Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Homemade Caramel Corn

Caramel Corn is one of my mother's favorite treats, and this mother's day, I decided to make her some and send it.  Of course, I wanted to make her really tasty AND nutritious caramel corn, skipping the refined sugars and corn syrup.  To do so, I found a recipe on-line and then adapted it using only whole food, organic ingredients. 

To my delight (and my husband's!), the caramel corn turned out fantastic and had a rich, deep, authentic caramel flavor.  Luckily, I made a large batch, so even though I "tested" it several times during the process, some still made it into the package to be shipped to my mom!

Homemade Caramel Corn

7 quarts organic plain popped corn (buying this in bulk at the health food store and then air popping it is the best/easiest way to go!)
2 cups Rapunzel Organic Whole Cane Sugar
1/2 c. pure maple syrup
1 tsp. sea salt
1 c. organic butter
1/2 tsp. aluminum-free baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1.  Place the popped popcorn into two shallow greased baking pans.  Set aside. 
2.  Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.  Combine the sugar, maple syrup, butter and salt in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring enough to blend.  Once the mixture begins to boil, boil for 5 minutes while stirring constantly.
3.  Remove from the heat, and stir in the baking soda and vanilla.  The mixture will be light and foamy.  Immediately pour over the popcorn in the pans, and stir to coat. 
4.  Bake for 1 hour, removing the pans, and giving them each a good stir every 15 minutes.  Line the counter top with waxed paper.  Dump the corn out onto the waxed paper and separate the pieces.  Allow to cool completely, then store in airtight containers or resealable bags. 

(Adapted from "My Amish Friend's Caramel Corn" by ANITALOUISE from

Corn is now commonly genetically modified, so be sure to obtain organic popcorn for this recipe...
(Dr. Mercola has compiled helpful research about the health consequences of eating genetically modified foods.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Raw Chocolate Chia Energy Balls: A Recipe for Women in Labor to Boost Oxytocin Levels

Raw Chocolate Chia Energy Balls
Makes about 12 servings
    * 1 1/2 cups pitted dates
    * 1/3 cup raw unsweetened cocoa powder
    * 1/3 cup whole chia seeds
    * 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
    * 1 cup raw almonds
    * Coconut flour or flakes for coating, optional

1. Place dates in bowl of food processor; purée until thick paste forms. Add cocoa powder, chia seeds, and vanilla and almond extracts, if using. Pulse until all ingredients are combined. Add almonds; pulse until nuts are finely chopped and well distributed through date mixture.

2. Spread a large sheet of wax paper on work surface, and dust with coconut flour or flakes, if using.

3. Pinch off small pieces of the date/nut "dough" and roll them into balls.  Serve as is or roll them in coconut flour or flakes to coat and prevent sticking. 

4.  Chill to solidify and store in the refrigerator until serving.

The Benefits of Raw Consuming Chocolate in Labor:
A steady flow of the important hormone, oxytocin, is critical for having a healthy labor that progresses at a normal rate.   Most women are familiar with the role of oxytocin in labor and are already aware that massage, aromatherapy and other comfort measures increase oxytocin levels.  But did you know that there is also a food that naturally increases oxytocin levels?  That food is raw (meaning unroasted) CHOCOLATE!

Raw chocolate enhances serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin hormones.  It also contains significant quantities of tryptophan, a powerful mood-enhancing nutrient.  Aside from its oxytocin and mood-enhancing properties, raw chocoloate has a uniquely high mineral content that benefits laboring women.  Raw chocolate happens to be the richest food source of magnesium:  Magnesium improves the flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients throuughout the body, increasing energy levels.  It also has a general relaxant effect on all muscles in the body, which is generally considered to be beneficial during labor.

The Magic of Chia Seeds:

The chia is a flowering plant with botanical name, Salvia hispanica.  In the pre-Columbian times, chia plant was cultivated by the Aztecs of this region.  The Aztecs called it, "the running seed" because it was traditionally eaten to prepare people for running long distances.   The "running seeds'" or chia seeds' unique properties have now been well-studied and confirmed by modern nutritional science.  In fact, currently, chia seeds are being used by athletes to improve their stamina, endurance, and energy levels.  They are also known to sharpen focus, reduce inflammation, and increase nerve and muscle reactions.  The seed acts like a sponge when added to water and soak up 7 to 9 times their weight, allowing those who consume them to remain hydrated for longer periods of time.  As labor and childbirth require endurance, high energy, and hydration levels comparable to that of an athletic event, the properties of chia seed translate into a perfect labor food as well!

Raw chocolate and chia seeds eaten in combination create a powerful, mood and energy-elevating food that couldn't be more ideal for the physically and emotionally demanding process of childbirth.  The following recipe is delicious and contains both.


