The Half-Crunchy Mama

Trying to live a natural life with balance


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Lemon Chia Balls

Lemon Chia Balls | The Half-Crunchy MamaI have already shared one of the recipes that I regularly make from from this book, the Cinnamon and Spice Sweet Potato Chips, but this one is even more popular. I rambled on a bit in that post about the health benefits for chia seeds and why they have become such a thing these days. I don’t like to repeat myself, so please go check that post out for some great information about this great little superfood.

As with all the recipes that I use from other people, there are a few tweaks here and there. The author calls for raw nuts, but that’s just not usually in my budget. I will tell you that regular ones from Trader Joe’s, Costco, or wherever will work fine. Ideally, you want the raw, so if that’s in your budget, go for it!

A great deal that I have been able to get at Costco is on pitted dates. A ginormous three-pound container ended up being about half the cost after doing the math, depending on where you shop. If you see this at your local Costco, pick it up! They were gone last time I went, but I was able to get a huge bag of Kirkland pitted dates for a steal, too. If you are cooking and baking with dates a lot, this is the way to go. Not all dates are equal, and I have only bought and used these or Medjool, so I would steer away from regular “pitted dates” from the store.Lemon Chia Balls | The Half-Crunchy Mama

Why dates? Dates add the sweetness to baked (or no-bake goods in this case) without added sugar. The simple sugars from fruits are less likely to exacerbate your inflammation, acne, etc, and as dates are also high in fiber, they are digested slower than typical sugars to make it easier on your blood sugar. Medjool and other quality dates are also a good source of copper, potassium, magnesium, and manganese that many people are not getting in their diet anymore. Add the benefits of the dates with the protein and healthy fats from the nuts and chia seeds, and this is a satisfying snack for when you want something sweet.

This recipe is so quick, the only annoying part is making the balls. They are so sticky {get your mind out of the gutter} that it makes it a real pain, but they are SO worth it in the end. I promise. Just put everything into a heavy-duty food processor (I specify that because I’m fairly certain that this is what broke my smaller one 😦 ) and once it looks like this, it’s time to make the balls.

Lemon Chia Balls | The Half-Crunchy Mama

Take a heaping tablespoon of the mixture to make each ball. It’s more like smooshing together instead of rolling into balls, and I usually have to rinse my hands a few times during this stage to unstick my hands. As you make each one, roll them in finely shredded coconut to coat them entirely. Don’t use regular shredded coconut as it doesn’t stick well to the balls. I know this from experience. They were still delicious, but they are so much better with a finer shred of dried coconut.
Lemon Chia Balls | The Half-Crunchy Mama

And just look how pretty they are! Everyone loves them, even Sugar Bee, and no one can have just one! They are also trainer approved as I brought two to the gym one day. Try this and see for yourself!

Lemon Chia Balls | The Half-Crunchy Mama


Lemon Chia Balls

Combining the benefits of fiber- and mineral-rich dates with protein and healthy fats from the nuts and chia seeds, you will get a satisfying snack that is perfect for when you want something sweet. This one is loved by everyone and yields about 20 balls.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1.5 cups pitted dates
  • 1 cup almonds (raw, if possible)
  • 1/2 cup cashews (raw, if possible)
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1-3 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice (I have found more is better, especially if the nuts are not raw)
  • 1-2 tsp lemon zest
  • 3+ Tbsp of finely shredded dried coconut

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine all ingredients except for coconut in a food processor. Pulse into a coarse and slightly sticky mixture. If too dry, add a bit more lemon juice and process again. If too watery, add a few more nuts and process. (It should stick together when you press it between your fingers.)
  2. Roll about a tablespoon at a time into a ball.
  3. Coat it in coconut.
  4. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!
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What’s the best thing you can do for your liver?

