Monday, May 28, 2012

Meatless Mondays - "Chipotle" inspired salad

I LOVE Chipotle salads!  I always order the the veggie one, and recently wondered why I never make them at home.  What a great meatless Monday meal... so easy and so delish. I promise you that you will not miss the meat one bit in this hearty dish!  I put mine together vegan, but you could add any other ingredients that you like, really.  Make it your own & have fun!


I began by opening up a can of beans, and warmed them over the stove with a bit of Mexican seasoning - a nice blend I got from Penzey's


 I mixed up some guacamole and made some fresh pico.  My guac is ridiculously simple - just mashed avocados, a little salt, and a little pico (since I had it, normally just avocado and salt).  The pico is simply hand-diced tomatoes, sweet white onion, and lots of fresh cilantro.  You could add a bit of fresh jalapeno here, if you like.


 I lightly sauteed some onions and red bell peppers in a touch of olive oil.  I really panic when I'm out of red bell peppers - I adore them!


I put out a big bowl of chopped romaine lettuce and made a basic vinaigrette.  I used lime juice in place of vinegar, a dab of honey, and added a sprinkle of cumin, chili powder, and cayenne.  It was pretty similar to the Chipotle one, if I don't say so.


I also cooked some brown rice, and tossed in a little more Mexican seasoning, olive oil, and fresh cilantro.  I could have just eaten this- yum!

Layer on all the goodies, and voila!  Isn't this colorful and appetizing?  Not to mention - healthy! This is a great summer evening dinner that I know we'll be enjoying often.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

25th Anniversary Surprise!

Rich and I were so blessed to have recently celebrated our 25th anniversary!  It's really hard to believe we've been married that long... though much has happened in those 25 years, in many ways it has flown by.  God has been extremely gracious to us in our marriage.  We love that we get to live life together, and we can honestly say that it just gets better with each passing day.   

Let me just say upfront that it was a pure act of humility on my part to post the below picture. Gotta love the 80's bad highlight job and and big hair on me and the fact that Rich even HAD hair.  :-)  But my puffy sleeves are totally AWESOME.  And it's nice that sometime between then and now I got the idea to pluck my eyebrows.  


  THEN:  May 16, 1987 - Marina del Rey, CA


NOW:  May 16, 2012 - Pasadena, CA

We had an interesting actual 25th anniversary day - we dropped our youngest child at the airport to go to Thailand for 6 weeks.  Who would have imagined that such a monumental event would occur on our 25th anniversary?  We then hit Chipotle for lunch and then came home to relax a bit before going to a fancy dinner at Ruth's Chris with Drew and Stephanie.  Since our children are one of the best blessings of our marriage, we find it very appropriate to have them join us in celebrating our anniversary!  We missed Emma, but was a special, memorable day.

However, weeks earlier, Rich blessed me with an incredible anniversary surprise.   He told me about 2 weeks in advance that he had a special dinner at home planned on an upcoming Friday evening, and that Drew, Stephanie, Emma, and Nick would be joining us.   He wouldn't hint at all, but kept chuckling to himself and saying that it would be "epic."  I had no idea what was going on.

As the day approached, he told me to clear the afternoon, and he came home early from work that day. He told me he was taking me out for several hours, leaving the kids at home to prepare for the evening.  We went to Lamill coffee in Silver Lake, and enjoyed passing the rainy afternoon sipping amazing coffee, talking, and reading.  Finally, we got the signal from the kids that it was time to come home. I was so curious as to what was going on. 

Upon arrival, I saw that the dining room and kitchen doorways were covered in blankets so I couldn't see in.  I was instructed to go to my bedroom and change (Emma had laid an outfit out for me) and wait to be called.  I could hear hustle and bustle and was getting anxious to see what they were up to!  Finally, they ushered me into the dining room, and pulled back the "curtain."  I was blown away by the amazing set up...

First of all, the room was totally decked out- our farm table had a lovely and rustic tablescape, there were white candles burning all around, and I immediately noticed the stunning new dishes on the table.  You see, when we got married, we had registered for this beautiful Royal Daulton china pattern, but we never received any pieces. On eBay several years ago, I tracked down the pattern and obtained a small plate, which I have kept displayed on our dresser as a memento of our wedding.   On the table in front of me, I now beheld six beautiful place settings of the exact dishes I dreamed of having 25 years ago... and they were more beautiful than I had even remembered.   I was stunned!  Rich said he had my sister (the super shopper) track them down and had them shipped from England.  Unbeknownst to me, he had been storing them at her house for months.  It was such a thoughtful, sweet gift.  I was so surprised and could have never imagined that he would have done that.

After a bit of time admiring everything, Rich and I were seated at the table, and the kids began bringing out the food course by course.  Apparently Rich had devised the menu, done all the food shopping with Emma the day before, printed off the recipes, and given the kids the job of sole responsiblity of making all the food!   There was a printed menu at every place setting, and I could see we were in for an amazing culinary treat.

Here are some of the reveal and pre-dinner pictures:


admiring the china


...and being impressed by the menu!



So happy to be married to this sweet man.


 The chefs Drew & Stephanie :-)


 The decorating team - Nick & Emma!

Here are a few shots of the table & room....



