Saturday, April 22, 2017

When You Just Want a Bowl of Goodness

This recipe was an experiment made by taking the best part out of three veggie soup recipes I had and combining them.  It's a very filling and nourishing soup with just the right amount of heat and sour.  Note - if you wish it sourer, add 2 additional Tablespoons apple cider vinegar.

Hot and Sour Vegetable Soup

3 Tablespoons sherry or rice wine
2 tablespoons cold water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce (or substitute coconut aminos for soy, gluten and vegan option)
2 Tablespoons cornstarch

1 ounce dried Chinese black mushrooms
8 cups water

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2  chopped onion (or substitute 1/3 cup celery or water chestnut)
1 and 1/2 teaspoons dried ginger
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 jalapeno, seeds removed and chopped fine
1/2 sweet potato -  diced into small pieces
1/2 cup chopped carrots


1/2  zucchini - chopped
1/2 bell pepper  - chopped or sliced thin
1/2 cup tofu, cubed or chicken cut into thin strips


a small  handful of baby boc choy
8 ounces diced tomatoes (small can)
salt to taste (no more than 1 tsp).

Whisk together the soy sauce, water, rice vinegar, salt, white pepper, and cornstarch in a separate bowl. Set aside.

 Heat two cups of the water to boiling and pour over the mushrooms in a dish.  Cover with a plate and let rest 30 minutes.

Drain the mushrooms, squeezing out the liquid (save) and cutting off the hard stems.

In a dutch oven heat mushroom liquid and remaining six cups of water to a full simmer

While the broth heats, saute the onion, ginger and jalapeno pepper in a little oil until softened (2-3 minutes).  Add sweet potato, cabbage, and carrots and cook covered for 4 minutes (cabbage should be starting to wilt).

Add softened veggies to fully simmering or gently boiling broth. Reduce heat slightly and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the zucchini, bell pepper, and protein and simmer until the veggies are tender the protein cooked through (about 10 minutes).

Add in the soy sauce mixture and cook until soup is thickened (about 7-8 minutes)

Stir in the tomatoes and boc choy, raise heat slightly and bring back to a full simmer.

Stir in sesame oil and serve.
<

Friday, April 21, 2017

Pineapple Curry - Thai This on for Size

I've been doing real well with the IBS symptoms this week by adding in a bit of lean protein at each meal (some vegetarian sources, some animal), reducing the bean and grains (not eliminating, just reducing to a serving a day) and cutting back on nuts (a favorite snack but lots of fat, even if the good kind). Getting rid of soy and US franken- wheat has helped immensely, and I keep my carb servings small and whole grain except for white rice which I just love. I also do better with smaller portion sizes adding in some 250 calorie snacks morning and afternoon.  Big meals are definitely a trigger.

We do Thai every month but it does get expensive eating out so I tried making curry and it was a hit with my husband who loves it.  I'm normally not a big curry fan but I really enjoyed this.

2 – 15 oz. cans light coconut milk
3 Tbsp red curry paste
1 Tbsp curry powder
dash of crushed red pepper
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garlic powder
1 teaspoon of brown sugar or honey
a dash of salt
15 oz. can pineapple chunks, well drained
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
1 large chicken breast diced

rice as a side

Directions

Cook the rice, as directed. I cook mine in a tray that sits inside my steamer and it's always perfect.

In a large saucepan, whisk the coconut milk, curry paste, curry powder, crushed red pepper, ginger, garlic powder sugar or honey, and salt.

Stir in the pineapple, bell pepper slices and pieces of chicken. Cook until the chicken is done (about 20 minutes). Taste and add more crushed red pepper if you wish it "hotter".

Makes four generous servings.

Serve with rice.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Day of Eating Challenges and the Discovery of Vegan Parmesan Cheese

Today was going to be a bit of a diet challenge.  It's Friday in Lent which for me means no meat.  But I recently ditched dairy, beans, and wheat in hopes of helping my IBS symptoms.  So what to make?
Breakfast was super easy to whip up, even on a work day.  Coconut flour "pancake".  It's not a true pancake in taste, much more shape but it had a tender, eggy taste that was very filling and filled me up until almost 1 PM.  It made two good sized pancakes  I just ate one and it was quite filling. Less than 250 calories and no gluten or sugar (I used some sugar-free syrup on it though).

 3 eggs
 1/4 cup coconut flour
 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
dash of salt
splash of vanilla extract
Whisk until smooth and cook  in a fry pan or griddle on medium/high in a Tablespoon of Ghee for two minutes flip and cook 1 to 2 more minutes.