EAT LIVER, of course! If you are like me and have a sluggish liver that ends up causing all sorts of issues from hormonal imbalances to very stubborn belly fat, it might be time for you to give this organ meat a try. The initial response from most people is, “YUCK,” but I have realized that such a response is usually because they have never actually tried it.2014-12-21 18.52.52

I am fully aware that I am way more adventurous than a lot of people when it comes to trying new foods. In fact, I pretty much live for it. Traveling to new places means I get to experience new foods and dishes that I have never been exposed to. Kind of like my obsession with drinking at least one local beer for any city/state that I’m visiting, even though I can hardly tolerate the wheat in beer anymore {sigh}. If you want me to try something that I might not “want” to eat if i know what it is first, just don’t tell me. I prefer to try it first and then decide how I feel about it. Sweetbreads are one of my favorite things to order at a classy restaurant…also an organ that acts up on me occasionally. I’m so glad that my father encouraged me to order it for the first time a few years ago and that he didn’t tell me what it was until after my second bite when I proclaimed how delicious it was. Once I knew that I loved them, it didn’t matter at all.

Diets today are a hot mess, especially in this country. We lack so many things in our fast-food, over-processed, carbohydrate-laden lives. Similar to my opinion about the instant gratification we obsess over with medications, it seems like we are always looking for a quick meal. Quick can equal healthy, but most often it results in a meal that serves our bodies up very little actual nutrition. Everyone would benefit from more greens in their life, and I don’t mean lettuce. Real leafy greens, like kale, chard, and spinach. Many people are mineral deficient and have no idea, resulting in a myriad of stresses in their body that manifest in ways that conventional medicine often lets go undiagnosed. We are also vitamin deficient, and not in a way that taking some store-bought, garbage vitamin is going to fix (although there are now some of great products in places like The Vitamin Shoppe). Not only do we need to supplement our bodies with whole food supplements, we need to eat FOOD.

Before the Western diet turned into what it is today, people never wasted any part of the animal. Organs, bones and marrow, and of course every single piece of meat itself were used to stretch the budget. The Depression-era folks still used everything despite the shift in how Americans ate. Gram would make chicken livers (I admit at first I thought, “How gross!”…until I tried them) and her soups were made with broth from bones. These days everyone talks about bone broth and its healing properties and health benefits. This seems “new” to us, but I’m sure previous generations would laugh at this. There were no cans and boxes of broth back then, everyone made broth. And there were not all these GI problems, allergies, psychological disorders, etc., that we are now seeing connected to gut health. Bone broth repairs the gut. This is just one small reason why I can’t help but believe that it is our dietary changes that have caused so much dis-ease to surface and run rampantly throughout our population. Perhaps it’s not that these diseases never existed, but maybe that we have brought them all to the surface with our poor diet and lifestyle. They existed, but were rare. Now they are the norm.

Throughout my journey, my liver issues would rise to the top, and my liver still appears with regularity when having a nutrition check at my naturopath’s office. It’s a powerhouse organ that regulates so much of our bodies, playing a major role in metabolism and having a number of functions in the body, including glycogen storage, storing vitamins (especially B12 and A) and minerals (including iron and zinc), decomposition of red blood cells, hormone production, detoxification, and breaking down insulin, hemoglobin and other hormones. If your liver is sluggish, your body can’t function properly. Without a healthy liver, a person cannot survive. No one can live without one, unlike some other glands that people get surgically removed. Maybe it’s time to pay attention to it.

Some of the supplements that I have taken in the past to help support, clean, or heal my liver have been pretty pricey as they also often include desiccated liver pieces. If I’m having a bad flare of one thing or another, I might need more than one bottle over the course of a few weeks. I was looking to cut some of the cost of my supplement intake, so I discussed with Doc about what foods I could make sure that I’m regularly eating (or avoiding) in order to help my body out even more naturally than I already was. It was amazing how much adding liver into my diet became such a game changer. Not only was my supplement list getting smaller from visit to visit, everything was improving. I hadn’t seen my body respond like this since I first did the Liver Enhancement Diet. WIN!

