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Thursday, August 30, 2012

School Lunches Part 2: 9 Time & Money Saving Tips

I hope you got to read Monday's post, Part 1 of our back-to-school lunches series.  I filled you in on my top school lunch packing must-haves.  Now that you are equipped with everything you'll need to pack a clean & green lunch, let's get to answering some of your questions.

My friend Lyra wrote in on our Healing Cuisine Facebook page asking for ideas to jazz up her kids' lunch experience and foods/recipes she can prepare in advance and freeze for later use.  I've also gotten many emails from you all asking for budget saving tips and preparing whole food recipes in advance and in bulk.  And I hear your pleas!  Switching over to whole food and preservative free food can get expensive without a little extra planning.  There are ways to stay within your monthly food budget while providing your children with real food meals throughout each day.  Today I'm sharing my Top 9 Time and Money Saving Tips!

In Part 3, I will detail how to make weekly and monthly meal plans with your child.  I feel that meal planning and teaching your child WHY they are to eat a balanced whole food meal is the key to helping your child value and enjoy eating this way.  I'll finish up this School Lunches Series by sharing some recipe ideas that are hopefully new to you and sound like fun for your kids.  Alright, let's get to it!

School Lunches Part 2: 
Prep Now, Save Money Now And Time Later

#1)  Balanced Eating:  First, I want to talk a little about the perfectly balanced meal.  This applies not only to lunch, but also breakfast and dinner meals.  If you've done a meal planning consultation with me, you've heard me harping about the critical importance of the balance between Clean Protein, Healthy Carbs, & Good Fat in each meal of the day.  Your body needs these macro-nutrients in large amounts to perform basic cellular functions.  Proteins are the building blocks of cells made up of amino acids, and provides your body with the ability and energy to work, move, exercise and build/maintain muscle.  Clean proteins are your grass fed and pastured meats, grass fed or grass-based protein powders, quinoa, beans, lentils, raw cheese, organic full fat yogurt, and some vegetables (like peas).  Carbohydrates are the body's primary source of fuel.  Healthy carbs will carry your energy level steadily between meals.  When eating within the Maximized Living Nutrition Plans we want to stick to complex carbs, which are fruits and vegetables.  Complete carb lists approved for the Advanced and Core Plans can be found in Chapters 3 & 4 of your book.   Healthy Fats are extremely important, especially as we're talking about kids' lunches for school.  Healthy fats are essential for cellular membrane function, hormone function, optimal brain function, provide focus...the list can go on and on.  Healthy fats will also help you to stay full between meals.  It is important to have a serving of each of these components with every meal for overall brain and body function.  I also include a serving of water with every meal -- remember you need to drink at least half your body weight (pounds) in ounces of water daily for optimal hydration.  Talk to your children about drinking water throughout their school day.

Frozen smoothie ingredients
#2.)  Buy in bulk and freeze for later:  I apply this rule mainly to fresh produce, but it also applies to meat.  This is a huge way we save money every month.  It's also how we can enjoy seasonal produce all year long.  When various produce items are on sale (e.g. organic peaches, avocados, organic spinach, organic berries, organic apples) buy as much as you have the room for and freeze them for use later in the year.  I just did this last week with local organic peaches, kale, grapes,  nectarines, and Granny Smith apples.  I washed and diced everything and stored them in individual baggies in my freezer for smoothies later this fall and winter.  It's such an easy way to have a little taste of summer in the winter.  It also makes for a quick breakfast on the go in the morning.  Just dump, add your protein and liquid, blend and go.  Individual (or double) servings already portioned out!

Also, did you know you can freeze avocados?  I'll freeze them two ways - whole/diced (for later use in smoothies) and pureed with lime juice (for later use as guacamole or in desserts).  And yes, you can freeze kale and spinach.  Frozen greens are best used in smoothies or soups.  I destem, rinse, dry thoroughly, and chop the kale and store in either glass containers or freezer bags (whichever I have the room for).  I buy our organic spinach in bulk at Costco/Sam's Club/B.J.'s Wholesale and pop the plastic bin directly into the freezer.
Freeze avocados in season so you can enjoy through winter.
For this to work in favor of your food budget, you need to watch for sale ads and visit many different grocery stores, co-ops, and farmers markets to find the cheapest prices on organic fresh produce.  Also watch the prices on organic frozen berries and buy up a bunch when sales hit.  You can also ask your grocery store manager if they offer discounts for buying a certain number of items, like a case of frozen strawberries.  Some stores offer 10%+ off for large quantity purchases but you usually have to ask.  You can also contact a local farmer and see what type of a deal they would give you for any leftover produce at the end of each week.  I have done this before and gotten large boxes of mixed produce (tomatoes, kale, broccoli, zucchini, squash) for half price.  The farmer will be happy to make a few bucks for what otherwise they would throw out or donate.

#3.)  Plan Lunch Menus 1 Month Ahead: I can't stress enough how important and helpful it is to plan out your kids' school lunches in advance.  This is my step for success!  If a month seems daunting, start with a week's worth of planning at a time.  You will save the most time and money doing it a month at a time though, because you can take the most advantage of using produce/meat/yogurt/etc while on sale that you bought in bulk.  Design the rest of the months meals using those bulk ingredients.

Part 3 of this School Lunch Series will be outlining how to meal plan school lunches with your child.  I recommend involving your child(ren) in the process.  This opens the door for talking about healthy vs. unhealthy foods, portion control, hydration, etc.  Depending on their age, you may choose to do all the planning yourself and gauge them for feedback each day or week.  It's totally up to you!  But the more you involve your child, the more likely they will be to eat their lunch (and enjoy it!).  Have your child pick out their favorite main dishes, side dishes, desserts and snacks.  Then you can put together a menu together for each week.

