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‘Tis the season, and many of us are relinquishing the long lines at our local retailers to stay home and cyber shop on the couch instead. Even the shipping time takes barely the blink of an eye, with companies like Amazon offering their Prime service, delivering in 48 hours or sometimes even 24. Uh-mazing!

For better or for worse, amazon.com has changed the way we shop. Yes, more waste (ohhhh the cardboard, says Ecomama … thank goodness I can at least recycle it). But yes, more convenience. More selection. In some cases, the only selection: there have been times I could not find an item locally and could only find it on Amazon. First world problems. But still.

We mourn the rise of the box store/franchise and the subsequent decline of the mom and pop shop, but when you shop on Amazon, sometimes you are in fact supporting a small business that just has a little less proximity to you personally.

But I digress from the point of this post. Here’s the good part: If you’re going to be shopping on amazon.com for any reason, simply type in smile.amazon.com instead, and you’ll be taken to exactly the same website, except now .5% of your purchase goes to the charity of your choice. So nice!!!

There is a loooong list of charities from which to choose; some national, some local. Animals, children, veterans, educational funds … so many ways to make a small difference. Why not let a portion of your purchase help someone? Seems like a no brainer to me!

And this isn’t just at holiday time. It’s all the time. Anytime you find yourself tapping those computer keys to bring you over to amazon.com, just tap a few more keys and make it smile.amazon.com . You can feel warm and fuzzy inside knowing that someone is smiling on the other end of that transaction, all thanks to you.

After years of elimination diets and hundreds and hundreds of quarts of homemade broth and sauerkraut, I have  trained myself out of the habit of eating a sweet breakfast. Now that the dust has settled healthwise, I have a better idea of which foods aggravate my system and which ones don’t. As such, these days I choose not to eat refined sugar, eggs, dairy, or anything made with flour. 

As you can see, this pretty much strikes out anything from a usual breakfast menu. Pancakes? Nope. Eggs and toast? Uh-uh. Yogurt and granola? No, not that one either.

When me and my Eco clan go out for breakfast to a restaurant, I do pretty well asking for a veggie omelet minus the eggs and cheese. Sometimes I get a double take from the server with a confused expression, and then I simply smile and explain, “I don’t eat eggs, dairy or gluten. So whatever ingredients would normally go IN the omelet, I’ll take a big heaping plate of that. No eggs, no cheese, no toast, just cooked veggies, thanks.” Then I add to this a side of breakfast potatoes and a side of bacon, and I’m all set.

At home, even more options. I have a fridge and pantry full of the loveliest ingredients, just waiting to be turned into a delicious savory start to my day. Sometimes it’s leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. Sometimes it’s a simple soup with my ever-present homemade chicken broth and a couple of veggies. Sometimes I make a big ol’ batch of stir fry or kitchari and just scoop and reheat each morning til it’s gone.

Today, I didn’t want hot food. Here in Orlando, it’s been 100+ degrees with what feels like 150% humidity, and I took my littlest Ecogirl to summer camp via sweaty bike ride before I ate anything. Upon my return, cool food definitely seemed appealing. In the fridge, I had leftover  roasted salmon and some rice made with my own homemade broth, so I added them to a cornucopia of veggies and topped with a yummy tahini goddess dressing from Aldi.


Quick, easy, and delicious. Mix and match your own veggies; my recipe below is just a starting off point. The possibilities are endless!


Ingredients:

  • Chopped cabbage, green and red
  • Sprouts
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes
  • Scallions
  • Oven roasted salmon, chilled
  • Rice, chilled
  • Simply Nature Tahini Goddess Dressing (or make your own) 

Combine all ingredients, toss well, and consume! I ate half for breakfast and will enjoy the other half for lunch. The gift that keeps on giving!

    Kitchari

    I looooooove Ayurveda!

    Ayurveda is the 5000 year old system of natural healing originating in India, and literally means “the science of life”. It is a comprehensive framework within which vibrant health can flourish … way more than just a system to treat illness.

    Changing through the seasons, Ayurveda offers dietary and behavioral routines to balance and integrate the body, mind, and spirit with our environment. Different foods have different qualities and affect us in different ways at different times.

