Restaurant Snapshot: Little Choc Apothecary Brooklyn, NY

We set the scene for this Restaurant Snapshot in a quaint little café overlooking the bustling streets of Brooklyn. Warm smells of freshly brewed tea and chocolaty smooth coffee beans waft in the air as the fresh atmosphere and décor wash over you. Little Choc Apothecary is such a calming and relaxing place to go grab brunch with a friend, sit and work for hours, or even just grab a quick lunch. This café produces some of the best crepes around, and trust me when I tell you, that you’d never guess they were a completely vegan and (almost) gluten free establishment.

This fact obviously only makes it better for me, but don’t go blabbing to your non-vegan friends just yet, in case they decide not to try them on principle. First, make them try the crepes and then when they fall in love with them, like I know they probably will, you can finally tell them the great news, theses buggers are totally vegan!

To be honest, I am a huge crepe fan; I’m a bit obsessed. But let’s be real, what isn’t there to love about crepes. They can be both savory and sweet, come on, that’s amazing! You can literally eat them for every meal, morning, noon and night, and I would totally do that! Wait a minute, this sounds like something I should actually try out one of these days, and soon. Anyway, I have always had trouble finding a crepe place that fit my dietary needs. Either the batter wasn’t gluten free/vegan or if the batter was all clear, there would be very few options for toppings and fillings, and what is a crepe really without the filling.

I was so excited when I happened to stumble upon this place during one of my frequent foursquare searches. Side note, foursquare is an awesome tool for finding restaurants and cafes. I can just type in my dietary restrictions, price point and location, then voilà it shows me tons of great options to choose from. I highly recommend checking it out the next time you’re in charge of picking a place to meet for food or drinks with friends.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program, aka crepes.

Personally, I am a big fan of the savory crepe. Now, I’m well aware that I am probably in the minority here, but savory crepes are my jam guys. I do like sweet crepes too, but the majority of the time I go to The Little Choc Apothecary, I tend to gravitate towards their savory options.

The burrito and breakfast crepe are probably my two favorites that I have tried. Everything that I’ve gotten there has been great, but those stand out to me in terms of flavor and fillings. They both have mushroom bacon, which I will admit is one of my favorite things ever. The burrito crepe also has homemade cashew cheese sauce, which is amazing, guys seriously if I could just get a side of this sauce to drink, I totally would do it, it’s that good.

The breakfast burrito is pretty standard and a good tofu scramble is always tasty, but with the added crunch of the coconut bacon and cucumber, I know it seems strange, but it totally works, this crepe excels to a whole new level.

I have also had the ‘pizza’ and’ garden of eaten’ crepe, both very tasty, but just not my favorites. I am very interested in trying the ‘room for mushroom’ crepe because it sounds wonderful. Let’s get real though, I’m interested in eventually trying all of them, and I’m sure that I probably will very soon.

As far as the sweet crepes go, I’ve only ordered one, sorry dudes. I got my crepe filled with homemade vegan Nutella and strawberries and it was very tasty. They don’t have pre-made options for their sweet crepes like they do for their savory counterparts. Instead, you get to choose your own fillings and toppings. The first two toppings are free, and then it costs 50 cents per each additional item you add on after that.

Now, apothecary is part of the name for a good reason; they serve up an expansive array of loose-leaf teas, along with several specially crafted, medicinal blends.

Such as their sniffles blend that contains, feverfew, lemon balm, and hyssop. This will help clear up your fever and allergy symptoms.

They also make a digestion tea blend, to aid an upset stomach. This includes alfalfa, dandelion, ginger, and peppermint.

Afternoon tea is also offered on their menu, in both sweet and savory options. This includes a pot of tea, a scone with clotted cream and jam, 1 slice of cake and 2 cookies for the sweet option. For the savory, they offer a pot of tea, a scone with clotted cream and jam, a savory crepe and 2 cookies.

While they do offer other coffee and espresso based drinks, I suggest sticking to the loose-leaf tea options. They are unique and a special treat that you just can’t find everywhere, unlike these other café staples.

