How I came to love chia seeds

In the midst of an experiment to see how certain foods effect my health, I decided to eliminate gluten-rich foods (that's wheat, including durum, graham, kamut, semolina, and spelt, plus rye, barley and triticale) for 90 days. Today is day 52.

Living without gluten breads, pastas, and baked goods hasn't been difficult, in fact, it's much easier than I expected. Being more conscious of where gluten might show up unexpectedly requires a little more thought but not enough to be bothersome. Mainly, i've just steered clear of anything that might be breaded, dusted or mixed with flour, and decided not to indulge any of the numerous gluten-free breads on the market.

There's something about elimination that begs of new discoveries, and so this month began my exploration of a food I've noticed from afar for quite a while - chia seeds. Other than adding them to an occasional smoothie, I hadn't really thought much, in the past, about what else could be done with these teeny tiny seeds. 

Chia seeds come in two varieties - dark & light

Chia seeds come in two varieties - dark & light

My research led to a week-long chia seed obsession. I experimented with adding chia seeds to smoothies and soups and stir-fry and oatmeal, making fruity chia seed puddings, sprinkling over salads, and even mixing the seeds with water to see if they worked as a vegan egg substitute in baking (they do!). What I discovered is that I LOVE CHIA SEEDS. With barely a flavor of their own, they hide/mix well in just about everything. It's a bonus that they are easy, delicious, and each little seed is loaded with amazing stuff (vitamins, minerals, omega-3s, soluble and insoluble fiber, complete protein, calcium, magnesium, antioxidants, ...) that's good for you. So chia seed has become a staple in the Qi To Wellness kitchen!

Chia seed pudding topped with maple syrup & berries

Up next on the gluten-free (GF) journey:

  • My adventures with Polenta! 

In the meantime, I'm enjoying life without gluten and it feels great! Do you have a gluten-free story or recipe to share? Please do so in the comments section below or email me. I love learning from YOU!

Lead with your heart and the food will follow

"Excuse me, I'm curious ... how you cook that?"

The question, from another random shopper at my local produce market, was referring to the plantains (pronounced plan-tins) I was picking over. It's become quite commonplace now that nearly every time I am out scouting for just-the-right plantains, someone inquires about how to cook and/or eat them. So I was actually anticipating her next question ...

"Do the plan-tains taste like bananas?"

The questions began after relocating from New York to the Pacific Northwest, a beautiful part of the country whose people have a genuine passion for food and a natural sense of curiosity. I was buying plantains at a local grocery chain when the cashier asked about the 'funny bananas' as she rang them up from my basket. A few weeks later, a produce stocker began an inquiry citing a need to know what to tell shoppers who asked him about the 'exotic bananas' he hasn't tried yet. While I can recall my favorite plantain-encounters-of-the-first-kind, I've lost count of the number of times I've actually been approached by strangers wanting to know more. 

After all these years, I'm still quite fond of the patacones (twice fried plantains) eaten at childhood family gatherings, as well as the fried platanos consumed daily with black beans and rice in my young adult years. So it's interesting that this big, thick banana is still such a mystery to so many. 

Like the many conversations before it, today's particular encounter ended with a brief explanation of the various types of bananas, methods of cooking in different cultures, tips on how to pick them, followed by a quick recipe, the encouragement to enjoy them, and my card to call with questions. 

This afternoon, she called saying ...

"I spoke to a few friends, and we're wondering if you would do a class on buying and preparing foods we're unfamiliar with?"

Ahhh ... the plantain experience epitomizes my love affair with food. For me, eating it and sharing it are one in the same. Both satisfy from the inside. 

What's your heart connection with food?

Keeping bugs away naturally

Gardening? Camping? Playing? Spending time outside? Traveling to or through a mosquito-infested region? Then you are likely trying to avoid getting bit by any number of menacing mosquitoes this year.

Not only are mosquito bites annoying and painful but they can be a source of transmitting serious diseases like Lyme disease or West Nile Virus. So it’s important to protect yourself and your children from bites when possible.

Unfortunately, most bug repellents on the market contain DEET, a chemical with known toxic side effects. Research shows that certain essential oils like citronella, lemongrass, tea tree oil, and eucalyptus, are highly nontoxic and effective alternatives to DEET. Although natural remedies may require more frequent application, they are safer and effective, especially for children and the elderly. 

