Winter Herb Aromatherapy Shower Tablets

IMG_8823.JPG

These days, when the weather brings its chill, I love to stay indoors and make things out of really good ingredients, to treat the body well. It’s a #hygge thing for sure, cozy and joyful. It’s also coming up to the holidays so by brain is always churning, looking for things to make as gifts. As a simple person, I know that gifts can add up and especially if they’re unwanted or re-gifted again (I mean, how many scarves do we really need?), I want to make sure I give something that’s purposeful and possibly after used, there’s nothing to “store" around. These are wonderful in that way. They’re healthy for the environments since they’re non-toxic, they smell delicious, are easy to make, are a meaningful hand-made gift, and leave no residue behind of boxes, or things they have to deal with after they’re used. Win~win~win~win…..

IMG_8825.JPG

Of course, it’s a given that you want to use really high quality oils (which is why I use Young Living). After all, if you’re chasing the non-toxic life, you may as well buy non-toxic oils, right? That makes sense. But it helps to say it out loud, to remind ourselves that a lot of the oils bought out there are in fact not so non-toxic. It’s a sad situation for sure.

That said, the recipe is pretty simple….with a few adjustments from my own experience, detailed in the description below. Enjoy the process and enjoy the aromatherapy experience after!

Aromatherapy Shower Tablets: makes about 12 mini hearts

1 cup baking soda

1 tablespoon arrowroot flour

⅓ cup water

2 drops essential oils (I like Raven and Juniper) 

You’ll need a silicone mold, sort of like this one

Combine the baking soda and arrowroot, making sure there aren’t any lumps. Add in the water and make a thick paste. If it’s difficult to stir, which it often is, you can add a tsp of water or two to make it easier. Pour into a silicone mold, and let sit overnight. I’ve found that it helps to add an extra 8 hours to that as well (aim for about 1 and 1/2 days or so) I’ve also found that some water settles on the top, almost an hour after you’ve set them: if that’s the case, let it pour off gently as you tip the mold towards the side, making sure none of the actual white paste gets out. After they set, add in your essential oils to the top of them, two drops to each tablet (use the blend I suggested above or make your own!).

You can also try: Rosemary & Lemon, Peppermint & Lavender, Eucalyptus and Peppermint, Geranium and Lavender, etc.

IMG_8824.JPG

To use: Drop one or two tablets in your tub or shower away from the stream of water. Sprinkle a bit of water on the tablet to activate it. Breathe in the aromatherapy. Store in a cool, dry place. Use within the week, or store in an air-tight container and use within 6 months. You can also make this into a powder by eliminating the water: combing ingredients together, pour into a lidded glass jar, and sprinkle in the shower.

*Raven is a Young Living Blend that contains Ravintsara, peppermint, eucalyptus, lemon, and wintergreen.
Recipe adapted from Jules Aron’s Fresh And Pure book.

Cinnamon & Pumpkin Seed Baked Pears

IMG_8826.JPG

It’s not uncommon to want sweet things during the colder weather ~ puddings, baked goods, breads, etc. But the flour/sugar equation isn’t always the best for us. I was hoping to remedy the sweet with something healthy, and for certain, these baked pears fit the bill. They’re a synch to make, and they’re beyond delicious and a great way to appease that sweet tooth without the flour (and dessert coma) afterwards. Plus I love that just with a few simple ingredients, these pears get transformed into a luxurious dessert you can even offer to guests, for a light post-meal sweetness.

Serves 2-4

Two pears (Bosc preferred but green are also fine)

1/2 small lemon, juiced

cinnamon

4 tsp pumpkin seeds

coconut nectar

Slice pears lengthwise in half. Cut a small slit on the round outside belly of the pears so they can sit flat in the casserole dish. Scoop out the seeds using a melon baller or a spoon. Place the pears in the casserole dish, and squeeze the lemon over them. Add 1 tsp pumpkin seeds to each middle of the pear, sprinkle with cinnamon, and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. When they are done, drizzle a little coconut nectar on the top and serve. These go great with some vanilla coconut yoghurt, or your favorite dairy-free vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

IMG_8827.JPG


Calendula and Oat Botanical Soap

IMG_8749.JPG

At our most recent Make & Take, we used botanicals such as calendula and essential oils to create our own spa-experience DIY products. One of them was this amazing Calendula and Oat Soap. It’s super easy to make, hydrating and moisturizing the skin, and great for any part of your body, from face to toes. Gentle enough for most skin, and fun to make to give away as gifts, too! I much prefer making my own gifts to give away, vs. buying them, and these are especially purposeful since we love our shower and bath time!