I loved the look of the burlap runner Emma made, over the white linen tablecloth. So fresh & beachy.




There were vases/jars of delicate white daisies everywhere.  The light blue accents went beautifully with the china.





Emma made this amazing photo collage in the numbers 25, including an assortment of photos from over the years.  What a walk down memory lane...

Now for the beautiful food...


The first course was homemade crab cakes and bacon wrapped shrimp - I would have been satisfied if they stopped at this. But wait...there's more.


Next was this beautiful butternut squash soup. 


This might have been my favorite course: grilled panzanella salad. I had never had this before and it was incredibly fresh and delicious.

 Here is the beautiful main course of Hoisin-glazed seared scallops over sauteed garlic spinach and roasted asparagus...also served with mushroom risotto.  So pretty and super tasty.


And, the grand finale:  they got my favorite Porto's dessert- triple chocolate mousse!  By this time, everyone was so stuffed that they just took a couple bites... but not me- I ate the entire thing.  :-)

Can you believe they did all this?  It was such an amazing, unforgettable night.  I am still in awe that they pulled the evening off.  What a gift of love this was, and so totally unexpected! 

While nothing could compare to this, I will post soon on the unique anniversary gift I gave to Rich... let me just say that when you see it you just might need to get one of your own :-)  

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Meatless Mondays - Spicy Eggs Marinara


Welcome to my new feature, Meatless Mondays!  I hope to inspire you to make meatless meals your family will enjoy.  I'm really doing it for my own benefit...but inviting you along as usual.  Eggs for dinner are always a great idea when you're short on time, forgot to take meat out of the freezer, or just want a meatless meal.

For my birthday in April (it was actually on Easter Sunday this year), Rich made the family an awesome breakfast.  It was so delicious that I asked him to make it again for dinner for me recently.  It is absolutely delish and couldn't be easier.  I must say what really makes this dish amazing is the use of Rao's marinara sauce (you can buy it at Whole Foods), real Parmigiano, and fresh basil. When a recipe is this simple, the finest ingredients are essential. 

I can't wait to have it again soon!  Here's the recipe, in Rich's directions.  :-)

Spicy Eggs Marinara

In a 8 x 8 square ungreased pan, layer:
Warmed Rao's marinara sauce (just enough to cover bottom of pan - about 1/3 large jar) mixed with 2 cloves crushed garlic, and 1 whole jalapeno, seeded and sliced thinly as possible
Crack 4 eggs over the marinara and layer on:
some shaved red onion and 1 garlic clove, sliced thinly as possible.  Sprinkle some freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese on top.
Lightly drizzle some good quality extra virgin olive oil over and
sprinkle freshly cracked pepper over the top of each egg.
Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.
Broil top for 2 minutes (or until eggs are set)
Remove from oven.
Layer fresh basil leaves over top.
Sink the basil underneath the cheese and eggs.
Serve immediately with crostini toasts.

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Simply Healthy Eating Part 3

This is part 3 and the conclusion of my series.

First, a few miscellaneous thoughts... which may just be my personal opinon  :-)
-First of all, I want to address the cost of healthy food.  Yes, it can more.  I know people are justifiably overwhelmed by the cost of healthy food.  Our society has been built on cheap, non- nutritional food (or "food products"), and you need to accept that if you are going to eat healthy, it will cost you.  Think of it as making an investment in your HEALTH (I'd rather pay for healthy foods than medications). In order to get clean sources of food you will need to pay more - but it can be done.

I encourage you to take a look at your budget and consider making buying healthy food a priority.  If that means less of something else you like (perhaps those $4-a-pop trips to Starbucks, donut shop runs on Saturdays, eating out, entertainment, or cutting back on gas use) so be it.  Also, take a look at what you ARE spending money on, food wise.  I've heard people say "Oh, I can't afford to buy that kind of food, it's so expensive,"... but look in their grocery cart and often you will find that they have multiple boxes of cereal, bagels, bags of chips or other packaged snack foods, bottled juice, soda, etc.  They may also buy LOTS of meat products.  Consider having a couple (or more) meatless nights a week to save money. If you can't always buy organic, do research to find out what produce is a priority to get organic.  For example, I never bother buying organic bananas, pineapples, mangoes, cantaloupes, or anything with a thick peel.  But I always buy organic for certain other produce, such as spinach and strawberries.   For more information on this check out the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15.

-Portion size - I have had to learn what an appropriate portion size is for my body size.  If you think a serving size is what a restaurant serves you, you need to adjust your thinking.  I know I did.  I've even had the habit of eating too much HEALTHY food (I could eat huge bowlfuls of guacamole, and multiple tablespoons of almond butter a day, but I don't). There are websites out there that help you determine a healthy weight range for your height/age, and also will tell you approximately how many calories you should consume each day to maintain that weight.  For me, I can maintain around 1400 calories a day.  If I exercise and burn calories, then I can add some calories to my day.  To lose weight, as elementary as this may sound, you need to BURN more calories than you're taking in.  I know many diets look for ways around this, and there is a whole market of supplements out there telling you that you can "burn more" but when it comes down to it, you don't need all that.  You can lose weight if you're taking in less than you put out.    I've done it... I know.  It's not rocket science but people always want the easy way out.  

