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Vegan Thanksgiving Mac + Cheese

We all know everyone loves mac + cheese, but what if we could make it taste like everyone’s favorite food focused holiday too? That’s right — we made Thanksgiving into the form of mac + cheese! We wanted to make a dish that you could bring to Friendsgiving or your family’s get together + feel confident that no one would have to avoid it for dietary restrictions or allergies! This mac + cheese is vegan, soy free, gluten free, + nut free to cover most allergen bases.

PSA: If you’re looking for a simple mac + cheese recipe then just follow the instructions for the cheese sauce + skip the sausage ++ cranberry! However, if you’re looking for the nostalgic flavors of your grandma’s sausage stuffing with a side of sweet, classic cranberry sauce then you’re going to want to follow the full recipe!

INGREDIENTS

  • 12 oz Pasta [buy a GF version if needed!]
  • 4 oz Cranberry Sauce

VEGAN CHEESE SAUCE

  • 2 cups White Potatoes, peeled + cubed
  • 1 cup Carrots, peeled + cubed
  • 1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1/2 cup Non-Dairy Milk [use oat or pea milk for a soy + nut free version!]
  • 4 tsps Lemon Juice
  • 3 tsps Cornstarch
  • 2 tsps Garlic Powder
  • 2 tsps Onion Powder
  • 2 tbsps Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp Salt

VEGAN SAUSAGE CRUMBLES

  • 1 cup Water
  • 1/2 tsp Liquid Smoke
  • 2 tbsp Soy Sauce [or Tamari for GF version!]
  • 1 tbsp Maple Syrup
  • 10 oz Vegan Meat Crumbles [we used the Beyond Beef Crumbles!]
  • 1/4 cup Nutritional Yeast
  • 2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 2 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp Dried Sage
  • 1 tsp Fennel Seeds
  • 1 tsp Dried Thyme
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper

DIRECTIONS

#1] Follow box instructions to cook pasta

#2] Boil the potatoes + carrots in a pot of water for approximately 10 minutes. Drain them from the boiling water + add to a blender immediately.

#3] Add the remaining cheese sauce ingredients to the blender + combine until smooth. Set cheese sauce aside.

#4] While water for the potatoes + carrots is heating up, stir together wet ingredients for the sausage crumble in a medium pot: water, liquid smoke, soy sauce + maple syrup. Heat on medium until the mixture comes to a light boil.

#5] In a separate bowl mix dry ingredients: beef crumbles, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, sage, fennel, thyme and black pepper. Stir into pot + lower the heat.

#6] Cover the pot + heat on low for 10 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed.

#7] Combine pasta, cheese sauce, sausage crumbles, + cranberry sauce in a large dish. Serve warm + enjoy!

Pumpkin Chai Oatmeal Muffins

We are so into pumpkin everything… add in chai + these muffins might become your new favorite breakfast staple. The best part is that you can batch cook these muffins + they stay good for at least a week! Keep them in the fridge, + whenever you are ready to eat them — put them in a microwave or toaster oven!

INGREDIENTS

* makes 12 muffins

  • 3 cups steel cut Oats
  • 1 cup Milk [I used almond, but any will do]
  • ¾ cup Chai Latte Mix [I use this mainly as a sweetener, but you can sub or add extra honey if you want sweeter oatmeal]
  • 15 oz canned Pumpkin puree
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 tsp Pumpkin Pie spice
  • *vanilla Greek Yogurt [optional]
  • *sliced Almonds [optional]

DIRECTIONS

#1] Preheat the oven to 350 degrees + line a muffin tin with liners. In a mixing bowl combine the oats, milk, + chai mix.
#2] Add the can of pumpkin puree + two eggs ++ mix until fully combined.
#3] Mix in pumpkin pie seasoning + additional honey [if desired].
#4] Scoop the oat mix into the cupcake liners. These won’t rise much, so don’t be afraid to fill them up ; )
#5] Bake for 25-35 minutes or until muffins are firm + a toothpick is dry when poked through a muffin. Top with vanilla greek yogurt + sliced almonds ++ ENJOY : )

BROWN SUGAR ICING

If you want to take these breakfast muffins to the next level + turn them into dessert — add the brown sugar frosting from Half Baked Harvest! This icing recipe uses traditional sugar but if you want to try a lower glycemic version, replace the powdered sugar with alternatives like powdered erythritol, monk fruit, or stevia! There are sugar free replacements for the brown sugar as well but we suggest keeping that one to keep the caramel flavor intact ; )

More Like This

Blueberry Vanilla Baked Oatmeal Cups
Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats
Pumpkin Chip Muffins

+ Ali, Post Grad CHAARG

CHAARG’s Guide To Moab

Wow wow wow, I was seriously blow away by Moab. It’s one of those places that feels both extremely holy… + also kind of like Mars. I stopped here on a roadtrip from Chicago to San Diego for two days on a whim, + I instantly wish that I had more days in this beautiful outdoor town. The contrast of the red/orange rocks with the bright blue sky was stunning. I can’t wait to go back + spend a week in Moab!

