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My Green Smoothie Habit

 

I have a confession to make. As crunchy and health-conscious as I’ve become, I have to say that I still don’t really enjoy eating salads. I understand the importance of nutrition-packed leafy greens, but I’ve yet to find a good, healthy salad that I really look forward to eating (if any of you have delicious salad recipes, please feel free to share them with me!). So if I had to rely on salads for my veg intake, I would hardly have any greens in my diet – and only a small variety of other vegetables.

Most of the time, I prefer my greens to taste like fruit. And I prefer to drink a cup of liquid that tastes good over chewing through a whole bowl of vegetables I don’t enjoy all that much.

That’s why I make green smoothies!

Greens are incredibly important for good health, and the great thing about smoothies is that I can pack a ton of nutrient-rich veggies – not to mention ones I probably wouldn’t otherwise eat – into a single drink and make it taste like fruit! I mean, what’s not to love about this? Get a ton of nutrition and feel like I’m having dessert? This is a no-brainer.

 

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Like I’ve shared before, this whole journey of mine toward better health started with some heart problems that were eventually traced back to a mineral deficiency. I had a good, clean diet already, so the problem was not bad things in my diet; it was simply a lack of enough good things.

So by making smoothies, I can pack a huge amount of nutrition into a single cup. Plus, they say the act of breaking down the food into a liquid before consuming it takes some of that load off the digestive system and makes the nutrients easier to absorb, which is key to getting enough nutrition.

 

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If you’re new to green smoothies, I’d recommend a simple recipe at first. This is the one I started out with:

 

GETTING STARTED GREEN SMOOTHIE RECIPE

2 handfulls fresh spinach (spinach is packed with nutrition and has a very mild flavor, so you’ll barely even taste it)
1-2 bananas, fresh or frozen
Milk (I use almond, coconut, or goat’s milk)
A bit of vanilla extract

 

I’d love to hear your comments, whether you’re getting starting with green smoothies, have never done this before, or have a favorite recipe to share!

 

Homemade Shampoo Q&A

 

Well, you all didn’t inundate me with questions about making your own shampoo last week, so I’m thinking that either you felt confident enough with what I gave you or you’re just way too scared to try this. I hope it’s not the latter. This really is great once you’ve gotten started, especially if it’s important to you to eliminate toxic chemicals from your life and home.

Either way, there are a few things I didn’t mention before that will probably be helpful for you, so I’m going to talk about this more today and address some of the more common questions. Here we go:

 

How often will I have to wash my hair?

My guess is you’ll probably want to start off washing as often as you do now. Then once your hair gets used to this, you’ll be able to start washing less often. I hear that eventually you can get to the point where all you have to do is simply rinse your hair with water every so often without using any kind of shampoo at all. I haven’t gotten there yet, but that’s what they say.

 

Will this work on my kind of hair?

For reference, my hair is somewhat thick, a bit wavy, and tended to be on the oilier side, and this works wonderfully for me. I did just read that some people with really fine or dry hair find this baking soda/apple cider vinegar method a bit drying for their hair, so I found an alternative recipe that uses honey. I’ll try it out and let you know the recipe. Otherwise, I would think this would work for most people.

 

Can I add more baking soda if my hair is really oily?

I wouldn’t recommend it. I know in the beginning, especially during your transition period, it’s tempting to think that the baking soda is what’s drying up all the oil on your head, so the more the better, right? Trust me, I know from experience that it doesn’t work that way. Actually, if you overdo it on the baking soda, your hair is likely to get more oily, so resist the temptation and just stick it out through your transition period.

 

How much of these solutions do I use each time I wash?

I make 2 quarts of shampoo at a time (that’s 8 cups), which lasts me about 4-5 washes, and I use only a very little of the apple cider vinegar rinse.

 

Do I use this just like normal shampoo and conditioner?

Pretty much. First, wet your hair. Then pour on the baking soda shampoo a little bit at a time, focusing mainly on your scalp, and massage around the scalp with your fingers. Rinse it out and pour a small amount of the ACV rinse over your scalp and either rinse out right away or let sit a few minutes. Then just rinse, and you’re done.

 

Good luck!

