Super Green Smoothie

Smoothies are a great way to sneak superfoods into your diet.  There are so many to choose from, all offering their own benefits and “super” qualities.  One of my favorites is spirulina, a blue green algae that adds a strong green color, and an awesome protein punch!

Spirulina is 55-70% protein by weight, making it the highest form of plant protein available.  It is a complete protein containing all the essential amino acids, so it is a great substitute for those staying away from animal sources of protein.  This super green superfood is rich in B vitamins and gammalinolenic acid (GLA), which helps to reduce inflammation in the body.  When you include spirulina into your diet, whether it be in your smoothie or otherwise, it provides you with all of this goodness PLUS it promotes immune health and works to protect your body from environmental stress.  Are you ready to dive in and give it a try??

You will need:

1 cup almond milk (or nut-milk of your choice)

a super green smoothie

1-2 handfuls of baby spinach

1 green apple, diced

1 ripe banana

1 cup frozen pineapple

2 teaspoons spirulina

½ cup water

Simply place all of these goodies into your favorite blender and watch the green magic appear as you blend, blend, blend.

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The Benefits of Coconut Oil

Since I began eating more naturally and healthfully it has led me to be more cautious in other areas of my life where I had been using products with harsh chemicals and additives, such as body products. I’ve learned that anything you put on your skin is absorbed and goes into your blood stream – so if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin!

When you step into most health food stores, you’ll notice that there are many natural body product options, in fact the choices are overwhelming! I’ve caught myself standing in those aisles for a ridiculously long time reading the ingredients in each product, and then getting too confused to make a decision.

So I decided the next time I went to the store to pick up some face wash or moisturizer I would do my research and know exactly what I was going to buy. It was time to replace my body moisturizer, so on to google I went. I remembered hearing about coconut oil and decided to research it a bit. To my delight I learned that coconut oil has many benefits and is a very versatile product. The best part- it has ONE ingredient, you guessed it coconut oil. If there’s one thing that’s clear, the less ingredients the better- weather it’s food or face wash! I picked up some Nutiva Organic Coconut Oil and I absolutely love it. It has a delicious smell and feels great on my skin.

Healthful Benefits:

Coconut Oil is made up of about 50% lauric acid. Lauric acid is shown to have anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial health-protecting properties. My cousin claims that it helped heal her of mono! That’s some power.

Be sure to purchase organic, unrefined, cold-pressed coconut oil.

Use it as a moisturizer: Take a little bit and massage over your entire body. Some people may not like the thickness of it, but dry skin eats it up.

Use it as a hair mask: It’s also great to use as a hair mask to restore dry or damaged hair. All you have to do it heat a little of it up, distribute through hair and let it sit, preferable overnight. Wash it out in the morning and relish in the shine!

Cook with it: Next time you’re stir frying veggies, use coconut oil instead of olive oil.

Healing with Raw Honey

Any one else suffering from dry, itchy legs this time of year??  I don’t know what it is!!  Maybe the constant changes in weather?  The detoxifying nature of spring?  I moisturize, I drink my water, but my legs don’t want to budge!  So, I did some research on some of my favorite blogs and websites, and I was reminded about a sweet and sticky trick that I had heard about long before…

RAW HONEY!

Yup, you heard me right.  That sweet and sticky mess that is oh so tasty AND extremely medicinal.  So yesterday and today, I smeared the good stuff all over my legs and let it sit and soak in for about 15 minutes… Not only was it kind of fun, like a mini art project, but I have also noticed a difference, even in 2 days!!

Think I’m crazy??  Well, maybe… (Insert visual of me walking around my kitchen with my pants rolled up, covered knee to ankle in honey).

Ok, so if this doesn’t sound like something you want to experience, then how about a hot, relaxing bath?  Fill up the tub, at about 2 tablespoons of raw honey, and soak it all in.  A nice, hot bath can be super relaxing; light some candles, put on some of your favorite slow tunes, and close your eyes.  All in the while, you are soaking up the wonderful nutrients and moisturizing benefits of raw honey.

Why honey, you may ask?

