour Cream/ Yogurt – Moisturizes scalp to prevent flaking; helps add life to roots again.
Egg Yolk – proteins help nourish hair and repair damaged cuticles and brittle strands.
 
 

Thin Mints.

•February 14, 2013 • 3 Comments

Thin Mints.  Oh Thin Mints, how I love thee.  Unfortunately all my favorite Girl Scout cookies (Tag-A-Longs, Trefoils, Thin Mints, etc) contain milk.  Bummer.  However, I’m determined to make my own and I did just that with Thin Mints.  I’ve been on a Coconut Oil kick recently and these were no exception.

They are simple to make and just as delicious to eat.  I made them during the snow storm last week and they were the perfect addition to curling up with a cup of tea (or hot chocolate) in front of the fireplace.  They are also a quick and easy last minute valentines treat – make them in 15 minutes and let them set while you get ready.  It’s the perfect combination!

Thin Mints
Makes About 3 dozen Cookies

What You’ll Need:

40 Ritz Crackers (surprisingly vegan and I promise you can’t taste the Ritz Crackers)
1 tbsp Coconut Oil
1 C Dark Chocolate Chips (Carob Chips or Vegan Chocolate)
3/4 tsp Peppermint Extract (Peppermint extract is much more potent than vanilla so just be cautious when adding a little extra flavor)
 

- Line a piece of wax paper across your kitchen counter
- Melt, on low heat, the Coconut Oil and Dark Chocolate together in a small-medium sized sauté pan stirring constantly
- Add the peppermint extract
- Remove from heat
- Coat each Ritz cracker with chocolate mixture – it is easiest to lay the crackers in the pan then flip them over to coat the other side
- Using a fork, scoop the crackers out of the pan individually and place on the parchment paper.  Make sure to allow the excess chocolate to drip off
- Continue the process until you run out of chocolate.  *If the chocolate starts to harden back up, just place the pan back over low heat until re-melted – no biggie!
- Place the wax paper in the fridge to cool.  After an hour (give or take a few minutes) you can begin to eat them.  I made sure to only snag a few as I put them in a zip lock baggie.

These must stay refrigerated (or in the freezer!) or else the chocolate will melt off.  You technically can leave them in the freezer for a couple months, but that would be such a shame.

It Affects Nearly 5 Million Women in the US.

•February 11, 2013 • 1 Comment

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PCOS.  What the heck is it?  How do you get it?  What are the challenges associated with it?  Is it a terminal thing?  What does it stand for?  I’ve never heard of it, why?  The list of questions goes on and on – trust me, about a zillion questions whizzed through my brain at rapid fire when I first heard the doctor utter those words as I sat there pulling the medical “robe” tighter across my freezing body wearing nothing but a pair of socks.  It’s not something anyone expects to hear; it’s not an STD but rather a hormonal issue that affects somewhere around 1 in 15 women across the US, according to US Department of Health and Human Services on Women’s Health.

I always knew something was “abnormal” with my body, but the physicians I had previously seen couldn’t find anything, so I stopped asking questions because I made myself believe my “normal” was just a bit different than everyone else’s.  When I moved to New York City and found a new doctor he discovered what I thought was a death sentence – Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.  He offered no comforting advice, just a pamphlet and a picture of my oh-so-pretty string of pearls.  Thanks to a co-worker, who I found out had been living with PCOS for years, I was able to talk to someone who was also struggling and that alone provided reassurance I could not get anywhere else!

Disclaimer: The following contains facts and figures obtained from the website of the US Department of Health and Human Services on Women’s Health as well as knowledge I have gained over the course of the past year or so in dealing with how to navigate life with PCOS.  I am NOT a doctor so please do not take this as medical advice or as a diagnosis.  Please consult your own physician should you feel PCOS may affect you personally.  If you have any questions relevant to coping with or living a healthy lifestyle while affected by PCOS, feel free to ask! 

So what is PCOS?  It’s a health condition that affects women’s androgen level production (a male hormone that females also produce, but in much smaller quantities).  Women who are affected by PCOS produce excess androgen hormones which in turn create missed periods, fertility issues, difficulty with weight, potential insulin resistance problems, and/or as the name would suggest small cysts on the ovaries among other things.  As mentioned above, I have what is known as “string of pearls” which is literally a chain of small cysts that dot the circumference of your ovary, hence the name string of pearls because that is exactly what it looks like.  Cool, huh?  No, not really but at least it takes away the typical stark reality of medical related issues.  The syndrome is a hormonal imbalance that can cause many issues to arise; however, there is no direct treatment for PCOS.  Because there are a variety of symptoms that can easily point to other health issues, PCOS is difficult to diagnose.