#4.)  Nut-free School?  No sweat.  There are other whole food and grain-free options for baking other than almond flour:  garbanzo bean flour, garbanzo-fava flour, quinoa flour, buckwheat flour, coconut flour, or brown rice flour.  While using higher carb load flours like garbanzo and brown rice are not ideal long-term, these are much healthier nut-free alternatives to wheat/white flours that are higher in sugar and contain gluten.  And if your child loves their PB&J, most peanut-free schools will allow sunflower or coconut butter.  Spread that between sprouted grain Ezekiel bread with some organic unsweetened jam and you're all set!

Frozen 8oz lunch size portions of soups and casseroles.
#5.)   Freeze meals in 8 oz - quart size jars:  Depending on the number of children in your family that attend school, use the appropriate jar size to freeze soups, casseroles, even oatmeal for later in the month.  (Leave 1/4 inch of room at the top for expansion.)  When making dinner, double the recipe.  Make two pots of soup or two trays of casserole.  Serve one for dinner, then jar up the rest and freeze.  An 8 oz jar is about the perfect size for 1 lunch serving.  A larger quart size jar is enough to feed 3-4 kids.  The morning before you plan to send the jarred food for lunch, pull it out from the freezer and thaw in the fridge overnight.  In the morning, warm the Thermos container with boiling hot water while you heat up the soup/casserole from the jar to a piping hot temperature (a simmering temperature will be best to maximize heat temperature in the Thermos).  Add the hot soup/casserole/oatmeal/whatever to the Thermos container and finish packing the side dishes.  Warming the Thermos in advance of adding the hot food is key to keeping the contents hot for 4-5 hours until lunch time.

#6.)  Use ice cube trays to freeze small portions:  Similar to using jars above, you can use ice cube trays to freeze 1 ounce servings of homemade sauces, condiments, dressings, broths, dips, etc.  Pop out of the ice cube trays and store in a baggie or container in the freezer for use later in the year!  The day before you want to add one of the sauces/dips/condiments to the lunch, pull the perfect serving size out of the freezer and thaw in the fridge overnight.  Give it a stir in the morning and you're ready to add it to the lunch.  My favorites to make and freeze: Apple Butter, Chocolate Coco-Hazel-Nut Spread, Healing Cuisine's Ketchup, Marinara Sauce, Teriyaki Sauce, Ginger Lime Dip, Green Herbed Humus, Spinach Artichoke Dip, Healing Cuisine's BBQ Sauce.

#7.)  Freeze individual portions of baked goods:  I like to make muffins, cupcakes, protein bars, quick breads, cookies, and cakes in advance, slice them up into individual serving sizes, then freeze for later.  They'll last months in the freezer!  Layer slices of bread, cake, or cookies between parchment paper to prevent sticking.  You can even do this with my Almond Flour Tortillas!  Baked eggs freeze really well, too!  You can bake egg omelets/quiches/casserole/frittata in muffin tins then freeze.  The day before you are ready to include a frozen baked good in the lunch, pull from the freezer and thaw in the fridge overnight.  It'll be thawed by morning.  My favorite recipes to bake then freeze: Vegetable Frittata, Blueberry Bread, Zucchini Bread, Cranberry Nut Bread, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Gooey Brownies, Dark Chocolate Chip Orange Bread, Strawberry Cream Pie.

#8.)  Prepare lunch components 1 week in advance:  There are parts of the weekly lunch menu that you should be able to make in advance.  On Sunday, get those components prepared and portioned out for grab-n-go later in the week.  Some examples: wash and chop fresh produce, hard boil eggs, boil brown rice pasta, prepare freezer smoothies and/or homemade push pops, mix up a blend of trail mix, poach/bake chicken or turkey breasts, double a soup/stew/casserole recipe.

#9.)  Get lunch packed the night before:  If you're like me, you'll appreciate a few extra minutes of sleep in the morning.  The less lunch worrying and packing you have to do in the morning, the easier your mornings will be.  The night before, pack as much of the next day's lunch as you can.  Get everything portioned out into their containers/bags.  Lay out the lunchbox(es) on the counter with the napkin, silverware, water bottle, etc.  Make sure the ice packs made it back into the freezer.  And reference your menu plan to make sure you pulled out all the food from the freezer that needs to thaw for tomorrow's lunch.  In the morning, packing everything up will be a breeze.  Heat up any food that needs to on the stove or in the oven, and that should be all the work you'll need to do!  Everything else should be packed and ready to pop in the lunchbox!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: August 29, 2012

Monday, August 27, 2012

School Lunches Part 1: The Tools

Happy first day of school to many of you!  Back-to-school time leaves many of us moms wondering how we can maximize our kids' lunches with nutritious whole food meals.  I have lots of tips to help make lunch sack packing less of a chore and recipe ideas sure to keep your child happy!  I am breaking this School Lunches series into parts to make it easier for you to follow along.  Today is Part 1: The Tools.  I'm going to share my favorite tools and "go to" items that can be used as staples throughout the year.

Some of you may be remembering while I do have a child, he is only 11 months old.  "How could Elise know how to pack school lunches?"  Well, let's just say I have packed hundreds of lunches in my day.  I hated eating out in undergrad, but was on campus usually from 7am-9pm most every weekday.  I did a lot of lunch and snack packing.  And while my husband was in grad school, I sent him off with a packed lunch every day of Advanced Plan foods.  (His favorite thing to find in his lunch box to this day is "ants on a log.")  I had also spent 3 years as a part-time nanny for several families in the Twin Cities area, and was in charge of carting the kiddos around and managing our afternoon lunches.  That was a pretty eye-opening experience for me.  I learned that kids, even from families who eat organic foods, can still be picky eaters.  That was when I started experimenting with other ideas, like food shapes and smoothie pops and recipes that keep kids engaged through lunch time.  I am excited to share these ideas with you and hope you and your child enjoy making and eating them!