Well, honeys uses and benefits stretch way beyond your morning oatmeal.

Raw honey contains anti-viral, anti-bacterial, AND anti-fungal properties.  Starting to feel a cold coming on?  Mix some raw honey into a hot cup of water a few times per day and help fight off infection.  Fungus on your toe?   Use raw honey topically to destroy those micro-organisms.   Suffering from bad allergies this time of year?  Local honey can help sooth environmental allergies by exposing you to your local pollans.

Back to our skin…  Raw honey contains a ton of antioxidants, many of which help to renew and rejuvenate our skin.  It doesn’t only moisturize, but it actually helps to soothe irritated and blemished areas of our body.  DIY facemasks are a wonderful way to use raw honey (along with oatmeal and yogurt) to help heal and repair the complexion.

So try it out, and let me know what you think!

And remember, honey should always be purchased in its raw and unfiltered form, ensuring that all of its healing benefits are intact (see picture above).  Check out your local farmers market for a honey booth.

A Simple Balsamic Dressing

It’s true, everyone has their own likes and dislikes when it comes to salad dressing…  Some people prefer the creamy stuff, while others enjoy the lighter flavor of olive oil and sea salt.  Either way, a simple balsamic dressing is usually a real crowd pleaser, and making it yourself is a great way to cut back on so much of the sugar and chemical additives included in store-bought dressings.

My mom taught me this dressing a few years back, and it is one that I use time and time again.

Here is her recipe:

1/2 cup olive oil (cold pressed and unfiltered)

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 tablespoon raw honey

1/2 tablespoon dijon mustard

sea salt and grounded black pepper

Put all of the ingredients in a mason jar or in a tupperwear with a lid you can trust, and shake, shake, shake!

If you prefer a more creamy balsamic dressing, you can put all of the ingredients in a blender and blend for 20 seconds.  This will make the olive oil more fluffy, making the consistency more creamy.  The dressing can be stored in a container, and will stay good for a couple of weeks.

Before dumping this goodness onto your greens, taste it.  Does it need a little more salt?  Maybe a little more honey?  Use your tastebuds to customize the dressing just for you.

If you want to make things a little more snazzy, this is a great base for adding more flavors…  Add a little red pepper flake for some kick.  Or some dried herbs for a different flavor.  Like garlic?  Toss a clove in with the other ingredients before blending to add that wonderful garlic flavor along with all of its medicinal benefits.  Play around, and let us know what you find.

Kale, Sprouts and Spirulina Salad

I usually add spirulina to smoothies, but after reading a recipe recently, I was inspired to add it to my salad last night. Although it sounded a bit strange, I figured it was worth a try and I ended up REALLY liking it! Spirulina actually has more protein than soy, more iron than beef, is a great source of Vitamin A and is loaded with protective phytochemicals.

Serving Size: 1

bunch of lacinato kale
mixed sprouts (I used The Sproutman brand, yoga salad variety – most health food stores carry this or something similar)
1 carrot
raw sunflower seeds, 1 tablespoon
chopped raw walnuts, 1 tablespoon
sea salt, cayenne pepper, celery seeds, dulse flakes, nutritional yeast to taste (I used a sprinkle of each)
spirulina powder, just under a tablespoon
apple cider vinegar, to taste
juice of ½ a lemon
extra virgin olive oil, to taste

Image

Wash the kale leaves and tear them off of the stem. Rip the kale into small pieces using your hands (you can chop it with a knife if you’d like but I think using my hands is easier!).
Take a handful of mixed sprouts and toss it in with the kale. Add the walnuts.
Peel the carrot and once you’ve peeled the outside, continue peeling the carrot so that you end up with thin carrot ribbons. Add this to the salad. Once you get near the core of the carrot you won’t be able to peel anymore. I usually eat the rest of the carrot while I’m fixing the the salad. 🙂
Add the lemon juice. Add the apple cider vinegar and olive oil, to taste. Add the salt, cayenne, celery seeds, dulse flakes and nutritional yeast. Massage the kale with your hands to help soften it up. Your hands will definitely get a bit messy but using your hands really softens the kale and makes it easier to digest. Add the spirulina powder AFTER you’ve massaged the kale – it’s quite a deep green color and will be too messy. Mix the spirulina in with the rest of the salad.  Top it off with the sunflower seeds. Enjoy!

