Holiday Ideas ~ My Favorite Skin Care

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Christmas is right around the corner! Do you have your lists prepared, wrapping ready, and your holiday baking list all ready to go? Me either, but I’m getting closer. I do love to be organized so I can enjoy the holidays without feeling stressed and rushed. So today is the day I will sit down with my holiday notebook and map it all out! I write down meal plans, grocery lists, gift lists, baking lists and recipes, and gift ideas I run across that I think might be a good fit for the people on my giving list.

I love a good gift idea list! It’s always nice to get some fresh ideas and integrate them where you can. I often get asked about my favorite products. So I thought I’d start with my favorite store-bought skin care products that can fit very nicely under the tree and in your favorite someone’s stocking. If you’d like some ideas for homemade skin care products you can go to my holiday list for Healthy Homemade Body Products.

~~~~ For The Bath and Shower ~~~~

DRY SKIN BODY BRUSH $9.95

Dry brushing should be done before a bath or shower and is wonderful for lymphatic circulation, skin elasticity, and for preparing your skin to absorb moisture.

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EPSOM SALTS Two for $12.00

.Epsom salt baths are a healthy way to absorb magnesium, relax, and get your lymph moving. It’s also great for soaking aches and pains, scratches, and shingles.  You can find them at any drug store, pricing varies

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AVEDA STRESS-FIX SOAKING SALTS $42.00

These soaking salts are heavenly and come in Aveda’s fabulous signature scent. If you are a Pure Privileged Reward Member at Aveda (you don’t have to purchase much to earn points) you can often get this $42 value for FREE! They are very generous with their free points products and often give full size products.

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DOVE SOAP SENSITIVE SKIN 8 Bars For $9.39

I’ve tried all kinds of different types of soaps. Organic, natural, essential oil, herbal, bar, liquid…you name it. I always keep coming back to Dove. It’s gluten-free, inexpensive, doesn’t upset my more delicate areas, and leaves my skin feeling soft and moisturized.

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JACK BLACK TURBO WASH 33 oz. $50.00

We absolutely LOVE this product! First of all the smell…invigorating and healthy! I use it on my body and my husband uses it all over. The best part is that one 33oz bottle lasted both of us an entire year. You can buy it on their website or Nordstrom (they carry they whole Jack Black line).

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~~~~ For Moisturizing The Body ~~~~

WISE OWL ORGANICS EAST AFRICAN SHEA BUTTER 8 oz $24.97

Hands down my absolute favorite shea butter! It differs in texture from the more popular sold shea that originates in West Africa. This East African shea has a mild aroma and is naturally rich in vitamins A, E, and F. It is smooth as silk and when you combine it with the Shea Moisture body lotion below, it will cure you of ever having dry skin again! I love to mix a dollop of each after I towel off from the shower. Leaves your skin moisturized and fabulous.

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SHEA MOISTURE COCONUT AND HIBISCUS BODY LOTION $9.99

This lotion mixed with a dollop of the shea butter above, is your cure-all for parched alligator skin, chapped hands, and any other area of your skin that may need a healthy dose of TLC. All Shea products are free of parabens, phthalates, mineral oil, DEA, petroleum, formaldehyde, and propylene. They are also natural, organic, and sustainably produced. The best part though…they ARE AFFORDABLE! You can find their hair and body products at almost all pharmacy stores and Target.

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SUZANNE ORGANICS WILD ORANGE NOURISHING BODY LOTION 8 oz $24.99

If you’re looking for a lighter body lotion, this goes on like silk and smells fantastic (but not too strong).

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SKINFOOD ORGANICS CAMELINA BODY SILK 4 oz $38.00

I keep this on my bedside table and use it on my feet, hands, and elbows at night. It’s rather pricey and luxurious so I don’t use it on my whole body. It has a light frankincense scent and makes your hands, feet, and elbows feel very pampered!

When inhaled, frankincense has been shown to reduce heart rate and high blood pressure. It’s anti inflammatory, antibacterial, strengthens and improves skin tone, acts as a sleep aid, and helps reduce pain.

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~~~~ For The Face, Neck, & Lips ~~~~

MIA PRIMA SONIC FACIAL CLEANSING BRUSH $99.00

 A bit on the pricey side (although this is the less expensive Clarisonic choice). However, I’ve had mine for almost 7 years and have never had one issue and have only had to order a replacement brush once. You can order different types of brushes to fit your skin’s needs. They can also be used in the shower!

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TRADER JOE’S JOJOBA OIL 4 oz $14.87

I’ve been using this jojoba oil (they are not all created equal!) to remove my waterproof mascara for many years. It leaves my lashes nourished and keeps them healthy and thick. It can also be rubbed between your hands and pulled through dry hair as an extra moisturizer, and you can use it as a shower oil or just rub a little on elbows and hands. Very versatile.

