Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks

Well we are off today on our first long drive as a family (7 hours).  I’m very curious to how this is all going to go – I’m pulling for manageable.  I’ve found a few tricks for our short journeys (the grandparents all live out of town, but nothing over a 2.5 hour drive).  So I have prepared yummy goodies, activities, fun CDs, stories on CDs, some car games and if things get ku-ray-zee I will bust out the portable DVD player (that I just bought yesterday at Target, on sale – woot).  We usually don’t travel on Thanksgiving, but it feels right this year.  

Have food sensitivities– will travel!
Having food sensitivities and food allergies makes things difficult when traveling in general, but more so when you’re traveling on one of the biggest food days of the year.  Arg, I can’t help but feel anxious about the food situation.  But I take control, get real and bring food with me.  This year I’ve made two desserts: these brownies and a delicious carrot cake with a vegan/sugar-free frosting (that I will share with you very soon); a side favorite (honey roasted sweet potatoes with apples and pears); my cranberry sauce; pan seared green beans with an orange sauce; and gluten free dinner rolls (from my local gluten-free bakery).  I know the turkey will be okay to eat, and I’m sure there will be a salad.  So, I’m good and Ethan will be fine.  My husband is so great about bringing me back down to a “breathe, everything is fine, it’s all good” place and I love him so much for that.  We are a great match in that way. 

This year I feel grateful for so many things


My sweet, wonderful, supportive husband
My two amazing, magical children
My loving family  
My fabulous friends 
And my fabulous new internet foodie friends
My health on good days
My body for pulling me through the tough days
A roof over my head and access to healthy food 
Clean drinking water
Our beautiful earth for providing us with nourishment and life

And for special days like this.
Singing with my kids, enjoying each other and cherishing the moment

Have a Wonderful, Safe and Happy Thanksgiving.
Be Well,
–Amber
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Chocolate Pumpkin Ice Cream (dairy free, cane-sugar free, vegan)

I haven’t had “real” ice cream in ohabout 8 years.  I can’t even remember what the stuff tastes like, although when eating ice cream I do remember feeling thirsty and wanting french fries.  What’s that about?  I’m a salty-girl at heart really, not a dedicated sweet tooth like my husband.  I enjoy frozen treats, as does Scott, so we were very intrigued when we started seeing coconut ice cream on the shelves a few years back.  It was love at first bite for me and for the first time in years I was eating ice cream again – and delicious ice cream, ice cream that didn’t make me phlegmy, thirsty, or crave deep fried salty food (and hooray finally for a dairy free, soy free ice cream)!  It wasn’t long after that I started making my own here at home.  It’s ridiculously easy.  My final recipe in my chocolate + pumpkin series is a delicious, creamy chocolate pumpkin ice cream.  Enjoy.
Ingredients
-1 can full fat coconut milk (Native Forest is BPA free)
-1/2 cup plain pumpkin puree (I used the Cinderella variety)
-3 tablespoons raw cacao powder (or to tasteI liked it at 2 tablespoons, Scott, of course, needed one more tablespoon in there)
-1/4 cup Grade B maple syrup (or sweetener of choice and to taste)
-5 drops liquid stevia
-2 teaspoons cinnamon
-1 teaspoon vanilla 

How To
1. Blend all ingredients until creamy and well incorporated 
2. Immediately add to ice cream maker
3.  When the mixture is very thick (the consistency of frozen yogurt) transfer to freezer
4.  Freeze for a few hours before serving
5.  If serving the next day, don’t fret when you take the ice cream out of the freezer and it resembles a block of ice.  You’re okay. Allow ice cream to sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes, it will thicken up as it warms and will be super creamy and delicious
6.  Garnish with shredded coconut and cinnamon, or your favorite topping

Notes:
Below are other chocolate + pumpkin recipes you may enjoy 

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Labels: cane sugar free, chocolate + pumpkin, dairy free, dessert, gluten free, ice cream, soy free, vegan.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Winter Gardening Advice from Don at Redwood Barn Nursery

I live in a big gardening town.  So naturally I became very interested in gardening when we settled in, but I was lost and confused on how to start this whole gardening process.  I wanted to feel successful and competent at what looked like a very easy and natural activity.  A friend told me about a magical little place call Redwood Barn Nursery and the rest is history!

