Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lavender Chocolate Green Smoothie

Most mornings, I make a green smoothie.  It's one of the easiest ways to get extra mineral-rich leafy greens into your diet.  Sometimes I make them heavy with pineapple or berries, but more often than not, it's chocolate.  I know, I'm addicted. But if loving cacao is wrong, I don't wanna be right.  This morning, I wanted a cacao smoothie, but with a little twist.  I decided it was lavender kind of day.  With the crazy-cold weather we've had here in Tennessee, I needed a taste of spring.  Here's what I came up with:

Lavender Cacao Green Smoothie

3 cups spinach
2 cups fresh almond milk
1 banana
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 drops lavender essential oil
1 scoop Garden of Life Raw Vanilla protein powder
2 tsp wheatgrass juice powder
2 tbsp maca powder
2 tbsp raw cacao powder
Stevia or other sweetener to taste
Dash of cayenne pepper
Dash of sea salt 

Blend the banana, spinach, and almond milk until smooth, then add all other ingredients and blend to combine.  With super-foods, you want to blend them as little as possible to minimize heat exposure.  If you don't have raw cacao, use your favorite cocoa powder or even chocolate bar.  If you don't have maca, protein powder, or wheatgrass juice powder, just leave it out.  The main flavor comes from the vanilla and lavender oil, so the extra stuff is just for added body and nutrition.  You could, also, use any essential oil flavor that you like.  I may try orange or peppermint tomorrow.  

It's so easy to be creative with green smoothies.  Make sure you have a green vegetable, a fruit, and a liquid.  Where you take it from there is limitless.  What's your favorite green smoothie recipe? 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How to Make Your Own Baby Food

Baby food.  The thought of it just brings to mind watered-down, flavorless purées in tiny glass jars lining the shelves at my local grocery store.  Personally, I think spending money on something so simple should be a crime.  Not to mention, we have no idea what's actually in those jars, such as water toxins and pesticides.  If you're lucky enough to find organic baby food at the grocery store, you can count on spending around $0.99 per jar.  That can get expensive fast!  So, I resolved to make my own baby food before Little Miss Charlotte even entered the world.  I thought it would be time-consuming, but I knew I had to do what was best for my baby.  Once she actually started eating solids, I quickly realized that I had been misled.  It's not time-consuming at all!  I make all of Charlotte's food for the week on Sunday afternoon in about one hour.  

At first, I wasn't sure what to feed her.  Of course, packaged garbage and animal products were out of the question.  But where to begin?  So many people, doctors included, recommend rice cereal to start, however, there's really no nutrient value to rice cereal.  It's empty carbohydrate calories.  I knew I didn't want to start my baby with something like that.  From all of my reading, I realized that the best thing to start her with would be healthy fats.  Babies need lots of healthy fat to grow a big, beautiful brain (one that my daughter will need when she becomes a physicist someday).  One of the best foods for healthy fat is avocado.  It's easily digested, filling, and contains some pretty awesome stuff, such as protein (perfect for a growing kid), vitamins A, C, and E, selenium, zinc, phytosterols, and omega-3 fatty acids.  A better choice than plain-ole rice cereal?  I'd say so.  And I think Charlotte would agree: 

What I would like to suggest is that we moms think outside the box, literally.  It's so quick and easy to grab pre-made baby food, but it's not what's healthiest.  And we want to grow the next generation better than ours, right?  I mean, we're looking at childhood obesity and diabetes rates that are growing every year.  It's so sad.  I know I don't want my daughter to fall into the sugar trap, and when we start babies eating simple, white carbs first thing, we aren't doing them any favors when it comes to resisting that frosted cupcake later in life.  The funny thing is that kids don't know any different.  So far, in addition to avocado, Charlotte has had broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, peas, carrots, sweet potato, tomato, apple, blueberries, strawberries, banana, quinoa, and lentils (with onion!).  And you know what?  She's enjoyed it all!  She will eat anything I give her with gusto.  We tend to push our own food preferences on our kids, but they're actually clean slates.  If we can start now with feeding our children only healthy foods, their taste buds will develop a preference for those foods.  Imagine, no fighting over Happy Meals.  What if your child didn't even know what McDonald's served?  Oh, what a glorious thought!  

And on that note, here's what Charlotte is having this week:

First off, I buy everything I can organic if my little girl is going to be eating it.  She's going to have plenty of time to be exposed to pesticides and toxins in her life, but for now, I'm doing my best to minimize them.  I steam most of her veggies to retain as many nutrients as possible, since some vitamins are lost in cooking water.  On Sunday evening, I roughly chopped a large sweet potato and some carrots.  We're working with finger foods now that she's got some dexterity and a couple of teeth, so I try to chop the pieces small enough for her to handle and not choke.  

I steamed those separately until they were soft enough to mash with the back of a spoon.  Then, I poured them onto a cookie sheet to cool. 

Next, I boiled a bag of organic cut green beans. 

Once the beans were soft, I put away the carrots and sweet potatoes and poured them onto the cookie sheet to cool.  After cooling, I used my large knife to chop them into smaller pieces, for Charlotte's little hands to grab.  

