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Top Ten Foods In My Plant Based Pantry

Plant-Based-PantryIt can be intimidating to stock a kitchen for plant based living, especially if you don’t have a lot of cooking experience or a health coach guiding you. One of my number one tip as a plant based living educator is this: set yourself up for success. If you have a well-stocked pantry, you can be prepared to make all kinds of amazing plant based meals – with just the addition of fresh produce – without a lot of fuss! Read on for my top ten must-have vegan pantry items.

 10 Must-have foods in my plant based pantry:

  1. Beans: Inexpensive, filling, and versatile, beans are a staple in my kitchen. I keep both dried and canned organic beans on hand, and I often cook a batch in the slow cooker on Sunday for use in various dishes throughout the week. My favorites are black beans, green split peas, and pinto beans.
  2. Lentils: Did you know that lentils are “pulses,” the edible seeds of legumes? They are good sources of fiber and protein and also contain high amounts of calcium and vitamins A and B. The most common varieties are brown, green, yellow, and red lentils. The yellow and red ones break down a lot during cooking, while the brown and green ones hold their shape. Make your choice based on your desired outcome, in terms of texture! I use the red ones for my Red Lentil Dal.
  3. Jarred or canned tomatoes: Tomatoes are an excellent base for a variety of soups, stews, and sauces. I keep a variety of them on hand, both canned and jarred tomatoes . Diced tomatoes, spiced or not, are preferred for some recipes, while whole or stewed tomatoes may be better for others. I also keep sun-dried tomatoes on hand for some recipes, as they have a depth of flavor and a richness you don’t get from regular tomatoes.
  4. Whole grains: Whole grains contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed in their original proportions. When processed, meaning cracked, crushed, rolled, or cooked, the grains deliver the same rich balance of nutrients found in the original grain seeds. Brown rice and quinoa are my go-to grains. They are great on their own or with a little sauce/dressing, and they can be incorporated into tons of dishes, like soups, stews, vegetable stuffing, and cold salads.
  5. Nuts: Nuts are versatile in the kitchen and contain healthy fats. Cashews are probably the nut I use most often. With just two base ingredients – raw cashews and water – and whatever spices or flavoring you prefer, you can make cashew cream cheese (enjoy plain or add your preferred flavors – I add walnuts and agave nectar), cashew sour cream (add lemon juice and garlic powder), cashew creamer, and cashew milk. For the creamer and milk, I usually add a little agave nectar and a little vanilla.
  6. Seeds: My favorites are flax, chia, and sunflower. I use the first two in smoothies and breakfast dishes, and I use sunflower seeds in a variety of ways! My favorite way is to soak them and make a white sauce for pasta that is absolutely divine. You can also put them on salads, roast them with spices as a snack, or incorporate them in a stuffing – the possibilities are endless!
  7. Plant-based milks: You can find plant-based milks in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, but I prefer the aseptic (shelf-stable) packaged milks. They aren’t as perishable, of course, and they come in smaller containers! My personal favorite is hemp milk, as it tastes good and hemp is a nutritional powerhouse – packed with vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
  8. Nutritional yeast: Affectionately known as “nooch” in the veg community, this is a deactivated yeast in powder or flake form that is sold commercially as a food product. It contains folic acid, selenium, zinc, and protein, and it is often fortified with vitamin B12. It has a nutty, “cheesy” flavor, so it’s an excellent substitute for dairy cheese in many recipes. I like nutritional yeast best on organic popcorn and as a pasta topping in place of parmesan.
  9. Tahini: It’s hard for me to imagine that just a few short years ago, I had never heard of tahini. Now, it’s one of my go-to ingredients for salad dressings and sauces! It’s simply ground sesame seed paste, and it is commonly used in North African, Greek, Iranian, Turkish, and Middle Eastern cuisine. It is remarkably versatile, and it packs a ton of flavor. It’s usually my dressing base instead of oil – this Tahini Lime Dressing is my absolute favorite!
  10. Agave nectar or maple syrup: I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but a lot of savory recipes need just a touch of sweetness. Agave nectar and maple syrup are my preferred sweeteners. I use one of the two in my plant-based milks when I make them from scratch. I also use one or the other in veggie chili, in some salad dressings, and in a lot of the soups and stews I enjoy.

If you stock your pantry with these staple ingredients, an easy, plant based meal is at your fingertips every day. Just add fresh produce, and the variety of dishes you can make is limited only by your imagination. Bon appetit!

Committing to Gluten Free Living

You’ve heard the term gluten or gluten free somewhere, but you’re still wondering what the heck is this gluten business all about, right? Well trust me, I’ve been there and I am still learning new information all the time. When I was first diagnosed in June 2015 as being severely intolerant to gluten, a wave of confusion fell over me.