I walked into Redwood Barn one warm summer day and there was Don moving passionately among the flowers, vegetables, and organic soil.  I roamed around for a while and then thought, maybe next year…this is a little more involved than I had anticipated (how am I supposed to choose between 15 different varieties of tomatoes?).  But before I left I approached Don and said, “I know nothing about gardening, can you help me?”  Um, help is an understatement.  I’m guessing I learned more about summer gardening in that 1/2 hour than I would have in a month long class.  Why?  Experience.   Don has been operating his nursery for 30 years! So long story short, I left Redwood with a Prius full of dirt, starters, fertilizer and hope.  I can do this!  I was excited, motivated and you know what…I did it.  That summer I became an official gardener.  I fell in love with the process and I don’t sweat the technical stuff because Don is there to save the day and keep me feeling competent and successful.  You are a lucky soul if you have a Don in your town to consult when your garden is overthrown by snails, when you can’t choose between 15 varieties of tomatoes, when your cabbage stops growing, when you have no idea when to plant strawberries, ph balance what?, when your carrot sprouts disappear or if your soil needs conditioning.  He’s the man with the answers, a man with a passion, he’s Don, my gardening guru!

 I had the pleasure of speaking with Don recently about growing winter gardens here in Northern California.  Although specific to our particular climate and region, his advice translates to similar climates and you could easily adapt the advice to fit your region.  This was our first video, first take.  We will film inside for future videos, as the traffic buzzing by the barn is distracting.  But I wanted to get this video up for those of you still contemplating a winter garden.  It’s not too late!
Check out Don’s advice on winter planting and come on over to the the Redwood Barn Nursery for your organic seeds and starters! 
Here’s what I came home with today
Onion starters (about 20)
Some lettuce
And garlic (you just pop these cloves right into the ground – so easy!)
One of my garden beds with the addition of today’s new finds
Shared on: Homestead 101
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Labels: adventures in gardening.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Raw Pasta Two Ways

 Pictures1

 “The way you cut your meat reflects the way you live.”
–Confucius

“The way you cut your veggies reflects the way you live.” 
— Me, earlier today
*
I love vegetables, but like most things I get b.o.r.e.d very easily.  So cutting veggies up like pasta is nothing new friends, but what I have dressed them with today, well, hello gorgeous (yes you) and what I am tasting in my mouth.  I’ve been making pesto for years and this is my favorite recipe but I find it gets a bit washed out on pasta, so I added one simple ingredient and bam – love! The perfect raw pesto.  I adore pesto in any form.  It brings back lovely memories of my beloved Gramie (who was a die-hard cook).  Growing up I spent the summers with my Grandparents (and lived with them for many years).  Gramie often made fresh pesto and I vividly remember her explaining what it was and how to make it with nothing less than grand enthusiasm over the entire process from leaves to paste. Of course I thought it was awesome, and she allowed me to do the best part of the job…drizzling in the oil.  Magic.  If my Gramie was alive today I know she would LOVE my heart-healthy version.  This one’s for you Gramie! 
_
Sauce #1: The Perfect Raw Pesto
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 ounces of fresh basil (sort of hard to measure in cups, probably 4 cups)
  • 1 cup raw organic walnuts (you could also toast the walnuts, but do not if making raw)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon (to taste)
  • ½ cup olive oil (or preferred oil)
  • ½ teaspoon garlic granules (or one clove of fresh garlic – or to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large ripe avocado
Instructions
  1. Place toasted walnuts in food processor and pulse a few times.
  2. Add basil, garlic granules, salt and pulse.
  3. Add the avocado and pulse until incorporated.
  4. Test for seasoning.
Notes
This sauce also works great with cooked gluten-free pasta (this is how I tested it originally)
Pesto is best served at room temperature (in my opinion)

 

