Tuesday, March 18, 2014 in , , , , , , , , , ,

Mango Juicie Recipe - an anti-inflammatory treat

In fall 2012 I received a lovely note from a local esthetician named Lauren.  She wrote of her interest in natural and holistic skincare and how she'd love to help Blissoma out in some way.  In the following months Lauren and I worked local demos together and had time to chat inbetween client consults.  She was in the middle of a lifestyle transition prompted by persistent health issues.  Like many chronic problems it took some months and multiple doctor visits to sort out, resulting in a rebooted dietary approach that was friendly to her particular needs.

Flash forward to 2014 and she is now employed as our staff esthetician.  As a part of her own health journey she has done a lot of juicing with fresh fruits and veggies and wanted to share her own version of a recipe she tweaked from the Low Histamine Chef.

The juice recipe is heavily celery based.  While celery may seem simple as a veggie I can assure you - it's not!  While other veggies often get the accolades celery is there quietly providing 13 phenolic antioxidants, a sweet dose of Vitamin K, and lots of minerals.  Celery's powers include anti-inflammatory benefits for the cardiovascular system.  It can prevent oxidation of body fats and blood vessel walls.  For those with sensitive stomachs celery also has pectin based polysaccharides that have been shown to improve the integrity of the stomach lining and help control stomach secretions.

Also notable is the fun inclusion of radishes!  They add a unique flavor that blends really well with the celery.  Just a little fresh kick to wake your palate up in the morning.

Mango Juicie (smoothie+juice=juicie)
this makes about 2-3 servings, use half of the veggies if wanting 1 serving

1 mango
1 bunch of Kale (any kind, or if you aren’t a fan of kale a head of romaine works too)
1 bunch of celery (approximately 8 good sized stalks)
1 bunch of radishes (approximately 6 or 7 average round radishes)
1 green apple (optional for a little more sweetness)

*if you have a centrifugal juicer the leafy greens can be omitted in favor of a cucumber.  Romaine often goes through a centrifugal fine but with kale it isn't as efficient.

Juice everything but the mango. Peel the mango and puree it. Add green juice to mango puree and mix!

This is a low sugar, incredibly skin-friendly recipe that tastes great.  Why is low sugar important for your beauty results?  Read how sugar is aging your skin and you'll feel even better about this juice choice.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014 in , , , , , , , ,

How antibacterial soap hurts my child's skin and more on safe skincare

That's my baby. Not today, but on a day many years ago when she had her first bath.  Just like then she still trusts me to make safe decisions to help her care for her body.  That mission has become ever more important to me the more I know about the hidden hazards of many of the personal care products in average stores and bathroom cabinets all across our country.  While I usually prefer to focus on the positive health benefits of natural choices every once in a while we have to talk about some of the scary details you need to know to stay safe.

Winter is the season of dry hands, and not just for adults.  Every winter Tru's hands get irritated by all the synthetic, triclosan-laden soaps that permeate public restrooms at stores and schools.  As a mom and as an advocate for healthy, toxin-free skincare this makes me upset and with plenty of reason. 

When she was in kindergarten the soaps at school made the backs of her hands lobster colored.  They stung, throbbed, and hurt her so badly she cried herself to sleep some nights, whimpering and avoiding touching anything.  I approached the school about changing soaps but they told me no-go, that the antibacterial soap was necessary. They said they could get sued for using just plain soap if a kid got the flu.  This gave me a supreme sense of irony that my daughter's burning skin was not enough of a concern to also cause worry or concern that a parent might take action.  Despite the fact that triclosan soaps are not proven to remove any more bacteria from hands than just plain soap and water businesses cling to them because they fear lawsuits and their suppliers continue to make and sell them.  The risk, work, and cost of switching looks higher than the perceived benefit.

On that particular occasion years ago I didn't even begin to get into the issue of toxin load and chemical buildup in our systems.  If her red hands were not enough evidence of a problem with the product then getting into more abstract concepts like toxin buildup was going to get nowhere at that point in time.  We resorted to sending her to school with her own handmade, organic bar of soap and the problem went away.  Healthy product = healthy skin.    If you are facing a similar circumstance and want to help your child avoid extra chemical exposure a personalized travel soap box and an organic bar of soap are easy to send along.

