Avocado + Cacao Bliss Balls

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I'm not going to lie to you.... I'm a sucker for a good date. There is something delightfully indulgent about a squashy medjool stuffed with a couple of almonds as an afternoon pick-me-up. 

That being said, I often find them very hard to stop on, and the sugar kick is great for a while but then also gets me on a crazy low on account of this sensitive autoimmune bod! 

The solution... making bliss balls on the regular full of proteins and good fats, sweetened with dates, but filling enough that you're only getting a little bit of that sugar hit alongside a packet-full of other nutritionally dense ingredients! 

These bliss balls right here are my favourite way to use those mushy Avo's that seem a bit past it for eating on toast or in a salad - because let's be honest, when they're 2 for $5 (or cheaper!) we've all fallen into the trap of buying more than one person can possibly consume in a couple of days. Avocado makes for the perfect healthy fat in sweet recipes like bliss balls or smoothies, and creates SUCH a perfect consistency for bite or slurp. 

Bliss balls are also SO easy to add essential oils to - oils like cinnamon, wild orange or spearmint, all incredibly delicious and beneficial to our bodies (check out doTERRA's product pages for more!). You can bet this won't be the last bliss ball recipe I have to share! 

 

INGREDIENTS

1 whole ripe Avocado 

6 Pitted Medjool Dates 

1/2 cup Cacao Powder 

1/4 cup Cacao Nibs

1 tsp Natural/Organic Vanilla Extract

2 tblsp Maca Powder 

1 tblsp Lucuma

1/4 cup Brown Rice Syrup

3 drops Cinnamon essential oil - I only  use doterra's purest quality, fairtrade oils

(alternatively use 2 tsp ground cinnamon)

Sesame Seeds or desiccated coconut (for rolling) 

 

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or strong blender (I use my vitamix) - start with avocado and dates, gradually adding dry ingredients and then syrup/oils. 

Blend together until well mixed, then roll into balls and cover with sesame seeds.

(I like to lay my sesame seeds/coconut across a plate nice and thick and then just roll my bliss balls right on through - its all about the hands on process! Very therapeutic!)

 

Finito!  

The simplest of BONE BROTHS.

BONE BROTH BONE BROTH BONE BROTH. I rave about it. Bone broth is one of the things that you will almost always see boiling away in my kitchen. Whenever I feel my health or my belly feeling off, I increase the level of bone broth in my diet aiming for at least a cup a day, every second day as a regular rule of thumb.

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For quite some time as I started exploring my gut and digestive symptoms I tried cutting out most meat altogether. This was mostly for the environmental impact and sustainability issues I knew surrounded the meat industry, but even still as I have learned more I truly think that for the most part 'PLANT BASED' is the way to eat for optimum health and nutrition (both in the short and long term). Bone broth became one of the ONLY reasons I could never choose to be fully vegan (albeit almost!).

As I started GAPS, and looked more and more into the importance of gut health not only for digestive symptoms but also for overall immune function, bone broth became a fundamentally important part of my routine. 

 

Bone broth has been used in culinary traditions throughout history and across numerous cultures. It is popular in the health world largely for its high proportion of trace minerals, gelatin, and protein. Bone broth is often suggested to be a fantastic way of improving skin health, largely related to the collagen (gelatin) present, and the mineral glycine, which supports the body's detoxification process.  Gelatin and glycine also both help support digestive health. 

Chicken bone broth, in particular, has been shown to help relieve the effects of colds, flus and respiratory infections by inhibiting neutrophil migration (read more here if you're into the science!). 

BONE BROTH / MEAT STOCK.... What's the difference? 

Traditionally, broth is made with meat and a small amount of bone, simmered for somewhere between 45 minutes and 2 hours (a relatively short period). 

Stock is made using bones, often roasted beforehand for flavour, and then simmered for a medium length of time (usually about 3 to 4 hours). 

In the health world, however, bone broth is made using bones with some small amount of meat adhering to them, and simmered for a long period; usually somewhere between 8 and 24 hours. Bones may be roasted first for improved flavour, and will crumble when lightly pressed when the broth has adequately cooked. This extended period of cooking allows time for the nutrients, minerals and gelatin to properly be extracted from the bone.

