The Half-Crunchy Mama

Trying to live a natural life with balance


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Zasta with Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

Zasta with tomatoes and goat cheese | The Half-Crunchy Mama

My garden has been very productive this year. I’m quite proud of myself as each year I have learned something new that has led to this year’s success. I’m picking 1-3 dozen cherry tomatoes every day. I’ve had eggplants, zucchini, lots of jalapenos, and plenty of crookneck squash. This has led to some very delicious meals! And mostly free ūüôā

Zasta with tomatoes and goat cheese | The Half-Crunchy Mama

This was two weeks ago…it’s even fuller now!

While I’m still waiting for cucumbers and bell peppers to emerge, I’m enjoying the literal fruits of my labor. Most of the time, I’m throwing a bunch of fresh veggies into my breakfast, but not the other night. Two large zucchini, a ton of cherry tomatoes, and a stalk of basil, all from the garden, were sitting on the counter calling to me. So I listened. And ate them up.

Zasta with tomatoes and goat cheese | The Half-Crunchy Mama

As a cheesemonger, nothing makes a meal better than adding cheese. In this case, it was goat cheese. I love the depth of flavor that goat cheese adds to dishes. The Russian and I ate the entire thing between the two of us. So fast, and of course my other two favorite dinner adjectives, cheap and easy, make this one a keeper and one worthy enough of blogging. After all, it’s been over 6 months since my last post! Obviously, life has gotten busy and with summer almost over here in Georgia, I’m ready to have time to start dedicating to this space. Can’t wait! Although it’s bittersweet…the increase of available time to dedicate comes with the fact that Sugar Bee is off to kindergarten in 2 1/2 short weeks. Time flies.

Before I get to the recipe details, short as they are, I need to give proper credit to the term “zasta” that I’m using. The daughter of friends of mine had the same thinking as me and didn’t care for the term “zoodles” so she came up with “zasta.” I love it and will forever refer to zucchini noodles as zasta. I hope you enjoy this meal as much as we did!


Zasta with tomatoes and goat cheese

Super fast and easy with very little cost, especially if you have a rockin’ garden this year, this vegetarian meal will be a keeper!
INGREDIENTS
  • 1-2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 dozen or more cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 roasted red pepper, diced small (jarred okay)
  • 2 zucchini, spiralized into noodles
  • 4 oz crumbled goat cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Fresh basil, 1-2 Tbsp chopped
DIRECTIONS
  1. Heat EVOO in large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional minute or two until fragrant.
  2. Add tomatoes and cook 3 minutes or until skins start to wrinkle. Add red pepper and simmer 2 more minutes.
  3. Add zucchini, salt, pepper, and a bit more EVOO, tossing to coat evenly. Don’t cook too long or all the water will release from the zucchini. You want a little bit of juicy, saucy goodness, but not soup! (See last picture below. We loved the sauce!)
  4. Add almost all of the goat cheese (reserve 1-2 Tbsp for topping when serving) and stir to toss completely and melt the cheese.
  5. Divide between two plates and top with basil and remaining goat cheese. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
Zasta with tomatoes and goat cheese | The Half-Crunchy Mama

Sweet, saucy deliciousness

 

 

 

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The Half-Crunchy Mama got a little crunchier

Unless you have a uterus, you might want to pass on reading this post. There will be a little TMI about the female body, so I will not be offended if you leave now. If you have female parts, especially if you currently menstruate every month, I’ve got some good stuff to share so I hope that you continue on. And if you don’t fit that bill and continue reading anyway because you have a spouse or daughter or lady friend that you care about and you want to be informed, I applaud you.

Almost four months ago, I purchased my first menstrual cup. Yes, saying those last two words together made me feel a little uncomfortable at first (and they still do sometimes), but that is not all my fault. It’s the way I was brought up in the world of disposable feminine products that have been the norm for my nearly four decades on this earth, and long before that. And then there’s the fabulous marketing that goes along with these products to influence and help us make decisions about what to buy.

A what?

After digging around a little, I learned that menstrual cups are not new. In fact, they have been around since at least the 1930s(1). I found this post that includes research showing a similar concept was used in the 1860s!(2)¬† If you are at all like me, you should be a little curious as to why it seems like we have only just started hearing about them? My answer: Big Business. Think of all the money that these manufacturers are able to allocate to their advertising. You can’t watch a show on the television or flip through a magazine (I’m not the only one still doing these things, right?) without having tampon or maxipad ads thrown at you. They even cater to young girls now with their packaging and naming. In 2010 and 2011, women in North America stocked up on $3 billion worth of feminine hygiene products(3). So their heavy marketing obviously works in their favor, but I think that’s because the alternatives have been kept hidden away from us. I’m here to tell you all about it.