-Soy - I do not use ANY soy products except soy sauce (because it's fermented) and that's on rare occasion and definitely organic (soy is highly GMO).  There is still much debate on the benefits vs. detriments of soy - obviously we are in the middle of a soy craze from the products I see marketed.  Some say it's healthy; some say not.  I've abstained for many years as I'm concerned about the phytoestrogens soy products contain, not to mention the GMO's in unorganic soy sources.  And most soy products (like tofu and soy milk) are just processed foods anyways. You can google "dangers of soy" if you need to know more on my stance.  I read labels carefully to avoid soy lecithin, soybean oil, soy protein, etc. and do not eat fresh edamame. 

-Caffeine and alcohol- I don't drink any caffeinated beverages (mainly because I'm highly sensitive).  When I'm not drinking water, I stick mostly to decaf coffee or espresso, or decaf black or herbal teas.  I will say that I have more energy now that when I drank caffeine all day, and I sleep very well at night.  Rich drinks a ton of iced tea (home brewed, unsweetened), fully loaded, and has no problem whatsoever with it though!
   If you have problems sleeping or with energy highs/lows during the day, try ditching it for awhile and see what happens.  We do not drink alcohol, but well, that's for many reasons and a whole another blog post.  :-)

- Supplements, vitamins  -  I am not big into supplements/vitamins.  I am more into eating well for the real vitamins and minerals good food provides. I do take one thing and that is a high quality fish oil, and have for years.  But that is it.
    We do not take probiotic supplements, but we do drink kombucha, raw milk and eat cultured dairy.

-Eating out - We hardly eat out and we DO NOT eat at fast food restaurants.  I guess the thrill in eating out diminishes when you know you're not able to eat as well as you can at home!  I suppose I also just dislike paying a lot of money for unhealthy, fattening food as well, and would rather spend my money on good food.  Plus, on the positive side, we truly do enjoy being in our home kitchen together cooking.  It's great fun. Not that we don't ever go out, but if we do I usually consider myself a vegetarian and order accordingly.  :-)  But if you've been a reader of my blog for any amount of time you know I love a good Diners, Drive ins & Dives find and food adventure!!  Believe me, I can enjoy a juicy burger or a great pizza.  And not to mention gourmet ice cream - my weakness!!  I just don't do it that often. But honestly, with not eating out as much these days, I find that monetary savings helps with buying the good, healthy food for my family that does infinitely cost more.


-There are compromises to be made.  I allow certain foods that I know are not the most highly nutritional, but not damaging to health.  An example might be tortilla chips.  Not highly nutritional, but I choose organic and it's okay to eat them from time to time.   Damaging would be Cheetos.  You can see the difference.  Store bought cookies are horrible, homemade are much better.

-Sicknesses - It is interesting to note that Rich and I have escaped all flus and colds for at least 20 years.  We literally haven't had one... I'm serious! We seem to have very strong immune systems now.  Correlation? 

-Headaches - I used to get frequent headaches, but now I never have any. I know diet has something to do with this.  I'm thinking the culprit was probably refined sugar. When I hear people are experiencing headaches (or migraines) I want to know what they are eating.  Not that there couldn't be a medical reason for a headache; I just wonder how many are diet related (for example, MSG is a known culprit in causing headaches).

-Healthy weight - A bonus with this way of eating is that we are now easily able to keep our weight in a healthy range.  And if you can believe this, Rich and I both now weigh about the same we did when we got married 25 years ago (though we don't look the same - gravity has taken a toll!).  The way we ate for years
was slowly putting weight on us, and at one point each of us has weighed upwards to 20-30 pounds more than we do now.  Eating right has removed that excess weight and improved our overall health. We feel great now.

Lastly, I just want to address the question, "Why eat healthy?"

First of all, it is not so that I can extend my life, as I know the Lord has my days numbered! 

And believe it or not, I don't eat healthy because I think I can avoid getting cancer or some other disease - although I know a healthy diet does ward off all kinds of diseases and conditions.  I've probably done enough damage to my body in the first 35+ years of my life on this terrible Western diet to be deserving of many diseases anyways... so I know I may still get them!  While some cancers are obviously self imposed (lung cancer from smoking), I've seen 3 month old babies at City of Hope with cancer, without even leading an unhealthful life. So, some types may not be preventable, anyways.   

However, there is an undisputed connection between what you eat and your general health.   And it makes sense.  You cannot expect to be healthy if you eat chemicals and processed foods or things your body was not designed to have.  I heard a doctor state recently that it was his belief that 70% of people's medical issues would not exist with healthy diet.  70%!   He was referring specifically to the issues that come from having a poor diet that leads to being overweight.

More importantly, striving to be healthy for the Christian is saying "I want to live my life to the fullest for the Lord!" I don't know about you, but I certainly don't want any self-imposed hindrances to serving Him!  We are to love the Lord will all our soul, but also with all our MIGHT! (Deut. 6:5)  I want to be strong and mighty for Him.  Yes, as a by-product we can feel good when we eat good, therefore enjoying His blessings more... but it really is about being the best servant I can be for my wonderful Savior.