As it turns out, The Russian is very good at cooking liver. He has made me dishes with both beef and chicken liver, but chicken liver is a lot easier to find and it’s also cheaper. He has made two dishes that taste just like Gram’s and I was in heaven. He has experimented with a few other ways, but his new favorite is making pate. This is the one I’m going to share first. It’s the easiest way to get some in your body since you can spread it on bread or crackers, dip raw veggies in it, or do whatever you want, and it’s so creamy. It is so much cheaper to make your own than to buy the premade stuff in the store and this has no preservatives or additives. It’s always best to try and make your own food so that you can control exactly what is in it. Here’s The Russian’s pate for you to try out. You can use either beef or chicken livers, but this particular post is about the chicken. And it’s delicious!

(He made this double batch for me last night as I have not been feeling as good the last few weeks as I had been for the past few months. We hadn’t been eating liver, so here’s hoping I feel back to my old self by the end of the day! For more reading about liver, google it and also check out these two links: Liver: nature’s most potent superfood and Health Benefits of Eating Organ Meats)

Heat about 2-3 Tablespoons of EVOO (or whatever oil/lard/ghee) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add two medium onions, halved and sliced, along with about a cup of shredded carrots. Cook for 7-9 minutes, stirring very frequently. You want them to soften and caramelize, but not get super brown or burn.

2014-12-21 19.21.33While the onions are cooking (or before if you’re like me and prep everything first), trim up the livers. According to The Russian, beef livers require a little more cleanup, but what’s important with the organ meat is to remove the ducts that connect the tissue. (Yes, it’s even gross for me to type that. There is a reason that The Russian is the only one that cooks the livers in our house!) You also will want to cut up any larger pieces so that they are around the same size for even cooking. That is a good habit to get into in case you want to try out any future liver recipes that I will post. Those recipes are not as forgiving with overcooking these delicate pieces of meat. (Note that you should be buying organic chicken liver whenever possible and always grass-fed beef liver.)

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Once the onions and carrots are finished, add the livers and cook until outsides are no longer shiny. Think about when you are cooking meat and you are browning the outside or making ground beef no longer pink. Same concept, just look for no more shiny parts.2014-12-21 19.25.40

 Next, add the spices and a cup of water. The spices consist of crushed bay leaves, coarse ground pepper, and some kosher salt. Stir and bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Once the 20 minutes is up, remove the lid and cook an additional 5 minutes over medium heat to let some of the liquid evaporate and allow the sauce to thicken.

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Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. Once cooled, pour the mixture into a food processor. Add about 3 Tablespoons of sliced, room temperature butter/ghee (we use Kerrygold) and blend until smooth.2014-12-21 21.13.39

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, but eat it within a week. Remember, there are no preservatives!


Chicken Liver Pate

You can use this recipe with any kind of animal liver; beef, goose, or chicken. We purchase chicken most often as it is easier to find and more economical. You can easily cut this in half or double it. The yield from this recipe is about three cups of pate. Make your liver happy!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or oil of choice)
  • 2 medium onions, halved and sliced
  • 1 cup of shredded carrots or 1 – 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 lbs of organic chicken livers (2-16 oz containers), ducts removed and large pieces divided
  • 1 tsp crushed bay leaves (or one bay leaf)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp coarse ground fresh pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp kosher salt (to taste)
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp Kerrygold butter (or ghee)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and carrots and saute until soft and slightly caramelized, but not browned, about 7-10 minutes.
  2. Add livers to vegetables and cook until no longer red and shiny.
  3. Add the bay leaves, salt, pepper, and water, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove lid and raise heat up to medium, cooking for an additional 5 minutes until some of the liquid evaporates and the remaining liquid thickens.
  6. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
  7. Once cooled, place mixture in food processor. Add butter and blend until smooth.
  8. Place in airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to a week. Enjoy!