The first time I ate at Cafe Gratitude I fell in love; I was smitten like a lovesick teenager, seriously!  Check out their website and I dare you to not feel warm, fuzzy, loved, and excited about their philosophy and their food – my goddess the food!  I’m sure I scared the poor man sitting next to me as I moaned, groaned, and talked to myself through the entire meal (who does that? oh, crazy people like me – okay, I was having a foodgasm if you must know).  I was still chewing my first bite when I spotted their cookbook, ran to it, grabbed it, and proceeded to hold onto it (while I ate) like a miserly mouse clenching the last piece of cheese.  So if you are headed to San Francisco for a visit, call me and I will meet you there and we can be crazy about this place together!
 _
Sauce #2: Fabulous Fig Balsamic Dressing
 
This is a sweet/savory sauce from one of my favorite restaurants on the planet, Cafe Gratitude. The fig sauce is located on page 45. It's fantastic. I adapted it slightly with what I had on hand, so the original recipe is different.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 7 black mission figs, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Juice from ½ a lemon
  • A few turns of the pepper grinder
  • Walnut oil
Instructions
  1. Add figs, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and lemon to food processor, blend until Incorporated
  2. Drizzle in oil until creamy
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Labels: raw, sauces, sides, vegan.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Gift of Tea

I’m a tea girl through and through.  I drink tea like my coffee loving friends drink their beloved coffee.  Tea has been a real life saver for me though in many ways.  When I was pregnant with both my children a cup of chamomile tea would somehow calm my Crohn’s flares.  And if you know what a flare feels like, you know how wonderful it is to find something to decrease that pain.  I have a weakened digestive system so I frequently rely on peppermint and ginger tea as a quick and effective digestive aid.  To calm my nerves I love a cup of chamomile and lavender, for clarity of mind, Rooibos, and for a pick-me-up I adore a smokey green tea or Herba Mate.  

I can’t think of a better gift than the gift of beautiful, healing tea!

The above picture is something I quickly put together.  
Total cost was about $5.  

I went to my local Coop and searched through the loose-leaf teas.  I found a nice middle road green tea and a herb/fruit blend.  I purchased a cup or so of each and mixed together.  I dressed the tea with a beautiful organic lemon and a fun stainless steel mesh tea infuser.  This would be a super fun gift for the tea enthusiast or otherwise.  This would also be a thoughtful gift for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or your child’s teacher.

You could certainly expand on this idea and create a more involved tea gift.  Some ideas include: 

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Allergy-Friendly Play Dough (2 ways)

I came across a really fun child-friendly activity/gift idea in the latest issue of Living Free magazine (pg. 10): making your own allergy-friendly play dough! 
I’ve been thinking about the Holidays here and all the gift giving that’s just around the corner.  Between my husband and I we have a pretty big family and we can’t possibly buy everyone a gift.  We find pleasure in simple 1-item gift exchanges, happiness in each other’s company, good food, music, and laughter.  But we do have little children in our immediate and extended family.  When I read this article in Living Free I thought, now there is a super cute idea for a child.  You could make the dough yourself, or provide the ingredients in a little jar with instructions and they could make it at their leisure.  I wanted to share the two recipes with you today.  

#1: Play Clay
Makes about 2 pounds
If not used immediately, store in an airtight container 
or plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Ingredients
1 cup potato starch or cornstarch
2 cups baking soda
1 1/4 cups cold water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, or oil of choice 
2-3 drops food color (optional) – I only use this natural plant-based food coloring
How To
1.  Mix together potato starch and baking soda and pour into sauce pan.
2.  Mix water and oil in small bowl.  Add food coloring, if using.
3.  Heat saucepan and pour in water and oil, stirring constantly about 3 minutes or until clay holds together in a ball. (Small lumps will appear and then clay will hold together.)
4.  Turn off heat.  Spoon clay onto parchment paper and let cool slightly.


#2: Salt Dough
Makes about 1 pound 
If not used immediately, store in an airtight 
container or plastic bag in the refrigerator. 

Ingredients
1 cup table salt
1 cup rice flour
1/2 cup water, more as needed
2 drops food coloring (see above)
1 teaspoon vegetable oil, if needed

How To
1.  Mix together salt and flour in a saucepan.  Pour in water and add food coloring, if using.
2.  Cook over medium meat until dough forms into a ball.  If dough is too dry to hold together, add more water 1 Tbsp at a time.
3.  Spoon dough onto parchment paper and let cool slightly 
4.  Knead until smooth and shape into a ball.  If dough is too hard, knead in 1 teaspoon oil until well distributed.