School Lunches Part 1:  The Tools

Start out the year with non-toxic reusable lunch boxes, water bottles, and utensils.  Some of my favorites:

Ziploc divided storage
-  Bento style lunch boxes.  The bento style means the box has separated compartments for each food/side dish.  You'll use less plastic or paper baggies separating foods this way.  Everything packs neatly into one slim container.  They make 18/8 grade stainless steel options like this box style or this stackable tiffin style.  I also really like the plastic Ziplock bento style as an option (Rubbermaid makes a similar product), especially when a liquidy side dish is packed as the Ziplock lid will be more leak proof compared some stainless steel options out there.  Obviously the 18/8 grade stainless steel is the cleanest option as far as toxicity is concerned, but on a budget and for functionality the Ziploc or Rubbermaid containers will certainly work.  They are BPA-free, that is a plus.  You mainly need to be concerned if the plastic will be heated up with the food or if hot food is placed into the plastic container.  That is when the most chemical transfer occurs from the plastic into the food.  I also like using the Ziploc bento for younger children instead of the stainless steel because it is lighter weight and easier to carry for little arms.  It's also budget friendly and recyclable, in case it accidentally gets left at school or lost on the bus -- easy to replace and no tears over the loss.  We use both stainless steel and the plastic Ziploc personally.

Klean Kanteen
-  18/8 grade stainless steel water bottle.  I can't stress it enough how important it is to send your child to school with a water bottle.  Even if the only time they'll drink from the water bottle is at lunch, at least you know that some of the water they drink at school is clean filtered water.  Drinking fountains are dirty and pump out tap water.  And you don't want them drinking bottled water from a vending machine because you don't know if the bottles were heated up in transport causing plastic leaching, let alone where that water came from either.  Talk to your kids about the importance of staying hydrated and the health benefits (proper hydration = ability to focus!).  I like the colorful Klean Kanteens or the Disney themed stainless steel Thermoses.  If it's colorful and fun, kids are more likely to use it!  Have your child pick out their favorite color!  *TIP* Chill the bottle in the fridge over night for maximum chilling power through the day at school.

Thermos brand food container
-  Hot food containers.  It's a great idea to switch it up from the same mundane lunches week after week.  When you're feeling in a rut, send them in with a hot lunch of soup, oatmeal, or leftover casserole from dinner.  Thermos brand has fun Disney themed options for these as well, or LunchBots also makes a thermal option.  *TIP* To get the max 5-6 hours of hot insulation out of these thermal cups, warm them up first by pouring boiling water inside and let sit for about 10 minutes.  Dump water out and add piping hot food and seal.  Add to sack lunch and ready to go!  It'll still be hot a lunch time.

-  Eating utensils.  I am a huge fan of reusable whenever possible.  Reduce and reuse.  It's also often the healthier option.  I think I shared my favorite bamboo eating utensils in a past Christmas gifts post, but here they are again.  You can also get camping style compact titanium utensils which are super light weight.
Titanium Spork
KOKO FreshPocket lunch bag
-  Lunch bag.  It's a good idea to still use a lunch bag to carry everything in, even if you're using a bento box, just in case something leaks.  A good quality lunch bag can also be chilled and will have room to store ice packs to keep your lunch fresh.  Look for something that opens on the side rather than the top.  This allows you to maximize your packing space.  This is the one that we use personally, the KOKO FreshPocket (just ignore the fact that they call it "the man's lunchbox" lol!).  It's the perfect size to fit everything, including a Thermos water bottle!  And with 2 ice packs in the built in compartments, it keeps our food cool for about 5 hours while sitting at room temp.  I have heard these Neoprene purse style bags are fabulous at insulating when ice packs are used, and they're roomy with extra stretch for large load days.  I see Thermos has their own kids lunch bags, and I do love the quality of their brand so I'd trust these bags to try them (and can't go wrong with that price!).

Fun Rubbermaid icepacks
-  Ice packs.  You probably already have a few in your freezer ready to go, but I had to share the CUTE ones a family I used to work for had for their children.  They are from Rubbermaid.  Each child had their own animal.  It was a cute way to personalize their lunches and keep them engaged.  We, personally, use the ice packs that are slim designed.

Reusable fabric baggies
-  Instead of plastic baggies.  Again, I am all about reduce and reuse.  Also, the type of plastic that is used to make plastic wrap and plastic bags is one of the worst as it easily leaches the plastic into the food it touches without heat exposure.  For long term cost savings and instant health promotion, switch to stainless steel containers, glass containers, reusable cloth type baggies, or stronger and safer plasticware like the Ziploc storage bentos.

Mini silicone push pop molds
-  Homemade push pops or 'gogurt'.  This is by far one of my favorite whole food lunch ideas.  I found these push pop style silicone molds that any kid is sure to love!!  We use them and looove them and we're big kids!  They're so easy to use, just pour in what you want to freeze, pop on the cap and it's ready to freeze.  I'll fill them with leftover smoothie, coconut milk mixed with lime zest, Greek yogurt and fruit, pureed mango with coconut milk, and (on the rare chance we have any leftover) homemade ice cream.  After a few hours, the consistency will be more like soft serve, but it's still really fun to roll up the bottom of the tube to eat your frosty treat.  Here is another brand in the same size.  They also make a mini size -- so cute for kindergarten/1st grade!  The trick in using these successfully over and over again is to wash them the same day, and get one of those bottle brushes, the skinny kind, to get all the way down to the bottom.