The Little Choc Apothecary is a whimsical and inviting space that serves up some damn good food. I highly recommend you check them out if you like crepes, tea and a nice place to chill for a few hours with friends or a good book.

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DIY: Natural Toothpaste

We’re probably all guilty of not really thinking too much about what is in our toothpaste. We squeeze it onto our toothbrush and 2-3 minutes later we’re done, with minty fresh breath and a set of pearly whites to show for it. However, a lot of ingredients used in conventional toothpaste can be harmful to our bodies and our health.

The Tooth About Conventional Toothpaste

Most conventional toothpaste is filled with artificial colors and sweeteners, like aspartame. Do we really need to have red and blue stripes swirled into our toothpaste? I don’t think we’re getting any marks for patriotism there.

These conventional pastes also contain fluoride, which can cause tooth discoloration and stomach problems. The FDA actually requires a warning label on every tube of toothpaste sold in the US that contains fluoride, true story folks.

So, you know that rich foamy/bubbly lather you get when brushing your teeth? That stuff is made possible by Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), which is a surfactant that is used in a range of products from industrial cleaners to toothpaste, its main purpose is to provide a foaming lather. The problem with SLS however, is that it may cause canker sores, mouth ulcers, stomach issues, and cancer.

Call me crazy, but something that we are putting into our mouths upwards of two times a day, and inevitably ingesting, shouldn’t be dangerous to our health, right? This is why I switched over to natural toothpaste several years ago, and eventually started making my own, because ain’t nobody got money to pay $5 for a tube of toothpaste that you can make for less than $1. Can I get an Amen?

Brush It Off

If DIYing just isn’t for you, here is a list of natural toothpaste recommendations. These toothpastes are all from respected and trusted natural brands. Number 5 on the list is actually the toothpaste I used and loved before I started making my own.

Anyway, I was mindlessly scrolling Instagram just about a year ago now, when I came across a post from SW Basics, where they shared a simple, and boy do I mean simple, toothpaste recipe. When I saw this I thought to myself, shit I can do that, so I did. And I’ve been making a slightly modified version of their toothpaste recipe ever since.

Here is the recipe I found:

  • 2 Tbsp baking soda
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 20 drops peppermint oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt (optional)

Combine all the ingredients into a paste, store in a sealed container. It will last up to six months.

In my version, I omit the salt altogether as the baking soda has enough of a salty taste to me and I didn’t feel the need to add it in; the taste just wasn’t as appealing to me. I also use around 25 drops of peppermint essential oil, to boost the minty flavor of the paste. I am a huge peppermint fan, but if you aren’t there is no need to add more, 20 drops is sufficient in helping to freshen your breath reduce bacteria and mask the majority of the baking soda taste.

It’s always important to remember too that a simple recipe like this can easily be adjusted and modified to fit the needs of each individual person. Add a little more, or less of each ingredient until it has the consistency and taste you like best. It is your toothpaste after all; you should make it how you want!

I will say it did take me several weeks to fully adjust to the new taste and texture of my new homemade toothpaste. This stuff doesn’t foam and bubble, nor does it have a fake overpowering spear-minty flavor. It may not taste great to you at first, but trust me you will get used to it, and let’s be real for a second, does our toothpaste really need to taste good? As long as it freshens our breath and gets rid of plaque and bacteria we’re all good, and this stuff definitely does that.

So, please guys, let’s get brushing and give this stuff a chance. I promise your teeth, health, wallet and the environment will be thanking you! And the satisfaction you’ll feel from making your own health/body care products is such a great feeling in and of itself.

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This Too Shall Pass: Treating PMS Symptoms Naturally 

Alright, ladies, it’s that time of the month again, let the collective groans begin. Yes, I’m talking about PMS, shocker, I know. We all get it, but that doesn’t mean it needs to ruin our day, week, or even the entire month for some of us. Fortunately, there are ways that we can help reduce the symptoms and stress of dealing with PMS in natural and healing ways. 

It always feels like the beginning of a long hard battle each month when we start gearing up to deal with our PMS symptoms; it’s a bit ridiculous. All the time and energy we put into thinking about when we are getting our periods and how that will affect our activities for the month. Can I go to the beach this week? Can I schedule a bikini wax? Do I need more cover- up, for the acne, I’m bound to get? The questions and problems quite honestly, are endless. Having a period is already an inconvenience on multiple levels; we shouldn’t have to struggle any more than we need to.  