So I mentioned there is no treatment, right?  Well, there is no cure for PCOS but it can be “managed.”  Depending on your symptoms (not every person affected by PCOS has the same symptoms…another reason it is hard to detect), you can manage the condition with contraceptives, diabetes medication and a lifestyle modification.  Exercise and eating right can help tremendously!  I cannot stress that enough – it is very simple to put on the weight, but for a woman with PCOS it is much more difficult to get the weight to come off.  Even the slightest bit of weight can have a tremendous impact on not only your appearance but your health, your confidence and the symptoms associated with PCOS.

That is A LOT of information to digest so I’ll leave it right there…for now.  Be on the lookout for how I manage my lifestyle.  Hint: it’s lots of organics (I don’t need any extra hormones raging through my body), healthy eating, portion control (self restraint is so hard), daily exercise, and a trusty book that I keep close by for reference.  What works for me doesn’t work for everyone and I have been struggling for quite some time to find a balance but so far I think I’ve discovered a pretty decent system.

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Snow Day.

•February 8, 2013 • 5 Comments

Today I have a snow day.  I’ve been working from home, but took a fun break to stroll over to a nearby park and play with my favorite dog!  Bentley has had a bad case of SAD recently (dogs can be seasonally affected as well) so I have been trying to get him out of his rut.  This was exactly what he (and I needed) to help make him the smiley dog I know and love.  Plus, playing in the snow is always fun (and great exercise too!).

I hope everyone is staying safe, warm and is wrapping their hands around a cup of hot cocoa!  We’ve got our wood stocked up by the fireplace and I’m prepping my (homemade) almond milk for some hot cocoa.

Happy snow day!

In a World Filled with Bacon.

•February 6, 2013 • 5 Comments

Disclaimer:  This is by no means healthy.  This will not help you shrink your waistline or fit into those skinny jeans.  This is my caloric substitute for all those spinach artichoke dips, cheese platters and pizzas I cannot consume with you, but I’d rather take one of these any day.  I do not recommend making this recipe on a regular basis.

A good friend g-chatted me a couple weeks back with just a message that said, “BOOM” and a link to a website.  There was no “good morning” “how ya doin’?” “what’s up?”  All I had to see was a picture and my mouth immediately dropped to the floor.  Cue the fluffy clouds parting ways to have sunshine beam onto my face as I look up with wide open arms saying “ahhhhh!”  Beer + Bacon + Baked + me + any excuse = HEAVEN!  And so the following happened…you’re welcome.  I introduce to you, Bacon-Craic.

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Beer-Candied Bacon

(adopted from Tide&Thyme)

400 degrees F // 10min 3-5x

1 lb thick cut bacon
1/2 C brown sugar
1/4 C + 2 tbsp beer (Porter or Stout – I used Drayman’s Porter from Berkshire Brewing Co.)

- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
- Combine brown sugar and beer in small bowl; whisk well until it forms a syrup-like consistency
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil (crucial); place wire rack on top
- Line wire rack with bacon strips
- Cook for ten minutes on middle rack
- Remove from oven; brush each strip with syrup, flip and brush other side; return to oven and cook for 10 more minutes on top rack.  Repeat this process 3 times for regular bacon or 5 times for thick bacon.
- Remove from oven and allow bacon to cool for at least 60 minutes…savor each bite.

Again, you’re welcome.  I’ve been dreaming about them for the past few days – there may be a grocery store trip in the very-very near future.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.

•February 4, 2013 • 2 Comments

As I sat on the couch during the Super Bowl power outage I realized how incredibly dangerous championship sporting events are to spectators such as myself.  I mean, we root, cheer, hoot and holler for all our favorite players, but sometimes they let us down; we get wrapped up in their personal lives and feel entitled to explanations when they let us down; they burn off the calories we consume as we sit idly screaming on the couch (such loyal fans).  It’s just not fair.

The Huffington Post published an article about the typical calories consumed at a Super Bowl party and the amount of exercise required to burn off the consumption.  I stopped eating immediately.  Okay, so I may have an advantage when it comes to avoiding calories from dips and cheesy things, but I made up for that in other ways – i.e. beer-candied bacon (recipe coming soon but pictured above!), copious amounts of guacamole with non-gmo corn chips, and my very own meatballs.  I created a special Super Bowl Meatball that can, obviously, be used for any gathering.  They are especially crucial for when you don’t have much time and/or just want to socialize with friends rather than slave away in the kitchen.  #winning!  The meatballs seemed to be a hit and they are so easy that I wanted share.

