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Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Caramelized Maple + Sea Salt

Roasted sweet potatoes are delicious on their own without any help at all. But when you add a little real maple syrup and sea salt, they’re amazing.

I’ve been working on a bunch of recipes for the holidays and wanted to come up with something as an alternative to sweet potato casserole or sweet potato pie. More importantly, I wanted to make a healthier side dish that had less white sugar. Both casserole and pie tend to be quite high in the white stuff.

I also wanted to make something that was fairly easy. As much as I like to cook and bake, I also like to spend a little time with my family. These roasted sweet potatoes take about 40 minutes to make, including only 10 minutes of prep time. Not bad.

Roasting sweet potatoes is a natural way to bring out the sweetness. Boiling sweet potatoes, the first step in making sweet potato casserole, really mutes the flavor of the potato, increasing the need for more added sugar and fat.

 

Roasted Sweet Potatoes 101

I really like making sweet potato fries – yet another version of roasted sweet potatoes – but putting out a dish of sweet potato fries on a holiday table doesn’t exactly scream “festive,” does it.

I’ve also made roasted sweet potatoes with parsnips. If you haven’t tried this, you should. Parsnips are a close cousins to carrots, just white with a bit of a woodier flavor. They go well with sweet potatoes, so keep that in mind if you’re ever looking for a little vegetable variety.

You can get a really nice caramelization on the roasted sweet potatoes without adding any maple syrup or sea salt at all. The sea salt does help to pull the moisture from the sweet potatoes, but it’s not an absolute requirement. A good olive oil and sweet potatoes is really all you need to get them roasted nicely. Just an option if you’re not looking to add any sweetness to this side dish.

 

Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

These roasted sweet potatoes come with a pretty big nutritious bang for your buck. Here are a few reasons you should keep sweet potatoes in a bowl on your counter at all times.

  • Bone Health and More: Who would have guessed that sweet potatoes have a over 350% of the daily value of Vitamin A. Vitamin A can help vision, skin and bone health. This nutrient also helps support our immune system, which is perfect over the cold season in the winter months. Pairing sweet potatoes with a little fat, like the olive oil in this recipe, significantly helps your body absorb this nutrient. 
  •  Antioxidant Protection: Some vegetables are better than others at protecting our body from all the damage it endures – both on the inside and out. Sweet potatoes are no exception. Think of antioxidant foods are soldiers that hep fight off the enemy, aka: free radicals, that harm our body on a cellular level.
  • Inflammation & Obesity: Another really valuable quality of sweet potatoes is in what gives this tuber it’s beautiful orange color. Anthocyanins are a compound found this vegetable that have a very powerful effect on controlling inflammation. The correlation between obesity and inflammation is quite strong. When we can control inflammation in our own body, we stand a better chance of combatting obesity.

Regardless of how you prepare them, sweet potatoes are a great addition to any diet – and certainly make for a great side dish on any table.

 

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Maple & Sea Salt

 

Yields: 4 Servings
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peel and cubed (about 3 cups total)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt + 1/4 tsp sea salt

(See notes for scaling this recipe below)

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Peel and cube sweet potatoes
  3. Toss sweet potatoes in a bowl with maple syrup and 1/4 tsp sea salt
  4. Roast sweet potatoes on a sheet pan for about 30 minutes, or until the tops of the sweet potatoes are brown.
  5. Remove from oven and add to a serving bow. Sprinkle with remaining sea salt and serve.

 

Notes:

  • Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon maple syrup for each sweet potato. If your sweet potatoes are exceptionally large (and they can be), then add a little more maple syrup and olive oil. Add about 1/8 of a teaspoon of sea salt for every sweet potato. If you’re looking for a more savory flavor, then simply salt to taste, but wait until it’s out of the oven. The moisture is drawn from the sweet potato in the roasting process, bringing out the flavor of the salt even more. Be careful not to over salt.
  • Use real maple syrup, not maple flavored syrup. Maple syrup is a little more expensive, but you’ll end up using a lot less and the sweet potatoes will caramelize nicely. You also won’t pick up any other flavor that might be present in the maple flavored syrup.

 

Let me know what you think of this recipe. I’d love to read your comments below.

 

If you enjoyed this recipe, then you might also like:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pine Nuts
Healthy Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Grain Free Dinner Rolls

 

 

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pine Nuts

Hot or cold, chopped in a salad or served as a side, roasted Brussels sprouts are probably one of the best “food favors” you can do for your body and taste buds. I made this recipe as basic as possible, but wanted it give an extra boost of nutrition by adding toasted pine nuts.

