Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Okay, I admit it - I love ice cream. I always have. However, over the years my ice cream selections have changed, going from the standard Ben & Jerry's and morphing into a variety of homemade, non-dairy flavors. The issue I have recently run into is that all are made with a sweetener of some kind. I have worked diligently to keep sugars, even ones like maple syrup, honey, brown rice syrup, and agave nectar, out of my daughter's little body and far from her developing taste buds. In doing this I'm hoping to stave off any sweet tooth or sugar addictions she may find herself with later in life. By laying the groundwork now [no matter how challenging], my prayer is that she will be set up for a lifetime of health. 

This of course doesn't come without sacrifices and for us it has been ice cream. In the past I have sweetened all of my homemade versions with brown rice syrup or honey [see this or this] but have never been able to share some with her. What is summer [or summer-like days] without a frozen treat, especially during play time?! 

And then, the other day, I had an "ah ha!" moment. Why not try and use dates to sweeten it up a bit? I use dates to sweeten our smoothies, green juices, baked goods, and chia pudding because they add sweetness but are not excessively sweet, so why shouldn't it work here? 

After a little adjusting, a blender mis-hap [yes I was covered in creamy date goo - pregnancy clumsiness...ARRGGH!], and a little crossing my fingers, I found that dates work amazingly well.

[Note: the jelly bean looking things in the photo below are actually rock crayons not candy!]


So what is it about dates that make them a healthier selection? Dates, or "nature's candy" [meaning they are high in natural sugars], have almost a perfect ratio of calcium and magnesium, are stocked with fiber, and boast potassium. Vitamin A, the B vitamins and other trace minerals [like copper and iron] can be found in these little fruits. Their antioxidant content is the highest among the dried fruits! 

Through their cleansing properties, the large intestine can find great relief from dates. For men they may help with...well let's just say they may help! An infusion or syrup made from dates is great for a sore throat and chest congestion as it acts similar to honey. This is especially helpful if you have children under the age of one when honey isn't an option. 

This is an exceptional food for athletes or people with immense physical demands as dates provide the sugar and calories you need to replace nutrients lost through a strenuous work out or physical labor. The elderly can also benefit as they can be used for symptoms of weakness and aging.

Of course, if you have blood sugar issues, including diabetes, you probably want to pass on dates [or use them sparingly as in some case their soluble fiber can actually help regulate blood sugar levels] and use a sweetener like stevia instead [although I only recommend the whole plant version as I am not completely sold on the processed, white powder or liquid products]. Also, if you are trying to loose weight these, like other natural sweeteners, dates are not a low-calorie food. A better choice than sugar but still use in moderation.

Remember, like all extremely sweet fruits / foods, moderation is key. Make these little guys a treat - like in ice cream! 


20 dates, soaked*
1 c. cashews, soaked over night*  
1 can regular coconut milk
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. real vanilla
1/2 c. [heaping] coconut oil, melted 
1 1/2 c. of really strong chamomile tea**

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until very smooth. Either pour into bowl or place blender container in refrigerator. Refrigerator for at least 1 hour. 

Pour mixture into ice cream maker [use maker instructions] and run until ice cream has become thick and frozen. You can also simply pour the mixture into a glass container and freeze, stirring occasionally. 

Serve with your favorite jam [I use my homemade spiced vanilla peach sauce] or berries. 

*To soak your dates and cashews: Place dates and cashews each in a glass container [mason jars work well here]. Cover with double the water and refrigerate over night. If you are in a last minute pinch you can use boiling water and soak for 20 minutes or until each are soft.

**I add chamomile tea because I love the flavor and medicinal benefits [see this post]. You can also use a mint tea, fruit juice, or simply add more coconut milk. I generally steep 2 - 3 bags of tea [Evening Reprose from Global Infusion or Mountain Rose Herbs is my favorite and Tazo Tea also has a great blend] or herbs. 

Note: If you store this after it's taken out of the ice cream maker and want to serve it the next day you will need to soften as it freezes pretty hard. Take out of the freezer about 30 minutes prior to serving.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Yesterday I cleared out the strawberry bed. I pruned and pulled and cut and learned that strawberries are a fantastically prolific little plant. They propagate like bunnies it seems which is great for any strawberry farm but not so wonderful for us small, multi-vegetal farming folk. These little fruited rabbits spread about 5 feet in every direction, climbing into the herb boxes, pea beds, and anywhere else they could find a little free soil and a bit of sun. Each year I learn a new gardening lesson. Okay, many new lessons. Today's was prune in fall.