Ghee is a class of clarified butter that originated in ancient India and is commonly used in South Asian, Iranian and Arabic cuisines, traditional medicine, and religious rituals.  Ghee is prepared by simmering butter, which is churned from cream, skimming any impurities from the surface, and then pouring and retaining the clear, still liquid fat, while discarding the solid residue that settled on the bottom. It packs a lot more health benefits than butter. I make my own.
Then for my packed lunch (picture is from dinner) some leftover pasta with non-dairy "Parmesan" cheese.

3/4 cup RAW cashews (not roasted)
3 Tablespoons nutritional yeast (I think it's made of ground up hippies) and is Vegan and full of nutrition
3/4 teaspoon Penzey's roasted garlic powder (or your favorite garlic powder)
1/4 sea salt

Pulse in a food processor or powerful blender until the consistency of cheese (for me - pulsing a few seconds at a time for a minute).
Store refrigerated or in the freezer for longer term use.  Makes about a cup.
Served on some quinoa gluten free pasta yesterday with some olive oil and herbs this tasted EXACTLY like regular parmesan but NO dairy! I also fed a bite to my husband when he got home from a business trip without telling him and he couldn't tell.  SCORE!.

I had the leftovers for lunch today.

For an afternoon snack, some Kitchfix grain-free granola, made with nuts, coconut oil, and shredded coconut, with a coconut milk yogurt.
And dinner (for me, anyway) was just a plate of roasted veggies. Drizzled with some WHITE balsamic vinegar (a different taste) and rosemary they were awesome with a bit of salad.

Especially with a glass or two of  Frey Organic wine (my favorite white wine right now)
Honestly, I wasn't  hungry at all today.  I got plenty of protein and variety.  I'd say this meat/wheat/sugar-free day was a hit.

Then time to curl up with a friend's book that Amazon delivered today.  Her delightful pet blog is

Foley Monster, Pocket, and River Song

It's a warm-hearted book of stories of so many wonderful little souls.  A good day to remember them.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Gluten Free Coffee Mug Muffin

My IBS was doing better with the great reduction in wheat and dairy. The extra beans from adding in more vegetarian meals, was taking that progress away from me and my gut does NOT like soy products as I get older.

So I'm going to be adding in more lean grass fed and free range animal protein and paleo protein shakes, still doing at least one vegetarian (no soy or beans) meal once a day, and a veggie only day with high protein vegetables, some ancient grains or gluten-free bread with a little nut butter for protein twice a week. I've got a grass fed, ethically raised, had its own smart phone and personal trainer, chuck roast from Whole Foods that cost as much as a small car in some countries in the crockpot with some garlic, beef stock, and balsamic vinegar reduction to have for dinner with mashed cauliflower and some steamed carrots on the side.

But today, after a lunch of coconut yogurt with a Tablespoon of berries and an apple, I was hankering for both bread and sweet and modified a recipe I found online to make this.

An easy, super moist muffin in less than 4 minutes, with NO wheat flour and white sugar
Apple Cinnamon Coffee Mug Muffin

Spray a coffee mug with nonstick spray.

In a cereal bowl melt 1 Tablespoon butter or coconut oil
Stir in:
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons applesauce
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon honey (or use sugar if you want a vegan version)
1 egg or equivalent vegan egg substitute.

Whisk in until smooth:
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 Tablespoons almond flour (do not substitute)

On top sprinkle:
heaping tablespoon of finely chopped apple
pinch of finely chopped walnuts
two small pieces of a thin shaving of butter or vegan buttery spread

Pour into mug and microwave 1 minute 15 seconds to 1 minute 45 seconds (microwaves vary, when it's done, it will be puffed up but other than the sheen from the butter it won't look wet).  

Let sit at least 3 minutes and enjoy. 


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Gluten Free for your Chocolate Craving

I made these for a friend with Celiac, using a recipe another friend shared (the photo is hers as I left my camera at work) and they were a hit! They are obviously not low far - but they are low carb and rich enough you just need a little bite to satisfy your chocolate/dessert craving.

Chocolate Raspberry Dessert Bars (gluten free, no flour or white sugar)
3/4 cup coconut oil, melted;
1/2 cup coconut butter (comes in a mayonnaise style jar, found at most health food stores or online)
1/2 cup maple syrup or raw honey;
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder;
1/2 cup fresh raspberries;
1/4 cup dark chocolate, thinly chopped;
1/4 cup roasted almonds, chopped;

Preparation

Combine the coconut oil and butter, maple syrup, and cocoa powder over a double boiler, and whisk until blended and smooth.