All in all, this recipe takes about 45 minutes to make, and that includes trimming off the brown parts the Brussels sprouts. Whether you’re making this for a holiday dinner, or just want to have on hand as a healthy side, I promise this roasted Brussels sprouts dish will hit the spot.

 

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pine Nuts

When I’ve roasted Brussels sprouts in the past, I’ve always soaked them, thinking it would prevent them from burning or drying out in the oven too much. I took a chance and went soak-free on these babies. They actually turned out great, and for whatever reason, took about five minutes less to roast.

Do you like Brussels sprouts or do you make yourself eat them?

Even when I was a little kid, I used to love Brussels sprouts. The way they were made wasn’t anything special. My grandmother used to simply boil those frozen bags of Brussels sprouts, toss them in some butter and serve them as a side. Maybe it was a kid thing, but I much prefer the tasted of roasted Brussels sprouts to the boiled variety.

Benefits of Brussels Sprouts

You’ve probably heard this a million times, but Brussels sprouts are on of the healthiest vegetables you can eat.

  • Anti-cancer and Cardiovascular Protection: Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable and an excellent source of a nutrient called glucosinolates. A rather large body of research has shown that regular consumption of glucosinolates offers protection from many forms of cancer and has the potential to protect against cardiovascular disease. You can also find this nutrient in other vegetables, including kale, broccoli and cauliflower.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Effect: Brussels sprouts are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), which has been shown to control our body’s natural inflammatory response, but also improve autoimmune conditions. Omega-3 fatty acids are commonly found in fatty fish and walnuts. It’s nice that they’re also available in these roasted Brussels sprouts!
  • Detox Support: Another reason to eat more Brussels sprouts, or any cruciferous vegetable (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale), is that they help support phase 2 detoxification. This is a very big deal if you’re thinking of detoxifying, and probably the least understood. If you want a better understanding of phase 1 vs phase 2 detoxification, read my article here.

 

Benefits of Pine Nuts

Toasted Pine Nuts

The other star of the show is the pine nut. Not actually a nut, pine nuts are seeds that come from the pine cone of several varieties of pine trees. Pine nuts are often used to make a good pesto sauce, but I wanted to toast these to bring out the flavor and crunch.

  • Heart Health: Pine nuts are a great source of something called oleic acid, which is prominent in Mediterranean diets. A monounsaturated fat, oleic acid has been shown to have a positive effect on lowering triglycerides while holding onto HDL (good) cholesterol. This type of fat is also found in other healthy foods, including olive oil and cashews.
  • Improves Insulin Sensitivity: The oleic acid in pine nuts has also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity is a good thing. Think of insulin sensitivity as our bodies way of saying, “Hey, I’ve had too much sugar. I feel like garbage. Stop feeding me sugar!” The more we can keep our insulin in check, the less likely we are to develop conditions like pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes. So go ahead, sprinkle those pine nuts on everything!

 

Pine nuts are on the expensive side and usually aren’t noshed on like almonds or cashews. No one ever thinks, I think I’ll grab a handful of pine nuts to snack on. Excess pine nuts are always best stored and sealed in a cool, dark space…like a cabinet. Keep them out of direct sunlight as the precious oil in pine nuts can degrade.

 

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pine Nuts

Roasted Brussels sprouts

Yields: 6 Servings
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 – 35 Minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds of Brussels sprouts
  • 1/4 cup of pine nuts
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of pepper

 

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Rinse Brussels sprouts and cut off the ends.
  3. Place in a bowl with the olive oil and toss.
  4. Lay out on a sheet pan and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.
  5. As the Brussels sprouts roast, add the pine nuts to a skillet.
  6. Heat over low to medium heat for about 8 minutes. Keep an eye on the pine nuts, and toss them regularly. You want them toasted, not burned
  7. Remove pine nuts from heat and set aside.
  8. Roast Brussels sprouts for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the tops of the sprouts are brown.
  9. Remove from oven and transfer to a serving bowl.
  10. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and serve.

 

Notes:

  • If you use more Brussels sprouts, simply add a little more olive oil. You won’t want to overdo the olive oil or you’ll end up with greasy sprouts.

 

If you enjoyed this Roasted Brussels Sprouts recipe, you might also like:

Grain Free Dinner Rolls
Healthy Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Chocolate Almond Butter Bars

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Pecan Pie Muffins

When the holidays roll around, I’m usually a pumpkin pie kinda gal. I don’t really love fruity pies at all so if you ever see an apple pie, blueberry pie or [fill in the name of your favorite fruit] pie, it’s because I love someone a lot. Enter these Pecan Pie Muffins. They hit all the marks:

  • Breakfast Alternative: Most of the muffins I make are lower in sugar and higher in nutrition, so calling them “breakfast” is an easy fit on my conscious.
  • Less Sugar: Most pecan pies have tons and tons of sugar in filling – and that doesn’t even count the crust. This muffin actually tastes a lot like a pecan pie with a different texture and a sliver of the sugar!
  • No fruit to speak of: Pecans aren’t a fruit. I like fruit. Just not in pies.