So in conclusion, I eat healthy because I think it is right to take care of the body God gave me.  And, frankly, I do not want to bring about any illness or disease that it is in my power to avoid. I want to be as healthy as I can be, as much as I can control. But I am not ultimately the one who decides my state of health.  If the Lord sees fit to give me a physical ailment or disease in spite of all that I do, that is obviously His sovereign plan for me and I'm open to that.  But, I will continue to eat well, trying my best to be healthy so that I can serve Him and the ones I love to the best of my ability. 

For me, it's making wise choices based on what I know. I now know more than I ever have and I am obligated to put that into practice. I encourage you to think through what YOU eat and make the best choices you can.

There you go... food for thought (pun intended). I welcome your comments and suggestions....


Happy (healthy) eating! 

P.S. Look for my upcoming feature, "Meatless Mondays" and follow my journey to find creative and delicious ways to serve dinner without meat in ways your family will LOVE!

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Simply Healthy Eating Part 2

Welcome to part 2 in my little series on Healthy Eating.  If you missed part 1, click here.

I remember visiting my friend Carol in Washington over 10 years ago and she taught me about using whole grains and honey as a sweetener. I remember going home and making several changes. Amongst losing the white flour and white sugar for the most part, I began incorporating small changes like switching from Jif peanut butter to an all natural type, and baking my own whole grain bread. 

Then, a huge change came from reading The Gold Coast Cure after a dear friend was diagnosed with MS a few years after that (I recommend the book wholeheartedly with one reservation - I don't agree with the author's view on soy). Wow, that was enlightening. I started to see the strong link between nutrition and health, and realized that our diet was unhealthful (and high-inflammation to boot, which is linked to much illness). I went on a rampage through my cupboards and chucked TONS of stuff. Along the way, I've read other interesting books like Super Foods, Juicing for Life, and the Coconut Miracle. Two of the best books on food are The Omnivore's dilemma and In Defense of Food (I highly recommend both). I've viewed Fat, sick and nearly dead and Forks over knives (pretty enlightening). I've also taken advantage of the world wide web to learn as well. Now, I would say we eat the best we ever have, but I'm still interested in learning more and improving more. I certainly haven't "arrived" and know that I could do even better. Some of the above books are definitely humanistic but have valuable insights. 

It's quite simple. It's not a "diet." It's not low carb, no carb, low fat, high protein, or anything like that. It's a lifestyle change- a way of eating. There's no magic formula - you just need to eat right to be healthy.  Basic, right? And eating right includes eating what God made. It's not so much about what I weigh, but eating what is right and being healthy. 

I now basically just work off the premise that whole foods are best, eating a food as closely to the way God created it. All natural is my criteria for everything. That means not buying much packaged, processed food (junky processed food that is; I still buy select packaged foods that have natural, wholesome ingredients, such as some crackers, certain potato chips, etc). We have made other gradual changes, such as greatly decreasing our animal protein and being sure our produce is clean (choosing organic or pesticide free). We have purchased a good juicer and Vitamix and are getting back into more juicing. We get a weekly farm box and I make sure we eat it all! Fruits and veggies are the mainstay of our diet nowadays. 

I was recently emailing with Carol and we were just dialoguing about some changes we are both making. I ended up compiling a list of what we currently eat, and it was helpful to see how simple it really is. I thought some of you might be interested. I know it took me many years to arrive at these conclusions and I thought some of you younger moms (or even older ones like me) might appreciate or be able to benefit from this. I am impressed by a lot of the young moms I see, what they are feeding their families is awesome, and I know I can also learn a lot from them! I am certainly not an expert, but wanted to offer this for what it's worth. 

So, to begin, here are some of the foods we keep on hand regularly and that are the mainstays of our diet: 

GREENS: I choose organic when I can. Lots of deep green leafy veggies - spinach, kale, romaine, arugula, mixed field greens - we usually have a good quantity/selection around. I like to saute spinach or kale, or use the greens in juicing. I also juice the greens of beets. Cabbage is good for you, so I try to make a coleslaw every now and then. I also recently discovered Amazing Grass Berry Green Superfood powder (3-5 servings of organic leafy green veggies/fruits) to put into smoothies. I have never been into powders, but we are hooked on this stuff! It's organic and contains the nutrients of 2-3 servings of greens, and it tastes great in a smoothie. I can even get Drew to drink it. :-) We also eat a lot of salads full of lots of veggies with homemade vinaigrettes. We have even been eating a lot more veggies with breakfast, too. 

RAW VEGGIES: Again, organic. Lots of carrots (also for juicing), radishes, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and red bell peppers are used for snacking or for lunch with homemade hummus or greek yogurt dip. Raw veggies are the most nutritious. 

VEGGIES FOR COOKING: Organic - we love roasted beets (I juice them raw, too), all kinds of potatoes, asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms, onions, leeks, lots of garlic, eggplant, green beans, red bell peppers, and zucchini are some of our faves to steam, roast, grill, or saute with dinner. I don't think much of corn, even organic (low nutritional value) but we might have fresh corn in the summer. Frozen organic veggies such as broccoli are great to have in the freezer. TJ's and Whole Foods have a nice selection. 

