Chaga Chai

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I knew there was going to be another load of snow overnight, I had heard about it days ago. I was reminded of it last night. I knew it was coming.  Yet for some reason, when I heard the big city trucks go by clearing the roadways – I was still surprised.  Hello, earth to Shanna. It’s winter. It snows.

It is actually stunningly beautiful, the perfect snow for snowmen. Not so perfect for trying to walk around in, seeing as it just keeps on coming and no one has a chance to shovel their walks fast enough. Beautiful none the less.

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A beautiful snowfall, means while it gets brighter and brighter… seeming to hit the cap on cloudy brightness at around noon, I do a lot of window gazing. Especially when it’s big flakes of snow, the kind that flutter down sorta slow. Dancing on the crisp air. Taking their time before they meet their friends on the ground. Gorgeous. Magical.

The perfect accompaniment to wintery window gazing, is a hot cup and some fuzzy slippers.  Perhaps a kitty cuddling, lazily watching the day go by. Sounds like a great Friday morning to me! One I was fortunate enough to enjoy for hours.  My hot cup of choice this morning was a fresh brewed chaga tea, mixed and infused with chai spices. Beautiful aromatics, creamy on the tongue, perfection. Healthy, too!

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Making chai from whole spices is the way to go, for sure. It allows total control on what flavors are most desired, makes room for personal flare, and whole spices keep their flavors and aromatics wayyy longer than ground spices.  Constructing a chai completely from scratch also allows for a deeper tea taste as well as an individual choice on which tea is used, not as much sweetener, you name it.  In my opinion, chai is the ultimate comforting warming drink of winter. Ginger heating from the core, clove warming from the tip of the tongue straight into the belly, creamy swirls of coconut and a big hug from black peppercorns. It’s great!

Chaga Chai
serves two

2 Cups Strong Hot Chaga Tea
1 Cup Almond Milk
2 Tsp Coconut Cream
1 Tsp Coconut Oil
1 Cinnamon Stick
3-4 Allspice Berries
7 Cardamom Pods
6 Black Peppercorns
1-2 Star Anise
1/4 Tsp Ground Ginger
Pinch of Nutmeg Powder
Pinch of Vanilla Powder
Pinch of Himalayan Salt
1 Tbsp Raw Honey
Crushed Dried Rosebuds (optional)

In a medium sized pan, toast the cinnamon stick, allspice berries, cardamom pods and peppercorns over medium heat until fragrant. Transfer the toasted spices to a small pot, adding the clove, ginger, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt. Cover with a splash of almond milk, set aside to infuse for ten minutes. Once infused, add the coconut oil and the hot chaga tea, turning up the heat on the burner to allow the tea to simmer gently and the oil to melt.  Once the oil has melted, strain the spices out, add the rest of the almond milk and remove from the heat.  Stir in the raw honey, then divide between two mugs. Top each mug off with a teaspoon of coconut cream and crushed rosebuds.  Serve with an cinnamon (stir) stick if desired!

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Affogato, anyone?

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I fell in love with a beautiful, creamy, bitter, amazing affogato at my favorite vegetarian restaurant this summer, while having a breakfast date with a dear friend.  I typically stay away from coffee, it gives me serious headaches (unless of course I have a headache, then it’s a miracle pain reliever – funny how that happens) that last and last.  Seriously, if I was to have two cups in a day I would soon not be able to see out of my right eye. It’s crazy!  So I have them here and there.. and by here and there, I mean once every three months or so.

A traditional affogato is a scoop of vanilla ice cream or gelato and a shot of super strong espresso, very Italian and wonderful. My experience up until today has always been with those two ingredients. Gelato, and espresso. So, given that I don’t drink coffee, I do not have a coffee machine, waking up with a major affo-hankering this morning proved a bit of an issue.