 

Pecan Pie Muffins…In 3 Attempts

I was ready to call it quits when it came to developing a recipe for this muffin. I make these pecan pie muffins with pecans (obviously) and real maple syrup. Neither are cheap.

Attempt 1: The first attempt at making these muffins involved coconut flour. I love baking with coconut flour, but depending on what you’re doing with it, it can be extremely dry. Despite the texture of the first attempt at these muffins being spot on, it was just too dry. Ciao, coconut flour!

Attempt 2: A different muffin altogether. But astonishingly, they raised very nicely, then fell like a bad soufflé. It’s not exactly a mystery why this happened. Instead of placing the pecans in the center of the muffin (like I did with the final recipe), I thought it would be prettier and tastier to place them on top. Sigh! They tasted great, but looked terrible. The weight of the pecans coated in maple collapsed the roof on my muffins in no time. I could have probably remade these without putting the pecans on top, but I wasn’t 100% sure that’s what did it.

Attempt 3: It worked. Void of all coconut flour, but using much more almond flour, this muffin did the trick. I placed the pecans inside after creating a bit of a batter-based floor for them to rest on. Constructing the muffins was a little more than your garden-variety pour-and-bake type, but it’s well worth it. I’ll explain a little more in a moment.

As you can see, the pecans still managed to rise a little, bursting through the top of the muffin. I’m glad I stuck with it, despite the fact that I have a couple dozen very funky muffins sitting in my kitchen right now.

 

Grain Free and Dairy Free Muffins

These Pecan Pie Muffins are grain free and dairy free. If you don’t have coconut oil or coconut milk in your kitchen, you can probably swap with butter (which is a common interchangeable ingredient) and whole milk. I say probably because I haven’t tested this recipe. I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work.

The type of coconut milk I use is canned, so you’re going to find it in aisle with the baked goods or in the aisle with the Asian foods. The store I shop at has canned coconut milk in both of those sections. It won’t be near the gigantic wall of cartons of alternative milk.

 

Pecan Pie Muffins Recipe

Yields: 12 Servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 18 – 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups + 1 tbsp almond flour (not almond meal)
  • 1 cup pecans, raw, unsalted
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 + 1/8 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk (full fat)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda

 

Preparations:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease baking tin or line with cups.
  3. Combine pecans and 1/4 cup maple syrup in a saucepan and cook over low/medium heat to a simmer for 6 – 8 minutes, or until the syrup has reduced down to a thicker liquid.
  4. While pecans and syrup cook, add almond flour, salt and baking soda to a medium-size bowl. Set aside.
  5. In a smaller bowl, whisk together eggs with coconut oil, 1/8 cup maple syrup, coconut milk and vanilla.
  6. If pecans are done, remove from heat, leave in the pan and set aside.
  7. Thoroughly combine wet ingredients to dry ingredients.
  8. Scoop about a teaspoon of the batter to the bottom of the baking cups.
  9. Follow that up with a teaspoon of the pecan/syrup mixture, creating the middle part of the muffin.
  10. Finally, layer the remainder of the batter to the top of the muffins.
  11. Bake at 350 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the tops of the muffins are golden brown.

 

Notes:

  • These muffins rise to the top of the muffin tip, but will not burst over. They fill the cup, but are on the small side.
  • The pecan/syrup combination becomes almost like a sticky candy. Be prepared for this. Use a spoon coated in coconut oil to gather the pecans and scoop them on. This will help prevent them from sticking.
  • You may be tempted to avoid cooking the pecans together with the maple syrup. Cooking them together helps to make the pecans a little crisper too, which makes them taste really delicious.
  • Don’t worry about completely coating the pecan layer with the top layer of batter. Just scoop even amounts on and everything will bake together nicely.

 

I’d love to know what you think of these muffins. Please leave a comment below!

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

Cinnamon Sugar Donuts (Baked & Gluten Free)
Grain Free Dinner Rolls
Chocolate Almond Butter Bars

 

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Homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipe | Easy, Healthy & Delicious

There are two types of people in the world: those who like cranberry sauce and those who don’t. I will go one step further and say that there is actually a third type of person: those who love cranberry sauce.

 

What is Cranberry Sauce…Really?

Is it really a sauce? Or is it a relish? What do you call it?