Time and time again I had observed all of the gluten free products on store shelves, I even knew a couple gals who were gluten free and I saw the GF bread at the farmers market, but I had no clue why one would elect to go GF unless it was just another stupid diet fad. (i.e. Atkins, South Beach, The Zone, etc.) Being highly unsupportive of diets, I always snubbed my nose to the gluten free living craze. I figured it was bound to fade out and it would be replaced by something new such as grinding animal bones into powder and drinking them in smoothies. I mean seriously, who knows what the next diet fad will be? That was until I started to learn more about my diagnosis and that for people who are indeed allergic, intolerant, or worse, have an autoimmune disease such as Celiac where gluten can do serious damage to a person’s digestive tract and make them very ill, gluten is no joke. What being gluten free means to this category of people definitely isn’t a diet fad.

gluten free living

Okay so what is gluten? It’s the elastic protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten literally means glue in Latin. Do you love how doughy a fresh loaf of bread feels or how cake springs back from your fork after pressing down on it? That would be gluten doing it’s magic and creating the elasticity most people love and crave.

Not only is gluten found in a lot of cakes, cookies, breads and pastas, but guess what, gluten is also found in barley. Barley is in beer. Beer has gluten. Beer, people. I was so sad to learn this news. I don’t drink beer often, but with all of the valley breweries to choose from, I do enjoy having a glass of local craft beer here and there….I now weep for Mr. Pineapple.

The third biggest gluten culprit is rye, but I never really ate much with rye in it so I don’t worry as much about that. Gluten can also be found in other wheat related grains so take a look at this link for the full list. My main focus is wheat because wheat is in so many products. Even products you wouldn’t suspect, wheat can lurk, especially in condiments. Take a look at this list from Gluten Free Girl and my own research of where gluten can hide:

soy, fish & oyster sauce soups licorice, hard candy
seasoning packets natural flavoring BBQ sauces, ketchup, mayo
salad dressings syrups cereals
chocolate ice cream broth and bouillon cubes
chipotles in adobo sauce yogurt and other dairy products miso
cold cuts, hot dogs mole and Mexican sauces beverages- iced tea, sports drinks
beer, vodka, wine coolers breaded foods oats

So what was my first step with receiving the gluten free blues news?

Initially I thought…okay not a big deal. I will just take this with a 80/20 approach and as long as I’m gluten free most of the time, I can do this. No sweat. For the first couple of weeks I did just that. I mainly ate the same way I was eating before which was a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, organic chicken, fish, nuts, whole grains and dairy. However, a girl steers off the course sometimes and wants a brownie, crackers & dip, pizza or sushi. Or she goes out to eat and may order something that contains gluten that she would have never suspected. This is where I needed to tighten up and stop making assumptions that I knew what was GF and what wasn’t. I needed to start questioning more and accept that this will be a learning curve and it’s okay to not have a handle on this new challenge immediately. I needed to educate myself further and do some research.

gluten free living

Once given the diagnosis, a lot of stuff began to make sense. I’ve had digestive issues since all the way back in high school. I’ve always gotten sick from fried foods, anything with heavy sauces, pastries & cake, salad dressings, fast food, even beer occasionally. I had seen a Gastroenterologist in my early 20’s and had a colonoscopy at the ripe age of 23, but there were no polyps, cysts, Crohn’s or other diseases detected. The diagnosis was IBS. I was prescribed medicine and was on my way. The IBS was so bad that often I would have to plan my night around it. I never liked going to parties because if I had an episode, I didn’t want to mortify myself and hang out in the bathroom half the night. I was never tested for gluten intolerance or even told to change my diet so I didn’t. I continued eating the way most 20 something year olds eat, and suffered the consequences for many years. In addition to digestive issues, gluten can also cause brain fogginess, headaches, bone & joint pain, chronic fatigue, depression, diarrhea and bloating. I have experienced a lot of these symptoms especially the brain fog, pain, bloating and fatigue.

Interesting enough I don’t look at gluten free living as this life-altering complication I now have to face. I’m actually excited by the challenge to try and make myself healthier. Thankfully I started looking at my health differently in my late 20’s and I realized that diet is so key to everything. For the past 5 years or so, I have been on a quest of eating healthy, cooking, taking supplements, exercising and trying to live a healthier lifestyle. Once I recognized the diet and IBS connection, my IBS symptoms reduced significantly, but not 100%. Even with all of the positive changes I’ve made, there was still the gluten issue that I was unaware of until recently. Now that I have this piece of valuable information, I look at it like a piece of a puzzle. I have been looking for the missing piece for so many years and now I have it. I can choose to use this new wisdom to really get to that next step of feeling vibrant, energized and pain free.

I learned that when you are GF, there is no halfway. You are either gluten free or you’re not. This totally shot down my plan on just being 80/20 with it. Kerri Kreuger of Natural Healthy Concepts sums it up well

The gluten-free diet is put into action to not only keep gluten damage from occurring, but to help your gut heal, too. In those with celiac disease and gluten intolerance, ingesting gluten causes varying levels of sickness. That sickness can last for days, and if you’ve been faithful to the gluten-free diet for any amount of time, you know how great being gluten-free can make you feel. So, why would you willingly make yourself miserable?