#1] Love Muffin Cafe: This is a must stop — the best breakfast burritos. Perfect snack after a hike ; ). They also have incredible juices + coffees. *Closes at 1PM + on Tuesdays + Wednesdays!

#2] Moab Garage: Loved the cold brew here! They also had amazing looking sandwiches… + ice cream! *Closes at 1PM or 2PM + on Tuesday-Thursday.

#3] Moonflower Co-op: We went here every day to pick up little snacks for our hikes + picnics. : )

For Next Time: DoughBird [for all you donut lovers!]

*Ps: The only true ~coffee shop~ in town is Moab Coffee Roaster, but I didn’t love it. It works if Moab Garage is closed though + you need coffee!

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Morita Burrito / Love Muffin Cafe

#1] 98 Center: You need to get the pho here, anything banh

mi, + a cookie! Everything here is incredible, + its BYOB!

#2] Sabaku Sushi: This is such a cute date night spot! If you go here, get the sunshine roll… it’s so good, we ended up ordering another roll immediately after we ate the first one ; ). *Closed Sunday-Tuesday.

For Next Time: Thai Bella

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Bahn Mi Salad / 98centermoab.com

#1] Hiking, obviously ; ). Arches National Park is of course a must [it’s so close to town]. I also absolutely loved Canyonlands National Park — we explored Island In The Sky. If we had more days in Canyonlands, I would have loved to do backpack The Needles.

#2] If you’re into camping, highly recommend camping on the Colorado River. We camped at Grand Staff Campground + there were super color bike trails + hiking trails nearby!

#3] My friend who used to live in Utah also recommended:

  • Jeep Arch
  • Hells Revenge Side By Side Tour
  • Dead Horse Point State Park
  • Grandstaff Canyon
  • Cliffs + Canyons — Canyoneering
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Canyonlands National Park

#1] A lot of the cafes have weird hours + have certain days of the week that they are completely closed. That’s why I added the closing times for some of the cafes! We were supper bummed when we finished a hike + were craving a breakfast burrito… only to find that Love Muffin Cafe was shut down for the day. I don’t want the same mistake to happen to you. Plan accordingly : ).

#2] I highly recommend beating the crowds + doing Delicate Arch [in Arches National Park] for sunrise. There will most likely still be a lot of people, but it gets even more crowded during the day.

#3] Stay in an airbnb rather than a hotel — there are so, so many cute ones!

#4] Visit in the spring or fall. I was there the second week of October + it was the perfect temps!

Image for postEn Route To Delicate Arch

Have you been to Moab? What did I miss?! Let me know : )

12 Books That Are Perfect For Your Morning Routine

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been a big reader. I was that girl who was STOKED for the “summer reading challenges” at the library. Read a bunch of books + win prizes? Sign me up. : ) At age 8, I would read Women’s Health Magazine + Self, ++ dream about running a health + wellness magazine in New York City.

Once college rolled around, I stopped reading — a mixture of lack of time, exhaustion from textbooks, + wanting to spend my “free time” in other ways. I still devoured magazines [especially on vacations], but I can’t think of a single book I read in college other than The Happiness Project [which, of course, I loved].

Thankfully, reading eventually came back to me. I was in a yoga class a year + a half ago —right when I started practicing yoga, ++ the instructor read a beautiful passage from The Book Of Awakening. Immediating after the class, I purchased the book. That kickstarted my self-love journey… ++ I’ve been on an “amazon prime — grab a book in one click” high ever since. So much so that I promised myself I would NOT BUY ANOTHER BOOK IN 2017 — I’ve been purchasing books at a much faster rate than actually reading them. I love the quote in The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up — The moment you first encounter a particular book is the right time to read it.

Anyways, now onto the “daily reads” — these are all daily devotionals, tips, journal prompts, news, etc that are a perfect compliment to your morning [or nighttime] routine. Here we go…

#1] The Book Of Awakening

This book has truly changed my life. Inside is 365 passages of wisdom, each complete with a meditation//reflection piece. While I’ve read every passage, I’ve yet to complete the complimentary meditation pieces with it — since I’ve been getting much more into meditation lately [8 minutes every morning to Marconi Union — Weightless Part 1], this is absolutely on my radar. // Grab The Book Of Awakening

#2] The Five Minute Journal

I’ve always been into journaling [I had a journal in kindergarten — it’s HILARIOUS to read… I basically talk about what I ate + recess #goodtimes]. However, I know not everyone falls in love with journaling at an early age. If you want to get into journaling, but don’t know where to start — this is a perfect guide for you. The sections are below…

  • Quote of the day
  • I am grateful for…
  • What would make today great?
  • Daily affirmations. I am…
  • 3 amazing things that happened today…
  • How could I have made today even better?

