Layered smoothie. Top: coconut, cucumbers, green grapes, avocado, fresh lemon juice and unsweetened almond milk, Bottom: Frozen strawberries, blueberries, half of a shredded beet, triple zero yogurt, chia and unsweetened almond/coconut milk

Coconut, Carrots and Chia

C for the A to Z Blogging Challenge.
C for the A to Z Blogging Challenge.

Good Monday morning to you! It is April 4 and the third day of the A to Z Blogging Challenge and we have the letter C. Today I’m exploring some classics and some new-to-me foods.

 

Coconut comes in the dry form or the fresh brown shell. I’ve never been able to eat the crispy white flakes that come in a bag. If you want to stop me from eating a cookie or cake, sprinkle some of that…stuff on it and (shudder) I won’t touch it. Now the fresh coconut is a whole other story. Don’t let the hard shell stop you from buying one of these babies at the store. They are easy to open and use.

After draining the water, place the coconut in the oven at 350 for about 12 minutes. Then wrap it in a bag smash it with a hammer or throw it hard against a concrete floor. The harder the better.
After draining the water, place the coconut in the oven at 350 for about 12 minutes. Then wrap it in a bag smash it with a hammer or throw it hard against a concrete floor. The harder the better.

Using a Philips screw-driver with a hammer or a wine bottle opener make holes in the three “eyes” of the coconut. Use a cup or bowl and drain out all the water. Some have mistakenly called this liquid coconut milk – but that is a different product that is make with the coconut flesh. Once all the water is out place the coconut in the per-heated oven (350) for 10 to 12 minutes. This helps pop the flesh right off the shell after you smash it. Smashing it can be fun. Either hit it with a hammer a bunch of times or throw it down hard against a concrete floor. It should break easily into several pieces. It will be good for about a week in your refrigerator.

The water doesn’t have the same nutritional value as the fruit, but it is a great way to add flavor to anything from a smoothie to rice. The Coconut itself contains a healthy portion of potassium that may help reduce stroke risk according to some research. It is high in fat and amino acids, which is good for muscle formation. If you’re losing weight you want to take care not to lose muscle. When you add it to your smoothie or sprinkle it over a salad the small amount of fat makes the nutrients of the other fruits and veggies more bio-available.

Carrots are a “mom” veggie. One of the vegetables she told you to eat along with broccoli and spinach. Well, once again she was right. They are nutritional rock stars and now you can find them in reds, purples and yellow along with the tried and true orange.

Carrots roasted with zucchini in a little Olive oil and garlic and herb mix from Mrs. Dash
Carrots roasted with zucchini in a little Olive oil and garlic and herb mix from Mrs. Dash

Even though they taste sweet, carrots are low in sugar and have almost no fat. So they get a high score when you need something to chew on but don’t want a great deal of calories.

Slice them up and they can sweeten your smoothie.

Coconut/Carrot Smoothie: Perfect for a warm summer day.

  • One carrotcarrots cocount orange beets banana
  • Fresh coconut
  • orange beet (if you can’t stand the beet add pineapple or mango.  If your goal is to bring down blood sugar level be careful of the pineapple)
  • One medium banana
  • One tb of organic Chia
  • Cup of unsweetened Almond/coconut milk
  • 2 Tb of Oikos Triple Zero Greek yogurt (Vanilla)
  • 1/2 of a fresh squeezed lemon.
  • I toss it in my Ninja for 35 seconds and I might even put it in the freezer for 30 min to get a really ice cold treat.

 

Something that is very new to me is chia seed. I had heard of chia tea, but didn’t really know what it was other than a new trending “health” kick. I have learned that despite their tiny size, this gift from mother nature packs an incredible amount of good-for-you nutrition. With just two tablespoons it will deliver 11 grams of fiber, four grams of protein, five grams of plant based omega-3 fatty acid and just about 20% of your daily calcium needs. So throw them into you smoothie or mix them with your oatmeal and yogurt.cashews organic cocoa chia gronola That little crunch will add up to a lot of nutrient.

At my H.E.B I have found organic cocoa chia granola. For a snack on my drive home I’ll mix it with cashews or almonds. Maybe a little dried fruit. (again if you have blood sugar concerns be careful of dried fruit)

I have also discovered Mamma Chia granola mixes. They come in a variety of flavors. Two of my favorites are Vanilla Almond Clusters and Cinnamon Pecan Clusters. (noticed how I slipped in other C names? hehe).

cucumber

This is the green layer for the smoothie on top of the post. I did add chia to the one in the picture, this one has flax seed. Top: Cucumbers, Green grapes, avocado, spinach, kiwi, fresh lemon, you could also add a bit of fresh coconut. I added unsweetened almond milk and blended for 30 to 40 seconds.