Too cute! - lunchbox art
-  Make food fun.  Cut veggies and fruit in fun shapes and design food art out of your shapes.  It's the fun little touches that excite your child when they open their lunch box and help them have a good time while eating healthy.  Believe me, there will be a kid chomping away on a cupcake, candy, or some food your child would rather have, but food art could help make the less desirable healthy foods 'taste' better!  Use cookie cutters you already have, or pick up some fun new ones.  Get creative!  Have your child help you pack their lunch the night before and let them design with the shapes.  Some ideas:  stars and flowersChristmas, flowers and leaves, classic circles, animals, butterflies and flowers, or plane, train, racecar.

Cloth napkins from Etsy seller GreenLittleNest
-  Cloth napkins.  Reduce and reuse, right?  You can make your own cloth napkins with your child, or help them pick out a colorful set of their own for the school year.  Cocktail size would be perfect!  A pack of 5 or 6 will be enough to get you through each school week.  Just toss them into your laundry load each week.  You actually save $$$ this way, and keep napkin waste out of the trash!  Here is a cute set from Amazon.com, or you can find lots of cute options on Etsy.com.

Come back tomorrow!  I'll be sharing some tips for planning lunches in advance.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: August 22, 2012

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dark Chocolate Chip Orange Bread

We had some friends staying with us this weekend from Minneapolis area.  You know that if you're a guest at my house I am going to make you a healthy treat.  We all wanted something with a touch of chocolate.  Chocolate orange sounded pretty good on Saturday evening, so I made an almond flour loaf with orange zest and dark chocolate chips.  I wanted to make a coffee frosting for it using coconut butter, but to be honest it was so late when we finally ate the bread that I didn't feel like melting down the coconut butter and whipping it with coffee.  (I still think it would be an amazing pairing!)  Instead I opened a can of coconut milk and scooped out the fluffy white cream solids from the surface.  Save the separated oil in the fridge for a smoothie later.  To the coconut cream solids, stir in some stevia, cinnamon, and vanilla and you're good to go!  It makes a yummy sauce to drizzle over your slices of bread.  Eat them with a fork and a nice cup of tea!

Dark Chocolate Chip Orange Bread
Makes 2 Loaves

3 cups almond flour, sifted
3/4 cup coconut flour, sifted twice
1 1/4 cup 73+% dark chocolate chips
5 tsp spoonable Stevita stevia
4 tsp baking powder
2 cups pureed organic Granny Smith apple (OR two whole organic oranges, peels removed and pureed)
3/4 cup raw butter or coconut oil, melted
2 free range eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp fresh orange zest (zest of 2 oranges)

1.)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease two standard loaf pans and line with unbleached parchment paper.  In a large bowl, combine almond flour, coconut flour, chocolate chips, stevia, and baking powder.

2.)  In separate bowl, mix together pureed apple, melted butter, eggs, and orange zest.

3.)  Add the wet ingredients into the dry and blend until just combined.

4.)  Spoon batter into greased loaf pans.  Bake 45 - 50 minutes, until knife inserted into center comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes in pan before removing loaves to cool completely on wire rack.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Top 5 Natural Birth Control Options

We're going a little PG-13 with today's post.  Continue with discretion!

Recently I had a follow up consult with a women who is new to our Maximized Living clinic.  She is middle aged, single, and completely embracing the 5 Essentials of Health.  She gets her spine adjusted regularly following her corrective care recommendations.  She's been doing the Advanced Plan strictly for a few months with weight loss and hormone balance as her health goals.  She has drastically reduced her daily toxic burden by switching to all natural body care products, make up, and cleaning products.  She is burst training at least three days per week.  And WOW has her mindset done a 360 in the last few months -- from a negative "I'll always be sick" mindset to a positive, glowing, "I'm in charge of my health" mindset toward change!  I am so proud of her!

During this follow up appointment, we were to discuss where she is at with meeting her health goals (weight and menstrual/hormonal issues) and talk about ways to speed up her healing process.  The biggest issue this woman wants to overcome is regulating her menstrual cycles and getting her hormones back in sync.  I have explained to her it will take some time, and that toxicity is the major component to an estrogen imbalance.  Not wanting to go back on a synthetic birth control pill, patch, or IUD, she asked about natural birth control options.  "What do you use?" she asked.  She knows that I will not put my health at risk by using something that is potentially toxic or messes with the natural cycle of my body.  I gave her my recommendations, and thought many of you could benefit from knowing the truly natural options that are out there for pregnancy and birth control.

Elise's Top 5 Natural Birth Control Options

#1 - Fertility Awareness Methods & Natural Family Planning

Fertility awareness methods allow you to identify days in your menstrual cycle on which you are most likely fertile.  Most commonly you see movies and TV showing women using this information to help them get pregnant, or try to.  But did you know that it can be used to help you avoid pregnancy and it is proven 99% effective when used properly?  That's more effective than using a condom or birth control pills/patch/ring/shot!

The only "tricky" part if you're trying to avoid becoming pregnant is that you'll need to either abstain from intercourse during your potentially fertile days or use a barrier method of contraception (like a diaphragm, natural lambskin condom, or the FemCap).  I say it is tricky, because when a women is in her fertile period, she is usually the most aroused.  But even so, this is the birth control method I use personally and have been for about 4 years now.  Once you (and your partner) get in tune with your body, you really learn the warning signs of your fertile period.  And once you learn your body's rythm, it's rather easy to stick with one of the Fertility Awareness Methods.