 

Make Your Own Shampoo

 

This is one of the things people ask me about all the time, and it’s probably my single most-requested blog topic, so here we go. Making your own shampoo and conditioner – yes, you can do that!

First of all, why on earth would a person want to do this? Well, for one thing, it means eliminating a lot of nasty, toxic chemicals from going onto – and therefore into –  the body, which was my main reason. Second, I’ve also found that it works really well. I’ve been doing this for over a year now, and my hair and scalp are healthier than they ever were before. Finally, as an added bonus, it’s practically free. You know how expensive hair products can be, so just imagine how much you can save by never buying another bottle of shampoo or conditioner. Here’s how I do it.

SHAMPOO

Boil 8 cups water on the stove.
Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup baking soda (it will fizz).
Let cool and store in a plastic container in the shower.

shampoo 2

CONDITIONER

3/4 cup water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Mix and store in the shower (actually I usually triple this recipe so I don’t have to make it as often)

I sometimes like to add  few drops of essential oils to one or both of these for added benefits.
Tea Tree Oil: Tea tree oil is antimicrobial and can be helpful in getting rid of dandruff
Lavender Oil: I like to use this for scent and for its all-around healing properties

 

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Now I need to say that this takes some commitment to get started, and you’re going to need some patience with this process. Here’s why. If you’re like most people, you use store-bought shampoo on your head several times a week. And that shampoo probably contains all manner of nasty chemicals that strip your scalp of its natural, healthy oils (which is what we’ve been told we need to do to get our hair clean). This is where the problem comes in. As with the face, the natural oils on the scalp are there to protect the scalp and hair, so when they are stripped off by chemical-y shampoos, the body responds, in an attempt to fix the damage and protect itself by, you guessed it, producing more oil. So the more you strip these oils away, the more the body will produce.

All that to say, if you regularly use shampoos that strip away your scalp’s natural oils, chances are that your body has become accustomed to producing quite a bit of oil in response. So when you switch to homemade shampoo and therefore do NOT strip away these oils, it will take a bit of time for your body to adjust and begin producing less oil (translation: your hair will probably be greasy for a while). This is completely normal and is to be expected. People usually say this transition period lasts about a month or so, but it will be different for everyone.

 

I know this might be a little scary, so if you have other questions you want answered before starting this, please send them to me or leave them in the comments section. If there are enough, I may do a Q&A post next to address things I didn’t cover in this post.

 

Beet Kvass

 

You might think I’m a little weird for this one. It’s going to sound pretty strange, but it’s a health powerhouse.

Here’s the deal: I’ve been reading a lot lately about the benefits of fermented foods (think pickles, sauerkraut, and yogurt). Fermented foods have been used by cultures throughout history, and there’s a lot being said right now about fermented foods because of their strong probiotic effects and their help in digestion and nutrition absorption. This beverage, of Russian and Eastern European origin, is also lauded as extremely medicinal because of the benefits of beets themselves, enhanced even more by the fermentation process.

Now, I’m not actually a fan of beets, so I’ll admit that when I finished my first batch of this, well, I had a hard time with it. I’m willing to drink interesting things in the name of health, though, and this would be MUCH cheaper than spending $30-50 on probiotics pills. I’ve made this several times now, and I should say that I’ve gotten used to it and actually really don’t think it’s all that bad now. My other batches have also turned out a lot better than the first one, so give yourself some time to get this right.

So… if you like beets or are adventurous and want to try your hand at fermentation, here’s the recipe:

 

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BEET KVASS

2 large beets
6 cups filtered water
1 1/2 Tbsp salt (I found that fine ground salt works best. I tried coarse celtic sea salt in a recent batch and it didn’t work)

(Optional: Because it’s so simple, beet kvass is probably the best thing to start out with if you want to begin doing your own fermenting, but if you’re nervous, a starter culture can be used for safety. See this recipe)

Wash your beets really well to remove all the dirt and other impurities from the skin

Chop into medium-sized pieces and put in a large glass jar, filling the jar about 1/3 of the way

Add salt and water, mix

Cover the jar with a breathable cloth, like a washcloth, and secure with a rubber band

Let sit at room temperature for a few days. If your room is warmer, this process will go more quickly. If the room is colder, fermentation will take longer. After about 4 days, the liquid should be deep red, taste a bit tart, and might be a little effervescent. If so, it’s ready.

