Blueberry and Banana-nut Muffins (vegan & gf)

Who doesn’t love banana muffins? Whether it’s with blueberries, strawberries, walnuts or almonds – we can’t deny that it tastes UH-mazing.

This recipe is super easy and quick (it takes about 10 minutes to prep and 40 minutes to cook).

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Ingredients:

(dry ingredients) 

  • 1 cup of almond flour
  • 1/4 cup of coconut flour (or 1/4 cup of almond flour – it’s your choice)
  • 3 tablespoons of coconut sugar (this makes it free of refined sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder

(wet ingredients) 

  • 2 bananas (the riper the bananas, the better (and sweeter) the muffins will be)
  • 2 flax eggs (you can make this with 5 tablespoons of water and 2 tablespoons of flaxseed meal)
  • 3 tablespoons of organic (and unsweetened) applesauce ~ this is not necessary, but it tastes better with applesauce
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil (melted and cooled) ~ you can substitute this with more applesauce or substitute the applesauce with more coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons of unsweetened almond milk (plain or vanilla)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

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Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F and prep the muffin pan (or you can just use a regular loaf pan ~ add a drop of tahini here and spread across the entire pan instead of using the nonstick spray)
  • Prep the flax eggs and set aside for about 5-7 minutes
  • Combine the wet ingredients
  • Combine the dry ingredients
  • Combine the wet and dry ingredients and stir the batter really well
  • Add in the walnuts, blueberries, or whatever you’d like
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes and let cool for 10 minutes
  • DEVOUR ♥

 

♥ FH 

xoxo 

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HIV testing: mandatory or no?

SO, as you all know, I enjoy writing about controversial issues in medicine. A debatable topic in medicine is whether HIV testing should be mandatory or optional when it comes to pregnant women. 

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In a book I recently read, Patient as victim and vector: ethics and infectious disease, the authors outline varying reasons for and against mandatory HIV testing. Their argument for mandatory HIV testing is solely based on the success rates of such implementations. They noted that with HIV testing and treatment in the USA, the probability of a woman transmitting her HIV vertically dropped from one-third to nearly zero. Looking at other locations such as Sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly 700,000 children acquire HIV vertically, testing and treatment of HIV would save thousands of lives and help start a prevention campaign. With the use of one single dose of AZT, a drug used to treat HIV, on an HIV-positive pregnant woman and subsequent doses on the newborn baby, studies have shown that HIV acquisition of infection in the newborn was reduced from 25% to 8%. Specifically, for women who were being tested for the first time while in labor, and treated with the anti-ARV therapy, the probability of maternal-to-child transfer of HIV was reduced to under 3%. The rapid testing technology that we have acquired with the latest research and technology allows for immediate preventative treatment for the child, if the mother tests positive for HIV. Such information supports the ideology on mandatory HIV testing. Ethically speaking, the fetuses have a right to be protected from a deadly infection and their health should not be held in the hands of a woman who is refusing to be tested for HIV whether it be for social, personal or economic reasons.

Testing the woman would be considering her a vector, however treating her would be considering her a victim. This is important to keep in perspective when ethically looking to mandate a mandatory HIV-testing policy. We cannot neglect that though the mother is a vector, she is also a victim. Patient activists, according to the authors, argued that such mandatory testing would be violating the woman’s autonomy and rights to her own privacy. To bioethicists, the solution to this would be to allow for voluntary approaches to testing. In a perfect world where everyone was educated with the risks of HIV, AIDS and data on transmission, this would work because then women would opt for getting tested – based on their knowledge of the situation. However, we live in a world where although there are many privileged first-world countries, there are also many third-world countries that do not provide their populations with such education. And, unfortunately, these third-world countries are the locations where HIV is most prominent because of a lack of detection and treatment. Nonetheless, we must also take note to what would take place if a mother tested HIV-positive during labor and the country that she lived in was unable to provide adequate HIV therapy. According to the authors, such a situation would lead to “troubling results.” If a woman tested HIV positive and lived in a community that has very conservative and strict cultural values, she would potentially have to live in an uncomfortable and possibly dangerous environment where those that’re around her might respond negatively to the situation (e.g. her husband might abuse or abandon her, the villagers might avoid any possible contact with her because of lack of education on how the disease is spread, etc.).