While you can easily do this on your own, it’s nice to have them in a pretty, organized book — plus, there are weekly challenges like “give a genuine compliment to a stranger today.” // Grab The Five Minute Journal

#3] A Year Of Miracles

Currently going through this devotional now! I’ve been in love with Marianne Williamson ever since reading A Return To Love. Every passage as a mantra for the day, a reflection piece, + a prayer. Her intention for this book is to help us develop a positive, loving mindset to live our best selves ++ bring miracles in our lives every day.// Grab A Year Of Miracles

#4] A Course In Miracles

I’m [very, very slowly] working through this book. WOW. It’s deep stuff. I recommend first reading “A Return To Love” before you dive into this. The Course has a 365 workbook in the back that you are encouraged to complete while reading through the book. Every sentence in this book will blow your mind… seriously. I’m thinking about doing a year long book club specifically for The Course — let me know if you are interested! // Grab A Course In Miracles

#5] Savor

My friend Melissa recommended this book to me, ++ while I haven’t read it yet — it’s SO PRETTY, I felt like I needed to include it : ). Every passage has a bible verse, reflection, ++ a journaling prompt. Also, there are recipes sprinkled throughout the book, like Blueberry Yogurt Morning Cakes, Grilled Peach + Caramel Sundaes, + Curried Chicken Salad Tea Sandwiches… yes please! // Grab Savor

#6] Jesus Calling

This is a book — but I absolutely love the app version [it’s $10 — but so worth it!]. I read it every morning. The author created the devotional by listening to God, writing down whatever she believed He was saying to her — thus, they are written from Jesus’ point of view. Every passage also comes with a few related bible verses. // Grab Jesus Calling

#7] The Daily — Podcast

I’m sure many of you guys read The Skimm. I’ve been trying to get into it… forever. While I’m still subscribed, I [sadly] delete the emails almost every time because I easily get overwhelmed by my inbox. I want to be more informed with what’s going on in the world without being suffocated by noise. I was recommended the podcast “The Daily” by a few people, ++ so far I really like it! It’s only 20 minutes, + tends to focus on 1–3 pieces of current news. // Listen to The Daily

#8] Let It Out

This isn’t necessarily a “daily” book — but I wanted to include it because you can use the tools inside for jounaling every day ; ). I’ve had the pleasure of listening to a “live podcast” with Katie [@katiedalebout]+ Rose [@rosetruesdale]… ++ oh my gosh, I just love these girls. If you want to step up your journaling//creative writing game, definitely check this book out. Also, make sure to listen to Katie’s podcast — Let It Out. // Grab Let It Out

#9] The Cup Of Our Life

This is a perfect for someone seeking a more intimate + disciplined life of prayer. It’s a six week devotional that includes a quote, story, mantra, reflection, scripture passage, journal prompt, prayer, + an “action” for the day. I read this book with my Bible Study during Lent last year + loved it. This is a book I plan on re-reading. // Grab The Cup Of Our Life

#10] The Happiness Project

Ahh, this book just makes me smile ; ) I have so much respect for Gretchen for dedicating a year to truly living her fullest, best life. While I read this book as fast as I could because I was obsessed, I love the idea reading this book throughout the year — following her advice for each month. Or, better yet — creating my own Happiness Project. [I’m kiiiiiiind of doing it with my intentions this year — but I love how she has a specific monthly focus.] // Grab The Happiness Project

#11] Seth Godin’s Brilliant Blog

I’m obsessed with Seth Godin [seeing him in October in Chicago — so excited!]. He is just a wizard of knowledge for life… but particularly for marketing, startups, communities, + using your voice//actions to change the world.// Subscribe To Seth’s Blog

#12] 1 Second Everyday

Okay, this is a bonus for ya. I started this app a month ago, ++ I’m in love — all you do: record one second everyday… ONE SECOND! It’s a fun way to capture your *actual* life [no filters, no thinking about captions, no trying to get the perfect shot]. There’s also a spot to add a “diary entry” if you want to talk about the video. I can’t wait to watch my year in review ; ). // Grab 1 Second Everyday

Wow! That was a lot of info, + took me like three hours to write this : ). Do you have any “daily reads” [what is the genre called — I keep wanting to say devotionals… but, obviously these aren’t all devotionals ;)]? Let me know in the comments below or on insta! Also — use the hashtag #CHAARGBookClub to share your thoughts on the books… or any others that you are reading!

Rooting for you always,

37 Healthy + Easy Friendsgiving Recipes

Friendsgiving might look a little different this year — but if you are able to have an intimate, socially distanced holiday dinner… we’ve got the recipes for you ; ). We’ve included our own recipes, as well as recipes from our favorite bloggers. If you make any of these dishes — make sure to tag us + let us know what you think, @CHAARG + #CHAARGeats!