Well I guess I’m 100% gluten free then. I have read other information online about the havoc that gluten can do on a sensitive digestive system along with the wildfire of inflammation that it spreads into bones and joints. I want to feel better so I want to commit. I want to go GF for real, not just part time. It’s been almost 2 months now and so far so good. I have been exploring different gluten free products, cooking a lot more at home and researching GF friendly restaurants. I have had a few mishaps not by choice, but by not realizing there was gluten in something I ate (condiments and sauces are the biggest culprits for me). I am learning and that is okay. I’m also learning to deal with the comments from people like “well what do you eat then” or “it’s just this once.” Also the misconceptions others have about my reasoning or what gluten intolerance even is, and the label of being a “picky eater.” People often judge what they don’t know. Just because someone is GF, doesn’t mean they judge you for eating gluten. I’m a “picky eater” because I care. Sometimes I wish I didn’t, but I do. I am super excited to see where this road takes me on my path to wellness. How will I feel in 6 months, 1 year, 5 years? As a cancer survivor, I have dealt with a lot of medical issues that I had no control over and if this is something I can put a leash on and control to feel healthy and strong, you bet your bagels I’m on board.


Awesome Gluten Free Bloggers
Gluten Free Girl
Gluten Dude
Gluten-Free Goddess
Gluten Free on a Shoestring

 Has gluten free living changed how you feel? Share below!

Coffee & Beyond: Seven Organic Drinks to Start Your Day

I will admit that I love the taste of coffee.  I love the smell, I love the rich dark color, I love the energy boost it gives me.  Unfortunately, my body doesn’t love it as much as my taste buds do.  I’m far too sensitive to caffeine to have a morOrganic-Drinks-For-Morningning cup of coffee so I’ve learned to replace it with other organic drinks instead.  Along the way I learned that I really don’t need coffee to wake up in the morning and I actually feel better without it.  Even if you tolerate coffee well, you might want to try one of these seven organic drinks to start your day instead and see how it feels!

Seven Organic Drinks To Start Your Day

1 – Fresh Squeezed Organic Lemon Water: Squeeze a half a lemon into a 16oz glass of lemon and drink it first thing in the morning and reap the benefits.  The vitamin C in the lemon will give your immune system a boost.  It will help detoxify your liver by encouraging the production of bile.  The potassium will give your brain a boost, helping to lift depression. The alkalizing effects of lemon water help decrease systemic inflammation. Drinking lemon water first thing can even help decrease your appetite.

2 – Organic Green Smoothie:  If you have a hard time getting all of your veggies in, this is a great way to start your day.  As simple as a handful of spinach, some almond milk and a frozen banana whizzed in a blender, you’ll be starting your day ahead of the game nutritionally, fueling your body right from the start.  Try these Green Smoothie Recipes if you need ideas.

3 – Organic Chai Tea:  If you let Starbucks make your chai latte, not only will you be overpaying, you’ll get way too much sugar in your morning drink.  Brew your own organic chai tea at home and let the spicy aroma and flavor wake you up. You’ll get antioxidant benefit of the black tea, and the spices in chai have been used for centuries for general health and vitality.  These spices, in Ayurvedic tradition are considered both calming as well as vitalizing and mentally clarifying.  One of the best organic drinks to counteract the stresses of daily life.

4 – Organic Matcha Green Tea:  High in antioxidants with a caffeine boost, drinking matcha green tea is a great way to start your morning.  Learn more about the antioxidant benefits HERE.  Try it hot or iced in the morning or any time of day for a healthy pick me up.

5 – Organic Coconut Water:  If you had a little too much red wine the night before, this is one of the best organic drinks for a hangover.  The naturally occurring electrolytes in coconut water are perfect for replenishing what you may have lost the night before.  Coconut water is perfect for extra hydration in the summer or when you’re extra active.

6 – Organic Fresh Pressed Vegetable/Fruit Juice:  Another great way to start the day if you have a hard time getting all of your veggies in once the day starts.  I like to make fresh juices with really minimal amount of fruit.  It’s better to juice your veggies and eat your fruits because your body will overload on sugar if you don’t consume fiber along with it.  So when you’re making a fresh green juice in the morning, don’t go overboard on the fruits.  A simple green juice recipe would be something like this:

Apples – 2 medium (preferably tart like a Granny Smith)
Celery – 3 large stalks
Cucumber – 1 large cucumber
Ginger Root – 1/2 thumb (1″ dia)
Lemon – 1/2 fruit (including rind)
Parsley – 1 bunch
Spinach – 2 cups

7 – Organic Yerba Mate: If you’re not familiar with yerba mate, it is a South American beverage made by steeping the ground leaves and stems of the yerba mate plant.  It does contain caffeine – about twice the amount of black tea but less than half the amount in coffee.  It doesn’t give me the coffee jitters, nor does it give me the crash that happens with coffee.  When I’m looking for something strong to start my day, this one is my go-to.