All I know is I used to love the Jell-o-like slices of round cranberry slabs that came out of an Ocean Spray can when I was a kid. A true delicacy of the 80s Thanksgiving table.

It turns out that the kid-tested cranberry sauce of the 80s, and probably today, is a little different than my recipe.

A quick Google of what’s in canned cranberry sauce reveals the following ingredients:

We’re basically looking at cranberries, refined super sweet sugar, water and more refined sugar.

Come on! For a couple of bucks, we can do way better than that. If, after you make this recipe and you don’t think it’s better than canned cranberry sauce, you always have canned cranberry sauce to fall back on. But I really don’t think you’ll want to.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce Ingredients

Ingredients cranberry sauce

This cranberry sauce recipe has exactly four ingredients. Four! It takes no more than 5 minutes to prep and 15 minutes to cook. All-in-all, it’s very simple, but quite healthy. Here are the ingredients:

 

Organic Cranberries

I don’t use conventional cranberries as this crop is greatly affected by pesticides that are probably carcinogens and hormone disrupters. This is one fruit I don’t compromise on.

Because you can use either fresh or frozen cranberries for this recipe, I find that frozen varieties are always available and usually less expensive than their fresh counterpart.

Of course, if you’re buying cranberries around the holidays, you’ll probably find them everywhere and for a good price. Just make sure you’re buying organic.

Cranberries are loaded with antioxidants. Because they’re so healthy, they also come fully loaded with a lot of great benefits, including:

  • UTI Support: Suffering from a urinary tract infection (UTI) is no fun. But cranberries have been well documented in supporting their beneficial effects on getting rid of the bacteria that usually cause UTIs. This particular benefit is attributed to the nutrient, proanthocyanidins, which acts like a magnet for this type of bacteria and drags it right out of the body.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Support: When a food is as high in antioxidants are cranberries, it’s highly likely it’s an anti-inflammatory food as well. A few areas that benefit from the anti-inflammatory effects include the digestive system and joints.
  • Cardiovascular Health: Consuming cranberries or unsweetened cranberry juice has been shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol.

 

Fresh Lemon

Fresh lemon is always a good idea, whether you’re eating, drinking or smelling it. Lemons are always found in the world of aromatherapy as they’re shown to improve our mood and simply make your day brighter.

On the nutrition side, lemon packs quite a punch, too.

Benefits of lemon include:

  • It’s Alkalizing: Our blood has a pH that delicately sits somewhere between alkaline and acid (usually around 7.4). If we become too acidic or too alkaline, we can become very sick. Because so many of us eat fast foods, giant coffees, refined flours and processed oils more often than not, we’re almost always risking the downswing of going too acid. Lemon, despite it’s natural acidity, actually alkalizes our blood, helping us feel better.
  • Skin Support: If you want awesome-looking skin, you need vitamin C in your diet. Vitamin C helps collagen, the infrastructure that keeps our skin toned and tight, do its job. Fortunately, lemons are an amazing source of vitamin C – so let’s start squeezing! I should also mention that you’re getting a double whammy of vitamin C with cranberries, too.
  • Detoxification: Lemons hep to get rid of toxins that can linger in your blood, helping you on a cellular level. I always recommend people wake up in the morning to a big glass of luke-warm water with lemon juice to get the toxins packed up and moved out.

 

Maple Syrup

Almost all recipe for cranberry sauce use some sort of white sugar. I really love the flavor of maple syrup and given all of it’s benefits, I wanted to incorporate it. The flavor of maple doesn’t pick up as much as the sweetness (balanced with tart) of the cranberries, so even if you’re not a fan of maple syrup, you’ll enjoy this recipe.

A few of the benefits of maple syrup include:

  • Antioxidant Protection: You’d probably never guess that maple syrup has two dozen types of antioxidants that help protect our body from getting rusty and old. Keep in mind, these antioxidants are only found in real maple syrup, not maple-flavored syrup. 
  • Lower on the GI: If you’re following the glycemic index (GI) because you have to or you’re simply trying to reduce sugar, then you’ll be happy to know that maple syrup sits about 10 points lower on the GI that regular sugar.

Maple syrup is still really sweet! This recipe calls for about half as much sweetness as most of the others I took a look at. Still, it’s important to know I’m not trying to sugar coat (ha!) the sweetness is maple syrup to try to make it out to be some magic eat-as-much-as-you-want sweetener. You still have to be responsible…but it’s better than regular sugar.

Water

The benefits of water include…ahhh…you’re smart and amazing. You know all the benefits of water, right?

  • Better brain
  • Better skin
  • Better digestion

Drink lots of water!

