Dairy-free and Delish Coffee Creamer

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In my attempt to cut dairy from my diet, the biggest hurdle for me is that damn coffeemate/international delight/liquid sugar deliciousness. Just almond milk and sweetener was not thick enough. And it’s pretty hard to go from peppermint mocha to no flavor whatsoever. Except for “coffee” flavored… but who wants coffee that is just coffee flavored? (I’m sure some of you do. I’ve got you covered too!)

I found a few recipes but most were too complicated or not quite right. After some experimenting and a lot of almond milk, here’s my recipe base for the perfect dairy-free coffee creamer. The quantity is perfect for one of those salad dressing carafes that comes with the good seasonings mixes. Add-ins are listed below to make it your flavor of choice.

Xanthan gum is expensive, but… you use so little of it that it will last you forever and then some. Split it with a health conscious friend!

This is the one I picked up at my regular, local grocery store. There would probably be a better selection at a health foods store, but this was the only one I had available. It’s a good brand though!

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Basic vanilla creamer

  • 1 1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (plain if you are anti-vanilla)
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Sweetener of choice, to taste (I did 4 splenda packets)

Toss all ingredients in the blender and thoroughly blend. Pour into carafe, mason jar, or a washed out coffeemate bottle! Creamer will have some trapped air bubbles that will settle out in the fridge over night.

Mix-in flavor options

  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp extracts (peppermint, hazelnut, almond, coconut, etc)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

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That’s it! Super easy. Have fun with the flavorings. If you have any specific requests, ask! I might be able to whip something up. Got a great mix-in combo? Comment below!

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Meditation wrap up

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So I’ll admit that I didn’t follow my original plan to a T. But that’s ok! Meditation is a part of my daily routine now. I wake up each morning, start the coffee maker, and hit the yoga mat. Depending on the day I have ahead of me, I have been searching on youtube for the desired length meditation. For example, “20 minute guided meditation”.  Headphones have helped drown out any other sounds of the household (crazy cat).

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The benefits I have been enjoying are spanning the physical and the mental, work life and personal life. I mentioned previously that I am able to almost zone out and focus on a task, like grading 160 boring multiple choice tests, better than I ever have before. I am reading faster. I am running further without injury or strain. I am calmer and a million times more patient with both my two young children and teenage students. I am slower to anger and much more aware of my small, connected existence to the universe.

It has also been a nice foundation to my entire day! After meditation, I pour myself a cup of coffee and sit at the table with my phone and craft my daily to-do list a la Chalene Johnston. Her 30 day PUSH course is awesome and FREE! Highly highly recommend it. I am able to review my day ahead with a clear head after meditating.

I also love that it’s a tool to reboot if my stress levels get too high. I will spend 15 minutes of my lunch or after school with the door locked and speakers blaring. It’s not as easy if things get out of hand at home. Preschoolers don’t like to leave you alone for long. 🙂

I would encourage anyone to give this healthy habit a serious shot! It was hard at first, learning to calm my thoughts and be still. Don’t give up! It took me a good two weeks to get to the point where I felt like I was actually meditating. Since I started this journey, I have found numerous articles and research about mindful meditation helping in a range of situations, from breast cancer patients to inner city school children.

Tell me, did you try? How did it affect you if you did? Or are you going to re-commit? Don’t worry, the wagon is always there to jump back on.

Survival of the Fittest. A reflection.

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I am fortunate to live in a state that is not under any sort of vortex right now, and I ran outside yesterday with some friends. A mile of the the run was through some wooded trails, which is a challenge for me. Not only is it out of my physical comfort zone, it causes me some injury anxiety. But I did it, thanks to some encouragement from my fantastic friends.

The group spread out a bit throughout the trails, so it was fairly quiet. I felt my lungs work harder, my legs burn more than road running. With the beauty of nature around me, a thought crossed my mind. I am a high school science teacher by day, and I am always in awe of the intricacy of the human body and the complexity of the universe. So as I’m breathing in the atmosphere of our planet, I realize that I am made for this. Literally. Me, a living being, has evolved on this planet, from the elements of this planet, to suck in it’s air and use it. My bones and muscles are the result of billions of years of evolution to maintain core stability against the gravity of Earth. My eyes are adapted to see the range of wavelengths that just so happens to be the wavelengths of light that can get through our atmosphere.

