Boy, October came and went before I had time to blink twice. I always think I am prepared for the frenzy that is fall, but looking back, I never am. The culmination of crazy for my family is always the first weekend of November, as both of my children’s birthdays fall at this time…one day apart.
- November 3rd, 3:42am – Kayley’s 14th birthday
- November 4th, 4:30am – Ben’s 12th birthday
Two years and one day separates them. Wow. I’m always excited but never ready for them to turn another year older. Kayley is frighteningly close to learning to drive – yikes! – and only one more year before we are officially the parents of two teenagers – yikes again!
We’ve tried every which way to celebrate their birthdays so that they each will feel special. And man, when they were small, I would break my back trying to do it. But in the last few years, we’ve settled into a nice tradition that both the birthday girl and birthday boy seem to be happy with. We pick one night for our family to celebrate together (with separate celebrations with friends for each plus a few extra little surprises on their actual days). Most years, our family consists of my parents, my brother, and his girlfriend. The kids pick a location for dinner or a meal for me to make, I bake 2 cakes of their choosing, we sing to them both, and they open their presents together. But this year is the first year we’ve celebrated with just the four of us – grandparents are enjoying two weeks in Italy, and my brother is getting MARRIED in Bora Bora! Congratulations Cam and Brandi! We love you!!
It’s a busy time for our family, and now that the weekend is over, I’m beat. Whenever I start feeling this way, it is time for me to cleanse. I try to detox once every season, and I find that after the whirlwind that is September and October, I have a couple of short down weeks at the beginning of November, after the kids’ birthdays and before Thanksgiving and Christmas festivities begin, when I can hunker down and focus on me. Here are a few of the indications that I need to detox…
- I don’t feel like myself
- I feel tired
- My temper is short for no reason
- I feel overwhelmed
- I’m not sleeping well
- I feel “puffy”
- A little too much sugar (even natural sugar) has seeped into my diet
- My self-control with food is slipping
- We are eating out at restaurants too much
- I just need a good re-boot or re-start to get me back on track
- I need a week to get my life back in order
Cleansing is so much more than just cleaning out my insides. It is a mental and spiritual detox too. After a week of cleansing, I feel like a new person. Not only does my energy bounce back, but I feel really good “in my skin”. I sleep better, and I have a better, more positive outlook on life. When I cleanse, I take time out from EVERYTHING because it is so much more than food; it’s like hitting the reset button on my life. I will fill you in next week on how my week of detoxing goes…
This carrot ginger soup is an example of a meal I will be eating this week. The inspiration came from the Vitamix carrot ginger tofu recipe. I don’t eat tofu, so I made some simple adjustments to the recipe to come up with a comforting winner. And it’s beyond easy to make. I don’t do hard while cleansing. Everything I will be preparing this week will be a breeze.
To start, I soaked a third of a cup of raw cashews in a 5.4 ounce can of Native Forest Coconut Cream in my large Vitamix container. The healthy fat in cashews and coconut helps you absorb the fat soluble carotenoids in the carrots. Plus, fat makes everything taste better, bringing out the natural flavors in the veggies. Most of us grew up fearing the fat, but good fats are not only beneficial for your body, but they are also absolutely necessary for good health, especially brain health as the type of fat in coconuts has been shown to improve cognitive function and memory. In addition, coconuts are packed with vitamins C, E, Bs, and magnesium, potassium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, calcium, and selenium.
While the cashews were soaking in coconut cream, I steamed a one-pound bag of organic baby carrots, a small purple onion (peeled and cut up), and about 8 cloves of garlic (peeled) for about 30 minutes in my George Foreman electric steamer. I love this appliance. I can prepare freshly steamed veggies in minutes. Carrots are naturally sweet vegetables. I choose to steam them over roasting them for this recipe, so less of their natural sugar will caramelize and they won’t be as sweet. The high fiber and nutrient content of carrots makes them a good cleansing food, and the sulfur-rich onion and garlic provide a key component for liver detoxification plus lots of other valuable vitamins, minerals, and flavonoids.
I added 4 cups of chicken broth (either homemade or organic, free range from a box), sea salt, pepper, and about a 1 ½ to 2 inch piece of fresh ginger (peeled and chopped) to the Vitamix with the cashews and coconut cream.