    However, in Ayurvedic philosophy, one always wants to increase their intake of sattvic foods. These foods are soothing, nourishing and promote and maintain a quiet, steady mind, a sharp intellect and a greater sense of empathy. They are intended to improve every part of you, physical and esoteric.

    One very classic and comforting sattvic food I’ve been enjoying lately is kitchari, meaning “mixture,” usually of two grains. The most common preparation combines basmati rice, yellow split peas (mung dal), spices, and whatever vegetables you may have at hand. Mine is a little different every time depending on what’s in the fridge.

    It is nourishing, easily digested and can be eaten at any meal. Consider it a “reset” for your digestion, boosted with seasonings and spices that support good digestion, healthy blood flow, increased immunity, and more.

    In fact, eat it to replace all meals for a few days straight, and it’s the gentlest cleanse you’ll ever do.

    And it’s comforting and yummy too! Win win!

    kitchari

    Ingredients:

    • 8 cups filtered water
    • 1 cup yellow split peas (mung dal)
    • 1/2 cup basmati rice
    • 3-4 cups any chopped veggie you like (today I used leeks, carrots, napa cabbage, celery, and spinach)
    • 1 tsp ground cumin
    • 1 tsp ground fennel
    • 1 tsp ground coriander
    • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced (or 1 Tbsp dry ground)
    • 1 inch fresh turmeric, peeled and minced (or 1 Tbsp dry ground)
    • 1 tsp sea salt
    • 1 Tbsp ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, or any oil of choice
    • a handful of chopped fresh cilantro

     

    Directions:

    Measure out mung dal and rice into a strainer and rinse . Place in pot, add water, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer.

    Meanwhile, chop and measure vegetables and cumin, coriander, fennel, ginger, and turmeric. Add to pot, bring back up to a boil, turn it down and resume a covered simmer. Stir occasionally.

    Allow to simmer 30-45 minutes until split peas are somewhat softened. Remove from heat and stir in sea salt, ghee or other oil of choice, and cilantro.

    This makes enough for me to eat for three to four meals. It’s easy to reheat, but the energetic benefits  of the food are truly highest when it is freshly cooked.

     

     

     

     

    Truth be told, I never really was a big fan of meatballs or meatloaf, but both my Ecogirls have been requesting pasta lately. I told them there HAS to be some kind of protein with all those carbs, and they agreed. Hence, meatballs.

    After 16 months of autoimmune protocol diet (for me that’s basically meat, veggies, and broth, with just a little bit of fruit here and there), I am testing the waters of my skin reactions and eating a wider variety of foods.

    I’m also trying to be sensitive to the needs and desires of my family members, who aren’t so willing to join me on this dietary journey of mine, so grains are back in some forms.

    Ok, pause for dream sequence …

    I have to chuckle when I think back to one point in the middle of the grain-free journey, when Ecodaddy wrote on the grocery list: Tortillas, extra extra gluten

    I get it honey. I get it.

    As Ecodaddy has further pointed out to me quite frequently, it’s hard being a kid who doesn’t even get rice, much less bread. Or cake. Or cupcakes. Or anything like that.

    So, the grains have returned, and the troops are happier.

    But I’m personally not quite ready to jump right back on the grain train. When I do experiment, it still doesn’t include gluten, which I’m supposed to avoid for low functioning thyroid. Plus, Big Sis Ecogirl has some impulse control issues and aggressiveness that seem to appear out of nowhere when she eats certain foods,  gluten among them. Just better to leave it out it seems.

    I first did a Google search looking for a grain-free meatball recipe because, I mean, if there’s a good one out there, then hey, why not? But I quickly learned from many sources that it is the breadcrumbs, and specifically the soaked breadcrumbs that give meatballs their lighter, fluffier texture. If you omit the crumbs, you run the risk of having hard overcooked knobs of meat floating in your sauce, and who wants that?

    Several months ago, thrifty as always, I had cut the crusts off a few loaves of gluten-free bread I had used for sunbutter-and-jelly sandwiches for a school function. I left the crusts out for a few days til dry, then pulsed in food processor til crumbs. Voila: no cost gluten-free breadcrumbs!