Why I made the switch

This is a completely under-regulated industry. Since the FDA sees feminine products like pads and tampons as medical devices, there is no mandatory testing of the safety of these products and no laws to enforce companies to disclose their ingredients. This makes it almost impossible for us to know what is in our feminine products and to be educated enough to avoid chemicals of concern that are found in them.

Made from cotton and rayon, tampons (my preferred choice for the last 20+ years) are bleached with chlorine compounds that leave behind highly toxic dioxins, as well as pesticide residue from using non-organic cotton. Sure, I once thought I could just switch to organic cotton tampons that were not overly processed, but on month when I have a heavy cycle, I can go through a good box and a half of tampons. It’s not that easy to just run out to the store and get more as not everyone carries Natracare and Seventh Generation tampons and pads. (I’m including links to purchase both brands from Amazon (Natracare and Seventh Generation) in case the cup idea is too much for you, but you are interested in switching to healthier feminine products.) For some scientific information about the chemicals I (we) have been literally shoving into our bodies every month, WomensVoices.org has a fantastic piece for you to read, called Chem Fatale Report.

Toxic feminine products

Graphic courtesy of WomensVoices.org

Why I love it

So why did it take me so long to write about this if I’m so happy? I wanted to give it a good test. The first month, I was kind of learning the ropes. Inserting and removing take a little bit of trial and error. If you go with the bell-shaped cup like the DivaCup that I chose, folding method two is the one that has worked best for me. And my trick to share with you is that I found that if I set on the edge of the bed or something after the initial insertion, my body actually slides it into position even better than I can. It feels crazy weird, but I learned that my muscles are much more relaxed when sitting than while standing or squatting, and I can feel my body actually guide/slide/whatever the cup into the perfect position.

I also wanted to wait until I gave it a good test with all the types of exercise I do on a weekly basis. I was a little gun-shy about using it through my entire cycle that first month, getting frustrated sometimes when I couldn’t get the fit right and giving up to use a tampon. I can report now that I will never look back as last month’s trial solidified that I never need to use tampons again. I do a considerable amount of weight lifting, including a variety of squats, and not one complaint from me about leakage or falling out (as actually happened to me with a tampon in a Power Box/Tae Bo class one time). I have ran with it. I have done yoga and stretching with it. I have done Zumba with it. The only thing left to test it with is swimming and I can’t wait!! The pool opens next month and then I’ll be going to the beach in June. I am beyond excited at the prospect of not having to go straight to the restroom after getting out of the water in order to take the tampon out. Not to mention making sure that the string isn’t hanging outside my suit. There are no worries with this cup thing. Not a single one.

More reasons I’m in love:

  • I have been inserting it before my period actually starts, on the day it’s expected to begin. No more surprises while out!
  • It’s so reliable that there are no more trips running to the bathroom for frequent changes or to check for leaks. The cup can be left in for 8-10 hours at a time (and up to 12), depending on how heavy the flow is. I actually almost forget about it!
  • It’s made of medical-grade silicone and is latex free which is very important to me as I’m allergic to latex.
  • Tampons offer just eight hours before TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) becomes a possibility. With menstrual cups, you can go up to 12 hours in between emptying and it’s not really sitting there next to your skin; it’s in the cup. Also, if your tampon has even a slightly higher absorbency than your actual flow, you risk shredding. Tiny bits of cotton can cause small cuts in your vaginal walls‚ÄĒa perfect breeding ground for the bacteria causing TSS.
  • I don’t have to worry if I have any spares in my purse or car. One and done!
  • I’m learning even more about my cycle and my body. I’m always up for that.
  • **TMI/education alert** As the DivaCup site mentions, “Menstrual flow only begins to develop an odor when it is exposed to air. As The DivaCup is worn internally, your days of worrying about period odor are over. Menstrual fluid on tampons and pads is exposed to air which creates odor throughout the day.”(4) Which also means that the bathroom smells better, too, as there are no more used tampons sitting in the lidded garbage can. (Sorry for the extra information on this last bullet that you didn’t want.)
  • It saves money (see below), and who doesn’t like to save some green?