Yesterday once again Tru was relating to me that her hands had been getting dry like usual at this time of year.  She told me that the Neutrogena lotion she had used at another household had "really burned her skin" but that the grapeseed oil she got to use afterward made them feel better very quickly.  Again this provided really clear evidence of just how irritating many synthetic products are, especially to children.  Dry skin is even more sensitive too, as the dehydration of the horny layer puts nerves closer to the surface than usual.  That makes a reaction even more likely.

The FDA is currently reviewing triclosan closely and considering it's future in consumer products.  The FDA is rather lax about ingredients in personal care products so just that they are willing to publish a position that science is supporting a lack of benefit and a concern for human safety is a big step.

In the last few weeks I have been reading "Not Just a Pretty Face".  While I was aware of all the toxin risks discussed in the book it has definitely reinvigorated my passion for toxin-free products.  One of the prime takeaways is that children are one of the most at-risk groups for exposure to hormone disruptors like pthalates and parabens, both commonly found in antibacterial soaps along with triclosan.  Their developing systems process chemical loads differently than grown adults and it can cause more insidious problems than just a little skin irritation - problems like early sexual development, fertility problems later in life, and cancer.  Our endocrine (hormone) systems are very delicate and a little shove one way or another can create vastly different development of the body and abnormal cell growth.  All that handwashing we encourage our young children to do today might lead to problems down the road if we don't wash with something actually clean.

At home my family is very clean about the products we use.  We can make a big dent in Tru's chemical exposure by keeping at least one environment as natural and toxin-free as possible.  She may only be 9 (+3/4!) but she is excited about washing her face with mom's cleanser and moisturizer, and always happy to use our organic soap for her hands.  Thankfully I can have the utmost confidence that since those are literally made by me they are super pure!  But we still need these ideas spread to the rest of society and especially environments like schools where our children spend a lot of time.  Every person I speak with and try to share information about our toxin load problems as a society I know I'm saving someone else from irritation and disease.  Yes, it's my job to educate but I chose this line of work because of an interest in health.  While most of my clients are adults it is impossible to ignore that our children need clean care as well.  A need for natural skin and bodycare doesn't start at age 25 with a bad acne breakout or new allergies.  It begins before conception and continues throughout life.   

This one's for my baby and all the other mama's babies out there.  That includes you 30, 40, and 50 year olds.  You're somebody's baby too, so let's take care. How about if you eliminate antibacterial, perfumed soaps from your household this year in the interest of your safety and the safety of your family?  I challenge you to replace them all.  Just plain natural soap and water will keep you clean enough.

Thursday, December 19, 2013 in , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to make Elderberry Extract - boost your immunity and skip getting sick with the flu

Vitamin C is great stuff but sometimes it's just not enough.  You need a variety of healthy options you can reach for when you feel a germ coming on.

Elderberry extract is an effective and tasty herbal remedy that you can use to boost your immunity during cold and flu season.  It's part of my family's herbal arsenal and we use it every year.  I thought you might like to see just how easy it is to make and use.  Kids will even drink it in their juice, and who doesn't want a better way to keep your littles happy and healthy?

Elderberry syrups are common at health food stores and great to use if you can.  They can get a little pricey to use on a regular basis for a whole family, though.  Elderberries work by preventing the influenza virus from being able to attach and replicate within host cells in your body.  That means even if you manage to catch a bug if you start treatment with Elderberry you can shorten the time you are sick.  If the virus can't replicate it can't make you so miserable.  Treatment with elderberry syrups has shortened recovery times to as little as 2 days - it really works! Read up on more information about elderberries, a wellness herbal treatment that has been used for generations.

Elderberries are also rich in antioxidants, so they provide anti-aging benefits to your body as well.  The rich purple color is from anthocyanins.  They're anti-inflammatory.  This little berry has a lot to offer.

I did the math really quickly, so I ended up with my recipe being a little more liquid than wanted to fit in my quart jar due to the fact that alcohol is lighter than water and therefore takes up more volume.  Whoops!  I should have accounted for that to start with.  Use these numbers instead to fit it all in.  It's a 50% alcohol solution.