There are a few different methods out there.  Some work better than others.  Some have a religious stigma.  Natural Family Planning is the type that my husband and I use, and yes we are Christians but that is not the only reason we choose Natural Family Planning.  We use it because it works and is the healthiest for us and our future children.  I actually first learned about Natural Family Planning when my friend Allison gave me a book on it and how to chart.  For about 6 months in a row, I monitored my basal body temperature, cervical mucus, moods, and food cravings on a chart as I learned my body's pattern of fertility.  Once I learned my patterns, I now simply watch the calendar and mark down my flow days, always paying attention to mucus/mood/cravings as warning signs of fertility.  Natural Family Planning has been shown to be the most effective Fertility Awareness Method with a 99% effectiveness rate when used properly. The key is understanding how the method works and sticking to it 100% of the time.

Other Fertility Awareness Methods are not as successful, and also not as involved and detailed.  I won't go into the differences of the methods here for sake of time, you can look into them on your own if you wish.  Other methods are: Standard Days Method,  Symptom-based Method, Ovulation Method, Two Day Method, SymptoThermal Method, and the Calendar Rhythm Method.  Many of these still have high success rates and may be a good fit for you.  Do your research and find your best fit!

Resources I use for Fertility Awareness & Natural Family Planning
Period Tracker App (totally worth paying for the Deluxe version)
FertilityFriend.com (FREE)
Fertility, Cycles, and Nutrition
Sexy Hormones
Taking Charge of Your Fertility

Fertility Awareness & Breastfeeding
Maybe you just had a baby and are wondering how a Fertility Awareness Method can fit in to your sex life?  If you're like me and still breastfeeding, you'll be pleased to know that breastfeeding is God's natural birth control!  Most women will stay infertile until their milk starts to dry up naturally (for most women who do "extended breastfeeding," this will fall around the 1.5 to 2 year mark.  In my research, this pertains to the on-demand style of breast feeding, and exclusive breastfeeding for at least the fist year.  Also, breast milk only.  Doing part-time with formula can signal to your body that baby doesn't need as much milk anymore and your hormones start to switch back.  You can actually become fertile faster by feeding your baby only part-time from your beast.).  But if you find yourself weaning your child sooner than 2 years, begin watching for fertility signs as soon as you begin the weaning process.  You need to have had three regular periods to begin using a calendar-based method.  And to test your basal body temperature, you need to measure it at the same time each morning upon waking after at least 3 hours of restful sleep.  These are some things to think about as you notice your baby beginning to wean.  You could ovulate before your first period returns while breastfeeding.  I am finding, personally, that cervical mucus is the best indicator of fertility while I am still breastfeeding.  I continue to monitor daily for any changes...and so far, 11 months in, no changes since giving birth.

#2 - CycleBeads
CycleBeads are an affordable way to help make the Fertility Awareness Methods easier.  The beads can be used either virtually on your computer/phone or physically hands-on to monitor your cycle.  CycleBeads are a color-coded string of beads representing a woman's menstrual cycle.  You move the rubber band around the bead string each day of your cycle.  Different color bead represent different days of your cycle so you'll know when you are fertile and when you're not.  Read more on CycleBead's website here

#3 - Lady Comp
This machine runs on the higher end compared to everything else we're discussing today, BUT I can see why people fall in love with their Lady Comp.  I don't own one myself, but would seriously love to try one out for a while.  It takes the guess work out of Fertility Awareness!  It's a computer that does all the fertility monitoring for you.  You keep the small device on your night stand and take your temperature orally every morning at approximately the same time.  Once it gets about 3 cycles worth of data, it will give you a Red light for "No" or a Green light for "Go" whether or not you can have sex that day.  HOW COOL!  I have friends who use this machine and that's all they've ever had to use, no worrying about numbers or phone apps or graphs or calendars.  I hope to try it myself some day!  Check out Lady Comp's site or buy one here.

#4 - FemCap
I have not used a FemCap or a diaphragm personally, but many many many of my girlfriends use the FemCap and tell me they prefer it over a regular diaphragm.  FemCap is a non-hormonal latex-free contraceptive device made of silicone.  It is reusable and hand washable with soap and water.  My friends that use the FemCap tell me they like it as their regular birth control method because it is has fit to their size options (never pregnant, c-section, or vaginal birth) but doesn't require a professional fitting with their midwife or OBGYN.  And they say it just feels good in, no pain or discomfort, as well as easy to remove.  You can read more on FemCap's website to see if this option is the best fit for you.  Diaphragms have a 90% effectiveness rate.

#5 - Natural Lambskin Male Condoms 
Natural lambskin condoms are made from the intestinal membrane of a lamb, and, believe it or not, are the oldest type of all condoms.  There are records of lambskin condom use during the early part of the Roman Empire.  Kind of amazing if you think about it... The other condom options out there are made of synthetic latex or polyurethane, both highly toxic and used to make things like mattresses, paint, and tires.

In case you need a condom for other than just birth control, you should know that small natural pores in the lambskin condoms make them ineffective in protecting against sexually transmitted diseases.  The viruses that cause STDs can enter through the pores.  Lambskin condoms do provide pregnancy protection since the pores are too small for sperm to pass through.  Find natural lambskin condoms here.  Natural lambskin condoms have a 95% success rate.

Copper IUDs Did NOT Make the List
Copper IUD
In general, I am not a fan of inserting foreign man-made objects into my body for any amount of time, let alone 10 years!  I am against both the copper IUDs and the hormone IUDs.  The latter is a given (the artificial hormones!).  Why copper in the first place?  Copper kills sperm.  But, does that mean we should put copper in our vaginas??  Maybe you have seen the recent (ParaGard) commercials on TV for, what the drug companies are marketing as, the "natural copper IUD" or "safe copper birth control."  I strongly disagree.  The copper in IUDs is absorbed by the body over time, and yes it is possible to get copper poisoning.  It takes about 2-3 years for your body to build up so much eroded copper from the IUD that symptoms get so intense that your immune system crumbles.  But even a little too much copper in your blood stream throws your hormones off and causes extreme immune compromised health symptoms. And remember, this copper leaching happens to EVERY WOMAN who uses a copper IUD.  It is listed as a risk on ParaGard's packaging.