As an aspiring medical provider, I am a strong advocator for mandatory HIV testing – especially if I were in a country where HIV rates are extremely prevalent and on-the-rise. Many people can go years asymptomatic with HIV and a pregnant woman could have the disease without actually knowing it. This puts her life and her baby’s life at risk. If I had the ability to provide treatment and decrease the risks that her and her child will have HIV, then why would I not be supportive of mandatory HIV testing? To explain HIV testing and its advantages to a woman who is in labor is not ideal; she is not going to be in a state of mind with clear thoughts on what to do. Though she might accept, she might refuse and that would be putting the child at a very dangerous health-risk.

To rightfully and ethically make a decision about what would be done in such a situation, one must look at the end possibilities of each option. If we were to instantaneously test the mother that is in labor, we would know whether she has HIV or not. If she does, we would be able to immediately treat her and later her baby when delivered. If we were to let the mother choose to not get tested, then we would be risking a chance of her having HIV and us not knowing. This can put the baby’s life at risk later on in life and the baby could also live asymptomatic and not know that he/she has HIV. To not test the woman for HIV would be unethical. We have the means of helping her and her child; therefore, if we do not do so then we are ethically not providing the best care possible. Of course, there is a possibility of her being HIV-negative, but why would we risk that? Why would we risk her baby’s health and her own health because she does not want to complete one simple test, possibly because of lack of knowledge and education?

It would be one thing if the testing and treatment that we have wasn’t advanced and was still unreliable, but that is not the case. We live in a time where medicine and technology is better than it has ever been. We have more than one way of checking and double-checking if the HIV is positive. When a student takes an oath in the field of medicine, they swear to provide the patient(s) with all they can and to do their very best to treat them. Not testing a patient that comes into my clinic in labor would be a way of me denying them the best care possible – and as a medical provider, that is something I cannot and will not do. 

Often times, it’s hard to agree on a happy medium when it comes to controversial topics. You may agree with my thoughts in these IOPs, but you also might totally disagree – and that is a-OKAY. These topics are DEBATABLE and controversial for a reason.  I’d love to hear from you all, so reach out! 🙂

♥ FH 

xoxo

Mandarin and apple fusion salad

A go-to salad for me that is super easy to make and tastes delicious:

the mandarin and apple fusion salad

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 Ingredients (all organic, of course):

  • Red kale
  • Green kale
  • 5 mandarin pieces
  • 6 thin red-apple slices
  • 5 walnuts
  • 2 teaspoons of chia seeds
  • 2 teaspoons of hemp seeds
  • 2 teaspoons of flax seeds
  • ½ teaspoon of pumpkin seeds
  • 3 almonds
  • 1 dollop of beetroot hummus *recipe on blog*

Dressing

  • 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
  • A dash of Italian herbs
  • A dash of Arabic zaatar (or oregano in English)

 

Mix together the ingredients and dressing. DEVOUR.

In the picture, I have lentils & turmeric crackers to go along with the salad and hummus.

*RW Garcia 3 seed Lentil with Turmeric crackers – organic and vegan

I also have a glass of water with chia seeds (soaked for at least 45 minutes) and a lemon slice. 

♥ FH

xoxo

Another day, another yummy salad

Who says salads have to be boring?

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One of my favorite recipes, what I call the: pineapple, strawberry and grapefruit power salad, is absolutely divine AND healthy. 

 Ingredients (all organic, of course):

  • Red kale
  • Green kale
  • 3 strawberries
  • 2 small pineapple slices
  • 2 pieces of grapefruit
  • 4 walnuts
  • 2 teaspoons of chia seeds
  • 2 teaspoons of hemp seeds
  • 2 teaspoons of flax seeds
  • 1 dollop of beetroot hummus *recipe on blog*

Dressing

  • 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
  • A dash of Italian herbs
  • A dash of Arabic zaatar (or oregano in English)

 

Mix together ingredients & dressing together, and boom: healthy, flavorful & de-li-ci-ous.