I found that Calendula is not only amazing for the skin but also pretty to look at, but in a pinch you can feel free to use rose petals too. The oat is gluten free and acts as a nice exfoliant for the skin. All in all, a wonderful afternoon activity that will leave you with enough soap to last you for months!

Grapeseed oil or a neutral oil for silicone molds

Silicone molds (these would work)

16oz shaved/grated glycerin soap base (I got mine here)

¼  each organic calendula petals/flowers and rolled oats

8 drops Elemi Essential Oil

4 drops Palmarosa essential Oil

Grease your silicone molds with the oil. Grate your soap (or you can cut them super fine too, if you’re faster with a knife) and pour in heat-safe bowl, over a pan of simmering water (or double boiler, which is easier). Let the soap melt, and remove the heat. Add in the essential oils, and stir to prevent bubbles from forming. Arrange your herbs in the bottom of the molds. For these, I put a pinch of Calendula on the bottom of one, and a pinch of rolled oats in another) and pour the soap over them. Allow to cool and set for a few hours. Keep in a cool, dry place. For maximum freshness, use within 6 months. Enjoy!

This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe found in the book, Fresh And Pure, by Jules Aron.



Coconut Cream of Butternut Soup

Many days I sit and try to think of unique combinations of foods that together would spark something new and unique, and then real life sets in...the life where we all have appointments, and to do lists, and we're just plain hungry. It would be nice to say I have all the time in the world to experiment in the kitchen, but I venture to guess that I'm someone very much like you: a working person, mom, wife, someone who tries to make time to exercise, clean the house and just get stuff done on a day-by-day basis. Showering would be nice. A bath would be even better. But just "get things done and enjoy life" mode....Enter simplicity. I simply can't make things complicated any more, and I'm not apologizing for it. Especially when there's THIS soup to be had.

I made this soup by accident, having found coconut cream (thick and solid) rather than coconut milk (I just didn't read the can well enough) at Trader Joe's. I opened up the can and inside was this glorious white coconut cream just screaming back at me with love and delight, saying, "hello best friend, nice to find you here". Little did I know that the cream over the milk would make this soup incredible. 

If you can find whole butternut squash, that would be best. Simply cut the knobby end, cut in half width-wise and peel. Scoop out the seeds, chop into 1 inch cubes and you're ready to go. Sometimes we can find ready-cut butternut, but for some reason, I really do enjoy cutting through these squashes...it releases tension and helps me unite the the food (something I don't get when I just tear open a package and add it to the pot). Additionally, whole squashes tend to be more fresh then packaged ones. 

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 butternut squash, cubed (or about 4-5 cups)

1/2 can coconut cream (I use the Trader Joe's brand)

water (or you can substitute broth) 

Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Sauté the onion in coconut oil with a few shakes of salt on medium heat. If you cover it, it will sweat better and start to release its own juices. Add in the squash and cover with water/broth about an inch over the squash. Bring to a boil, lower heat, simmer covered about 25 minutes or until done (when pierced with a fork). Add in 1/2 can of coconut cream and stir to warm through. Using an immersion blender, blend MOST of the soup (a few chunks are actually a really nice texture). Serve with some red pepper flakes, a LOT of crushed black pepper, and a nice salad. 

 

 

 

My Favorite Kale Salad

One of my favorite places to eat here in town is Seed To Sprout. They have this addictive massaged kale salad that I can't get enough of! I've asked the chefs what they use to make it, and they graciously told me, but I'm not lying.... theirs is still the BEST! 

Still, when it's 9:00 pm and you want this kale salad, here's as close as you're gonna get. If you do have a chance to stop in for lunch, you want to go to the masters!

4 big leaves kale, torn into bite-sized pieces (about 3 cups)

drizzle of olive oil

squeeze of lemon juice

few pinches salt

1-2 tablespoons really high quality nutritional yeast

Combine kale, olive oil, lemon juice and salt in a big bowl. Using your hands, massage the kale well until it starts to soften. The oil makes it soft, and the lemon juice and salt will start to break down the cell wall. Lastly, sprinkle with some nutritional yeast and use a fork to fluff up (if you massage it with the nutritional yeast, most of it will remain on your hands). Enjoy! 

Chaga Reishi Cacao Tonic

I've been obsessed with tonics lately. Here's the thing: I need chocolate. Unapologetically. Just a little, every day. And it has to be dark, rich, and full of good stuff. So this tonic covers all the bases for me, and this chocolate delivery system cannot get any more healthy and pure. You can throw in any herbs you'd like, but take the time to read up on why they're good for you, learn from them, get to know them. This particular one contains coconut oil, sea salt, my favorite nettle tea (great for allergies in the spring!), cacao, and two medicinal mushrooms: chaga and reishi. It also contains maca for a little hormonal and adrenal support. Have fun exploring with your favorite flavors, and enjoy!