And, did you know there is a 1% chance that you can get pregnant while using the copper IUD??? (That is the same effectiveness as the Natural Family Planning method, but the copper IUD is toxic to the body!)  I alone have 3 close girlfriends who each got pregnant with the copper IUD inserted for many months prior.  And the chance of having an ectopic pregnancy if you do get pregnant with the IUD in is high.  For me, that's too many risks, plus the laundry list of symptoms that can go along with the IUD.... I'll pass and stick with a truly natural method by listening to my body for ovulation signs.

That is my Top 5 list for natural and non-toxic birth control.  Do you have a natural method you'd like to share?  Comment below!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: August 15, 2012

Monday, August 13, 2012

Fudgy Walnut Brownies


Last time, I shared my Moist Black Bean Brownie recipe made with, as the name says, pureed black beans.  Today's is a new brownie, still super moist but with an almost fudge like texture.  Paired with a tall glass of almond milk, and that is HEAVEN if you ask me!  these brownies remind me a little of grandma mistake bars... anyone remember those?

I went out and bought some raw walnuts this weekend to use in a cookie recipe someone emailed to me.  (Hint: It was for a chocolate cookie that has white frosting sandwiched in between...  :]  Recipe coming SOON!)  I had some walnuts leftover, and decided that brownies topped with walnuts have always tasted so good.  And this recipe was born!  I was out of eggs, so made do by substituting with chia seed meal.  You could forgo the chia seed meal and apple cider vinegar and instead use one large egg.

Let me know what you think about this brownie, and compare it to the black bean brownie.  I think I like this one a little more???  But really, they're both so good!  How can you pick a favorite?!

Fudgy Walnut Brownies
Makes 9 Squares

1-2 cups raw walnuts
1 16oz can navy beans (can substitute black beans)
1 tsp chia seed meal (ground in coffee grinder)
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
30 drops pure liquid stevia
1/3 cup powdered xylitol
1/4 cup organic full fat coconut milk
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp Bragg apple cider vinegar
a couple handfuls of chocolate chips (optional)

1.)  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease a 8 inch x 8 inch square pan with coconut oil and line the bottom with unbleached parchment paper.  Pulse the walnuts in your food processor to make a fine ground walnut meal.  Measure out 1/2 cup meal for the batter, plus 1/2 cup for an optional topping.  [Note: You can also substitute almond flour in the batter if you wish.]

2.)  To your blender or food processor, add navy beans, chia seed meal, melted coconut oil, stevia, xylitol, coconut milk, sea salt, baking soda, and apple cider vinegar.  Puree until very smooth.  Add 1/2 cup walnut meal and cocoa powder to the blender.  Puree until just combined.

3.)  Scrape into greased square baking dish.  Top with chocolate chips and leftover walnut meal (OPTIONAL).  Bake for 25-35 minutes, until knife comes out clean from the center.  Remove from oven and cool before slicing.  Store in airtight container in fridge.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Last night, I snapped this picture with our iPad and shared it on the Facebook page:

... And told you it was a Pumpkin Pie Smoothie.  You wanted to know how to make it.  I didn't realize I have never shared my recipe here with you before.  So here it is!  And who said you could only enjoy pumpkin in the Fall?  :)

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
Makes 2 Servings

1 15oz can organic pumpkin puree
2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground allspice
20-30 drops pure liquid stevia, to taste
8 ice cubes
2 scoops vanilla protein powder
2 handfuls organic certified gluten-free rolled oats (optional)
coconut milk (optional)

Add all ingredients to blender and puree until smooth.  I recommend adding the protein powder last, after all other ingredients are blended smooth, to prevent foaming.  If you like your smoothie thick, replace half of the almond milk with coconut milk.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: August 8, 2012

Questions Answered: Grain Free Pizza - 5 Ways

Three days late is better than never, right?? :)  My little man came down with the cold bug that hit his daddy and me last week and weekend.  This was my first experience with a sick baby ever.  I feel blessed to have made it 10.5 months without him having a hard illness to overcome.  And man, was it hard to watch him suffer for those couple of days.  Today he is back on the upswing, still with a raspy cough, but tearing up the house like normal again.  Will tell you what we did to boost his immune system in a future post.

On Saturday, we talked about the importance of choosing healthy free-range chicken nuggets, and I shared my grain-free recipe for chicken nuggets from my Kid's Birthday Party e-Book.

Continuing to answer Tyrese's question, I am going to share with you my top 5 favorite grain-free pizza recipes!  Without further ado, in my favorite to my most favorite order....  (Now don't get me wrong, I love each one of these pizza crust recipes, otherwise I certainly would not share them with you.  Think of this as my like-to-love scale.)

Flax Seed Meal Crust (left)
# 5 - Flax Seed Meal Crust (A)
Makes one 12 inch pizza a slightly nutty taste with light texture, somewhere in between thin and normal crust thickness

2 cups fresh raw flax seed meal
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 tsp aluminum free baking powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/2 cup filtered water
3 free range eggs, beaten
3 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
12 drops pure liquid stevia

1.)  In a medium bowl, stir flax seed meal, sea salt, baking powder, dried herbs together.