Add in the dark chocolate bits, raspberries, and chopped almonds, gently stirring.

Line a 9×9 or 8 x 8 square baking pan with parchment paper and pour the chocolate in evenly.

Place in the freezer and freeze 15 to 20 minutes.

Slice while the mixture is still cold, and serve at room temperature. Store in refrigerator.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Boom Stick Review and a Look at the Kitchen Remodel

I was looking at a video on Cindy Joseph's  Saturday's with Cindy video series (of Boom Stick Beauty fame).  This one showcased her 118-year-old Dutch Victorian house.  Amazing house!  But what made me grin from ear to ear as she has my sink!  The one we found at auction and replumbed the entire kitchen ourselves to move it to a different wall so I have counter space. (and I also grinned ear to ear when the old metal cabinets covered in sparkly contact paper were taken off to a recycler).

Seriously, try her products - you'll ditch the giant bag of makeup in no time.I got some as a gift and I had to order refills. There's a sheer tint for cheeks and lips, an illuminator to highlight your best features and a moisturizing stick to add some healthy glow to where you need it. They're made out of all natural ingredients and are perfect, before, during and post workout for a healthy beautiful look. She also has a line of honey-based skin care products I'm going to try and review next. At age 58, I think "less is best" as far as looking great.  Too much makeup is more aging than paring it down and these products are great for that.

Here's the kitchen remodel - to make it look like an OLD kitchen. (I still have to finish the plaster work but was waiting for warmer weather).

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Natural Laundry Soap - Finally, No More Itchy Skin

I tend to have drier skin in the winter but over the winter I developed almost a rash on my arms, back, and lower legs. Even using a good lotion I was constantly itchy and would get little pimples that wouldn't go away. I thought it might be a reaction to the laundry soap as we had just changed to a cheaper brand, but switching to a non-fragrance one made no difference. But since all my other skin care is pure and natural, I figured it was something in the commercial laundry detergent.

Face it - conventional laundry-care products often contain chemicals with negative health effects ranging from skin and throat irritation to carcinogenicity. Because laundry care product manufacturers are not required by law to list all their ingredients on packaging, it can be difficult for buyers to make an informed choice. Laundry detergents are often derived from petrochemicals and contain synthetic fragrances, (even the “fragrance-free ones). The term “fragrance” alone may refer to a combination of hundreds of chemicals, many of which can be hazardous. Many detergents also contain added optical brighteners. Those are additives that emit blue light, which makes the whites APPEAR more white, as they trick the eye. Such additives also stay in the clothes after rinsing, like fabric softeners do, causing potential irritation by lingering chemicals that come in contact with the skin. I figured my skin issues was due to one of the many synthetic ingredients in the brand we were using and decided to find a more natural solution.

When placing an order for "bath bombs" at one of my favorite soap places

I saw they had natural laundry detergent. $7.99 seemed like a lot for the small box, but then I read it only takes 1 TABLESPOON to do a large load with a high-efficiency washer (and only 2 if you have an older type of washer).

Measuring it out I determined this box would be 40 large (full) loads in an HE Washer, and 20 in a regular washer. My old store bought detergent advertise 32 or so loads for about the same money but then I looked at the label carefully. My old detergent bases the load on a medium load. If you are doing a large load it's only 16 washes and 11 for a full load (which is what we always do). 

So the SACS & Company product is actually CHEAPER than the store bought since it is concentrated. Simply add the powder to the water as the washer fills and go find something more fun than laundry to do.

There are several scents as well as unscented. I chose lavender. They also list cashmere, unscented, Yuzu, and country apple. The dried clothing doesn't have a strong perfumy smell, but a very subtle clean smell that was extremely light and more natural smelling than those "springtime fresh" chemical laden products. I had my husband give it a sniff - and he agreed it just smelled "fresh".  If you want a stronger scent on your clothes you can add a note to your order as owners and artisans Marta and Lauri will gladly customize it.

They will also enclose a frequent buyer card. It's punched with a star for each $10 you spend.  When you get 10 stars, you simply take a photo of your card(s) and email it and they will give you a code for $10 off of your next order.  Good online or in their store in Indiana.

The best part - no more itchy skin! Crafted from SACS & Co. line of goats milk with pure essential oil soaps the laundry detergent is free from all petroleum or preservative ingredients and comes in a resealable bag within the box

I will definitely be purchasing more.  Better for me, better for the environment.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Biscuits with a touch of Corn - Gluten Free as Well

Ok these, aren't exactly low calorie, carb, or fat.  But they are wonderful paired with salad, soup, or a lean roast, veggies, and fruit for dessert.,

OR, if your husband is out of town for a week -  with Amish bacon, and lingonberry jam.