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My favorite coffee substitutes by far are maca (with a number of other superfoodie ingredients), and roasted chicory.  Both boast crazy great health benefits, give super amounts of energy and stimulation without a giant caffeine crash, and they aren’t acidic like coffee is! Instead of multiplying our acidity just to have a cuppa (perhaps even adding in a doughnut or something else ultra acidifying),  it’s so super easy to brew up one of these babies and glide straight on past that morning crash, wave goodbye to jittery vibrating organs, and say hello to something new! Why not, even just to try and see? My boyfriend drank a (seriously crazy in my opinion) amount of coffee up until a few months ago. He cut it out completely while we did a cleanse, and has since reintroduced it in more of a moderate way. I think that’s perfect, you like it? Drink it! Just don’t have seven cups a day and wonder why you don’t feel quite right. We are constantly bombarded with “do this” – “NO wait! Do this!!”  When really we need only do what feels right for ourselves as individuals. Piece meal what you like, toss what you don’t.

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The amazing boost in stamina, hormone balancing and adrenal support from maca is marvelous.  I always mix cacao with my maca, I love the super groovy awesome vibes that come from these beauty beans.I  just love them! Packing in the minerals, tossing in some fats to help absorption, and finishing with some really great additives like lucuma or mesquite (or both!). Not mesquite like the bark used with bar-b-ques! Nope! I’m talking the bean pod, where a plant naturally concentrates the most love and energy. Mesquite trees are incredible, super deeply rooted, so just imagine all the nutrition that is elevated into those beans! Loads! Lucuma is a fruit, I buy it dried and in powder form. Lucuma acts as a fantastic binder so it’s pure perfection when you’re taking a bunch of powdered herbs and trying to fully emulsify them in water or tea. Some serious delight comes from mixing these ingredients, I kid you not. I also added some freshly grated ginger, cinnamon, and vanilla to smooth everything out with the vegan coconut ice cream but those are optional, depending on how espresso-y the mixture needs to taste.

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Affogato

1 Tsp Black Maca Powder
2-3 Tbsp Raw Cacao Powder
1 Tsp Mesquite Powder
1 Tsp Lucuma Powder
1 Tbsp Raw Honey
3-4 Cups Water
Freshly Grated Ginger – to taste
Coconut Ice Cream
Vanilla Bean Powder & Cinnamon

Boil the water in a small pot on the stove, once it is boiling remove from the heat. Add the maca, cacao, mesquite, lucuma, and honey, gently whisking to incorporate everything. Fill a mug or teacup 2/3 full and top with a scoop or so of coconut ice cream. Finally, sprinkle with vanilla and cinnamon and enjoy!

Ultra simple, ultra satisfying.

Flowers, Bees, Workouts and Love.

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Goooooooood Morning!

Rising with the sun is just one of those perfect things. It’s something so simple, and yet we very infrequently have the time or the willingness to do it. I am completely guilty of this.  When the winter begins winding down and spring sets in, I am up and ready to go at 5am as the sun starts peeking through my windows….but now, now that it’s summer that is coming to a close, I am in no way ready get up early.  Each day getting shorter and shorter, I find that it’s so difficult to fully wake. Today was different, today I was up with the sun (which was a bit of a sleep in, considering the season change). Today I greeted the morning with a juicy Canadian pear, and a real butt kicking spin class..  butt kicking, quad kicking, arm and chest kicking.  Man, I really got my sweat on!

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Wandering around the neighborhood afterwards,  I really started to warm up to the fast approaching fall. The sight and smell of yellowing leaves, plants and flowers in various stages of blossom and rest, the crispness in the air…  Fall used to be one of my favorite seasons. This beautiful Saturday morning really reminded me of that.

Post workout recovery is something that I have recently vowed to get better at, in particular – refueling with the right ingredients and pushing myself to deepen my stretching. I know that both of these are super important,  however I am known to forget to do one, or sometimes even both.  Today I got after it, I cooled off – walked the streets engaging and really noticing my muscles and how they were operating; and I had a SUPERpower packed breakfast smoothie to reinforce and nourish my whole body, mind and spirit.