    After my extensive meatball recipe research online, i merged the best of a few of them and created my own version, replacing with gluten-free breadcrumbs. It was super delish! Even my meatball-hating babysitter, who stayed for dinner last night, cleaned her plate!

    And now, the next morning, after having finished the leftover sauce and meatballs with my breakfast, there isn’t even a smear or a smudge left to photograph for you. You’ll have to trust me on this one, and I’ll be sure to snap a shot next time I make it.

    *

    Ingredients

    1 pound ground pork (mine also had ground organs, but that is TOTALLY optional LOL)

    1/2 pound ground beef

    1/2 cup gf breadcrumbs

    Enough milk to moisten breadcrumbs

    minced garlic cloves

    1 minced shallot (or half a small onion)

    2 Tbsp + 4 Tbsp coconut oil or olive oil

    1 egg

    1 tsp dried Italian seasoning

    1/2 tsp dried thyme

    1/2 tsp dried rosemary

    1 tsp sea salt

    a few peppermill grinds of black pepper

    a jar of tomato sauce (or your own homemade if so inspired)

    a glug of olive oil

    a large pinch of sea salt

    package of your pasta of choice (I used gluten-free rice and quinoa pasta from Trader Joe’s)

    2 Tbsp butter

    Grated Parmesan cheese

    *

    Directions

    Add milk to breadcrumbs and set aside to moisten.

    Heat a pan on the stove and add 2 Tbsp oil. When hot, add garlic and shallot and saute for a few minutes til golden and fragrant. Remove from heat.

    In a large bowl, combine ground pork, ground beef, soaked breadcrumbs, cooked garlic/shallot mixture, egg, and seasonings til thoroughly combined. Mush it with your hands and try not to be grossed out LOL. You might even like it! Shape into small round meatballs and set aside.

    Pour tomato sauce into a pot and put over medium low heat to simmer.

    Fill a large pot 1/2-2/3 with water and put over high heat to boil. Add a glug of olive oil and a large pinch of sea salt

    Heat a large pan on the stove (if you used a big one for garlic and shallots before, can be same one) and add 4 Tbsp oil. Brown meatballs on all sides and cook through.

    Add meatballs to pot of sauce and let simmer 15-45 minutes.

    Add dry pasta to now boiling water in large pot (I used Trader Joe’s Organic Rice and Quinoa Spaghetti). Cook til al dente according to package directions, then strain over sink. If using gluten-free pasta, spray with cold water to cool down the pasta, preventing overcooking and stickiness. If wheat pasta, DO NOT RINSE! You want that starchy water clinging to the pasta! Trust me: I’m Italian. Fuggedaboudit.

    Replace pasta pot over medium heat and add 2 Tbsp butter. When butter is melted, add pasta back into the pot, sprinkle with sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste, and stir coat evenly with butter.

    Serve in individual bowls topped with meatballs/sauce mixture, then sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese.

    Buonissimo!

    Today I am grateful for the American innovation, the muffin: a heart-warming, semi-sweet, quick bread for one.

    Perfect for breakfast, dessert, a snack, or sometimes even a meal replacement on the go, I do love a good muffin pretty much any time of day!

    Well, at least I used to …  months ago, on a quest to resolve some health issues, I eliminated dairy, eggs, and wheat from my diet. I am, in fact, feeling better, but ohhhhh, the cravings!

    I’m happy to report that I’m finally over my cheese-and-creamy-foods cravings (I ate a whole avocado a day for weeks, to help fill the creamy void!), and could quite easily walk by a fragrant loaf of crusty French bread without blinking an eye.

    But lately I’ve really been craving an earthy, wholesome muffin, chock full of good and healthy ingredients. And so my research for “gluten-free” and “vegan” baked goods began.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m no vegan! Omnivore all the way! But I’ve learned that if you want a baked treat with no eggs or dairy in it, “vegan” is the buzzword to look for.