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SHEA MOISTURE FACIAL WASH & SCRUB WITH FRANKINCENSE & MYRHH 4 oz $10.99

Gentle enough to use every day, leaves skin feeling soft and moisturized, and is affordable! I even use it with my Clarisonic.

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JACK BLACK FACE BUFF 6oz $30.00

Jack Black is a men’s skin care line…but I have hijacked it and use it for myself! I love the scents they use, they’re healthy, and their products work really well and don’t upset my skin. I use this face buff 3x a week in the shower and it leaves my skin feeling smooth and invigorated!

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JACK BLACK PRO SERIES AGE CONTROL POWER PEEL 40 Pads $38.00

Another fantastic product from Jack Black! My husband received a free facial at Nordstrom with all the Jack Black products and I could not believe the difference in his skin after that one visit. I use these Power Peel pads at least 4 nights a week before applying my moisturizer.

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HONEST HAZEL EYE GELS 10 Pack $36.00

I like to keep these handy for puffy eye days or to use on self-care spa days when my skin needs a little pampering. You can also keep them in the fridge. They feel fabulous and will leave your under eyes de-puffed and nourished.

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TRUSKIN NATURALS VITAMIN C SERUM FOR FACE WITH HYALURONIC ACID & VITAMIN E 1 fl oz $19.99

I use this after I use the Power Peel Pads. My skin loves it and it’s gentle enough to use twice a day if you’d like.

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SHEA MOISTURE PEACE ROSE OIL COMPLEX SENSITIVE SKIN FACIAL MOISTURIZER 2 oz $9.69

Another great product from Shea Moisture! I use this in my morning regimen. Smells fabulous and leaves my skin silky soft. On days where I feel like my skin needs a bit of extra moisture, I combine this with a tiny dollop of Wise Owl Organics Shea Butter. Keeps my skin moisturized and glowing all day long.

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SHEA MOISTURE COCONUT & HIBISCUS SPOT CORRECTING MOISTURIZER 2 oz $10.97

I use this moisturizer at night and combined with the Power Peel Pads & the Vitamin C Serum, I really notice a difference in my skin texture and notice my age spots disappearing.

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AVEDA TULASARA RADIANT AWAKENING RITUAL KIT $89.00

This oil is just pure bliss! I was able to get the oil free with my points and then purchased the brush, but you can buy the kit all in one. The oil smells absolutely heavenly and I’ve used it all different kinds of ways! Sometimes I layer it on in a hot shower after I do the Jack Black Face Buff and just let it sit for a few minutes while I’m washing up and shaving. Other times I’ve used it in the mornings on a clean, dry, face with the brush and it leaves my skin rosy and healthy and nourished. I’ve also used it as a cuticle oil and a hair oil!

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AZTEC SECRET INDIAN HEALING CLAY 1 lb. $10.95

I use this about once a month. It draws out all the yucky toxins from your skin wherever you put it! Just mix a bit of the powder with a little warm water (using a non-metal utensil), pat it on, let it dry, and wash off. Leaves the face with a rosy glow and a healthy little tingle. Because it draws out impurities, I’ve also used it on mosquito bites and other bug bites.

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SHEA MOISTURE RAW SHEA BUTTER HYDRATING MUD MASK 6 oz $15.99

I use this mask about once a week! I love the way it leaves my skin feeling super clean and moisturized.

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SKINNY & CO LIP BALM TUBE 3 PACK PEPPERMINT VANILLA & SWEET ORANGE $16.95

Once you use these, you’ll never go back to any other lip balm. They. Are. Heavenly.

 

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Stay Tuned For My Next Holiday Post with My Favorite Kitchen Tools!

 

 

Grain Free & Dairy Free Gingerbread

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This gingerbread is FABULOUS! It’s full of flavor, versatile, freezes well, will make your house smell wonderful, and your guests will be in awe when they figure out it’s grain free and dairy free. Well…that is if you tell them!

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You can serve it with coconut milk whipped cream and a little sprinkle of cinnamon like I did here, or you can warm the gingerbread and serve it with dairy free vanilla ice cream (my favorite brand is Coconut Bliss Vanilla Island).

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You can also just sprinkle it with powdered sugar, or if you’re looking for a dessert to serve after a holiday dinner, you can incorporate the gingerbread into my individual Gingerbread Trifles.

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It’s very versatile, and because it can be made ahead and stores well in the freezer, it’s nice to have on hand during the busy holidays when people tend to stop by unannounced. I also like to keep a couple of boxes of chilled coconut milk in my fridge and have powdered sugar and pure vanilla extract on hand so I can whip up some cream on a moments notice.