Supplies you'll need: 
A clean quart glass jar
Measuring cups
Digital scale
Wire mesh strainer for when the extract is finished

Elderberry Extract Recipe at 5:1 concentration 
28 oz / 812 g total weight:

135.3 g dried, ripe elderberries
676.7 g sustainable or organic vodka
338.3 g filtered water and 338.3 g Everclear or other 95% pure ethanol

Directions: Measure and combine all ingredients in the jar.  Allow to steep for 2 to 6 weeks in a cool, dark place.  After steeping strain out the berries using the mesh strainer.  Use 15 ml (1 Tbsp) of extract in a cup of juice or smoothie each day to provide antioxidants and immunity boost.  It's also tasty in a cup of plain green tea or Matcha green tea too.

You can get bulk organic elderberries by ordering online or from your local herb shop.

If you have any auto-immune conditions or are on immune suppressing drugs you may wish to consult your doctor or naturopath before taking Elderberry.  See a list of precautions and possible interactions online.

For most adults and children this is a very tasty, safe way to stay well during flu season and, of course, totally natural.  Skip the synthetic colored cough syrups and enjoy elderberry instead.

I also adore Gaia Herbs products.  When I'm on the road and away from my bottle of elderberry or just needing the additional support I take their liquicap extracts.  Their Echinacea/Goldenseal combination is in my cabinet every year.  They also make capsules for Elderberry and plain Echinacea in case the bit of St. John's Wort in the combo capsule just isn't for you.  The liquid extracts they produce are just more effective than most powdered extracts and they put a huge amount of time and effort into both their cultivation, extraction and science.  I can't recommend this brand highly enough. (and no, they do not pay me or sample me even, I just love what they do)  I purchased these capsules myself and their Migraprofen capsules have thwarted many migraine headaches for me.  All things Gaia Herbs are good in my opinion.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 in , , , , , , , , , ,

Improve your skin and your health while driving - 3 ways to relax in the car

We're in the middle of a tremendously busy season of work, events, and family gatherings.  Most require time going to and fro and in America's automobile culture that generally means time in your car.  This can be a big drain or a big gain depending on how you address it.

Some people stress more while driving.  Everything from getting cut off to the amount of traffic amps up the tension.  Or perhaps you're a worrier, and spend your drive time caught in a cycle of repetitive, negative thoughts about what happened at work, the barbed email you just got from your ex, or your budget.  None of this is helpful to your body and as I've covered in other blog articles on stress and your skin it can immediately detrimentally affect your skin and bring on conditions like acne, eczema, and dermatitis.

With a few easy, accessible techniques you can short circuit this car quandary and transform yourself from frazzled to beatific as you bop around town.  With the help of Sheila Fazio I tell you how in our recent video on how to "Stress Less While Driving - 3 ways to relax during your drive".

Sheila is a truly gifted healer and a beautiful soul.  I met her at a women's retreat and learned a series of powerful breathing techniques from her that were different from most of the yogic breathing I had been taught before.  Her unique experiences as a social worker combined with her own personal life challenges give her a beautiful depth, approachability, and empathy for the challenges we all face.

Sit with us for 20 minutes and learn what you can do to make your commute conscious and take back the valuable time you spend there each day.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013 in , , , , , , , , , ,

White Bean and Snap Pea Salad with Yogurt Miso Sauce - from Dinner in the Garden

Snap peas are one of my favorite things about gardening in the cooler seasons of the year.  My daughter will eat them raw as I pick them.  I like them blanched and as a carrier for various sorts of dips or in green salads as a sweetly substantial crunch with my greens.

I devised this recipe back in June when we had a bumper crop.  It was served at the Dinner in the Garden / For Reals Meals event to great acclaim by the attendees.  Now that the weather is cooling again snap peas will be in season and you can prepare this for any upcoming gatherings of your own.

The snap peas used for the dinner event were all from the Blissoma community garden.  There were a LOT this spring so I was scheming constantly on ways to put them all to good use.

The Yogurt Miso Sauce could be made with soy yogurt but I had the worst time finding any even in health food stores in St. Louis.  Consequently I used an organic, humane goat milk yogurt instead.  It seems all the soy yogurt around me was replaced by just coconut yogurt, which was sweet (I tried it just in case) and totally unsuitable for this recipe.  It was one of the only recipes for the entire dinner that ended up not vegan.  Fortunately many people digest goat milk better than cow milk, and it is generally not factory farmed which eliminates many of the environmental and gustatory concerns related to dairy.

