Winter Hands Lavender Vanilla Sugar Scrub

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I'll confess - I have dry hands in the winter. Um, who doesn't? And if you're a normal human being, you probably do too. It might be the gardener in me, the pianist who just plays and plays and plays (they get a beating!), or it may be that I dislike using gloves when I wash dishes (I know, I know, don't judge). But for so many reasons, when the heat comes on in the fall and winter, my hands shrivel up and it's so so important to take good care of them ~ meaning, when we age, we mostly show it on our face and our hands. So it's important to take good care of them, just as much as they take good care of us and others. It's a good idea to use humidifiers in the winter months to hydrate the air around you, too. But overall, I dislike general moisturizers since my skin is sensitive, and I do very well by these two recipes.

I'm sure there are 1000 sugar scrub recipes out there, all of which are worth of a post, but these two are just my own personal favorites. You can certainly use these as templates and add in your own favorite oil combos, change up the oil (sweet almond and jojoba are great oils also), add in dried lavender leaves, poppy seeds for extra exfoliant properties ~ most of all, have fun, and play around with them. But these two recipes, I've found, are quick, easy, and just luxurious for the hands. Enjoy! And if you do end up making them, let me know how they turn out and hashtag #littlebitesofjoy!

Recipe:

3/4 cups raw sugar

Enough unrefined pure olive oil for desired consistency (think 1/2 - 3/4 cup or so)

10 drops Young Living Lavender Essential Oil

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Mix well and bottle it up in your favorite glass container. I love keeping this by the sink and in the bathroom for after washing the hands. Take about one teaspoon and massage your hands well (but not too hard), and give them some love. Rinse under warm water, and dry well. You'll find that our hands are silky smooth and well nourished! 

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Alternate recipe: 

Instead of the vanilla extract, try adding in 10 drops Young Living Lemon essential oil. The result is a gorgeous lavender/lemon sugar scrub. 

If you are interested in where I get my oils, please check out my Essential Oils For Bliss site here.  See you on the other side! 

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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! 

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. 

 

 

 

Cabbage Carrot Slaw & Tempeh Love Bowl

I like to keep things simple, as simple as possible. If you know my recipes, most of them include 3-5 ingredients at most, mostly relying on the colors, textures, tastes and nutritive values of whole, organic beautiful produce. I don't think recipes should be complicated to be beautiful and nutritious, and this one is a perfect example. 

I grew up with cabbage slaw, the way my mother made it in romania: shredded cabbage, oil, vinegar and salt. It's not as much a slaw as it is a salad, and I was known (much to my parents' surprise) to take the bowl and drink the remaining dressing when all the slaw was gone. I remember it clearly: 6 or 7 years old, dinner table, I take the big bowl and sip. I knew back then what I know now: this salad is lean, mean, crunchy, satisfying, colorful, and simply the bomb. I've only changed it a bit by using oils and vinegars we find here in the US, and throwing in some shredded carrots.

The tempeh is a regular household staple. I keep a container of if in the fridge and use it to chomp on between teaching, writing articles, before a hike, you name it. It's salty, has a fun umami taste, is nourishing, high in protein, and it keeps well.

The tempeh and slaw together are also low-glycemic, which is ALL I ever think about these days, working with clients on insulin resistance and working to heal my own. It's a winner, I promise. 

Salad Ingredients:

2 cups super thinly shredded cabbage, any color

1/2 cup shredded carrots

drizzle of olive or flax oil, about 1 tablespoon

drizzle of raw apple cider vinegar, about 1 tablespoon

two to three pinches of salt

Combine the ingredients together and toss. Let sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes to let the flavors marry and so that the cabbage softens a bit. 

Tempeh ingredients:

1 package flax tempeh, cubed (preferably gluten free)

1 package original tempeh, cubed (preferably gluten free)

1/2 bottle of coconut secret garlic sauce (this brand)

Heat a skillet or heavy bottomed sauce pan, and add in the sauce. Add in the cubed tempeh, stir to mix, cover and turn heat to medium. Watch it closely so it doesn't burn, but heat through until the tempeh has absorbed most of the liquid, about 5-8 minutes. 

