I have finally figured out the perfect tree-nut free granola bar that can be made plain or with the addition of dried fruit and nuts!  It has taken a number of failed batches of bars that were a bit too bitter, way too crumbly or just not appealing to my boys before I arrived at a combination of ingredients that tasted great, held together well and were embraced by my kids.  Yes, slam-dunk!  

One of my all-time favorite cookbooks is The Family Cooks by Laurie David and Kirstin Uhrenholdt.  Not only do I love their recipes, but they share so much relevant information on the importance of time spent around the dinner table and how to make family meals doable.  I constantly refer to their books for reference and inspiration.  Their granola bar recipe uses egg whites….something I had not run across in any other recipe.  Maybe that is why my bars never stayed in a bar shape, but always ended up as granola if touched!  And, another ingredient their recipe called for which none others had is brown rice flour. Aha!  So with a few tweaks, I ended up with these perfect little bars.  I made my own chocolate sauce with cacao-so unbelievable amazing and simple-and drizzled that over these guys.  I knew a little chocolate is what would make my boys get excited over trying something new.  Knowing what my little guys like and dislike, I began my experiment…..I only used one kind of seed, coconut oil instead of vegetable oil, sprouted brown rice flour (I always choose sprouted if possible) and crispy brown rice cereal.  In the oven it all went and out it came with the most wonderful smell.  The boys couldn’t help but to come see what I was up to in the kitchen!  Love it!!  

To make these for family and friends who like dried fruit and varying textures, just add in any nuts, seeds or dried fruit they love.  I just check the total amounts of what is called for with the nuts and add in whatever I like, making sure to keep the total amount the same.  Here are version’s with pumpkin seeds, dried wild blueberries, goji berries and chocolate chips.  These are a bigger hit with adults I think because pumpkin seeds can be a touch bitter, and most kiddo’s are not fond of bitter.

Shown are three different versions, all basically the same, just changing the seeds and fruit.  Posting the recipe to the recipes page right now!  A yummy little treat to satisfy a sweet tooth and nourish the body all at the same time!  xxo!

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Mmmmm.  Matcha.  It seems almost too good to be true, the dizzying amount of health supporting elements available to our bodies in just one steaming cup.  I have been wanting to learn about matcha the last couple of months, because it seems everywhere I turn there is some little mention of it.  So, last week my sister and I ran across a matcha tea set our aunt had from when she lived in Japan.  I could not believe my eyes…..I had been wanting to learn about matcha and also see if I could find an authentic bamboo whisk from Japan.  And, here one was, in my hands…….just like that.  With this discovery of something that had been on my mind, I knew it was time to get to know this astounding antioxidant powerhouse.  Matcha is a special type of green tea leaf that has been mostly shade grown and then stone ground into a very fine powder.  What seperates these tea leaves from all others is their off the charts levels of antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins and minerals.  Definitely a health tonic!  Matcha’s antioxidant levels are far above pomegrantes, blueberries and spinach.  It also has the highest levels of any tea on the market of EGcg which is specific type of antioxidant known for it’s potent cancer fighting properties.   Because matcha contains an amino acid that increases production of serotonin and dopamine while increasing alpha waves in the brain, it gives us an alertness that isn’t jittery.  So, unlike other caffeine containing drinks, matcha will not stress your body by increasing your heart rate or blood pressure.  That’s not all……it also helps to boost metabolism, burn fat, strengthen immunity and lower cholesterol and blood sugar.  It is truly one of the Earth’s treasures that is a gift to our body.  xxo!

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Ahhhh, water.   Definitely one of the most important components in being healthy and fit.  I see so many people carrying around water bottles everywhere they go, but I hear even more people say they most always have water with them, but never drink it.  When I hear this,  I immediately wonder what their water source is.  I find when water doesn’t taste good to me, I am one of those people who carry water around with them all day long and never take a sip.  It is so important to find a type of water that tastes wonderful to you, because it will be life changing, I promise!  My favorite is the deionized and reverse osmosis water that you fill your own containers with from Whole Foods Market.  And, what is so funny is when my neices and nephew are at my house they always comment on how good the water tastes!  The taste of water is a very noticable and positively reinforcing property, so if you find yourself having a hard time getting motivated to drink water throughout the day try a few different kinds of water and I am sure you will find one that makes you wonder how you did without it.

