A Few of My Favorite Things

heart in sandIn honor of the spirit of love, here are a few of the products, services, and sites that are keeping me happy and healthy:

Green Beauty Team

This site is my go-to stop for getting the scoop on the latest, best, eco-friendly, and body-loving beauty products. Kristen Arnett, founder of Green Beauty Team, is a professional makeup artist responsible for many of the glam faces on major fashion runways around the world. She proves, day after day, that makeup and skin care need not be chemical laden to work beautifully. Her team of experts give us the lowdown on beauty, skin, and health. Especially helpful is her Toxic Ingredients Glossary…chances are you’ll find many of them lurking in your products.

For Internal Use Only

For Internal Use Only is the second novel from NYC author and cupcake lover, Cari Kamm. She writes entertaining, inspiring, witty, and addictive stories, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next! I had the honor of getting a sneak read in before its Valentine’s Day début. Read my review on Amazon here…and show yourself some love by getting your own copy!

Lavanila

I rarely use conventional perfume because of the harsh chemicals/toxins and how my allergies can be set off with one strong whiff. But that doesn’t mean I can’t smell delicious! Lavanila Laboratories offers all-natural yummy scents like Vanilla Blackberry, Vanilla Lavender, and Vanilla Coconut, which I’ve personally tried. There are other fragrances from which to choose, all in a variety of sizes.

Pick Your Plum

Such a great little site for unique, get-it-til-it’s-gone deals! After you sign up, Pick Your Plum will send you one offer each morning (Monday through Friday) for truly remarkable prices. From tins to twine, clutches to cupcake liners, skirts to striped straws…they’re all lovely and at a steal! Classy clutches for $7.95?! Crazy! Unlike other bargain sites, I like that you don’t have to spend any time browsing to see if there’s a deal you want…only one thing being offered, so if it’s not your thing…delete! The only catch is you can’t wait too long to buy…these deals are gone faster than you can pick a crate of plums.

Savvy Bohème

I received a deluxe sample of Savvy Bohème’s Summer in Spain Whipped Cocoa Butter in one of my Goodebox shipments (another favorite of mine!). I was in love the moment I opened the jar. The creamy concoction has the intoxicating aroma of orange chocolate and melts delightfully into your skin. While you can’t eat it, at least you’ll know this “dessert” is nothing but good for your skin and those who are special enough to touch it!

Suntegrity

Beauty Benefit cream (aka B.B. cream) is a big thing right now and for good reason: Who wouldn’t want a product that treats, hydrates, protects, primes, and covers the skin in ONE STEP? The only problem is that most of the B.B. creams out there are totally toxic. The solution is Suntegrity’s “5 in 1” Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen, available in Light and Medium shades. I adore the way this multitasking product feels and looks on my skin, and that all the awesome ingredients are giving my skin the love it deserves.

Show yourself and your special people some love…not just today but

EVERY DAY!

Stuffed mushrooms closeup

“Not Your Classic” Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed mushrooms on waxed paperI love mushrooms.  But I don’t love most stuffed mushrooms.  I have a problem with the consistency of the “classic version” (a paste), and if they aren’t right out of the oven, the consistency is even more troubling on its way toward cold.  So I made a “unclassic”–not to be confused with unclassy–version of stuffed mushrooms.  Un-blended, un-mushed, and un-pasty.  Your taste buds won’t will be un-happy.

Because I originally made this appetizer for a party, and there’s quite a bit of prep work, I made more than you would need on a normal night.  If you’re only serving a few people–or just yourself–you can still do the prep but only bake what you need and store the rest in the fridge.  Two days later, my leftover prepped mushrooms were still just as delicious as the first day.

Store extra mushrooms in fridge until ready to bake

Store extra mushrooms in fridge until ready to bake

For serving at a party, only bake as many as will be eaten right away, then bake as needed.  Note:  If you use a pre-heated toaster oven, you may only need to bake them for 10 minutes…they’re done when you see sizzling juice around the mushrooms and the cheese is melted/golden.  While the mushrooms are cooling, transfer them to paper towels or other material to soak up excess liquid to prevent mushiness from setting in (or juices squirting out when you take a bite!).  You could also line a basket or tray with a napkin or waxed paper and serve them that way.  Note for party planning:  The bigger the mushrooms, the harder it is to eat in one bite, which is what you want for a finger food menu.  

If you or your guests don’t eat pork, make sure you use quality thyme and add any other spices if needed to boost flavor.