Let’s talk about money

My hormone and cycle history could be a post all its own, but let’s just start with when my cycle returned six months after weaning my daughter, the most recent history as she will be four this summer. It has been pretty whacky, sometimes light and others very, very heavy. Some months I would go through almost two boxes of tampons, one of regular and one of super. I always felt like they filled up quick or weren’t as absorbent as they used to be, and maybe they just were not fitting me well anymore. Maybe my body had changed, or maybe the products have changed. I will admit that I’m a bit of a conspiracy theorist, especially when it comes to the government, big pharma, and big business, and the more I started thinking about it, the more I started thinking that maybe, just¬†maybe, they are making these things less absorbent so you go through more of them every month? Seems like a good business tactic to me. (Moving along now…)

Then came my first cycle that I only used the cup. Um, why did I need to use so many tampons each month? Seriously…when emptying the cup after 12 hours, I would look and see that it was almost never filled. So tell me why did I have to change my tampons every 4-6 hours, 3 when it was a heavy day? We really don’t lose that much blood during the course of our cycle. I have seen proof of this from my own body with my own eyes. The cup can hold about an ounce of fluid and the average woman releases about 1-2 ounces throughout the whole cycle. Only one time have I seen the cup close to full, but that was also a day that I cramped a lot. (And I swear your period completely changes after giving birth.) Most of the time, it’s only about 1/4-1/2 full. Again, why did I have to spend so much money on tampons every month and use so many? What a mystery.

I picked up my DivaCup for around $20 though a buying group I belong to from Facebook. Basically, my savings in what I would have spent on tampons the past three months has paid for the cup already. And this thing is good for at least another 9 months before replacing it as they are good for a year, longer if you take good care of it. I really, REALLY encourage you to read through all of these First Questions as I think you might start to see the potential here.

Final thought

If you have been having hormone/endochrine disruption and have tried everything from diet changes to herbals and supplements, you just might want to give the cup a try. Or at least make the switch away from all the brands that we came to know and “love” as we grew into women. I feel that our bodies are becoming more and more sensitive to the chemicals we used to be able to tolerate on a daily basis. Just a few years ago, we weren’t bombarded with toxin exposure from everything to carpets and drapes to food and toiletries. Perhaps our bodies just can’t take any more and just one small change that we can make to reduce our toxic exposure can help heal us a little. Baby steps.

And because I enjoy a good Buzzfeed link: http://www.buzzfeed.com/becagrimm/x-reasons-you-should-switch-to-menstrual-cups-your-en98#.uq77r7mr9

 

References:

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menstrual_cup

(2) http://www.labyrinth.net.au/~obsidian/clothpads/Cups_history.html

(3) http://www.nonwovens-industry.com/issues/2012-11/view_features/the-feminine-hygiene-market-847209/

(4) http://divacup.com/

Other resources:

http://www.womensvoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Chem-Fatale-Report.pdf

http://www.gurl.com/2013/09/12/menstrual-products-techniques-through-history/#1

http://greatist.com/health/toxins-in-feminine-hygiene-products-111913?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=huffingtonpost&utm_campaign=pubexchange_facebook


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Dyeing Easter eggs naturally

Being half-crunchy, I really wanted to try my hand at dyeing eggs with the colors that Mother Nature has given us. This was my first attempt and I am not totally discouraged, but it was a learning experience.

I usually buy eggs from local farms, and sometimes get them for free from a family friend who knows someone with lots of chickens that lay more eggs than they can eat. They look better. They taste so different than “regular” eggs. And I’m supporting local farmers. We all win. The problem is, you will hardly ever get a white egg. Sometimes they are pale brown, yellow, or greenish blue, but it’s extremely rare (as in never) that I get a white one. I am going to have to google why that is, but I want to get this finished first. I will get back to you on that one. I think this all would have gone better if I had regular white eggs from the store, but too late now.

I did a little digging around and found two great posts, one from green child and another from Better Homes and Gardens. I have a video saved somewhere that I need to dig up where this woman did an amazing job making her own dyes to use in place of food coloring for baking that I’m sure would be awesome for this, but if I recall correctly, it was a lot more work than I have time for. My trial was simple and fast to start. It was the waiting that took a long, long time.

I started off deciding on four colors, and chose them based on what seemed to have the least amount of work involved. I already knew tumeric would be great, and if you ever cook with it, you know why. It stains everything and my poor clear plastic measuring spoon that I was dumb enough to leave in the bowl too long didn’t even get clean from the dishwasher. Oh well. At least that color works. I decided to go with a grey/purple/blue color, a pinkish red, a yellow, and a burnt orange.