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A few nights ago I attended a lecture on bees and bee products. The healing medicines that come from a hive, and I’m not just talking honey here.  Bee pollen is one of my favorite treasures from the hive, from the bees, from the plants of this earth.  We all know the importance of reducing completely eliminating GMO products from our kitchens, we know that altering plant DNA and tarnishing our natural fields have negatively influenced bees,  but how many people have thought about those two things together at once?  GMO plants…  produce GMO pollen, GMO honey, and all kinds of alterations that impact my beloved honeybee. An article I read a while back in VegNews magazine about bees and GMO plants really shook me to my core. “Poland recently banned a genetically engineered crop in an effort to save the country’s native honeybee population. Monsanto Mon810, a strain of GE corn that self-produces the popular insecticide neonicotinoid, can no longer be grown in the country after research found that it triggers Colony Collapse Disorder – a worldwide plague that has caused honeybees to die en masse since 2006.” Disgusting, no? This is what plants are doing to the bees, what the heck do we think they’re going to do to us? Before I get off on too much of a tangent….  In my opinion, and this was reinforced and agreed upon by everyone at the lecture I attended – buying non GMO bee products is incredibly important. Buying honey that comes from wildflowers, buying honey that is local, buying honey that is cruelty free. All so important. It can only improve our health (and the health of the plant).

Bee pollen increases strength, and energy – both important after a workout. It helps to rebuild muscle and tissue, it’s a great source of a plethora of vitamins, and is super high in protein.  I had a heaping tablespoon this morning! Nothing like tasting the pure love of a flower, delicately gathered by a tiny, fuzzy, striped angel.  Have I mentioned… I love bees? Love them. Love them love them love them.

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Recovery smoothies that you can buy in stores tend to taste a bit off to me. I don’t like the taste of strong protein powders, and I very much try to avoid any packs with added sugars, or even other added beneficial nutrients.  I like just plain, raw hemp powder. High protein, nothing extra.  That way….   I can make it into something so super delicious all you can do is drink it down and giggle with delight. Yep, giggle – that’s exactly what I did this morning.  My recovery smoothie this morning was reminiscent of a almond butter cookie.. with chocolate.. and espresso.  Umm… YUM! I had the pleasure of drinking a chocolate mylk elixir at the Light Cellar, I have been thinking about it ever since… so I made my own version of it, recovery style.

SUPERpower Recovery Smoothie

1 Tbsp Maca Powder
2 Scoops of Raw Hemp Protein Powder
1 Tsp Dried Reishi Mushroom Powder
1 Tsp Dried Chaga Mushroom Powder
8-10 Cacao Whole Beans
1 Vanilla Bean – Scraped
1.5 Bananas
1/2 Cup Young Coconut Meat
2 Tbsp Raw Almond Butter
1 8oz Glass of Purified Water

Layer everything in a blender, start with adding about half a cup of water – just to allow the blades to get working and grind up the cacao immediately. Adding in a full glass of water right at the beginning will just make the cacao whirl and float! Once the mixture is smooth, add in the rest of the water and enjoy!

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Longevity Elixirs….. Lemonade style!

ImageSummer is the perfect time for refreshing lemony drinks – right? For sure!  Thirst quenching, cool, delicious.   Why not add some super awesome healing powers to that as well?

Lemon is absolutely remarkable, citrus is so uplifting and fresh – the smell of fresh lemon rind is unbeatable. Lemon aids digestion, is antiseptic as well as antimicrobial, super supportive for liver function as it stimulates saliva and bile production. This bright beautiful yellow citrus has long been used to treat colds, coughs, sore throat, flu and parasite related issues. The oils from lemon rind are great for all of the above, but in a slightly more concentrated form. Essential oils are incredibly beneficial, and lemon rind in particular has an insane amount of antioxidants. Pair that with the high vitamin C content, and you are good to go!

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I’ve mastered both the “pink lemonade” and a classic. The first, a beautiful and extremely tasty Ruby Lemonade Iced Tea.  This baby is a goji berry and green tea base, with added goji and hibiscus flowers for color and nutritional value.

Goji berries, of course are famed for their healing abilities, as well as incredible folklore surrounding their ability to sustain life far beyond our typical years. I was very happy to see goji plants last year while garden shopping with my dad. Next house I move to… will have a yard that will sustain one of those plants. That I promise myself. How lovely.. to walk outside and harvest my very own goji berries.   For now..  I am happy to buy them dried.

Hibiscus flowers have become a deep love of mine in the last few months, I found them – dried – in the bulk herb section of Community Natural Foods and have been using them in almost everything. They are amazing! They lend such a beautiful color to this tea, in addition to boosting the vitamin C content, they also supply a large amount of antioxidants and minerals.  This Ruby Lemonade Iced Tea packs a serious vitamin C punch.