Stuffed mushrooms closeup

Recipe for “Not Your Classic” Stuffed Mushrooms

  • Yields approximately 35 stuffed mushrooms
  • Prep time: 45 minutes
  • Bake time: 20-25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 packages (8 ounces each) mushrooms – I used the button/white variety, but cremini mushrooms work too
  • 2 pieces bacon, nitrate/nitrite-free
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ cup minced shallots (about 1 large)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic (about 2 large cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • sea salt, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • shaved/shredded parmesan cheese, enough for a pinch on top of each mushroom

Directions:

 

Fry bacon in large pan until crispy, then remove and let cool.  While bacon is cooking, clean mushrooms with damp cloth.   Separate mushroom stems from caps, being careful not to tear the caps.  Finely chop stems.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Add olive oil to bacon fat left behind from cooking and saute stems and shallots over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring often.  Add garlic, a couple pinches of salt, a few twists of pepper, and thyme, cooking for 2 more minutes.  Turn off heat and stir in parsley and finely chopped bacon.  Taste and add spices if necessary.  Toss mushroom caps with olive oil.  Use small spoon to stuff stem mixture into mushroom caps.  Press curved outside of spoon down into mixture to pack in.  Don’t overstuff.  Top each cap with a pinch of parmesan.  Bake 20-25 minutes on baking sheet.  Transfer mushrooms to paper towels or cloth while cooling to soak up excess liquid.

Assortment of squash and radishes from my CSA

Bringing the Farm to You

The best food to eat is straight from the source, whether it be ground, animal, stream/ocean, or tree.  Don’t grow your own grub?  Don’t live on a farm?  No problem!  No matter where you live, chances are there’s freshly picked food near you.  I dug up some resources to share so you can experience food as it was meant to be eaten!

When you buy food at a farmers' market, you know where your food comes from and how its been grown. Photo by Jill Rath

What:  Farmers’ markets
Why:  Food is fresher when it’s not shipped in from thousands of miles away.  Fruits and vegetables that travel long distances are usually either unripe (because they’re picked too early for a long journey) or on the verge of spoilage by the time they get to you.  Produce at farmers’ markets is local and seasonal…you’re living in a certain climate, and your food should too.  Having the people who grow your food available to answer your questions is a big plus.  You can find out if they spray their produce and how often, or learn what conditions their animals live in and what they eat.  Sometimes farmers can’t afford to be “certified organic” but follow those practices anyway.  And knowing that information can save you some major moolah.
How:  Visit Local Harvest to find farmers’ markets in your area.

Assortment of squash and radishes from my CSA.

What:  Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
Why:  You support local, small farmers by purchasing a share of their yield, and in return, receive a mix of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.  Some CSAs deliver, while others have pick-up locations.  Most list what fruits and veggies you can expect to find in your share, and some also offer other goodies such as milk, eggs, cheese, jam, meat, flowers, and bread.
How:  Again, Local Harvest is the place to go to find CSAs closest to you.  Then visit that CSA’s website to get details.  Sign-up is usually in early spring and tends to sell out fast, so make sure you mark the date on your calendar!

A winning combination: Raw milk, fudgy flourless brownies, and an adorable companion with which to enjoy it all!

What:  Dairy delivery
Why:  Drinking milk from grass-fed, pastured, healthy cows (or goats or sheep) is the ultimate “Got Milk” moment.  Real dairy is raw, which means it’s neither homogenized nor pasteurized.  Unfortunately, raw milk isn’t commercially available in most states, so I get it delivered from a dairy co-op that sources its products from Amish farmers.  Other than dairy products (including cheese, yogurt, cream, etc.), they also offer meat, fermented products, spices, and unfiltered honey.  Farmers who believe in raw milk also believe in raising, growing, and producing products that are as nature intended (no antibiotics, pesticides, or additives).  Their animals eat what they’re designed to eat, so you get the nutrition and benefits you were meant to receive.
How:  Check out RealMilk.com to get info straight from the cow’s mouth about the benefits of raw dairy and how you can get it.

Hutch and burrito

Achieving Health and Wellness Resolutions, Step 1: Choose Better Food

Food is the foundation of health, and can either support wellness or take away from it.  Choosing better food is the first step in achieving your health and wellness resolutions.  Why?  Because eating quality food affects how your body and mind operates, and in the long run, your health becomes an accumulation of your food choices.

What does choosing better food mean?  Let’s start with what it doesn’t mean.  It doesn’t mean diets, deprivation, or extremes.  Choosing better food does not require drastic or emotionally painful changes.  In my experience, that sets you up for failure, both mentally and physically.

Below, I’ve listed what I consider the key points to choosing better food.  While you put these in to practice, remember that you’ll want these changes to be with you for the rest of your life.  So take it easy.  Take it slow.  Be aware of how your mind and body respond.  Don’t deprive yourself…encourage yourself to eat better.

Be unrefined.

I used to be hooked on nutritionally deficient foods.  Artificial sweeteners, refined food, processed food…basically crap food.  I was tired, emotionally imbalanced, and evaluated the merits of food solely on calories and fat grams.  Because I deprived myself on a daily basis, I was miserable and thought about food all the time.  I didn’t realize all my suffering stemmed from eating so many nutritionally empty foods.

Now I focus on “real food.”  Check out this short video to find out what that means.  If eating real food is new to you, start slowly.  Make small upgrades.  Try brown rice instead of white.  A fresh peach instead of canned.  Mixed green salad instead of iceberg.  Soda water with a splash of orange juice instead of orange soda.  If you go slowly, you won’t be traumatized and the changes will stick with you.