Dyeing Easter eggs naturally | The Half-Crunchy MamaHere’s what I did with them on Sunday night when I started:

Grey/purple/blue color: 1 cup frozen blueberries and 1 cup water, brought to room temperature, and then removed the berries

Yellow: 2 Tbsp of ground tumeric, mixed with 1 cup boiling water, then added 2 tsp of white vinegar

Pinkish red: Two cooked beets (I should have used raw, but I went with what I had as this was a last-minute thought) in 4 cups boiling water, mixed with 2 Tbsp vinegar; I also added some beet juice, both pickled and from the container of cooked beets, removing the beets before adding the eggs

Burnt orange: 2 Tbsp of paprika (I used smoked as that’s what I mostly cook with) in 1 cup boiling water, then added 2 tsp white vinegar

When everything was room temperature, including the eggs, I dropped them all in. And waited. I did this in the evening, finally getting them in around 9 0’clock. I put them out in my garage fridge and waited until morning. I was all excited…and then slightly disappointed.Dyeing Easter eggs naturally | The Half-Crunchy MamaMonday morning, I took them out and took a look. There wasn’t all that much difference in color. I could see a faint tint and it had already been 12 HOURS! So I dropped them all back in after giving everything a good stir. Back to the fridge they went. And I waited some more. In fact, I waited another 24 hours and took them out Tuesday morning. Probably didn’t make much of a difference to leave them in longer, but some places did get darker. This will have to do. Easter is on Sunday.

Dyeing Easter eggs naturally | The Half-Crunchy MamaSugar Bee hasn’t had dyed eggs before and this is the first Easter that we will be doing the whole creepy Easter-Bunny-came-and-hid-your-eggs-now-go-find-them-and-I-hope-I-remember-where-I-put-them-in-case-she-can’t-find-them-all thing. Last year was her first real Easter basket, filled with way more toys and stuff than candy and crap. Yeah, what a shocker. I’m that mom. I own it.Dyeing Easter eggs naturally | The Half-Crunchy MamaI know that I read somewhere about shining them up a little with olive oil, or maybe I’m making that up, but that’s what I did and it actually did enhance the colors a little more, making them a little deeper.Dyeing Easter eggs naturally | The Half-Crunchy MamaAll in all, I’m pleased with my first attempt. I wish I had started experimenting sooner, but I will mess around more next year!

 


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A few more successes: My oil solutions (Part 2)

I thought I would throw a few pictures together in here and share some of the successful blends that I have created in the past few months. These are what are currently working for my family and I, but you may or may not get the same results. Mostly because I am not a medical professional, naturopath, certified aromatherapist, or whatever. I’m just someone that has an understanding of what individual oils and blends can accomplish in the support that they can offer our bodies, as well as using a little muscle testing ūüôā

(This post is for informational purposes only.)

Each individual oil and blend can support a multitude of systems and address many different needs. Different people will benefit from different oils in different ways, much like traditional medicine where not every prescription works the same and fits every person the same way. I am only touching upon what each oil in my blend recipes are capable of. I suggest you dig around the interwebs for more information. It’s amazing all the different things they can help support!

Snoring support

The hottest thing I have recommended has been using Valor for snoring. This was my first big win with oils as I mentioned in my Snoring? Backache? Hangover? Allergies? Bug bites? My oil solutions (Part 1) post. We had run out of Valor for quite some time and had been using its “backup” of Highest Potential. While this didn’t have the same effect, it was better than nothing!

Then Valor was finally back in stock and when The Russian started using it again, it just didn’t seem to be working as well as it had. I mentioned this on one of the Facebook groups I belong to and someone suggested using Thyme for snoring. I added 6 drops of Thyme to the roller bottle with diluted Valor that he keeps on his nightstand and WOW, I could barely hear him breathing! I guess this is the heavy-duty formula for stubborn snoring ūüôā

The Half-Crunchy Mama's Snoring Support FormulaMy suggested formula is:

  • 20 drops of Valor
  • 6 drops of Thyme
  • Fill the rest of a 10ml (1/3 oz) roller bottle with fractionated coconut oil (FCO)
  • Apply to the bottoms of the big toes
Science time

Before I explain about why the specific oils in my next two blends likely tested, I want to share a bit of the chemistry. You will need to excuse me while I nerd out on you for a moment. (I love science.) This is a very base-level description of these constituents, but it’s important for me to explain that there is actual science behind using the oils – how and why the chemical constituents of each oil provide support. Yes, there is real science behind this oil craze. I’m only mentioning the oils that I have included in this post as examples below, but please feel free to research what other oils these constituents appear in. All of this information (and much more) can be found in the Reference Guide for Essential Oils, a.k.a., my bible (which is one of the freebies that you for becoming a member through me).

Sesquiterpenes are found in great abundance in essential oils and are antibacterial, highly anti-inflammatory, slightly antiseptic, and sedative. They are a major constituent in oils such as Cedarwood and Vetiver. They also play a (minor) role in the makeup of Bergamot, Cinnamon bark, Frankincense, and several of the oils that make up the R.C. blend.