When you think your kvass is ready, spoon off any foam and impurities from the top. Then strain the beets out of the liquid and store the finished beverage in the refrigerator.

I usually dilute it about 1:1 with water and drink it 1-2 times per day.

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Peach Mango Summer Smoothie

 

Making healthy smoothies is something I do on a regular basis to get more nutrients into my system. I’ve been doing it for about a year, because I was having trouble absorbing what I needed from the food I was eating. When food is blended, the fiber is broken down (taking some of the load off the digestive system), and so the nutrients become easier to digest and absorb. It also allows me to get the benefits of a lot of produce in a single cup without having to chew through it all.

Smoothies are also quick and easy meals / snacks, and they’re a great source of nutrition for summer when you don’t want to heat up your kitchen or eat anything hot.

 

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A few weeks ago I discovered organic yellow mangoes at the market, and I fell in love. This is one of my resulting creations – a light, refreshing smoothie for summer.

 

Peach Mango Summer Smoothie

2 peaches

2 yellow mangoes (they’re especially sweet if you let them get a bit over-ripe and the skin starts to wrinkle)

1/4 cup chia seeds

1/2 cup plain kefir

1 1/2 cup almond milk

 

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What it does for you 

Mangoes, according to my reading, are high in Vitamins A and C, as well as antioxidants that help protect against different kinds of cancer. They’re also high in potassium, an important electrolyte that helps control heart rate and blood pressure, among other things.

Peaches are high in beta-carotene like carrots, which means they help fight cancer and support healthy vision. They’re also high in potassium and vitamin A.

Kefir is a yogurt drink high in probiotics, which assists in digestion and nutrition absorption.

Chia seeds are very rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and all kinds of other good things.

 

Enjoy!

 

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What’s In My Kitchen

 

The idea of having an entire kitchen filled with whole, real foods is likely to seem a bit outrageous and unattainable for most people. It might mean a total kitchen overhaul, and many people might not have any idea what to replace unhealthy processed foods with. I certainly don’t claim to have a model pantry, but I had the idea to just share what’s in my cupboards and fridge at the moment in case it’s helpful for anyone.

By the way, please excuse the truly terrible point-and-shoot pictures in this post. It’s much too dark in my cupboards to make good photos. You still get the idea though.

The contents of my kitchen, of course, vary from week to week, but this is what’s in it right now.

 

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I call this my ‘Medicine Cabinet.’  What’s in it (from center, clockwise):

Teas from Mountain Rose Herbs

Grateful Heart Tea, Jasmine Green Tea, and Persephone’s (good for the liver) Tea

Red lentil sprouting seeds (and sprouting screen) from Mountain Rose Herbs

Chia seeds

Goji berries

Hemp seeds

Sunflower seeds

Dried herbs for homemade herbal teas from Mountain Rose Herbs

Burdock Root  –  an “alterative” herb that helps gradually restore proper function to the body and supports the liver, kidneys, and skin
Dandelion Root  –  helps eliminate toxins from the body by stimulating kidney function and supporting the liver
Chaste Tree Berries  –  helps the body normalize hormonal imbalances
Hawthorn Berries, Leaf, and Flower  –  one of the best tonics for the heart and circulatory system
Motherwort  –  another cardiac tonic, especially for over-rapid heartbeat or palpitations
Cleavers  –  tonic for the lymphatic system, helping to drain the lymphs and detoxify the body
Rosehips  –  said to be one of the most concentrated sources of vitamin C available and highly antioxidant

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Rice pasta

Gluten free pancake mix

Cornmeal from Hayden Flour Mills

Buckwheat

For hot cereal

Blackstrap molasses

Whereas white sugar and other artificial sweeteners have no nutritional value and instead cause harm to the body, molasses is actually healthy and full of vital minerals including iron, copper, potassium, magnesium,  manganese, and calcium.

Extra virgin organic olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Water-processed decaf coffee

Some decaffeination methods use potentially dangerous chemical solvents to extract caffeine, but the swiss water method uses only pure water, without chemicals.