FRUITS: I am big on berries! But I only do organic ones. I adore them fresh, but frozen ones are a great cost effective way to get your intake (Costco & TJ's both carry frozen berries). I treat our family to lots of them. We also usually always have apples, pears, oranges and/or tangerines for eating fruit out of hand. We are blessed to have a great orange tree that we juice regularly and so we consume a lot of that. Occasionally I buy seasonal fruit such as pineapple, kiwi, figs, mangoes or papayas, cantaloupe, and red grapes. We have stone fruit trees (peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots) so during the summer we get treated to lots of homegrown fruit. I keep the freezer stocked with frozen mango, pineapple (TJ's and WF have these- not organic but not as critical with those fruits) and bananas for smoothies, in addition to the frozen raspberries and blueberries. I always have a good supply of avocados on hand (more on those in the fats section below). We grow tomatoes in the summer and eat them by the boatload. 

GRAINS: Some people espouse that grains are bad for you (because they are wicked carbs) and that you shouldn't eat them. I happen to disagree. I guess it's just hard for me to think that one of the first and basic foods God gave us and spoke of often in the Bible isn't healthy. But I promise you when God referred to "bread" he wasn't talking about that white squishy stuff I mentioned in my last post. :-) That said, we do enjoy whole grains in our diet. 

I may have oatmeal or quinoa for breakfast a few days a week, or a piece of (whole grain, or sourdough, no white flour) healthy bread as toast. We usually choose brown rice or quinoa as our dinner grains. I really try to avoid white flour, if I do indulge it would be a piece of TJ's sourdough wheat bread or a nice bakery baguette, or a pizza crust. :-) 

If I bake something like a muffin, I use almond flour, whole wheat flour, coconut flour, wheat germ, ground flax, or oat bran. I don't buy commercial breakfast cereal - even healthy ones are highly processed (and not to mention, expensive)

It is imperative to prepare grains properly.  They contain phytates (or anti nutrients) and need to be soaked, sprouted, or soured before cooking for optimal digestion & vitamin & mineral retention.  I suggest reading up on this practice on a website such as this.  You can read more on sprouted grains here.  (By the way, I think a lot of people who are "gluten intolerant" are just experiencing issues from improperly prepared grains.)  Soaking is easy to do, and I buy my wheat berries (to grind into flour) already sprouted.

EGGS: Two words: love them. We make veggie omelettes, or eat them hard boiled, scrambled, over easy, or poached. We sometimes eat them for dinner over sauteed veggies (think: home fries with red bell peppers, onions and potatoes - yum). I have been buying organic eggs for awhile. Wish I had chickens and fresh eggs :-) 

DAIRY: All my life I consumed large quantities of milk. And I gave my children lots and lots of it growing up. Again, it was just the way I was raised, so without even thinking, I gave it to them. Because of the ultra-pasteurization & homogenization of today’s dairy products, I don’t see a great nutritional value in consuming them.  These processes destroy many of the healthy enzymes that help us digest milk, as well (hence "lactose intolerant"). Also, if the dairy products are not coming from a grass-fed cow, than their nutritional value is lower. Not to say that I don’t love a latte every so often or heavy cream in my coffee, and I will try to use raw organic products for those whenever I can (and always organic so they are not GMO-eating cows).  There are ways around dairy products if you try.  Just look for other options when possible such as fresh almond milk or full fat (canned)coconut milk, which you can dilute for a beverage

Our family likes yogurt, and since it does contain all those wonderful live cultures, I do buy it from time to time. Cultured sour cream is healthy, even if pasturized/homogenized because of the enzymes added back in.  We do love cheese – so I try to get grass fed cheddar (and raw as well would be optimum) – but we do eat Parmigiano, goat cheese, roquefort, and some fresh mozzarella. I am fond of the Kerrygold brand of cheddar cheese (Dubliner) which is from grass fed cows.  Kerrygold also makes an awesome butter which we use (and thank you Costco for carrying it!). A good rule of thumb is to look for cheeses that are imported, as most other countries do feed their cows grass. 

MEATS: Like I said, we have greatly reduced our animal protein intake. Again, considering what the bible says about eating (and specifically about meat) we find in Genesis 9:3 God telling us, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” However, like the Wonder bread, the meat God is speaking of here is definitely not what you find at your local McDonald’s or even the Ralph’s down the street for the most part. Please know that. We need to eat meat in the way God intended it to be. Not from animals fed an unhealthful diet or pumped with antibiotics and other things. 

We are eating less meat now because I am convinced more than ever that we don't need as much of it, but mainly because I feel that we should be eating more of a produce-based diet. I might have animal protein once every few days but I find I do get enough protein without it (did you know that quinoa has more protein than chicken?). I also have such a decreased appetite for it nowadays. I have reasoned that buying less meat means I can buy better quality when I do, which makes better sense. I now stick to organic air chilled chicken and buy wild salmon as our two primary meats. Yes, I do buy us a good steak occasionally and we love to grill hamburgers from time to time, but now it’s grass fed/no antibiotics. We also do like to treat ourselves to good (nitrate-free) bacon every so often. After all, life without a little bacon would be very sad. :-) 

Even though for some time I have avoided sandwich meats with nitrates, I have pretty much quit buying it. My hubby has switched to taking big salads to work for his lunch.  If I need it for some reason, I'll get the nitrate-free kind from TJ's, WF, or Sprouts, as it seems to be the least processed/junky. 