Esters are calming, relaxing, and balancing. Bergamot and Lavender are high is esters.

Aldehydes are calming to emotions. Cinnamon bark oil is high in aldehydes.

Ketones stimulate cell regeneration, promote formation of tissue, and liquefy mucous, therefore helpful when there is dry asthma, colds, flu, or dry cough. Ketones are a major constituent in Peppermint oil.

Phenols are made up of the most powerful antibacterial, anti-infectious, and antiseptic constituents in the plant world. They are stimulating to the nervous and immune systems, contain high levels of oxygenating molecules, and have antioxidant properties. Because of their qualities, they can be irritating to the skin and should always be diluted. They are a major constituent in Thyme, Basil, Cinnamon bark, Peppermint, and many of the oils that make up the R.C. blend.

Cold and flu support

My next support formula to share with you has to do with the crud that seems to be everywhere this season. Some people get full-blown flu, others just get a cold with symptoms that linger for weeks. In November, The Russian came home from work and school full of gunk. He had been trying to fight it on his own (Russians can be slightly stubborn) and finally decided to ask me for assistance. In addition to some herbs, I tested him for a bunch of oils that would help support his body to fight whatever this was. It took him a close to a week to get cleared up since he had waited so long, but he didn’t have any of the lingering symptoms like the rest of the folks we know.

The real success with this blend came for Sugar Bee and I. We both woke up the day after Thanksgiving feeling pretty crummy. I felt like I was getting the flu, so I can only assume that she felt the same as she was complaining and boogery. I immediately started rubbing the blend on the back of my neck and on the bottoms of her feet (she’s three and this blend contains some hot oils), reapplying several times throughout the day, right up to bedtime. The next morning, I continued the applications for both of us, and by that afternoon (around 36 hours later), I felt great and she looked and acted a lot better! WHAT?! How could this be?!?! Yes, I had also beefed up some of our herbals and we have pretty good immune systems, but in all my years of natural healing, I have never experienced such a fast turnaround. There really is something to this oil thing.The Half-Crunchy Mama's Cold and Flu Support Formula

My suggested formula for my Cold and Flu Support Blend is:

  • 8 drops of Lemon
  • 10 drops of Thieves
  • 8 Peppermint
  • 10 R.C.
  • 6 drops of Cinnamon bark
  • 6 drops of Basil
  • Combine in 10ml (1/3 oz) roller bottle filled the rest of the way with FCO

Apply as often as you want to back of the neck or bottoms of the feet. With children, only apply to the bottoms of the feet. I applied to the Vita Flex points for lungs and sinuses, at the base of the little toes and off the sides of the balls of the feet. Here is a reference for you.

Why these oils? Just a few highlights as they pertain to this particular use:

  1. Lemon: Antioxidant and antiviral properties; French use for asthma, colds, fever reducer, throat infections, and red and white blood cell formation; stimulates digestive, immune and respiratory systems
  2. Thieves: Antibacterial, antiviral, anti-infectious, and strong antiseptic; stimulates immune system; contains Clove, Lemon, Cinnamon bark, Eucalyptus radiata, and Rosemary cineol
  3. Peppermint: Analgesic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, and antiviral; French use for bronchitis, fever reducer, flu, headache, nausea, respiratory function, and throat infections; stimulates digestive, nervous, respiratory systems, muscles, bones, and skin
  4. R.C.: Antiviral, antibacterial, antiseptic, anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, relaxing, balancing, and lymphatic decongestant; stimulates the respiratory system; contains Eucalyptus globulus, Myrtle, Pine, Marjoram, Eucalyptus radiata, Eucalyptus citriodora, Lavender, Cypress, Tsuga, and Peppermint
  5. Cinnamon bark: Antibacterial, anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiseptic, antiviral, immune stimulant, purifier; historically used in nearly every prescription issued in ancient China; stimulates the immune system
  6. Basil: Antibacterial, anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, decongestant, restorative; historically used for respiratory problems, fevers, epidemics; stimulates the cardiovascular system, and muscles and bones

*Note: I mention the French and historical uses because they have been around and in use for way longer than people realize in this country, and the French are at the forefront with using essential oils for healthcare.

Calm Focus blend

Finally, I will share what I have named my Calm Focus Blend. A few weeks back, Sugar bee was testing for some oils that people have found helpful for helping children (and adults) focus better, handle their anxiety, and feel more relaxed (calm). Doc tested what oils for her and then I determined the rest of the ratio when I got home. The result was a calmer and more focused three year old. She’s not hyper or ADHD or anything like that, she’s just three. If you are a parent, you are well aware that most three year olds are complete a-holes a lot of the time. She has so much going on in her noggin that it can be overloading for her to take everything in, process it, and discuss it all. She is a very spirited child and I wouldn’t change a thing about her…except maybe her patience level with her own self….but that is a genetic thing. I own it.