I wanted a really savory, tangy sauce and this particular mixture turned out to be insanely delicious on crackers and just as a dip for other veggies too. The miso and white truffle oil add layers of flavor that bloom in the mouth as each bite goes down.  I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.  Make sure you buy an organic miso paste or read labels very carefully as otherwise you're likely to end up with unwanted MSG, which is common in many mass produced misos, or since it is a soy product anything non organic is likely GMO.  Even most of the miso pastes at my local asian market are packed with MSG.  I had to get the cleaner version from an independent, locally focused grocery store.  The miso paste is usually salty and provided all the salt this sauce needed.  If you find yours needs a little more you could add a splash of soy sauce or a sprinkle of sea salt.

White Bean and Snap Pea Salad with Yogurt Miso Sauce

Yogurt Miso Sauce

1 quart plain goat milk yogurt or plain, unsweetened soy yogurt

4 Tbsp white miso paste (organic, MSG free)
2 large cloves garlic, minced or crushed in garlic press
2 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
4 tsp white truffle oil
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil

Mix all ingredients and allow to sit for several hours in the refrigerator to blend the flavors.

White Bean and Snap Pea Salad

6 cups fresh snap peas
1 lb dry white cannellini beans
Yogurt Miso Sauce
Optional: quality blue cheese or feta cheese for sprinkling on top

Soak and cook cannellini beans according to package directions (beans are generally an 8 hour overnight soak, rinsed, and then boiled until soft).  Drain and set aside.

Blanch snap peas by placing in boiling water for 1 minute, then quickly drain and rinse in cool water to stop cooking.  Allow to cool.  Cut each snap pea in two sections and remove any tough tips from either end.  

Mix beans, snap peas, and yogurt miso sauce.  Serve chilled.
If you don't mind dairy then the addition of a little blue cheese or feta was an amazing added flavor.  I ate many of my leftovers topped with it as a treat.  The tangy and pungent flavors of both these cheeses was delightful.  Feta was a little more overpowering, oddly enough.  The blue blended in more seamlessly and had a creamier texture with each bite.  Depending on the effect you want either could work.

I know my cohost Jess is going to be excited to finally see this recipe posted and hopefully you'll find it to be a palate pleasing delight as well.  It's a dish that can help you easily enjoy seasonal eating.  More peas, please! 

Thursday, August 1, 2013 in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

St. Louis Dinner in the Garden with City in a Jar - inspired by One Part Plant "For Reals Meals"

Regular readers and Blissoma fans know that we are creating a community garden in North St. Louis City.  It's big and we're hoping to make a big impact for our community and their involvement with healthy, organic foods and herbs.

Part of my goal this year was to start bringing more people into the garden either through volunteer time or events.  I delivered fliers around the neighborhood and hosted the first group work day in the garden in late spring.  Neighbors I'd never met before came and learned about what's happening on our plot. 

More events were on tap, and after seeing the For Reals Meals series by Jessica Murnane on One Part Plant I decided that St. Louis definitely needed to host a copycat event.  They say imitation is sincere flattery and Jessica proved her colors when she offered 100% enthusiasm to the idea of her concept spreading to other cities.  Done! 

The season was perfect to have it outdoors in the lush June garden and feature as many locally procured and garden grown ingredients as possible.  Jessica Leitch of City in a Jar became my cohort since I am notoriously unable to focus on anything but food when planning a dinner.  If it was left up to me folks would have been eating with fingers, though the food would have been delicious.  Thank goodness I had help then with the table settings, bartending, flowers, and hosting.

We invited some neato people in the St. Louis scene, splitting the invite list between us equally.  I reached out to local filmmaker Ken Calcaterra, city government employee and fellow foodie Vincent Haynes, and Cbabi and Reine Bayoc of the famed vegan eatery SweetArt.  Jessica invited her photographer Christopher Willingham who shot all the photos in this post, her videographer, and several other friends.

At 6 pm on the first day of summer the guests began to descend on the garden.  I had planted, weeded, tended, and put in great efforts to make sure the garden was in spiffy shape for the evening.  The garden gods smiled on me and didn't let the weeds, bugs or heat get too far ahead of me.