In a bowl, combine the cabbage slaw with the tempeh, and enjoy! 

Three Layer Spiced Apple Pie

I wanted to share this fun new video, as my submission in the "Hot Raw Chef, 5 in 5 Video Recipe Contest", through Living Light Culinary Insitute. The grand prize winner receives a scholarship to attend classes at Livin Light in Fort Bragg, California. Here goes nothing. Wish me luck :) 

The best gift, however, is actually spreading the word about plant-based foods, and more specifically, raw foods with all of you. Whatever happens, I'm happy I gave myself a kick in the tooshie to make this video and to share a fun recipe with you. Enjoy it! 

Check out the link HERE and give it a thumbs up! PS. you may want to subscribe as there wil be more videos coming your way!

October is "Salad A Day" Month

We had so much fun last October 2015 doing this all together, that we're doing it again! 

October is "Salad A Day" month! Challenge starts on Mon, Oct 3rd and runs through Monday, October 31st!

Ok, I pretty much made that title up. The truth is that I think every month should be "salad a day" month, and October is coming up, and what better way to start? Fall is the perfect time to begin a new habit and invest in some much-needed self care! Summer tends to be all over the place with parties, vacations, places to go, people to see...Fall offers us the opportunity to fall into a new and possibly life-changing routine! And a salad a day will be one of the easiest habits to implement with some of the greatest rewards.  

Greens are at the top of the nutritional food pyramid, and sadly most of us don't get enough ~ kale, collards, romaine, arugula, spinach, even herbs like parsley, cilantro. The darker the green, the better for us and more cancer-fighting phytonutrients. In fact, the more chlorophyl, phytonutrients, fiber and veggie-based vitamins we can get, we can expect better elimination, improved skin, more natural energy, calmer nervous systems, and by default, a slimming waistline. You may even experience a better attitude, better body odor {yes! chlorophyl acts like an internal deodorant}, better sleep, and just overall rockstar status! So who's in?  

But we all know that salads can be just, meh. It really takes a fun add-ins, dressings, textures, colors, and a variety of healthy veggies to doctor them up. If you're interested in new recipes, please consider purchasing our latest Salad Ebook, volume 1! It's 14 recipes to ignite your love for salads (and it's on sale here)!

So what are the guidelines of this challenge?

1. Make a salad every day and shout for joy when you're eating it. Well, internally. Your cells are doing just that. If you'd like some extra credit, include a green smoothie {greens and fruit} or even a blended soup {take those veggies and greens and blend them up with spices, garlic and a little avocado ~ yum!}. 
2. Visit & LIKE our Little Bites of Joy FB Page which will act as a platform for sharing tips, salads, dressings, photos, post questions, and start a dialogue with those working in this challenge together!  
3. Take inventory: collect data on weight, attitude, skin, sleep, overall mood, relationships, etc. At the end of the month, mark down how things have improved {since they will!}, and find ways on what has worked in case you'd like to continue. 
4. Inspire those around you to take on this healthy habit too {after they see how fabulous you look!}

And here are some tips for rocking this challenge:

1. As many colors as possible: a green salad is great, but add in some orange carrots, red or yellow peppers, green broccoli, even blueberries or white cabbage. Go crazy. It's ok, nobody's watching.

2. Alternate your greens: you're not getting AS much nutrition as you could be getting if you're having romaine day after day after day. Switch it up ~ spinach, kale, collards, arugula, red leaf, green leaf, baby lettuces, micro-greens & sprouts, escarole, the sky is the limit! Maybe buy three types, eat those throughout the week, then buy another three types and rotate.