#1] Vegan Eggnog [never too early to start drinking eggnog ; )]

#2] Orange Infused Spiced Cider

#3] Hot Cacao

#4] Thanksgiving Punch Mocktail — Thyme + Joy

#5] Sparkling Cranberry Kombucha Mocktail — The Real Food Dietitians

#6] 21 Tasty Mocktails — Brit + Co

#1] Healthy Holiday Dips

#2] Sweet Potato Toast

#3] Fruit Salsa + Cinnamon Crisps

#4] Potato + Kale Soup

#5] Fall Harvest Chili

#6] Black Bean + Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

#7] Maple Cinnamon Quinoa Stuffed Squash

#8] Simple Vegan Stuffing — Minimalist Baker

#9] Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes — Love + Lemons

#10] Healthy Green Bean Salad — Ambitious Kitchen

#1] Pea Pesto + Chicken + Spinach Salad

#2] Sweet Potato + Pomegranate Quinoa Bowl

#3] Roasted Brussel Sprouts + Butternut Squash With Cranberries, Pecans, + Goat Cheese

#4] Mediterranean Quinoa Bowl

#5] Easy Massaged Kale Salad — Minimalist Baker

#6] Thanksgiving Slaw — The Kitchn

#7] Favorite Green Salad With Apples, Cranberries, + Pepitas — Cookie + Kate

#1] Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta

#2] Winter Harvest Pasta

#3] Butternut Squash Flatbread

#4] Parmesan Spaghetti Squash With Tomato + Basil

#5] Chicken Pot Pie Casserole — Fit Foodie Finds

#6] Turkey Meatballs With Caramelized Onion Gravy — Our Salty Kitchen

#7] Thanksgiving Turkey — Joyful Healthy Eats

#1] Pumpkin Chip Muffins

#2] Pumpkin Chai Oatmeal Muffins

#3] Sweet + Salty Popcorn

#4] Cherry Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

#5] Healthy Twix Bars — Rachael’s Good Eats

#6] Healthy Pumpkin Pie — Chocolate Covered Katie

#7] Paleo Pecan Pie — The Healthy Foodie

Did we miss any of your favorites? DM us a recipe you love + we’ll include it ; )

Trend To Try: Sweet Potato Toast

Would you ever think to use a sweet potato instead of bread for your different toast cravings? I most certainly did not… until I finally tried! Sweet potato toasts are my new obsession! This super simple meal can be so versatile, and can satisfy your sweet or savory cravings. 

So, what exactly are sweet potato toasts? Picture this: Peel + slice a sweet potato into a few horizontal slices, to the thickness of your liking. Then, place your slices in the oven, toaster oven, or airfryer. Choose wisely! The oven will make your sweet potato more soft at its core, while the toaster or airfryer will create more of a crunch [or just try them all, they are all SO good]. To finish, apply the toppings of your choice. It really is that simple! 

Ready to try? To get you started, here are a few of my favorite combinations of sweet potato toasts to try out!

AVOCADO SWEET POTATO TOAST

CAPRESE SWEET POTATO TOAST

  • Tomatoes, sliced + placed on top of sweet potato
  • Mozzarella, either pearls or sliced from a ball, place on top of tomatoes
  • Garnish with balsamic glaze as a drizzle
  • Add sprinkle of basil for an extra spice

YOGURT + BLUEBERRIES SWEET POTATO TOAST

  • ½ cup yogurt of your choice [I prefer vanilla flavored!], spread atop toast
  • Place blueberries atop yogurt
  • Sprinkle granola on top 
  • Add chia seeds, I love them!
  • Add drizzle of honey for extra sweetness

MAPLE ALMOND BUTTER + MINI MARSHMALLOWS SWEET POTATO TOAST

  • 2 tbsp Justin’s Maple Almond Butter, spread 
  • Sprinkle mini marshmallows to garnish 
  • This one is super fun to get some of your fall flavors!

.     .     .

Have a favorite sweet potato toast creation of your own? Tag @CHAARG + #CHAARGeats + let us know! : )

4 Healthy Dips For The Holidays

Football season [+ the holidays!] might look a little different this year but nothing says you can’t celebrate from the safety of your home while keeping up those game day traditions ; )

I wanted to compile a list of party dips that would be *perfect* for any Saturday menu but would also include foods that offer more nutrient density! There’s no shame in having your favorite cheesy, greasy, melt in your mouth dips on game days but if you’re looking for alternatives that are both satisfying + nourishing then keep reading!