The bottom layer (purple): Frozen strawberries, blueberries, shredded beets (to taste or take them out), chia, Triple Zero Oikos Greek Yogurt and unsweetened almond milk.

There are so many C foods – do you have a favorite I left off or a smoothie using any of these foods. I’m always looking for a new smoothie to try.  Have a great week.

 

Banana, Berries & Bacon…oh, I mean Beets

B in the A to Z Blogging Challange. Bananas, Berries & Beets....or Bacon
B in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Bananas, Berries & Beets….or Bacon

Welcome to day two of the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. Today we are exploring healthy foods in the B column. The reason I put bacon in the title was not to tease you, but to bring out the point that living healthy is not about denial. It’s about making daily choices that benefit your body and mind. you can still enjoy the things that you love. Moderation is good.

I’m in this for the long haul so I want to able to maintain not destroy. I still cook real bacon to a crunchy crisp and eat a slice with my eggs every once in a while and I’ll add the bacon dripping to my potato salad…we don’t eat it that often so might as well make it right.

As I eat better and fill my body with rich foods of the earth I found I don’t really crave sweets or fatty foods as much. That might just be me. Check in with me next year and we’ll see how I’m doing.

Now back to the food of the day: Bananas, Berries & Beets.

Bananas are a happy fruit - your brain likes them.
Bananas are a happy fruit – your brain likes them. (and your gut and your bones)

You can’t go wrong with Bananas. They’re one of the most consumed fruit on the planet. They provide potassium and fiber and help the body absorb calcium, so they are perfect with that skim milk or almond milk smoothie. They also add a creamy texture, like the avocado.

They’re also a feel good fruit. Banana’s increase the level of dopamine, serotonin & nor-epinephrine…you know, the stuff that makes your brain happy. Yes, bananas can ward off depression. So instead of the gallon of ice cream eat a banana. At least cut one or two up and add to the ice cream. (and it will absorb the calcium)

If you’re looking for something with high benefits, but low calories pick up some berries! Blueberries are my favorite. They help maintain healthy levels of blood sugar even lowering it,(perfect fruit if your diabetic or just trying to lose weight)  protects vision and improves memory. It is another brain food that helps keep your cognitive skills sharp. Along with all that, they provide vitamins C and K and manganese. The compounds that give them their beautiful vibrant color is linked with helping  inflammation and building up your immune system. Blackberries also have much of these healthy characteristics and are high in fiber. (we love our fiber, but *side note* remember you need to drink plenty of water to help the body processes easier.)

The thing that gives blueberries and beets their color is the thing that will help you be healthier.
The thing that gives blueberries and beets their color is the thing that will help you be healthier.

BEETS!!! Beets? Yuck. Yes!! Beets are awesome in so many ways.

The betalain that gives the deep, rich red color of the beet is an antioxidant that could help ward off cancer and other diseases. It pretty much has a whole alphabet of vitamins, along with potassium boosting your immune system. The greens of the beets are good too. They carry a whopping 44 milligrams of calcium, so pair it with a banana (in a smoothie) and your bones will thank you.

With all that, we’re still not done with the beet. It has compounds that can lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol. It helps your hard working muscles and joint relax. (anti-inflammatory) Yes, beets are worth the time. So find a way to eat them. They are jammed full of hard to get nutrients. If you don’t like smoothies, try roasting your beets or cut them very thin and add them to your salad with some bacon & walnuts.

Blueberry, strawberry, blackberry, triple zero Greek yogurt, Flax seeds and unsweetened almond/coconut milk thrown into my Ninja for 35

 

To get this rich color you can’t add green to this smoothie.