    A few substitutions and additions to this recipe resulted in muffins that were moist and delicious.  And despite NO refined sugar whatsoever, the dates and raisins contribute enough sweetness to please even little taste buds.

    I held my breath when my oh-so-finicky Little Ecogirl took the first bite. Her wrinkled nose and frownie mouth turned into a big crumby smile, and she promptly gobbled down the rest and asked for more!

    almond flax muffins

    Gluten-free Almond Flax Muffins

    • 1/2 cup almond flour
    • 4 Tbsp plus 1/4 cup ground flax seeds, separated
    • 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 7 dates, pits and “crown” removed
    • 3/4 cup plus 1/8 cup water, separated
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
    • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
    • 1/2 cup raisins
    1. In a small bowl, whisk 4 Tbsp ground flax with 3/4 cup water and set aside for at least ten minutes. (This is your egg replacer.)
    2. In a large bowl combine almond flour, 1/4 cup flax, coconutbaking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
    3. In a Vitamix or other high powered blender, blend dates, flax and water egg replacer, 1/8 cup water, oil, and vanilla on high speed until very smooth
    4. Mix wet ingredients into dry, then stir in sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and raisins.
    5. Spoon batter into lined muffin pan. These don’t rise much, so fill right up to the top of the liner.
    6. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes.
    7. Cool and serve.

    Tonight’s dinner was a successful cornucopia of veggies in disguise, and a quick and easy one at that!

    By now, Ecogirl is four and a half, and Ecobaby isn’t such a baby anymore … two months past her second birthday already! How time flies! They are (mostly) adventurous eaters, but I sometimes still get stubborn resistance to eating vegetables.

    So what do I do? I don’t bother with a fight. I just pull the veggie bait-and-switch, and dupe them into eating something delicious and nutritious that they weren’t expecting.

    Who doesn’t like pasta?!?! That one always goes over well at our house, and likely at yours too. Cries of “Yay, fettuccine!” filled my ears, while they hadn’t the foggiest notion I’d be hiding several servings of veggies amidst the twirling mass of tasty noodles.

    I’ve been trying to stay (somewhat) gluten-free while I’m exploring my newest diet to increase alkalinity. I’m not religious about it, but I do find I feel better when I reduce, or better yet eliminate, processed wheat products. Ecodaddy is mostly onboard with my unconventional dietary choices, but he is not a big fan of rice pasta, instead ever-loyal to those amber waves of grain that are a staple of the standard American diet (aka wheat).

    But since he’s at work tonight and it’s just us girls having dinner at home, I took the opportunity to let my beloved rice pasta take center stage. You, however, are more than welcome to use any type of pasta you darned please.

    veggie fettuccine

    While I chose not to, feel free to top with a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if you are so inspired!

    Quick and Easy Veggie Fettuccine

    While the water boiled for the pasta, I warmed up a cast-iron pan and poured in a few glugs of extra virgin olive oil. When it had that glisten that told me it was just right for sizzling veggies, I added about 1/4 cup diced onions. I let the onions sauté for a few minutes til they softened and browned a bit, then added 1/4 cup chopped broccoli florets, 1/4 cup chopped cauliflower florets, about 1/4 cup vegetable broth and a few hefty pinches of sea salt. I put a lid on it and let it simmer over medium-low heat a few minutes, then took the lid off and let the cooking liquid evaporate. In went a couple of minced garlic cloves. Just another minute or two of sautéing so the garlic wouldn’t burn, and I then dumped in half a jar of store-bought tomato sauce (hey, even Ecomamas take short cuts sometimes!). Warmed it all up and voila: fast and easy veggie tomato sauce!

    By this time, I had put a glug of extra virgin olive oil and a few hefty pinches of sea salt into the boiling water, and in went the rice fettuccine. Rice pasta is terribly gummy if overcooked, so you really need to keep a close eye (and taste) on it. It keeps cooking in the colander, so after straining it, I ran some cold water over the noodles to halt the cooking process.

    Meanwhile, the now-empty pasta pot went back on the stove on medium-low heat with a glug of extra virgin olive oil (if you are not on a dairy-free diet like I am, I encourage you to use a few tablespoons of butter instead!), and the rinsed pasta went back in the pot and tossed with a few pinches of sea salt and a few turns of the black pepper mill.