Grain Free & Dairy Free Gingerbread

**This is best when served on day two or three  – when the flavors have a chance to mingle and the gingerbread becomes more moist and dense. Or, you can freeze it up to a month and then defrost and serve**

1 1/4 Cups of Coconut Flour

3/4 Cup of Sweet Potato Flour

1 1/2 Cups of Coconut Sugar

2 teaspoons of Double Acting Baking Powder

2 teaspoons of Baking Soda

1/8 teaspoon of Sea Salt

2 teaspoons of Ceylon Cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons of Ground Ginger

1 teaspoon of Ground Cloves

6 Eggs

1/2 Cup of Dairy Free Soy Free Butter

2 Tablespoons of Pure Vanilla Extract

1 Cup of Unsulphured Molasses

1 Cups of Full Fat Coconut Milk

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees (I use convection so cooking time may vary) Spray two 8×8 square pans with non stick spray and set aside. This can also be made in one 8 1/2 x 11 pan or two 8-9 inch round pans.

Measure the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the butter (cool but not cold) and the remaining wet ingredients. Whisk thoroughly until fluffy and combined.

Divide evenly among pans and bake for 25-30 minutes. *Cool and cover with plastic wrap. Serve on day 2 or 3 or cool and cover with plastic wrap and tinfoil and freeze up to 30 days.* 

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Holiday Ideas ~ Healthy Homemade Body Products

The holidays are just around the corner! Are you ready? I’ve purchased a few gifts but I’m nowhere near ready. I really love taking in the whole holiday season, so I try not to jump too far ahead. I love all the shopping with crowds and Christmas music playing in the background. The crisp air, the food, the light and window displays. What I love most though, is choosing a gift each year to give that’s a little crafty.

Sometimes it’s just a nice Christmas treat tray or box that’s decorated nicely for family and neighbors. Other years I’ve gone all out and made lotions, scrubs, lip balms, facial toners…all kinds of fun self-care items with my own personal touch.

I thought I’d share some of those items in case you’re in need of some easy but fun homemade gifts. If you’re not really crafty, no need to worry. Throughout November and December I’ll be sharing my “Favorite Things” from skincare to supplements, to kitchen tools. Lots of ideas for great items to slip under the tree and into your special someone’s stocking.

EPSOM BATH SALTS ~ 3 WAYS

BARKIN’ DOGS FOOT RUB

NOURISH & CALM BODY BUTTER

HELP FOR ARTHRITIC HANDS & JOINTS

HEADACHE & MIGRAINE RELIEF ROLLER

SLUMBER BEDTIME POTION

QUENCH ~ INTENSIVE ORGANIC NIGHT CREAM FOR FACE & NECK

LEMON & LAVENDER FACIAL TONER

ESSENTIAL OIL BODY CREAM ~ 5 WAYS!

A WHOLE WELLNESS PACKAGE IN ONE! (Lemon LIp Balm, Dreamy Sleep Salve, Calming Chamomile Night Cream, Shower Bombs, Luxurious Body Lotion, and Sugar & Spice Hand and Elbow Scrub)

 

 

 

 

Grain Free Dinner Rolls

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These rolls are inspired by My Gluten-Free Kitchen’s Pull Apart Dinner Rolls. I have made her fabulous rolls many, many times using her gluten-free recipe and we absolutely love them! They turn out perfect every time.

I strive to be about 90% grain free and save the gluten-free goodies for maybe a Sunday dinner or special occasions. So when the cold weather hit and I started craving all things comfort food…I worked with the recipe a bit to come up with a grain free option. Still super easy and still delicious!

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They’re not just for dinner either! I love to toast leftovers for breakfast or use the buns for sandwiches. My next attempt with the recipe will be to see how the batter holds up for chicken and dumplings, so stay tuned!

Grain Free Dinner Rolls

2 3/4 Cups Bob’s Red Mill Paleo Flour

1 1/2 teaspoons of Xanthan Gum

2 1/2 teaspoons of SAF Instant Yeast

1/4 Cup of Granulated Sugar (You can use white or coconut sugar – coconut sugar will make the rolls look more like a whole wheat roll)

1 teaspoon of Celtic Sea Salt

1 Cup of Warm Filtered Water

2 1/2 Tablespoons of Earth Balance Soy Free Butter, plus extra for roll tops after baking

1 Large Organic Egg

1 teaspoon of Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar

Spray a 9″ round pie plate, set aside.

Add the dry ingredients to your stand mixer. Heat the water and add the butter, let it sit until it melts. Turn the mixer on low and add the water and butter, the egg, and the vinegar. Mix on low until combined, scraping down the sides once. Beat on high for 1 minute. Scrape down sides. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out 9 mounds of dough into the pie plate. The dough will be soft. You can leave them for a rustic baked look or you can wet your fingers and gently smooth out the tops. 

Set the oven to 375 degrees Spray a piece of plastic wrap and gently lay it over the top of the pie plate. Cover loosely with a light kitchen towel, and let rest for 45 minutes. I do mine on top of the stove where it’s warm. 

