Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween 2011 and Easy-Peasy, Delicious Split Pea Soup!

 First the food:
Halloween night means easy dinner.  My split pea soup is just that: easy-peasy and so tasty.  
Plus it's sort of ghoulish looking don't you think?   
And this is a no-waste dish if you can find your peas in bulk. 

-3 cups dried split peas (soaked in filtered water 4 - 6 hours)
-1/2 pound high quality, organic ham, coarse dice
-1 medium yellow onion, small chop
-4 carrots, chopped
-6 cups filtered water
-3/4 teaspoon salt
-2 teaspoons garlic granules
-Fresh ground pepper  
-Oil (of choice) - enough to coat pot
-2 bay leaves, removed before serving

How To
1.  In large pot, add oil, salt, and onions, saute for 5 minutes.
2.  Add ham, saute for a few minutes with onions. 
3.  Add carrots and garlic granules, saute for 1 minute. 
4.  Drain and rinse peas, add to pot.
5.  Add water (or broth of choice).  Make sure the peas are covered, start with 5 cups and add more water if needed.
6.  Bring to a boil.  Turn down to a soft simmer and cover.  Simmer covered for about an hour.  Give soup a stir now and then. 
7.  Uncover and soft simmer for another 30 minutes.  
8.  You'll know when the soup is ready, the peas will be soft and creamy.
9.  Stir in some fresh ground black pepper. 
10.  Soup will thicken greatly as it cools. 

*This dish can easily be made vegetarian, and I have made it thus many times.  I omit the ham and add homemade vegetable broth in place of the water. 
 I was inspired by Maggie's zombie eyeball cupcakes and so made these for dessert.  I used my own carob cupcake and vegan frosting recipes though (not ready to give my son chocolate yet, especially with his eczema acting up).  My kids thought they were very fun!

Happy Halloween to one and all.  We had a nice day.  Beautiful weather.  I personally love Halloween, which is strange because I'm a huge scaredy cat.  I enjoy dressing up, I do every year and probably will forever.   
I love Jane Goodall!!

My handsome husband accountant
And my cute little runaway chimpanzee, George
Shared on: Sunday Night Soup Night 

Lemon Walnut Stuffed Avocados

I simply adore avocados.  So today I decided to not smoosh my beautiful green healthy friend and serve her whole in all her glory.  
These would make such cute appetizers.  You could obviously add anything in there, I chose some seasonably appropriate walnuts with a little added kick.  

-2 avocados, firm but soft
For the filling: 
-1/2 cup chopped walnuts (soak and dehydrate for better digestion)
-1/4 cup apple, peeled and small chop
-1/4 cup red onion, small chop
-1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
-1/4 cup walnut oil
-1/2 teaspoon dried basil
-1/4 teaspoon garlic granules
-1/4 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)

How To:
1.  In a small bowl, mix lemon, oil, basil, garlic, and salt
2.  Add walnuts, onions, and apple
3.  Let flavors mingle for a few hours before serving (the longer the better)
4.  Add to avocado 
5.  Drizzle a little oil on the top before serving

In other news...
It has been simply gorgeous and warm here in Northern California - around 80 degrees yesterday.  My winter garden is loving all this sun and the little sprouts are singing.  We are all, however, anxiously waiting for the rain here in the valley and snow to drop up in Tahoe so we can hit the slopes! 
Playing with my daughter in the backyard...
I enjoy our time together while Ethan naps. 

These leaves will all be gone soon!
Soaking up their green while we can.
Shared on: Wellness Weekend 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ditch The Can: How to Make Delicious Pumpkin Puree

Making your own pumpkin puree is easy as....pie?  Okay it had to be said.  How about Sunday Morning?  Easy Peasy?  Let's stick with pie.  It's truly easy, fun and very satisfying.  As is anything you can do from scratch and without packaging.  A few years ago I bought a bag of almond meal/flour on-line.  It was my first and last time for that.  I immediately started grinding my own organic almonds here at home for recipes.  Simple, fresh, organic, no packaging  - no waste. 

What was I talking about?

Oh, yes, bad puns.

Okay so first you need a pumpkin.  

I just throw mine right in the oven. 
 Lazy?  Perhaps.
Easy?  Yes!
Maybe it's just me, but sometimes I feel like I'm wresting with the raw pumpkin - it's aggravating.  I love the way the knife slips into the tender meat when it's all hot and roasted.  