3. Include a good fat, but not too much: you can easily add on olive oil, olives, avocado, nuts and seeds, and dressing...but basically you've got a "fat-fest". Many of our vitamins are fat soluble, which means we should be eating our greens with some kind of fat to fully absorb the nutrients, but try to stick to no more than two fats per salad. Love olives and avocado? Then make a no-oil dressing {there are many!} That sort of thing. 

4. Chew, chew, chew. Digestion starts in the mouth, so if you have some digestive issues, perhaps eat in a quiet space {without your laptop or phone} and take time to chew each bite really well. And when you don't feel like chewing or don't have the time, you can even dump your salad into a vitamix and make a blended soup. It's actually ridiculously out of this world delicious and so much more fun when you don't have as much time to sit down to a salad. I've done it and sometimes you can too.  

5. Be prepared: You may want to think about creating your own mini-salad bar. One half hour on a sunday will set you up for the whole week if you just take a long lasagna-shaped pyrex pan and create little sections of cut up peppers, cucumbers, broccoli, etc. And serve yourself when the time comes and create a hassle-free habit to help yourself out when it comes time to eat. 

That's it! You ready to dig in? Here are some pics to feast your eyes on and enjoy the journey! We officially start Monday, October 3rd, 2015, after we all buy some weekend groceries. So keep the pictures coming on social media and reach out with any questions!

Kraut, olives, sprouts, avocado, peppers, onion, no dressing {just mash it all up!}

Kraut, olives, sprouts, avocado, peppers, onion, no dressing {just mash it all up!}

Romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers and dijon {recipe coming up in our next class!}

Romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers and dijon {recipe coming up in our next class!}

Carrots, heirloom tomatoes, romaine, seasoned sunflower seeds. 

Carrots, heirloom tomatoes, romaine, seasoned sunflower seeds. 

Raw vegan Taco salad with chipotle salsa fresca. Find the recipe HERE!

Raw vegan Taco salad with chipotle salsa fresca. Find the recipe HERE!

Chopped salad with pizza crackers and caesar dressing. 

Chopped salad with pizza crackers and caesar dressing. 

Mexican Zoodle Bowl

Spiralized zucchini are one of the easiest summer foods (especially when you have them growing in your garden). It’s not their season just yet, but this sets you up for success when they’re on sale in the stores or you’re growing so many, you can’t keep up with them {enter the 1.5 food bohemith we grew last summer!?!?}

One of the things that I have to watch out for (and probably many of us) is how glycemic foods can be, especially pasta, breads, baked goods. Zucchini noodles low glycemic, raw, huge in fiber, and taste “al dente”, almost like the real thing. Of course, you can spruce them up with red sauce or pesto, but my favorite is chipotle garlic salsa. Don’t knock it till you try it! It’s delicious. A little cilantro, even some avocado, you’ve got a meal!

I use the following spiralizer for zucchini when I'm just making this dish for myself or for two: it really just makes angel hair, which is great for me. But when I want to get really fancy, and require additional thicknesses, like udon or spaghetti, this is the gadget you’re looking for. I really just pull this one out when we have company over.

So, let’s get ready to eat!

Ingredients:

1 medium spiralized zucchini (keep the peel on - it's prettier that way)

½ cup chipotle garlic salsa (I get mine fresh from whole foods, or you can make your own)

So, get yourself a nice bowl, place your “zoodles” at the bottom and pour the salsa on top. Yum!

That’s it! In the past, I’ve added in some coconut bacon, avocado, even some pumpkin seeds and cilantro, and it’s all delicious. But most days, it’s just these two ingredients and it hits the spot!

Cherry Tomato Freezer Sauce

There are many ways to make tomato sauce, but this couldn't be more simple and more delicious. At the moment, we have so many tomatoes in our garden that it's hard to keep up, and I haven't yet entered the curious world of canning (soon, though, soon!) So for the time being, I freeze and it suits me just fine. 

But cherry tomatoes...who ever heard of using cherry tomatoes? Well, cherry tomato sauce is all over the internet, and here's my version (although all of ours are basically the same sauce). You can add in different herbs, even red peppers, mushrooms, make it your own. 