    I served the veggie-laden sauce over a bed of the well-seasoned fettuccine, and topped the girls’ bowls with grated parmesan cheese (parmigiano reggiano is our personal fave). Alas, no cheese for me, but still very tasty.

    The girls both gobbled it up … I was thrilled when they asked for seconds, and simply floored when they asked for thirds!

    Sidenote: several years ago, my sister gave me one of the greatest pieces of kitchen advice EVER. She said, whenever you have only a short amount of free time, like the five minutes you’re waiting for your kid to go potty before you head out of the house for an excursion, and there’s no other real project or task you can get done in this short time, do this: grab something out of the fridge, chop it, put it in a lidded container, and place back in the fridge.

    Thanks to her, and all these little segmented five-minute periods of time throughout my day, I have nicely organized containers of just about every vegetable and fruit chopped and ready to use at a moment’s notice! Thanks sis!

    What are some of your favorite ways to disguise veggies or your favorite time-saving kitchen tips?

    I discovered virgin organic rosehip oil from Chile when trying it out as a facial moisturizer. I knew very little about it, but it was on sale through my wholesale buying club/co-op one month so I bought it. After a few weeks of use, I noticed the splotchiness of my face was greatly diminished, and my skin tone seemed more evened out. I was amazed!!! I did some online research and was impressed to learn the following about rosehip oil:

    Native to South America, rosehip oil is made by cold-pressing the seeds of the fruit of the rose plant (the little red bulbs that appears after the flowers fall off). It is rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, and natural anti-oxidant properties that help improve the elasticity of the skin, regenerate skin cells, slow down premature aging, and reduce the formation of wrinkles and scarring.

    Rosehip oil is extremely high in Vitamin C, in the form of essential fatty acids, which retain and attract moisture for healthier skin. Vitamin C is also necessary for the production of collagen, one of the main proteins in the skin.

    It is great for mature or damaged skin and can be used to fade blemishes such as pigmentation spots, acne scars, stretch marks and sun-damage. Just a few drops go a looong way, especially on damp skin. Face, neck, decolletage, and tops of hands are the main anti-aging spots you want to hit. But really, use it anywhere. Rough elbows, dry feet … it feels very luxurious on the skin.

    Rosehip oil helps regenerate tissue, and is excellent for treating burns immediately after they happen. Apply multiple times daily to affected area; heals skin quickly and vastly reduces visibility of scars.

    The only thing for which it seems to be contraindicated is active acne. It’s good for diminishing the appearance of acne scars, but not for use when acne is active.

    It is a nongreasy carrier oil which absorbs quickly into the skin without leaving behind shiny residue. It has a light, nutty aroma which can easily be enhanced with a variety of essential oils. The color is a beautiful and surprising deep amber.

    Here’s another personal testimonial from the perpetual clutz. yours truly: I burned myself not long ago when the lid of the wafflemaker fell on my hand and left me with a nice little grid pattern on it

    Ouch! *sob* Keep going. Must. Feed. Children. Breakfast.

    After the little creatures were held at bay with healthy whole-grain waffles and nitrite-free turkey bacon, I started treating my tic-tac-toe-board-for-a-hand with a few drops of rosehip oil every day. A few weeks later, my hand had NO gridmarks, NO scar, NO sign of damage to the skin whatsoever!!!

    I sort of feel like a born-again because I’m so convinced of and vocal about the magical properties of this oil. So much so that I even went out and bought a gallon of virgin organic cold-pressed rosehip oil from Chile and separated into 2-oz amber glass bottles with glass dropper in lid to distribute amongst my friends and loved ones. I want the world to enjoy the benefits of this oil, and I still have a good number of bottles left.

    If you are interested, send me an email at ecomamasays at gmail dot com

    My favorite thing about rosehip oil: How it evens out my splotchy skin tone, flattens my keloid scars, and plumps up my skin in general.

    Tell me and our other readers below what you like best about what rosehip oil is doing for your skin. Good things, no doubt!