In the picture above, I added sweet potato crackers and lentils & turmeric crackers to my salad. 

*RW Garcia 3 seed Lentil with Turmeric crackers (my absolute FAVORITE) – and, they’re organic and vegan

* RW Garcia 3 Seed Sweet Potato Crackers (organic, vegan and delicious)

 

♥ FH

Zucchini brownies (vegan and non-vegan recipe)

For many weeks now, I have been trying to find that ‘perfect’ recipe for healthy brownies. I personally made them vegan (meaning there was no dairy in my recipe). However, they can still be healthy and not be vegan.

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Non-vegan recipe

  • 1 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup grated zucchini (from 1 medium zucchini)
  • 1/2 cup of organic un-bleached healthy flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3 tbsp. of unsweetened almond milk

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In a small saucepan over low heat, melt 1 cup chocolate chips (you could add butter here, but that would defeat the ‘healthy’ purpose of this recipe)
    • You could also just microwave the chocolate chips (but again, not so healthy)
  • Remove saucepan from heat and stir in sugar, eggs and vanilla. Add the grated zucchini.
  • In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Then, add the wet ingredients and mix everything up.
    • Here, I added a little bit of almond milk (~3 tablespoons) – this makes them really moist
  • Pour mixture into a parchment-lined, 8-x-8″ baking pan (you could also grease the pan, but again – why add that when you could use parchment paper)
  • Bake for about 25 minutes & let cool for 1 hour.
  • Bake until moist crumbs cling to toothpick, about 25 minutes. Let cool 1 hour.

Now, the dilemma: frosting or no frosting?

the brownies taste fantastic without frosting, but some people like a little extra sweetness

 To make the frosting:

  • In a little saucepan, heat milk over low heat to form bubbles.
  • Add 3/4 cup chocolate chips, to a separate bowl and pour over milk
  • Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes and then whisk until completely melted and no
  • Pour ganache over brownies and spread with a spatula
  • Refrigerate until firm.
  • Slice using floss or a string (to create even pieces).

Vegan recipe

  • 1 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips (no dairy)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 medium sized banana (instead of the eggs)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup grated zucchini (from 1 medium zucchini)
  • 1/2 cup of organic un-bleached healthy flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3 tbsp. of unsweetened almond milk

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In a small saucepan over low heat, melt 1 cup chocolate chips
    • You could also just microwave the chocolate chips (but again, not so healthy)
  • Remove saucepan from heat and stir in sugar, mushed banana and vanilla. Add the grated zucchini.
  • In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Then, add the wet ingredients and mix everything up.
    • Here, I added a little bit of almond milk (~3 tablespoons) – this makes them really moist
  • Pour mixture into a parchment-lined, 8-x-8″ baking pan (you could also grease the pan, but again – why add that when you could use parchment paper)
  • Bake for about 25 minutes & let cool for 1 hour.
  • Bake until moist crumbs cling to toothpick, about 25 minutes. Let cool 1 hour.

Now, the dilemma: frosting or no frosting?

the brownies taste fantastic without frosting, but some people like a little extra sweetness

 To make the frosting:

  • In a little saucepan, heat almond milk over low heat to form bubbles.
  • Add 3/4 cup chocolate chips, to a separate bowl and pour over almond milk
  • Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes and then whisk until completely melted and no
  • Pour ganache over brownies and spread with a spatula
  • Refrigerate until firm.
  • Slice using floss or a string (to create even pieces).