I added the steamed carrots, onion, and garlic to the Vitamix and firmly secured the lid. I placed a towel over the top to avoid getting burned by any splatter and turned on the Vitamix on low first, and then moving to high. I blended the ingredients into a soup for about one minute and then transferred it to a medium saucepan to thoroughly heat the soup over medium heat. I plan to enjoy this carrot ginger soup with a simple green salad.
- 1 pound bag of organic baby carrots
- 1 small purple onion, peeled and cut up
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled
- ⅓ cup raw cashews
- 1 5.4 ounce can Native Forest coconut cream
- 4 cups homemade or organic chicken broth
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1½ to 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
- Soak the cashews in the coconut cream in the large Vitamix container.
- Steam the carrots, onion, and garlic for at least 30 minutes.
- Add the chicken broth, salt, pepper, and ginger to the Vitamix container.
- Add the steamed carrots, onion, and garlic to the Vitamix container.
- Firmly secure the lid on the Vitamix, and cover with a towel to avoid injury.
- Turn on the Vitamix on low, then moving to high, and puree the ingredients into a soup for about one minute.
- Transfer to a medium saucepan and heat thoroughly over medium heat.
Easy peasy. That is what this breakfast is. After a fun girls trip to Miami, I made a big batch of pumpkin chia pudding so the morning of my re-entry would go just a little bit smoother. I liked it so much that I’ve made it my breakfast every day this week.
Backing up a little bit…so I went to Miami this past weekend for the first time ever. I had no idea it could be so much fun! I went with a great group of girls (my soon to be sister-in-law was one of them), and we had the best time. I will be returning again for sure…maybe for my 40th birthday next year?? Anyone want to join me??
Any time I travel, I lose control over what goes in my food. Because I’ve been eating healthy for so long now, my body craves fruits, veggies, nuts, eggs, fish, etc. and I pretty much continue to eat that way even away from home. But when I’m on vacation, I’m on VACATION! I make it a point to try new foods and enjoy those foods I don’t eat every day, especially desserts, and I do so completely guilt free. Adopting a healthy diet will never last if you try to do it 100% of the time. I shoot for eating the healthiest foods 90% of the time and allow myself to have a little FUN the other 10%. Food is a big part of life, and I do not want to miss out. Vacation always comes to an end, and I will be back at home eating my kale in no time at all.
After a weekend as enjoyable as the one I just had, it always feels good to get back home and do a little mini cleanse. Chia seeds are an effective detoxing food. Each of those little bitty seeds swells up and absorbs anything in its path while passing through my digestive system, acting like a little vacuum or broom, ridding my body of toxins along the way. Plus, chia seeds contain lots of valuable nutrients and electrolytes, and because they are also soluble fiber (meaning they absorb water and liquid), they move slowly through my digestive system, promoting hydration and helping my body retain those electrolytes.
When I got home on Sunday night, I made a basic chia pudding. I combined 1/3 cup of chia seeds with 1 cup almond milk (coconut milk works too) in a sealed container. I love these glass containers I picked up from The Container Store. I have a ton of them and use them to store all of my nuts and seeds in the fridge. Nuts and seeds go rancid within a few months, so because I usually buy them in bulk, it’s important to refrigerate or freeze them.
The next morning, I combined the chia pudding with a can of organic pumpkin (in a BPA free can), pumpkin pie spice, and English toffee stevia in the small Vitamix container. I blended the ingredients together in the Vitamix to make a creamy pudding. This recipe makes about 4 servings, and the pudding stays good when stored in the fridge for about 4 to 5 days.
I chose to sweeten the pudding with stevia (a super sweet herb from South America) to minimize sugar (even natural sugar) upon returning. Whenever I travel, sugar seems to be my main indulgence, so after coming home, I’m ready to break away from it. Stevia is a smart choice because it has absolutely no sugar, not even natural sugar. In fact, it has no calories at all! And there’s even more good news. Stevia goes further to actually benefit your pancreas help your body regulate blood sugar.