#1] Hot For Food’s Vegan Spinach + Artichoke Dip

Why I Love It — I’m not sure how she did it but Lauren Toyota, of Hot For Food, managed to make blended beans + cashews taste like a cheesy, gooey, spinach artichoke dip + it is a *must have* for any gathering. I have made this dip every year for any family event because I know my non-vegan family members will devour it + most won’t even question if it’s vegan. It may not be spot on for a traditional spinach artichoke dip but it’s close + it’s amazing in its own way. This dip replaces cheese with beans + cashews which provide less fat + more protein to your meal, leaving you feeling full + satisfied!

#2] Pick Up Limes’ Garden Chickpea Dill Dip

Why I Love It — If you’re going for something light + *crisp* for your dips then this is your go to! This recipe is highly versatile + can be changed depending on what veggies you have or what veggies you like! Because the base of the dip is made from chickpeas, the dip is packed with protein + micronutrients that support your body! Plus, if you have leftovers you can turn it into a sandwich for lunch the next day ; )

#3] Cookin Canuck’s Healthy Mediterranean 7-Layer Dip

Why I Love It — Greek flavors. Period. This dip is packed with vegetables + is super creamy so you’ll be eating all kinds of micronutrients while enjoying the umami bliss of the Mediterranean.

#4] Minimalist Baker’s Cheesy Jalapeño Corn Dip 

Why I Love It — If it’s not clear already, I love my creamy + cheesy dips ++ this recipe is no exception! If you enjoy spice + are a fan of jalapeño poppers then give this recipe a try. It’s super easy to make + has all the satisfaction of any warm, gooey cheese dip! This is a vegan recipe but it doesn’t necessarily have to be, just use regular cream cheese in place of the vegan one ; )

CHAARG’s Guide To Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree is home to a beautiful national park + a funky, eclectic town. It’s the perfect place to spend a long weekend — hiking the desert, cozying in an airbnb + just enjoying the peace.

Funny story — up until a couple years ago, I thought Joshua Tree National Park was named after a massive tree in the middle of the dessert. I imagined a SINGLE LONESOME tree. Nope, Joshua Tree is a type of tree [see above!]… + there are a ton of them! They are super unique + special.

COFFEE + CAFES

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Joshua Tree Coffee Company / @jtcoffeeco

#1] Joshua Tree Coffee Company: The only true coffee shop in town.. but it’s good! : )

#2] Frontier Cafe: It’s only takeout right now due to COVID, so we only got a coffee — but this was such a cute spot! It looked like it had great food, too — bagels, avocado toast, + the green dream sandwich [look it up!].

#3] The Natural Sisters Cafe: This is my favorite place for a bite. It can get super crowded brunch spot [especially on weekends], but it’s worth it! Juices, smoothies, all the breakfast things.

RESTAURANTS

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La Copine / @lacopinekitchen

#1] La Copine: I wanted to include this because my friends highly recommended it… but unfortunately it was closed during our visit. Apparently they are only doing catering right now. So when you visit J Tree, make sure to see if it’s is available!

#2] Pappy + Harriet’s: Another spot we didn’t get to hit [we were on the *not guaranteed waitlist* lol it was the wait was that long] — but it’s an iconic spot. It’s a restaurant + music venue…+ is in Pioneertown [more on that below!].

*PSA — I do not recommend Red Dog Saloon — cool vibe, but the tacos were medicore. It seemed to be the place where the “waitlisters” from Pappy + Harriet’s went lol.

For Next Time: Kitchen In The Desert

Wellness

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The Maze Trail / @etavierne

#1] Hiking [obviously ; )]: There is so much to explore in Joshua Tree National Park! I’ve done the Maze Trail, North View Trail, + Ryan Mountain. You can’t go wrong with any hike you decide to do!

#2] Methods + Ritual Spa: If I had more time in Joshua Tree, I would definitely book a spa date here.

#3] Cedar + Sage Wellness Studio: Yoga, pilates, sound baths, breath work, + wellness workshops… a CHAARG girl’s dream ; ).

#4] Integratron: I am dying to go here for a sound bath! It looks other wordly.

#5] Join A Wellness Retreat: Tons of retreats seem to be hosted in Joshua Tree like Cactus Moon Retreat Center + Desert Reset.

Things To Explore:

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The End / theendyuccavalley.com

#1] Farmer’s Market: I always love going to Farmer’s Market — Joshua Tree’s is on Saturdays! Make sure to go to the Greek stand + get the feta cheese… wow wow wow, it’s so good.

#2] Thrifting + Antique Shopping: There are quite a few fun thrift + antique stores. They are all close to each other, so they are hard to miss!

#3] Pioneertown: Pioneertown was a Hollywood film set for old western movies back in the day, + it’s so fun to see how it’s been preserved. As I mentioned above, this is where Pappy + Harriet’s is, too!

#4] Natural Wine: Check out either Wine + Rock Shop or Desierto Alto — incredible selection + some other fun treats.