Anyway, I did see quite an improvement in many areas for her, including patience with herself when dealing with a difficult task, less of a stammer (not really stuttering, but I think she has a hard time having her mouth keep up with her mind), less fresh mouth, and better sleeping at night, just to name a few. Calm Focus. Get it?

The Half-Crunchy Mama's Calm Focus Support FormulaSo here is my suggested formula for this Calm Focus Blend:

  • 6 drops of Cedarwood
  • 6 drops of Vetiver
  • 9 Lavender
  • 9 Frankincense (I used 5 drops of Frankincense and 4 drops of Frereana Frankincense)
  • 6 drops of Bergamot
  • Fill the rest of a 10ml (1/3 oz) roller bottle with FCO
  • Apply to the back of the neck at the base of the skull 1-3 times a day, or as needed

Why these oils? Just a few highlights as they pertain to this particular use:

  1. Cedarwood: Sedative; French use for calming anger, nervous tension, and overall calming; stimulates the nervous system
  2. Vetiver: Calming, grounding, sedative; Folklore – “oil of tranquility” in India; stimulates hormonal and nervous systems, and emotional balancing
  3. Lavender: Antidepressant, sedative; French use for insomnia; stimulates the nervous system and emotional balancing
  4. Frankincense: Antidepressant, sedative; French use for depression; stimulates the nervous system and emotional balancing
  5. Bergamot: Sedative and uplifting; French use for agitation, colic, depression, insomnia and stress; stimulates emotional balancing

The Half-Crunchy Mama - Young Living Distributor #1876381

If you are interested in starting your natural health and healing journey with essential oils, please allow me to be your guide. You can sign up here to get started with your starter kit and own discount on products. There is no monthly minimum to purchase anything (but great perks if you do by becoming an Essential Rewards member, earning points for free oils with every order!) and you will get some great freebies from me once you sign up, including the reference guide that I linked to above! I have a Facebook page, The Half-Crunchy Mama, where I share information on oils and a variety of other natural living topics. You can connect with me there and reach out with any questions you may have about your oils. I will be your support!

That’s all for now! Please reach out to me with any questions about these blends. Happy oiling!


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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 ūüė¶ ) 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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A Half-Crunchy Thanksgiving

If everything had gone according to my plan, this would have been finished up on Tuesday or Wednesday. Life. It gets in the way sometimes. So what am I cooking this year?

For the past several years, we have been celebrating Thanksgiving with Sugar Bee’s Godparents and their boys. They are an extension of our family and we love them very much. What’s even better is that we all eat in a similar way. There’s not a lot of questions about what we can make or what the other family can eat, so it becomes pretty easy to celebrate with them. No awkwardness about our diets, as in the way we nourish our bodies, not a “diet” as most people think. It’s the way we live.

So every year we split up the responsibilities so that neither family is responsible for the entire meal. This year, I am in charge of two desserts, three sides, and biscuits that we can all eat without getting all sorts of digestive issues. I’m throwing this quick post together of what I’m making (some I have already made ahead yesterday…WIN!), so you can pin them for next year. Actually, some of these will get made again for the Christmas season, too ūüôā You can find them all on my Pinterest Holiday board.

Tuesday night, I made the cranberry sauce. It was done in the slow cooker and is Paleo-friendly. YUM! With fresh cranberries, pears, ginger, and orange with honey and coconut sugar to sweeten, this recipe was so easy and is the perfect one for me to bring to dinner. 2014-11-25 19.29.37

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Paleo slow cooker cranberry sauce

The next thing I made is my usual for both Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve dinner, Spiced Sweet Potato Casserole. I LOVE this recipe, not only because it’s super easy and only requires me to dirty my KitchenAid stand mixer (fast cleanup!), but you can assemble this the night before and just finish it off in the oven the next day before dinner.2014-11-26 23.15.31¬†The next thing that I was able to cross off the list was a request. I made these for the first time last year. They are Pecan Pie Bars from Paleomg and they are amazing! I think that they are going to be even better this year because I made them yesterday, so they have had lots of time to firm up.

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They spent several hours in the freezer yesterday¬†afternoon¬†and they have been in the fridge since last night. Can’t. Wait.

