Friday, September 20, 2013

Raw Cheese Sauce Update!

After my raw ginger cookie fiasco, I am happy to report that the raw cheese recipe I said I was going to attempt was a  culinary success.  After looking at what seemed like a hundred different recipes online, I decided to go with this super easy  one.  It was extremely quick to make and I just love how versatile it is.  You can serve this raw cheese sauce as a dip or a spread or you can form the cheese into a ball.  To make a cheese ball, simply refrigferate it for an hour, coat it in chopped nuts, herbs or anything you like. Serve with crackers and enjoy!

I will definitely be making this one again!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Raw Ginger Cookie That Almost Was

Don’t you just love those foodie blogs that contain awesome recipes and gorgeous photos? You know, the ones with the images that not only make you drool but give you a jolt of confidence in believing that you too can accomplish such a masterpiece. Truth be told, I love real food.  In fact, I consider myself a culinary enthusiast and love eating real food as much as I enjoy making it.  I have an expansive and diverse palate, but am drawn to recipes that are simple and uncomplicated. And while I love to cook, baking (or in this instance, raw dessert making) is definitely not my forte. But for some odd reason I still like to try, perhaps thinking that it will come to me with time.

Last week, I came across this awesome looking raw cookie recipe. It had all of my favorite things (ginger, cardamom, coconut, flax seeds).  And more importantly, it looked simple - my #1 criteria for attempting anything new in the kitchen.  I was determined to try it with my daughter this weekend. We rarely consume white flour, so I thought this would be the perfect treat for all of us.  I was pleased to see that I had most of the ingredients on hand and only had to venture out to get the Coconut Manna (btw, if you haven’t tried it yet, you should… it is to die for!).

So we get started with the prepping.  Everything was going well. That is, until I realized that I couldn’t find the raw coconut flakes I thought I had. You see, we are moving in a few weeks and everything that is not used daily has been packed away.  I went through at least 5 boxes in an attempt to find them, before I decided to run out and get more.  So I return with my coconut flakes and we continue our adventure.  Then my Vitamix decides to burn out on me.  This usually happens when I am dealing with dry ingredients while using the wet blade. That should have been my que to stop, but I am not a quitter. I gave the Vitamix a few minutes to rest and continued. We finally mixed the dough and proceeded to the next step. We now had the task of flattening out the dough with a rolling-pin and cutting it into pretty little shapes. Easy enough, right?  Then I suddenly remembered that …yep!...the cookie cutters are also packed away. “No problem”, I said to my daughter, “we’ll just improvise”.  And improvise we did, and when it was all said and done we ended up with … um… raw cookie crumb.

My assistant refused to even try the cookies. To her defense, she is very picky and if something does not look “right” (and let's face it, these "cookies" did not look right) she will not try it. But my 3-year-old son is more adventurous. He tried a piece (I mean a crumb) and gave it thumbs up.  Ok, he actually gave it ONE thumb up but that made it all worth it.

There is no moral to this story.  And my outcome is in no way a reflection of the recipe itself.  The raw cookie dough IS absolutely delicious. So good in fact that it is almost all gone and I plan to freeze the rest and eat it with ice cream.  I would like to think that this recipe would have turned out better for me if I had my cookie cutters or if my Vitamix had not behaved so badly, but why kid myself?  And in case you are wondering, no, I probably will not be attempting this again.  I don’t know about you, but I only like repeating recipes I am mildly successful with.  However, if this recipe appeals to you I hope you try it and let me know how it worked out for you.  Considering my huge fail, I can at least live vicariously through your success.

P.S. - I am planning on making a raw cheese sauce tomorrow for dinner.  It is not dessert, so I am quite optimistic.  I will let you know how it goes.


Why You Should Learn To Make Your Own Hair Gel - Perfect for curly, frizzy, natural hair

In my early to mid 20s I had a long love affair with hair gel and mousse.  They were my favorite go to products when I wanted to get that coveted “wet look” that was so in back then.  I was seriously hooked on Stiff Stuff.  There, I said it.  Unfortunately, I did not become informed on the dangerous ingredients found in styling and beauty products until much later in my womanhood.  I was painfully made aware of their damaging effect on my reproductive health when I decided to start a family. I often think back on the many health sacrifices I made, all for the sake of looking good.

According to the Environmental Working Group the most toxic styling gels contain cetereth-25, methylparaben, PEG-8 Methicone, PEG-7 Glyceryl cocoate, and fragrance.  Of all the ingredients listed, fragrance is one of the most harmful.  According to Environmental Working Group, fragrance has moderate evidence of human neurotoxicity.  Other ingredients have evidence of neuroticism, allergies or immunosystem toxicity, organ system toxicity and biochemical or cellular level changes. The most toxic hair styling gel on the database is Pantene Pro-V Frizz Control Treatment. One ingredient listed is DMDM Hydantoin, which, among other known hazards, is a human skin toxicant. 