To Stay

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The Joshua Tree House / @thejoshuatreehouse

#1] A Cute Airbnb: There are so many cute airbnbs in Joshua Tree — you can’t go wrong! I stayed here with Isaac + 4 friends. Great location + super cute… but only one bathroom, lol… so not sure I’d recommend it.

#2] The Joshua Tree House: I’ve been following them on instagram, + their house looks SO cute. It seems like it’s booked pretty far out on Airbnb — so

#3] 29 Palms Inn: If you are looking for a hotel with amenities — check this place out!

#1] Best time to visit [in my opinion!] is November. The sun is still quite hot [wear sunscreen! ; )], but it feels so good. Also, I recommend staying at a spot with a fireplace if you are there in the winter ; )

#2] If possible, I recommend grabbing your groceries prior to coming to Joshua Tree [we did Whole Foods in Palm Springs] — there is a tiny, cute health foods store in town [right by The Natural Sisters Cafe]… but like I said, it’s tiny!

#3] Get to the park early to avoid crowds. Also! You can’t bring dogs into a national park unfortunately, just FYI!

Have you been to Joshua Tree? Anything I missed on this guide that you love? Let me know!

The Social Dilemma: Why Social Media Isn’t Really The Problem

If you’ve seen The Social Dilemma then you might have a new found fear + anxiety surrounding social media + the evil forces at work within the tech industry. As a social media obsessed person + an advocate for all things new tech – I wasn’t exactly impressed by the movie. Instead, I found myself rolling my eyes at overly dramatic skits + manipulative representations of how technology interacts with us. Let me tell you why The Social Dilemma is hypocritical + is just as scary as the picture it paints of social media.

Before I get ahead of myself – the movie points out some incredibly valid concerns + I don’t want to completely discredit everything that was presented. We’ll cover those below, but to clear the air – I’m not a total hater. Before we get to those concerning acknowledgements though, let’s explore the bias + emotional manipulation utilized by the producers of the documentary – just so we’re all on the same page here.

A major theme throughout the documentary is being controlled + influenced by those within the tech industry, especially within the social media world. But what exactly are these manipulation tactics that these tech giants are using? If we take a trip down memory lane to high school literature classrooms, you might remember persuasive language + techniques – tactics used to persuade the audience in the direction we want them to go. These things include emotive words, tone, ethos, pathos, logos, selective examples, + the list goes on. 

In a visual example, these also include elements like lighting, music, + dialogue – much like the dark, spooky elements included in The Social Dilemma. It’s important to note that almost ALL media has a “bias” or “goal” to influence the audience in some way – even I have a goal with this blog post! The point is to push the audience in a direction that you want them to go in + this is no different for the producers of The Social Dilemma. If you have the time, try to watch The Social Dilemma again + take note of all the elements that might be influencing you to be afraid + see if you’re truly worried about what they’re saying or if it’s just the dark, ominous scenario to represent how AI works. Which, for the record, is not really like a room of three nefarious men constantly vying for your attention, happiness, + money like you’re a voodoo doll.

If you still find yourself worried about addiction + apocalypse level damage caused by social media, keep reading! 

I broke down the movie into four main parts:

#1] Addiction

#2] Opinion Bubbles

#3] Violence 

#4] Sustainable Solutions

I think we can all agree that there is, without a doubt, an element to social media that is addicting. I’m not here to deny that. I am here, however, to point out that PLENTY of things are addicting for certain individuals that may not be for others. For example: alcohol, drugs, sex, exercise + food even – possible addiction doesn’t make these things blatantly bad, it just makes them things we need to be aware of. If you believe you are addicted to your phone + social media – seek help! Try different tactics to have a healthier relationship with social media for YOU. Take some ownership + understand that what might be a bad relationship for you, might be a healthy one for someone else.

If you find yourself annoyed with others for always being on their phones + not being active participants of the conversation – ask yourself if there’s actually anything of interest happening. Personally, I am not on my phone when I’m with my friends + we are actively engaging in conversation + having a good time. If I’m with family members as they talk about something I have absolutely no interest in + they aren’t attempting to include me in the conversation, then I’m most likely going to seek out social relief on my phone with people I actually want to speak with. Social media + phones don’t remove us from situations – they give us a way to do things we’d rather be doing instead.

Opinion bubbles are when AI works to show you only content + news from people you agree with + you start to accept your opinions as the only truths because you only ever see content that confirms your beliefs. Now, the movie spins this as an evil plan to get you to have opinions the tech industry wants you to have. On the flip side – AI is showing you things that it perceives you like + would be interested in. This works great when my Instagram ads are about leggings + makeup brands instead of dentures + men’s golf clothing – but it does has a negative affect when all I see are people who agree with me. 