Cornmeal Buttermilk Biscuits

BISCUITS

1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup buttermilk (or use a cup of milk replacing 1 Tablespoon with lemon juice)
3 Tablespoons honey

2  cups gluten-free baking mix  (or all-purpose flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
4 oz.(1 stick) COLD butter, cut into 1/2 tablespoon sized pieces.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with two layers of parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal, buttermilk, and honey. Stir well and let sit for 10 minutes to soak the cornmeal. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to a food processor and pulse to mix. Add cold butter and pulse until mixture is coarse. Pour the flour mixture into the buttermilk mixture and stir to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead about 8 times until smooth. Using a biscuit cutter or the top of a glass about 2 inches wide dipped in flour (I dip mine in a little water), cut out 6 rounds. Arrange rounds on cookie sheet. Bake at 450 for 5 minutes or until biscuits really start to rise in the oven, then turn heat down to 400 and bake for another 12-15 minutes or until golden brown and serve with jam or butter and honey.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Better Sammich

I grew up on pretty much peanut butter and honey or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on "wonder bread" if Mom was feeling poorly or homemade white when the chemo effects weren't so bad.  (she battled cancer more than once from age 4 until my college years when she passed). My Mom also would, with the peanut butter and honey ones, butter the outside of the bread and grill them like a grilled cheese "Sammich" when we were kids and a bit under the weather and not wanting to eat much.  The peanut butter would get all warm and creamy, the bread would be all buttery and crunchy, and the honey would start to caramelize.  I made one of those for my husband when we first me and he LOVED it. Still, it's  an occasional indulgence due to the fat content, usually as "Mom memory comfort food" when I'm coming down with a cold.

Other than that, I'm not a big fan of most sandwiches made at home.  Just meat and cheese and iceburg lettuce is too boring and unless you add a bunch of mayo (I HATE mustard) too dry. My husband happily goes off to work each day with one, mayo-free, just some sandwich sprinkle spice from Penzey's, but his work has a nonprofit cafeteria where he can add a side salad for a dollar or two. But I decided to start adding more veggies to my sandwich and it made a lot of difference.  Try sprouts (I make my own as grocery store sprouts do have a higher risk of salmonella than most lettuces), add mushrooms, or avocado, tomatoes or spinach. Cranberry sauce is good with turkey or "veggie turkey" especially with a thin smear of fat-free or dairy-free cream cheese.  Ditch the mayo. Keep the meat lean or a vegetarian protein adding a little pepper, teriyaki sauce or barbecue seasoning to it before baking and only use a thin slice of cheese (better yet use hummus, keeps the sandwich moist and also healthy). Decorate with a toothpick with a pickle spear or add some shredded cabbage with rice vinegar as a side (a non-fat "coleslaw")

Serve on a whole grain, sprouted grain, or gluten-free bread, whatever you prefer.  No thick white bread - that defeats the whole purpose of a healthy sandwich.

Yum - I didn't know a lunch sandwich from home could be this good!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Browned Butter Carrot Soup

Carrots aren't high on my list of favorite veggies (those would be beans, corn, and potatoes).  I like home garden carrots but so many of the ones at the story are either mutant baby carrots (which I don't like) or don't have a great flavor as they are so water laden. I do buy them for stews, so sometimes I end up with a mostly full bag about to spoil. So I make carrot soup.

I actually like this better than just the carrots and could eat it regularly (and it's less than 200 calories a cup and SO creamy.)

Browned Butter Carrot and Sage Soup

2 Tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
handful of fresh sage (leaves only, and washed)
5 cups chopped carrots
1 and 3/4 cups water
4 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth (or use chicken or vegetarian "chicken" broth, both also good)
3/4 cup reduced fat half-and-half
dash of salt and white pepper to taste

Heat butter in a Dutch oven and heat until it's starting to brown and go frothy. Add sage and cook until starting to crisp up, remove with slotted spoon.  Add onion and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in carrots. Add water and broth; bring to a lively simmer over high heat.

Reduce heat to medium and gently simmer until the carrots soften (25-35 minutes).  Cool 10 minutes minimum (so you're not pureeing piping hot liquid) then puree the soup a cup or so at a time in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Stir in half-and-half and salt and pepper, return to saucepan and heat on low until warm. Garnish with a few croutons and a sprig of fresh herb of choice.