1 cup brewed nettle tea (or your favorite herbal tea)

1 tsp coconut oil

2 small pinches sea salt

1 tablespoon raw cacao powder

1/2 tsp each chaga and reishi powders

1 tsp maca

a few drops english toffee (or original) stevia, for your taste

Blend all ingredients together until smooth. Taste for sweetness and add in more stevia if you need it, and pour in your favorite mug. Did I mention this actually makes a great drink for the morning? Get your tonic in! Or it also fits in nicely when you need a little boost around 3:00 pm. Enjoy! 

Sundried Tomato Powder

One of the highlights of my stay at Living Light Culinary Institute included early morning help in the kitchen before classes started. Weary eyed, sleepy headed, chilly morning walks to school....but I absolutely loved it and considered it an honor, working in a raw vegan commercial kitchen ~ how many are there of its kind, I don't know, but probably very few. It was too much fun working early morning under excellent great raw vegan chefs and instructors.

Despite a minor Blendtec lid *snafu*, I did eventually learn how to make proper sundried tomato powder {just imagine putting on the lid wrong, turning blender on high, powder everywhere. I only have a Vitamix, so who knew?}.

You'll love this powder....it's called "Sundried" but really, the dehydrating of tomatoes brings out their "cooked taste" without losing any of the nutrients {and without really cooking them}. Sweet, earthy, dark, hearty, and an amazing addition to soups, sauces, even guacamole and crackers! Flavor, flavor, flavor is where it's at. And right about now, we have bumper crops of tomatoes from the heat of summer, perhaps too much to know what to do with. If you're making salsa or sauce, you can just take the peels, seeds, innards, any part of the tomato, pulse it up in the blender and pour them over dehydrator trays. In a few days, you'll have a crumbly dry heap that you can process again in the vitamix into a powder. Keep it in an airtight container, and you're good to go for quite a while! 

One note: size really matters when dehydrating tomatoes. I learned this the hard way, but you can't simply cut a plum tomato in half {even the little cherry guys} and dehydrate them. The outside might be dry, but the underside is often wet and warm which means you can harbor mold. Plus it just takes too long to dehydrate which further exacerbates the mold issue. A quick chop in the blender or food processor {so it looks more like chunky sauce} should do the trick. 

3 cups chopped tomatoes, skins, innards, seeds, etc. Pulse these in a food processor or blender so they don't have any big chunks.

Lay the contents over two dehydrator sheets lined with teflex sheets. Dehydrate at least 24 hours (or more) at 110 degrees. I often keep these in for two days ~ you just want them to be completely dry. Let them rest and cool for 15 minutes, then crumble off into a vitamix vessel. Pulverize and store in an airtight container! Enjoy. 

 Organic tomatoes from our garden. 

Organic tomatoes from our garden. 

 Dehydrated chunks of tomatoes, before processing into powder. 

Dehydrated chunks of tomatoes, before processing into powder. 

 Sundried tomato powder. 

Sundried tomato powder. 

Home-Made Chicory Herbal Coffee

I’ve got to say this has been one of the coolest projects I’ve done in a long time. I’ve always loved herbalism and delving into creative DYI projects {like when we decided to paint the outside of our house ourselves, build a fence, take out the wall to wall carpeting}, and inside the kitchen {like raw chocolate, making our own bouillon, nut milks}. This one tops all of them, mainly due to the amount of time it takes, but if you have the courage, I highly recommend it.

I stand by my "Dandy Blend" herbal coffee, tall and proud, and call it my daily necessity {I’m on a chocolate break and somehow, this herbal coffee helps satisfy that craving}. But what if I could make my own herbal coffee?

Chicory is this glorious beautiful plant {definitely look it up before using it!} with edible blue flowers, and you can often find it on the side of the highway {although I don’t recommend eating it, since it probably picks up toxins so close to exhaust and what not}. I did order some seeds about 2 years ago and let the plant do their thing, and this year it multiplied and topped to about 6 feet. We did amend the soil with horse poo, leaves and compost, but I never thought it would grow so tall; maybe it’s time to harvest.

The roots are what I’m after, which we’ll wash, dehydrate, roast and grind, all in that order. Pulling on the plants gently, the roots came out happily, although I think some remained in the ground. It’s good for me, since I’d like to have them come back next year.

1.     Wash & chop: The hardest and most consuming time is actually washing. You want to get these very clean, so I used a potato brush and brushed and brushed and brushed. I pulled out quite a few roots, but you can do this to however many you like. Cut these roots into same-sized pieces, about ½ inch is fine.