Compared to store-bought bone broths (lets immediately put aside the cheap, chemical-laden, flavouring, MSG, additive and preservative-full 'stock' many of us grew up with),  making your own is a significantly cheaper and far more pragmatic way of achieving a nutrient rich diet. 

RECIPE: A simple chicken bone broth. 

INGREDIENTS

  • Organic chicken carcass

  • Apple cider vinegar (I use Braggs organic) 

  • 2 whole carrots (preferably organic, or soak and scrub in white vinegar after purchase)

  • 1 teaspoon good quality pink salt. 

  • (OPTIONAL: 2 sticks celery)

VERY simple, add indredients to a large (20-40L) slow cooker and cover with water (preferable filtered). Cook on low for 8 to 24 hours. 

Once finished, remove bones and vegetables by straining through a mesh sieve (I often try to use any meat/veggies on a salad or in a meal since after all that simmering they too, are packed full of goodness!). Store in fridge for up to 3 days and drink as a nutrient-full warm beverage or use in cooking. You might also choose to pre-prepare some bone broth for cooking and freeze for up to 6 months. 

Happy nourishing!   

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VETIVER

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Vetiver is an oil well-loved by many for its anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, aphrodisiac and sedative, calming effects. Due to Vetiver’s earthy, grounding aroma, it is an ideal oil to use in massage therapy, and can help promote alertness. Great for use in the bath, rubbed on the soles of the feet or used aromatically for deep relaxation. For its emotional properties, vetiver is known as the oil of 'centering and descent', helping to reduce feelings of being scattered and disconnected, and shifting to a more emotionally aware and connected state. Some say it can even be useful in getting to the root of an emotional issue. It can support the negative emotions of apathy, stress, avoiding and crisis.

Vetiver is commonly used as a whole plant in India, for a variety of purposes. You can even buy traditional Indian 'bath powder' made from the plant itself, and used for its cooling properties on the skin and ability to heal pigmentation. Not only does vetiver have a cooling effect on the body, but its grounding properties give it a 'cooling' effect also on the mind. 

Vetiver has a musky, earthy smell that is both mild and pleasant. It has been known to reduce inflammation, eliminate scars, prevent bacterial infection and speed-up healing time. It also can prevent nervous disorders, relive insomnia and enhance libido. Vetiver also has benefits for rheumatism, arthritis and muscular aches, and is often recommended for relieving anxiety, restlessness, nervousness because of its calming, sedative properties. 

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Vetiver has protective properties that helps in wound healing by promoting the growth of new tissue and limiting the growth of harmful microbes that may contribute to infection. Because it works as a natural antiseptic, the oil itself kills bacteria when applied topically. Vetiver is a fantastic oil to use on dry skin, reducing cracking and redness. It is also great on dark spots, acne, blemishes, scars and stretch marks because it promotes healing and skin regeneration.

Vetiver blends well with grapefruit, jasmine, lavender, helichrysum, juniper berry and ylang ylang. It also makes a fantastic grounding pair with doTERRA's 'Balance' proprietary blend. Vetiver is best used aromatically in a diffuser, inhaled from bottle or dropped ono hands and breathed. Topically, 1-3 drops on the bottom of the feet or base of spine can help to bring a downward, present, emotionally centered-ness. Incredibly valuable in helping connect with what one may be thinking or feeling, but too scattered to completely understand or unpack. 

As always! Look at getting your hands on this oil at http://mydoterra.com/chroniccollective or by setting up your own account! Feel free to get in touch with me on the contact page of this site for any questions you may have. These oils continue to amaze me, and fundamentally transform my approach to health and wellbeing! What a privilege! 

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COPAIBA

There's been a lot of talk about this oil in recent times. Its really no wonder! Copaiba is an oil to get excited about. 

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Copaiba is an oil similar to Black Pepper, with a spicy/woody aroma. It supports the health of the cardiovascular, immune, digestive and respiratory systems, is a powerful antioxidant, helps calm, soothe, and support the nervous system, AND promotes clear, smooth skin and reduces the appearance of blemishes.