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So what really is it to run 3.2 miles? 13.1? 26.2?Just doing what I am built to do. Testing evolution. Survival of the fittest. What amazing machines we are.

Small Changes we ALL can do to be happier and healthier in 2014!

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Many times the overall process of “dieting” and weight loss can be overwhelming. A before and after shot that is a year apart might be super impressive, but the thought pops in: “I can’t do that. She/he probably changed their whole lifestyle!” And the year… that’s a long time. I get that.

It doesn’t have to be so overwhelming though. Of course, if you have the drive and commitment to totally revamp your lifestyle then please do it! For most people though, we need to take baby steps. Ease our way in. Unfortunately that usually leads to disappointment as small changes often bring about little to no change in the short term and let’s face it; Americans aren’t too interested in the long term. We want to do the minimal amount of work but get the large payoff. Fit bodies that you see on various instagram feeds for “fitspo” (fitsporation = fitness and sport inspiration) feature models and athletes that dedicate HOURS a day to wellness. It is a fine goal, but I wish more of them would show more real people with real lives, families, and jobs. We need to be motivated by other things than looking hot in a sports bra. Truly, that is not what matters, and just like those victoria’s secret models, the fitness models are a very small percentage of healthy and fit humans and should not be looked at as an ideal.

Recently Howard Schatz’s photos of female Olympic athletes revealed how different and amazing we women look even at peak performance levels. Yes, they all train differently, but every one of those women are considered the best of the best. And they don’t all look like lingerie models.

In 2014, I challenge you to think about your health and fitness goals. Stay away from anything aesthetic. Instead, focus on what you want to be able to do. Run a 5k. Play with my kids without getting tired. Get through a work day without getting tired. Decrease my blood pressure. Increase my immune system. Be more productive at work. Sleep better. Have better sex. Whatever. Just try to stay away from “I want to be hot! Bikini season!!!!” I have a daughter, and I’m a high school teacher, so I feel a personal responsibility to promote fitness for health and not for looks. And to spread the word that while a few small changes in our daily lives might not make us fitspo material, your quality of life will improve.

A few small changes to our daily lives that ANYONE (yes, even you) can make are:

  • drink water as soon as you wake up
  • stand on one foot when brushing your teeth to practice balance. switch feet morning and night.
  • use coconut oil instead of butter in most recipes, even spread on toast.
  • whole grain/ whole wheat breads/pasta/rice instead of white
  • cut out or cut back on soda. (switch back to regular instead of diet if you are just cutting back. Diet = chemicals = two thumbs wayyyy down!)
  • sit up straight when at your desk or driving your car
  • take the stairs
  • park farther away
  • Unplug when you eat – no phones/email/social media. Better yet, if the weather is nice, eat outside! Listen to nature/traffic and people watch.
  • Meditate. Even 10 minutes a day helps calm the mind and focus throughout your day.
  • drink a glass of water before you eat every meal. You’ll eat less and chances are you need the water.
  • Use more herbs/seasoning and less butter/cream/cheese in your recipes.
  • breath deeply and consciously a few times a day. I like to do this at red lights.
  • walk your dog twice a day. Jog/walk in mailbox intervals. “today I am going to jog one mailbox further than yesterday and walk the rest.” Your pooch will thank you too!
  • Laugh. Every. Day.
  • Pick a full body exercise and do a set while the coffee is brewing. Push ups, burpees, planks are all good choices. Every couple of days add one or two reps to the set. You’ll be surprised how much stronger you will get with 25 pushups every morning.

This is not an exhaustive list, but you get the point. Pick just ONE or TWO and just try! See how you feel! Good? Great! Try another one. Before you know it, you might get the ball rolling to full-on wellness enthusiast. That’s how it happened to me. 🙂

Let me know what you are going to try in the comments below! Or have another idea to add to the list? Share it!

❤ Amy

Eating around a workout

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If you are like me, I have struggled through an intense workout too soon after a meal and maybe (!) saw that meal again, sadly. Felt like a whole lot of wasted time and food. Or I have woken up for a endurance exercise like a long run and felt utterly sluggish from the lack of fuel. A cup of coffee just won’t cut it!

In the recent weeks I have been researching and experimenting with eating before and after a workout. I believe I have found the secret formula for both intense and moderate workouts!