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. (I use convection for all of my cooking – if you use conventional, set your oven at 400 degrees and start keeping an eye on the rolls around 25 minutes). Let the rolls cool for 10 minutes before brushing the tops lightly with melted dairy free butter. 

Here I’ve used the buns for lunch and for a breakfast sandwich. Delicious!

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Maple Sugar Cookies

IMG_4670You haven’t had the true “Maple Experience” unless you’ve been to New England during maple sugaring season. I guarantee you that fall in New England should have an important place on your bucket list. I wrote a little bit about our “sugar shack” experiences HERE.

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New England in general has such a special feel. It really can’t be explained and has to be experienced for the full effect. Everyone knows it has a stunning Fall reputation, but there’s so much more than just the fabulous colors. The people are wonderful, the scenery is stunning – from the forests to the houses to the coastline. And the “sugar shacks” as we lovingly called them, are a do not miss. There are fancier ones like in the blog post I linked above, but then there are also little shacks on people’s home properties that really give you the New England experience. There are a total of 110 maple producers in New Hampshire alone! If you’re still stuck on the Aunt Jamima or Log Cabin syrup from your youth – shame on you. You deserve better.

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Did I mention the maple aromas? Oh. My. Word. They heat it to evaporate the water and then boil it  – and let me tell you, that sweetness fills the air and it is heavenly! They are also very generous with tastes when you visit their sugar houses. New England was where I was introduced to pure maple sugar and maple cream. You must experience maple cream at least once in your life. They also make maple sugar cotton candy and yes, it’s as wonderful as it sounds.  Add that to your bucket list too!

Until you’re able to tackle your bucket list, you can nibble on these maple delights.

Maple Sugar Cookies

(This dough needs to be chilled over night and makes about 30 – 2″ sandwich cookies)

2 1/2 Cups of Mamas Almond Blend All Purpose Gluten Free Flour (plus more for rolling)

1 teaspoon of Double Acting Baking Powder

3/4 teaspoon of Xanthan Gum

1/2 teaspoon of Celtic Sea Salt

1/3 Cup of Dairy Free Butter

1/3 Cup of Spectrum Shortening

3/4 Cup of Coombs Organic Maple Sugar

1 Egg

1 teaspoon of Vanilla

Whisk the dry ingredients (except maple sugar) together and set aside. In a mixer, cream the butter and shortening then add the maple sugar and cream until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until creamy. Mix in the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined. Scoop into a ziplock bag and flatten and refrigerate over night.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Line work surface with parchment and flour. Dust your rolling pin and separate the dough into thirds. Keep what you’re not using in the fridge. Sprinkle flour on the dough and roll out, cutting shapes of your choice. Bake for 7 minutes (don’t let the edges get too golden), let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks. Repeat with the remaining dough. Cool completely before frosting.

Frosting

1/4 Cup of Dairy Free Butter

5 Cups of Powdered Sugar

Pinch of Celtic Sea Salt

4 Tablespoons of Pure Maple Syrup

1 teaspoon of lemon juice

1 – 1 1/2 Tablespoons of Water (for spreading consistency)

Cream the butter, 2 Cups of the powdered sugar, salt, and 2 Tablespoons of the maple syrup. Add the lemon juice, the other two Tablespoons of syrup, and the remaining 3 cups of powdered sugar. Mix until it comes together. It will be very thick and clay like. Add the water 1/2 Tablespoon at a time until you reach a smooth but thick frosting that won’t leak out of the middle of the cookies.

I used the back of a teaspoon to gather a dollop of frosting. Then put it in the middle of the bottom cookie (use the underside of the cookie) and then carefully squished it down to spread it with the top cookie.

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Carrot Cake Biscotti

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During the colder months I love to have hot tea or a spicy coconut creme with a little something sweet and crunchy as my afternoon treat. I love all types of biscotti but especially unique flavors and ingredients. If you’re a purist, these may not be for you. But if you’re a biscotti adventurist, you’ll love them!

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They have just the right amount of sweet and crisp and make the perfect companion for tea, coffee, or your favorite afternoon latte.

Carrot Cake Biscotti

*This Recipe Is Grain Free & Dairy Free*

1 3/4 Cups of Bob’s Red Mill Paleo Baking Flour

1 teaspoon of Double Acting Baking Powder

1/2 teaspoon of Celtic Sea Salt

1/2 teaspoon of Xanthan Gum

2 teaspoons of Ground Cinnamon

1 teaspoon of Ground Nutmeg

1/4 Cup of Dairy Free Butter

3/4 Cup of Packed Dark Brown Sugar

1 Large Egg

2 teaspoons of Pure Vanilla Extract

1/4 Cup of Plain Pureed Pumpkin

2 Cups of Grated Carrots

1/2 Cup of Chopped Walnuts

1 Cup of Raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line one baking sheet with parchment.

Whisk the dry ingredients together and set aside. In a stand mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar, add the egg, vanilla, and pumpkin and mix until thoroughly incorporated and fluffy. Add the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. With mixer on the stir setting, add the carrots, nuts, and raisins.