Copaiba can help soothe anxious feelings and can be taken internally to guard and support the immune and cardiovascular systems. It is widely used in cosmetic products including soaps, creams, lotions, and perfumes and since the 16th century has been utilised in traditional health practices by the natives of north and northeastern Brazil.

Copaiba does not contain psychoactive cannabinoids (these are the compounds that give Cannibis its 'high' effect), BUT its main component is β-caryophyllene, which is actually the component known to give cannabis oil its THERAPEUTIC benefits. While the controversial CBD (cannabis) oil usually contains around 35% of such compounds, Copaiba contains them at UP TO 50%! In this way, Copaiba can be shown to offer far better outcomes for those who really need it.

Copaiba is fantastic for ANXIETY, neuroprotective, supports liver function,
is calming, soothing and restoring to the digestive system, is supportive of autoimmune related concerns, balances and normalises the endocrine system, calms and soothes excited neurological tissues (eg.tremours), has incredible anti-inflammatory properties and a fantastic natural analgesic or pain relief agent. Also great for cellular health and skin rejuvenation!

Part of what I love about doTERRA is their commitment to positive impact on the people and places from which they source their oils. doTERRA frequently do sourcing trips like this one, where wellness advocates have the opportunity to see where the oils they know and love have come from. doTERRA's commitment to quality means they only choose the best sources, with the lowest environmental impact, and with long-developed relationships with communities. In the beauty and skincare industry, its rare to find fair-trade and ethically sourced products such as these. 

The list goes on! You can check out some more information about Copaiba via pages such as these:

DOTERRA FACTSHEET

SAFETY / PHYSIOLOGY 

RESEARCH

BLOGSPHERE

or you can order via doterraau (shoot me a message if you're new to this) to try it for yourself. 

Truly, essential oils are WORTH looking into. The impacts they can have on wellbeing, and the ways you can remove toxins from your home to promote vibrant health for you and your family are incomparable to any other product you might come across. 

AMY DARCY: founder and blogger at Eat Pray Workout

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Ames! What a pleasure to be able to chat a brilliant blogger like yourself! Thanks for joining us!

Thanks so much for having me! It’s a pleasure.

To kick us off, tell us a little bit about yourself – where do you call home? Who’s there with you? Who’s in your tribe?

Sure thing! I run an Australian healthy lifestyle blog called Eat Pray Workout where I share my passion for a holistic and realistic approach to healthy food, wellbeing and fitness, and aim to inform, inspire and empower women live a flourishing healthy lifestyle. At the moment home is Canberra and I travel to Sydney for work every two to three weeks but we are very shortly moving to Sydney, although I am sure I’ll still be travelling south for a few work commitments. I often feel like the travelling nomad that lives out of a suitcase and my son Finn has flown more in his first year of life than I did in my first 20 years of life! I live with my husband Reis and son Finn.

You’re the head and the heart behind ‘eat pray workout’, where did it all begin?

Eat Pray Workout began as a personal hobby blog 6 years ago to give myself something fun to do outside of study, work and going to the gym. Since then it has developed into a successful and informative healthy lifestyle blog read and loved by many Australian women. I generally write around healthy eating tips and recipes, wellbeing and fitness. My passion is to empower women to live a full and happy life through helping them bring awareness to their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health and then some practical, simple action points they can use to help improve these things and their overall health and wellbeing.

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Is blogging something you’ve always wanted to do? What were some of your hopes and   aspirations growing up?

Not at all. I hardly knew what a blog was when I started! I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer and I achieved that dream when I was admitted as a solicitor in 2015 after 7 years of study (BA (politics); BLAWS; and a graduate diploma in legal practice). That career was put on hold 15 months ago when I had my son Finley and decided to take up Eat Pray Workout full time.

Tell us about what a ‘day in the life’ looks like for Amy – you must have a routine! You’re a go-getter!  