I also cooked about one cup of red lentils with a dash of sea salt and mixed them with some leftover quinoa I had made earlier in the day.  With that, a week's worth of nutritious lunches were complete and ready for Grandma to serve.  

Along with these foods, she will eat fruit in the mornings, such as apples, berries, or bananas.  She's not a big eater in the morning and prefers to just nurse at night, but if she wants to eat something at dinner time, I will just steam peas or share my dinner, assuming I'm not eating anything a ten-month-old shouldn't have.  

Making baby food doesn't have to be complicated.  If your little one is still too little for finger foods, just purée the above foods with a little water or breast milk to thin it.  It took less than one hour start to finish for all of this and probably cost $5-$6.  You can't put a price tag on growing healthy babies, but I'd say that's a pretty nice one.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Raw Chocolate Candy! Need I say more?

I'm a chocolate addict.  Maybe it's because I'm female.  Maybe it's because I need the minerals.  Maybe I just love chocolate.  I don't really care about the reasons, I just am.  To me, chocolate is heaven.  The darker, the better.  I HATE milk chocolate.  It's so gross.  If I wanted something that sweet, I'd just eat a handful of sugar.  I also have disdane for donuts.  Ugh.  Too sweet.  I think my obsession started my senior year of high school when I made friends with our German exchange student who's parents would send care packages full of European candies, and she would always share them in our art class.  Even after she went home that summer, she would ship Swiss and German chocolates to my house.  That was the first time I experienced REAL chocolate.  When you're 17 and American, you think Hershey's invented the stuff.  But after tasting that beautiful, bittersweet, richness that Christiana shared, there was no going back.  And so began my love affair with hard-to-find creamy, rich perfection.  As a vegan, my favorite store-bought brand is Endangered Species.  They have no animal ingredients and give 10% of profits to various environmental causes. Yay for living consciously!  If I'm going to buy a bar, I like their 88% dark or 72% mint chocolate.  Both are fabulous and low in sugar.  When you care about your health and want to gain the benefits of chocolate, always aim for 72% or higher cacao content.  

Lately, though, I've been trying to do more and more raw foods, so I started playing with some recipes for raw chocolate candy.  I bought a one-pound bag of raw cacao from and set to work.  Raw cacao is a great source of antioxidants (which help fight free-radicals in our bodies), as well as manganese and magnesium.  Manganese helps oxygenate blood, and  magnesium is a brain-balancing chemical, which could explain why we crave chocolate when stressed.  Raw cacao helps our bodies to release feel-good hormones.  Like you needed a reason to eat it? 

I've been adding superfoods to my candies lately, too.  I discovered the wonder of maca when I was trying to restart my hormonal systems in 2011 after being told I couldn't get pregnant due to my body not producing estrogen, like zilch, nada.  And since I now have my gorgeous, funny, wild, and sweet little girl, I think it helped.  This sweet powder comes from a root that grows in the Andes of Peru and is known for its hormone regulating effects.  It's been used for ages in both men and women to combat symptoms of menopause and andropause.  It's also been found to help increase energy, endurance, strength, memory, and circulation, as well as libido.  Ooh la la!  This stuff is so neat.  I purchase mine through  They offer the highest quality maca that I've found.  Plus, I absolutely adore Matt Monarch and his wife, Angela.  (They have a YouTube channel all about the raw lifestyle.)

The main ingredient in my raw chocolates is organic, unrefined coconut oil.  You always want to buy unrefined coconut oil.  That means it's essentially raw and still contains all of the good fats, aka medium-chain fatty acids, which feed the brain and help you burn fat.  It's most affordable at Trader Joe's, but Kroger also sells it for just two dollars more per 16-ounce jar.  Unrefined coconut oil will actually smell and taste like coconut.  That's how you know it's the good stuff.  If you live in an area with limited resources, you can always purchase these ingredients online and have them shipped right to your door.  Doesn't get any easier than that.  

After a few batches of chocolate blobs, I invested in (if you can call $6 an investment) a candy mold, so now my chocolates are pretty as well as delicious.  And without further ado, I present my favorite new recipe:

Raw Vegan Chocolate Candy

Makes 30 small chocolates
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
6 Tbsp raw cacao (can use regular cocoa if raw isn't available, but it doesn't carry the same health benefits)
4 Tbsp liquid sweetener such as agave or maple syrup (could use powdered stevia, but add slowly and taste as you go since it's very concentrated)
2 Tbsp Maca (optional)
Pinch of sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract or 5-6 drops of your favorite essential oil (optional)

These are so easy, and turn out absolutely creamy and smooth.  Just melt the oil in a double boiler or use a glass bowl in hot water.  Whisk in the other ingredients and pour into a candy mold, or chill until it starts to harden and scoop into balls on a cookie sheet.  Then, refrigerate or freeze until hardened.  (Since coconut oil melts around 76 degrees, you'll want to keep these refrigerated.  I've found that the maca helps to keep them from melting quite as quickly, though).  

I attended a raw food meetup group on Saturday and took two batches of six different flavors; cayenne, orange, peppermint, lavender & vanilla, cacao nib, and coconut flake.  They were a huge hit!  I didn't have a single piece to bring home.  There's nothing quite like eating guilt-free candy.