Simply gather enough cherry tomatoes so they lay in a single layer. I used 9x11 pan, and therefore had about 4-6 cups of tomatoes, although the size of them will dictate the amount. As I'm leaning, there are so many different types of cherry tomatoes, some small, some bigger, and I even threw in some regular tomatoes in the mix as well to fill in some gaps. Just get them all in one layer for the pan you're using. 

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Drizzle with a little olive oil, and throw in about 2-3 cloves of garlic, still in their skin. Roast at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, until their skins have broken and released some juices. Let cool, and process in a food processor with some salt and pepper to taste, and freeze in individual bags, laying flat. Once frozen, you can stand them all upright in the freezer and they won't take up much room since they're flat. That's it - voila! And you were worried you wouldn't get to make tomato sauce this season! Get to it!

OOLA for Women, Book Review

The following is a review, based on my own personal experience with the book "Oola For Women". I hope you enjoy!

My first experience with OOLA was about a year ago when I read the first and original OOLA book (found here) ~ it blew me away, honestly, and spoke to me in so many familiar ways. I've always believed in living a balanced life, but nobody put it in such easy, simple to understand steps than the OOLA guys, Dave Braun and Troy Amdahl..... I knew I was hooked.....I quickly set to understand more deeply the areas of my life that I was neglecting, and how I can awaken them. 

This was right up my alley, especially since so much of my life is devoted to self-improvement...it's something I'm working on daily. How to be kinder, how to understand better, listen more, shut up more, or speak my truth...be a better friend, mother, spouse, daughter, sister. How to find ways to have a bigger, more positive impact in my work with others. The OOLA book was life-changing, from this perspective, since it was all in one place, ready for me to follow along and make the improvements I was looking for...

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The OOLA guys partnered with Young Living to create the Infuse 7 oils kit, which contains an oil for all 7 areas of our OOLA life: Fitness, Finance, Family, Field, Faith, Friends and Fun. The brain has always fascinated me, and I love how I can anchor a feeling or emotion with a scent ~ so these oils were a brilliant addition to my collection. Every time I meditated or worked on my "faith", for example, I'd use my "faith" oil aromatically and anchor that feeling into my memory and emotions. It was such a helpful tool for me to support me in my own personal work to bring balance back into my life. These tools were life-changing. 

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Then came OOLA for women - I didn't think it could get any better, but it did! 

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I found myself sitting on the couch with a cup of tea, using these incredible oils, spending my "Miracle Morning" reading this book, and I loved every minute of it....not only did it cement the idea of finding balance in life and how critical that is, but I loved reading and learning about all the women featured in the book....their triumphs, their struggles, how they overcame aspects of their lives that seemed unsurmountable...I was cheering them on in the early hours of the morning when I carved out my reading time, my learning time, my growing time....I was there with them, every step of the way, and it inspired me to grow right along with them. The book reminded me that I had the power to overcome the challenges of my life, find balance, find joy, find peace with the past and find faith in the future, and find my OOLA life..... and it was ALL up to me. 

The book is divided into 5 sections ~ they make it effortless to flow through each section, and adopting tips and steps to finding your balance, and finding your own OOLA life. 

Section 1 introduces you to what Oola is - basically living in a state of awesomeness.

Section 2 goes through the 7 F's of Oola - Fitness, Finance, Family, Field, Faith, Friends and Fun.

Section 3 talks about Oolablockers that keep us from living that OOLA life, and reaching our dreams: fear, guilt, anger, self-sabotage, laziness, envy, and focus.

Section 4 goes through what they call the Oolaccelerators ~ those aspects that propel us closer to the OOLA life we desire, such as  gratitude, love, discipline, integrity, passion, humility and wisdom.

Section 5 tells all about the Oolawheel, Oolaplan and Oolapath ~ tools to help us unlock our OOLA life. 