As toppings, I chose a honeycrisp apple and walnuts but feel free to shake things up and get creative with your toppings. Here’s a few ideas for inspiration: berries, banana, pear, peach, plum, mango, pineapple, figs, mandarin oranges, pistachios, slivered almonds, coconut ribbons, pumpkin seeds, cacao nibs, sesame seeds, pomegranate seeds, raisins, dried cranberries, dried mangoes…and the list could go on…
- ⅓ cup chia seeds
- 1 cup almond or coconut milk
- 1 can organic pumpkin
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 2-4 droppers of English toffee stevia
- 2 apples, chopped
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- The night before, combine chia seeds and almond milk in a sealed container and put in the refrigerator.
- The next day, combine chia pudding with the can of pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, and English toffee stevia in a Vitamix, and blend until smooth.
- Divide pumpkin chia pudding into 4 bowls, and top with chopped apple and chopped walnuts.
Ugh. It’s allergy season, and it seems like everywhere I go people are sick. Sneezing, coughing, miserable. As a life long sufferer of seasonal allergies, I know that spring and fall are the worst times of year – when pollen counts are the highest. Spring is notorious for tree pollen and in the fall, it’s ragweed. Seasonal allergies leave you with chronically inflamed sinus cavities, itchy eyes, drainage, and a nagging cough.
Since cleaning up my diet, I’ve experienced relief from my allergies I never thought I could. They aren’t completely remedied – certain times of year I can tell my body wants to rev up and fight for no reason – but there is no comparison in how I used to feel to how I feel now.
If you’ve read anything about me on my blog, you know that I truly believe food has the power to heal and drastically improve how you feel. Food is information that actually communicates with your genes and influences your gene expression. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet gives your body nutrients that provide information so your body can accomplish necessary processes that reduce overall inflammation. For example, omega 6 fatty acids tell your body to ignite an inflammatory response, necessary to initiate healing when you are injured or sick, and omega 3 fatty acids tell your body to calm down and decrease inflammation.
Those of us that suffer from seasonal allergies have an immune system that recognizes various pollens in the air as foreign and potentially harmful, stimulating the processes necessary to take care of these threatening particles. Basically, our bodies immediately call all the troops into battle to fight and protect the body. During peak allergy season, our bodies are constantly in contact with these pollens, so our bodies are in a constant state of inflammation – in full attack mode all the time. When our bodies are perpetually inflamed, we feel sluggish, foggy-headed, and just plain yucky. Plus, inflammation puts us in a weak and vulnerable state, susceptible to other opportunistic viruses, bacteria, and fungus.
So how can we use food as information to tell our bodies to stop the inflammatory process? Eat those foods that provide nutrients that communicate to our bodies to calm down. An anti-inflammatory diet is really very simple looks like this: eat all of those natural foods that are not processed or packaged like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, pasture-raised eggs, wild fish, and naturally raised meats.
One example of an anti-inflammatory meal is this curry salmon salad. It’s quick and easy to make, and I can double the recipe to feed our family more than one meal.
I started with two 6 ounce salmon fillets – seasoned them with salt and pepper and then baked them at 325 degrees for 17-19 minutes. Do not over bake or the salmon becomes dry. I chose wild salmon from Alaska, which is rich in anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids in the most easily used form for our bodies – DHA and EPA. After the salmon fillets cooled, I used a fork to break up the fish.
Next I made an easy homemade mayonnaise with eggs from chickens fed an omega-3 rich diet. Packaged condiments are notorious for containing hidden sugar and gluten (which both promote inflammation), so I find it healthiest and freshest to just make my own most of the time. My favorite homemade mayonnaise recipe is from Mark’s Daily Apple: Homemade Ghee Mayo.
I chopped some purple onion, celery, and purple grapes to go in the salad. All three of these have anti-inflammatory nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin A, quercetin, and sulfur.
Spices with a kick are a potent decongestant, so whenever my allergies or a cold is flaring up, I liberally add them to my meals. Anyone who likes spicy foods knows they stimulate those mucous linings to break up and release, relieving congestion. Curry is a spice blend that originated in southeast Asia and usually contains mustard seeds, coriander, cumin, red chili powder, and turmeric (which is famous for its anit-inflammatory effect) and sometimes ginger, cinnamon, cloves, garlic, cardamom, and fennel too.
