Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gluten-Free Gingerbread Muffins (vegan, nut-free, xanthan-free)

Happy Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year here in the northern hemisphere. As we were heading out to the beach today with the kids, my 6 year old said to me, "mama, that's weird, I thought today was supposed to be the darkest day of the year, but it's the sunniest!" Yes indeed, today was a beautiful day to spend at the beach playing on the warm, sunny rocks and exploring the trails. Also a good day to come home and bake gingerbread muffins to warm us up along with mugs full of hot spice tea!

These muffins use pureed prunes and chia seeds to bind them together and hold moisture. They are made almost entirely of teff flour. I buy 25 pound paper bags of it from Azure Standard for around $40 with free shipping. That comes out to about $1.60 a pound, which is far less than what you pay for those little packages in the health food store, plus the packaging is biodegradable. I buy organic, unsulphured prunes in bulk from my local food co-op.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Morning Winter Fruit Bowls with Hemp Seeds and Cacao Nibs

My mother-in-law was visiting earlier this month and she likes to make fruit bowls every morning along with a green smoothie right after her her morning "blissipline" routine. She's almost 70 and is in much better shape than me! Our children love to watch her do the splits and headstands. When Tom was 10 years old she transitioned the family to a vegan diet with the help of their family doctor at the time, Dr. John McDougall. Tom remained a vegan for about 30 years until last year when he began to eat a small amount of wild fish and pastured meats. My mother-in-law is still predominately vegan with a heavy emphasis on raw plant foods. And you can tell by her glowing skin. You can't beat nature's most perfect food.....plants! These fruit bowls are so packed with disease-preventing, life-enhancing phytochemicals.....your body will thank you.

Every morning she had the kids make a list of what they wanted in their fruit bowls. The boys made large spirals because they can't write letters yet. The girls worked on their lists every day to have ready for her. Then she set each bowl out and filled their orders. Pomegranates, apples, pears, oranges, avocados, cashews, brazil nuts, and chopped fresh ginger (for my oldest ginger-loving daughter). Eating a large bowl of fruit and nuts in the morning is actually quite filling and very energizing.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sustainable Gift Giving Ideas

I know I predominantly share recipes here, but I have decided to begin sharing more than just recipes, because our health and the health of the planet is all connected in this intricate web we call life. When we purchase toys and products created from industrial plants and cheap labor in Asian countries we continue the demise of our environment and our children's, grandchildren's, and great-grandchildren's health. With the uprise in food allergies, it is clear that our immune systems are very confused and not functioning properly anymore. Environmental toxins, GMOs, and stress are the main culprits. We CAN support a cleaner, greener world every day by voting with our dollars. What we buy and consume affects everyone else on the globe. So, I thought I would share some wonderful, eco-friendly gift ideas this holiday season!

Girgenta Goat Picture

Worldly Gifts
Support a family in a developing country with the gift of a goat, ducklings, a cow, a pig, or honeybees through Heifer International. Your gift goes a long way in promoting health and self-reliance in communities. Last year Tom's brother gifted a goat in our name and we thought it was such a wonderful idea that this year we are letting our children pick an animal to gift in their names.

Donate money through World Vision. You can Sponsor a Child, Give an Animal, or Contribute to Clean Water for a community in a developing nation.

Donate to the Environmental Working Group. EWG is a nonprofit action group based on science and research that works to protect the most vulnerable segments of the human population, children, babies, and infants in the womb from health problems attributed to a wide array of toxic contaminants. "EWG's research brings to light unsettling facts that you have a right to know. It shames and shakes up polluters and their lobbyists. It rattles politicians and shapes policy. It persuades bureaucracies to rethink science and strengthen regulation. It provides practical information you can use to protect your family and community."

Donate to the Cornucopia Institute! "The Cornucopia Institute will engage in educational activities supporting the ecological principles and economic wisdom underlying sustainable and organic agriculture. Through research and investigations on agricultural issues, The Cornucopia Institute will provide needed information to consumers, family farmers, and the media."

Give Experiences
What will your child remember most when he or she grows up: a particular toy they received or time spent with you? I remember the trips and fun hiking adventures we did as a family much more than I remember any particular toy. Here are a few of my ideas, please feel free to share your ideas in the comments section. :)

A day sewing with mom. A day skiing in the mountains with dad. A special evening with just the older girls playing cards and having a tea party. Taking the kids to a movie (they have never been to a movie theater yet and our oldest is almost 10)! A little card for the kids saying we will go to Seattle for the day and visit the Zoo and go out to eat. An afternoon at the train museum (for our twin boys).

Unconventional Gift Ideas
Give a six month supply of eco-friendly, biodegradable laundry soap and dishwashing soap to your college student or family member. Most of what you find at your local supermarket is quite toxic to our bodies and local environments after it goes down the drain. These chemical detergents contain hormone disrupters that not only affect ourselves but the aquatic life around us. Plus, they smell disgusting. Products such as Biokleen and Seventh Generation are good choices.

Give a gift certificate to a local food co-op. We received a gift card to our local co-op a few years ago from Tom's family and it was very helpful to stretch the food budget!

Buy a share to a CSA for a friend or family member. Ask your local food co-op or Farmer's Market office to get the names and contact info of a few local organic farmer's who offer CSA's. If you are in the Northwest, this is a good site to look for a CSA.