Superfoods:  The Food and Medicine of the Future, David     Wolfe
The Magic of Chia:  The Revival of an Ancient Wonderfood, James F. Sheer
The Vegetarian Times,


How Diffusing Essential Oils Benefits Mothers and Babies During Pregnancy, Labor, and Postpartum

Essential oils are aromatic volatile liquids distilled from a variety of plants including herbs, flowers, and trees. They constitute some of the most concentrated natural extracts known, exhibiting significant antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, antioxidant, hormonal and psychological benefits. They penetrate skin and cell membranes and transport oxygen and nutrients to organs and muscle tissue, thereby promoting healing.

Scent is the only sense directly connected to the emotional center of the brain, giving aromatherapy the completely unique ability to change one’s emotional state with one sniff.

Essential oils are one of the original medicines of mankind and their benefits have been known since ancient times.  In fact, their effectiveness and value was known by the ancient Egyptians and written about in the Christian Bible as well.  Essential oils were utilized for their wide range of therapeutic actions both on the mind and the body for different diseases.  Aside from the treatment of disease, however, they have long been used to assist in creating smooth, healthy pregnancies and labors by women and to promote the health and calmness of newborns.  

Pictured Above:  The Aria Cold Air Essential Oil Diffuser from Young Living Essential Oils 

One of the gentlest, safest, and easiest ways to benefit from essential oils during your pregnancy, labor, or postpartum period is to diffuse them into the air, which allows them to be absorbed into the lungs and provide systemic benefits.  

Aromatherapy for Pregnancy:
  • Gentle Baby Oil Blend:  A soft, fragrant combination of essential oils designed specifically for mothers and babies. It helps calm emotions during pregnancy
  • Thieves Oil Blend:  Provides immune system support
  • Lavender Oil:  Promotes deep relaxation/sleep, relieves headaches, and eases stress

Aromatherapy for Labor/Birth:
  • Peace and Calming Oil Blend:  Promotes mental and physical relaxation and eases fear around labor
  • Peppermint Oil:  Eases nausea and can stimulate energy/alertness during longer labors
  • Clary Sage Oil:  Encourages labor
  • Lemon Oil:  Stimulates oxytocin in the brain, encouraging labor to progress normally

Aromatherapy for Postpartum Support:
  • Claraderm Spray (applied topically rather than diffused: This blend of essential oils of, Melaleuca, Lavender, Frankincense, Roman Chamomile and Helichrysum are mixed in a base of fractionated coconut oil and speeds the healing of the perineum or any tears after birth
  • Joy Oil Blend, Jasmine, Ylang Ylang, Frankincense or Rose Oil: Uplifting, Anti-depressant, and promote feelings of joy, happiness and contentment
  • En-er-Gee Oil Blend:  Invigorates, alleviating tiredness and giving women energy after having given birth
  • Gentle Baby Oil Blend:  Diffused in the nursery, it helps to calm fussy babies and promote sound sleep

If the air that we breathe is clean and full of oxygen, we feel our best. Essential oils freshen the air and have a number of "bonus" therapeutic properties, such as those mentioned above that are specific for pregnancy.  Diffusing therapeutic grade essential oils into ANY environment also has a number of general benefits worth noting…  

Diffusing Essential Oils into ANY Environment will: 

a)     Relax the body, relieve tension, and clear the mind
b)    Help with weight management
c)     Improve concentration, alertness, and mental clarity
d)    Stimulate neurotransmitters, which results in increased feelings of well-being and better moods
e)     Stimulate the secretion of endorphins
f)     Stimulate growth hormone production and receptivity
g)    Improve the secretion of IgA antibodies that fight candida, an unfriendly fungus that underlies digestive health issues
h)    Improve digestive function
i)      Improve hormonal balance
j)      Relieve headaches
k)    Reduce bacteria, fungus, mold, and unpleasant odors

The importance of choosing and using quality oils and a quality diffuser
About Quality Oils:
To achieve the best effects from essential oils and avoid toxic reactions, it's imperative that you use only therapeutic grade essential oils, of a quality suited to medicinal aromatherapy.  The gold standard in top-quality essential oils is the AFNOR standard : make sure that all of your oils are AFNOR-certified, each batch tested in an independent lab. 
(Even many so-called pure, organic or "Grade A" oils cannot match this standard.  Shortcuts are often taken in production, or chemical fillers are added to extend the oils or enhance their fragrance.  All of these lead to poor quality oils, which are — unbelievably — still marketed as pure, organic and Grade A.)

About Quality Aromatherapy Diffusers:

Diffusion is the process of dispersing essential oils so that their aroma fills a room or an area with the natural fragrance. From the simple to the elaborate, many different methods exist for diffusing essential oils into a room. There are numerous diffusers and diffusing devices available for purchase from aromatherapy vendors.  Some involve the use of heat, which destroys some of the therapeutic properties of the oils being used.  Others disperse the oils, but not in a form that is readily absorbed by the lungs, making their therapeutic effect minimal at best. 