For all intensities…

An hour before your workout starts: Have a small simple carb with low fiber, like a banana, and a liter of water. I also will have a cup of coffee. The caffeine will get the energy levels jump started. Avoid having more than two cups though. Too much acid can cause tummy troubles mid workout.

After your workout: Pack on the protein and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! I recommend a recovery beverage, like P90X results and recovery to help process the lactic acid and prevent soreness, but that is not a food! Protein shake, veggie egg scramble, and Greek yogurt and granola are all great options for a post early morning meal. If your workout is later in the day, you can go for any protein/complex carb mix. Try Avocado and black bean with quinoa wrap, or hummus and whole grain flat-bread with veggies! I always have pre-baked chicken breasts on hand in the fridge, which go great with just about anything.

For those pesky long endurance workouts:  Carb loading is not a myth. Have some simple carbs the night before if your workout will be longer than an hour. I reach for good old cheerios and almond milk before bed. Late workout? Carb it up at breakfast but ease up at lunch. See previous guidelines for an hour before your workout. Those still apply!

Your body is a machine! Fuel that puppy right. If you are making an effort to fit exercise into your busy life, give yourself the best shot to make it super effective! Get the most bang for your buck time!

New Year’s Resolutions: Put it to ACTION!

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I will go ahead and admit it. I lurve me some resolutions. But… I know most people make em and and break em, so I am here to help make some goals that can actually be met.

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Common resolutions like “lose weight” or “save money” ultimately start and end the first week of January. Why? There are a lot of blogs/books that break down goals into little bitty pieces and complicate things, but it all boils down to one thing: it’s too dang vague. Oh yeah? You are going to lose weight? How? Doing what? And why haven’t we been doing this all along?

Goals will be met if there is a plan! So instead of stating the outcome as your goal, restate your goal as an action goal. What are you going to DO in 2014. Here are a few examples of how to change a vague goal into an action goal:

Vague, sucky goal: I’m going to lose 20lbs in 2014! (high fives all around! Woot woot!)

Action goal: I’m going to exercise 4x a week for 1 hour each day, 30 minutes cardio and 30 minutes weight training.

Vague, sucky, never-going-to-happen goal: I’m going to save a ton of money in 2014! Gonna be super stacked! Dolla dolla bills ya’ll!

Action goal: I’m going to write up a budget that saves me $300 a month and I’m going to follow it! Yay math!

See the difference? I mean, outcomes are the reason you try to make these resolutions, I get that. However, that seems to be the never-ending problem with health and fitness. Wish for the accomplishment without giving any real thought to the work that is involved to reach that milestone.

So I encourage you to stop and think, before you are popping the bubbly and smooching your date, to write out your goals on paper. Yep, old fashioned paper and a pen or pencil. Underline your goal. Then ask yourself, what will I have to do to accomplish this? Make a list. Brainstorm. Write down everything and anything you can think of that you are willing and able to do to reach that goal. And be honest with yourself. Can you afford that crossfit membership? Can you get up at 4:30am before work? Really??? Be realistic, and also understand that it will probably look a little daunting. Then draw a line across the paper after the idea dump. Look at your list. Pick out one or two tasks that, if followed through with, would snowball into more and more tasks accomplished. A task that if you complete it, other tasks would naturally be completed. For example, if you chose “go to the gym 4x a week for an hour each day,” you would naturally have to get a membership and get some new workout duds.

Now, under the line, re-write your goal as an inclusive action statement. Make it say what you are going to actually DO that will take you to your ultimate goal, without stating the ultimate goal itself. Don’t worry about it including every little thing in your brainstormed list. As I said before, they will all get done by default. When you commit to your action goal, doing the little things will seem more do-able because you have taken out the vagueness and put in something tangible you can accomplish. You know it is not going to be easy, but that’s ok, because you have been honest with yourself and tailored your action goal to be something you know you CAN do!

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That’s why you haven’t gotten to saving money yet; it’s hard. That’s why most people do not reach their goals, small and large. They are goals because they are something you want to do but it is an uncomfortable thing to do. But if we are really putting ourselves out there and truly reaching for more, these goals should be scary. Uncomfortable. Even intimidating. If they don’t scare you at least a little bit after you have wrote down what it will take to get there, then you are not aiming high enough.

So happy goal setting, peeps! I’d love to hear what your action goal is for 2014! Comment below and tell us.