I am not sure of the value of eating great quantities of animal protein but for with God’s view in mind I have a hard time being totally against good meat. Again, I do know we don't need as much as we think (or as much as our Western diet has promoted), and we need to definitely watch the quality of the meat we are eating. I have made a pledge never to buy beef that is not organic/grass fed.  This may sound uppity to some, but it's really just the most natural way.

FATS: I’m now a firm believer in getting plenty of the RIGHT fats and avoiding the WRONG ones. How I shudder when I think of our “low fat” or “fat free” days and how we avoided even the good fats. I think people now know to avoid deadly trans- fats, but are people getting the healthy oils their bodies require? Our bodies need good fats daily to rebuild cells, and to maintain the health of our cardiovascular, metabolic and immune systems. We need two types of essential fat: omega 3 and omega 6, which means we must eat nuts, & seeds, and fatty fish like salmon,. We take a good quality fish oil supplement to ensure this as well.   I have heard cod liver oil is a more excellent supplement. 

We also need monounsaturated fats like olives, olive oil and avocados. After reading The Gold Coast Cure, I got rid of all oils except olive oil. Most other oils, like canola or vegetable oil, due to processing (they are refined at high temperatures and “deodorized”) have zero nutritional value. Several years back, I added in coconut oil (SO good for you!). 

We eat avocados, raw seeds, nuts, and nut butters daily, cook and bake with coconut oil, and use olive oil in our salad dressing. Flax oil is also great for your salad dressings.

SWEETENERS:  We all need a little sweetness in our lives.  :-) I do try to avoid white sugar. I mainly use organic raw honey these days. Rather, I should say, I mainly spoon raw honey directly into my mouth these days! I am kind of an addict but it is quite healthy. Other than that, I do keep organic brown sugar for my oatmeal, and I use real maple syrup for pancakes or waffles. I keep organic evaporated cane juice for baking, but do not use Agave (click here for more info on that). I still think raw, unprocessed, unheated honey (sorry, not the stuff in the honey bear) is the healthiest sweetener. 

I strictly abide by NO artificial sweeteners. I think Aspartame is deadly. It seriously makes me cringe to see people drink diet soda. I've never gotten into stevia, I don't really find a need.

OTHER PANTRY ITEMS: Our pantry contains assorted canned beans, canned tomatoes, organic veggie broth, full fat coconut milk, AK Mak crackers, Kettle chips, Organic tortilla chips, canned salsas, and a BIG jar of nutella (I know, it's about as healthy as a Snickers bar, but we need it in our life). 

We use tons of herbs and spices, and love condiments such as artichoke hearts, olives, sun dried tomatoes, pickles, flavored balsamic vinegars, etc.  

Often, the kids go to the pantry looking for snacks and declare that there isn't anything, which is pretty true.  I feel bad because it was me who trained them to find the snacks there.  But nowadays, "snacks" are the fruits and veggies in the fridge.  :-) I also try to keep hard boiled eggs and hummus for a fast energy snack.

So, that’s basically what we eat… what about you? 

Tune in next time for a few closing comments and an answer to the question, "Why eat healthy anyways?"

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Simply Healthy Eating Part 1

"As a culture we seemed to have arrived at a place where whatever native wisdom we may have once possessed about eating has been replaced by confusion and anxiety.  Somehow this most elemental of activities - figuring out what to eat- has come to require a remarkable amount of expert help.  How did we ever get to the point where we need investigative journalists to tell us where our food comes from and nutritionists to determine the dinner menu?"

~Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma

I think the way you grew up eating influences you greatly.  For good or for bad, how your family approached and viewed food shapes your thinking.  I was discussing this recently with my sister.  Growing up, we most definitely enjoyed tasty food cooked by both our parents. Both had a zest for enjoying good food, which I definitely inherited.  My dad has probably read Bon Appetit magazine since its inception, and cooking shows were often on our television screen when he was home.  My mom was a simple cook - for dinner she might grill up a steak or chicken on her Jenn-Aire indoor grilltop, add a baked potato and an iceberg salad with your choice of one of 87 different bottled salad dressings in the refrigerator door. :-)  However, my dad was definitely the gourmet one, devouring his magazines as well as cookbooks. He got in the kitchen whenever he could to whip up his famous Cajun meatloaf or deep dish pizza.  He just gave me some of that meatloaf recently, and it is a jewel in my freezer.  :-)

The food we ate at home was not terribly unhealthy per se, but often we lacked enough vegetable servings (my mom didn't like many veggies besides salad, potatoes and corn). And being typical American kids, we definitely defaulted to the ample supply of junk food we had easy access to all around us.  We ate sugar cereals and pop tarts, drank soda (I even drank soda after 5:30 am swim practice -unimaginable!), ate fast food often, had a cupboard full of packaged foods, and there were always plenty of goodies heaped upon us by our grandparents.  Oh, not to mention the "healthy" cafeteria food we ate weekly. 