 

Homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipe

 

Yields: 6 Servings
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 Minutes

Ingredients:

  • 12-ounce bag of cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 lemon

Preparation:

  1. Rinse cranberries, disposing of any that may be bad.
  2. Wash lemon thoroughly and slice in half. Pick out and discard of any seeds that are obvious.
  3. Add cranberries to a large saucepan.
  4. Add maple syrup and water to saucepan with cranberries.
  5. Squeeze the juice of the lemon either into a smaller glass, or through a strainer directly into the saucepan.
  6. Dispose of any remaining seeds.
  7. Add the entire lemon, without seeds, to the saucepan.
  8. Bring to a boil until all the cranberries have burst. This will be about 8 – 10 minutes.
  9. After all the cranberries have burst, reduce heat and cook until it’s reached the desired consistency. The recipe will continue to reduce down to a jelly-like consistency after about 15 minutes.
  10. Remove from heat. Chill and store, or enjoy!

 

Notes:

  • This is an easy recipe to prep a couple days ahead.
  • It’s important to wash the lemon as citrus fruits harbor a lot of mold. You don’t need any extra mold in your cranberry sauce, right?
  • Bursting cranberry juice can travel pretty far. Either cover with a screen, or keep little kids and faces away from the stovetop so no one is unnecessarily hit with bursting cranberry.

 

If you liked this article, you might also like:

Chocolate Almond Butter Bars (no bake, dairy free, vegan)
Grain Free Dinner Rolls
Paleo Chocolate Sweet Potato Bread

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Grain Free Dinner Rolls

Warm diner rolls go well with just about anything – soup, salads, chili and of course, a big holiday meal! Since we all avoid gluten in our family, but only one of us avoids dairy, it can be tough to find one dinner roll that pleases everyone.

These grain free rolls are dairy free without the strain of having to sacrifice any flavor. Naturally, this recipe is a win-win for my family.

 

Before Grain Free Dinner Rolls

Before I was gluten free, the baked good of choice when it came to family meal, was brown bread. My mother-in-law, who spent her life in Ireland, gave me the recipe. Probably not as good as the original she used to make, I really loved this heavy, glutenous bread.

Some things change in foods, depending where they’re produced. There is a significant difference in the quality of foods from the US versus some of the food in Ireland. While I love so many of the foods here, some food from Ireland, and all of Europe for that matter, is simply a higher quality. Food is more processed in the US and the use of genetically modified organisms is much more prevalent.

Regardless, of the differences in the quality of food, when my husband moved to the US, he began reacting terribly to some foods he never had a problem with in Ireland. Subsequently, he became sensitive to gluten.

Goodbye brown bread, at least stateside. Hello, grain free dinner rolls.

 

Grain Free Dinner Rolls

These grain free dinner rolls are easy. No yeast. No rising time. Not a lot of ingredients. As a busy mom, I love this!

 

 

Because the roll mixture contains coconut flour, it becomes dry quickly. You’ll notice this as soon as you add the liquids, That said, it doesn’t affect the moisture of the roll itself.

Another ingredient I love to bake with is tapioca flour. If you’ve never baked with tapioca flour before, it’s a great starch to have in your pantry. It’s not a grain, potato or legume, rather a refined version of the cassava root.

Tapioca flour is extremely fine and light. It disperses easily, so keep that in mind when your adding this flour to a mixing bowl. There is a strong probability that a little bit will end up skirting around the surface on which you’re baking.

You can also use smaller amounts of tapioca flour as a thickener for things like soups and gravies.

 

Grain Free Dinner Rolls Recipe

Yields 12 small rolls, or 6 large rolls.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Bake time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Grease baking sheet and set aside.
  3. In a medium-size bowl, combine tapioca flour, coconut flour, and sea salt. Set aside.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk eggs, then add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and apple cider vinegar. Mix well. Then add to the flour mixture. Batter should be somewhat dry.
  5. Finally, add in warm water. Mix until all liquid is absorbed.
  6. Separate into small roll-shape balls and place on baking sheet.
  7. Glaze the rolls with the extra tablespoon of olive oil before placing in the oven.
  8. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes, or until tops of muffins have cracked slightly and are golden brown.

 

Notes:

  • The dough for the grain free rolls is naturally dense, so be careful not to pack them too tightly. In other words, roll them loosely. They should maintain their shape with no problem and without falling apart.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:

 

This post contains affiliate links, which requires no action on your part, but simply means that if you click on a link I may make a small commission.

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Top SEO Tools I Use: MonitorBacklinks.com

Series of posts over the next few months to say what I’ve found works and what doesn’t in SEO.  So this is installment 1 in Top SEO Tools I Use.