2.     Dehydrate & Roast: I dehydrated them overnight at 110 degrees to dry them out {some circles don’t do this}, and then popped them into the oven at around 300 degrees for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. You sort of have to baby sit them to make sure they don’t burn. You can even do a lower temperature for a longer time, like 250 for 90 minutes also. This is the best part, since your house smells amazing while this is happening!

.     Grind: once cooled, grind these in a coffee grinder as fine as possible. There will be some bits that just don’t break down, and that’s ok. Use about 1 heaping teaspoon per cup of boiling water, brew, strain, enjoy. I added stevia to mine. Store in an airtight container.

Yes, it’s a process and a project, but I do hope you get to make it. The taste is very much like burnt caramel, earthy, rooty, dark and rich, and tastes delicious. Well worth the adventure & my coffee cup thanks me. 

#GiftABook: How one book learned to travel

If you know me, you know I love to declutter, reorganize, and keep things tidy. I even have a declutter group on FB where I host 30-day challenges, have written a pantry declutter ebook and teach Decluttering Classes at our local Community College on the subject. I'm a self-proclaimed declutter queen! 

But if you also know me, you know I have a serious book addiction.

The more I talked about decluttering, the more I realized I had to confess to the elephant in the room, which was that I had difficulty releasing books. Shoes? No problem. Clothes? No problem. Furniture, knick knacks, anything else? NO problem.

But there's nothing like a book ~ they're amazing to hold, feel, read from, even the scent of the book, and the sound of the pages turning. I was and never will be into an electronic device that rids us of that tangible experience with a book. However, we have a tiny, just "perfect" home, and my library was growing. 

Worst part is that I was moving them around, all around the house, without a clear plan. Most of my books were culinary, so I'd use and reuse them again, that was no problem. But those that I didn't use were still taking up space. The other groups of books were business books, self-improvement books, spirituality books, books about finances, music, and personal performance. I would move them from this shelf to that shelf, organize them by color, forget I had some, re read others, and just start collecting books that were by the same author. Collections, as you know, are a trap. It's the idea of a collection that we're intrigued by, not the books themselves....and I found myself swimming in books! 

So as soon as I read a delicious, amazing, inspiring book, I wanted to share that with someone else. I started mailing books to friends who I thought would enjoy them. I'd only ask that they'd keep the gift moving, to someone else would could use the inspiration. And so #GiftABook was born. 

I wrote my name and date on the inside cover, to keep track of where the book has been and who it was gifted to. And I sent them out on an adventure. With three intentions: 

1. Someone else could enjoy the book, become inspired. 

2. They'd share that with someone else, hoping for the same. 

3. They'd release the book, welcoming in something new, or simply loving the new space it created.

If you'd like to join me on this journey, please do....and if you happen to take any photos of the book, or would like to share your experience, please use the hashtag so we can all connect. 

See you on the other side, and happy reading! 

Raw Spicy South African Cashew Bisque

A couple of years ago this August, I attended Living Light Culinary Institute in California. I had the best time of my life, having won the "Hot Raw Chef" Scholarship in 2015. I had an absolutely wonderful time, meeting new friends, cooking (or un-cooking) up a storm, leaning new tricks of the trade, renewing my knife skills, and coming up with many healthy recipes. 

This South African soup was the result of an assignment we had been given. I had great fun working with my partner Nadine, who had a discerning palate, a kind heart, and only supportive words to share.... I miss those times! I remember blending, tasting, adding something else in, blending, tasting...for almost 45 minutes! I'd close my eyes to taste the exact texture and flavors, and get it just right. Consequently, it's one of the LONGEST list of ingredients I've ever worked with, but I promise you that it's the perfect tribute to its cooked counterpart. And even healthier for you! 

Warming, soothing, with a hint of cinnamon and spice. Makes 4 cups, about 4 one-cup servings or 8 half-cup appetizers. 

Ingredients: 

2 zucchinis, peeled & chopped

4 red peppers, seeded, filed and chopped

1 cup water

1 cup cashews, soaked

6 dates, pitted & chopped

3 garlic cloves, microplaned

3 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons Tamarind Paste

1 two-inch knob of ginger, microplaned

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon onion flakes

1 teaspoon dehydrated tomato powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

 

Garnish: 

2 tablespoons cilantro, minced

2 tablespoons cashews, minced

2 tablespoons scallions, minced

2 tablespoons red pepper, minced

2 tablespoons cucumber, minced

2 tablespoons yellow pepper, minced

In a blender: blend zucchini, red pepper, water, cashews, dates, garlic, salt, tamarind and remaining spices until smooth. Continue to blend until the canister of the blender starts to feel warm and the soup begins to heat a little. Taste for seasonings; garnish each serving with the minced cilantro, cashews, and a concase of pepper,s cucumber and scallions. Enjoy! 