Vegan version:
Use olive oil instead of butter.

Instead of cream, omit the onion and make a "creme" substitute out of roasted onions (it's really amazing, not tasting exactly like cream but with the same texture and depth to add to recipes). If you don't do onions and can eat soy, blend tofu and water in a 1/1 ratio to make a "cream".

Veggie "Cream Substitute:
Makes 3/4 to 1 cup

3 large sweet onion
Salt, to taste
Lemon juice, to taste
Olive oil, to taste

Coat the onions lightly with extra virgin olive oil, and roast them at 400ยบ F in a pan that's not a lot bigger than they are until they are very dark on the outside and molten soft on the inside—the insides should not have taken on any color. That's about 45 minutes in my oven. Let cool. Once they have cooled, Remove the peels, and add the onions into a blender. Blend until very smooth, about 3 to 5 minutes. Finish by adding salt, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and olive oil to taste, then blend 20 to 30 seconds more. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Use as you would cream to finish a dish. Will keep in the fridge for 3 days and in the freezer for a couple of weeks.  Great to make mashed potatoes with for vegan friends.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Drop a Bath Bomb on Me Baby

I bet the first thing you are thinking is "Beets?"

Although eating better quality food and starting a serious work out program this last year has made me feel better (and I lost 9 pounds without  any sort of structured "diet"), I also am making an effort to make more "me" time. Working full time, maintaining a couple of blogs plus twitter and facebook for marketing the books and working on the next book (which is almost like having two full time jobs) and family leave little time to just relax. For me, it's the occasional board game with my husband after dinner with a glass of wine and a long soak in the tub while my husband then happily curls up with nothing else to do but enjoy a book or putter in his shop.

I love my baths and have a number of bath products, my new favorite being the new "Tub Tingle" bath bombs from SACS & Co. But I was out!
So while I happily waited for my next box to arrive.  I decided to make my own. Nope. Not having a custom mold I just pressed them in a muffin pan sprayed with non stick spray (or you can use a drop of olive oil) and they were SUPER easy to make and work just as good as the manufactured ones.

DIY Bath "Bomb"

1 cup baking soda
1/2 cup Epsom salts (I gave them a few pulses in the food process to make them finer)
1/2 cup Citric Acid (I found on Amazon)
1/2 cup corn starch
2 Tablespoons melted coconut oil
2 and and 1/2 teaspoons water
Essential oil (I used lavender) 10 drops for lightly scented 1/4 tsp for heavier scented.
1 teaspoons beet juice (for color).

Mix dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another.  Combine (it will fizz up, that's the expected chemical reaction.)  Stir until combined and spoon into muffin tins, pressing down with a spoon or with gloved hands
It's ALIVE!

Leaves some room as they do expand as they dry.  Let sit at room temperature to dry out 3 hours to overnight.  Store in baggies away from kids and pets (these would be toxic to eat) and enjoy in your bath. When they are done, they will have risen up to the top of the muffin pan and smoothed out, and will be dry and firm to the touch.  They were a little more "crumbly" than the purchased ones, so I just stored them in baggies and dropped the contents into the tub.
Makes one dozen bombs.

Now go have that glass of wine.



and get your bath.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Easy Soy Free Stir Fry

Looking for an easy stir fry with no soy or wheat?  Or an alternate that has soy and gluten but no meat? This turned out really good with just a handful of ingredients and made enough for meals for two over a couple of days.

Get some rice cooking in your steamer.

In a coffee cup mix a teaspoon of fresh grated ginger (or use half as much of powder), the juice of a lime (about a Tablespoon), a teaspoon of honey (or half teaspoon of sugar) and cayenne pepper to taste (I like mine spicy).

If you want to be totally soy free use gluten free breaded chicken bites.  I used the veggie chicken pieces since it was one of my meatless days -  I like the Gardein ones which do have a little gluten and soy in them. I cut them in pieces and just nuked for a couple of minutes then crisped them up in a fry pan.  Remove from heat and cover with lid to keep warm.

When the rice is a few minutes out from being done, stir fry in a tablespoon of olive oil half a bag of frozen oriental veggies (mine was a mix of broccoli, carrots, sugar snap peas, water chestnuts and red pepper).  When veggies are crisp/tender, toss with your protein and sauce and serve with rice.

Serves four.


Friday, March 17, 2017

Natural Beauty Products Reviews

Horse Creek Soap Berry Vanilla and Lovespell

Today's post is off the healthy recipe theme and covers another part of my life I updated to live healthier, doing so about eight years ago. Just a note: I was not asked to review any of the products here, or provided money to review them. I only post on this website the products I love enough to buy and use in my own home.