Get a handle on your cravings.

We all have cravings, but giving in to refined and processed foods all the time will take a toll on your health.  Those sweet, salty, crunchy, and chewy cravings have healthy substitutes.  But if you have a craving for a specific thing (like Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby ice cream) and nothing but that exact food will satisfy you, then for goodness sake have it so you can get on with your life!  Enjoy it, savor it, allow a little squeal of glee.

When you make healthful food a part of your daily life, you’ll start craving those foods instead.  Refined, processed foods will start to lose their appeal.  I couldn’t believe the first time I woke up and couldn’t wait to eat some kale!  I actually feel unsettled if I don’t eat vegetables every day, especially the green leafy variety.  Now those are the kinds of cravings you can give in to whenever you like!

Plan ahead.

Choosing better food means planning ahead.  If I have a busy week and know I’m not going to be up to taking much time to prepare my meals, I carve out a few hours the Sunday before to cook for the week.  I clean and cut a ton of veggies, double or triple recipes, make sure I have essential oils/ingredients on hand…whatever I can think of that will cut my cooking time down to 10 minutes or less.

If you don’t have that kind of time, you can still eat nutritious food with little planning.  Take a look at this grocery list:

  • carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers
  • pre-cut or frozen broccoli
  • canned chickpeas and black beans
  • brown rice
  • Ezekiel bread
  • salad greens
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • lemons
  • whole free-range chicken (already roasted) from the deli department

By incorporating spices and common condiments you have in the fridge, this grocery list makes lunch and dinner options that take very little time to make.  Here are some meal examples:

  1. Salad with roasted chicken, veggies, and chickpeas with olive oil and lemon dressing (and spices)
  2. Stir-fry of brown rice, broccoli, and chicken (using olive oil, maybe lemon, spices)
  3. Chicken, salad greens, and tomato sandwich (using mayo, mustard, or olive oil)
  4. Chicken with beans and rice (using olive oil, spices)

I know these meals are all centered around chicken, but can you see how many quick meals you could make with a simple grocery list of versatile, nutritious ingredients?

Taking the time to plan out healthy meals will keep you eating right while saving you money spent on take-out and eating out.

Be realistic.

Choosing better food means doing the best with what’s available and doable.  Sometimes you’re at a friend’s house for a dinner and the menu’s out of your control.  Sometimes you go to a restaurant that doesn’t have many, or any, healthy options.  Sometimes you’re driving through the desert and the only place to eat is a tiny gas station.  Sometimes you simply just want to order the amazing lobster mac-n-cheese!  It’s OK.  Shoot for eating quality, unrefined food 80% of the time.  Do that, you won’t have to sweat the other 20%.

The more often you choose better food, the more it will become part of your life.

Need some healthy menu ideas?  Take a look at my Recipes Page for deliciously unrefined eating!

Fresh Spiced Cranberry Sauce

Fresh Spiced Cranberry Sauce

When I was a kid, I thought all cranberry sauce came out of a can in one big can-shaped jelly mold.  I thought it tasted OK, but something about it was weird and unnatural.  Then many years later I discovered that cranberry sauce could look like, well, sauce.  And it tasted so…delicious.  After that day, I just couldn’t bear to buy the jelly-roll-thing-in-a-can again.

While homemade cranberry sauce does take longer to make than opening a can, I think it’s totally worth it.  And my taste buds agree.  If you’re in a real pinch, or simply will faint if you have to make one thing more thing for the holidays, you could add the spices to a store-bought can of whole cranberry sauce (please stay away from the jelly!).  I promise not to say anything, as long as you pledge to try this recipe later.  OK, now that we’ve done the pinkie swear thing…..

This would be a great sauce to accompany any white meat, which you probably already guessed.  But I encourage you to try it with other foods too, such as swirled into oatmeal or yogurt, dolloped onto vanilla ice cream, or stuffed into baking apples.  I bet you could come up with some fun ways to use it for holiday hors d’oeuvres too.

Recipe for Fresh Spiced Cranberry Sauce

makes about 1½ cups of sauce

  • 1½ cups filtered water
  • ¾ cup sucanat (dehydrated, freshly squeezed sugar cane juice with a natural molasses flavor)
  • 1 (12-oz) bag fresh cranberries – Equals 3 cups
  • ½-1 teaspoon (packed in) freshly grated orange peel – I really enjoyed the stronger taste of orange, but if you only want a hint, try ½ tsp
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated ginger root
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom (optional) – It’s great without, but cardamom is such a warm, holiday-ish spice, it’s perfect for this time of year
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Pour water and sugar into medium pot and heat to a boil, stirring.  Add cranberries and bring to boil again.  Simmer, covered, until cranberries pop and mixture thickens a little (about 15-20 minutes).  Turn off heat.  Stir in rest of ingredients.  Let sit until cools.  Transfer sauce to glass container and chill in fridge until thickens (don’t worry, it will firm up!).

Have a tasty holiday season!