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Labels: allergy-friendly, how to, kids.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pumpkin-Spiced Chocolate Covered Pear with Toasted Pecans

Here we have #3 idea for combining pumpkin and chocolate.  So there isn’t any actual pumpkin in this one, but we do have pumpkin spice!  This is a super fun twist on your basic dark chocolate.  Husband loved it.  The spiced chocolate works well with the sweet, juicy pear and the toasted pecans provide a nutty crunch.  Really fun and easy dessert.  Also a great idea for a party.
Stayed tuned for the final pumpkin + chocolate recipe next week (just in time for Thanksgiving): 
chocolate pumpkin coconut ice cream!!

Ingredients
2-3 ripe organic pears (soft to touch but not mushy)
1 teaspoon pumpkin spice mix (or to taste)
1 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted 

How To
*Wash and dry your beautiful pears 
*Heat chocolate bar on low over double boiler (if you don’t have one, it’s pretty easy to fashion a makeshift version with your everyday pots and saute pans)
*Add pumpkin spice mix to melted chocolate, stir and remove from heat
*Drizzle chocolate over half of pear
*Sprinkle on toasted pecans
*Set on cookie cooling rack 

Notes
*You can certainly add some sweetener to the chocolate.  We happen to like the dark chocolate flavor.  Adding a tablespoon of honey, agave, coconut sugar, etc., will give it a little sweet kick
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Labels: cane sugar free, chocolate + pumpkin, dairy free, dessert, gluten free.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Boots meet Bottles (how glass bottles can organize your closet)

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Labels: green living tips organization.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Smashed Sweet Potatoes with Cauliflower

Smashed Sweet Potatoes with Cauliflower 
(this is really nice substitute for those of you who don’t want white potatoes at your meal; the cauliflower adds a nice texture and balances out the sweetness of the sweet potatoes – and best part, no boiling required!)

Ingredients 
3 large sweet potatoes, chopped
1 head of cauliflower, separated 
Oil of choice
Garlic granules (or 4 cloves fresh garlic)

How To
*Add sweet potatoes and cauliflower to your favorite roasting dish
*Drizzle with oil 
*Add about 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic granules (or smash the fresh garlic cloves and add in)
*Toss ingredients with oil and garlic 
*Roast at 400 degrees for 40 minutes
*Keep ingredients in roasting pan and use a potato masher to smash ingredients together.  Add another drizzle of oil for some additional moisture
*Add 1/4 teaspoon salt 
*Smash everything together well 
*Top with a little cinnamon (optional)
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Labels: sides, thanksgiving side dishes.

Friday, November 11, 2011

20-Minute Cane-Sugar Free Cranberry Sauce

20-Minute Cane-Sugar Free Cranberry Sauce
(my kids ate this up like candy!)


Ingredients:
-16 ounces fresh cranberries (about 5 cups) 
-1 1/2 cups filtered water (or 1 cup water and 1/2 cup orange juice)
-1/2 cup (3 ounces) Medjool dates, seeded and diced
-3/4 cup sweet red apple, peeled and very small chop
-One large, juicy orange 
-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon  
-1/4 cup honey (vegans use maple syrup, coconut nectar or coconut sugar and adjust to your sweet preference) 
-1/4 teaspoon liquid stevia (SCDers use additional 3 tablespoons honey)
How To: 
1.  In medium sauce pan bring cranberries and water (or water/juice) to a boil, stir and turn down to a rapid simmer (for about 5 minutes)
2.  Add apple, dates, honey, and stir to incorporate, and gentle simmer for about 10 minutes 
3.  Add juice of 1 orange, stevia, and cinnamon, and very gently simmer for an additional 5 minutes
4.  Turn off heat and let cool on the stove top in the pan, uncovered  
5.  When cool, transfer to fridge until ready to serve
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Labels: SCD, sides, thanksgiving side dishes.