Besides keeping us balanced and happy, water delivers nutrients to our organs, keeps our cells functioning smoothly, helps to eliminate toxins, keeps our metabolism operating at peak performance and helps to maintain nice and even hormone levels.  When our body starts becoming close to dehydration, common signals that can be mistaken for other issues and are often ignored are headaches, fatigue, hunger, and lack of concentration just to name a few.  Instead of reaching for water, many of us will take medication for one of these symptoms and wash it down with a sugary or diet soda which will only worsen those not so fun symptoms of dehydration.  Learning to listen to your body and begin to make the connections between the signals it sends and why, then responding with what it truly needs will be incredibly gratifying and give you a feeling of control over how you feel.  Being able to hear what your body needs and taking care of yourself lovingly is a huge step toward great health and happiness.  It will feed your soul.  xxo!

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The last two months of 2014, as I was happily immersed in holiday cooking, I kept wondering everytime I would pull fresh herbs from our little container garden what their gifts were.   Everything from the earth has a gift and it is well known what all of the gifts are from many of our leafy green friends, but what about the herbs?  I really don’t run across information on the power of these little cooking companions, so I set out to change that, and here’s what I found…

Thyme has very powerful antimicrobial properties, which are known to be beneficial in treating asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory problems.  It can even clear congestion and soothe sore throats.  It’s can also prevent contamination and decontaminate previously contaminated foods.  It is that powerful!  A very good reason to include it in your homemade vinaigrette’s and salads, because lettuce and other leafy greens can harbor infectious microorganisms and if not washed properly can make us sick.  Even more reason to make your own salad dressings.  Thyme essential oil is an amazing way to ensure your greens are free of these microorganisms by dropping a few drops into a big bowl of water for a wonderfully effective greens bath.  Besides these protective properties, thyme is an excellent source of vitamin C, a good source of iron, maganese, copper and dietary fiber!
Rosemary is a powerhouse when it comes to benefits outside of it’s culinary uses.  It has many brain boosting and brain protective properties, including: enhancing memory and concentration, fighting off free radical damage in the brain, and significantly helping to prevent brain aging.  Nice!  Rosemary is also a rich source of antioxidants and anti-flammatory compounds which have been shown to slow the growth of human leukemia and breast cancer cells and may be an effective anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor agent.   (Oncology Reports and Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry).  It also helps to prevent hardening of the arteries and macular degeneration!
The rosmarinic acid and menthol in mint have been shown to be effective in relieving seasonal allergies and congestion.  It has also been used for thousands of years to aid with indigestion and IBS.  It is definitely one of my favorite herbs and I love to add it to water and especially my green drinks!    
What surprised me the most in researching these herbs is, Oregano has forty-two times the antioxidants of apples.  What?!  Yes!  And, that is due to the rosmarinic acid which is also found in mint.  So, this is a huge immune system strengthener with antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.  
Now I am adding herbs and their essential oils in most of my cooking and even the water I drink.  I can’t believe I was missing out on many easy opportunities to give my health a boost.  And, my little boys have been very intrigued to learn these little plants they have helped tend to through the summer and fall are medicinal little miracles, which, in turn, has made them eager to suggest using them in cooking!  Love that they are becoming more aware of nature’s gifts!