Summer Tomatillo Gazpacho

There’s just something about gazpacho. It’s a win win ~ a win for your garden, and a win for your taste buds: your garden provides pretty much everything you need, and it’s pretty much the best damn soup you can ever make. If you don’t grow your own food, the farmer’s market will do it for you AND everything will be picked at peak ripeness, with all the flavors of summer. It might seem a bit labor intensive, but with a food processor, you’ll make it zippy fast. Plus, it’s an easy lunch you can enjoy happily for 3-4 days.

 Tomatillos growing in the garden. They have a paper like outside that you peel off, revealing a smooth green fruit inside. I think they look a little like little lanterns. 

Tomatillos growing in the garden. They have a paper like outside that you peel off, revealing a smooth green fruit inside. I think they look a little like little lanterns. 

I really like the addition of tomatillos in this soup. They're add a unique element of citrus, sweet, and fresh that I really love. They're also a little fruity, and I've been know to eat them like an apple. Try it! Just be sure to wash off the sticky residue from underneath the paper skin (which by the way is totally normal, nothing to be alarmed by). 

 Paper-like skin. 

Paper-like skin. 

I've added a can of crushed BPA free organic tomatoes in the mix, simply because I love the richness of tomato flavor and the deep red color that it provides. If you wish, you can just replace this with fresh tomatoes, although the taste will be different and the soup will be more pink than red. Either way, they both work. 

 

2 large cucumbers, peeled (optional) and chopped

1.5 cups peeled and chopped tomatillos

2 green peppers, chopped (or a mixture of colors)

4-5 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped

1 medium red onion, chopped

One 28 oz can of crushed organic tomatoes, BPA free (or extra tomatoes) 

Large handful cilantro, chopped

4 small garlic cloves, microplaned

1 tsp sea salt

1-tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper

In a food processor, process the cucumbers, tomatillos, peppers, fresh tomatoes, and onion in batches (still a little chunky but like thick soup). Pour out into a big mixing bowl. Add in the crushed tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, salt, vinegar and pepper. Combine well with a large spoon, and taste for seasoning. If you want the extra fat, feel free to dress with a drizzle of olive oil and/or chopped avocado.

DIY Peppermint & Thieves Mouthwash

IMG_7751.JPG

Hello, folks! I wanted to share a recipe that I've come to LOVE to make on my own, using this fancy dressing bottle (glass). And it's so easy that you too can make it. 

Here are some reasons why I love DIY:

1. It's a creative outlet. By making something ourselves, it helps us slow down and use our senses to create something we truly love.

2. It saves some cash: as you'll see by the ingredients here, you can create chemical-free mouthwash that tastes great with inexpensive ingredients. In fact, with just the peppermint and thieves oils, you can have almost unlimited mouthwash for the next year. 

3. It saves resources and the environment: every time you use mouthwash and recycle the bottle, there's still energy that goes into recycling....if you just make your own DIY using glass containers, you also give a little back to mama Earth, which is always a good thing. 

4. It saves you a trip to the store! And when do you run out of mouthwash? If you're like me, it's when you're brushing your teeth at night and you realize you're low. So I've actually made this at 11:00 at night, in under a minute. That saves me time, driving, and money. 

5. Best part, it's chemical free! Even the mouthwashes out there that are natural and pure have a bunch of ingredients I still can't pronounce. I'm not saying they're not safe or even effective, as many of them are. I just like to know exactly what's in there, since it gives me peace of mind. 

Note: please do not use store bought oils for this recipe (or any recipe) ~ many of them are fake, impure, or even hazardous (they often say do not put on skin, so you may not want to ingest them). If you have questions about oils or where to get them, please reach out and I'd be happy to guide you. 

IMG_7750.JPG

Ready, set, go!

Ingredients:

Glass container (I just washed out a salad dressing bottle)

15 drops Young Living Peppermint Essential Oil

8-10 drops Young Living Thieves Essential Oil (try it first, I went up to 15 and it was spicy!)

1/2 tsp salt (may omit, since it tastes a little funny but it's so healthy for your mouth and gums!)

1 tsp baking soda

Combine the ingredients together in your bottle. Fill up with distilled or purified water. Label, and you're done!

 

Hemp Peppermint Patty Smoothie

IMG_7191.JPG

I'm pretty obsessed with chocolate (good chocolate, like cacao powder) and mint together. Especially for summer, when the garden is growing up beautiful stalks of spearmint and peppermint (you choose), and you pine for something cooling and refreshing, this hits the spot. Plus it has the secret added benefit of anti-inflammatory (and protein rich) hemp seeds, kale greens, and antioxidant-rich blueberries. It's easy and absolutely delicious. 