What organic drinks other than coffee do you start your day with?  Share with us in the comments below!

Seven Unexpected Health Benefits Of Organic Ginger

Organic ginger is most widely known for its anti-nausea effects.  When you were a kid, did your mother give you a glass of ginger ale when you had a stomach ache?  It’s no wonder!  Ginger is incredibly beneficial for stomachaches and nausea.  Even MythBusters did an episode on motion sickness and confirmed that ginger was actually beneficial.

organic ginger

By Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK (Ginger Uploaded by Magnus Manske) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Newly pregnant women, travelers, chemotherapy patients and others have successfully used ginger to treat nausea but did you know that organic gingerdoes so much more?

 

Seven Unexpected Health Benefits of Organic Ginger

1 – Beneficial for Diabetes
Ginger has been found to reduce blood glucose, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol.  The beneficial effects come from ginger’s ability to increase insulin sensitivity and inhibit enzymes in carbohydrate metabolism.  It can be used both for prevention and treatment. Ginger also has protective benefits against certain common complications of diabetes, offering protection to the liver, kidneys and eyes.

2 – Healthy Circulation
Ginger is a stimulating herb that gets the blood flowing.  It contains chromium, magnesium and zinc which can help improve blood flow.  It supports circulation has also been shown to help lower high blood pressure and it has blood thinning properties and prevents clots.

3 – Anti-Viral
Ginger is a natural anti-viral agent.  It heats up the body, inducing fever, so it will help your body fight off colds and flu while you’re relieving the symptoms as well.

4 – Strengthens Immunity
Consuming a little bit ginger every day can help boost your immune system and provide a wide range of benefits –antimicrobial, antibiotic, antiparasitic, cancer-protective, tumor inhibition, and is a powerful antioxidant.

5 – Reduces Pain and Inflammation
Ginger contains some of the most potent anti-inflammatory fighting substances known and is a natural powerful painkiller. A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that ginger was as effective as ibuprofen for relieving painful menstrual periods. Ginger blocks the formation of the inflammatory compounds-prostaglandins and leukotrienes-and also has antioxidant effects that break down existing inflammation.  Try it for muscle pain, cramps, and arthritis pain.

6 – Memory and Cognitive Function
Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation can accelerate the aging process, leading to memory and cognitive decline.  Researchers studied middle-aged women who had developed some form of cognitive and gave them a daily dose of ginger.  After two months the women who had taken ginger had better test results for memory, attention and cognitive processing than women given a placebo.

How To Use Organic Ginger

  • There are many ways to enjoy ginger in your diet depending on how much you want to consume.
  • For a hot tea, steep 2 tablespoons fresh sliced ginger root in water for 15 minutes, strain, and enjoy with some lemon and your favorite sweetener.
  • In soups, add fresh grated ginger or ground ginger powder to add a little zest and zing.
  • In stir fries, add fresh grated or ground ginger to spice things up.
  • In sweets, ginger is wonderful in cookies, pumpkin or apple pies, ice cream
  • In marinades ginger gives a delightful fresh tangy flavor to your meat, fish, poultry or tofu.

What are your favorite ways to use organic ginger?

Matcha Green Tea: 7 Amazing Antioxidant Benefits

We all know that green tea is supposed to be high in antioxidants, great for weight loss, energy and vitality.  Did you know that not all green tea is created equally?  Matcha green tea is made from the nutrient-rich young leaves picked frmatcha green teaom the tips of shade-grown Camellia sinensis plants.  It is them steamed and de-vined before being stone ground into a fine powder.  Stored away from light and oxygen in order to preserve its color and nutrients, Matcha green tea is now ready to be enjoyed for its flavor and antioxidant benefits.

Why are antioxidants so beneficial?  Well, they are responsible for fighting the negative effects of free radicals that we encounter in everyday life from pollution, UV rays, radiation, and chemicals.  These free radicals can lead to cell and DNA damage.  Antioxidants combat free radicals and have numerous health-promoting benefits like preventing cancer and other life threatening diseases as well as making us look younger, with glowing, radiant skin.  All fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants but Matcha green tea has the highest ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) score – one bowl of Matcha green tea has over 5 times as many antioxidants as any other food.  So what will those antioxidants do for you?