Divide the dough in half and scoop two halves onto the baking sheet. Pat lightly into two loaves about 2″ high and 9-10″ long. Bake for 40  minutes. Cool.

Slice, (makes about 23 servings depending on how thick you slice them. If sliced too thinly, they won’t stay together and will crisp too much during baking) and lay each piece on its side. Bake side #1 for 10 minutes, remove from oven and carefully turn each piece over and bake side #2 for 10 minutes. Cool Completely before frosting.

Frosting

2 1/2 Tablespoons of Dairy Free Butter, melted

Zest of a Whole Small Lemon

1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice

1/2 teaspoon of Almond Extract

1 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons of Powdered Sugar

1 Tablespoon of Water (If necessary for drizzling consistency)

Whisk together until smooth and drizzle lightly over biscotti.

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My Favorite Coconut Creme

1/2 Cup of Full Fat Coconut Milk (I use Arroy-D)

1/2 Cup of Filtered Water

1/4 teaspoon of Ground Ginger

1 Tablespoon of Raw Honey

1 teaspoon of Pure Vanilla Extract

Ground Cinnamon

Ground Nutmeg

Heat the coconut milk and water to almost boiling. Remove from heat and stir in the ginger, honey, and vanilla. Pour into a blender and blend on high for 30 seconds. Pour into your favorite cup and sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.

 

 

Instant Pot Beef & Vegetable Soup

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There was a little snafu with the photographs on my phone when our son was fixing another snafu with my computer. So this is the one and only photo I have of this delicious soup! It’s actually a photo of a photo because that’s the only way I could figure out how to get it from “out there” to here. ha

My eyesight has changed and I can no longer focus through the view finder on my good cameras so I didn’t have all my photos on a memory card. I’ve been using my iPhone for all my food photos. I’m hoping the optometrist will have a solution because currently I have two very expensive cameras aging in a drawer. Fingers crossed! Until then, we’ll just go with the flow and have a bowl of this soul warming soup to get us through these chilly days.

Instant Pot Beef & Vegetable Soup

12 ounce Top Sirloin Steak, sliced thinly

1 Medium Sweet Onion, sliced

3 Cloves of Garlic, diced

14 oz Bag of Brussels Sprouts, stems cut, outer layer peeled, then halved

8 ounces of Cremini Mushrooms, halved

3 Stalks of Celery, sliced on the diagonal

2 Large Carrots, sliced on the diagonal

1 Cup of Kale, ribs removed and chopped

1/2 Cup of Parsley, chopped

1 Medium Sweet Potato with Skin, cubed

1 Tablespoon of Fresh Rosemary, minced

1 Tablespoon of Fresh Thyme, minced

1 Tablespoon of Fresh Oregano, minced

64 ounces of Beef Broth

1 1/2 teaspoons of Apple Cider Vinegar

Sea Salt & Pepper To Taste

About 2 Tablespoons of Avocado Oil

Heat the Instant Pot to saute the steak. Add 1 Tablespoon of the avocado oil and quickly saute the beef until it begins to brown and remove to a plate. (I removed mine at rare-just barely medium rare.) Add the remaining Tablespoon of avocado oil, the onions, garlic, celery and carrot and saute until the onions are aldente. Add the meat and the remaining ingredients, stir to deglaze the bottom of the pan, and secure the lid.

On “Manual” set the Instant Pot for 5 minutes. (It will take approximately 30 minutes to come to temperature and THEN the 5 minute timer will begin.) When the timer sounds, release the steam and season with salt and pepper. Serve.

 

 

Clementine Yogurt Cake

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Often when people hear the words “gluten free” or “grain free” or even “dairy free”, they think those terms equal = weird texture, odd tastes, and punishment. Which is kind of bizarre to me considering the real punishment is eating foods you’re sensitive to that make you sick, stiff, hormonal, anxious, and grumpy.

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Once you realize there’s a whole world of other options out there, you can let go of all of those negative attachments to what you “think” eating allergen free tastes and feels like.

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My goal when I started this blog (and still remains) was to create recipes that anyone would love to eat – but especially those people who have the mindset that they’re getting robbed by not being able to eat what “normal” people eat.

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One of the fun things I like to do every now and then when I run across a traditional recipe that really peaks my interest, is to see if I can tweak it to fit the needs of people who cannot eat certain foods. This recipe was inspired by an orange cake I ran across in Better Homes & Gardens. Once you learn the basic science behind baking with allergen free ingredients, it’s all a matter of swapping and understanding the balance between the liquids and dry ingredients, and what you need to make it hold together and rise, if necessary.