  • 1/2 Peeled and sliced beet
  • 1 cup  frozen organic organic blueberries
  • 1 cup  frozen strawberries
  • 1/2 organic banana
  • 1 Tb flax seed
  • 1 cup Oikos Triple Zero Nonfat Greek Yogurt (Vanilla)
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond/coconut milk

 

 

For the smoothie abovebeets-blueberries-blackberries-bananas-spinach

  • 1 cup of organic spinach (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 organic banana
  • 1 cup of organic blueberries
  • 1 hand full of organic blackberries
  • 1/2 beet peeled and sliced
  • 2 Tb  Oikos Triple Zero Nonfat Greek Yogurt (Vanilla)
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk

 

 

 

 

For a note on color:

*Warning* When you mix colors opposite on the color they neutralize each other – you know, green & red, purple & yellow, orange & blue turn into browns, greys, & swamp water green. All those colors that look  vibrant next to each other turn dirt colors when the blades mangle them together. That is way you see so many of my smoothies before the blend. 🙂

So do you have a favorite healthy B food I left out? Broccoli, beans, Brussels sprouts…

 

 

Avocados, Almonds & Apples…Yum

A in A to Z blogging challenge
A in A to Z blogging challenge

Welcome to April 1st and the first day of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. I’m going to spend the month sharing what I have learned about eating for a healthier body which enables the mind to work at a higher efficiency and gives your spirit peace. LOL That’s what they tell me anyway. The bottom line? If I want to stay active in  my own life I have to get in better shape. The numbers don’t lie.

Now that I’m hyper focused on what makes my body work better, I’m going to share some thing I have found in my journey of self-discovery. This is not medical advice and everyone has different needs depending on where you are at in life. It’s just my observations and experiences. (My lawyers made me say that).

My goal is to lose weight in order to get my numbers back on track. For me the discovery of smoothies was LIFE CHANGING. I’m a picky eater and it seemed all the “healthy foods” were ones I didn’t enjoy. But when you throw those babies in a Ninja and swirl them all together – lets just say I’m getting my full servings of vegetables and fruit everyday. Which means I’m not hungry. I feel great, I really do.  No magic pill or drink, just good old mother nature, unprocessed, raw and beaten into submission.

So for the first day of April we will start with three of the superstars: Almonds, Apples & Avacad0s.

Avocados & Almonds
A in A to Z blogging challenge

Rumors about almonds are true, they are hiding a great deal of fat in that little teardrop nut. But it’s monounsaturated fat. Moderation is the word with this treat. Research has shown they can help maintain good cholesterol levels and slow your cognitive decline as you age. (Brain food). They keep your gut happy and build a strong immune system. They are full of protein and fiber, which will help you feel full longer.

Avocados also struggle against the fat rumors, but boy do these guys deliver. They contain nearly 20 vitamins and minerals and because of its make-up they are easily absorbed by the body instead of flushed straight out. A serving is a half to one third and you don’t need or want more than that in a day. They are great for a bright green smoothie and add a nice creamy texture. I hear they are also good for the heart and may reduce heart disease risk.

Apples are full of fiber and helps lover cholesterol levels
A in A to Z blogging challenge

The good old classic Apple. These girls are high in fiber which lead to a healthy gut and are great for regulating digestion. They also help lower cholesterol levels. They just help you feel fuller therefore reducing the over all calories you eat. The sweetness is a good mix to cut the bitterness if kale and some other greens.

Do you have a favorite healthy A food that I ignored?

  • On the top of the page is the smoothie I made with 1/2 avocados,
  •  Handful of almonds
  • 1 sliced red apple
  • 1  cup of frozen berries
  • 1 cup of kale (without the stems)
  • Pour a cup of unsweetened almond milk (use this if your cutting back on sugar)

I threw it all into my Ninja, blended for 35 seconds and WHAM! I have a smoothie that does all sorts of good things for  my body. Enjoy!

If you have a good smoothie combo share! See you tomorrow with the B foods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have Joined the A to Z Blog Challange

Starting in April, I will share my new obsession with you. I will explore the wonderful world of food, God given food that grows from the earth and nourishes our bodies. All the colors and textures create their own unique art work.

We’ll talk about everything from avocados to ugli fruit. Any excuse to take pictures. LOL

Why has this become an obsession? In the middle of February I made a commitment to myself that I would live a healthier life. Sitting in front of the computer and sitting in the car has taken a toll on my body and as I approach 50 I realized I had to make some changes. Some things happen to us beyond our control, but I can control what I put in my body and how I use the body God gave me.

11149268_10153198041191740_364585605645514242_n
Noah inspired me with his no excuses motto – really how can I argue with him?

Last season of Dancing with the Stars, I fell in love with Noah Galloway. (the inspirational kind of love) I wanted that kind of determination in my life.