Step 1: roast a pumpkin
{400 degrees for 70 minutes for a 4 or 5 lb pumpkin, roast longer and until soft for heavier pumpkins}
Step 2: allow to cool and then remove skin and seeds
Step 3: chop- chop OR scoop out into a food processor 
Not ALL pumpkins will cube like this, it depends on the variety.  
Step 4: Add to food processor 
Step 5: add 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice mix to 1 cup of pumpkin puree.  I usually have about 4 cups of pumpkin (so 4 teaspoons spice mix).  Blend in food processor until incorporated. 

Here is a groovy recipe for pumpkin pie spice mix if you are so inclined to make your own.  

Now you're ready to make something tasty.  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pumpkin Spiced Teff Pancakes with Maple Coconut Whipped Cream and Toasted Pecans

I know this looks like a breakfast, and in theory it is, but can I tell you that it tastes like dessert!  And why shouldn't one start the day on such a sweet note?  Sweet and healthy that is.  My two and a half year old son, Ethan, thought I gave him cake this morning.  We were all laughing as he declared, "More cake please Mommy!"  

-This teff pancake recipe (sans the banana - and plus 2 Tbsp of water) 
-1/2 cup fresh, plain pumpkin puree
-1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice mixed with the 1/2 cup pumpkin puree 

How To:
1.  Mix dry ingredients in a bowl
2.  Mix wet ingredient with pumpkin puree and additional water
3.  I would take caution with adding any additional sweetener to the batter. The dish becomes very sweet with the maple coconut whipped cream.  The pancakes are meant to compliment, rather than overpower the other flavors

Maple Coconut Whipped Cream
-1 can refrigerated full fat coconut milk here or here. 
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
-3 tablespoons grade B maple syrup 

How To:
1.  Refrigerate the can of coconut milk for at least 3 days prior to use (I usually leave it in there for a week or more).  In fact, I store about 5 cans of coconut milk in the fridge and use them as needed.  
2.  Scoop out the cream into a bowl, not the coconut water (which you will see at the bottom of the can; save that for another day and recipe).
Add vanilla and maple syrup to coconut cream and blend with a hand mixer.  Add in thickener if needed. 
4.  Store remaining cream in refrigerator.  It will also thicken quite a bit in the fridge, so this is a good idea to make the day before! 

Oh, and don't forget to lightly toast those pecans!
Shared on: Freaky Friday, Fresh Bites Fridays, Lunch Box Love Fridays, Fight Back Friday, Friday Food, Make It Gluten Free Tuesdays

Friday, October 21, 2011

Homemade Jojoba Shea Butter Lotion: for dry skin and eczema

When my son Ethan was 5 months old he developed eczema all over his body.  It wasn't entirely a surprise.  My husband develops terrible eczema on his hands during the summer/winter months.  So when it started showing up on Ethan it was all about holistic healing and comfort...and time.   

I started with food. I was nursing Ethan so I would systematically cut out foods from my diet that I suspected might be aggravating his skin.  Food didn't seem to change his skin much.  Already 100% dairy free, sugar free, soy free, etc, I cut out eggs for a while.  I also experimented with wheat and nuts.  We noticed that during the cold months his skin was dry and susceptible and during the hot months his skin was dry and susceptible.  I would say that staying on a allergy free diet helped his skin from becoming worse than it already was, and allowed time and other natural remedies to work and heal the inflammation. 

Our pediatrician, like most pediatricians, suggested the steroid cream.  Scott never had much success with this sort of cream and he also didn't particularly like the ingredients - very intense stuff.  So we both knew this just wasn't an option...or for us a very last resort option.  For the most part Ethan was smiley, happy and easy going.  He appeared comfortable.  He wasn't distressed or preoccupied with itching his skin.  So that being said, we continued with holistic/homeopathic remedies including:

1.  Keeping his nails trimmed 
2.  Always covering the weepy patches of skin, but also allowing the skin time to breathe now and then
3.  Dressing in only 100% cotton or organic cotton clothes
4.  Gentle soap (like Dr. Bronner's) to wash his clothes
5.  We did not bathe him every night
6.  During baths I would often put chamomile tea in with his bath water (steap about 8 cups of water with 8 tablespoons loose chamomile flowers )
7.  Moisturize, moisturize and moisturize!  We kept his skin very lubricated, especially during the winter months.
Side note: I'm not kidding when I tell you we used just about every organic, natural cream on the market.  We found these at our local Coop and I also found products on-line from small organic companies (this is a great blog for such a purpose).  I was very picky about what I put on his skin, obviously.  We did not use lotions filled with preservatives, parabens, SLS, phthalates, glycols, petroleum, artificial fragrances, PEGS, PGG, MEA, TEA, DEA, etc...the list goes on and on...and so the list of what you can use gets smaller and smaller.