I can't say enough about this book. I think everyone needs it....and if you think you DON'T need it, read it and you'll see how much you do! In fact, if any of you are searching for growth, balance, are curious, or just want to make your life infinitely better and happier, you'll find here.....

You can find it at: 

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Peace, love, and my hope that you dream big and find your OOLA life,

Andreea

ps. If you are interested in the Infused Collection oils, please reach out to me...they've been such an important tool in helping me grow and live my OOLA life, every day. You can find out more by clicking here and searching "Infused". 

Soothing Tamanu Skin Gel

I've absolutely been loving making my own DIY recipes.... mostly, it's calming to know that I'm using things on my body and in the home that are non-toxic and free from chemicals ~ that has so many positive impacts on pretty much everything in our lives, it's a no-brainer. But the best part is that it's fun, you get to play, relax, unwind, and make something that smells and feels absolutely incredible on the skin! This gel is exactly that. 

Of course, I don't need to say that you really need to use Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils. So many essential oils out there are not properly distilled, and in fact are not even safe to put on the skin, let alone breathe! Do yourself a favor and get the right oils! One wise woman once said "it doesn't make sense to replace chemicals with more chemicals". Right? If you're curious where you can find the only essential oils I use, check them out here.

Tamanu oil, if you ever get a chance to play with it, is this gorgeous green emerald color (which ends up giving this gel a greenish tint ~ I love it). If you don't have Tamanu, feel free to use any skin-safe oil, like sweet almond, jojoba, rosehip, etc. 

 

AND NOW FOR THE RECIPE.....

1/2 cup aloe gelly (I find mine here)

2 Tablespoons Helichrysum hydrosol (I find it here)

2 Tablespoons lavender or roman chamomile hydrosol (I find them here or here

2 tablespoons tamanu oil (I find mine here)

3 drops Roman or German chamomile essential oil, 7-10 drops lavender essential oil, 2 drops frankincense essential oil (found here)

Stir ingredients together with a spoon until the mixture turns cloudy and smooth ~ it's quite interesting to witness, so pay special attention! Use on your skin to create a nourishing, spa-like effect. It's so lovely, thick but light, and doesn't leave your skin sticky at all. For longest shelf life, store in the fridge.Enjoy! 

This recipe is inspired by my education at School for Aromatic Studies. If you are interested in any of their aromatherapy/essential oils programs, please check them out here! 

 

 

 

 

Currant & Tangerine Popsicles

Original post written: 2014

Um, there are no words to describe…I can’t even.

I had the best time this past spring taking an Ayurvedic Cooking course at the Natural Epicurean, and I’ve been implementing what I’ve learned about spices and flavor profiles into my current raw “uncooking”. This is one of those recipes that is so flipping good, there are no words. It’s amazing what happens (whether cooked or uncooked) when you combine whole ingredients with aromatic Indian spices. Flavors bloom.

This blog is pretty short since, well, I’m sitting here eating this gorgeous popsicle trying to come close to what it tastes like (and I have to say, I'm rather distracted), but I think you have to try it to believe me. If you can imagine creamy tangerine sorbet with a hint of anise and cinnamon, then you’re close, but not quite there. A pinch of cardamom for floral and spicy aroma, and tropical coconut for sweetness and freshness. Combined into one, this was an experiment, but one that I know I will repeat many times this summer. 

This is currant season, if you haven’t seen them yet! They come in beautiful reds, blacks and whites, although I used the reds for this recipe. When currants come into season, you have to take full advantage, leap high into the ground with glee, and get as many as you can. They are delicious, eaten raw, like candy, but in this case, we decided to take them over the top. To boot, these are sugar free, low-glycemic, so if you are struggling with insulin resistance, feel free to make these and consider them a delicious treat without the worry.  

It depends on how big your popsicle molds are, but for us, this recipe made about 4. Sad, since I already want more.