Sure, there are things we can’t change, or magically make disappear with a single downward dog or a big whiff of essential oils, but there are definitely steps and actions we can take to dramatically reduce PMS naturally.  

The Good, The Bad, And The Bloaty 

We’ve all experienced the sweat-inducing struggle of trying to squeeze into a pair of pants that fit last week and are now straining at the seams. Bloating is a losing battle that we as women are constantly fighting. This, while a minor PMS side effect, is definitely one of the most irritating ones to deal with. Fluid retention can be the result of fluctuating hormones and can leave us feeling like Violet Beauregarde, post blueberry incident. 

Snacking on bananas, tomatoes, celery and citrus fruits pre-period, can help to alleviate bloating and other symptoms. 

Coconut Oil is amazing for hormonal health. It can assist in weight loss, reduce inflammation, and even has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. 

While eating certain foods can help to reduce or even diminish some PMS symptoms, other foods can actually aid in, or bring on more symptoms. We should try to avoid certain foods around the time of our periods, such as inflammatory foods like grains, dairy, and vegetable oils, which can actually create inflammation in the body. 

Go With The Flow 

Exercise, in general, is always a good idea, to help relieve stress and anxiety, or just to get a good sweat in. Case in point, working out not only releases pain-busting endorphins, but it also triggers serotonin (a depression and anxiety fighter), which can be a major help during times of PMS, and hormonal mood swings. However, intense exercise leading up to our periods can actually make our PMS symptoms worse. It’s actually better to practice mild forms of exercise such as yoga, swimming, or going on walks to better help alleviate our symptoms.  

Doing hip and back stretches can increase blood flow to abdominal and lower-back muscles, easing the tension that leads to cramping. It would be helpful to practice yoga stretches that help to relieve tension and get our blood moving, such as child’s pose, pigeon or happy baby during the week before our periods to avoid PMS.  

Stick It To The Man, And PMS   

Acupuncture is not a new practice by any means, but it is starting to become more mainstream as of late, even in the western medicine world. Getting stuck with a needle has never felt so good! Hear me out here guys, research shows acupuncture is very effective at treating PMS. One study found that acupuncture quelled symptoms in 78 percent of women. They believe acupuncture may increase circulation and elevate endorphins, which enhances mood and alleviates pain. Most women experience PMS relief within 24 hours after a session.  

With results such as these, it’s definitely worth checking out at least once to see if acupuncture would be a good solution for you. There are so many great acupuncture facilities around that offer great deals, such as Brooklyn Open Acupuncture in downtown Brooklyn, that operates on a sliding scale, meaning you pay between  $20-$50 for an appointment; you get to choose what you pay depending on your financial situation.   

Poppin Pills Like Candy 

Supplements are a great way to get a ton of extra nutrients and beautifying superfoods by simply adding them to a smoothie or taking them as pills with our other daily vitamins. There are so many great superfood supplements out there that can help to naturally relieve PMS symptoms; it seems silly to not take advantage of their awesome healing powers. 