I was smack dab in the middle of what the above quote states.  We thought it all seemed normal and didn't put much thought to what we ate.  Back before the internet, I don't think there were a lot of resources on healthy eating to be found.  If someone ground their own wheat or bought something at a "health food" store, we definitely would have viewed that as strange; "normal" people didn't do that kind of thing, only hippies. I don't think I even knew what "whole grain" even meant; Wonder bread was definitely the norm, often made into classic Jif brand PB & J's or topped with Oscar Meyer bologna, mustard, and a wisp of iceberg lettuce.  We grew up in a home with parents who always seemed to be battling the bulge, and it seemed that usually someone was "on a diet" trying to get excess weight off.  Especially my mom, who tried diet aids galore-  diet shakes, candy-style appetite suppressants, frozen diet meals, and even hypnotism at one point to try breaking cravings and making weight loss easier.

I remember the first time I was conscious of feeling "fat." It was in grammar school and all my friend wore size 10 (kids' size) "Dittos" jeans, and I wore a 12. Now, granted I think I probably around 85 pounds in 4th grade, so I wasn't exactly what you would call fat.  But I felt that way and wanted to be thin.

In junior high, to keep my weight at a svelte 110 lbs. (I'm 5'4"), my school lunch consisted of a frozen Welch's fruit bar with my friend Cheryl.   I have no idea how I functioned at school on 70 calories of zero nutrition. I remember that during the summer, Cheryl and I would take the bus to the beach from my dad's office in Century City, and for our food for the day would pack only a frozen diet shake and a spoon.

In high school, weight was never a problem, as I was a swimmer; I had a voracious appetite while training and still weighed around 115 or so.  I worked out 3+ hours a day in the pool, so nothing stuck to me.  I worked part time at Haagen-Dazs and ate 2 scoops of premium ice cream on every shift. 

I never had an eating disorder, praise God, but I was always mindful of trying and stay thin.   Even after I got married and had kids, I didn't think of eating healthy, I thought of how to stay thin.  Having 3 pregnancies in 4 years naturally put weight on, as did unhealthful habits.  And when the inevitable weight would creep on, I turned to Lean Cuisine dinners, Slim Fast shakes, and diet soda to curb that afternoon hunger. "Light" or "reduced fat" everything was on our shopping list.
I've come to realize now that for most of my life, I haven't really known what healthy meant at all.  After I married, I basically just set out to cook as I'd eaten all my life, shopping at the regular grocery store every week (with the occasional "Price Club" run), and thought it seemed normal packing my cart from the shelves of packaged foods.  A typical dinner early on in our marriage might have been (brace yourself) baked chicken with cream of mushroom soup/cheese sauce served with boxed Rice-a-Roni or white rice, an iceberg salad with Bob's blue cheese dressing (or "homemade" Hidden Valley ranch made from the packet), complete with boxed croutons.  (I apologize if this offends anyone who eats like this- but please read on to find out why I'm now criticizing it). We'd also always have a big glass of milk.  We drank (hormone-filled back then) milk with pretty much every meal, regularly ate packaged foods like breakfast cereal, mac & cheese (yes, in the blue box), packaged cookies & crackers, and drank diet soda (of course, to save calories with no thought about health). I loved to bake and thought nothing of liberally using white flour and sugar.  We made dessert a nightly habit - there was always cookies or ice cream around.  But I really didn't know any better.  Rich and I were both  definitely gaining steady weight and our family had our share of colds, flus, and minor infections those years.

Over the years, we tried the Atkins diet and the Fit for Life diet to shed unwanted pounds.  Yes, we lost weight, but going off those regimens just caused us to gain the loss back eventually, and then some.

After all this time, and with a lot of research and education, we now eat a LOT differently than we used to.  Sadly, like the quote above, we must be educated on what we eat!  We have come so far away from healthy food, and view the unhealthy stuff as "normal" and the healthy stuff as "extreme." 

So, many changes have been made in our family over time... some gradual - but some have been drastic!  More on this in part 2 coming up soon....

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Soap and Candle Sale Today!

The sale has now ended.  The next one will be early December - hope to see you all then.  I sincerely thank everyone for their purchases and for supporting Emma! 

If you missed the special reason I'm doing this, click here.

There are 15 different soaps to choose from this time - goat milk so
Linkap, all vegetable oil soap, and my newest - shea butter soap!

If you're new to my soap, allow me to tell you a little about them (if not feel free to scroll down and see the soap).

First of all, they are
100% natural. That is why you will find most of the scents to be citrusy, herbal, spicy, or earthy, as I exclusively use all natural essential oils to fragrance the soap. If the soap has a color or a texture, you can be assured that I used only what God has made to accomplish that. :-)

In all the soaps, I use a combination of quality pure base oils (olive, coconut, and palm) to promote moisture and good lathering. The three types I make are:

All-vegetable oil soap This soap contains olive oil, coconut oil, and palm oil, and has distilled water as its liquid. This is the hardest bar, making it long lasting.
Good for all skin types.

Goat milk soap All-vegetable oil soap recipe, substituting goat milk for the distilled water. Goat milk adds alpha-hydroxy acids, vitamins, and minerals to the soap, as well as increasing the moisture (goat milk soaps are a bit softer as a result).
Good for all skin types, particularly good for dry or sensitive ones.