Fortunately for me and my children, I know better now.  And as they say, “when you know better you do better”.  Yes, knowledge (when applied) IS power!  So today, I am going to share with you how you can very easily make your own hair gel using two natural ingredients, <strong>at a fraction of the cost</strong> when compared to toxic commercial gels.  This gel is great for ALL hair types, but especially for those with curly, frizzy or natural hair.

If you are a DIYer you already know that making your own products at home can be very rewarding.   Doing so can have a positive effect on our health and on the environment because as we reduce the amount of chemicals we put into our bodies, we also reduce the amount of chemicals being released into the atmosphere and consequently, into our water supply.  And this is definitely a good thing!  So I do hope you give this simple recipe a try.

What you will need:

¼ organic raw flax seeds*
2 cups of filtered/spring water
white knee-high stocking
small pot
glass jar
(optional) herbs (I am using fresh Rosemary here, but you do not have to use herbs at all.  If you would like to use herbs but do not have access to fresh herbs you can use an herbal tea bag of your choice).
(optional) You will note that I am also enhancing my gel by adding 1 tsp of jojoba oil, 1 tsp of castor oil, ¼ tsp Vitamin E, ¼ tsp of Rosemary essential oil. (*Make sure you get raw, unflavored flax seeds that have not been toasted or flavored with spices.)

How to make gel:

Step 1.  Take ¼ cup of organic raw flax seeds  and 2 cups of filtered/spring water and place in small saucepan on stove over medium-high heat. 

Bring to a rolling boil. 

Once it starts to boil stir and turn down low and allow to simmer.

Step 2.  You will notice that the liquid will start to thicken.  Continue cooking for an additional 5 min.  The gel will get even thicker once it cools, so a runny consistency while it's still on the pot works well for me. 

If your hair is extremely curly, you may find it easier to apply a looser gel. Go ahead and take the gel off of the heat while it is still runny. Conversely, if your hair is not curly, let the gel thicken as much as you want. It will provide a stiffer hold if you let it get thick.

Step 3. Affix knee-high around the container you will store gel in (we prefer to use a glass jar)and pour the gel onto the opening of the stocking.

Use thongs to squeeze excess gel through stocking.  If you do not have thongs you can use your clean hands so long as the gel has been allowed to cool a bit for you to handle without burning yourself.  Continue straining until you've gotten as much of the gel through the stocking as you can.  Do not throw away the seeds.  You can (1) get one more use out of them by doing a second batch when this one is done.  Simply place seeds in a small container in the fridge until ready to use,  (2) if you are a foodie, you can make flax seed crackers by dehydrating them in your recipe or (3) you can use them on your compost pile.

Step 4 (Optional) You can customize the gel (as I have done) by adding other healing and moisturizing ingredients.

Not only did I add fresh Rosemary to the pot to infuse the gel, but I added Vitamin E, jojoba oil, castor oil and Rosemary essential oil.  Rosemary is an excellent herb and essential oil to add because it is known to strengthen and condition hair strands, it stimulates hair growth and increases circulation to scalp, softens and increases shine, thickens hair strands, prevents premature graying and baldness, relieves itchy and irritated scalp and dandruff. Other essential oils that we love to use which have beneficial properties for the scalp are tea tree, lavender and eucalyptus.  Make sure that you whisk any additives well into the gel so that they are distributed throughout. 

Step 5.  Place your container in the refrigerator.  If refrigerated, the gel will keep for approximately 2.5 weeks. Use on dry hair or smooth it through wet hair after a shower.

This gel is so gentle and healing that I even use it on my 5 year old with great results. Just knowing that this hair gel contains ingredients you can actually pronounce and virtually consume with no ill effects, should motivate you to make it AND use it with great confidence!


Herbal Teas Your Kids Will Love!

Thanks to independent studies like this one , many mothers are becoming aware of the dangers that sodas and soft drinks pose to our health and that of  our growing children.  The long term health effects of corn syrup alone is enough to give one pause for concern.  But face it, as much as WE might want them to, you can’t possibly expect children to want to drink water ALL THE TIME (not without complaining that is)!  So, what’s a mama to do?

Well let me share with you what has been working for our family: herbal teas! Simple enough right? In fact, so simple that it seems our family has become mildly addicted.  I have been monitoring our intake as of late and we have been going through quite a bit of home brewed herbal tea per week!  I have even discovered that by adding a certain herb, I can get them to try just about any of my herbal infusions that they otherwise would refuse to try.  We have really enjoyed our herbal teas during these recent warmer months. Poured in a nice glass, with ice and a straw, to the little ones it feels like they are indulging in something they ought not. For the colder months we simply warm the herbal teas, and they are just as yummy.  In fact, the children just love the warming sensation of our lemongrass and ginger herbal tea during the winter months.

Here are our favorite pairings:

Lemongrass and Ginger
Chamomile and Hibiscus*
Peppermint,Chamomile and Hibiscus*
Red Rasberry and Hibiscus*
Rose petals and Hibiscus*
Lemonbalm, Peppermint and Hibiscus*
Nettle, Peppermint and  Hibiscus*

*You will notice that we pretty much add Hibiscus to all of our brews.  THIS is my secret herb.   Besides its health benefits, Hibiscus gives the herbal tea a gorgeous red hue which makes it very appetizing for the little ones since it looks like a “fruit punch” drink.  We lightly sweeten our herbal teas with fresh stevia, organic powdered stevia or raw honey (not recommended for children under 6mths old).  Absolutely NO processed sugar is  necessary!