As a reminder – you are not a mindless robot + you are not at the mercy of others just for being exposed to information that’s presented to you. Be skeptical, recognize everything has bias, don’t accept everything you see as truth. I also encourage you to seek out + follow those who have different opinions than you – get used to listening to + trying to understand other people instead of writing them off for not believing what you believe. Most importantly – STOP PARTICIPATING IN CANCEL CULTURE!

Cancel culture is, + I mean this sincerely, absolutely horrible + not beneficial for anyone. The world is most often varying shades of gray, not black + white. It is easy to pretend like people can be put into good or bad boxes but the reality is that we all can be genuinely good while also behaving poorly in ways that can hurt others. Think about the amount of times you have personally written someone off for saying, doing, or believing something you don’t agree with. Now think about how often someone has developed a negative feeling or opinion of you for one or two interactions, when you know that, overall, you’re probably a pretty cool person. Don’t shut out people who are different from you – engage in dialogue + try to understand them. You’ll both come out being better people for it.

So what about when opinion bubbles become so aggressive that it ends in physical behaviors?

In the movie, the topic of Pizzagate is brought up as an example of what can happen when misinformation + paranoia is perpetuated by social media – noting that social media is the cause for these negative outcomes. I would like to propose that this is a normal thing that human beings have always done, with or without social media. Skeptical? Good — that’s what I want you to be! 

There’s a common belief that things have never been as bad as they are now, that technology is dividing us so much more than it has in the past + misinformation, caused by social media, is the reason people lash out in violence. Quick history check – the Civil War was a time of greater political discourse than what we have now + if we take a look at 1692 – we burned people alive because we thought they were witches. Humans do crazy things when driven with fear + paranoia, which happens regardless of what medium it’s delivered to us. It’s easy to blame the messenger when the alternative is owning up to our own monstrous potential.

On that note – can we stop being scared of social media just because it’s new + people don’t fully understand it yet? The Social Dilemma tried to rebut this by basically saying “but social media is different because it’s fast therefore it’s scary”. Look, the generation before us was worried about dating sites, the generation before them was scared of TV, + before that it was radio. I’m sure at some point in time there were people touting how the printing press would be the downfall of human civilization. Social media is just another tool, it’s just another information avenue. Human beings are the reason bad things happen through social media – your need to fit in is the reason you worry about likes, your inability to guide civil conversation is the reason you just can’t seem to get along with those from different political parties. Take a look in the mirror + reflect on how you are part of the problem before you blame the device that allows you to act on those negative behaviors.

One point that The Social Dilemma made, that I fully support, is that something needs to be done to keep tech businesses in check + hold them accountable to their actions. But how do we do that?

Well, it’s certainly not by demonizing technology + advocating that it be removed from our society. Social media isn’t going anywhere + we need to learn to live with it, not fight against it. Quite the opposite, finding people who understand technology + are proponents of the positive possibilities need to have the power + space to take meaningful actions. Electing politicians who are avid users of social media + understand the industry enough to articulate how tech industries can be checked. Fighting for education specifically targeted to children + young adults on how they can navigate the world of fake news ++ potential mental health damage. Reflecting on your own actions + relationship with technology so you can articulate your true opinions to people in power. These are all crucial to start breaking down the negative outcomes of social media + start focusing our attention on how it can improve our lives. 

Fix the problem by starting with yourself — here are 7 journal prompts to get you thinking:

#1] What is your relationship like with social media? Would you consider it mostly negative or positive? Why do you feel that way?

#2] How can you identify bias in the political media you consume? What are some red flags [emotional language, unprofessional comments about the other party, who is writing/funding the content, etc] that might come up?

#3] Who is most often on your feed? Are these people + businesses that you want more of in your life?

#4] Are you only following people that agree with you? What might it look like to follow those with different viewpoints?

#5] What’s your take on Cancel Culture? Have you ever done something that might get you *cancelled* in the public eye? What might it look like to forgive + understand those who have been cancelled?

#6] Have you ever been on your phone around friends or family when you could have been engaging with them? What made you turn towards your phone in those moments? Is this something you would like to work on in the future?

#7] What would it look like to have a healthier relationship with your phone? How can you *test out* that healthier relationship this upcoming week?

.     .     .

Pumpkin Pie Protein Bars

Can’t get enough of pumpkin this season? We’ve got you covered ; ) These pumpkin pie protein bars are all the yummy parts of baking pumpkin chocolate chip bread, wrapped into a convenient, protein packed snack. Take these on your way to class or pack as an easy post-workout snack!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup Oat Flour [blend 1 cup of oats into a fine powder, or buy from a store]
  • 1 cup Vanilla Protein Powder [we recommend this one]
  • 1/2 cup Oats
  • 1 tbsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 cup Pumpkin [canned]
  • 1/2 cup Nut or Seed Butter [Almond, Peanut, Sunflower, etc.]
  • 1/2 cup Maple Syrup [could also use agave nectar or honey]
  • 1/2 cup Non-Dairy Milk
  • 1/4 cup Dark Chocolate Chips

DIRECTIONS

#1] Preheat oven to 350 degrees + grease or line an 8×8 baking dish

#2] Combine all dry ingredients [oat flour, protein powder, oats, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, + salt] in a medium mixing bowl + mix well

#3] In a large mixing bowl, combine all wet ingredients [pumpkin, nut butter, maple syrup, + milk] + whisk together

#4] Pour dry ingredients into bowl with wet ingredients + mix well until everything is incorporated

#5] Fold in chocolate chips

#6] Fill plan with batter + bake for 30-35 minutes until batter is settled [toothpick will not come out clean with this recipe]

#7] Allow to cool + put into bars!