My days are often quite different due to the nature of my job and the amount of travel I do but I do have some rhythms I like to follow in the morning and evening. In the morning I wake up, do some bible time and work for an hour before Finn wakes up and then when he wakes we snuggle, play and have breakfast. Then I prepare his meals and snacks for the day. Then I’ll usually head to the gym or do a quick circuit at home. After that it’s time for Finn to sleep so I’ll try to get an hour or so of work in before lunch. The afternoons are flexible depending on Finn’s needs and his dinner, bath, story, bed routine starts at 5.30pm. Reis and I then have dinner and by 7.30pm I’m back in the office for a few hours then tidying the house ready for the next day.

What’s your go-to meal?

I seem to cycle through favourites but at the moment I am loving these gluten free, low FODMAP vegetarian eggplant fritters.

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 Favourite way to workout?

 I love a good HIIT session because it combines cardio with strength – a great 2 in 1 deal! 

Guilty pleasure?

Chocolate but I don’t feel guilty for it (haha!). I’m all about enjoying everything in moderation and not restricting, but instead making wise choices.

How do you like to spend your weekends?

Getting out to a nice café for breakfast, getting a run in, spending time with the family and tidying the house.

What is the BEST part of being a Mum/wife?

The best part of being a Mum is watching Finn grow and learn. The best part of being a wife is doing life with an amazing man that loves me, supports me, puts me before his own needs and points me in a God honouring direction. 

Best and worst parts of being self-employed / running your own creative project… 

Best – it’s fun and I’m my own boss! I’ve also been able to provide employment opportunities for others, which is a real joy, being able to partner with people.

Worst – it has the potential to take over my life and mind, stopping me from enjoying the present. Running a blog is a job that is seen as ‘easy’ for a Mum due to the flexible hours but I honestly sometimes think it would be easier to have a full time job employed by someone else and have Finn in day care! The privilege of doing it this way is sharing precious moments together, so at the end of the day I’m happy to sacrifice that opportunity. I’m very thankful!

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KOMBUCHA --- the what's, and how's and why's...

When I started making kombucha, I worked up a scoby from the dregs at the bottom of a Remedy Kombucha bottle. Since then, my little scoby farm has grown SO BIG I've had to give away starters, sell them, divide into three huge separate brewing jars, and have even started thinking about what else a scoby could be turned into (the possibilities are endless!).

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WHY KOMBUCHA?

Kombucha is chock-FULL of probiotics! I've already spoken on here about gut-health, and that supporting (sometimes rebuilding) thriving gut flora and your whole microbiome is SO vitally important for overall wellbeing. Probiotics are often taken as capsules (think "have you had your inner health plus today?"), but there are so many ways of packing your diet with gut-healing/supporting probiotics, particularly by eating (or in this case, drinking) fermented foods. You'll hear lots on this from me, and i'll keep giving you fun ferments to try as time goes on. Its important to note, usually I wouldn't promote using any kind of refined sugar (raw/organic or otherwise) in the way that I cook and in the way that I truly believe so many more of us should be eating. Refined sugar has been shown in studies over the last 10 years to be almost as addictive as some hard drugs (more on this later!), and contributes strongly to much of the chronic disease and chronic illness we see rising in society today --- fatty liver disease, heart disease, obesity, diabetes... The thing about FERMENTATION is that the process undergone by the sugar in 'feeding' the good bacteria as it grows means that the sugar content is next to nothing (close to 1-2%) by the time the brewing and bubbling is complete. 

When you start drinking kombucha, go easy! In fact, at any one time, you dont want to be drinking more than maybe 150ml of the stuff. Since there are so many GOOD living probiotic organisms in kombucha, some people will find that the first time they drink it they feel quite funny in the tummy, or end up not having a great time on the toilet. This is what's known as 'die-off', where the good bacteria is fighting off the bad in your gut and so you might have a bit of a detox reaction. DON'T FREAK OUT! DONT STOP ON THE 'BUCH! The same thing might also happen if you drink too much. So, be aware, and like any good thing --- enjoy responsibly! 

BUT WAIT.... WHAT IS A SCOBY? 