 

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These chilly fall mornings have inspired me to look beyond the basic bowl of steel cut oats for a warming and energizing breakfast and in doing so, I had so much fun experimenting.  I love combining different grains and seeds when I make granola or other snacks for my boys, so I applied that same thought process to this.  As I scoured my favorite food blogs and cookbooks, I discovered something I had not thought of before…..grinding seeds and grains to make a flour.  The idea intrigued me and I had to try it immediately.  In order to ensure success, I went with a tried and true recipe from a cookbook I love, The Nourished Kitchen.  What I found was, making a flour from seeds changes everything about that seed except it’s nutrient profile.  For example, my children don’t love the funny little design quinoa makes when it is cooked.  Grinding quinoa into a flour gives me even greater ways to use this nutrient-dense little seed and helps me get around my kids not loving the way it looks.  
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Birthday……..anniversary………all rolled into one amazing week.  This is definitely the time of year where I try my hardest to not worry about what I know regarding sugar, artificial colors and the not so healthy fats and allow myself the fun found in my most favorite cake ever, wedding cake from Swiss Confectionery here in New Orleans.  Besides being the best cake ever, I make it even more fun by having it decorated in ballet pink all over and accented with Barbie pink!  Love!  It is a week filled with decadent dinners and scrumptious desserts.  We all need to allow ourselves these yummy times and hopefully be in touch enough with our bodies to notice, “Hey, this was really fun, having these foods I don’t typically eat.  But, you know what……..I like the way I feel eating clean and healthy.   Having this awareness of being in tune enough with your body to feel the difference in how the indulgent foods make you feel compared with how clean, whole foods make you feel is key in motivating you to stick with those healthier habits.  
Pink cake and pink decorations,  I’ve enjoyed every second to it’s fullest, but I couldn’t wait to wake up to an energizing green smoothie this morning!  Remember, self-love comes in many different forms from giving your body the most nourishing foods every day to celebrating your special days in whatever way that makes you smile. xxo

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Familiar with the 3:00 p.m. slump?  I was.  No matter how energetic I would feel during the day, carpool would do it to me, until I tried this…….a green smoothie created specifically to energize.  I became so tired of being tired just when I needed to be awake and ready to roll from 3:00 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.  And, once my boys and I would arrive home, I felt like I needed an after school snack right along with them.  

Often, when we feel tired we look for food to give us energy.  So, that is where I would find myself school day after school day.  Not a good place to be.  One day it occurred to me, if a green smoothie perks me up in the morning, why not have one to sip on while I wait in carpool line?  Then, maybe I will feel energized and satisfied instead of feeling tired and craving snack food.  And, you know what?  It worked beautifully.  How could it not?  When you drink a vegetable heavy smoothie, there are hundreds of phytonutrients, antioxidants, micronutrients and of course macronutrients being absorbed by your body quickly since all of the ingredients are broken down into a very easily assimilated form.    What I love is…. you feel this, you really do.  It is a natural brightening of your mood and spirit, a fresh store of energy being released.  It is never too much.  It’s perfectly balanced.  

Here’s some of the good stuff tucked into this powerful green drink…….Cayenne.  Cayenne has been proven to increase the basal metabolic rate and stimulate the burning of fat for energy and it also reduces the liklihood of developing atherosclerosis,  helps to heal peptic ulcers and is beneficial in fighting off the common cold or sinus infection.  Tumeric.  The curcumin in tumeric exerts very powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and has numerous protective benefits against many types of cancer, from helping the body destroy mutated cancer cells to inhibiting the formation of cancer causing nitrosamines….and so many more.  And, if that isn’t enough,  tumeric aids in the prevention of heart disease and degenerative neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.  Wow.  Food really is medicine.  Chia.  Chia is a natural energizer, in that it is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, B vitamins, protein, calcium and fiber.  What is so unique about chia seeds is that their soluble fiber content is hydrophilic, which means they can absorb 10-12 times their own weight in water.  This helps to protect against dehydration, as well as, electrolyte loss.  Being hydrated is key to keeping your energy up, because even slight dehydration will have a significant negative effect on your energy.   Very important since we need a different kind of energy when the little ones hop in the car after school, and we need that energy to last until they are all tucked in at night.  

This energizing green smoothie is beneficial in so many ways other than what the nutrients provide.  More specifically, when we are tired we are usually cranky.  When we are alert and energetic, we are happy.  Little children pick up on that the second they see you, so let them see a happy, glowing, beautiful face full of adoration for them when they see you after their demanding school day by showing yourself a little love first!  Check out the recipe for my energizing smoothie in the recipes section, but don’t be discouraged by the list of ingredients….I have the prep down to two minutes, seriously!  And, that is without anything being washed or peeled.  Even if it takes five minutes, it is so worth how you will feel after!  xxo!