US Referrals Intern

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Baby Eve, from St. Lucia, post- bilateral cleft palate surgery ❤

In September of 2017, I had the opportunity to start an internship at one of the greatest organizations that I have ever had the honor of being a part of. World Pediatric Project, a nonprofit organization, one that I like to describe as a family, strives to heal and care for children in critical health conditions in developing countries in Central America and the Caribbean. Over the course of my internship, I spent time with families from Guatemala, Belize and various islands in the Caribbean. As a US Referrals Program Intern, I was able to connect with families and build strong relationships with people from different cultures and backgrounds.

Continue reading

Tuberculosis: policies to contain MDR-TB

Tuberculosis, one of the deadliest diseases in human history, is a leading cause of death worldwide. The cause of tuberculosis is infection with the rod-shaped bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB). This obligate aerobe dates back to 4000 BC in Egypt, though it wasn’t until the 17th century where epidemics of TB became a serious problem. Currently, it remains a problem in both developing and developed countries. Transmission of this disease is carried in airborne particles and those that are sick with TB are highly contagious. This disease is treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics, though a blessing for bacterial infections, are also a curse because of the so-called antibiotic resistant bacteria; an issue that is on the rise with TB.

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Antibiotic resistance: are we running out treatments?

Antibiotics, a blessing that could lead to a curse? In 1941, an antibiotic, penicillin, was used for the first time. This discovery was a blessing and saved millions of lives. However, like anything, with excessive use, antibiotics have grown to become a curse; that curse being the evolved antibiotic resistant bacteria. For many years, antibiotics were successful in treating bacterial infections. In today’s world, we are starting to see a plethora of bacteria that are resistant to the antibiotics commonly used as treatment for a number of bacterial diseases, some even deadly.

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Davis Project for Peace, Lebanon 2017

Peace. Thankfully, a word that I can imagine and relate to. Sadly, it is also a word that cannot be experienced or imagined for everyone in the world. In fact, the exact antonym of this word is the situation that many people in this world live in. I define peace as a state of mind in which we, from within, are free from hatred, troubles, anger, hurting, starvation and prejudice. Once we are at peace from within, we can radiate peace to the outside world. If each person on this planet is able to radiate the ‘peace’ that they have created within themselves, then, as a human race, we can form a utopia. Peace is where you can walk down the streets of Beirut, Lebanon and not find a little girl selling water bottles at 1 am for money. Peace is where you can walk out of your house and not fear that there is prejudice against you whether you are an Arab, a refugee, an African-American or a foreigner in a foreign country. The word ‘peace’ cannot be defined by a simple phrase. It is word in which you define by the exact image that comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘peace.

During the fall semester of my junior year at R-MC, I submitted a project proposal to the Davis Project for Peace to complete in the mountains of Lebanon with the overall goal to help ‘spread peace’ and ‘Alleviate the refugee crisis in Lebanon’ (the title of my proposal). A couple of months later, I received notice that my project proposal was selected and would be funded to complete in Lebanon. Overwhelmed with joy, I was excited to get started with something I had been longing to do.

Just so that you are familiar with the Davis Project for Peace, here is some information about their organization. It started in 2007 by Mrs. Kathryn W. Davis who was a lifelong philanthropist and internationalist. Mrs. Davis passed away in 2013 but her legacy still lives on. The Davis Project for Peace is now run by Mrs. Davis’ daughter and funds the Davis United World College Scholars Project that involves more than 90 American universities and colleges. Every year, a student from each these affiliated universities and colleges is chosen and fully funded to complete their proposed project.

The goal of this project was to provide immediate medical and hygienic care to refugee children in the mountains of Lebanon. This service was used to highlight the plight of the large refugee population and to raise awareness of the situation both in Lebanon and back at Randolph-Macon College.

Over the course of five days and in two different locations (Aley and Kfarselwan – both of which I get the honor of calling my hometowns), pro-bono pediatric medical treatment along with free medications were provided to not only the refugees in these areas but also to the vulnerable Lebanese citizens.

I would sometimes get questioned as to why I was putting so much time and energy in a project that “wouldn’t change anything” in the world. If we all just sit around and watch the world as it is, nothing is ever going to change. Though I am only one person, I had honor and absolute privilege of helping out families that desperately needed their children to be seen by a medical professional.