Super Bowl Meatballs

Makes 34 meatballs

For the balls:

2 lbs veal/pork/beef mixture
4 strips nitrate-free bacon, chopped
1/4 C red onion, finely chopped
3/4 C lemon pepper panko crumbs
1/4 C spinach, finely chopped
1 tbsp italian parsely, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 eggs
1/4 C water

For Sauce:

1 – 32oz can fire roasted crushed tomatoes (I use Muir Glen Organic)
1/4 C red wine
1 tbsp olive oil
3/4 C chopped yellow onions
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp basil
1 tbsp brown sugar

- It is best to start these the night prior to your party – it will only take 15 minutes of prep for infinitely less stress. With hands, gently combine the meat, bacon and red onion together in large bowl. Make sure not to handle the meat too much or else it will become tough when cooked.

- In a separate bowl, combine water, panko, spinach, parsley, garlic, paprika, salt and pepper to form a paste.

- Add paste and eggs to meat and loosely mix together with hands

- Shape into golf ball sized meatballs and set aside in refrigerator overnight.  Allowing the balls to set over night allows the mixture to congeal so that when they are cooked they won’t fall apart.

- In the morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake the meat balls in the oven, top rack, for 10 minutes (5 min each side).  Do not worry about making sure they are cooked fully because the crock pot will finish the job.

- Place balls in crock pot with sauce and cook on low heat for 6-7 hours.  They may not be the best looking food to photograph, but they are delicious.

The Art of Giving and Taking While Blogging.

•January 30, 2013 • 2 Comments

This year is sure to bring great things for everyone…I just have a feeling about this. (Crick, I’m looking at you too!)  The good feeling extends to this blog as well.  While I post a hodge-podge of things on here – recipes, workouts (which I haven’t been doing lately), things I do, things I don’t do, travel, etc – I do it all for me, my health and my sanity.  So selfish, I know, I know.  What I am trying to get at is this – I am going to take RedheadedInk in a slightly new direction.  Blogging is a funny thing, you know?  You walk a fine line between giving away too much personal information while still being real, truthful and interesting.  I haven’t been totally honest with you and it’s about time I give you all a little bit more.  It’s okay if I lose you as a reader because you should read what your little heart desires, but just know that I’ll miss you!

So here’s the plan and please let me know if you have any suggestions or comments on the direction of the blog.  There are two things that really guide my decisions in life – a) my dairy allergy and b) my Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).  I struggled with both of them when I first found out and I wished that there was more out there to help me cope.  My doctor didn’t give me much in the way of PCOS; he actually didn’t give me anything at all.  Separately, I self-diagnosed my dairy allergy.

Okay so those are the two overarching themes –

A. Living with a dairy allergy in a world that is filled with dairy – case in point protein bars are made with whey; deli meats have casein; most restaurant food has butter for flavor enhancement; the word “creamy” while makes me salivate is pretty much everywhere.

B. Living with PCOS – navigating the murky waters of what it means to have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (aka PCOS), which workouts are most effective and how to balance a life with it (for those of you who don’t know what it is, come back another time and I’ll edu-ma-cate you).  Most resources out there focus solely on the infertility aspect of it, but to be honest I have no interest in that at this point in my life.  I just want to know how to effectively live my life in the healthiest way possible without becoming one of the statistics associated with PCOS – a high percentage of women who have PCOS are significantly overweight.

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From those two themes will come a lot of the randomness that I currently divulge.  Eating, working out, going out and being active will still be the stars of the show, but with a deeper focus on why they are a part of my life and how I modify them to fit my lifestyle.  I try to cut the sugar in the recipes I create, make them a bit healthier by doing this or that without compromising taste, and I make little adjustments in my life to account for hormonal imbalances or “off” weeks.

I so wished there was more information out there about successfully living with PCOS and not just women who are chronicling their journey with infertility (which is not something I am trying to belittle; it is a very serious problem but it’s not what I am going through right now…in fact, children at this point in my career is absurd to even think about).  PCOS is not a disease or a stigma but you do have to change your habits and expectations on so many things when it comes to your body – if I can help someone the way I needed/wanted the information and encouragement then the whole concept of this blog is worth every post!

I think I’ve spewed enough information for one post, and I hope you come back again!  Things won’t change that much but I just wanted to finally give you as much as you, my readers, give me.   Please do post any suggestions, comments, concerns, etc below – I’d love to hear from you!

 
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