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Talk about a top notch after school snack…….this one scores A++!  Not sure if my youngest was strategizing for a new lego set or what he might have up his sleeve, but when I asked him what he wanted as his after school treat, he replied…..something healthy.  Excuse me?  Did I hear that correctly….from my sugar loving little boy?  No questions asked, I set about making a quick assessment of what I could get my hands on before he changed his mind.  Hmmmm.  A perfectly ripe avocado….and toasted Ezekiel sprouted bread.  That’s it!  In less than five minutes, this is what I served him, sprinkled with a bit of Himalayan pink salt…don’t forget the salt here!  It is the secret to waking up your taste buds and making them go…wow!  He happily snacked away, as I stole little glances his way to see if I was being tricked or if this was really real.  It was real!  He finished every last piece.   If you haven’t tried Ezekiel sprouted breads, it’s a must!  Here’s why……their breads contain all nine essential amino acids, which makes a complete protein and the sprouting process makes the enzymes and nutrients more available to be utilized by the body than unsprouted breads.   Be sure and toast it to bring out all of the wonderful flavors of the different grains and seeds.  xxo!

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Confused by what oil to use and when?  Most of us are!   It seems more and more people everywhere are talking about oils used in cooking, which ones are the safest, which ones are the worst for our health and which ones to use and when.  It can be overwhelming trying to make sense of all of the different choices out there, but I am going to clear up any confusion you may have so you can begin to utilize these fantastic fats with confidence!  Extra virgin olive oil is still probably the most used oil in our kitchens.  Most of us use it without even thinking that much about it.  We grab it for salad dressings, saute’s and even grilling, movitated by the fact that it is a healthy oil.  Olive oil definitely has it’s place, but not for all types of cooking.  It is delicate and because it is delicate, it isn’t very stable as the cooking temperatures increase.    More and more people are learning about coconut oil, know that it has some healthful benefits and have heard that it is more stable than olive oil when heated.  Which is true, but it also has it’s place in the kitchen……away from the high temperatures.  Surprising, I know!  You are about to get familiar with the only guys you want in your corner when the temps get above 350 degrees……….Ghee and Red Palm Fruit Oil.  These two are a little more of a mystery when it comes to familiarity and use by the general public. Well, not for long…..they have been around for thousands of years and are making a comeback….and, for good reason.  

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The little children went back to school today after a nice long relaxing Spring Break week and guess what?!  There are two all-day field trips this week.   Yes, two…..all-day!  Ok, so besides having to be super efficient on the non-field trip days, I need to make sure I pack a super energizing lunch for myself so I can keep up with the chaperoning duties.  Out of all of the field trip lunches I have packed, this salad makes me feel much better than when I have thrown together a quick sandwich with a bag of chips.  So here’s what’s in this amazing salad and how to do it…..it is a combination of shredded swiss chard, brussels sprouts and kale-just roll up the leaves of the swiss chard and kale and slice super thin….same with the Brussels sprouts, but slice off the stem for a flat surface to steady the sprout.   Since kale can be a bit bracing when you bite into a big piece, having super thin shreds gives you just enough flavor without being bitter and overpowering.  While you are doing the work with the greens, toss some slivered almonds onto a baking tray and let those toast for about ten minutes in a 250 degree oven.  Now you just need some crumbled goat cheese and something sweet like dried or seasonal fresh fruit.  Pomegrante seeds are wonderful in the colder months and blueberries or Minneola tangelos are an unexpected surprise with dark leafy greens in the spring.   You’ll hit all of the receptors that make a meal satisfying, you’ll be treating your body to an abundance of nutrients and you will find yourself energized after lunch instead of falling asleep on the school bus on the way back home.  Don’t forget to pack a tiny container of homemade salad dressing…..try one of mine in the recipes section.  So yum!  xxo!

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