At times, I would sit and think to myself about how much of an impact am I really making. Questions like the one I described above would really get to me. But, then I remember that as a humanitarian, there is but so much I can do. Not only did the refugees and Lebanese themselves benefit from this project, but I also believe that the people of both Aley and Kfarselwan benefitted, as well. I was trying to raise awareness at the issues and situations that were going on in not only our beloved country, but also in the entire world. I had the privilege of watching the worried faces of these unprivileged people quickly change to faces of relief when they realized they were receiving free medications along with the free medical care.

Towards the end of my project, though constantly struggling internally that as a human I am not doing as much as I can to help the refugees out, I realized that this project was quite sustainable. Along with the medications that the children received alleviating their symptoms for the visit, they also received multivitamins and pain-relieving medications like Children’s Tylenol or Panadol. Potentially, these can last them for much longer than three months. Such a thought relieves my heart just a bit.

 

 

With hope of spreading peace and love throughout the world, I want to inspire others to make a difference. If we could start by everyone doing just one act of kindness, we would make progress; think of it like the ripple effect. As defined by Wikipedia (though not the best source for information), the “ripple effect is a situation in which, like ripples expanding across the water when an object is dropped into it, an effect from an initial state can be followed outwards incrementally.” 

Remember, one simple action can cause a chain reaction. Much love, people.

♥ FH

xoxo

 

P.S. To protect the privacy of the patients and their families, no photos taken will be posted here. I got permission from the mother of the baby, in the first photo with me, to post on social media. 

Porto and Lisbon, Portugal 2017

If said that my trip to Portugal was a trip of a lifetime, would you believe me? I was blessed to be able to travel to Portugal with two of my best friends from Sicily, Maria and Enrica. Both of which I met during my semester abroad in Almeria, Spain.

We spent four days in Portugal. Two days in Lisbon and two days in Porto. Though some say they enjoy Porto more than Lisbon, I beg to differ. The sites are absolutely exquisite in Porto and the wine is exotically delicious, but Lisbon has a scene to it that is just remarkable.

Lisbon – the capital and largest city of Portugal – is the oldest city in Western Europe and one of the oldest cities in the world. Rich in architecture, it is filled with unique structures and buildings. From the Cristo Rei Statue, the electric trams, the 25 de Abril Bridge, Alfama to the Bairro Alto, Lisbon was fantastic.

The photos below were all taken in Lisbon (or Lisboa, as the Portuguese say).

 

Below are the photos from Porto – the famous coastal city in northwest Portugal – most known for its port wine production.

 

When I started this blog, I promised to give my absolute honest opinion of the places I went to and the food that I tried. Portugal is famous for a meal called the “Francesiña” or “Francesinha.” This is a traditional meal that is made with bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça, sausage, steak/roast meat and covered with melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce; it usually comes with fries (those were delicious – this is how you know I grew up in America…lol). With the expectation of a delicious sandwich, I have to say that it was definitely not as great as I expected it to be (no offense to anyone from Portugal or anyone that enjoys eating it). However, my advice to you is, to try it. Now that I have scratched it off of my bucket list, I will not be going for seconds.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my trip to Portugal and that you are inspired to travel. I cannot emphasize that enough. When people say that ‘traveling is good for the soul,’ they are not lying. While traveling, you not only learn more about a different culture, but you learn more about yourself. You get to build memories and share experiences whether its with friends and family you are traveling with or whether its the backpackers that you meet at the hostel you’re staying in. TRAVEL, TRAVEL, TRAVEL. Have I said it enough? I do understand that traveling can be costly, however by saving some money every week and traveling smart, I can guarantee you will cut the normal ‘traveling costs’ in half.

Feel free to get in contact with me whether it be about Portugal, Spain, medicine, studying abroad, traveling suggestions, or anything else. I would love to hear from you. Lastly, I hope whoever is reading this post is going to have a great day or evening, wherever you are in the world. Sending much love your way!

♥ FH

xoxo