Jess bartended while I was holed up in the kitchen completing the meal.  Afterwards Vincent told me he'd never consider having a dinner without a co-host again, as it solves the notoriously difficult problem of how to entertain guests while cooking food.  A buddy makes it possible!

We set things up picnic style on low tables with blankets.  It was casual but a memorable dining experience.

Recipes for Dishes from Dinner in the Garden

 - Lavender themed cocktails made with lavender simple syrup and 360 Vodka (Jess declared her favorite to be the Lavender/Lemon variation on a Lavender Collins
- Strawberry and Pickled Beet Salad with Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
- Creamy White Bean and Sugar Snap Pea Medley
- Sweet Potato Oven Fries with Crumb Coating and Homemade Heirloom Ketchup
- Panfried Polenta with Garden Herbs and Raw Mustard Greens Pesto

and a gluten-free baklava with coconut ice-milk for dessert

All recipes were original concoctions and featured ingredients harvested from the garden to show off the work we've been doing to grow fantastic food.  I'll gradually be posting all the recipes over the coming weeks so everyone can enjoy these healthy and super tasty creations.  With the exception of the white bean salad and baklava all recipes were vegan, and all of them were gluten-free.

Everyone enjoyed their evening.  I was glad I completed dinner by only 30 minutes after the estimated serving time (phew!) and that everything turned out well.  I'm working on some tweaks to the desserts as both weren't as fine as I'd like for sharing with the whole world, but they tasted good that night.

By next year I hope to have a full size farm table made from donated, reclaimed wood to serve on for many future events.  Thanks to both the Jessicas for their contributions!  I highly suggest following One Part Plant on culinary adventures through Chicagoland as you're sure to find something delightful.  We were honored to replicate her concept and instigate a little happy mixing of people and plants in North St. Louis.  We've got a lot growing up here.

in , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Strawberry and Pickled Beet Salad with Raspberry Balsamic Dressing

Strawberry and pickled beet salad recipe

There's little better way to celebrate the bounty of early summer or to nourish your body than with a bright and beautiful salad.  Enter the Strawberry and Pickled Beet Salad....

As covered in my post 5 Skin Benefits of Eating Salad there's a host of happy results when you fit some fresh fruits and veggies on your plate en masse at least once a day.  Read up and then come on back to make this sweet and unexpected dish.

Since we've already covered the health benefits of salad and beets in particular in other posts we'll get right to the recipe. All the fresh ingredients used are in season in summer meaning you can eat totally locavore for this dish. My spring beets were ready to pick in June, as were the berries and the last of the lettuce.

Strawberry and Pickled Beet Salad with Raspberry Balsamic Dressing

Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
½ cup grapeseed oil
¼ cup olive oil
3 TBSP raspberry balsamic vinegar
1 TBSP real maple syrup
1/16 tsp cloves
1/16 tsp allspice
pinch of salt
1 TBSP minced shallot

Puree raspberries in blender or food processor.  Blend in remaining ingredients except for shallot.  Stir minced shallot in by hand.  Stir dressing before adding to salad.

I used di Olivas Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar, which is a very syrupy, thick, sweet vinegar you can practically drink straight.  It is a gourmet vinegar only available at their own store here in St. Louis.  If you can't get a raspberry balsamic in your area then go for the best quality plain balsamic you can get.   The quality of the vinegar will greatly affect the final result of your dressing.

Salad Recipe (per plate or bowlful)

3 cups organic spring mix, red or green oakleaf or other quality lettuce, washed and spun dry
1/2 cup homemade pickled beets (see my recipe)
1 cup sliced strawberries
2 tsp chia seeds (optional)
Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing, quantity as desired

Arrange sliced, pickled beets and sliced strawberries evenly over the lettuce.  Sprinkle chia seeds and drizzle dressing on to taste.  Eat and enjoy!

I served this original salad at the 6/21 Dinner in the Garden held in the Blissoma Community Garden and hosted by myself and Jessica Leitch of City in a Jar.  The event was inspired by Jessica Murnane of One Part Plant who has been exciting me with her For Reals Meals series that features collaborations with creative professionals in Chicago, slow food recipes, and general awesomeness.  I'll be posting more of the recipes created just for our Dinner in the Garden/St. Louis For Reals Meals event soon and you can catch the full photo story on both City in a Jar and From the Bathtub.

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