Shea butter soap All-vegetable oil soap recipe, with the addition of 100% pure unrefined shea butter, which makes this soap ultra emollient and luxurious. This is a very premium soap, super-fatted 5% with the addition of the shea butter. Shea butter can also aid in the relief of acne, eczema and other skin problems as it moisturizes without clogging pores.
Good for all skin types, particularly good for dry or sensitive ones.

I make my soap by the cold process method in small batches, I cut it by hand, and I cure it for at l
east 4 weeks to ensure hardness. These are big bars - at least 4 1/2 ounces each (Ivory soap bars are about 3 ounces). You should know that homemade soap is softer than commercial soap, so be sure to let your bar drain and air dry after each use (don't let it sit in a sudsy puddle). You will find that my soap is gentle and you can definitely feel good about using it on your skin. When you get away from putting detergents and chemicals on your skin, and use an all natural approach, you will feel the difference!

DELIVERY: If you are close by, I can arrange to get the soap to you. If you are not , I can mail them to you. I can send up to 4 soaps anywhere in the U.S. for $5.35 using the small flat rate priority box; larger orders will most likely fit in the medium flat rate box for $11.35. I accept paypal (use, cash, or personal checks (checks only if I know you personally, please).

**To place your order, contact me at**
(I will be updating remaining quantities as they sell.)

Goat Milk Soaps $3 each


Quantity: SOLD OUT

Pure and clean, scented simply with lemon and lavender essential oil. A good choice for sensitive skin or babies.


Quantity: SOLD OUT

Contains ground organic oats for light exfoliation, plus three different citrus essential oils. A great shower bar.


Quantity: SOLD OUT

Made with brewed Chai tea, this yummy almost-good-enough-to-eat bar is enhanced with cinnamon, clove, and anise essential oils. Ground cloves, cinnamon sticks, and Chai tea leaves add light exfoliation. A great shower bar.


Quantity: SOLD OUT

This two-toned bar is made with French green and rose clays, which make it a superb facial soap. Clays are known to draw impurities out of skin. It is scented with a combination of tart pink grapefruit and sweet basil essential oils.


Quantity: SOLD OUT

Lavender Oatmeal soap is always a favorite, and this time I've spiced it up with the addition of a spot of anise essential oil. Ground organic oats make this a great shower bar.


Quantity: SOLD OUT

One of my favorite cooking herbs has found its way into my soap. This one is chock full of herbes de Provence (a French herb blend containing primarily lavender, savory, basil, thyme, and fennel) and is enhanced by rosemary and lavender essential oils.

Quantity: SOLD OUT

One of my personal favorites, I keep this by the kitchen sink to remove the odor of garlic and onion from my hands. This soap contains Arabica coffee grounds which scrub hands and neutralize odors. Scented lightly with anise essential oil.

All Vegetable Oil Soaps
$3 each


Quantity: SOLD OUT

This bright and sunny soap contains a refreshing blend of three citrus essential oils, plus a splash of sweet peppermint to wake you up!


Quantity: SOLD OUT

Another favorite is soap made with Calendula petals (a variety of the Marigold flower). Calendula is superb for the complexion, but this makes a great shower bar, too. Contains sweet lemongrass essential oil.


Quantity: SOLD OUT

Seaweed is rich in minerals and vitamins, and exfoliates the skin without drying - not many soaps can make that claim. Tea Tree Oil is also naturally anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral, helping troubled skin. Scented lightly with rosemary essential oil.


Quantity: SOLD OUT

Yes, a chocolate soap (but please don't eat it)! This soap gets its deep brown color from a good dose of unsweetened dark cocoa powder. Spiced with anise, sweet orange, and cinnamon essential oils. A rich and sweet experience. A great shower bar.


Quantity: SOLD OUT

Clean and herbal blend of peppermint and rosemary essential oils, plus garden rosemary and peppermint leaves added in for light exfoliation.


Quantity: SOLD OUT

Lastly, in honor of Emma's trip to Thailand, is this soap - scented richly with earthy lemongrass and sweet basil. Dried lemongrass adds light exfoliation. A great shower bar. 

Shea Butter Soaps
$3.50 each


Quantity: SOLD OUT

Rich shea butter, with sweet orange and clove essential oils.


Quantity: SOLD OUT

Rich shea butter, with lavender and peppermint essential oils.

Can't decide? Try a sample pack! I will surprise you with 8 different soaps in half-bar sizes to try.


Quantity: SOLD OUT

14 oz Mason Jar Candles
$12 each


My candles are made with 100% soy wax. They contain lead-free wicks, burning slow and clean. I have recently test burned these and each jar provides 80+ hours of burn time. They make great gifts for girlfriends' birthdays and are the perfect hostess gift. Of course, treat yourself to some, too. I can ship candles, too. I am offering four different scents - all uncolored. Candles can be shipped - up to 6 candles for $11.35 USPS Priority Mail (and if you buy soap, it can most likely ride for free with the candles). I am offering four different scents - all uncolored:

Vanilla Nut Spice

Nectarine Basil

Blackberry Sage
Pomegranate Pear 
**To place your order, contact me at**

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