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The great toy divide

Note: This post is about my frustrations with the toy industry and the merchandising (pink and blue aisles) in stores, their obsession with boy and girl toys, and the lack of options outside of the split-gender toy culture, and is not solely in response to the Facebook thread that I refer to. This piece reflects thoughts that have been going around in my head for the past several years and it was coming regardless of the virtual conversation that took place. I have concerns about placing strong gender expectations on our children and can’t wrap my head around what has happened to toys just being toys as when past generations were growing up. There have always been Barbies and dolls, but things have gotten carried away.

“that’s it. i’m opening a store for kids that sells things that have nothing to do with gender, being separated by gender, or “tells” them (and their parents) what toys and clothes they should be wanting/getting based on their gender.” ~ December 1, 2014

It’s been a week since I updated my Facebook status expressing my frustration over trying to find a bicycle with training wheels for Sugar Bee that wasn’t pink and glittery or covered in Spider-Man decals. I’m still bothered by the discussion that followed, so I am letting my thoughts have an outlet here and now. Of course it got a few likes, a few comments from friends implying that they would like to see the same thing and would shop there, some other supportive comments, but not all of them were free from judgement. I’m quite certain that I probably inadvertently offended some of my more sensitive Facebook friends by using the phrase, “pukey pinky with tassels and crap,” as I bet they felt that this was a personal attack on them or their daughters. I would never, ever mean it that way and I love that most of the daughters of my friends are into all the usual girl things. I know my daughter will love her time with them no matter what they play with. I was just really frustrated and getting anxious about what kind of bicycle Santa was going to be able to bring on Christmas morning.

What was most ridiculous to me was that I felt like I had to defend why I didn’t want to get my kid a “girly” bike. Do I care what anyone else buys their kid? Do I judge if there is all sorts of girl stuff in someone’s house? No, I just assume 997084_10154722174075702_8975061256647007973_nthat their house is aligned with the interests that their child has. Your particular home with a little girl in it might be all full of pink, princesses, play kitchens, and dolls, while mine is full of construction machines, trains and tracks, and matchbox cars. What I don’t think people ponder very often is what it might be like to have a daughter that is not princess-obsessed, one that everyone sees as less “normal” than others. People talk to me in public and assume that my kid knows the entire score to Frozen. I sometimes comment that she’s more of a Cars kid, other times I just smile. When your child’s birthday came around and you asked them what kind of birthday party they wanted, perhaps they picked a gender-appropriate (whatever the hell that means) theme. My daughter enthusiastically declared that she wanted a Dusty party. It just so happened that the second Planes movie was coming out two weeks before her birthday weekend. Good timing for her and a great time was had by all.

My point is, everyone likes and dislikes different things, even all of us as adults, so I am still having a hard time wrapping my head around some of the 44 comments on my status update. I was struggling with my online shopping to find something that wasn’t clearly labeled “boy” or “girl,” one that wasn’t over-the-top with pink craziness or over-the-top about a character. As I shopped, I knew she would be totally fine with something that was clearly for a boy, but why should it have to be this way? Why are there no other options? That was the entire point of my post which has now led to this lengthy piece.

An argument that girls are by nature more nurturing is as absurd as expecting everyone to want kids of their own. Not all girls need or want dolls and have to participate in or initiate creative play of a domestic nature, for lack of a better term. She is genuinely loving and caring for others, she welcomes people into our home, greets people everywhere she goes whether they are strangers or not, and has always been like this. She loves on any animal she comes in contact with (once causing her to get stepped on by a pony) and has one of the sweetest souls ever. I trust her instincts about people more than my own. But nurturing is not a word that I would choose to describe her. I don’t want my child to feel that there’s something wrong with her because she has no interest in dolls or pink or princesses or whatever way other people think she should be. She might totally change someday and do a 180. That will be just as fine.