About 2 cups currants, blended, strained to leave you about ¾ cup liquid (Discard pulp)

1 cup canned coconut milk (include as much of the solid fat as you can, then top the rest with the remaining coconut liquid)

¼ tsp each: anise, cinnamon, cardamom powders

2 droppers full of stevia

Pinch salt

3 drops Young-Living brand Tangerine Vitality essential oil** 

 

**This recipe uses only Young Living brand Tangerine Vitality essential oils. Please do not ingest any other oils.  If you don't have this oil, please reach out (I'm happy to answer any questions) or just use 1 tablespoon organic tangerine/orange zest. 

 

Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth, and pour out into molds. Freeze over night. 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.

BLT Zoodle Salad

This is a super simplified BLT, in all of its glory, with all the nutritive qualities you'd want and none of the bad stuff! We've got coconut bacon, fresh ripe tomatoes, and the spiralized zucchini stands in for the lettuce. Super easy to put together, incredibly tasty and filling. Just make sure you have enough coconut bacon on hand, as you'll want to make this again and again!

1 zucchini, spiralized

1 tomato, chopped

1/4 cup sliced red onions

drizzle of olive oil

drizzle of raw apple cider vinegar

sea salt and crushed black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons coconut bacon (recipe found here)

Combine zucchini, tomato, onion, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper together and taste for seasoning. Serve with a  sprinkle of coconut bacon on top and devour. 

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. 

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!

Low-Glycemic Mushroom Risotto with Peas & Rosemary

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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. 

Low-Glycemic Garlic Noodle Love Bowl

Noodle bowls are incredible; can I get an AMEN? Stir fry's are fun, warming, filling and nurturing, especially when you're cramped for time, hungry, and it's a cold, rainy night. I've found that I can't tolerate regular noodles in general, however, as they make me sleepy ~ probably from a carbohydrate coma. High in gluten, high in flour and carbs that spike your blood sugar, they can seriously impact your health if you have them often. They also impede digestion, as they're made of flour, and can often constipate sensitive digestive systems. 

Recently I've found a brand of noodles made from Konjac Flour named "Miracle Noodles": they're low glycemic, low in calories, gluten free, soy free, and made in the USA! Best part is that they're super delicious, easy to use, require minimal cooking time, are low glycemic and won't make you sleepy after you eat them. Since they're low calorie and high in fiber, many people use products made from Konjac to help with weight loss, and are also sometimes used as a vegan gelatin substitute. That said, you just need to stock up on these packages, which come in rice size, angel hair, and fettuccine. You can find them here in a bulk pack of 6. 

The noodles do have a funny smell at first, I won't lie. You need to rinse them well, place them in bowl and soak in boiling water for 2 minutes (I go to 5 just to make sure), drain, rinse again and by this point, the smell will be completely gone.

You really can use any veggies you'd like ~ make it fun, and use whatever is in your fridge and whatever is your favorite. 

Ingredients:

1 tsp coconut oil

2 pinches of sea salt

1 clove garlic, sliced thin

1/2 cup sliced shitake mushrooms

1 cup sliced broccoli

1 small bunch thin asparagus, woody ends cut off, and sliced into 1 inch pieces

3 scallions, sliced in 1 inch pieces

2/3 cup of 1 package Miracle Noodles, Angel hair, rinsed well, soaked in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, and drained

2/3 cup Coconut Aminos Garlic Sauce

1 tsp white sesame seeds

a drizzle of your favorite hot sauce (I love Ninja Squirrel)

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the coconut oil and melt. Add in the garlic & the sea salt, and sauté for one minute to release the flavors. Add in the mushrooms, broccoli, asparagus, and scallions and sauté another 3 minutes or so, stirring often to prevent sticking, until the veggies turn bright green. Add in the sauce and noodles, cover and turn down to medium heat just until heated through, about 5 more minutes. Place in two bowls, sprinkle with the sesame seeds, and a drizzle of your favorite hot sauce. Makes two servings.

NOTE: One time when I didn't have the garlic sauce on hand, I actually used a little bit of vegan Worcestershire sauce and some vegan hoisin Sauce and it came out really tangy, dark, rich and delicious. Feel free to experiment. 