 

7 Amazing Antioxidant Benefits of Matcha Green Tea

  1. Anti-Cancer
    Matcha green tea contains a specific type of antioxidants known as catechins.  Catechins are the most potent and beneficial of the antioxidants. A specific catechin called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg) makes up 60% of the catechins in Matcha Green Tea. Out of all the antioxidants, EGCg is the most widely recognized for its cancer fighting properties. It has been found that Matcha Green Tea contains over 100 times more EGCg than any other tea. EGCg has been found to not only inhibit an enzyme required for cancer cell growth, but also kills cancer cells with no ill effect on healthy cells.
  2. Detox
    Chlorophyll is what gives green tea its beautiful green color.  It is also a powerful detoxifier, helping to eliminate both chemicals and heavy metals from the body.  Because matcha green tea is shade-grown, it is richer in chlorophyll than other green teas, making it a superior detoxifying drink.
  3. Immune Support
    The levels of vitamins C and E in Matcha Green Tea along with the catechins, have been shown to improve immune health. Studies have even suggested that the nutrients in Matcha may have the ability to inhibit the attacks of HIV on human T-cells.
  4. Healthy Teeth & Gums
    A study published in the Journal of Periodontology found that among 940 men, those who regularly consumed green tea had better periodontal health than those who did not. Researchers in the study found that for every cup of green tea participants drank per day, there was a decrease in every indicator of periodontal disease studied.
  5. Heart Healthy
    A 2011 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that consuming green tea beverages or extracts significantly lowered serum total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.  Matcha treatment significantly lowered the glucose, triglyceride, and total cholesterol levels.
  6. Anti Aging
    Matcha Green Tea’s potent anti-inflammatory effects makes it an incredible boost for the skin – protecting it from UV damage and improving skin elasticity.  Regular consumption of Matcha Green Tea is one of the reasons attributed to the longevity of the Okinawan people, some of the longest living people on the planet.
  7. Weight Loss
    Studies have suggested that drinking matcha green tea regularly helps burn calories at nearly 4 times the normal rate – a great benefit as we age and our metabolism slows down. Other studies have shown that green tea helps git rid of belly fat; dieters who drank green tea lost more from the waistline than those who weren’t drinking green tea.

How Much Matcha Green Tea Should I Drink?

It only takes a small amount of matcha green tea to get its potent antioxidant benefits.  Just 1/4 to 1/2 a teaspoon whisked with hot (not boiling) water gives you great benefit.  Feel free to drink more; there are no negative side effects.

If you don’t like to drink tea, try matcha in these recipes:

Matcha & Avocado Popsicles
Matcha Green Tea Muffins
Matcha Crepes with Chocolate Ganache
Matcha Chia Pudding
Matcha Coconut Fudge

Do you already enjoy drinking matcha green tea? How do you like to use it?

 

 

7 Tips On Using Your Garden’s Abundance of Organic Tomatoes

My garden, at this very moment, is overflowing with organic tomatoes and its right about this time of year that I wonder how on earth I’m going to use them organic tomatoesall so that nothing goes to waste!

I love eating my Cherry and Pear tomatoes in salads and my Black Krims on sandwiches but sometimes there’s just too much to use at once and I have to break out my tricks.  Here are some of my best tips on using up all of your garden’s abundance.

7 Tips On Using Organic Tomatoes

1 – Dehydrate

Its easy to make ‘sun dried’ tomatoes in a food dehydrator.  They can be used as is once they’re dehydrated or rehydrated to add a richness to soups and sauces.  All I do is slice them in half, sprinkle a little bit of salt on them and pop them in the dehydrator.  It can take about two days of dehydrating depending on how big your tomatoes are so keep checking to see if they’re dry and once they are, store them in an airtight container. *bonus tip: I like to use a smoked salt when dehydrating cherry, grape or pear tomatoes.  Sprinkled on salads, they taste a little like bacon bits!

2 – Salsa

You can use just about any type of tomato for a salsa and it stores well in the fridge for nighttime and weekend snacking.  Click HERE for some awesome summer salsa recipes.

3 – Spaghetti Sauce

I recently had an abundance of Roma tomatoes so I decided to make homemade spaghetti sauce and it was so good I could barely believe it.  Its so simple yet so delicious.  First you’ll need to blanch your tomatoes: boil a big pot of water and fill your sink with ice water.  One by one, score the bottom of the tomato with an x and place it gently in the boiling water.  As you see the skin peel back, remove the tomatoes and place them in the ice water bath.  The skins will come right off.  Set aside your blanched and peeled tomatoes for a moment.  In a large pot, saute garlic and onion until translucent, then quarter your tomatoes and add them to the pot. Season with salt, pepper and any Italian seasonings that you like.  I like to add a bit of dried fennel and bit of crushed red pepper for a sausage-y taste.  Let this cook down for 45 minutes to an hour.  Once it is at the thickness you like, taste and adjust seasonings then either use right away or freeze for later use.

4 – Flavored Butter

This recipe for Tomato Basil Garlic Butter looks amazing and can be stored in your freezer for use all year long.

5 – Juice it

If you have a juicer or a blender you can enjoy the refreshing flavor of tomato juice.  Add a few other veggies like celery and red onion to kick up the flavor or you can add some seasonings and turn it into Bloody Mary Mix.