Ultrasonic or nebulizing diffusers take essential oils and break them into separate molecules before dispersing the smaller molecules into the room. These smaller molecules can be more readily absorbed by the lungs and thus have greater therapeutic value.  Another advantage of both of these technologies is that they do not heat the oils in the process of diffusing.  Because of this, 100% of the oils’ medicinal constituents remain intact and are dispersed into the air for your benefit. 

Where to Purchase Both:
Quality, therapeutic grade essential oils that meet the aforementioned standards, as well as quality diffusers that use ultrasonic or nebulizing technology, are both offered by a company called Young Living Essential Oils.
Go to and use distributor/sponsor number 820049 to purchase oils or diffusers under my distributorship. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

An American Comfort Food Reimagined: Butternut Squash French "Fries"

One of the keys to a healthy diet is to eat a diverse variety of vegetables on a weekly basis.  This recipe gives you a unique, healthy way to serve one of most people's favorite foods to eat regularly, French Fries!

Butternut Squash French "Fries":
(adapted from a recipe in The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook 
by Neal Barnard, M.D. and Robyn Webb)

Butternut Squash
Extra Virgin Coconut or Red Palm Oil
Sea Salt or Himalayan Pink Salt

1.  Preheat your oven to 425 F.
2.  Peel and cut the squash into French-fry shapes. 
3.  Melt the Coconut or Palm Oil and add enough to lightly coat the squash.  Stir. 
4.  Sprinkle with Paprika.
5.  Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, turning halfway through, until the inside is tender and the outside has a beautiful golden brown color.  (Keep an eye on them the first time you make them because baking times vary according the the size of the fries.) 
6.  Sprinkle with sea salt and serve! 

These "fries" pair nicely with black bean veggie burgers and a fresh, green salad.

Some good reasons to eat Butternut Squash...

Many of the carbohydrates it contains come from beneficial sugars called polysaccharides, which studies show have special anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-diabetic and insulin-regulating properties.
It contains potent antioxidant cartenoids, Vitamin C, niacin, manganese, B Vitamins, and heart-healthy folate.
It reduces inflammation in the body, which helps prevent inflammatory diseases like asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
It is an excellent source of immune-supportive Vitamin A.
It is a rich source of dietary fiber, which has been shown to have a number of health benefits including increased absorption of minerals, reduced blood cholesterol levels, and a lower risk of many types of cancer.


The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook, Neal Barnard, M.D. and Robyn Webb
The World's Healthiest Foods Website,
"Power Foods:  Butternut Squash," Whole Living Magazine On-line,


Friday, May 6, 2011

Black Bean Soup with Roasted Kabocha Squash, Russet Potatoes, Sweet Yellow Peppers, Zucchini and Rosemary

Black Bean Soup

Roasted Potatoes, Yellow Peppers, Zucchini, and Kabocha Squash

Have you ever tried Kabocha Squash?  If not, you are in for a pleasant surprise.  I find it even more delicious than Butternut with a texture and a sweetness somewhere between a typical squash and a sweet potato...

Ingredients for the Soup-
2 cups dry black beans or 6 cups cooked black beans
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup chopped carrots (2-3 carrots)
1 cup chopped celery (2-3 stalks)
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. ghee or red palm oil
4 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp. sea salt
fresh cilantro

If using dry beans, soak 2 cups overnight; then drain, rinse, cover with water, and cook until tender.  If using canned beans, drain and rinse 6 cups and set aside.  In a large tockpot, saute onion, carrots, celery, and garlic in the olive oil and 1 T. Vegetable Broth.   Add 1 cup broth along with the cooked beans and combine everything thoroughly.  Simmer 10 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally.  Add the salt and simmer 10 more minutes.  You can stop here, as this makes a delicious black bean stew.  For a soup consistency, add the rest of the broth and simmer 10 minutes more.  Blend with a hand blender if you'd like a creamy black bean soup!

Garnish with fresh cilantro and raw vegan cashew sour cream or cultured raw sour cream.

Adapted from a recipe from another of my FAVORITE recipe books- which is also packed full of holistic health tips and information...

Roasted Kabocha Squash, Russet Potatoes, Sweet Yellow Peppers, Zucchini, and Rosemary:

1.  Cut into medium sized cubes:
Kabocha Squash
Russet Potatoes
Sweet Yellow Peppers

2.  Coat the veggies with melted red palm oil and a generous amount of Bragg's raw apple cider vinegar.  Sprinkle generously with dried or fresh rosemary.