It really is as easy as that.

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This cake not only came out of the oven smelling and looking beautiful, the flavors were out of this world after allowing it to rest covered for 24 hours. It’s perfect lightly heated with a scoop of coconut milk vanilla ice cream, or just eaten by itself alongside a hot cup of tea for breakfast or an evening snack.

Clementine Yogurt Cake

8 Clementines

1 Cup of Coconut Sugar

1 1/2 Cups of Gluten Free Mama’s Almond Blend Flour

2 teaspoons of Double Acting Baking Powder

1/2 teaspoon of Celtic Sea Salt

1/2 Cup of Old Chatham Sheepherding Company’s Vanilla Yogurt

3 Eggs

2 teaspoons of Pure Vanilla Extract

1/4 Cup of Avocado Oil

2 Tablespoons of Raw Honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan with a piece of parchment. Spray generously with nonstick spray (I use avocado oil spray). *When I “line” a pan with parchment, I only cut a long piece that will go over the middle of the pan and hang off of each side. This makes is much easier to remove the bread and keeps it from sticking on the bottom.

Measure the sugar into a medium bowl and zest 6 clementines into the sugar. Rub the zest into the sugar until it is completely incorporated and the sugar is moist and aromatic. Set aside. Peel the tangerines with a sharp knife and cut out the orange sections onto a few folded paper towels. Blot dry.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk the yogurt into the sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time to form a smooth mixture. Whisk in the vanilla, then lightly whisk in the dry ingredients. Switch to a large spatula, and fold in the avocado oil. You should have a smooth batter with a light sheen.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Scatter the clementine segments over the top.

Bake (I use convection) for 50-60 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and begins to pull away from the sides. Cool for 20 minutes in the pan, then remove the cake from the pan to a cooling rack that has parchment placed underneath.

To glaze the cake, zest and juice the remaining 2 clementines into a small bowl. Add the honey, and heat for 20-30 seconds in the microwave. Drizzle the mixture over the top of the cake. You can eat this warm and right away, but if you cover it and keep it at room temperature to serve it on day 2, it’s much better – rich and full of flavor.

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Coconut Sugar Dark Chocolate Macaroons

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These are delicious and absolutely simple to make. From start to finish they’re done in under 30 minutes. Healthy ingredients and the perfect snack when you’re craving just a little something sweet.

Coconut Sugar Dark Chocolate Macaroons

(Makes 14 Small Cookies)

1 1/3 Cup Let’s Do Organic – 100% Organic Shredded Coconut Unsweetened – plus a few pinches for sprinkling

2 Tablespoons of Bob’s Red Mill Paleo Baking Flour

1/3 Cup of Organic Coconut Sugar

1/4 teaspoon of Celtic Sea Salt

3 Organic Egg Whites

2 teaspoons of Pure Vanilla Extract

1 – 1 1/2 Squares of Trader Joe’s Fair Trade Organic 72% Cacao Belgian Dark Chocolate Bar (green packaging)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment. Stir all ingredients except the chocolate until thoroughly combined. Drop 14 dollops of dough onto the baking sheet. Break up the chocolate into small pieces and poke 1 piece into each cookie. Sprinkle with a little extra shredded coconut.

Bake (I use convection) for 18 minutes.

Butter Lettuce Steak Wraps

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I’ve cut down dramatically on red meat. In fact, I haven’t had a steak in almost three weeks. If you aren’t familiar with me and my love affair with steak, I could easily eat a gigantic, bloody rib eye every day of my life. I would never tire of it. However, I’m really clamping down on inflammatory foods so we’ve been focusing more on chicken, fish, and seafood with a treat of some kind once a week or so.

As I was running errands today I was thinking of all the ways I could eat a somewhat small amount of red meat, combine it with all the vegetables in my diet, and still have it be really tasty.

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This is it. These wraps are now my new favorite. And that butter lettuce was live – root and some dirt intact when I bought it. That’s the first time my store has offered that choice and I have to say, I think it does make a difference. Next year we’ll be planting rows and rows of butter lettuce. It is so delicious and holds up really well as a wrap.

This recipe on its own feeds two people as a main course (about 3 small to medium wraps each). If you are going to serve it with a couple of side dishes, I’d say you could feed four people but you would likely need to get two heads of the butter lettuce and increase the toppings just a bit – the one steak if sliced thinly, goes a long way.