I combined the salmon, onions, celery, grapes, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, curry powder, slivered almonds, and a little sea salt in a medium sized bowl. After stirring the ingredients together, I served the curry salmon salad over a bed of spinach.
- 2 6 ounce wild salmon fillets
- ⅓ cup homemade mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- ¼ cup chopped purple onion
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 cup halved purple grapes
- ½ cup slivered almonds
- salt to taste
- Season salmon fillets with salt and pepper, and bake at 325 degrees for 17 – 19 minutes.
- Let salmon cool, transfer to a bowl, and break up fish with a fork.
- Combine salmon and the remaining ingredients in a medium sized bowl, and stir together.
- Serve over a bed of greens or wrapped in a lettuce leaf.
I found this apple bumpkin breakfast bake from The Foodie and The Family while searching for some new paleo breakfast ideas for the kids. Before each school year starts, I vow that I am going to send my kids off with tummies full of good nutrition, especially enough protein to carry them through until lunch. And because they are in charge of what they choose at their school’s cafeteria for lunch, I have no idea if they are refueling with anything of substance in my absence (one of mine is known to make a lunch out of condiments). Hence the reason breakfast becomes that much more important in laying a good foundation for their morning at school and beyond.
Even though I have come to the point of not really missing bread after years of eating gluten free and now grain free, my children really REALLY like those big starchy breakfasts…muffins, pancakes, waffles, toast, etc. Even though this hearty breakfast recipe is really more of an egg strata, it tastes sweet and almost presents like a coffee cake.
My first attempt at making this apple bumpkin breakfast bake did not go over well with my kids. “Mo-om…I don’t really like it…it’s too…I don’t know…egg-ie for me”. (For the record, I thought it was delicious!) Nothing infuriates me more than using a dozen pasture fed fresh eggs plus all kinds of other healthy organic ingredients only to be met with such a tough critique of what I was sure would be our family’s next favorite breakfast. Ugh… back to the drawing board…but I’m not giving up.
Too egg-ie, huh? Well, let’s just fix that. I made a few adjustments to the recipe, and this time it was a hit. The best part of this breakfast is that it makes 12 servings, so it feeds our family breakfast for at least two mornings of the week. Plus, I can make it the night before so no need to wake up an hour before the family to get breakfast on the table.
The first steps in making the apple bumpkin breakfast bake are to preheat the oven to 425 degrees and grease a 9 x 13 baking dish with coconut oil.
Next, I chopped three apples and spread them out in the baking dish. I chose honeycrisp apples because they are my family’s favorite, but any variety will do. Although honeycrisp apples are the best type to enjoy raw, they are pretty tasty baked too. Fall is the season for apples and the only time of year for fresh honeycrisps.
I combined the bananas, eggs, pumpkin, coconut milk, almond flour, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking soda in the Vitamix and blended until smooth and creamy, stopping a few times to scrape the sides. When choosing canned food products, I check for BPA free on the label. I picked up this BPA free canned pumpkin at Whole Foods and a can of Native Forest BPA free coconut milk there as well. BPA stands for bisphenol-A – a type of chemical found in plastic products like water bottles and the linings of food cans. Too much BPA exposure messes with your nervous system (your brain) and is a hormone disruptor, as it mimics the natural hormone estrogen.
I poured the egg mixture over the apples in the baking pan and topped with slivered almonds and shredded coconut ribbons.
Lastly, I baked it for about 45 minutes to an hour or until the eggs were set.
- 3 apples, chopped
- 3 bananas
- 8 eggs
- 1 cup almond flour
- 1 can pumpkin
- 1 can coconut milk
- ¼ – ½ cup maple syrup, to taste
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ cup slivered almonds
- ¼ cup coconut ribbons
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish with coconut oil.
- Spread chopped apples in the baking dish.
- Combine bananas, eggs, almond flour, pumpkin, coconut milk, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking soda in the Vitamix, and blend until smooth.
- Pour egg mixture over the apples in the baking dish.
- Sprinkle slivered almonds and coconut ribbons on top.
- Bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until the eggs are set.
“Mom, this is the best salad you have ever made…” says my 11 year old. This summer, while spending his days on the golf course followed by swimming at the pool at our nearby country club, Ben developed a love for Caesar salads. Traditional chicken Caesar salad usurped his usual order of chicken strips with honey mustard and fries – he made a step in the right direction in my book by adding in some greens.