3.  Bake at 375 F for about 45 minutes.  (Baking times vary depending on the size of your cubes as well as your oven.

4.  Just before serving, sprinkle with a bit of Sun Fire Salt or Himalayan Salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Most people routinely used extra virgin olive oil for roasting:  However, this is not a practice that I recommend to my clients.  EVOO does not stand up to heat well and is best eaten raw in my opinion.  It tends to cause weight gain when routinely eaten cooked and is somewhat difficult for the liver to process.  For cooking, tropical oils like Palm or Coconut are much better choices.  (Ghee can also be used.)  Red Palm oil has some unique characteristics, but it is often overlooked as a cooking oil.  It has a buttery flavor.

According to Bruce Fife, N.D., author of The Palm Oil Miracle, Palm oil, particularly virgin or “red” palm oil, is a traditional fat that has been a part of the human diet for at least 5000 years. For generations red palm oil has been revered as both a nutritious food and a valuable medicine. It was prized by the pharaohs of ancient Egypt as a sacred food. The oil was so highly valued that it was entombed with the pharaohs so that they would have access to it in the afterlife."

Palm oil: 
  • supplies fatty acids essential for proper growth and development
  • is packed with an assortment of vitamins, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients important for good health 
  • is rich in carotenes such as beta-carotene and lycopene
  • used supplementally in a breastfeeding woman's diet can double the amount of Vitamin A in her breastmilk (crucial for the growth/development of her child)
  • can remove plaque build up in arteries and therefore, reverse the process of atherosclerosis 
  • can improve cholesterol values
  • helps maintain proper blood pressure
  • has a high antioxidant content, which quenches free radicals and keeps inflammation under control
  • contain Tocotrienols, which strengthen the heart so that it is more resistant to the negative health effects of stress
  • is protective against neurological degeneration
  • is protective against a variety of health problems including osteoporosis, asthma, cataract, macular degeneration, arthritis, and liver disease due to its unique antioxidant profile
  • slows down the aging process holistically
  • is a potent anticancer food due to its Tocotrienol content (found to be superior in its cancer-protective effects to other antioxidants.  Researchers have discovered that Tocotrienols not only prevent cancer from taking hold but actively block its growth (in the case of skin, stomach, pancreas, liver, lung, colon, prostate, breast, and other cancers

    Source:   The Palm Oil Miracle by Bruce Fife, N.D.

    Clearly, when it comes to oils, it pays to diversify!  I recommend rotating cold pressed, raw oils pumpkin seed, red palm, coconut, sesame, olive, flax, and hemp as healthy, easily obtainable options.  Most health food stores and Whole Foods carry them.

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    Diffusing Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils Purifies the Air You Breathe, Improves Oxygenation Levels, and Improves Your Mood!

    If the air that we breathe is clean and full of oxygen, we feel well.  However, the air we typically breathe in our homes, our cars, and our offices, is typically polluted by the chemicals used in the manufacture of wall paneling, furniture, upholstery, even clothing--not to mention the cleaning products, disinfectants, chemically based "air fresheners," and perfumes that are loaded with synthetic chemicals that can be literally sickening.  All of the aforementioned items contain one if not more known carcinogens, in fact.  Indoor air is also typically low in oxygen because, unlike the outdoors, it is not filled with plants.  Being in low oxygen environments for too long tends to put us in a low energy, fatigued state. 

    Essential oils can freshen the air  naturally as well as add healthy levels of oxygen to it.  These oils also provide a number of additional benefits worth noting:  For exaample, diffusing essential oils in office environments has been proven to reduce mental errors by 50%.  Diffusing essential oils in your bedroom can help you fall asleep, deepen your sleep, and boost body repair processes that occur during sleep.  A travel diffuser is  remarkably effective for preventing fatigue when driving for long periods of time in automobiles.


    The Core Benefits of Diffusing Essential Oils into Any Environment Are:

    Reducing bacteria, fungus, mold, and unpleasant odors
    Promoting relaxation, relieving tension, and clearing the mind
    Assisting with weight management
    Improved concentration, alertness, and mental clarity
    Stimulating neurotransmitters, which result in increased feelings of well-being and improved moods
    Stimulating endorphin production
    Stimulating growth hormone production and receptivity (which is associated with longevity and faster  healing/recovery rates)
    Improvement in the secretion of IgA antibodies that fight candida, an unfriendly fungus that underlies digestive health issues
    Improving digestive function
    Improving hormonal balance
    Improved immune system functioning
    Helping to relieve headaches
    Relieving breathing difficulties and congestion

    To receive the benefits of diffusing essential oils, therapeutic grade oils must be used as well as a type of cold-air diffusion technology.  (Diffusers that heat the oils actually destroy their therapeutic constituents in the difusion process.)  Visit  to learn more.  From this site, you can also purchase therapeutic oils and diffusers on-line.