6 – Tomato Paste

If you really have more tomatoes than you could ever know what to do with, tomato paste is the way to go.  In the winter months I find myself buying a lot of organic tomato paste, but making use of the summer’s abundance allows me to enjoy the freshness of the season all year long.  Just use the same instructions for making spaghetti sauce, omitting the herbs and spices, and cook for another 2 1/2 hours or so until the sauce is a very thick consistency.  At this point you can freeze or can the tomato paste for use later in the year.

7 – Fried Green Tomatoes

Often at the end of the season as it is cooling down, I’m left with a whole lot of green tomatoes that I know aren’t going to ripen.  That’s fried green tomato season for me!  You don’t have to be Southern to enjoy them – and they’re not very hard to make.  Slice your green tomatoes in 1/2 inch thick slices.  In a shallow bowl make an egg bath with a beaten egg and a little milk (or buttermilk).  In another shallow bowl, add your breading.  You can use breadcrumbs, cornmeal, or a mixture of both.  Heat safflower or sunflower oil in a pan to about 375 degrees.  Dip each tomato slice in the egg bath then the batter, then fry until crisp and golden.  Transfer to a plate lined with a few paper towels to absorb the oil and enjoy!

Of course if you don’t have a garden or aren’t the happy recipient of a nearby gardener’s overabundance, you can always get that fresh flavor of organic tomatoes in a jar.

How do you like to use your garden’s abundance of organic tomatoes?

 

7 Health Benefits Of Black Pepper That May Surprise You!

black pepperIt’s likely that you will find black pepper on nearly every kitchen table and restaurant table in America. As popular as it is, not many people recognize the healing potential of this ever-present spice.  Black pepper is the fruit of the black pepper plant from the Piperaceae family and has been used for centuries used as both a spice and a medicine.

It is the chemical piperine, present in black pepper, which causes the spiciness. Piperine is being studied for its physiological effects, which appear to be wide and varied.1   Nutritionally, one tablespoon of ground black pepper contains 13% of the daily value for vitamin K, 10% for Iron, 18% for manganese as well as trace amounts of other essential nutrients, protein and fiber.

Let’s look at some of the health benefits that you might not realize when you’re dusting your meals with salt and pepper!

7 Health Benefits of Black Pepper

1 – Weight Loss

The outer layer of peppercorn assists in the breakdown of fat cells. This makes adding pepper to foods a good way to help you lose weight naturally.

2 – Skin Treatment

According to researchers in London, the piperine content of pepper can stimulate the skin to produce pigment.  This has lead to treatments for Vitiligo, a skin disease in which some areas of skin lose its typical pigmentation and turn white. Topical treatment of piperine combined with ultra violet light therapy has been used with success.2

3 – Digestive Aid

Black Pepper facilitates digestion by increasing the hydrochloric acid secretion in the stomach.  It also helps to prevent the formation of intestinal gas.  Black Pepper is considered a carminative, a substance that forces gas out of the body in a healthy, downward motion, rather than pressing upward and creating uncomfortable pressure.

4 – Cough & Cold Relief

Black pepper is a natural expectorant that helps break up mucus and phlegm in the respiratory tract.  Ayurvedic preparations for respiratory ailments often include black pepper. It is also beneficial for sinusitis and nasal congestion.

5 – Healthy Arteries

Eating black pepper helps to keep your arteries clean.  In much the same way that fiber helps to reduce atherosclerosis, black pepper helps assist the body in scraping excess cholesterol from artery walls, thus reducing the chance for heart attack and stroke.

6 – Antioxidant Benefits

The antioxidants in black pepper neutralize free radicals and protect your body from many conditions.  Free radicals are the byproducts of regular cellular function that attack healthy cells and cause their DNA to mutate into cancerous cells.  By eating foods high in antioxidants you can even avoid premature aging symptoms like wrinkles, age spots, macular degeneration, and memory loss.

7 – Enhances Bioavailability of Other Nutrients

Black pepper helps in transporting the benefits of other herbs to different parts of body, maximizing the efficiency of the other health foods that we consume. That is why adding it to foods not only makes them taste delicious, but also helps make those nutrients more available and accessible to our system.  This is especially true when black pepper and turmeric are eaten together.  The black pepper enhances the bioavailability of turmeric by up to 2000%.

Preparation and storage tips:
Grinding pepper at home is better than buying pre-ground black pepper.  Even home-ground pepper retains its freshness for only 3 months, while whole peppercorns can keep their freshness indefinitely.  Handheld pepper mills or grinders are helpful; you can also use a mortar and pestle to grind black pepper at home. Black pepper also loses flavor and aroma through evaporation, so airtight storage helps preserve its spiciness and healing properties longer.

Adding a pinch of black pepper to every meal helps to improve both taste and digestion. It also improves your overall health and well being.

How do you like to use black pepper at your house?

Your Guide to Greywater & Compatible Cleaning Products

I’m a big Reduce-Reuse-Recycle girl, so when I found out about greywater, I was totally on board. This is a great way to reduce our carbon footprint! With the severe drought in California, many people are switching over their laundry to greywater in order to take advantage of the water saving benefits and be able to water outdoor foliage guilt-free! I’ll share the basics of greywater below in the hopes that you will see the benefits and take action as well!greywater

What is Greywater?