In the past, I have felt pressure to clarify that we DO expose her to girl stuff, so here it is. (For the record, it’s making me cringe every time I’m referring to something as a boy or girl thing.) She has a Disney Princess Tea Set that she does play with on occasion. So what if it’s probably only because she likes to sort and organize things. I’ve shown her how to have a 10405692_10154626158845702_490088167195375153_ntea party and she will sometimes (now) pretend with me, but she mostly uses the tea cups to hold some of her cars. She has a doll, a stroller, and even a few outfits for it, but would you like to know how she plays with her doll? On the half a dozen times that she has voluntarily touched the doll, she puts her in the stroller and races around the house, chasing/torturing the dog, letting the doll hang half out of the stroller, sometimes falling out completely. Then she runs away, leaving the doll on the floor. Nurturing? Not so much. I know she has played with the kitchens and stuff at other homes and at school sometimes, but these are just not the things that she gravitates to. She plays with the cars and the trains most of the time, and is obsessed with puzzles. And I’m perfectly fine with that. I sneak peeks at her creatively playing with her cars and trains, making up scenarios and conversations. It’s the same thing girls do with their dolls or stuffed animals, just with a different medium. And that’s perfectly fine. She helps me in the kitchen (she calls it “bakering”), and although it’s usually a brief encounter, at least she shows an interest. She helps me move laundry into the dryer or laundry basket and wants to help Swiffer the floor. But one of the most exciting times for her this past week was when I let her help me change the batteries out of two toys, showing her how to use the screwdriver and teaching her what to do by herself. Her face beamed, her concentration was so focused, and she was over the moon with pride when they toys worked again. I have little doubt that she will be taking things apart in my house before she enters intermediate school. That is my child.

10485310_10154673194125702_7746693007532627052_nMy problem isn’t what anyone else does as far as buying toys for their kids. Frankly, it’s none of my damn business. To think that I would want to do away with princess things or pink things is absurd. My oldest niece was princess obsessed and I loved it! I would buy all sorts of cool Disney things for her and had a great time playing with her and all her things. My question is, what has happened to toys? How have we let toy manufacturers and marketers create such a huge divide in what toys children feel they “should” play with? Why do we have this obsessive need to make things for boys and things for girls, things that are essentially identical aside from color? My child gravitates toward blue, orange and red. Those are just the colors that she likes. So why can’t we just have TOYS like we did when my generation was growing up? This was the entire point of my post (rant) on the good ol’ Facebook. How fun for you (or maybe not from what some friends say) that your little girl is obsessed with Frozen. It took me THREE tries to get through that movie with her and I really wanted to watch it, so I basically forced/bribed her into finishing it with me. She’s not much of a fan of movies with people characters…Cars, Planes, Toy Story…those are her jams. And I have so many movies that I hope I will watch with her. Someday. But that day is not today. It’s not where she is, and maybe she never will be. And that’s just fine, too. I will sit and watch The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast for the trillionth times, reciting the words and singing every score by myself. Maybe that will make it more interesting to her. Someday.

After the whole bike discussion on Facebook, I took her to look at bikes at REI and a few other places the next evening to see what she gravitated to when selecting her own bike. It went just as I expected it would. After all, I do know my own kid. (Santa will probably be bringing a nice blue BMX bike with training wheels this Christmas.) After we found “the one,” we went off to Target to check and see if there was something less expensive that she liked, but everything in her size range was character dependent. It’s fine if your child is completely obsessed with something and you as parents choose to get a Hello Kitty bike for your daughter, Lord knows that Sugar Bee’s head nearly exploded when she saw the box that held the Planes: Fire and Rescue bike in it and she told me she “needed” that one, but my husband and I decided before this FB discussion even took place that we did not want something so thematic for her. We want a quality bicycle that will last for more than one year and hold her interest longer than her newest movie or toy obsession.