Fermenting is Fun.

Sauerkraut

Packing the cabbage; pre-smashing.

Have you ever considered making your own sauerkraut?  Well, I highly encourage it after trying it out for myself.  Its like creating a small science experiment in the comfort of your own home, but instead of the final product being a rupturing volcano or a moldy petri dish, you get a beautiful jar of fermented cabbage filled with flavor and probiotics.  Hmmm…. ok, so I’ll admit that it may not sound that appetizing, but fermentation is a wonderful way to bring a whole slew of health benefits into your life, most importantly, probiotics.

Probiotics are the healthy bacteria that live in your body.  Without them, we could not survive, so it is important that you learn to love this bacteria as well as replenish it daily.  Probiotics are extremely important for keeping our gut healthy, and for making sure that digestion is functioning at its optimal level (meaning that all of the nutrients and vitamins that you are ingesting are getting absorbed into your blood instead of passed along and out with the rest of the waste).  Our immune system is directly affected by the health of our gut and will function accordingly.  Think of it this way…  Our gastrointestinal system houses about 70% of our immune system, so this healthy bacteria (aka flora) that naturally exists in our intestinal tracts is extremely important in maintaining and repairing the immune system.

So, without getting too scientific, our intestinal flora needs to be loved and tended to, and what better way to do that then to make sure that you are including some healthy bacteria in your daily diet.  Sauerkraut is and easy and tasty way to get some of these necessary flora into our bodies.  So here is what you will need:

1 quart glass mason jar with a lid

2 teaspoons sea salt

A head of cabbage (or maybe just a half)

Cold water

A tool (similar to a muddle) to smash the cabbage into the jar

Shave the cabbage very fine (it takes about 2 lbs of cabbage to fill a mason jar). Begin to fill the mason jar with the finely shredded cabbage while continuously packing it down as tight as possible using your muddling tool.  When you have reached the half way line on the jar, add 1 teaspoon of salt.  Then, continue to fill the jar while smashing down the cabbage.  Keep doing this until the jar is filled to the shoulder, and then add your other teaspoon of sea salt.  After that, fill the jar with cold water so it is basically overflowing.

*note: don’t hold back on the packing and smashing… the more juices that are released during this process, the better the fermentation process is, so smash away (and get some angst out if need be).

Now, heres the fun part that teleported me back to science class…  Place the cover on very loosely and let the jar, cabbage and water stand on your counter for 9 days.  Yup, 9 whole days of watching the beauty of fermentation in your own home.  *Important:  add more cold water as needed, making sure that the jar is always filled to the top.

After 9 days, the sauerkraut is ready, so you can tighten the lid and place it in the fridge.  This jar of sauerkraut will last you months!  If that sounds scary to you, get this… the taste of the sauerkraut will actually improve as time goes on.  I am still working on a jar that I made back in February, and it is delightful as ever!  So don’t be scared to let that baby sit and soak for a while before enjoying all that it has to offer.

If plain sauerkraut sounds boring to you, feel free to spice it up with some garlic, onions, peppers (hot or sweet), or whatever other flavor you would like your sauerkraut to take on. 

If sauerkraut just isn’t for you, there are a number of other ways to keep your intestinal flora happy and healthy.  You can try other vegetables that have been fermented, tempeh, miso, and for the dairy consumers, organic yogurt and kefir (just watch for added sugars and other unwanted ingredients in these products).  Also, a probiotic supplement is a great idea for those not getting enough probiotics in their diet, and for people who experience upset stomachs, irritable bowel syndrome, or a weak immune system.  And it is esepecially important to take a probiotic supplement after using antibiotics!  These meds knock all of the bacteria out of your body, good and bad, so it is extremely important to get the good guys back in there.

So start loving and taking care of your bacteria!  Your body will thank you!

with love and healthy flora,

Amanda