Greywater is water that has been gently used and is generally clean of dangerous pollutants from bathroom sinks, showers, tubs, and washing machines. It is not water that has come into contact with feces, either from the toilet or from washing diapers. Greywater may contain traces of dirt, food, grease, hair, and certain household cleaning products. Most of the water we use is wasted and has not actually been used at all – just think of the water wasted while waiting for water to warm in your shower or sink.

What are the Benefits of Using Greywater?

  • Reduces potable (drinking) water use by 16 to 40 percent, depending on the house/site
  • Encourages the use of nontoxic, natural and organic products
  • Reduces the energy needed to convey water through conventional systems by providing locally- generated water
  • Connects people to water supply in their home
  • Provides drought insurance for your landscape
  • Reduces water bills

“When greywater is reused either onsite or nearby, it has the potential to reduce the demand for new water supply, reduce the energy and carbon footprint of water services, and meet a wide range of social and economic needs. In particular, the reuse of greywater can help reduce demand for more costly high-quality potable water.” Overview of Greywater Reuse: The Potential of Greywater Systems to Aid Sustainable Water Management

Are There Safe Cleaning Products to use with Greywater?

This is a great question. YES! Greywater is runoff water from bathroom sinks, showers, tubs and washing machines, and because greywater might have a little dirt, food grease etc., and so it’s best to use products that have natural ingredients with no fillers and no coloring, to begin with. The best brand of cleaning products I’ve been able to find is called Oasis Biocompatible.  Oasis products are made specifically for greywater and are not only safe and natural, they will feed your plants! Oasis provides the means of the sustainable reuse of wash water for irrigation, the most eco-friendly treatment option. By recycling water and nutrients, natural waters are kept pure. Oasis is also great for septic tanks and sewer disposal as well. Here are a couple of links to a couple of their products:

Other Resources:

Everything You Need to Know About Greywater
Overview of Greywater Reuse: The Potential of Greywater Systems to Aid Sustainable Water Management”
How to Reuse Greywater
How-to Video Series: Greywater

Do you have a greywater system yet? If so, how does it work for you?

Peanut Butter & Beyond: Seven Healthy Nut & Seed Butters

By far the most popular nut butter on the planet is peanut butter.  Peanut butter peanut butteris a healthy protein and contains a good amount of fiber for healthy bowels. It also is high in potassium, which actually lowers the risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. It contains healthy fats and magnesium to fortify your bones and muscles, and they also contain vitamin E and antioxidants.  Sounds great, right?  It is, but did you know how many other nut and seed butters are out there now? There are far more than the well-known peanut butter and almond butters. Though those are favorites, for sure, there are a few others that are sure to gain in popularity.  For people with nut allergies and sensitivities, this is especially exciting news. Also, having a wide variety of nut and seed butters to choose from makes baking, snacking and sandwich-making so much more fun. All that and each of these nut and seed butters has fantastic health benefits!

7 Healthy Nut & Seed Butters That Aren’t Peanut Butter

  1. Almond Butter: Just one ounce of organic almonds (about 20 to 25 almonds) can contain as much calcium as 1/4 cup of milk. Also, almonds are a great source of magnesium and phosphorous, which are important minerals for building strong bones. Almonds are wonderful for brain health, they contain two vital brain nutrients: riboflavin and L-carnitine, which have been shown to increase brain activity, resulting in new neural pathways and a decreased occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease.
  2. Sunflower Seed Butter: Sunflower seed butter is increasing in popularity and is a perfect choice for those who are allergic or sensitive to nuts. My daughter is sensitive to peanuts, her favorite butter is sunflower. Like many nuts and seeds, sunflower seeds contain a number of essential vitamins and minerals necessary to keep your body functioning. The water-soluble B-complex vitamins and vitamin C along with fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E are all found in sunflower seeds along with vitamin K. Sunflower seeds supply minerals such as calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium and selenium.
  3. Brazil Nut Butter: This butter is not as well-known as the others, but shouldn’t be counted out. Brazil nuts are high in calories (don’t let that scare you away), and they contain good quantities of vitamins, anti-oxidants and minerals. Its kernels, in-fact, have been staple energy sources of native Amazonians, and continue to be even today. The Brazil nut actually holds the highest natural source of selenium. Adequate selenium in the diet helps prevent coronary artery disease, liver cirrhosis, and cancers. Just 1-2 nuts a day does the job!
  4. Hemp Seed Butter: Hemp seed butter is steadily rising in popularity, as a tasty and nutritious alternative to conventional butters. Hemp seed butter is lesser known than most all butters, it also has a light, nutty taste. If you prefer your butter with a subtle, non-overpowering taste, hemp seed butter is the one for you. The nutritional value of hemp seed butter also makes it a close contender against almond butter. The seeds of the cannabis plant are a rich source of amino and fatty acids, which help sustain the health of organs such as the heart. The proteins in hemp seed butter are also very digestible, which means that your body will absorb and use them better.
  5. Cashew Butter: Cashews are slightly sweet and delicate in flavor, which make them perfect for making nut butter. Cashews are high in copper which can play a role in the elimination of free radicals, development of bone and connective tissue, and the production of the skin and hair pigment. Just a handful or two of raw cashews a day is equivalent to one dose of Prozac for mild depression.
  6. Pumpkin Seed Butter: This butter has a richer flavor and a softer consistency than peanut butter, making it perfectly spreadable. This is another butter that can be enjoyed by people who have a nut allergy or sensitivity. It is an excellent source of protein for vegetarians. It contains a good amount of the amino acid tryptophan for dealing with stress and can help to improve sleep patterns. It also contains beneficial fatty acid content, which can help with everything from reducing arthritis symptoms to improving your skin tone.
  7. Pecan Butter: The deep, complex taste of pecan butter makes this nut butter profoundly satisfying.  Pecans are rich in phytochemicals such as polyphenolic antioxidant ellagic acid, vitamin E, beta-carotene, lutein and zea-xanthin. These compounds play an important role in removing toxic oxygen-free radicals, protecting your body from diseases, cancer as well as infections. Pecans also contain oleic acid, a fatty acid which has been found to reduce the risk of breast cancer