While in Target, I was wandering the toys getting ideas for other kids’ birthday and Christmas presents. I 995799_10153490403950702_1767355858_nsaw girl nerf guns and girl lego sets (those were mostly lame, in my opinion). I understand the point behind making things available in pink. We want to be able to offer the pink things to the girls that love pink in the hopes that they might discover something new that they may not have tried otherwise. I think it’s a great idea, but I feel that it’s gone completely overboard. Gender-neutral toys, or toys as they were called when we were growing up, are disappearing. I saw this pink tool set two years ago and had my mom get it for her. She absolutely loves it and plays with it constantly. Yes, I bought it because it was pink. But I would have bought her a tool set at some point, pink or not. Do we need pink tool sets? Pink Nerf guns? Pink Lego sets? What if a little boy sees the stable Lego Friends set and wants it because he loves horses? He has to cross to the pink aisle to the girl Legos, opening him up for possible future ridicule from friends for playing with girl toys. I was perfectly happy with my normal old legos growing up. We are perpetuating and encouraging this cycle of pink = girl and blue/orange/red/whatever = boy, and making a greater toy divide. I bet the toy companies are making a killing by offering the same thing in different colors to each gender. Why are we letting them make the rules?

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Scooter bought when she was 1 1/2 by grandparents. Helmet chosen by her when old enough to ride.

Now back to my anxiety over the bicycle situation. Last Christmas, my nieces gave her two gifts. One was a travel Thomas train and tracks (obvious hit with her). The other was a pink stroller. Upon opening that one, she stared blankly at me and pushed it aside. I felt sad. For all of us. At her birthday this year, some friends from our neighborhood that we really only know from the pool gave her a set of something like My Little Pony, all different sizes, with a hair dryer, fake braids to attach, and all sorts of accessories. As if the face she made wasn’t reason enough for me to want to move on to the next gift quickly, she actually said, “I don’t like that” as she handed me the gift. I still hope that she said it quietly enough that the family didn’t hear. (There’s a reason why Russians never open gifts in front of people.) I was anxious about being able to prevent a wave of disappointment from coming over my child’s face on Christmas morning. I just want more options and less boy versus girl.

Since she could move, Sugar Bee has been fascinated with things that move. She is constantly shocking me with the capabilities of her mind. She is crazy amazing with puzzle skills. She loves learning about outer space. She wants to know everything. I know kids are curious, I taught kids her age for years, but she needs to know EVERYTHING. “What kind of car is that? What is that machine doing? What kind of stuff is that truck carrying? Are we going to the highway? What road are we on?” She misses nothing. In a frightening sort of way. She looks at and observes every detail when we are outside, always asking questions. I never want her curiosity and love for the world around her to dwindle. I want her to always be free to express herself and her interests without being told that something is for boys. It’s inevitable, I know. Kids are mean and can be downright ruthless, and adults (myself included) sometimes make comments without thinking about their potential impact. I only hope that I can arm her with enough self-confidence in who she is and what she can accomplish to defend her spirit from the judgments. Until then, we will continue to put Top Gear on the DVR when she asks for it.

One of my minors was sociology. This is something that really hits home to me, but not only because of that. I was a building kid and I loved to be outside. I had an incredible sandbox that I remember playing with huge, metal Tonka construction vehicles in. I had Barbies. And they had a Tonka truck to ride in. I love sports and watching them, talking about them, playing in fantasy leagues. I played soccer, softball, and basketball from elementary school until I graduated high school. I have incredible spatial skills and a ridiculous sense of direction, if I do say so myself. I love cars. I have my motorcycle license. I know how to shoot guns. I’m a math and science nerd whose favorite subject (and original major) was physics. I have been lucky enough to always have had teachers that recognized and encouraged my math and science skills, instead of telling me they were not things that girls are good at. I’m not your average girl, so why would anyone surprised that my kid is who she is? I don’t care if she’s doing boy things or girl things. I want her to be caring, loving, and generous, to love who she is, both inside and out, and not judge others based on their interests. So, toy industry, stop expecting my sweet girl to only want to shop on the pink side of a toy store. And know that I will never feel like my kid should be all about the pink.

Cars can be pretty, too.10734084_10154824435315702_3999758097360426362_n