2.)  In a small bowl, whisk together water, eggs, coconut oil, and stevia until smooth.  Pour liquid mixture into flax seed mixture, stirring until smooth.  Cover with a tea towel and put in a warm place until doubled in size for about 1 hour (I put mine on top of my fridge).

3.)  Heat oven to 425 degrees F.  Grease your pizza pan with coconut oil.  Uncover dough and pour out onto pizza pan.  Press into circular shape (or oblong/rectangle if desired).  Bake for 15 minutes on center rack of oven until cooked.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 15 minutes.  Add favorite toppings, then return to the oven on Broil to bake for a final few minutes just to melt the cheese and crisp the edges.

Socca Chickpea Crust (below)
# 4 -  Socca (Chickpea Flour Pizza Crust) (C)
Makes one 12 inch pizza  savory with a hint of sweet, slightly chewy in texture, very similar to traditional pizza crust texture, normal crust thickness

1 cup organic chickpea flour, sifted
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp filtered water
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1.)  In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, water, sea salt, cumin, and olive oil.  Cover with a tea towel and let batter rest for 2 hours at room temperature.

2.)  Heat the Broiler in your oven.  Oil your pizza pan with coconut oil (I also like to do this crust right in a large cast iron skillet).  Pop it in the oven for a few minutes, until the pan is nice and hot.

3.)  Carefully remove the hot oiled pan from the oven.  Place on stove top (make sure it's stable!)  Pour the batter onto the pan, swirling it around with a spatula until it is of even thickness and to the edges of the pan. Pop it in the oven on the top rack.

4.)  Bake until the socca is firm and beginning to blister and burn.  The exact time will depend on the heat of your broiler (for me, about 8-10 minutes).

5.)  Remove from oven, top with sauce, toppings, and cheese, and place back under broiler for a few minutes until cheese is just melted.  [Alternatively, socca is usually enjoyed on it's own without toppings, much like a savory pancake or flat bread.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with black pepper.]
Cauliflower Pizza Crust (below)
# 3 - Cauliflower Pizza Crust (A)
Makes one 12 inch pizza  your kids won't know it's a vegetable! the cheese helps it crisp up to be firm enough to hold a slice in your hand.

1 head organic cauliflower
1 cups full fat grass fed mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 free range egg, beaten
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried onion powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/8 cup olive oil

1.)  Cut unbleached parchment paper to the size of your pizza pan.  Set aside.  Remove the florets from the head of cauliflower.  Place into your food processor and use the S blade to pulse to the consistency of rice.  [No food processor?  You can grate the cauliflower using a cheese grater on the smallest holes.]  You need 1 cup of "cauliflower rice."

2.)  Heat 2 Tablespoons water to boiling in a medium saucepan with a steam basket inserted.  Add the cauliflower rice and cover tightly over Medium-High heat.  The cauliflower will start to break down and steam on its own -- do not add more water to the pot.  Let it steam for about 8 minutes, until the cauliflower rice is cooked but not mushy.  Measure out 1 cup of cooked cauliflower rice for one 12 inch pizza.  Let sit to cool.

3.)  Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.  Combine cooled cauliflower, mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, and sea salt in a medium bowl. Spread the dough into a thin round layer on to your pizza pan covered with parchment paper.  Brush the dough surface with a thin layer of olive oil.

4.)  Bake for 20 minutes or until the crust is uniformly deeply browned.  Remove from the oven, transfer, still on the parchment paper, to a wire rack.  Allow to cool completely for a more sturdy crust.

5.)  When your crust has cooled, top with a light brushing of pizza sauce and toppings.  Return to the oven under the Broiler setting for a few minutes until cheese is melted.

# 2 -  Coconut Flour Pizza Crust  (A)
Makes one 12 inch pizza  a thin crust pizza, extra crispy and delicious

Coconut Flour Crust (left)
4 free range eggs
1/4 cup kefir / organic yogurt / coconut kefir / coconut yogurt
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup coconut flour, sifted
1 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)

1.)  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line your pizza pan with unbleached parchment paper.  In a large bowl, whisk the eggs together with the kefir (or yogurt) and sea salt.   Add the coconut flour and whisk until very smooth, about 2 minutes until the coconut flour as absorbed the eggy liquid.  Stir in the onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, basil, and Parmesan cheese.

2.)  Pour the batter onto the paper lined pan.  Use a spatula to spread the batter to the edges and to an even thickness.  This is a thin crust dough, so it will be quite thin.

3.)  Bake on middle rack for 10-12 minutes, until lightly brown.  Remove pan from oven, add sauce, cheese and other toppings as desired.    Place back in the oven on to rack and Broil until crispy on edges and cheese melts.
Nut Flour Crust (below)
# 1 -  Nut Flour Pizza Crust  (A)
Makes one 12 inch pizza  slightly chewy and almost perfect texture closest to yeast-dough recipes, normal crust thickness

3/4 cup whole raw cashews
3 Tbsp raw almond flour
1/4 cup coconut flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp garlic powder
2 free range eggs
2 Tbsp organic unsweetened almond milk
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 1/2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp cold filtered water
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano

1.)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a food processor, pulse the cashews until a fine flour has formed.
Add to the food processor the almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, sea salt, and garlic powder, then process the mixture on High for 1 minute.

2.)  Add the eggs, almond milk, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, water, and herbs and process for another minute.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and pulse a few more times until you have a very smooth dough.  Let the dough rest for 2 minutes to let the coconut flour absorb some of the liquid.

3.)  Sprinkle a piece of unbleached parchment paper with a bit of almond flour, then turn the dough out onto the parchment paper, forming it into a ball.  Flatten the dough ball slightly, then sprinkle a little more almond flour on the top.  Place another piece of parchment on top.  Lightly roll out the dough into a circle that is about 1/4 inch thick.