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Butter Lettuce Steak Wraps

1 Trader Joe’s Grass Fed Australian Strip Loin Steak (you find these in their freezer section)

About 1/4 Cup of Red Onion, sliced

About 1 1/2 Cups of Red Cabbage, sliced

About 1 Cup of Cremini Mushrooms, sliced

2 Cloves of Garlic, minced

About 1 teaspoon of Dried Oregano

About 1 1/2 teaspoons of garlic powder

Celtic Sea Salt To Taste

1-2 Large Radishes, sliced

1/4 Cup of Parsley, chopped

About 1/4 Cup of Daiya Jalapeno Havarti Style Dairy Free Cheese, finely grated

1 Head of Butter Lettuce

Trader Joe’s Green Goddess Vegan Salad Dressing

Avocado Oil Spray

Cut any large pieces of fat off of the steak, slice thinly (this is easier to do when the steak is still a little frozen), and set aside. In a medium pan sprayed with avocado oil, saute the sliced onions, cabbage, mushrooms, oregano, and minced garlic until the cabbage and onions are aldente and the mushrooms are browned. Remove from heat and set aside.

Spray another medium pan with avocado oil and heat on medium high. When the pan is hot, add the sliced steak. Season with salt and 1/2 of the garlic powder. It will cook quickly, don’t over cook it or it will be tough. When the steak is beginning to brown on one side, quickly flip them over season with salt and the other half of the garlic powder and brown for 1-2 minutes. (About 4-5 minutes total cook time.) Remove from the heat and set aside.

Here is how I assembled the wraps:

Two lettuce leaves stacked, a little salad dressing, then cheese, then sauteed veggies, then steak, a little more sauteed veggies, radishes, and a sprinkle of parsley.

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Grain Free Date Cookies

2018-09-09 15.45.51My husband has eaten several of these over the past few days and enjoyed them – without ever asking me what was actually in the cookie.

A couple of days ago I was having a medjool date as an after dinner treat and offered him one.  He told me with a little bit of disgust on his face that “he doesn’t like dates because someone put them in fruit salad once”. I’m not sure if he’s remembering correctly or not,  but I always question whether people really know they dislike something or if they just think they do. Clearly, he liked the dates in my cookies. He also tells me he doesn’t like nuts besides peanuts and almonds, but also seemed to enjoy the pecans in these cookies.

I’ve heard many people say they don’t like something, but they’ve actually never tried it. Or, maybe they have tried it and that one time was not a good experience. My rule for most normal foods is that you really need to try it if you want to convince me you don’t like it. And I want to see you taste it in my kitchen, the way I’ve prepared it, with my own two eyes. haha

If you’re on the fence about Medjool Dates, I say give them a try. They’re not scary or smelly or gross. Just sweet and have a nice texture, they’re full of vitamins, have lots of fiber, are an antioxidant, and are low glycemic.

What’s the worst that can happen?

Grain Free Date Cookies

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Makes about 24 cookies

2/3 Cup of Medjool Dates, pitted and diced

2/3 Cup of Pecans, finely chopped

1/3 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons of Coconut Butter (aka coconut manna)

3 Tablespoons of Coconut Oil

6 Tablespoons of Coconut Sugar

1/2 Cup of Full Fat Coconut Milk (I like Arroy-D)

2/3 Cup of Sweet Potato Flour

6 Tablespoons of Coconut Flour

1/2 teaspoon of Celtic Sea Salt

1 1/2 teaspoons of Ceylon Cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon of Dried Ginger

1 teaspoon of Vanilla 

2 Bars of Trader Joe’s Organic 72% Dark Belgian Chocolate 3.5 oz each

Cream the coconut butter, coconut oil, and coconut sugar together until fully incorporated. Add the coconut milk and beat, scraping down the bowl. Add the remaining dry ingredients and vanilla and mix well.

Using about 1-2 Tablespoons of dough, roll into a ball and flatten with fingers into a circle on parchment covered baking sheets. Bake for 12 minutes for soft cookies and 15 minutes for a crispier cookie.

Remove to cooling racks. Melt chocolate bars and drizzle each cookie. If you need them right away, you can quick set them by putting them on trays in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. 

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The Big FIVE OH! Or Otherwise Known As, My Best Birthday Yet

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How do you feel about your birthday? Dread it, love it, celebrate it, pretend like it never happened? It IS the only birthday at that age that you will EVER have. I wonder if people understand the significance of that? I turned 50 this summer. I wasn’t about to celebrate my 50th with a black balloon mentality. No way! I didn’t want this particular birthday to just go by with a flutter and a pffft either. I planned my own birthday trip!

I don’t expect or need big birthday celebrations but I was particularly excited about this birthday because some significant changes had taken place over the past few years. 2018 has been by far, the healthiest year for me in the last 11 years since I became sick with Lyme Disease.  Also, we have been on a wisdom ride that I will never forget. We have experienced the full range of all the heaviest emotions crammed into a five-year period. It felt like a friggin’ tornado.