I didn't think about making my own lotion at the time.  I wish I had because we all know those organic creams are EXPENSIVE!  
In time his eczema decreased, starting with his face.  By his first birthday his face looked great.  Next his arms improved to zero areas of inflammation much like his face, his back and stomach followed.  His legs improved greatly but this is still the area of concern.

Last summer I purchased my last store-bought cream/oil.  I was determined to make my own dry skin/eczema remedy and found three ingredients that target inflammation 
(and ingredients I frequently saw in the store-bought brands):
1.  Jojoba oil
2.  Chamomile flowers
3.  Raw organic unrefined shea butter

So here is what I did...

1: Purchased 16 oz. of raw, organic shea butter.
2: Purchased 8 oz. of organic jojoba oil 

3: Purchased 1/2 cup dried chamomile flowers 

4: Infused jojoba with chamomile for 2 weeks
5: Strained through cheese cloth and TADA...chamomile infused jojoba oil! 
6: Raw shea butter is super hard so I placed it in a glass bowl and let it sit in the sun for a few hours to soften.  Worked great.  Above picture is a few hand stirs with a spoon after the sun bath

7: I added the strained oil to the shea butter and whipped with a hand mixer until well incorporated

1.  This lotion is oily.  Take caution when applying it around fabric you love, as oil may transfer
2.  It soaks into skin after a bit and should be noted it's much less oily than just applying straight oil
2.  This would be a terrific hand treatment at night with cotton gloves
3.  Apply immediately after shower/bath to affected areas
4.  This mixture of ingredients has a fantastic shelf life
5.  Experiment with other healing herbs/oil 

Here are some pictures of Ethan's skin.  I never took any of his body because it was usually covered.  I look back at these and smile ear to ear.  He was such a chubby little thing! To give you an idea, he weighed 17 lbs. at 4 months old! And I'm not kidding when I tell you he was a happy little thing too - always a smile on that red little face. 
Overall, his legs were the worst.  He had many patches of skin that were weepy, he also had these patches on his arms.  Keeping these patches covered prevented itching and aided in healing.

And, here he is today:
 His dry skin/eczema is now isolated to his legs, but it's nothing like it was.  The large weepy patches are a thing of the past.  His legs now develop dry areas with red blotches and in a few areas he has tiny dry bumps where the large weepy patches used to be.

The heat exacerbates the blotches - I notice they become red when he is either exposed to heat or gets hot from running around.  You can see just a little of the red on his leg in the picture above.  So we use our lotion on his legs throughout the day and I can attest that it works great for him (if not better than any organic store-bought brand); it decreases the redness, calms the skin and makes it super smooth - especially those dry little bumps.  My husband's hands have also improved with use. 

Today his face looks so much better.  His cheeks healed with time, as did his arms, back and stomach.  We are happy about declining the steroid cream.  This this was a personal choice and every parent should decide what will be best for their child and what they are comfortable administering.  I would say he outgrew the worst of it. Keeping him on an allergy-free diet is very important despite the little change we noticed in his symptoms early on.  He is currently dairy free, gluten free, sugar free, soy free, chocolate free and nightshade free.  And we keep that skin super-duper moisturized with our awesome new lotion.  

Still a very smiley little guy!!  

Additional Homemade Lotions from The Tasty Alternative 


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pasta with Delicata Squash Sauce

I simply adore delicata squash.  I also adore pasta.  I thought these two should meet.  Over the years I've made a variety of cheese-less pasta sauces, generally made with various types of squash, and of course nuts, but I have to say, this is my favorite.  I kept the sauce very simple - like a base so it's very easy to add different ingredients/seasonings.  Stay tuned for more delicata love: chicken and delicata squash enchiladas with vegan sour cream!  