So this is somewhat of a product endorsement piece but its also worth sharing with others what you’ve found useful and hopefully they’ll let you know what they have found useful. So Tools I use and even a few I don’t and why.

monitor backlinksMonitorBacklinks.com

No the first tool has NOTHING to do with keywords but more importantly everything to do with deciding what your keywords are … if you think my life revolves around keywords you really need to catch up.  Backlinks and anchor text are the hardest things to control and often the most impactful.  Consider….back in the 2000s Miserable Failure was backlinked to George W Bush’s White House biography page by so many websites that he ranked number one on Google for Miserable Failure.  Now I guarantee his site had NO SEO or optimization for Miserable Failure but he held that spot until a counter wave of links went to Jimmy Carter.   Then Google manually shut the term war off.  Its backlinks that make or break a sites ranking.

You can optimize all day long on content choices and keywords but if the rest of the world doesn’t think you are that in their links neither will Google.  So the product is essential.  It trends your links and competitors and its just $25 a month.  Here are screenshots I have taken from time to time to include in reports to clients.monitorbacklinks.com

Notice the colored circles at the top break down the links and provide you with metric like CF TF and DA.  Below that image you can see link by link and the strength of each link as well as no follow or follow status.

Below are more links since the site added more features.  Under the status column the G shows if its indexed by Google with green as good and indexed, yellow as not indexed but not out right banned and finally red … the worst link and honestly its like being caught hanging out with the wrong crowd.  Google even allows you to “disavow” the red Gs.

 

Backlinks ranked

Backlinks Ranking and Traffic

Image above trends you backlinks, your traffic and your keywords.  This graph is also why I dont mind nofollow links and I believe they do affect ranking.  Notice the tower of purple nofollow domains that linked to us when I released a news story.  The orange keyword position swings up from 90 to 50 as the new position.

 

The post Top SEO Tools I Use: MonitorBacklinks.com appeared first on Matthew Leffler – SEO Web Developer.

https://www.matthewleffler.com/top-seo-tools-i-use-monitorbacklinks-com/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=top-seo-tools-i-use-monitorbacklinks-com

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5 Belly Fat Burning Tips to a Healthier Weekend

Weekends are a great time to decompress (especially long holiday weekends), but don’t let them throw you off track. The summer is going to be filled with great weekends, including picnics, parties, etc. So many of you have worked so hard to make a permanent change in your life to either lose weight or keep it off. Let’s keep it truly permanent. Here are a few tips to live by:

1) ALWAYS fill your plate with something plant-based first. This could be a salad, veggies or veggie-based app. Going to a picnic or party and want to bring something healthy? Try this delicious Southwestern Veggie Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing. It’s a hit and really easy.

2) If you feel very hungry, your body is trying to tell you that you need to level off your blood sugar levels and get some sustenance. It’s not telling you that you need a brownie, cookie or milk shake. Yield to rule #1. You won’t regret it. As soon as hunger subsides, you can make better decisions about what to eat to fill you up.

3) If you’re going to have a drink, make sure you follow it with a big glass of water. You’ll maintain proper digestion through hydration and your beautiful skin will keep glowing the way it should.

What’s more, your liver will always breakdown alcohol first (yep, alcohol trumps food for digestion). If you’re eating and drinking together, that 150 calorie glass of wine will take at least an hour to burn off (probably longer) while you’re sitting at dinner. That means the dinner your eating will get put on the shelf, in terms of metabolism, getting burned off much later and possibly stored as fat.

Had too much? Then eat these 5 foods that help to detoxify your liver.

4) Don’t eat too late. Summer nights are much brighter than the dark early evenings of winter. We stay out later! If you do have a late-night dinner planned, curb the amount of food you’re eating. Food naturally increases the release of insulin in your body. Insulin fights with human growth hormone (HGH) for pole position, but insulin always wins. Translation: you won’t sleep as well, you’ll age faster and you’ll store more fat. Blech!

5) When you wake up the next morning, start the day off with a big glass of warm or room temp lemon water to kickstart digestion, helping to rid your body of toxins. Simple enough.

Why not cold water? Cold water isn’t bad, but it has a constricting effect on our digestive tract. When you need to get things moving out of your body, the last thing you need to do is drink something that will hold them in.

Enjoy your weekend and stay healthy!

The post 5 Belly Fat Burning Tips to a Healthier Weekend appeared first on Traci D Mitchell.

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DIY Natural Food Coloring and Easter Egg Dye

Commercial food coloring, including most Easter egg dyes are a haven for less-than-healthy chemicals and additives. Most people don’t realize that synthetic food coloring is made from petroleum. Just to be clear, we’re talking about the same petroleum that’s used to fuel our cars and make plastic cups.