3 tablespoons shelled hemp seeds

10 oz water (around 1.5 cups)

3 heaping tsp raw cacao powder

One large handful kale

1/2 cup mint

1 and a half frozen bananas

1/2 cup blueberries

In a high-speed blender with a tamper (preferably), blend hemp and water to create "hemp milk". To this mixture, add in the remaining ingredients, blend well and serve with cacao nibs, unsweetened shredded coconut and pumpkin seeds. This is enough for one with leftovers throughout the day, or two pretty hefty servings. 

IMG_7190.JPG

Coconut Blueberry Love Bowl

There is just SOMETHING about bowls. It might be linked to my "mild" obsession with wooden boxes, shoes, bags, other things that hold other things...I think it's their nurturing aspect, of holding something, taking care of something, taking that something special with you... that I really just love. But bowls are in a field of their own ~ they are regal, majestic, beautiful, and so the food we put inside of them should also be majestic and beautiful.  And most of all, nurturing. 

"Love Bowls" are also something that we can all make that just look beautiful ~ and as long as you layer different colors of nutritive foods and play with your "art", play with your food, they pretty much create themselves and the delivery system is just two hands, holding a bowl, and noshing. I've even just thrown stuff together and didn't necessarily care how the food landed, and it's always beautiful. It doesn’t get better than that! I love it. 

For me, I really need to chew something in the morning, and it has to be high in protein and fiber and low-glycemic. Smoothies are great, but I bore easily with them ~ not so much the flavors {since those are endless} but more so for the texture - it's predominantly smooth and I wanted something that was more gritty, something that would make my jaw work and "wake me up". That's why bowls are just perfect....

This pretty much is my new favorite thing ~ blueberries are just the bomb, every which way, the coconut yoghurt and the protein power are both very filling, lightly sweet, and taste indulgent in the morning, and the crunch from chia, flax, coconut can't be beat! Mix it up any way you want, grab a big spoon and dig in!

 

The basic template for this love bowl is:

Bottom: could be coconut yoghurt, granola, etc.

Fruit: berries are my faves but you can add kiwi, oranges, etc.

A good fat/crunch: coconut, chia, flax, walnuts, etc

 

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup probiotic coconut yoghurt

1 tablespoon protein powder (I love Sunwarrior Classic Chocolate)

1/2 cup blueberries

1 tablespoon each: ground flax, chia, unsweetened shredded coconut

Sprinkle of walnuts, optional

Combine the coconut and powder together until it's mixed well. Just know, different protein powders differ in sweetness ~ I tried this with a whole scoop of protein powder (one whole serving) and it was just too sweet, so I added only 1 tablespoon powder instead, but you be the judge on how much you like. Place the yoghurt mixture in the bottom of the bowl and layer with the blueberries, flax, chia and coconut (and walnuts, if you're adding them). Enjoy! 

 

Jackfruit Pulled Pork

Maybe you've heard of this new phenomenon involving jackfruit, imbibing it in glorious barbecue sauce, on a whole wheat bun with some creamy and crunchy cole slaw.... I wanted to take a stab at it, but there were so many recipes to use and I didn't want to be disappointed, so I went with one of the best online chefs around: Minimalist Baker. You can find her recipe here. 

These are some reflections on making the pulled pork that I thought might be helpful....In essence, you pop open the can, rinse the jackfruit pieces, sprinkle them in spices Minimalist Baker recommends, sauté them in some oil to brown, add in the barbecue sauce and simmer for about 20 minutes. Pull the fibers apart with two forks and Voila...vegan barbecue pulled pork that not only tastes but looks like the real thing. Easy peasy. 

Since I had bought 6 cans of jackfruit, I felt like I could experiment a little bit. When you first pull out the jackfruit from the brine, it looks almost like pineapple triangles, with a soft outside and a harder inner core. Minimalist Baker suggests that you cut that core out and only use the soft shred-like outside of the fruit. I did this the first time and certainly it was very easy to use a fork to separate all the fine fibers so it looked like legitimate pork, but I wasn't as keen on having to throw out all of those little hard triangles...I thought maybe there could be a better way?

Second time through the recipe, I cut the hard bits off, and added them to the pot (and they were hard to chew). So finally, I realized why she mentioned to throw them out ~ it required effort to chew! 

Third time I made the pulled pork was perfect: I sliced off the hard bits but then sliced them super small so they were easier to chew. Nothing was discarded, and the pulled pork came out great. Highly recommend this version!

I really enjoyed having leftover pulled pork salads too (I like them even better on a roll)...super filling, with veggies, rice, and avocado. 