-4 delicata squash, peeled, seeds removed and chopped 
-1/2 yellow onion, chopped
-Oil of choice for roasting 
-2 teaspoons + 1 tablespoon garlic granules
-1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
-Pepper to taste
-Water for boiling 
-3 cups chopped mushrooms (of choice) I used portobello
-1/2 bag frozen peas, steamed 
-4 1/2 cups gluten free pasta (I used Tinkiada spirals- so lucky they have these in bulk at my Coop)

How To:
1.  Add chopped squash, onions, and 2 teaspoons garlic granules with a drizzle of oil to favorite roasting dish and roast on 400 for about 40 minutes.  Every oven is different, so check at around 30 minutes.  Remove when tender. 
2.  Bring water to a boil and cook your pasta
3.  Add some oil to a pan and saute mushrooms until tender.  
4.  Steam the peas. 
5.  When the squash is done, place in a blender with 1 tablespoon of garlic granules, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste.  Blend, adding water until desired consistency.  I added quite a bit of water and it didn't dilute the taste.  
6.  Toss some of the sauce with your pasta.  Add mushrooms, peas and combine.
7.  Freeze leftover squash for another day.

*This makes a very sweet sauce.  It's a fun twist on your everyday red sauce, or your pasta primavera. 
*Experiment with different varieties of squash; I've used butternut and kombucha.  
*Add different veggies to this dish to transform the flavor: chopped tomatoes, basil, asparagus, different mushrooms, green beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc.

Shared on: Just Another Meatless Monday, Manic Meatless Mondays, My Meatless Mondays

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Tasty Alternatives to Traditional Halloween Candy

 Healthy versions of some traditional Halloween treats    

Rice Crispy Chocolate Bars
(my spin on a traditional candy bar)

*I used this recipe for "rice crispy treats" from the Gluten
Free Goddess for the inside of the bars
*One bar of chocolate for the coating
*Shredded coconut, if desired

How To
1.  I made the above rice crispy treats, smoothed the mixture out
on a silicone baking mat  - around 1 inch high.  Chilled them
in the fridge until nice and solid.  Then cut them into bars
2.  Melt an entire bar of chocolate on a double boiler (I fashioned
my own using a small 8" non-stick saute pan on top of a small
sauce pan filled with some water)
3.  Quickly cover bars with chocolate, rolling them around
with a wooden pair of tongs.  When fully coated,
transfer immediately to a cooling rack with a baking sheet
underneath to catch the chocolate drippings
4.  Transfer to fridge until cooled
5.  These do very well sitting out at room temperature,
the chocolate does not melt.  Perfect to eat like a "candy bar"

Chocolate Covered Figs
(my spin on a Tootsie Roll Pop)
-Fresh Figs
-One bar of chocolate for the coating

How To
1.  Melt an entire bar of chocolate on a double boiler (I fashioned
my own using a small 8" non-stick saute pan on top of a small
sauce pan  filled with some water).
2.  Place lollipop stick into fig.  All I had on hand when I made these was a few wooden skewers, a little too sharp on the end for children.  I found some 4" lollipop sticks here in town the next day...much better.
3.  Using a silicone spatchula, drizzle chocolate quickly over fig 
4.  Be sure to get some chocolate on the area between the stick and the fig, this will provide a nice hold, like a glue, ensuring the fig won't fall off.  I missed this on a few as you can see in the above picture and these were much more precarious
5.  Transfer immediately to a cooling rack with a baking sheet 
underneath to catch the chocolate drippings
6.  Transfer to fridge until cooled

Caramel Pops and Caramel Apples
(My spin on traditional caramel)

-5 tablespoons brown rice syrup (or Yacon Syrup might work)
-5 tablespoons coconut sugar
-1 tablespoon coconut oil

How To
1.  Spray some oil on wax or parchment paper and strategically place lollipop sticks on paper
2.  Have a small space on paper sprayed with oil for the apple.  Have apple ready (with a popsicle stick or skewer firmly in place) 
3.  In a small non-stick saute pan (same as used above but not as a double boiler) heat brown rice syrup until bubbly, always stirring quickly to avoid burning
4.  Add in coconut sugar and coconut oil and stir quickly.  Keep on med/low heat with a slight bubble for about 2 minutes stirring the entire time to prevent burning
5.  Remove from heat and continue stirring for about 30 seconds
6.  With a silicone spatchula, pour a small amount of the sauce on the end of each lollipop stick. Let it sit and repeat once more, this will make it a little thicker and give the stick a little more to hold on to
7.  For apple, hold apple by the skewer and drizzle the sauce quickly over apple and then place on the oiled paper 
8.  Transfer lollipops and apples into the fridge to cool.  When the sauce has hardened, take out items and remove from paper.  You may get a little paper stuck on your treat, but it peals off pretty easy
9.  I suggest eating the lollipops right away, as they do get a little soft at room temperature
10.  Slice apple and let it sit at room temperature before eating.  The sauce turns ooey and gooey when it warms up.  So delicious with the tart apple!

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