I knew I had it. It took will power to finish my master’s degree at forty.  To find ways to inspire students, To write a 60k word novel. To work until I got my story published. To keep writing in order to get more writing contracts. It wasn’t easy with a language disability (dysgraphia). With hard work and focus I accomplished my dreams and reached my goals.

 

Unfortunately at the expense of my health. I now need that drive and focus in order to reach my health goals. In doing so I have discovered the world of smoothies and the wonderful fruits and veggies that can go in them. Arranging the colors and selecting the flavors to combine have fired the creative side of my brain.

Do you have a favorite food that nourishes you, heart, mind and body?

As the sun sets on March I hope you walk along with me through my April journey.

Sunrise at the end of my road. Yes I live in the country. And love it.
Sunrise at the end of my road.

 

A Texas Hill Country Thanksgiving

I thank my parents for raising me as a horse loving Texas Hill Country girl.   Nine Thanksgiving ago my sisters and I lost my mother. We lost our father nineteen years ago. They loved family and every holiday, plus some we were making the rounds to visit loved ones. We were shown through example that family matters.

A few years ago my sisters and I started a new tradition for Thanksgiving. We rented a cabin by the Frio River in Leakey, Texas. (our parents married in Leakey) A cousin from my family and a cousin from my brother-in-law’s joined in and we stay for four days.

The rest of my mother’s family, including her mother, join us. We bounce between 30 to 50 people on Thursday.  In a world that moves fast and people spend more time looking down at a screen than into the face of real people, personal connections with extended family gives  us roots and a healthier life. As humans, the need for relationships with others and nature is built into our DNA. To me Thanksgiving is not  about the food…it’s the people and getting away from the rush of daily life.

Old Giant Oak tree in Texas Hill Country. Leakey Texas.

These old trees make me think of how time moves and the world changes, but God is constant. We come and go but the world keeps turning. I love to take time and enjoy the peace these trees give me.

20151125_172706[1].jpg
Roads through the Texas Hill Country
20151126_151552[1].jpg
Taking time to walk off some of our Thanksgiving feast in the Texas Hill Country. Leakey Texas

DSC_2634.jpg
Enjoying the Frio River even in the rain. Two aunts and uncle and one of my sisters. Leakey Texas
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It helps if you have someone that plays the guitar and maracas.

Play some games! How to have fun at a Texas Hill Country Thanksgiving.

My Grandmother and seven (of ten)of her great-grandchildren from her oldest child, my mother, Cindy French Guinther. She has a total of thirty great-grandchildren.

Longhorn on a  Texas Hill Country Ranch Country
Longhorn on a Texas Hill Country Ranch Country

Since we are on a Texas Hill Country ranch we have to include a Longhorn.

Even thought we had rain we had fun. You have to set your mind to it sometimes but it can always be found. Play in the Rain!

Play in the Texas Rain with Jolene Navarro!
Play in the Texas Rain with Jolene Navarro!

Play in the Rain! Life is too short to wait around for the right time. Give thanks for the rain and the sun, the wind and the opportunity to experience it all.

What do you do to connect with people or nature?

 

 

Moon over New York City.

U for Untied States of America all represented in New York……Home of the brave…

U for United States of America
U for United States of America

The United State of America…Home of the Brave…Sometimes they’re just words. Do you ever stop and think what they mean?

For many it was and is leaving everything you know for a hope of something better. In New York City the storyteller in me became enthralled, I felt the shadow of fear, hope and determination left by millions of immigrants. I could imagine them seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time after a long grueling voyage.

Imagine, arriving in the harbor and seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time
Imagine, arriving in the harbor and seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time
Lady Liberty from the boat. photo  taken by Jolene Navarro
Lady Liberty from the boat. photo taken by Jolene Navarro
I think sometimes we forget New York is surrounded by water and is a port city. Old ships in the docks of New York.
I think sometimes we forget New York is surrounded by water and is a port city. Old ships in the docks of New York.
New York, surrounded by water
New York, surrounded by water. Photo by Jolene Navarro

On 9/11 the fear as they tried to flee on boats that were taking people away from the horrific destruction. The day we all turned to New York, helpless. Just like everything else on this small piece of Earth the 9/11 Memorial is overwhelming.

911 Memorial as the set sets. Photo by Jolene Navarro
911 Memorial as the set sets. Photo by Jolene Navarro

I walk the streets of New York, filled with people from around the world that now make America their home – the history, spirit and feel of America was in every stone, brick, window and steel frame that makes up the city. I have to say man’s ability to create a habitat beyond our imagination is awe inspiring and maybe a bit scary.
Here are a few of my favorite pictures.