Have you tried any of these nut & seed butters? If so which is your favorite? Make sure you try them all!

Organic Snacks for Kids: The Grab & Go Edition

organic snacks“Mom, I’m hungry, can I have a snack?” That might sound like an all too familiar phrase. I know for me it’s much more common in the summer time, when kids are out of school and constantly rummaging through your cupboards. I’ve found that a little preparation goes a long way in keeping healthy organic snacks within the reach of their little hands. When you are living a healthy lifestyle, eating healthy foods will take some prep-time and that’s okay. Our health and our children’s health is worth the little extra time love and effort! And once you get the hang of it, prep-time is a breeze.

I have many options for you for healthy organic snacks that you will feel good about giving your children.

Tips on Making Organic Snacks for Kids:

  • Buy a variety of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds. They are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, fats and protein, which all kids need for their systems to function correctly.
  • When you get home from grocery shopping, rinse and wash all your produce. This will save a little extra time when you go to use them.
  • Pre-cut your vegetables (carrots, celery, bell peppers), store then in an easy to grab container, and place it in the refrigerator where it is easy to grab.
  • Don’t buy JUNK. If you have junk in your house, your kids will search for it. If you don’t buy junk, they can’t eat junk (well at least at home).
  • Going on a trip, hike, or just going out for the day? Pre-package your snacks the night before. Use little snack size bags or containers.

27 Easy Grab & Go Ideas for Organic Snacks

  1. Celery (some options: celery with nut butter, coconut butter with raisins or another chopped dried fruit or nut)
  2. Olives (drained)
  3. Sliced bell peppers
  4. Carrot sticks (I like using rainbow carrots – purple carrots are especially delicious)
  5. Jicama sticks
  6. Strawberries (any berry that has been rinsed and dried)
  7. Ready to go organic fruits (apples, oranges, pears, grapes)
  8. Kale chips (store bought or make your own: cut the stems out of several kale leaves, sprinkle with avocado oil, sea salt, garlic powder and pepper, and bake at 275 degrees for 40 minutes, turning them halfway through)
  9. Dark Chocolate – Make sure it’s over 70% cacao (will be high in antioxidants and less sugar)
  10. Plantain Chips – One of my kids’ favorites. They taste like potato chips.
  11. Applesauce cups
  12. Pre-made muffins
  13. Granola
  14. Crackers and cheese
  15. Tuna
  16. Jerky
  17. Granola and protein bars
  18. Raw nuts (good source of protein and fat)
  19. Trail Mix
  20. Hard boiled eggs
  21. Homemade fruit popsicles
  22. Dried fruit
  23. Seaweed snacks
  24. Chia fruit squeeze packs (great source of omega-3’s)
  25. Fruit leathers
  26. Bacon (sounds funny, but premade bacon slices, nitrate free of course, are one of my kids favorite snacks)
  27. Stuffed dates (stuff with a brazil nut or other nuts and a couple of organic chocolate chips)

It also helps to have a small container of their favorite dip (guacamole, salsa, nut butter, etc.) for dipping fruits and veggies, handy as well.

Snacking can be made easy. It may take a little effort and prep, but it will be worth it. Another awesome option for some great ready to go snacks is the Greater Goodie Snack Box.  Meant for kids and adults alike, keeping a go-to box of healthy organic snacks within reach of your kids will keep them on the right track.  A perfect choice for families that are on the go, these goodie boxes come in three sizes, all with great choices!

What are your kid’s favorite organic snacks?

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