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Ruby Lemonade Iced Tea

2 Goji Berry Green Tea Bags (or regular green tea would be just fine!)
4 Cups of Water
Dried Goji Berries – as many as you’d like
1/2 Organic Lemon – thinly sliced
5-7 Dried Hibiscus Flowers
Honey – to taste

I don’t own a kettle, which works well for larger batches of tea such as this. In a pot, on the stove – get the water boiling. Once it has reached a full boil, remove it from the heat. Green teas are best steeped while the water is settling down, instead of during the rolling boil. Add the tea bags, the lemon slices, the berries and the flowers. Allow the colors, aromas and flavors to swirl within the pot for a few minutes before adding the honey. It will only take a second or two for the beautiful red hibiscus to seep into the water, turning it into this ruby delight. I let the whole mixture sit for about 10-15 minutes before removing the tea bags, but  I do let the remaining ingredients soak for quite a bit longer. Taking the lemon slices out.. probably closer to 30 minutes, and leaving the berries and flowers (they’re super yummy to munch on once you reach the bottom of your glass.. and they look pretty too!). Bottle in jars, or glasses of your choice and serve chilled.

ImageThe more classic lemonade iced tea, is so super awesome.  Seriously… so so soo super awesome.

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About four months ago, I bought a massive bag of Pau d’arco which is the inner bark of a South American tree. There are lots of places to buy pau d’arco… but be careful if you choose to do so, there are plenty of people wanting to turn a profit from this powerful herb without doing the work to cultivate it properly. This results in many sources selling the bark from a different tree entirely. Make sure you are familiar with your sources! Pau d’arco is a very amazing herb for cancer (prevention as well as reduction) and viruses. Known for it’s amazing ability to reduce tumors, reduce candida, and treat very serious virus related conditions. As it is a bark, you need to make sure to boil it for at least 15 minutes to get the full nutrient value.

Incredibly Healthy Almost Classic Lemonade Iced Tea

6 Cups of Water
6 Teaspoons of Pau d’arco
1/2 Organic Lemon – sliced
Honey – to taste

Unlike the kind and gentle steep required by the green tea above, pau d’arco can be added to your pot of water before the boiling process has begun – So add the dried herb along with the water, boil for at least 15 minutes.  Discard the pau d’arco, add the lemon slices and honey. Return to the warm (but turned off!) element, allowing the oils and juice from the lemon a fair chance at steeping. I left my concoction to cool slowly on the stove for about an hour, maybe even an hour and a half.  This really allows the bitter lemon oil to escape the rind. It’s best to taste it before you bottle it, if you decide to leave the lemon in for such an extended period of time. I’m not joking about the bitterness in the oil! This lemonade is excellent luke warm or chilled – so if you just can’t wait to drink your amazing longevity enhancing, cancer fighting elixir… that’s perfectly fine!

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Chakra Shots

Well it’s April – holy smokes! Figure… it’s time for a good spring cleaning. Yes?  Great!  However… I’m not necessarily talking about my apartment, although I’m sure those who are frequently in my space would agree it could use it. I’ve got papers here and there… books all over the place (most half read).. blankets and pillows, candles… incense.. stones, gems, cameras.  All kinds of stuff, absolutely everywhere.  At work I am constantly razzed for having piles all over the place, if ever there is something stacked up…. “it must be Shanna’s”.  Dare I be cliche and say the areas in which I have piles of … anything.. stacked up – it’s organized chaos! Really it is.   Okay so really, I should be spring cleaning my world as a whole…. but today I started with my inner world.

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My inner world has been screaming at me to take some alone time.  I can’t say I fully achieved this today, seeing as I have yet to really unplug from the outer world…. but it was a good start.  I try to spend time every day re-centering myself, finding some quiet and giving myself some time to reflect.  I won’t claim to be successful at this task each time I make an attempt, but the point is that I do try. Right?  Well, spring is all about rebirth and an exciting re-ignition of life in every aspect, so I’m bringing all that awesome renewal into each cell of my body and I’m running with it!