That being said, this unusually warm weather has me wondering if things will be coming a bit early this year. We have buds and blossoms on our fruit trees, daffodils in the yard, tulips popping up and green just about everywhere [including on the pond in the form of never ending algae]. This thought led me to take inventory of my freezer and, as it turns out, we have a few strawberries yet to eat. Not an unfortunate task if you ask me. And so this recipe was born to effortlessly dispatch 4 cups of those little red sweet beauties.

This week also happens to mark my birthday which is cause for an additional post highlighting a sweet birthday treat. So happy birthday to me [thanks mom for going through the trouble!] and spring blessings to all of you.


Strawberries are one of the first true fruits of spring [after rhubarb, which really swings in both the fruit and vegetable directions] and conveniently is a great spring tonic, aiding liver, kidneys, lungs, stomach, and spleen in the natural detoxification that occurs as the seasons change. Generally toxins build up in the liver throughout the winter and the diet demands richer, fattier foods to keep our bodies warm. Spring is the perfect time to rid the body of these toxins as we transition from heavy foods to lighter fare like spring greens, asparagus, sprouts, and fruits like strawberries. Seasonal transitions also happen to be a time of reduced immunity as the body is working overtime to eliminate excess toxins and acclimate itself to this new time of year. Strawberries boast clinically proven antiviral properties as well as potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents all of which are yet more examples that the earth is prepared to give us what we need exactly when we need it.

These berries are packed with vitamins A and C [as much as oranges!], some B-complex vitamins, along with silicon, potassium, and fiber. They also help improve brain function [bring on those ACTs!], reduce macular degeneration, benefit sufferers of arthritis, and help prevent colon cancer. Amazingly enough, the extract of this fruit may be an important factor in reducing the growth of cervical and breast cancers cells.

Strawberries are a prime example of a food to always purchase organically and locally [in season] if possible. If you have had a strawberry right off the plant you know why local is important. The flavor is bar-none. Strawberries are a crop that tend to be heavily sprayed with pesticides and lack a sufficient peel to help protect these harmful chemicals from entering the edible, fleshy part of the fruit. Instead, the applied pesticides and any hazardous material in the ground go right into the berry and directly into your body. It is best to purchase all food organically if possible [peel or no peel pesticides still get in], but this one should definitely top your list.


For the Crust:

1 c. hazelnuts
1 c. walnuts
1/2 c. millet flour
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/3 c. honey or maple syrup
1/4 c. grapeseed oil

Lightly grease a 8 x 8 glass baking dish and set aside.

Grind nuts to a fine meal, one cup at a time, in a food processor or powerful blender. Pour into a glass mixing bowl and add remaining ingredients. Mix well [your may find it easier to use your hands] until a "dough" is formed. Add more oil if necessary.

Press crust mix into prepared baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake crust until lightly browned, about 25 - 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

For the Filling:

2 c. water
4 c. strawberries, frozen or fresh
1/4 c. honey or maple syrup
3 tsp. agar powder

Combine all ingredients in a medium size saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce to a simmer, stirring frequently, and cook until strawberries are very soft and begin to pull apart [7 - 10 minutes].

Pour strawberry mixture over prepared crust. Allow to cool 15 - 20 minutes and then place in refrigerator for 3 - 4 hours or until strawberry "jell-o" has become very firm.

For the Whipped Topping:

1 c. soaked cashews*
1/4 c. maple syrup or honey
1 vanilla bean, scraped [optional]
2/3 c. extra virgin, unrefined coconut oil, melted

Place soaked cashews in a high powered blender and cover with water [the water should just reach the top line of the cashews]. Add maple syrup. Cut the vanilla bean length-wise and scrape out the seeds using a small spoon or butter knife. Add scraped seeds to cashews. Blend on high for 60 seconds or until very smooth. Pour in melted coconut oil and blend for an additional 30 seconds.

Pour the cashew cream mixture into a bowl and refrigerate overnight [this will allow you to scoop a dollop on top of your strawberry slice] or pour directly over firm strawberry jell-o and refrigerate overnight [this will make a nice clean whipped topping layer]. If you pour directly on to strawberry jell-o be sure that the jell-o is very firm first.

*To soak the cashews: Place 1 cup of cashews in a jar or glass. Cover with 2 cups of water and place in refrigerator. Soak over night. Drain and rinse cashews. Use immediately.