Eco-Friendly Gifts
Beeswax Candles scented with pure essential oils. Many people do not realize that regular petroleum-based paraffin candles may be emitting solvents like toluene (that can negatively affect the nervous system), and benzene (which has been linked to cancer) when you burn them. As an extra bonus, those candles with wicks that stand up straight may have lead in them. Within an hour of burning these candles, you may end up with an unsafe level of airborne lead that may contribute to learning disabilities in children.

Wooden Toys made in the USA. I have been on a mission since I was pregnant with my first daughter, ten years ago, not to allow plastic toys in the house. We have succeeded for the most part except for last year when the plastic Legos made their appearance. Other than that our children have wood toys and cloth dolls stuffed with wool to play with. What happens to all of these plastic toys when they break? They end up in the landfill or our oceans causing pollution for many years to come, not to mention the pollution caused during the production of the plastic and toys themselves. Wooden toys can biodegrade once they are old and worn. Before you go online to shop, see if you can find a local wood worker who makes and sells solid wood toys. If you can't find anyone, then shop online at stores such as Nova Natural, A Child's Dream, Bella Luna Toys, or Rosie Hippo.

Non-Toxic natural art supplies such as Beeswax Block Crayons, Gluten-Free Aromatic Play Dough, Hemp Sketch Pads, Unlacquered Colored Pencils, Natural Glue, and Hemp Fabric for sewing projects.

Hand-Painted Silk Scarf from Siren Silks on

Shop on Your money goes directly to the person who made the toy, clothing item, house decor, or jewelry. I am amazed at all of the beautiful creative works of art you can find on this site. Everything from upcycled wool clothes to wooden blocks and hand painted silk scarves. This felt play food makes a great addition to your child's wooden play kitchen.

Fair Trade Stores are also a good place to shop for unique gift ideas. The communities and people who make these products are not exploited and the materials used often are sustainable or recycled.

Stainless steel lunch containers such as Lunch Bots, Kids Konserve, or a 10-ounce Stainless Steel Thermos for soups and other hot food.

If you have any other ideas you'd like to share, please leave a comment, thanks and Happy Holidays!

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Grain-Free Cupcakes with Vegan Coconut Frosting

These gorgeous chocolate-banana-honey grain-free cupcakes are from Elana Amsterdam's latest cookbook, Gluten-Free Cupcakes: 50 Irresistible Recipes Made with Almond and Coconut Flour. If you are looking for simple, healthy grain-free cupcake recipes, this is the book to turn to. All but one of the cupcake recipes contain eggs. It isn't easy creating grain-free recipes without using a lot of eggs. There are also a bunch of healthy frosting recipes to choose from, many of them being dairy-free.

My children love flipping through her book picking out the recipes they want me to make.....which is all of them I think! I love that all of Elana's recipes contain very few ingredients and can be made in a snap! Be sure to check out her blog too if you haven't already.

Although I can't share the recipe photographed above, I wanted to mention that I have substituted honey for the agave nectar called for in this recipe with great results. This particular recipe as well as many others are made with coconut flour. Great for those of you who are nut-free. I do have another recipe to share from the book that I think you'll like. And if you are interested in winning a signed copy of this book, please leave a comment below.

If you are interested in checking out another recipe in this book before purchasing it, you can read my friend Shirley's review from last April where she shares Elana's Marble Cupcakes.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Creamy Herbed Sunflower Seed Dressing or Dip (dairy-free, paleo)

I receive quite a few comments and requests about nut-free recipes. Indeed, we do eat a lot of nuts, but we enjoy seeds quite often as well. This creamy ranch-style dressing is perfect to top any type of green salad, be it a crispy romaine salad or a picnic potato salad. If you use less water the dressing is a creamy dip for carrot and celery sticks. I also love that this dressing is raw, made from soaked raw sunflower seeds. Before you go to bed at night just place the seeds in a bowl and cover with filtered water. If I am making this dressing for dinner then I would begin soaking the seeds around lunchtime.

I use lemon juice and garlic in this dressing, which for some breastfeeding moms might be problematic (if your baby is very young). Our baby just turned 3 months and can tolerate just about anything I eat now. Early on I could not eat lemon juice or raw garlic. So if you are making this recipe for a new mom or are breastfeeding yourself (or cannot tolerate citrus), I would replace the lemon with about 3 tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar or coconut vinegar and omit the garlic.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gluten-Free Gingerbread Cut-Out Cookie Recipe

Or shall I call them Gingerbread Hazelnut Cookies since they are made primarily with hazelnut flour? Our children have so much fun cutting out and decorating these lovely gluten-free Christmas cookies! Just look at that photo, what is not to love? I am sharing this recipe as part of a wonderful blogging event called Home for the Holidays....Gluten-Free Style hosted by Shirley from gluten-free easily! Twenty-four bloggers were asked to create and share recipes that meant both home and holidays to them. In addition to the recipes, we’ll also be hosting giveaways of the resources you value the most....cookbooks, resource books, apps, and the grand prize, a Vita-Mix!

You can view yesterday's post from Heidi at Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom. She shared her Gluten-Free Fritter recipe. Tomorrow Sunny from And Love it Too will be sharing a holiday recipe. So be sure to go check their sites as well.

For me, Home for the Holidays takes me back to baking gingerbread and sugar cookies with my mother. My brothers and I would decorate dozens of cookies with beautiful colored sprinkles and bright white icing. I wanted to share that experience with my own children, only with a healthier, gluten-free version, and thus this recipe was born (actually the recipe came to me in a flash one night). It uses coconut sugar as the main sweetener, along with a powdered coconut sugar icing. Although coconut sugar is definitely a low-glycemic sweetener, it is still sugar, and these cookies are to be considered a sweet treat.