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One of the quickest ways to recharge my body temple… is juice. A juice cleanse, to be precise.  Colorful, vibrant, full of everything I need..  Juice. It really is it’s own therapy, in my mind. I have talked before about  my love of juicing and how it delivers such a quick shot of pure life to your system…  Loving that therapeutic aspect of the colors, not just the ingredients.. I have spent a lot of time researching color therapy and what it can do for us on an energetic level.

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It’s not a hard thing to grasp…  look around, we choose things based on their vibrancy and color, marketing is based on things that will hold our attention..  Is it shiny? Is it bright? Does it flash in a multitude of shades?  These are not things targeted specifically for children, and with the exception of those who aren’t able to use their sense of sight…  We are all guilty of it.  So why not use it as a balancing tool? Auyrvedic medicine teaches that even something as simple as holding a color in your mind, whether you’re able to meditate upon that color and still your thoughts.. or just have time to visualize it for a few moments..  it can be incredibly beneficial for the mind, body, and spirit as whole.

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When I am able to connect what I am eating, to how I am feeling…. on a vibration level, that’s just so special. When people start changing their diets, even to just incorporate a smoothie made with fresh ingredients… and they are able to FEEL the impact on their body.  Special! Being as in tune with my body as possible, and experiencing the frequency I can feel myself operating on after something nutrient dense is unmistakable.  Paired today with my energetic spring cleaning, I am just full of life!

A big part of energetic cleaning….. (to me anyway).. is the clearing of chakras. Chakras are energy centers, both inside and outside of the body that energy passes through. The seven most known ones are the Root, Sacral, Solar Plexus, Heart, Throat, Third Eye and the Crown. Having balance within your self, allows for balanced energy in your chakras…  you don’t want your physical body to have blockages anywhere, we all know that – so why would you want your energetic self to have any?  You wouldn’t, trust me. It doesn’t feel good.  I don’t know anyone who actually enjoys being grumpy… or feeling sluggish and blah. Energetic life moves in a spiral, so imagine your energy centers being blocked.. with spiraling waves coming at them…. that doesn’t feel good!

 It’s all about balance. 

  • The Root Chakra (located at the base of the spine) is a beautiful red, it is related to issues of security and being grounded… It may be financial security, physical security etc.
  • The Sacral Chakra (located in the lower abdomen), a lovely orange color. It is based on our connection to others, as well as the ability to experience new things… may that be meeting new people.. various addictions, or pleasures (food, drink, physical etc), and can also be connected to your body image.
  • Solar Plexus Chakra (located in the upper abdomen) is a beautiful, vibrant yellow. It relates to our feelings of control and power. Whether it’s about self esteem, confidence, or worth.
  • The Heart Chakra (located in the chest) is a divine shade of green. The Heart Chakra plays an important part in our relationships, ability to give and receive love (to our self, and to others), attachments, as well as forgiveness.
  • The Throat Chakra (located around the Adam’s apple) is a brilliant sky blue. The Throat Chakra is all about speaking your truth, proper and clear communications, as well as having the ability to ask for your needs to be met.
  • The Third Eye Chakra (located between your eyes) is a deep indigo. The Third Eye is all about wisdom, all seeing truth and knowingness. It watches all your decisions, every move your make. It relates to the past, the present and the future.
  • The Crown Chakra (located at the top of your head) is a royal purple. It relates to total spirituality, as well as connection to your higher self. It promotes trust, peace, and bliss.

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Enter…. my Chakra Shots! As if juicing wasn’t fun enough already….  Why not take a therapeutic shot of fresh health elixir while mentally, visually, and spiritually cleansing your chakras!? Cleanse the body with what it needs… cleanse the soul with what it needs at the same time! Perfect way to spend my afternoon : )

Root – Pure Strawberry
Sacral – Cantaloupe, Carrot & Ginger
Solar Plexus – Golden Beet & Orange
Heart (this is a big one) – Spinach, Kale, Cilantro, Lime, Granny Smith Apple, Cucumber & Celery
Throat – Pure Blueberry
Third Eye – Pure Blackberry
Crown – Red Beet

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Now if only I could get to spring cleaning my apartment……

Speaking of color therapy…

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This morning I woke up feeling wonderful…. maybe because I have a giant picture of Buddha’s footprint taped to the ceiling above my bed….  maybe because it’s a crisp Saturday.. maybe because I have no daytime plans….  maybe because I have a fridge full of beautifully colored fruits and vegetables – all just waiting to be passed through my juicer!  I’m going to go ahead and say all of the above!