4.)  Remove the top piece of parchment paper and discard.  Lift the corners of  the bottom parchment piece hold the dough circle and slide it onto your pizza pan.  Bake for 12 minutes or until it is golden brown around the edges and firm in center.

5.)  Remove from oven.  Top with sauce, toppings, and cheese.  Return to oven and Broil on top rack for a few minutes until crisp on edges and cheese is melted.

So there you have it, my top 5 tried and true grain-free pizza crust recipes.  I hope you enjoy!!  Lots of options here, from thin crispy crust to doughy chewy goodness!  You've got to try them all or else you're missing out!  :)  Enjoy!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Questions Answered: Grain Free Chicken Nuggets

Happy WEEKEND everyone!

Boy did I ever need this weekend to arrive.  It's been a long week with Austin, and I appreciate the few extra hours that I have my husband home to help me this weekend.  Austin is about 10.5 months now, and his mood swings are high and often lately.  From what I've read on some attachment parenting forums, this is about the age where he's developing a lot of new skills all at once (walking, talking more, expressing new emotions, eating new foods, more teeth, etc etc) and it can be overwhelming, so babies often release in this way.  What do you all think?  Experience the same moodiness with your little one(s) at this age?  Well it's been almost a week straight.  I'm fried.  And on top of it, I've worn myself down and come down with a cold.  I am in need of a momcation!!  :)

Now, while I sip on my Healing Cuisine Tincture Tea and think of all the ways today was a blessing and a gift, I'll answer a recipe question from Tyese P.:

"I wanted to know if you can help me come up with healthy versions of chicken nuggets and pizza. My kids love to eat them, but I don't like the unhealthy ones... If you could help me out I would appreciate it.  Thanks!"  - Tyese P., Illinois
These are two great recipe requests, and two that every mom should have up her sleeve.  You are right on, Tyese.  Chicken nuggets and pizza bought in the frozen food aisle, the deli section, or from a fast food restaurant are all extremely unhealthy and can be laden with chemicals, preservatives, and food dyes.  Grains and sugar can be the least of your worries when buying a manufactured chicken nugget or pizza!  Have you peeked at the ingredients list of one of those packages lately??

I'll be sharing my recipe for chicken nuggets today, and pizza tomorrow.  I looked up Tyson Chicken Nuggets.  That is the brand my mom fed us growing up.  This nutritional and ingredients info is direct from their website.  Check it out:

At first glance you might say, wow that's not so bad!  But let's remember where this chicken came from, how it was raised, and how it was butchered.  When you hear the brand name "Tyson," you may remember that they are known for loading their birds with chemicals BEFORE the butchering takes place...probably so they don't have to post the chemicals on the ingredients label since it's not added during the manufacturing process?  I remember news reports came out about that a few years back, also about the way they treat their animals....  Google it!

My point is, this meat is not coming from free range pastured chickens.  We don't know the chemical burden of the meat, which also means the fats are compromised.  If we continue to look at the ingredients list, you can see there is a lot of wheat going in (sugar), and corn (sugar), and vegetable oil (bad fat).  And look at all the salt!  Bad salt, too.  It's not our healthy Himalayan mineral sea salt.  And on a label when you see "spices" or sometimes it can read "other flavorings," that can mean MSG.  Who really knows what they are hiding by using a vague term like that.

Your kids deserve better!  Start with some free range organic chicken and make these nuggets with Advanced Plan ingredients!  My recipe is below.  I have decided to share this recipe which is originally found in my Kid's Birthday Party e-Book.  Inside, you'll also find easy Core and Advanced Plan menu options perfect to please your birthday boy or girl and their party guests!  The menu list includes: Almond Crusted Chicken Strips, Sweet Potato Fries, Caramel Apple Slices, Banana Nut Stacks, Chocolate Almond Snack Bars, Very Berry Smoothie, Strawberry Lemonade, Vegetable Art, Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting.

Grain Free Chicken Nuggets
Makes 24 Nuggets

1/2 cup almond flour, sifted
3 Tbsp coconut flour, sifted
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp fresh black pepper

1 1/2 tsp olive oil 
3 free range eggs
1 lb free-range boneless, skinless chicken breasts (approx. 2 large breasts)
4 Tbsp coconut oil, melted

1.)  Preheat oven to 475°F.  Set a wire rack on a foil-lined baking sheet and brush with coconut oil. Wash and dry chicken breasts.  Cut each breast into 6 uniform strips, then cut each strip in half.  Use a meat mallet to pound out thick nuggets to each nugget is of uniform thickness.  Lay out on a plate and set aside.

2.)  Place almond flour, coconut flour, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, dry mustard, sea salt and pepper in a food processor.  Pulse until the the paprika is mixed throughout, about 1 minute.  With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil.  Blend until just combined.  Transfer the mixture to a shallow dish.

3.)  Whisk eggs in a second shallow dish.  Add chicken nuggets to eggs and turn to coat.  Transfer each nugget to the almond mixture and dredge evenly on all sides.  Place the chicken nugget on the prepared rack.  Repeat until all chicken nuggets are dredged and on the prepared rack.

4.)  Brush each nugget with coconut oil.  Flip and coat the other side.  Bake the chicken nuggets until golden brown, crispy and no longer pink in the center, 20 to 25 minutes.  Serve with organic ketchup and honey mustard.

  Prepare in advance:  Bake, cool and freeze in an airtight container.  Simply remove from freezer and pop, frozen, into oven at 350 degrees F until warmed through.  May need to cover with aluminum foil to prevent burning during reheat.

Tune in tomorrow for Advanced Plan PIZZA!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: August 1, 2012

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