But chicken Caesar salad is not gluten free, so to make his new favorite at home, I decided to come up with my own gluten, grain, and dairy free version. Ben gives this recipe two thumbs up (he and his two friends walked into the kitchen right after I made this salad, and the three of them quickly polished it off), and so do I because not only is it made with healthy whole food ingredients, but it was super easy to make when in a pinch for time.
And most evenings, I am just that – pinched for time. To make life a little easier, I picked up a rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods to use for the salad. Their chickens are pasture fed and gluten free and $2 cheaper on Wednesdays.
The most tedious part of making this salad is removing the chicken meat from the chicken carcass. Kayley and I have gotten quite speedy at this process after volunteering at the Ronald McDonald house where our main job was to remove the meat from 5 birds and chop it for sliders. Our first chicken was a mess…we were s-l-o-w and wasted a good deal of the chicken. But then we got in a rhythm and discovered the best way to do it was just to dig in with our fingers and pull off anything that resembled meat and set it aside to chop later.
I have a big stockpot that I put any part that is not meat – the skin, bones, ligaments, tendons, etc., so I can make a large batch of bone broth to use in making a soup for dinner the next day. Real bone broth is soooooooo much better than the boxed or canned version. And it’s one of the most healing foods for your body, as it’s chocked full of gelatin, collagen, hyaluronic acid, chondroitin sulfate, glucosamino glycans, and lots of minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Homemade bone broth is good for healing your gut lining and building strong bones and joints, and it’s beautifying too – nourishing your skin, hair, and nails. After pulling off all the meat, I placed the entire carcass in the pot with the rest of the shrapnel I’d already pulled off, filled the pot with purified water and a splash of apple cider vinegar (helps to leach out the minerals and goodness from the bones), and let it simmer on the stove for the next day.
Now for the romaine lettuce…the morning before serving the salad, I cut off the end of the head of romaine and thoroughly washed the leaves. I like to lay the washed leaves out on a stream of paper towels and then roll up the paper towels with the leaves inside. I lay the rolled up leaves in the refrigerator to crisp throughout the day. Romaine lettuce is definitely my kids’ favorite green because it’s crisp and refreshing without the bitter taste of some of the other greens. And it’s one of my favorites to use because they will actually eat it, getting in a serving of those nutrient dense leafy greens which are the most lacking in most of our diets.
When ready to make the salad, I chopped the romaine and placed it in a medium sized salad bowl.
Next…on to the dressing. I used my Vitamix to make the Caesar dressing with olive oil, water, 2 egg yolks, 2 cloves of minced garlic, juice of 1 lemon, salt, pepper, and some pine nuts as a substitution for Parmesan. The dressing initially tastes pretty salty but once on the salad it’s delicious.
The only thing left to do is to layer the romaine lettuce, chopped chicken, another sprinkle of pine nuts, and fresh cracked pepper in a salad bowl. I drizzled on about half of the dressing and tossed the salad. After tasting, I drizzled on a little more dressing and tossed the salad again. Perfect. I saved the remaining dressing in the fridge where it will be good for about 3 -5 days.
- 1-2 heads romaine lettuce, depending on the size of the head
- 1 rotisserie chicken, meat removed and chopped
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- fresh cracked pepper, to taste
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 2 egg yolks
- ½ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup water
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Tear off leaves of romaine lettuce, and wash. Lay flat on a stream of paper towels, and roll up leaves inside paper towels. Let crisp in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
- Remove meat from a rotisserie chicken and chop. Set aside.
- Remove lettuce from the refrigerator, and chop.
- In a medium sized salad bowl, layer chopped romaine lettuce, chopped chicken, ¼ cup pine nuts, and fresh cracked pepper to taste.
- In a Vitamix or other blender, blend together garlic, ¼ cup pine nuts, egg yolks, olive oil, water, lemon juice, sea salt, and black pepper.
- Drizzle half of the dressing over the salad and toss. Taste and add more dressing if desired.
- Serve immediately or chill in the refrigerator.
- Save the remaining dressing in the refrigerator for 3 – 5 days for another use.