Organic long-grain brown rice

Quinoa flakes

Great for hot cereal

Jars of nuts and legumes

Light grey celtic sea salt

A natural, totally unprocessed sea salt very rich in minerals

Grade B maple syrup from local farmers market

When maple syrup is real, whole, and not highly processed, it’s a healthful sweetener, rich in manganese and zinc.

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A whole crisper drawer FILLED with beautiful organic produce

Strawberries, apples, carrots, fresh basil, peaches, kale, and red leaf lettuce

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Evening primrose oil

I use this on my face at night after cleansing with other oils, but it can also be consumed as a dietary supplement as a source of essential fatty acids.

Homemade beet kvass

A very medicinal fermented probiotic drink. More on this in an upcoming post.

Homemade chicken broth

See this post on the benefits of homemade broth and how to make it.

Sauerkraut from local farmer’s market

Yellow mangoes

Kefir

Basically a liquid yogurt, high in probiotics, helping digestion and nutrition absorption. I use it in smoothies.

Carrot juice

Green juice

Spirulina powder 

A type of blue-green algae high in potent antioxidants, protein, minerals, and vitamins. Also used in smoothies.

Organic peanut butter

Organic free-range eggs

 

I hope that was helpful, or at least interesting, for someone out there! Come back next week for a quick and easy summer smoothie recipe!

 

Kale and Eggs

 

The kale craze is in full swing. A lot of people (myself included) have a hard time knowing just what exactly to do with kale, though. I came across this recipe not too long ago and fell in love with it, so today I’m sharing it with you. I was told by my doctor that it’s better to eat protein for breakfast instead of grains for blood sugar stabilization throughout the day, so eggs are my breakfast of choice, and I eat this ALL the time. Here’s what you do:

 

INGREDIENTS

~1/2  Tbsp butter
3-4 stalks kale
salt to taste
2 eggs

 

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1. Melt butter in a pan over medium-high heat
2. Rip kale into bite-sized pieces, put in pan, and stir with tongs so kale is coated
3. Continue turning with tongs while kale continues to cook, about a minute, until just wilted
4. Add salt (I use Celtic Sea Salt for high mineral content)

 

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5. Meanwhile, cook eggs in another pan (it’s especially good if the yolks are runny)
6. Serve together and enjoy!

 

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Homemade Facewash: Oil Cleansing Method

 

Now, this one is going to sound especially crazy, and you might be tempted to brush it off right away. But stick with me. I’ve been doing this for almost a year now. It’s one of my favorite homemade products, and it works beautifully.

Why avoid conventional facewash?

First of all, it’s loaded with chemicals that you don’t want to put on your skin (Just take a look at the ingredients list. Chances are you won’t know what most, if any, of them are). Remember, whatever goes on the skin is absorbed into the body, so a good rule of thumb is this: If it’s not safe enough to eat, it’s probably not safe enough to put on your skin.

Most facial cleansers also strip the skin of its natural oils (which is what we’re so-often told we need to do in order to have healthy skin). But stripping the skin of its oils is not actually what we should be doing.

The natural oil in the skin is there to protect it and keep it healthy, and when the oil is stripped away, the skin responds, in an attempt to heal and protect itself, by producing more oil. So by using harsh, chemical-filled facewash that repeatedly strips the face of its oil, we get into this nasty, counter-effective cycle that takes a toll on our poor skin. So the way to go is to instead help the skin’s oils balance out naturally. That’s where the ‘oil cleansing method’ comes in.

 

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How does it work?

First off, it needs to be said that using oil on your face will NOT make your skin more oily or cause acne. It will actually gently dissolve the dirt and excess oil from the skin naturally and bring the skin’s oils into a healthy balance. The natural oil in your skin isn’t something to be gotten rid of – it’s there for your skin’s benefit – so work with it.

Castor oil – Castor oil is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, and it acts as a powerful cleanser by sucking impurities from the body. Because it’s so good at this, it’s not recommended to use it on its own. So…

Olive oil – Castor oil is mixed with olive oil because olive oil is extremely moisturizing. So while the castor oil removes impurities from the skin, the olive oil puts moisture back in.

