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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.

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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!

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    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.

     

     

     

     

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    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!

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    Yesterday’s Picnic

    I am a Facebook addict.

    Maybe it’s because I spend most of my days at home with two little ones, reciting nursery rhymes, wiping drippy noses and tears, getting warm sticky hugs and kisses, and folding endless baskets of laundry.

    As banal as Facebook chatter may be sometimes, it’s one of my links to the outside world, for better or for worse. It’s my connection to other grown-ups doing exciting grown-up things that help me remember the exciting grown up things I used to do, and will do again soon enough.

    Hidden in the usual Facebook chatter this morning, I found an invitation to recall the best moment of yesterday. Doing so, it was said, would help to envision and build the day ahead in a positive way, by remembering the best moment from the day before.

    Yesterday, Ecobaby used her little push walker by herself for the first time. She was just so pleased with herself, giggling with sheer joy and pride, a huge smile plastered on her drooly little face. Over and over she walked, back and forth, coming closer and closer to mastering the skill with every Frankenbaby-esque step.

    Yesterday, we also took a jaunt to a big, shady park near Ecogirl’s preschool, and brought a light picnic lunch…

    As much as I’d like to, I just can’t make stuff from scratch every day. We all try to do the best we can, and make the best choices available when we can’t cook it ourselves.

    The pinwheel sandwiches are lovely, aren’t they? Alas, I can’t take credit for making them … they are leftover formerly frozen hors d’oeuvres from BJ’s that we served at Ecobaby’s first birthday party a few days ago. Everything else is a balance of “healthier” prepackaged food including organic dairy products, and primarily raw fruits and vegetables.

    I’ll also briefly mention Ecogirl’s penchant for organic gummy bunnies as dessert on most of our picnics, though not pictured here.

    Good sharing, Ecobaby! Finish up your num nums and then we’ll practice walking some more!

    What are some of your favorite not-made-from-scratch foods you can pack and eat on the go?

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    I am back on a gluten-free, dairy-free, mold-free, yeast-free, virtually sugar-free diet (groan), and so my repertoire of satisfying snacks is painfully slim. I’ve had to cut out a lot of comfort and snack foods, and there are times I really miss them.

    Crunch. That is an important component of a good snack food. It feels good to your jaws to work a little bit, and one crunch just makes you want to crunch some more.

    Flavor. Since I can’t do sweet these days, I’m focusing on savory, giving my taste buds as much of a ride on the ferris wheel of flavor as I can.

    Portability. It’s gotta travel well, and be easy to eat with your fingers.

    At a recent potluck gathering, one woman brought some delicious spiced pumpkin seeds. She seasoned them with Bragg’s liquid amino acids, garam masala, and some other tasty things I can’t quite remember at the moment, but it got me thinking …

    Pumpkin seeds are so good for you! They are high in protein, fiber, antioxidants, B vitamins and minerals. They even help lower bad cholesterol. And for such a small seed, they are really delicious, especially roasted.

    But Ecomama, I thought nuts and seeds were more nutritious when eaten raw?

    Well, yes, that is definitely true, but sometimes you just want to indulge yourself with that comforting, toasty flavor and a little extra crunch.

    When your three year old starts systematically devouring a tray of pumpkin seeds, you know you’re doing something right!

    Here’s my version:

    Spicy Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

    • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
    • a pinch of cayenne pepper
    • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with a silicone non-stick sheet like Silpat, or with parchment paper or foil.
    2. In a small ramekin, mix the sea salt, garlic powder and cayenne until thoroughly combined.
    3. In a large bowl, toss the seeds with oil until glossy, then sprinkle with seasoning mix. Use a silicone spatula to toss and fully coat the seeds, as well as getting all the residue off the bowl and onto the seeds.
    4. Spread seeds thinly on lined baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until slightly golden brown but not burnt.

    If you like it saltier or spicier, just alter the amounts. Or, feel free to experiment with your own entirely different flavor and spice combinations. Be creative. Have fun! And come back and share your great ideas with us!

    Note: I have absolutely no idea how long these last, refrigerated or not, because ours didn’t make it past the first night!

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    Coffee Sugar Scrub

    I haven’t had a real cup of coffee in years.

    For the last three and a half years, I’ve either been pregnant or breastfeeding, and have avoided caffeine like the plague. I figured I don’t need to purposely give my breastfeeding kids an extra reason to spazz out.

    So decaf it is.

    Most mornings, I drink a concoction of decaf coffee, unsweetened cocoa and honey. My own “healthy” mocha, you could call it. The decaf tastes somewhat reminiscent of coffee, in a one-dimensional, flat sort of way.

    While it’s good enough, it just isn’t a cup of coffee. A rich, steaming mug of liquid sunshine in the morning, that sends you off on your day with a gleam in your eye and a spark in your step.

    *sigh* Coffee. My long lost friend.

    Ecodaddy loves himself a nice cup of coffee on weekend mornings, and often brews such aromatic beans as Arabian Mocha Java, Columbian, Kona, and Jamaica Blue Mountain. I love the smell of them all, warm and comforting, enticing and intense.

    While I’m not drinking it, this body scrub helps evoke some of those same feelings in a hot shower, sumptuous coffee-scented steam wafting all around me.

    On top of the amazing smell, the caffeine in the coffee has a twofold benefit: it acts as a vasculorestrictor, minimizing varicose veins, plus it helps minimize the appearance of cellulite, by “redistributing fat cells” (where they get redistributed to, I do not know …).

    The Bentonite clay acts to draw out impurities from the skin and improve the skin’s appearance overall. It’s also good for calming skin inflammation conditions like eczema. Clay can be taken internally too, i.e. eaten, but that’s a whole different post for another time.

    The apricot kernel oil is high in antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E, and penetrates the skin easily without leaving an oily feel. After your shower, there is no need to use any additional lotion or cream on your skin, as the apricot kernel oil in the scrub is plenty moisturizing.

    The granular texture of the sugar literally scrubs away dead skin cells to reveal fresh, glowing skin underneath. Too vigorous a scrubbing, and you’re losing live skin cells too. Don’t overdo it, and be gentle on tender areas like face and décolletage.

    Warning: this mix will leave a speckly trail of coffee grounds in your shower or tub. Be prepared to do a little extra rinsing when you’re done.

    It’s totally worth it!

    Coffee Sugar Scrub

    • 3 cups ground caffeinated coffee
    • 2 cups natural cane sugar
    • 8 Tbsp Bentonite clay (optional)
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 1/2 cups apricot kernel oil
    • 12 four-ounce containers
    1. Thoroughly mix all ingredients in a big bowl. Spoon into individual containers. Keeps several months at room temperature.

    Note: A small amount of oil may settle at bottom of container. If this happens, simply turn upside down for about five minutes before using, to redistribute the oil throughout the scrub.

    PS: These make great gifts, especially with a cute label and a bow around the rim. To label my jars, I print Avery mailing labels with a cute graphic and the product name in a funky font. I then top the label with a layer of clear packing tape to make it waterproof in the shower.

    Photo credit: Deca Candle and Bath

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