What you put IN your body is essential to good health, but what you put ON your body is also very important.  The skin is the largest organ of the body and some of what is put on the skin will be absorbed into the body. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health looked into the skin’s absorption rates of chemicals found in drinking water. It showed that the skin absorbed an average of 64% of total contaminant dosage. (1)
You're kidding me right?

Yes,  Other studies found the face to be several times more permeable than broad body surfaces and an absorption rate of 100% for (ahem) "delicate" areas of the body.  (2)

And another peer-reviewed study showed 100% absorption for fragrance ingredients. (3)

U.S.researchers have reported that one in eight of the 82,000 ingredients used in personal care products are industrial chemicals, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, and hormone disruptors.

Many products include plasticizers (chemicals that keep concrete soft), degreasers (used to get grime off auto parts), and surfactants (they reduce surface tension in water, like in paint and inks).
Is that something you really want on  and ultimately IN your body?

I started with my soap.  Most soap dried out my skin, but looking at the ingredient label of my moisturizing soap was an eye opener. I was using a generic product that was similar to Dove, but not made by Unilever.

SODIUM COCOYL ISETHIONATE AND/OR SODIUM LAUROYL ISETHIONATE, STEARIC ACID, SODIUM TALLOWATE, COCONUT ACID AND/OR LAURIC ACID, WATER, SODIUM ISETHIONATE, ETHYLENE/VA COPOLYMER AND/OR PEG-12 OR PEG-8, SODIUM COCOATE, COCAMIDOPROPY BETAINE, FRAGRANCE, GLYCERIN, SODIUM CHLORIDE, TETRASODIUM EDTA, TITANIUM DIOXIDE, AND TETRASODIUM ETIDRONATE.

Plus it started turning to mush in the shower after 10 days, so even though it was cheap it wasn't a bargain.
So I tried several different natural soaps, liking several of them but not having a particular one that stood out as a favorite. One issue I had was that most of them were so highly fragrance.  I wanted something that smelled nice but not like I'd bathed in perfume.  Then I tried this one particular brand about a year ago as the maker is the friend of one of MY friend's daughter so I bought some just to be supportive. I fell in love with it.
Goat's milk sop handcrafted in Colorado - it's made the way soap used to be made without all the additives.  The goat's milk is very moisturizing and the lather is the absolute softest and creamiest I've tried in a natural bar, rinsing clean and leaving the skin soft. The original blends were formulated with a bit of beef tallow, but the latest products I got are all vegetarian ingredients.

You can get unscented or a number of light scents.  My all time favorite is Fresh Snow which is just sold around the holidays.  When I said favorite - I bought a dozen bars of it as it's just made once a year I didn't want to run out.
It's not a minty smell, I can't quite put my finger on it, but it is a very FRESH smell, like the smell in the air when the snow first falls, that just makes me want to huff the bar.  I also bought some of their goats milk lotions, which Rachel can add any of the fragrances too.
Even better is the ingredient list.  The Horse Creek soap contains:

OLIVE OIL, COCONUT OIL, PALM OIL, GOAT MILK, AVOCADO OIL, SHEA BUTTER, COCOA BUTTER, CASTOR OIL, LYE, FRAGRANCE, COLOR.

That's it. Now I'm sure someone is going to say "lye?  Isn't that caustic?" Technically yes, but you can't make soap without it.  Not going to happen.  In a soap like Horse Creek, that is superfatted, the chance of any irritation in the tiny amount of lye needed to process is about zip. You are more likely to be sensitive to a fragrance in any brand of soap than the lye that's used to make it.
My husbands favorite to shave with is Bay Rum. We just cut the bar in half and use in his shaving mug.  We also both like his shower soap called Shave and a Haircut -  it's a light scent that blends all the smells of an old fashioned barbershop. I like it as well, and think it would be a great unisex fragrance. 
I love all of them, and can't wait to try the Cranberry/Orange, Vanilla Oak  and Lemon /Parsley which I've not tried yet. If you have troubled skin the Avocado/Clay soap is has been a huge hit with customers.

In addition to the soap and the lotions, there are also some great lip balms (the sweet orange is addicting) and a rose/clay sugar scrub that's just yummy.

At $5 a bar it might seem pricey for soap, but after using them a year, I can tell you a bar lasts 3 times longer than the soap I was using, so it's very competitively priced for the quality.