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We moved from one end of the country to the other twice, we lived in our camping trailer for a few months because we couldn’t find a house, my husband changed careers and jobs three times, I had two really terrible Lyme flares, and during that time we also had to deal with some ongoing significant extended family issues. We were experiencing several of the top ten things on those lists psychologists put out in articles about extreme stress – all at once. But we knew we wanted something different, so we powered through. Once we were settled into our new house, I hit the ground running. Going through all that stuff at once had stirred up some questions for more and I needed to figure out how to get them answered.

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I felt like I needed a new approach to an old way of thinking. I read everything I could get my hands on that was related to what I wanted to learn. Then, I went completely out of my comfort zone and joined a support group run by an out of the box family and relationship therapist. The people in my group were from all walks of life with past experiences and current challenges to share. If I wanted growth, I was going to have to share too, which meant setting aside my fears of exposing all of those emotions and scary questions we all try so hard to cram down.

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When I let go of the fear of being totally transparent, it became one of the top three absolute best experiences of my life. We were all working toward one common goal – personal growth and a better understanding of relationships with ourselves and others. I had found my tribe. After the first couple of weeks, I could clearly see that healing and growth is a full body experience. You must work on the not so obvious as well as the obvious. I know, it sounds like a fluffy new age book. But it was nothing like that. It was an intense, humbling, and fulfilling experience that no self-help book (and I am an avid reader) has ever provided.

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There’s a lot of wisdom in people’s stories even when you have nothing in common with them. Their choices, and how they deal with life can be a significant learning experience for you if you choose to really listen and apply it. I came out the other side about two years later knowing myself better than ever. I thought I already had that down, but it turns out  there were some old patterns that were allowing negative things to happen that I didn’t think I was in control of. And because I took the time to really practice pulling the wool from my eyes – I came away with a very clear view of the underlying issues all of us face, and how those issues play out in our lives based on our own belief systems, patterns of behavior, family influence – and the choices we make based on how much or how little value we think we hold in other people’s eyes. I am the master (on earth) of my own destiny as far as my relationships and how I my experience with life pans out. I learned how to say no, how to better recognize red flags, and to set boundaries and it opened up endless growth opportunities.

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That journey is a very large part of why I was so excited and looked forward to turning 50. I thought to myself, Now THIS is what celebrating a birthday feels like. Beyond the surface of fun, lies the true reason to celebrate: Growth. I cannot sit stagnant in my life just going through the motions when I know there’s blossoming to be had! We need growth and pruning because it all works together. Then when we come to the end, we’re a beautiful full blossom – not some number we should dread! I can see concrete changes in how I feel, think, and react to what life has to offer whether it’s an irritating challenge or a welcome one. THAT is certainly worth celebrating along with a year of pretty dang good health!

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 There is another side of growth that doesn’t involve all the unicorn and rainbow feelings. Growth doesn’t just fall in your lap. Your mentality doesn’t just flip without a fight. It’s painful at first. Sometimes excruciatingly humbling. Changing ingrained patterns of behavior and choices that have been with you all your life and recognizing how they have played a role in the things you’re unhappy about, takes time and some serious nerve. I had no idea what would come of joining that support group. Several times I felt like turning around and running the other way. Just quitting and pretending like I’d never stirred “that” pot. But I forced myself to stick with it and the others did the same and it created a really unique and amazing bond that I’m not sure I’ve ever had with any other human being. I forced myself to stick with the work of being fully transparent and it paid off in ways I never could have imagined. Real growth provides a clear lens and when you get used to living with those wool free lenses, you can’t believe you ever lived any other way!

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 If you are seeking a new way of doing things, you may have to be your own cheerleader for a while or find a group like I did. Being transparent and strong in your character and convictions isn’t truly promoted and celebrated in the outside world. Some people will say they are supportive but really they just want you to fall in line and not think outside the box. They’ll try to convince you to keep quiet and that not upsetting the apple cart is more important than living your best version of the life God has planned for you. They’ll think you’re selfish or crazy or that you’re not Christian “enough” or forgiving or empathetic “enough” when you change long ingrained patterns that people are used to. They’ll take it personally and it will make them mad. But that’s OK, because when you stick to what you know is best for you and the people you love, there are no negative outcomes regardless of other’s opinions.

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For your next birthday, I challenge you to lovingly embrace that number. Make it something special and CELEBRATE IT!  It’s your gold medal for that year and it means you’ve made it through like a champion. You have marched through 365 days of every single challenge and every single dip in the road and over every mountain and every amazing thing that you’ve had the pleasure of experiencing and being a part of.

You didn’t compromise on some of the stuff that shouldn’t be compromised (you don’t have to be perfect), and you lived your best life that you knew how to that year. That birthday number people try to outrun, represents miraculous growth if you let it. Championship level growth if you focus on what you want.

Your actual outer “age” means nothing when you’re busy getting wise and slaying demons and seeking your most joyful, peaceful, loving life!

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