BONUS: Oil is a fantastic makeup remover, so if you use this, you can toss another product from your medicine cabinet too!
 

How to use it

1) Mix your oil

This method works on all skin types, and you can tailor it to suit your own skin. All you do is mix castor oil and extra virgin olive oil. How much of each is determined by your skin type.

For normal skin, you can start with 50% castor oil and 50% olive oil
For drier skin, use less castor oil and more olive oil
For oilier skin, use more castor oil and less olive oil

Store in a container with a lid at room temperature. You don’t have to make that much of it either. I mix mine in a 4oz container, and it lasts for months.

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2) Rub it in

Pour about a quarter-sized amount into your hand and gently rub into dry skin (don’t put water on your face or anything beforehand).

3) Steam

Wet a washcloth with hot water and let it sit on your face for one minute.

4) Wipe it off

Using the washcloth, gently wipe off the oil (don’t rinse your face with water).

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Frequency: I do this once a day (at night before I go to bed) and don’t use anything else to clean my skin. In the morning, I either just splash some water on my face (although that tends to be pretty drying) or don’t do anything at all.

Adjustment period: I’ve heard of some people going through an adjustment period when first doing this, so if your skin gets a little worse instead of better right after you start this, it’s probably a detox response – which is a good thing – and a sign that there’s a bunch of toxic junk in your system – so try to give it some time. I never noticed anything like this, though, so I say jump right in!

If you try this, let me know how it goes for you! I’d love to hear what you think!

 

Get More Minerals: Chicken Broth

 

We all know that chicken soup is supposed to be good for us when we’re sick, and there’s good reason for that. It’s not just folklore. Most all store-bought broth contains neurotoxic MSG and other nasty ingredients, but REAL bone broth is a bit of a wonder food, whether you’re sick or not.

It’s loaded with minerals (like calcium, magnesium, and others) in a form that’s easily absorbed by the body, and it’s apparently fantastic for digestion, arthritis, and pretty much all kinds of ailments.

The habit of making broth has been largely lost these days, but it’s SO EASY you won’t believe it. You can make it using a whole raw chicken, or you can cook the chicken first and then use the leftover bones to make broth (which is what I do). Here’s the process:

 

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COOK THE CHICKEN

  1. Using a whole 4-lb pasture-raised organic chicken, rinse off the whole chicken and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Coat with melted butter and sprinkle with sea salt.
  3. Place chicken in baking dish, cover, and cook at 275 degrees for about three hours.
  4. Increase heat to 375, uncover, and continue cooking for another 30-45 minutes.

    Note: you can also make broth from drumstick bones instead of a whole chicken. Just cook the drumsticks, eat the meat, and use the leftover bones.

This is the BEST chicken I’ve ever eaten in my life, by the way, and it’s ridiculously easy to make. Don’t be scared to do this. Now for the bone broth:

 

CHICKEN BONE BROTH

5. Remove all meat from the bones and save to eat alone or use in other dishes.

6. Put all the bones in a crockpot, add a couple Tbsp apple cider vinegar, vegetables if you like (onions, celery, carrots), and cover the bones  and vegetables completely with cold filtered water.

7. Let sit for about an hour without turning on the crockpot yet. This lets the vinegar start extracting minerals from the bones.

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8. Turn crockpot on Low and let simmer for about 24 hours.

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9. That’s it! Using a ladle, spoon out the liquid and store in the fridge. It keeps for about a week, or you can freeze it if you want to use it later.

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You can use the broth for soups or other recipes. Or, like I said, I’m somewhat of a no-frills kind of girl and  just drink it straight from a mug with a little celtic sea salt, so you can do that too. My friends think I’m insane for this, but when you eat soup, aren’t you basically drinking broth with a spoon? I just make it easier for myself and put it in a mug 🙂

 

Here’s a bonus fun fact: because so many minerals have been extracted from the bones and are now in the liquid, the finished bones are so soft that they literally crumble in your hand!

 

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For more on making broth and its benefits:

Stocks and Soups video by Sarah Pope

Nourishing Traditions cookbook by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig

Stocks article by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig

 

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