A scoby is the 'starter' or 'mother' you need to have to begin your kombucha process. I've often been told mine look like alien babies or creatures in jars sitting on my kitchen shelves. SCOBY literally stands for a 'symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast', which is the perfect way of understanding whats going on in a fermenting relationship where you 'feed' the scoby as a starter culture so that it will grow you good bacteria --- this is why kombucha becomes fizzy, and why it's important to use a cloth cover rather than a closed lid (BE WARNED, nobody likes an explosion!). You can get a scoby from anyone you know who already makes kombucha, or even buy or trade them online if you float around the right fermentation/health groups long enough. 

Your scoby should always stay moist and in some kind of kombucha liquid (even the tiniest bit) to make sure it stays alive. Its the scoby that 'activates' and grows goodness in the drink, and it will grow with time! 

THE PROCESS

Below are some instructions to get you started once you have a scoby starter kit in your hot little hands --- If you want to know more about these, shoot me a private message via my 'chronic co.' facebook page and I'll help you find someone close to you who can provide you with one, or will share some of mine! 

  1. Fill a large saucepan with 1L water (preferably filtered)
  2. Throw in 3-4 teabags of organic black tea.
  3. Add 1/3 cup organic raw sugar. 
  4. Bring to boil, then let simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring to make sure sugar dissolves. 
  5. Lift saucepan off heat and allow to cool. This may take 1hour or more, and is important to make sure you don't killl any of the good bacteria in your existing scoby/starter. You can add 200-350ml cold water to dilute the mixture and speed the cooling process). 
  6. Remove teabags and pour tea mixture into a large jar with your scoby and starter liquid. 
  7. Cover with cheesecloth/breathable cloth and elastic and leave out of direct 
  8. Leave for 7-12 days until slightly fizzy. Strain liquid into bottles to drink and repeat brewing process for a new batch!

(Recipe can be doubled/tripled once the Scoby grows larger for a larger batch) 

FLAVOURING (Second Ferment)

A second ferment can be done to spice up your flavour, and this is where it gets really fun!

Remove your scoby and some liquid for a new batch, and leave fruit of choice in fermented kombucha mixture for 3-5 days. 

Here's a few ideas and combinations I love to start you off: 

  • Lemon and ginger
  • Orange and rosemary
  • Blueberry and lime
  • Apple and mint 
  • Passionfruit
  • Cinnamon and ginger (using doterra essential oils)

HAPPY FERMENTING! 

Be sure to tag @thechroniccollective as you share your brews! 

GUT HEALTH: The basics

Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, once said, “All diseases begin in the gut”. 

NATURAL STATE OF BEING --- beached, brown, salty, cookin. 

NATURAL STATE OF BEING --- beached, brown, salty, cookin. 

I’ve been meaning to write a post for some time now on the impact of diet on overall wellbeing, a post thats in some ways more to convince and remind myself of just how seriously I ought to take Hippocrates’ claim than it is to convince anyone else. About 2 years ago I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue (CFS/ME/Fibromyalgia), which brought together a host of symptoms I’d been battling for some time under a label for a condition with no real known cure, only protocols recommended for management - REST, balance, diet adjustments, graded exercise therapy, mindfulness. As I've learned more about what it is my body is battling, I’ve come to see the overwhelming impact of diet on the level of energy I have day to day. At times it sucks to have to strip back to bone broths and slow cooked vegetables, no coffee, no chocolate and just water as a beverage. At times YOLO takes over (/stress/social pressure/disorganisation) and I fall prey to real milk chocolate/pizza or WAY more coffee than is humanly sensible, but the reality is that the price this body pays for indulging in those things is just not worth it in the long run.

The thing is, for those who live with autoimmune conditions/anxiety/depression/other more long-term illnesses, dietary adjustments are a sensible and STRONG way of radically shifting health for the long term. 

As a teacher, I see the impact of diet in a child’s general wellbeing and ability to focus on a VERY regular basis. I always wondered what some of my parents might say if I recommended that they change their child’s diet to restore balance in the gut as an approach to supporting their behavioural/learning needs. This year, I was introduced to GAPS - an approach headed by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride that recognises how the fundamental impact of gut health on overall health and wellbeing, particularly in the realms of psychology and learning. The approach resonated strongly with me because I had LONG seen the impact of what I ate on not only how I felt physically, but also on my mood, my ability to concentrate, and general health.