If you are not doing this for your family already, I encourage you to give herbal teas a try.  You will be pleased with the results.   Herbal teas are a simple yet healthier alternative which will allow you to eliminate or reduce the intake of  processed sugars and corn syrup. Herbal teas are also very effective in calming children  down, helping them sleep, aid in digestive disturbances,  strengthening the immune system, as well as assisting  in fighting a cold, flu or fever. 

We encourage you to always buy local and organic whenever possible.  We love supporting other entrepreneurs as much as possible and encourage you to do the same.  Our Hibiscus comes from Supreme Wellness and I must say that their Hibiscus is by far one of the best quality I have tasted.  However, if you do not have access to organic herbs in your local or extended community, you can order them from here

How I make our herbal tea:

(Step 1) Begin by heating two quarts (one quart if you will be using a one quart mason jar) of water in a pot (do not bring to a boil).
(Step 2) While the water is heating up, take your mason jar and place two tablespoons of your selected herb(s) into jar.  This is also a good time to add a handful of fresh stevia if that is what you will be using to sweeten your tea.
If you prefer honey (we recommend raw honey from a local source), add it to your mason jar now so that the honey is melted by the hot water. 
(Step 3) Add the hot (not boiling)  water to  the mason jar and allow the herbs to get to know each other.
(Step 4) If you are using  powdered stevia you can add this once your herbal tea cools down. Be sure to allow the tea to come to room temperature before placing in the refrigerator.  Once at room temperature, you may want to strain the herbs before placing the jar in the refrigerator.  We leave our herbs in, as we prefer to strain as we pour to allow for a stronger infusion.

More About The Herbs We Love:

1. Chamomile - soothes the stomach, relieves bloating and indigestion, calms the mind, relaxes. Some people are allergic to chamomile and should avoid taking the tea. People who find it hard to go to sleep should drink a cup of chamomile tea before going to bed.
2. Ginger - energizer, stimulates and soothes the digestive system, known to aid people experiencing nausea, has anti-inflammatory properties.
3. Hibiscus - known to lower blood pressure, reduce high cholesterol, strengthen the immune system (it’s rich in Vitamin C), known to reduce hypertension. A recent study reveals that hibiscus tea is rich in antioxidants, which protect the body against cell-damaging free radicals.
4. Lemon balm - known as a very effective tonic that calms nerves and anxiety. Cold lemon balm tea bags help relieve cold sores, or genital sores caused by the herpes simplex virus. Contains several properties, which control herpes and also regulate the thyroid.  Lemon balm when mixed with peppermint can calm an upset stomach, sooth the digestive track and reduce flatulence. Drink lemon balm tea if you suffer from nerve pain. Drinking lemon balm tea also helps strengthen memory and brain functions and also uplifts one’s mood.
5. Lemongrass  - known to aid digestion—primarily due to a substance called citral, also the active ingredient in lemon peels. Though typically enjoyed unaccompanied by other herbs, it can also be blended to create lemon-flavored teas like Lemon Zinger.
6. Nettle - known as one of nature’s best remedies for an assortment of ailments including anemia, high blood pressure, rheumatism, arthritis, coughs and colds, congestion, urinary tract infections, and kidney and bladder problems.
7. Peppermint  - known to help digestion, reduce flatulence, nausea and digestive issues, motion sickness. The natural mint flavor of the herb helps to freshen your breath. Other health benefits of this tea are control of muscle aches and chronic pain, clearing of congestion and mild coughs, mild asthma and reduction of stress.
8. Red Raspberry - known as a tonic for pregnant women, as well as those trying to conceive. Due to their high vitamin and mineral content, the leaves of red raspberry plants are considered as an ideal herbal remedy for a number of ailments like flu, gum disease, diarrhea, vomiting, and menstrual cramps.
9. Rose petals/rose hips - known as one of the best plant sources of vitamin C, which is important for the immune system, skin and tissue health and adrenal function. Consider reaching for this tea next time you need a health boost.

More Articles:
What Soft Drinks Are Doing To Your Body

Disturbing Side Effects of Soda

Safe dosages for children under the age of 6 and for persons with liver or kidney disease have not been established.

For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


En Casa De Herrero, Cuchillo De Palo

Yesterday afternoon I was forced to call to mind the indigenous proverb I had often heard growing up, which when translated means "in the house of the blacksmith there is a wooden knife".  My son, who was walking barefoot outside, got a rose splinter on the sole of his foot.  I of course rushed to my home first aid kit in search of my trusty old black drawing salve and realized that I had none.  I had sold the last one and failed to prepare a second one for our kit!  I was VERY frustrated and had to resort to the agonizing tweezers.  He was not very happy either.  Lesson learned: ALWAYS, ALWAYS stock up your home aid kit FIRST!!!