  • Vitamin D– We can get our daily dose of Vitamin D from the sun, but in most places it’s hard to get enough exposure on a regular basis, which means that many of us are actually deficient in Vitamin D. Fortunately, in this case, there are many ways in which we can supplement our vitamin D intake. We can do this my taking Vitamin D supplements, or by consuming foods and other supplements that are high in vitamin D, such as cod liver oil, margarine, egg yolks and oily fish. 
  • A recent trial discovered that Vitamin D supplementation significantly reduced anxiety, irritability, and sadness in young women with associated mood disorders linked to PMS. “Researchers found that vitamin D levels fluctuate during the menstrual cycle. In addition, studies have shown vitamin D levels are related to anxiety and depression. Based on these observations, researchers conducted a study to assess whether Vitamin D supplementation reduces the severity of mood disorders associated with PMS in young women,” spoiler alert, it does. 
  • Maca– Maca has a history of boosting hormone production. Many women notice fewer PMS symptoms, increased fertility, and improved skin. Maca is also high in minerals and essential fatty acids, making it great for hormones. As an added bonus Maca has a rich caramel taste, making it a great add-on in a sweet smoothie! 
  • Magnesium– Magnesium often contributes to better sleep (which is great for our hormones). Natural Calm is a great magnesium product to help calm and relax our bodies and often greatly helps both PMS symptoms and menstrual cramping, especially during stressful times, such as that time of the month (wink, wink.) 
  • Calcium- Calcium is a very effective supplement in helping to reduce PMS symptoms. In a recent study, researchers found that women with PMS who took a 500-milligram calcium supplement twice a day for three months had significantly reduced levels of fatigue and appetite changes. Another study revealed that taking 1200 mg of calcium a day helped reduce women’s emotional and physical PMS symptoms.  
  • Vitamin B– B Vitamins are essential to cellular functions throughout the body including metabolizing carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. In addition, they balance mood, reduce anxiety and soothe irritability. 

Smells Like Teen Spirit 

Essential oils are blowing up right now and for good reason. These potent little guys are natural remedy powerhouses. Essential oils have benefits ranging from cleaning products, bug repellent, anti-depressant, and yep, you guessed it PMS relief

Essential oils can be an effective natural treatment for PMS. Clary sage oilhelps to naturally balance hormones, by rubbing 2-3 drops of oil on our lower abdomen. Cypress oil can improve circulation and lessen pain from cramping by applying several drops onto our lower abdomen as well.  

Several drops of ylang-ylang oil along with lavender oil can be applied to the back of the neck to help reduce tension and stress. Peppermint oil can also be used with a warm compress to help reduce pain. 

Whichever method you choose, just remember that we are all different and some of these natural remedies may work better for you than others, but make sure to do what is best for you and your body. If you feel good and are happy with what you are doing, then that’s all that matters!

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The Healing Powers of Himalayan Salt Lamps

Himalayan Salt lamps are all the rage right now, and for good reason. Not only are they visually pleasing to look at, but they are also known to carry plenty of healing powers and health benefits, ranging from purifying the air to helping boost energy levels. With all of these amazing benefits, it’s crazy to think that all you have to do to experience these wonderful therapeutic powers is to simply plug it in.

By nature salt is hygroscopic, which means the lamps attract water molecules from the air; trapping dirt, pollen, and smoke particles, which are carried in water vapor, thus having a purifying effect on the air around it.

This purifying effect also helps in reducing allergy symptoms that are related to dust and dander, since the cause of the allergy is being eliminated in the air, the symptoms will dramatically subside.

By releasing negatively charged particles into the air the lamps can help to reduce electromagnetic radiation from household electronics, such as computers and cell phones. This means that having a lamp on your desk or near where you use your electronics frequently, is a good idea.

Speaking of electronics, research has shown that the blue light given off by phones and other electronic deceives can mess with our sleep hormones and disrupt our sleeping patterns.  Alternatively, salt lamps give off a warm orange glow similar to that of fire or candlelight, giving our eyes a rest from the harsh glow of our computers and cell phones.

  • ProTip, make sure to utilize the NighShift option on your cell phones, this will automatically switch your phone from blue to orange light, according to the rising and setting sun.

For this reason, Salt lamps are great light sources in the evening to help us relax while trying to fall asleep and can be used as a nightlight without negatively affecting our sleep.

These soothing lamps may also help boost mood and energy levels, the soft orange hues are one of the soothing colors often used for calming and to increase focus.

Using salt lamps for color therapy can help to increase energy levels, and induce a clearer mental state,  not to mention, we could all do with more beauty in our lives and there is no denying the beauty and calming effect that these lamps can have on us.

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Natural Deodorant For the Win

We’ve all had those days when we throw on layer after layer of deodorant without even batting an eye because we are sweating out of our minds. But, have we ever stopped to think what is actually in those magic little sticks? Natural deodorant is starting to gain some hype in the eco-beauty world and for a good reason. We all love smelling fresh, but when it comes to our health, do we really want to risk it?