Juicing has become a great love of mine,  it’s so rewarding! I actually enjoy going through my produce, washing, preparing, juicing..   even cleaning every piece of the juicer itself – isn’t so painful. At least it isn’t when I’m staring down the end of a tall glass of fresh homemade vitamin elixir!  I try to incorporate at least one glass per day, even if there’s no crazy blend of veg in it, something as simple as carrot & ginger will pick me up big time!

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I try to balance it out…. not too sweet, not too green.   Slowly however, I have been making my juices more and more green, and adding things like cilantro for extra kick! I guess I have sort of been conditioning, adding more pure kale juice each day.  The people I work with think I’m crazy…  they thoroughly enjoy watching my facial expression as I down each bottle.

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My absolute favorite juice, is beet.  Yellow, red, candy striped, doesn’t matter – beet.  It is earthy and sweet, blends well with other roots, leafy greens, and berries!

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My three combinations today are:

1.) Kale, red chard, spinach, cucumber, mandarin
2.) Carrot, grapefruit, ginger
3.) Beet, raspberry, blackberry & 1 drop of mint oil

I often add the mint to my green juices, typically mint oil – simply because one drop goes a long long way, and if I am using fresh mint I tend to need a decent sized handful. Kale, apple and mint are an amazing combination!

Fresh, organic juice is so good for the us! The super fast absorption rate of all the extracted vitamins and minerals is an incredible bonus for your health. Yes, eating fruits and veggies whole is good for the body – unprocessed, raw fruit and vegetable fiber are essentially a mop and broom for your intestines. Pulling out toxins, pushing along through our bodies helping our elimination system….  but the untouched enzymes in fresh juice..  amazing.  If you think about it, we need to replenish our systems with things that our body recognizes.  And by that I’m talking… cellular wise.  Our cells recognize the compounds in natural, raw foods. Our cells recognize the minerals, the enzymes, the vitamins, the sugars… everything.  Why? Because these are similar to compounds that we are made up of as well! Obviously, our cells do not recognize hydrogenated oils and the like…  yet for so many of us, that is what we fuel up with.  Even adding one fresh juice or one green smoothie a day is a good start! It will make your cells smile… seriously.

Looking at these jars of juice….    bright orange, popping purple, natures own green…   don’t they make you feel good?They sure make me feel good!   It is a wonderful feeling to know that I am connected to my food, that I can pronounce all ingredients and am fully aware of exactly what is (and is not!) in those jars.  Now, I realize juicing isn’t for everyone, and it does take a fair amount of time… but just looking at the vital energy within those jars – doesn’t it make you FEEL good?  As an added bonus…. It’s so easy to add things to your diet that you don’t typically like with juices or smoothies too! Don’t love spinach? Toss in a handful to your morning smoothie – you won’t even taste it, I promise!

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Adding things like mint oil not only cut some of the superior green taste of kale, it also promotes digestion and is aromatically a natural mood enhancer!  Peppermint wakes you up, snaps your senses to life and even stabilizes temperature. Cool! Right? Another awesome oil you could add is fennel! Adding a nice zing of licorice, fennel is a natural breath freshener, and like peppermint is great for digestion.   Of course.. you could always add fresh fennel bulb to your smoothies and juices,  but if you’re looking to start out and are concerned about cost – oil is the way to go.

One more bonus about juicing…..

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Keep the pulp!  You don’t have to look into your pulp collector and feel like you’re wasting fruits and vegetables that you could have otherwise used in entirety…   Seriously, I just bag it and freeze it! Adds great fiber and texture to a smoothie, and it can be used broken off in chunks instead of ice!  Also makes a super easy addition to muffins and other baking. Don’t feel like grating carrots for morning muffins or cake…?  Yeah, I don’t typically either – but if you save your carrot pulp, you don’t have to!