The old reflected in the new.

Taken from our hotel window, Andaz. The old and new next to each other. Photo by Jolene Navarro
Taken from our hotel window, Andaz. The old and new next to each other. Photo by Jolene Navarro
View from Central Park. Photo by Jolene Navarro
View from Central Park. Photo by Jolene Navarro
Sensory overload in New York City.
Sensory overload in New York City. Photo by Jolene Navarro
Central Park - Loved this part of New York.
Central Park – Loved this part of New York.
Approaching Central Park
Approaching Central Park
New York from Central Park. Photo by Jolene Navarro
New York from Central Park. Photo by Jolene Navarro
On the edge of Time Square. Have to say my least favorite part of New York City.
On the edge of Time Square. Have to say my least favorite part of New York City.
Hanging out in the M & M Store, waiting for the rain to slow down. Photo by Jolene Navarro
Hanging out in the M & M Store, waiting for the rain to slow down. Photo by Jolene Navarro
Time Square New York- the rain had started
Time Square New York- the rain had started
The storm is rolling into the city.
The storm is rolling into the city.
The Financial District.
The Financial District.
View from the Financial District.
View from the Financial District. Photo by Jolene Navarro

Then there is the art…everywhere.

New York Art
New York Art photo by Jolene Navarro

One thing that was suggested to us was to go to the website of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and map out what you want to see and go to those rooms first. This is a must or you might miss the art you really want to see – there is no way to see this museum in one day. They art they house is incredible so go with a plan and when you see the originals up close…well words can not do the emotions justice.  I could do a whole blog on the art of New York.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The ancient civilization among the newbies.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The ancient civilization among the newbies. By Jolene Navarro
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Degas.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Degas
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Degas
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Degas

To see the textures and colors up close is simply amazing. Even if you can’t make it to the museum, you should follow them on facebook. They share a piece of art each day.

http://www.metmuseum.org/visit

This summer I get to go back to New York for the Romance Writers of America conference. I’m excited to go back to the city. Is there a place you would love to visit again? Have you been to New York? What is your MUST do when you are in the city.

Embracing Failure leads to joy and success!

Below is a link to a blog I wrote for the Craftie Ladies of Romance. What are the three things you need for a successful year? What about embracing failure, creating community and resilience? Hit the link below and read more about it.

All the things I need for a great 2015.

I want to thank my family for such a great year.

Enjoying Life.
Enjoying Life. My Hero Fred.
Bon fire and family
A year ago for my birthday family gathering around the bon fire
Lower-Manhatton-New-York-memorial-
A dream coming true. Lower Manhattan – It amazes me how so many people can live in such a small space. It looks as if it could just fall of the little piece of land.
Times Square with Fred. A dream coming true.
Times Square with Fred. A dream coming true.
June is the West Texas A&M writer's Academy with Jodi Thomas, Alex Sokoloff and Sasha Summers
June is the West Texas A&M writer’s Academy with Jodi Thomas, Alex Sokoloff and Sasha Summers
RWA panel about the truth of the Texas cowboy
RWA panel about the truth of the Texas cowboy
Great times with family and friends at Port A on the Texas coast
Great times with family and friends at Port A on the Texas coast
My parent had three girls who gave them ten  grand-kids - ten grand kids that love each other so much. Annual pumpkin carving slam down
My parent had three girls who gave them ten grand-kids – ten grand kids that love each other so much. Annual pumpkin carving slam down

 

Talking about How We Liove Our Heros at the Rita's & Readers in Dallas. With Jolene Navarro, Jade Lee & Julie Ann Walker
Talking about How We Love Our Heroes at the Rita’s & Readers in Dallas. With Jolene Navarro, Jade Lee & Julie Ann Walker
Best Group of writers an author could hang out with. San Antonio Romance Authors
Best Group of writers an author could hang out with. San Antonio Romance Authors
Family makes the year full of joy even if you only see them on the holidays - maybe because you only see them on the holidays. lol
Family makes the year full of joy even if you only see them on the holidays – maybe because you only see them on the holidays. lol
Here's to many more smiles in 2015
Here’s to many more smiles in 2015

Wow – Looking back on the year and finding my highlights I was amazed at the wonderful people that have been brought into my life. Some long term and had no choice, family is family, others have come in and guided me and came with so much love I have a hard time believing it.  Thank you.