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After getting home from Thanksgiving Eve beverages last night with my friend, I assembled my first ever breakfast casserole. Why in the world have I never made one of these things before?!?! Of course, it’s a gluten-free recipe so Sugar Bee can eat it, and let me tell you…with all the cheesy, bacony goodness, you would never know OR care! Oh my LORD it was good!

2014-11-26 23.13.00I assembled it, covered it, and put it in my garage fridge overnight. When I got up this morning, all I had to do was take it out and leave it on the counter while I preheated the oven. Once the oven reached 325 degrees, this amazing mess was ready for us to eat in less than an hour. Make this. I used the light GF white bread from Whole Foods because I figured that the consistency of their gluten-free bread would be perfect and I was 100% right. This one is a keeper!

2014-11-27 09.17.59Now for the things that I have left to make. (I will try and remember to update this post tonight or tomorrow with pictures of my finished products.)

This will be my second dessert, Crustless Pumpkin Pie¬†by Gluten Free Easily. I’m really looking forward to this one!

My other side is going to be Honey-Roasted Root Vegetables. I’ve been making this¬†other dish for holiday dinners for the past several years, Roasted Root Vegetables with Maple Glaze. I decided to try one of the others that I saved and have never tried. Here’s the recipe for the honeyed version.

The last thing that I will be making are GF biscuits. I have made these before with a great mix that I buy at Aldi. It calls for shortening (yuck), so I will be swapping that out with some expeller-pressed coconut oil. Expeller-pressed doesn’t have the coconut flavor that could ruin the biscuit taste. This is the one that I use.2014-11-27 11.55.25Happy Thanksgiving to you all! I will be getting back to more regular posts now that life and travel have both calmed down. Whew! October and November kept me BUSY!! Have a blessed day!!

***UPDATED***December 2, 2014

A few more pictures….

The Honey Root Veggies were so good that my husband only got leftovers the first night. I ate all the rest.

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This is the crustless pumpkin pie. Oh. My. God. As my friend said, it was so good that you really don’t even miss the crust. It was just incredible. And easy! Mine looks much darker than in the photo from the posted recipe, but I think this is because I didn’t use fresh pumpkin and I don’t really measure spices.

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No picture of the biscuits (although they looked the same as when I made them a few months ago and posted on Instagram), but I advise to either add flavor to them if using the expeller-pressed coconut oil over the shortening, or use Kerrygold butter in place of the shortening like I did the first time. They still had a great texture, but no flavor. At all. We have been putting Nutella on all the leftover ones, so they are still getting eaten.

Hope your Thanksgiving was as wonderful as mine!


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Cinnamon and Spice Sweet Potato Chips

I have two very good friends of mine that have embarked on their own healing journey after (finally) listening to me and going¬†to my naturopath. ¬†I have some stubborn friends…that I love to death..and their stubbornness is working in their favor. My voodoo doc is really so incredible and I’m beyond thankful for all she has done for me and my family, and now I have been witnessing theCinnamon and Spice Sweet Potato Chips | The Half-Crunchy Mama transformation within these two fantastic and important women in my life.

Their journeys are very different from mine, yet I have tried to give them all the support that I can. My journey was difficult for very different reasons and I didn’t have anyone aside from The Russian (who thought I was even crazier for a bit) and my mom who was all the way back in New York to lean on for support and understanding. I hope that I have helped raise these women up to¬†meet their challenges as they are both very dear to my heart. For some, the natural path can be extremely difficult to walk. Especially when there are serious things to deal with.

Even though I have dietary things to follow (and¬†I’ve been slacking lately and feel like crap), nothing compares to what these two have been dealing with. Interestingly enough, they¬†are ridiculously similar in the way they need to eat, probably for the rest of their lives. I’m used to eating and making strange things for meals and snacks, so I always look forward to getting together with either of their families because with all of our dietary restrictions, we all eat the same way and there are no stupid questions asked like, “What are you eating these days?” or “Why can’t you eat (insert whatever)?” when trying to plan the menu and who is bringing what. No embarrassment, no feelings of needing to explain ourselves, just feelings of acceptance and a level of comfort that puts us all at ease.

So the reason for my post. These two can’t eat much these days. One of them is a lot farther along in her healing and has started adding some foods back in, but there are lots of things that will probably never re-enter her diet. And for my other friend…what a trooper she is trying to be. She keeps testing the limits of her “new” body, but finds out rather quickly that she needs to cut the crap out and find other ways to fulfill her cravings. This is where I come in. Or at least I’m hoping to.

Cinnamon and Spice Sweet Potato Chips | The Half-Crunchy Mama

This past May, my gym had a contest going called “The Biggest Mover.” It was to see who attended the most classes for a month or something, I really don’t remember the rules, but all you had to do was have your instructor initial a paper and then you drop it in a box on the way out. Sure, why not? The first week (I think it ran for 6 weeks), I won that week’s prize. I think that was a random drawing, but I won a nifty gym bag that I have been using since.