Choose a safe, effective, nontoxic  bug repellent

dōTERRA’s TerraShield Repellent Blend™ is one such formula. A proprietary blend of Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade (CPTG) essential oils including lemon eucalyptus, citronella, lemongrass and 12 other balanced oils blended in a base of 100% pure fractionated coconut oil, TerraShield can be used safely by the entire family, and reapplied every 4-6 hours for maximum protection without worry of harmful side effects or toxicity.

Users report the following uses for TerraShield Repellent Blend™

"A few drops mixed with water and sprayed on windowsills, prevents bugs from getting into the house."

"A great rub for the inside of horses ears."

"Spray around kitchen vegetables and fruits to prevent fruit flies."

"25 drops in a spray bottle of water with a drop of dish soap, sprayed on the counter will repel ants."

"Put a few drops in the water used for plants and flowers will eliminate bugs and flies."

"Add to homemade natural lotion and apply to skin."

"Apply to insect bite sites to reduce swelling and redness."


Order dōTERRA’s all-natural, concentrated TerraShield Repellent Blend™ today and discover all the ways it heals and protects you or learn more about the benefits of Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils!

For more information on mosquitoes, read Mosquitoes: Natural Bug Repellents and Bite Remedies.

[Full Disclosure: Aqiylah Collins is a dōTERRA Wellness Advocate]


I'm just SO busy all the time! I've got a million things to do.

There just don't seem to be enough hours in the day.

I feel like life is passing me by and there's still so much I want to do.

I cannot possibly fit one more thing into my busy schedule.

I'm just trying to hold it all together right now.

Sound familiar? Have these words crossed your lips?

Time is elusive. 'Living in the moment' has been touted as a means of capturing time by fully being present and connected to your life's activities as opposed to just going through the motions meaninglessly.

And it's true. Time spent being present to the warmth of the summer sun, listening to the sounds of early morning bird tweets and afternoon lawnmowers, people watching, taking in the scent of flowers and the sacred earth allows one to connect fully and then store vivid experiences that I can tap into during the sunless, damp northwest winters and feed the soul.

In the 90s a lot of credence was given to finding meaning in the mundane and menial. Washing dishes, for example, takes on whole new meaning when one simply appreciates the experience of the relatively benign act. Such perspective instills a feeling of accomplishment and reverence for necessity. But mostly it allows us to just be, even if for a brief moment.

So, how much time do you give yourself each day? I'm not talking about time spent in the bathroom, grooming, eating. I'm referring to time being present in your life, discovering your path. Now if you're wondering how to harness time to make better use of each day or how to make time if you're already strapped for time, ask yourself "Am I willing to dedicate ten minutes each day to myself ... just me?"

If your answer is YES, let's talk about how to make those ten minutes powerful!

Gardening for the soul

Years ago, a friend gave me some “sacred earth” soil, her special compost blend that she prayed over every morning at daybreak. I filled two makeshift garden beds and got busy. I managed to plant and harvest a beautiful garden full of tomatoes, zucchini, strawberries, and mint.

What I didn’t realize was the therapeutic effect gardening would have on me. Connecting daily with the earth’s textures and aromas, the warmth of the sun, planting tiny life-giving seeds, the wonder of the work done by worms and other insects, the sound of the water softening the dry dirt, hoping for progress, watching life spring forth in amazement, and harvesting the savory fruits still warm from the sun for a quick meal was the ultimate holistic experience.

There was something magical about it all and as each workday neared an end, I found myself longing to be in the garden tending to my ‘babies’. One of my fondest memories of that summer was sharing that sacred space with my grandson, Desmond, who was 2 at the time. He was so enamored with the cherry tomatoes and would pluck the juicy ripe red orbs off the vine and stuff his mouth. How I wish I had a photo of that!

Other than childbirth, no other experience has proved as satisfying to the soul. It’s been too long since then. And recent years have been filled with much loss (of loved ones, time, revenue…) and so it is time to be reminded, indeed to embrace the simple abundant blessings within our reach. And I cannot think of a better vehicle than gardening.

I read a bit about square foot gardening and sheet mulch, even took a free organic gardening class at a local holistic college. But really, the only way to learn is to dig in, literally! If you’ve been thinking about it, I encourage you to do it. Gardening is sustainable, green, cost effective, therapeutic, heart-healthy and fun! So far this year, I’ve planted strawberries, tomatoes, snap peas, cabbage, beets, lettuce, and a variety of herbs in two 4×8 raised beds in my backyard. You can follow my organic gardening journal by connecting with me on Facebook or Twitter and share how your garden is coming along.