Leek & Dill Soup

From the start, I have to state that this is my Romanian Aunt Anca's recipe and I fell in love with it from first taste. It's low in fat, full of fiber and vegetables, surprisingly sweet and savory at the same time, and absolutley delicious. This also fits really well in the "easy peasy" department as you don't have to babysit it much and it practically makes itself.

2 leeks, white part and a little of green, cleaned and chopped fine

1/2 zucchini, cubed (optional)

handful of peas

water to cover

1/4 cup chopped dill, saved for the end

Combine leeks, zucchini and peas and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender. You can blend 1/2 of it with an immersion blender until smooth, or leave it as is, chunky. Add in the dill, and season to taste with salt & pepper. 

You can easily add anything else to this soup you'd like: a potato, carrots, celery, etc. Enjoy and experiment. 

Fresh Spring Rolls with Parsley Dipping Sauce

Right before a frost a few weeks ago, my husband and I were able to harvest bowls and bowls of spring mix, kale, parsley, cilantro and herbs. We lived off of those greens and I was happy that I had FREE salad for about 10 days (somehow it kept much better than the greens bought in a store! Probably since it wasn't shipped!).

I easily harvested about 5 cups of parsley and had to get to work, creating something with these amazing rich-green leaves. I found this recipe (which is for a dressing) and adapted it a bit to create an amazingly emerald green dipping sauce that I dunk practically everything into! I'd imagine you can do the same thing with cilantro leaves as well for an extra special dressing. If you find wild edibles such as chickweed or nettles, or a mixture...even better...

Be sure to not over-blend: herbs get bitter the more they're processed. 

2 cups parsley leaves, tightly packed

1 generous clove of garlic

1/2 cup mixed oils (I used flax seed oil and unfiltered cold pressed olive oil)

juice from 1/2 lemon

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

sea salt and pepper (adjust to taste)

Blend all ingredients together in a high-speed blender. You can definitely use this as a dressing but I found it was pretty thick, like a dip....I served them with fresh spring rolls, which made the perfect lunch. I filled brown-rice wrappers with red peppers, spring mix (from our garden), and avocado, and dug right in! Hope you enjoy these as much as I did. 

Spring Asparagus Thai Bisque

This past spring has been interesting...hot (as in 70 degrees) and then it's snowing, mix 30's, then hot again, cold again. I can't really keep up, except that it's been warm enough for me to get inspired over seeds, gardening and growing healthy green food. I'll take the warm weather speckled in the cold if it means I can get to gardening sooner.  

Spring comes with its own bounty: sprouts, greens, and one of my favorites, asparagus. Buying asparagus in the spring (try growing it too!) is completely different than any other time of the year since it's at its peak, fresh, a little sweet and very flavorful. 

I knew I wanted something light: loads of veggies in a coconut broth, but something all the while spicy and warming, so I paired the veggies with some red curry paste. This creamy, slightly spicy bisque is a balanced marriage of both light and warming that will soothe your bones on chilly spring evenings while giving you the best of the season's produce.

Ingredients:

1 tsp coconut oil

1 yellow or red onion, chopped

1 zucchini, chopped

1 bunch thin asparagus, chopped (be sure to discard the woody bottoms)

1/2 cup coconut cream (I prefer the thicker part of the Trader Joe's Coconut Milk)

1 heaping tablespoon Red Curry Paste (I like this one

In a medium heavy bottomed stock pot, melt the coconut oil and sauté the onions on medium heat, until translucent. Add in the zucchini and asparagus, and cover with about 1 inch of water. Add in the coconut cream and bring to a boil, then let simmer half-covered about 25 minutes (until all the veggies soften). Add in the red curry paste, season with salt to taste, and then using an immersion blender, blend until semi-smooth (I like it a little bit chunky). Feel free to give it a finishing touch of red pepper flakes and crushed black pepper. Enjoy!