DIY Outdoors Spray

IMG_7179.JPG

I absolutely love the outdoors ~ gardening, hiking, going to the beach, reading in the grass, playing frisbee....breathing in fresh air is the best medicine for me. However, I'm finding that sometimes it's not always totally pleasant, depending on where you go, and depending on how many outdoor pests follow you along for the ride.

I wanted to share a DIY Outdoors Spray that not only smells amazing, it's also a safe, non-toxic, natural barrier against such situations. I hope you love it as much as I do! I tend to spray it on my shoes, ankles, wrists, neck, and any other exposed skin. Plus it has a little peppermint in there for a little cooling sensation, which is great in super hot weather. Hope you enjoy!

1/2 cup witch hazel (original or other scents are fine ~ I used Lavender, see below)

1/2 cup purified water

8 drops Geranium Essential Oil

8 drops Citronella Essential Oil

5 drops Cedarwood Essential Oil

5 drops Peppermint Essential Oil

5 drops Eucalyptus Essential Oil

3 drops Lemongrass Essential Oil

1/2 tsp salt (helps the oils disperse better)

Pour into a 1-cup spray bottle and shake well before use. 

IMG_7178.JPG

Low-Glycemic Mushroom Risotto with Peas & Rosemary

IMG_8463.JPG

Who doesn't love creamy, robust risotto with savory mushrooms, sweet peas, and herbs? Give me a plate! But if you've read my blog by now, you know I love low-glycemic foods so that I don't fall asleep after a meal. This meal is packed with fiber and that prized "umami" flavor from mushrooms (which literally means "deliciousness"), sweetness from caremelized onions and peas, a little kick from your favorite herbs.

The pasta itself is the brilliant part: it's low glycemic rice called "Miracle Rice", which is gluten free, soy free, and has zero calories. It's also made from....get this...konjac flour, which has also been used as a vegan gelatin, completely plant based, and doesn't spike blood sugar (but if you're checking blood sugar, be sure to check this one anyway as results are individual). Konjac is a root and has been used in Asian countries for over 2000 years! It's also high in soluble fiber, which we all need,  and they absorb the flavors of your dish (so on their own, they're pretty tasteless). 

Now, I want you to know that I'm not big on low-calorie foods in general, the processed kinds. I want food that's filling, whole, real and genuine. But I find that risotto rice is white, has a high carb content, and can spike blood sugars if you don't watch it. Who wants that? This is the best of both worlds: have your risotto and eat it too. 

You do need to read the package instructions to know how to prepare the rice. Initially when you open the bag, they smell a bit funky. That's totally normal, and the following procedure will take care of the smell. Rinse rice well, then soak in a bowl of boiling water for 2-4 minutes. Rinse again, and add in to the recipe below. 

1 tsp coconut oil

1/2 red onion, diced

a few pinches sea salt

2 cups sliced baby bella mushrooms

1/3 cup peas

one package Miracle Rice, prepared according to package instructions

a few pinches rosemary, fresh or dried

black pepper, to taste

Heat a skillet and add in coconut oil, onion and salt. Sauté over medium heat until the onions sweat and release some water (sometimes I do this with the lid on to help it along). Add in the mushrooms and allow them to release their juices, a few minutes, covered, over medium heat. Once the mushrooms are soft, add in the peas, rice, and rosemary. Cover and heat through over medium low heat, a few minutes. Season with black pepper, and enjoy. 

Sour Cherry Berry Breakfast Bowl

Recently, I was gifted the most beautiful sour cherries by my friend Carolyn, who is also a chef herself (check out her site here!). She mentioned she turned around for a minute, and her kids ended up harvesting 13 pounds in no time, which makes me the lucky one...since she ended up sharing with me. 

Little did she know that sour cherries are very dear to my heart. They are very popular in Romania and I remember growing up eating them every summer...sometimes, picking them as a little girl, from my grandmother's cherry infused liquor (I ended up just fine, never got drunk, I promise), in glorious vanilla pound cakes, or straight from the tree (and everyone seemed to have one). But in all of these, I ended up isolating the cherries, dismissing anything that was around them, and just enjoying their pure taste.

I have to admit, I had to force myself to make something with them. My desire was two eat them straight out of the bag, but I had to come up with something more interesting than that. Also the whole low-glycemic thing came into play...if I made pound cake, well, there's not enough stevia to make pound cake palatable. But here's what eventually did happen:

1. I made a berry crumble for my boys, and they loved it (not pictured) with the crumble topping from Minimalist Baker found here. (I also cut the sugar in 1/2 and mixed cherries with peaches, gooseberries, blueberries and strawberries...a potentially weird combo, but it rocked!)