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It’s a concept that has been explored before by the likes of Dr David Perlmutter (MD), the bestselling author of Brain Maker ad Grain Brain; books that seek to unfold and show the impact of healthy gut flora. This video podcast he did with Kelly Brogan (MD) (author of the newly released A Mind of Your Own) is especially helpful in thinking about the impact of blood sugar on mood, and, to a greater extent, the impact of blood sugar on depression and anxiety. GAPS is a somewhat stricter approach that outlines a protocol by which its undertakers can expect to see some radical results in what is really a very short period of time. The protocol is something of a diet overhaul (to start out you’re not eating much more than bone broths, boiled meats and cooked veg) but with good, well-proven reason. It’s all about the importance of a healthy microbiome; healthy gut-flora/healthy gut wall.

The approach recognises the importance of the fact that about 85% of our immune system is located in the gut wall. If THAT MUCH of our immune system relies on what we put into our bodies, and more directly, our STOMACHS, then we ought to pay attention to what we eat, and not only what we eat, but ALL that we consume. Toxicity can be seen to have an even greater impact on those with auto-immune conditions. Autoimmune conditions involve the body’s immune system producing an inappropriate response against itself. Autoimmune responses can ALL be see as borne in the gut, and in this sense as well as a multitude of other areas of the body, largely play out as inflammation. 

Inflammation is the body’s response to these autoimmune reactions (a non-specific immediate response). This exact response is why so many people suffering autoimmune conditions experience pain, bloating, muscle aches etc. Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride’s website has HEAPS of info and discussion, and the papers she has written that look further into the links between the gut and psychology/overall wellbeing are really helpful. It’s also really interesting to hear her speak about food and health in podcasts such as these.

For some years now I’ve found naturopathy to be one of the most helpful ways of dealing with symptoms of inflammation, whether structural (chiropractic) or gut related. Its not that I don’t trust traditional medicine, but in my experience in doctors surgeries (and believe me - that experience has been extensive - at times weekly for terms at a time), I’ve seen that all too often the tendency is to prescribe (and far too quickly), and to look for a ‘bandaid’ or quick fix solution, rather than actually addressing the underlying issues. Don’t get me wrong - at times, a prescription has quite literally saved me; sometimes its a means to an end, a way of getting you to a position of wellness you simply can’t get back to on your own. But more often than not, we’re buying into pharmaceutical companies and using prescriptions to cover up the health and wellbeing issues that lie waiting, even if temporarily blanketed by dust sheets in a corner. 

I have a close (maybe slightly dependent) relationship with my UH-mazing chiro and naturopath Simone at A1 Health. Her hands work magic and she understands the holistic nature of autoimmune conditions like Chronic Fatigue. More recently, I’ve also had some FAB appointments, advice and conversation with Angela at BUSBY Naturopathics. She’s a delight, and a real natural at what she does as a western herbalist, nutritionist and naturopath. Her ‘resources’ section is FULL of fantastic writing on holistic health, for example this awesome post on organic meats, this one on the low FODMAPS diet, or this one on sleep hygiene (this one I need to practice!). Angela also produces a fab podcast (perfect for commutes to work!).

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The GAPS Australia website has info about the GAPS approach - a spot I found really useful for getting my head around the ins-and-outs of GAPS, and why its all so valuable. The whole intention of GAPS is to rebuild a healthy micro-biome by resetting the microflora of the gut, so it can function properly and play its vital role in controlling the body’s immune systems as well as digestion. 

It was Hippocrates too, who said, “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”, a saying that I’ve long been an advocate of. GAPS has honestly changed the way I look at diet and health as a whole, and completely revolutionised the kinds of things I turn to when I know I'm feeling off in my gut. 

BONE BROTH, BONE BROTH, BONE BROTH - I cannot say it enough. 

Strip back, start small. 

Heal your gut. It all starts there.