I ended up winning the whole damn thing and my prize was the basket in this picture. I was actually pretty excited about it. The loot was 4 cans of coconut water (I don’t like plain ones, but whatever), a bag of goji berries, a bag of golden berries, a bag of shelled hemp seeds, a bag of chia seeds, and a great little cookbook. I have been playing around with the recipes when I have time, and have been hopeful to give my friend some snacking ideas. This one was a big hit with my other friend’s family, and mine.

So I thought she could eat sweet potatoes, but as I was writing this, she tells me she’s going to try and pull them. WTH? I’m putting this out there for her and all my Paleo folks as they are allowed sweets, as I like to call them. I literally told her in our Facebook message, “Maybe with the spices and chia seeds, you can handle them as those additions should handle the inflammation that it casuses. Just my uneducated-i’m-not-a-doctor-but-know-some-things opinion.” Then she reminded me that she can’t do ANY seeds. BULLSH#T! So of course she will leave them out, as will any of you that need to follow the AIP (Autoimmune Protocol for anyone that doesn’t know what that means) diet. Regardless of her leaving them out, at least she can quickly and easily make a potato chip that will satisfy both the need for sweet and salty, with a crunch!

There are a few other recipes from this book that I will be sharing as I work through the book and tweak ones¬†as I see fit. One in particular has been a BIG hit with my other friend’s family and my own, and another I have fixed up a little to be easier to work with and enjoy. Stay tuned for more tasty recipes that can be traced back to this book.

Why chia seeds? Rich in fiber, omega-3s, antioxidants, and amino acids, and almost all the carbs in them count as fiber.

A 1 ounce (28 grams) serving of chia seeds contains:

  • Fiber: 11 grams.
  • Protein: 4 grams.
  • Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are Omega-3s).
  • Calcium: 18% of the RDA.
  • Manganese: 30% of the RDA.
  • Magnesium: 30% of the RDA.
  • Phosphorus: 27% of the RDA.
  • They also contain a decent amount of Zinc, Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Potassium, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and Vitamin B2.

Chia can aid in weight loss¬†as they can help reduce food cravings¬†by preventing some of the food that you eat from getting absorbed into your system. This blockage of calorie absorption makes them a great diet helper. They can help you¬†feel fuller faster¬†because they absorb 10 times their weight in water, forming a bulky gel. They are often used as¬†hydration for athletes because the “chia gel” can hydrate the body. They may reduce your blood pressure¬†as evidence has suggested that they can reduce blood pressure. They are rich in¬†Omega-3s, and¬†are the richest plant source of Omega-3 (the vital fats that protect against¬†inflammation‚ÄĒsuch as arthritis‚ÄĒand heart disease). In fact, they contain more Omega-3 than salmon! They can also be beneficial for diabetics¬†because chia seeds slow down how fast our bodies convert carbohydrates into simple sugars, and studies indicate they can control blood sugar,¬†leading scientists to believe chia seeds may have great benefits for diabetics. And they are easier to digest than flax seeds, and don’t need to be ground up. Give them a try! Add them to yogurt, smoothies, baked goods, anything that you can think of. They are annoying and a pain to clean up (not to mention they can hang out in your teeth – pet peeve!), but they are worth it!


Cinnamon and Spice Sweet Potato Chips

This is a great sweet and slightly salty, crunchy treat to replace store-bought potato chips. I go a little overboard on the spice quantities because we like flavor in this house. Figure out how spicy you want to make them. These are cheap, fast, and easy to make, and barely make it through the day in our house!

INGREDIENTS
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 lb)
  • 3 Tbsp EVOO
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • Few pinches of sea salt
DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 300¬ļF.
  2. Peel the potatoes and slice into paper-thin disks, or however thin you can get them. A mandoline would probably be best for this. (I had success using the flat blade from my spiralizer after using a hand-held mandoline slicer last time that made the chips a little too thick and chewy.)
  3. In a large bowl, coat the potato disks with the EVOO and chia seeds. In a small bowl, combine all the spices.
  4. Spread the chips out in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet(s) and sprinkle the seasoning over them, and then sprinkle with salt.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until crisp, flipping about halfway through. (I seem to end up baking between 30-35 minutes, so the time depends on your oven and how thick they end up being.)
  6. Store in an airtight container, if you don’t eat them all before nightfall. Enjoy!

Cinnamon and Spice Sweet Potato Chips | The Half-Crunchy Mama