It’s suspected that food dyes and lakes are linked to numerous conditions, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, asthma, allergies and cancer. Fortunately, there are plenty of natural alternatives used all around the world, except right here in the United States. In fact, many of the same products that you buy at the store containing artificial food coloring in the United States (such as candy) contain natural food coloring in other countries. Same products, but safer ingredients abroad.

Chances are you eat foods containing artificial colorings a lot more often than you think. In the United States, everything from Pop-tarts to maraschino cherries, breakfast cereals to licorice, and man-n-cheese to ice cream contains artificial food coloring. Your best bet is to read labels and select foods that don’t contain these food colorings. If you’re baking with a recipe that requires food coloring, there are plenty of very easy, all natural alternatives that might be in your kitchen right now!

I wanted to teach my kids little more about natural foods and how to make something look (and taste) beautiful without having to add chemicals. I thought I’d start with Easter eggs as the holiday is right around the corner for my family.

I’ve used many of these ingredients to color cakes and frostings in the past. They’ve all worked out great. To color my eggs, I used the following foods to yield beautiful pastel colors:

Beets make a beautiful pink color.

Onion food coloring dyeOnion skins make golden brown.

Blueberry food coloring dyeFrozen blueberries make lavender.

Chlorophyll food coloring dyeChlorophyll makes green.

Turmeric Food coloring dyeTurmeric makes yellow.

After letting the eggs sit in each of these mixtures for about 10 minutes (directions below), this was the result.

Easter Eggs

Creating the mixtures was really very simple. You’ll notice that I didn’t add any vinegar, a common ingredient to any type of egg dying. I’d love to say that I just wanted an light pastel color and decided to go without, but truth be told, I just forgot to add it.

Vinegar (any type, but preferably white) is a wonderful acid medium that allows the color to saturate even more. Had I used it, my eggs would likely be much brighter and less pastel. Any acid will do, not just vinegar. In fact, cream of tartar or lemon juice work pretty well, too!

Here is what I did for each of the colors:

Blueberries:
1 cup frozen blueberries
2 cups water

Bring to a boil for about 5 minutes. Strain berries and discard. Allow liquid to cool. Add eggs, allowing to sit for 10 minutes. NOTE: It’s important to allow all liquid to cool to room temperature to avoid cooking the eggs any further.

Turmeric:
3 tablespoons ground turmeric
2 cups water

Bring to a boil for about 5 minutes. Allow liquid to cool. Add eggs, allowing to sit for 10 minutes. NOTE: I did not strain this mixture as there wasn’t much to strain. Some sediment remained at the bottom but didn’t affect the color.

Chlorophyll:
4 tablespoons liquid chlorophyll
2 cups water

Combine ingredients together. Add eggs, allowing to sit for 10 minutes. NOTE: What do you mean you don’t have liquid chlorophyll at home? You should! It’s really, really good for you. I drink two tablespoons in water everyday. It’s an amazing detoxifier and helps with digestion, too. Chlorophyll is the best green egg dye in town, too!

Beets:
1 large beet, coarsely chopped, skin left on
3 cups water

Bring to a boil for about 15 minutes. Allow liquid to cool. Strain beets and discard. Add eggs, allowing to sit for 10 minutes.*

Onion Skin:
The outer peel of 3 large, or 4 medium Vidalia onions
3 cups water

Bring to a boil for about 15 minutes. Allow liquid to cool. Strain onion skins and discard. Add eggs, allowing to sit for 10 minutes.* NOTE: You can use red or a lighter yellow onion. The eggs will color, but result in a different hue.

Keep in mind that the beets and onion both require extra boiling time to render the greatest color, thus extra liquid, too.

I hope you enjoy coloring your eggs this year. If you’re not into coloring eggs, consider adding one of these colors to a food, such as a frosting or to a home-baked good, like cookies. They’re a lot healthier than store-bought varieties.

Sign up for my newsletter today to pick up a few extra recipes. Don’t forget about my book, The Belly Burn Plan, too. It’s a great and powerful resource for anyone who wants to prioritize their health by eating right and moving more!

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Quick and Healthy Cranberry Relish

I picked up a couple bags of cranberries last week to make scones. After one batch of failed scones, I used the second bag to make a cranberry relish instead. I’ll take a second stab at the scones sometime soon, but the relish was so good I wanted to tell you about it in time for the holidays.

If you’re not a big cranberry person, or just don’t get around to eating them that often, here are a few reasons you might want to consider eating this fruit:

  • Anti-inflammatory: helps ease aches and pains – from stuffy noses to creaky knees.
  • Antioxidant: helps keep you skin looking beautiful and insides feeling great, you gorgeous thing, you!
  • Anti-cancer: cranberries contain five amazing phytonutrients that are most potent in the skin (not the juice). Just another reason this recipe is an ace!