Next are the skin and body care items that I have used over the years.  I admit, I've strayed to try a high end name brand or two a close friend was using or selling and always came back to these products, especially after looking at some of the toxic ingredients in some of the popular brands.
 My favorites are
Their lavender body oil or sleep balm before bed is the bomb and their simple three step skin care is about the most easy and economical product around.  The serums are absolutely amazing.  I do add a Rodan Plus Fields eye cream which probably isn't close to "natural" but works better than any eye cream I've ever tried.

Some favorite Eminence products - sour cherry whip moisturizer, blueberry soy night cream, acai firming mask, blueberry exfoliating cleanser (very gentle), coconut oil infused acai berry toner, and recovery oil. (Yes, and they do smell as yummy as they sound). I really loved these products but they are pretty pricey so if you're on a budget, you might skip except for an occassional splurge.

I also always protect my skin from heavy winter winds/cold when working outdoors and summer sun with a layer of beeswax cream before I go outside (which has a natural spf of 15) from
The creams come in a number of formulations and fragrances (and unscented)  This is the only product of all the cosmetic stuff I have around the house that my husband uses regularly and I caught him borrowing the formula for sore muscles (it doesn't have that medicinal smell most such creams have and it gently increases circulation without being hot on the skin). Their solid bee balm sticks and bars are great for feet, especially cracked heals and elbows and are easily portable. Beeswax is also a natural fungicide so the use of the bee balm is helpful if you are prone to athlete's foot.  This is also the company I get my beeswax pillar candles and little decorative candles from.
As far as makeup - I don't wear much but threw out my last order of Avon cosmetics when I saw the "made in China label" on my makeup, a country that REQUIRES animal testing.
I switched to:
In addition to their deodorant, hair and bath products and salve, I love their tinted moisturizer in "fair/medium" and lipsticks (my favorite lipstick is the beautiful pink "dogwood").  The honey milk bath has Epsom salts to sooth sore muscles and release toxins as well as colloidal oatmeal, dried buttermilk and goat milk, dried honey and vanilla powder.  When I get out of the tub after soaking in this, both the husband and Abby the Labrador retriever want to snuggle up to me because I smell good. Their skin care is also outstanding and priced to fit a smaller budget.

I can honestly say that my skin, using good quality skin care which nourishes the skin with real, not synthetic ingredients,  not only does not look eight years older since I started using these products, but I'm usually mistaken for early 40's, NOT late 50's.  Good genes, a lifetime of sunscreen and a diet rich in foods that promote collagen have helped a lot, but the skin care has made a noticeable difference. Especially in the chronic redness and irritation I always had with dry skin and Rosacea.
Point and shoot selfie at age 49. (no filters)

Point and shoot selfie at age 57. (no filters)
So  next time you go shopping for personal care, do your skin and the environment a favor with products that nourish and support.  You will find they are worth every penny.

Footnotes:  

1. Brown et al. The role of skin absorption as a route of exposure for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in drinking water. Am J Public Health. 1984 May; 74(5): 479–484.
2. Kasting and Kretsos.Skin Pharmacol Physiol 2005;18:55-74 Robinson et al. 
3. The Importance of Exposure Estimation in the Assessment of Skin Sensitization risk. Contact Dermatitis 2000; 42:251-259.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Personal Trainer - A Year Milestone

It has been one year since I hired a personal trainer.  I worked with her six months. She moved out of state as her fiance was transferred but at that point, I had the workouts down where I could do them by myself.  We created several sessions that I can mix and match to do core, upper, lower, and cardio. At first, there were a few weeks I didn't work out without her being here to make me do it, but when I saw the effects on my progress, that ended quickly.

I'm doing 3-4 days a week - 60-minute sessions with one 90-minute session on the weekend, Weights (with an emphasis on arms as that was my weak area), cardio, boxing, and strength training to my Piano Guys CD (seriously, best workout music). I can also do the entire session without having to stop for several minutes to catch my breath between sets. Planks went from 5 seconds to 3 minutes and my partial meniscus-less knee only hurts when the weather is changing (accu-knee) instead of 24 and 7. My 3-pound weights are now 8-pound weights (going for repetition rather than overall weight lifting) and a 10-pound medicine ball was added to the mix.

One year in, without dieting, just cooking healthy food/healthy fats food more often with more fruits and veggie laden meals but still enjoying some wine and treats on a regular basis,  I lost 18 pounds and 2 pants sizes. I can also wear sleeveless shirts for the first summer in 10 years.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Angels among us - and decent smoothies.