2. I froze some for my sister (since she has to taste them, but she's returning from a trip in July), and gave some to my mother (who was beside herself, since she obviously spent more time in Romania than I have and she remembers sour cherries fondly). 

3. I made a yummy raw hazelnut vanilla torte with sour cherries and chickory flowers, which I'll be using in my wild edibles book (out whenever I get my act together...currently working on two others now). 

4. And last but not least, this sour cherry berry breakfast bowl. In love with the last sweet tart tastes of these beauties, and breakfast is complete. 

1/2 cup coconut yoghurt (plain or unsweetened vanilla)

1/2 cup almond milk, unsweetened

1/2 cup sour cherries, pitted

1/2 cup frozen strawberries

1 scoop chocolate classic protein powder (Sunwarrior, vegan, raw)

sprinkles of blueberries, unsweetened coconut flakes,  cacao nibs, and chia

Blend yoghurt, milk, berries and powder until smooth. Pour into your favorite bowl and decorate with blueberries, coconut, cacao and chia. Enjoy!

Fresh Coconut Acai Love Bowl

You've probably seen the glorious photos of Acai Bowls everywhere...on instagram, Facebook, even in some healthy restaurants, made at home by those of us who want to eat healthy. Why do we need ONE more, you ask? Well, this one is loaded with good healthy fats (that keep you satisfied, help your hormones, etc.), and it's also low-glycemic ~ that's the important part! Many of our common Acai Bowls contain sweeteners and are loaded with sweet fruit. While this works for some people, I'd like to make the sugar down a bit and increase the healthy fats. You'll enjoy this delicious bowl of superfood goodness, giving you energy while keeping you away from the blood sugar rollercoaster! 

Acai is a berry that's touted as a superfood, containing fiber, heart-healthy nutrients, Vitamin C, healthy fats, antioxidants and capacities to help us detox (Because the benefits are just SO HUGE and too long to list in this post, here are two super useful and fun articles to read to further your knowledge on Acai : HERE and HERE).  But the bottom line is: Acai berries are delicious, and that's reason enough for us to eat them! Eat more of the good and less of the bad. This fiber-rich antioxidant bowl works really well as a morning breakfast or a mid-afternoon pick me up. 

Also, I've recently ordered fresh frozen coconut meat from Exotic Superfoods in hopes of making low-sugar raw desserts, but I haven't even gotten to that part yet ~ I've just been eating it straight out of the bag and it's absolutely delicious! I did buy the case, which can get expensive, but cutting into regular young thai coconuts and not knowing if they're fresh or not, sprayed with formaldehyde to keep the outside white, or low-yielding, then you have to clean the meat....It's a lot of work! I figured this saves me time, hassle, it's all clean, and I can taste the purity. 

Ingredients:

One packet of unsweetened Acai Berry Puree, defrosted (I like the Sambazon brand)

a few drops liquid stevia 

slivered almonds

blueberries

1/2 cup fresh raw coconut meat, sliced

chia seeds

bee pollen

In a bowl, pour out the Acai puree and stir in a few drops of the stevia. Start with three and taste as you go, making it sweet enough for you. Add in the rest of the ingredients, and enjoy. 



Coconut Raspberry Ice Cream

Soon are the days when we get to go to the beach, enjoy the sunshine on our backs, make cooling drinks and refreshing desserts. It's a normal April day, at 77 degrees! Spring is still here but this past week has felt a lot like summer, so we've needed to try out some fun new dessert recipes to cool us down. Of course, it goes without saying, this is low-glycemic and diabetes friendly (although you should still check your blood sugar if you're sensitive). The only sugar here comes naturally from the raspberries, which happen to be the lowest sugar berry around (even topping the superstar blueberry!)

This ice cream has a medium firm body, tart raspberry flavor, and has a mellow sweetness from the stevia - the texture actually almost like a sorbet ice cream mixed together. Is there such a thing? Now there is. 

This is pretty heavy on the coconut, which I love, but the taste will change with whatever brand to use. You can also decide to use half coconut milk and half almond milk for something a little lighter, although it will alter the flavor. Feel free to play around with this template! 

Also, if you like this recipe, you may want to check out our low-glycemic dessert book, found here. 

One 12-ounce bag frozen organic raspberries

1 can of your favorite coconut milk (or switch 1/2 out with almond milk)

2 full droppers of liquid stevia (start with less and taste for preference)

Combine all ingredients together in a full-powered blender (like a vitamix) and use the tamper to push everything down together into the vortex. You might need a bit of elbow grease here, as it won't be easy. It should turn out to be the consistency of soft serve ice cream. If you'd like it a bit more firm, feel free to then transfer it to an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's instructions.