Sure, the chemical filled, flower garden blooming under our arms smells so much better than going Au Naturel, but it definitely isn’t better for us. We have started to be very careful and particular about the food that we eat and what we put into our bodies. Fortunately, for all involved, we are starting to realize that what we put on our bodies matters as well. These days conventional deodorant is jam-packed with harmful chemicals and additives, such as parabens, which are commonly found in most conventional beauty and skincare products these days, and aluminum, which actually clogs your sweat glands and stops us from sweating. At the same time, it is also being absorbed into our skin. Both of these additives can disrupt our hormone balance and have been linked to the growth and formation of breast cancer cells in the body.

Sniffing It Out: Why We Should Switch To Natural Deodorant

Swapping out our conventional deodorants for a more natural alternative may seem like a daunting task, as it takes us forever to find the perfect smelling deodorant that both masks our “natural” scent and stops us from sweating. Most natural deodorants just stop the odor and not the actual sweat. This may sound a bit disappointing, but the most harmful parts of conventional deodorant are their antiperspirant properties. Our bodies are meant to sweat as we are sweating out toxins that we don’t want in our bodies. When we use deodorant with an antiperspirant, we are blocking those toxins from being released out of our bodies, which is not good for our overall health. Once we start using less conventional deodorant without all the additives and chemicals, it is true we will sweat a lot more at first since we are no longer clogging our sweat glands. But, once our bodies get used to sweating again, it will naturally balance out and will produce a manageable amount of sweat. This process is true when switching over to something healthier in almost all areas of our lives. If we were to take part in a food cleanse, we would also experience a detox period, leaving us feeling a bit groggy because we are flushing all of the toxins and bad stuff out of our bodies. Once they are gone though, we are left feeling better than before. The same is true with deodorant.

Smell Test: The Different Types of Natural Deodorant

Natural deodorant can be a tricky swap at first since there is a grace period, which can be a bit rough. We will definitely experience smelly armpits and more sweat than we are used to when we are first switching over to a more natural brand of deodorant; don’t worry it doesn’t last too long. It also takes a while to find the right formula that works best with our individual body and skin types, but once you have found the right one for you, give it a month or two for your body to adjust and you will be so glad that you did!

There are so many brands out there now that are creating natural deodorants in both cream and solid form, which is great for us because that means there are more options for us to try and hopefully find a brand that we love.

Be sure to test out each deodorant for several months for your skin to get used to it, and be on the lookout for itchy red bumps or irritation. This can sometimes occur if you are sensitive to baking soda, which is a natural way to help stop sweat.

Here are a few of my top picks:

Meow Meow Tweet is great because it now comes in both solid and cream form so we can choose which option we like best. It also has a baking soda free option, for those of us with sensitive skin, in a grapefruit scent, which is wonderful!

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Primal Pit Paste is a great brand; they have deodorants ranging from cream to stick and multiple scents that are baking soda free, giving those with sensitive skin, a wider selection to choose from.

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Soapwalla is a gentler natural deodorant. I would recommend that you start out with another deodorant first before transitioning to this one if you are concerned of smelling or sweating too much. However, after using for several months, this is a great option.

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Schmidt’s it a great option and really works well. However, there is quite a bit of baking soda in this brand, so if you have sensitive skin I would steer clear of them. If not, this is a great first deodorant to transition to because the high concentrate of baking soda helps to stop sweat naturally. They have recently added a line for sensitive skin, I haven’t tried it yet, but I am very interested in checking it out!

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Lavanila is the most “conventional” of the natural deodorants on this list, but it is a great first buy when you are transitioning over. It has a variety of scents and feels the most like conventional deodorant overall. It also is the most easily accessible, seeing as you can buy it at Sephora and most health and whole food stores.

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Whichever deodorant we end up choosing, remember to give it some time and don’t give up right away, your body will adjust. Once we finally find the perfect natural deodorant for us we will be, fearlessly, raising the roof with fresh smelling, pits of joy!

Reviews.com  has a great, and more extensive, list of natural deodorants that they love, over on their site. If you’re looking for more options, or you just love reading reviews, go on over and check them out.

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