If I add a glass fo wine I think I've covered all food groups.

This week was not my finest in the healthy eating department.  My husband was gone all week, I was working on a project at home and things were happening in life that were stressful.  With pretty much perfect credit, I got a bill sent to collection for a fairly recent diagnostic medical exam that I never had.

I had a few things working in my favor:
The diagnostic procedure was in a state I moved away from and haven't revisited in 10 years
The address they sent the bill to, I'd moved from 12 years ago.
The last name of the "patient" was my maiden name, and I was long married at the time of the exam.
I was never a patient of the doctor that sent "me" for the diagnostic procedure, I was simply in the system for the medical group he was part of, or at least was 10 years ago.
I have no records of physical issues that would have required this procedure, being a licensed airline pilot, those things are in my FAA flight surgeon records.
Road tolls would show me driving from Chicago to Indianapolis early that morning to start duty at 9:30, leaving duty at 1800.
There's just not enough pizza for the week I had.

Still, the collection people didn't believe me, thinking I just "forgot" the exam (which I would have had to drive 650 miles to get, a procedure, readily available 5 minutes from where I lived), and told me I should just call the doctor and take care of the bill.

But his practice was closed, patients being picked up by a large medical provider in the area. (really, I need more pizza).

Fortunately, a very kind woman named Kim, a financial counselor at the large medical group who inherited the record when the practice that billed me closed, realized they inherited a billing error and got it sorted out though my credit report hasn't updated yet.  She probably spent half an hour on the phone with me trying to sort out what had happened.  Kim - you are an angel.  Bless you.

But at the start of the week when I found all this out let's just say red wine and cheese may be on the endangered species list by now.

So this weekend, my husband home and things back to normal, time for some healthy eating after a fairly big breakfast of gluten-free biscuits (King Arthur flour recipe) and gravy.

You know I love smoothies.  I tried the Daily Harvest home delivery ones and they were VERY good, with really healthy ingredients, but a little more than I wanted to pay.

Then I noticed in my Schwan's catalog they now have smoothies.

Most of you in the US are familiar with Schwan's - the big yellow truck that delivers flash frozen meals, fruits, veggies and ice cream to your door.  My Dad was a huge fan when he and my stepmom got up there in years and didn't like to cook much.  He still ALWAYS has their pot pies and GoldnNugget ice cream bars in his freezer and a couple of the skillet meals if he has one of the home health aides that's not much of a cook (they're hired for their nursing care, the house and cooking tasks are provided, but some are more skilled at that part than others).

I like them too.  I do tend to make 95% of everything from scratch, including my bread to save money but my family does have some favorites

The Toaster Waffles - before I ditched regular wheat I absolutely loved these, they put grocery store frozen waffles to shame.  They're crisp with a pillowy interior and a wonderful vanilla aroma.

The Ciabatta rolls (great for dinner or make little pizzas out of them for the little ones).

Fully cooked microwavable bacon (when you just want a quick BLT)

The whole sockeye salmon filet - growing up on fresh caught what we find in a store in the Midwest is NOT that great, the catch of the day usually being Perogies.

The southwest roasted corn and beans - less than $8 for two pounds, mix with rice and cheese and you've got a great vegetarian lunch burrito as it's already seasoned perfectly

and their frozen fruits and veggies, so fresh and good tasting.  (the roasted sweet potatoes are the bomb, especially drizzled with some pear/cinnamon balsamic vinegar before roasting).

But I'd not tried their smoothies. I'm glad I did

Pros:

Healthy ingredients - this tropical one had mango, carrots, sweet potatoes banana, and pineapple.  I mixed it with a cup and a half of a mixture of orange juice and goat milk kefir.

Great Taste - even my husband, NOT a fan of smoothies with veggies in them, took a sip and said, "that's good!"

Easy:  no chopping, no dicing

No gluten/no sugar/no sodium

Ready in two minutes.

Cons:

You will need to add more than just water, juice or coconut milk work great.

More $$ than making from scratch but they were HALF the cost of the Daily Harvest smoothie or ones from a "smoothie bar" kind of eatery (you can add protein powder or spirulina and such if you wish).

They also have a strawberry banana and a green smoothie (with peaches, pineapple, broccoli, and kale).

I really liked the tropical  flavor I just tried - I didn't notice the taste of the sweet potato and carrots after mixing it thoroughly with the juice and kefir.  It also made enough for a glass and a half and it was filling. If I added a heaping tablespoon of Vega Protein powder, this could be a meal.

Thanks Schwan's!  I will be re-ordering!