More Like This

Peanut Butter Coconut Energy Bars
Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats
PB Banana Cluster Cookies

10 Quotes For New Beginnings This Fall

Fall is here! We love the start of a new season because it is the perfect time to pause, reflect + set new intentions. Here are some of our favorite quotes to help inspire your *new beginning* this season:

#1] “You can’t go back + change the ending, but you can start where you are + change the ending.” C.S. Lewis

#2] “How you choose to show up magnetizes what shows up for you.” The Universe

#3] “You don’t find the happy life. You make it.” Camilla Kimball

#4] “Just for the record, darling, not all positive change feels positive in the beginning.” S.C. Lourie

#5] “Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy.” Robert Tew

#6] “Where you movin’?” I said, “On to better things.” Drake

#7] “Trust yourself enough to let go, shift, + uproot. Give yourself permission to shed who you used to be. You are allowed to start over + find new ways to bloom into your best self.” Alex Elle

#8] “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” David Bowie

#9] “All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today.” Indian Proverb

#10] “For what it’s worth: It’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, + if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

AAAND… our absolute favorite:

#Bonus] “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

What quote is inspiring your new beginning? Share with us by commenting below or tagging us on insta @CHAARG.

A Week Of Meals From Trader Joe’s

Is meal prepping not for you? Or maybe it is, but you’re looking for a little something different to switch up your usual meals. We absolutely love Trader Joe’s for it’s good deals + delicious food : ). Here is an example of how you can buy a week’s worth of dinners from one trip to Trader Joe’s [plus some left overs for easy lunches on the go!]:

Here’s what you’ll need:


MEAL #1: SWEET POTATO GNOCCHI + GREENS

Place your desired amount of Sweet Potato Gnocchi + Green Vegetable Foursome in a skillet with oil. Cook on medium heat until the gnocchi are soft + the vegetables are heated. Yes, it’s that simple!

MEAL #2: COWBOY SALAD

In an oiled skillet, cook the Quinoa Cowboy Veggie Burger as instructed on the box. When it is time to flip it, add about half a cup of the Fire Roasted Bell Peppers + Onions to the skillet. Once they’re all cooked, put them on a plate of spinach with half an avocado + Green Goddess Dressing.

MEAL #3: POWER PASTA

Cook the Brown Rice + Fusilli Pasta as instructed on the package. Once it’s done, heat up about half a cup of the Melodious Blend in the microwave [about 1 minute, stirring halfway through]. Add the pasta + lentil mix to a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, salt + pepper to taste, + some shaved Parmesan, Romano ++ Asiago Cheese Blend on top : )

MEAL #4: CREAMY TOMATO SOUP + AVOCADO TOAST

Warm up the soup as directed on the box. While it is heating up, toast a Whole Wheat British Muffin. Mash up half an avocado to smear on top + add your desired seasoning [we love salt + pepper or Everything But the Bagel Seasoning!]

MEAL #5: EGGS + VEGGIES

In an oiled skillet on medium heat, add cup of the Fire Roasted Bell Peppers + Onions. Once the peppers + onions have defrosted, add a handful of chopped spinach ++ cook until it starts to wilt. Next add 2-3 eggs to make a scramble or omelette. Just before the eggs are done add a pinch of the shaved cheese blend. You can also toast a Whole Wheat British Muffin for a side or turn your dish into an egg sandwich!

MEAL #6: GREEN GODDESS PASTA BOWL

Cook Brown Rice + Fusilli Pasta as directed on the package. In an oiled skillet or the microwave, heat up about a cup of the Green Vegetable Foursome. Once both are cooked, combine the pasta + veggies in a bowl, mix in your desired about of Green Goddess Dressing ++ top with a sprinkle of shaved cheese.

MEAL #7: CHICKEN SAUSAGE + VEGGIE BOWL

Drizzle olive oil in a skillet + set to medium heat. Add slices of an Italian Style Chicken Sausage + a cup or the Green Vegetable Foursome. Add salt + pepper ++ then cook until they start to brown. Once in a bowl, sprinkle some shaved cheese on top. We also recommend a side of toast or crackers : )