This recipe has very little added honey, so the tartness of the cranberries really comes out. Agave nectar can also be substituted if you don’t have honey on hand, or if you would like to make the recipe vegan.

Wash and rinse your cranberries well. Cranberries have a high water content, so you don’t need to add much before reducing the fruit down to the relish.

Cranberries

After the berries come start coming to a boil, they’ll get soft very quickly and begin to pop. Continue stirring vigorously and pressing on the berries gently to break them down somewhat.

Boiling Cranberries

After the berries mixture reduces down somewhat, add the honey and continue stirring. This is what the mixture will look like after a few minutes of stirring. After it reaches a jam-like consistency, remove from heat and add lemon zest.

Cranberries Honey Reduced

Ingredients

2 c. fresh cranberries (preferably organic)
1/4 c. water
2 tbsp. honey
1 tsp fresh lemon zest

1. Add cranberries and water to a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring vigorously.
2. Add honey and continue to stir, gently pressing on the berries.
3. After mixture reaches a jam-like consistency, remove from heat.
4. Add lemon zest, cool and enjoy.

My daughter ate this cranberry relish by the spoonful on its own. The next morning I added it to plain yogurt to give it a sweet and tangy kick. It never made it to a turkey, but I’m sure it will later this month.

Be healthy.

Traci

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Homemade Vanilla Extract

Homemade vanilla extract just sounds warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it? With the holidays right around the corner, I wanted to make something sort of crafty as a small gift for friends and family. Since I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and I use vanilla constantly, I thought I’d take a stab at making my own. Last week I started my project and I wanted to show you how things are going so far, and tell you how get started if you wanted to give it a try yourself. 

The whole process of making vanilla extract is incredibly easy. I can’t believe I haven’t made it before. Real vanilla isn’t cheap. I usually pay anywhere between $6 to $8 for a small bottle. 

Interested in making some vanilla? Here’s what you need:

  • Vanilla Beans
  • Vodka 
  • Bottles
  • Funnel

You can buy vanilla beans from any specialty food store and some kitchen supply stores. If you don’t have one of those stores nearby, you can order online. The Madagascar variety are the granddaddy of vanilla beans, so that’s what I opted for. I paid about $40 for a half pound. Right now I have about two liters of vanilla steeping and I’ve used just over half the beans. I really didn’t need to buy that many, so I’ll have plenty of beans to make for future vanilla. 

Vanilla Beans and Bottles

Next up you need bottles and vodka. I picked up a bunch of bottles from The Container Store because it was convenient. I’ve seen bottles at grocery stores, craft stores and kitchen supply stores as well. My suggestion is to shop around for a good size that suits your needs. You don’t need to pay a lot for bottles. Just make sure they seal properly.

Vanilla_pouring vodka

I’ve read that you don’t need to buy a fancy pants vodka when making vanilla, but I’d prefer to buy from Sweden where genetically modified foods are largely not allowed. I used Svedka vodka, which is GMO-free. From what I understand, Absolut is GMO-free, too. 

The smallest things make the biggest difference. The only thing that could have possibly made making vanilla any easier was using a small funnel I bought for right around $2. 

Vanilla_one week

This is what the extract looks like one week after steeping. In about five weeks, the vanilla should be ready-to-go! I’m going to leave the beans in. The longer they steep, the stronger the vanilla will get. 

Some tried and true vanilla makers suggest slicing the bean down the middle (length-wise), and others recommend against it. I made a couple bottles with the beans split down the middle, and others simply cut in half (width-wise). I’m sticking with the cut-in-half method. Slicing the beans down the middle seems to make the vanilla a little murkier than what I’d like. 

Here’s a rundown of the steps to making vanilla:

1) Wash and dry bottles
2) Cut vanilla beans in half (width-wise)
3) Drop vanilla beans in bottles (2 – 3 beans per cup of vodka)
4) Pour vodka and close bottles
5) Give the bottles a shake every couple of days
6) After 6+ weeks, the vanilla is done!

Note: You can also use bourbon or rum to make vanilla extract. I’ve never made either, but have tasted them. This vodka-based vanilla extract is a little more traditional.

I got kind of carried away with the vodka and bought way too much (waaaaaay to much). I thought I’d make other extracts with the surplus. I’m currently working on a mint and citrus extract. Stay tuned…I’ll be showing off how those are looking soon. 

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Traci is a nationally recognized health and fitness expert who has been featured on The TODAY Show and Dr. Oz. Traci is available for corporate speaking events and wellness coaching, as well as private training. Contact Traci here.

 

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