Monday, March 19, 2012


When my daughter hears the word "pudding" she runs to the refrigerator and starts yelling "pease! pease!". For just a minute or two I'm going to bask in this proud mama moment because what she is eagerly anticipating isn't the well-known store bought brand whose first ingredient is sugar followed quickly by a host of words that take a minute or two to pronounce. Not a good sign in health world. Instead, what she knows is coming is homemade, chia-packed, chocolaty tapioca-like pudding and quite possibly the current love of her life.

It's true, I've created a chia addict. And you know what? I think we'll forgo the chia-anon meetings and indulge our cravings instead. This is the beauty of creating wonderfully healthy snacks - you can enjoy them without that little voice in your head saying "you know this really isn't the best choice" followed by your long list of excuses why, just this time, it is okay. We've all heard that voice I'm sure, and ignored it from time to time, I'm even more sure. That voice is one of the main reasons, in conjunction with conviction and passion, that drives me to have an arsenal of daughter and health conscious mother-approved snacks lining the refrigerator. It is my best defense against lazy, nutrient lacking, detrimental snacking.


So what's the deal with all of this chia-craze? Chia seeds follow flax as the highest source of omega-3 fatty acids. This fact may be their greatest claim to fame. Used for endurance by Native Americans, chia seeds also help relieve constipation by lubricating the intestines and preventing dryness. Got the jitters? Chia seeds happen to be great for fighting nervousness and improving mental focus. Can't sleep? Try chia as it helps treat insomnia.


This recipe is inspired by the recipe found in the Martha Stewart Living Magazine, January 2012 Issue, page 120.

1 c. of chia seeds
1 c. of cashews, soaked over night*
4 c. of pure water
8 dates, soaked overnight* + soaking water
1 whole vanilla bean
4 tbsp. carob powder
2 tbsp. extra-virgin, unrefined coconut oil [optional]
2 tsp. vanilla extract [I use homemade**]
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch of sea salt

Place chia seeds in a large glass bowl and set aside.

Cut the vanilla bean, length wise, without breaking through the back of the bean. Split open and, using a small spoon or butter knife, scrape the seeds from the pod. If you make your own vanilla extract**, add the scraped vanilla bean to the jar. In a blender, combine all of the remaining ingredients including the scraped vanilla seeds. Blend on high until very smooth and creamy. You shouldn't see any cashew pieces.

Pour cashew mixture over chia seeds and stir using a wire whisk. Let stand for 15 minutes. Whisk again, cover, and refrigerate for 3 hours.

*To soak your cashews, place in a glass bowl or jar and cover with 2 c. of pure water. Refrigerate over night. Drain and rinse well. To soak dates, place in a glass or jar and cover with pure water. Place in refrigerator and soak over night. Use both the dates and the date soaking water in this recipe.

**To make your own vanilla extract, place 4 - 5 vanilla beans in a pint size jar. Fill with rum [this is what I use b/c it is gluten-free] or gluten-free organic vodka [note that gluten-free vodka is generally made with corn]. Let sit for a few weeks. You can continually add scraped or whole vanilla beans to intensify the vanilla flavor.

Monday, March 12, 2012


It's no secret that my favorite color is green. I love it. I love that it represents growth, life, newness, and safety. It soothes, relaxes the mind, helps alleviate depression, nervousness, and anxiety while offering a sense of renewal, self-control, and harmony. Green is the color of spring and if that isn't enough to cause a love affair with this emerald beauty, I don't know what is! And, if you are my husband, today green [and white] means victory.

Color is what I loved about being a designer. I would spend hours picking out just the right shade of this or that for a client. To all other eyes color was simply a color, but to me the selection ran much deeper. In the hours of my designer process, I thought about the client - what they were like, what they wanted the space to say, how they wanted to feel when in the space, how they wanted others to feel in that same space. It's a beautiful process really.

This passion for color hasn't left me even though my design days have been shelved for finger paints, diapers, tub time, and cooking. Rather than choosing colors for offices and schools, I now choose them for my palette. I love a plate that bursts with a variety of hues. It seems to make the preparation and consumption of food fun, exciting, full of pleasure and accomplishment - like finishing a painting or walking through a completed space.

All this being said, what should come as a surprise to you is that I have seriously fought the idea of a green smoothie - for years. I'm not exactly sure why but the idea of drinking, through a straw or otherwise, what looked like blended grass or green sludge just wasn't appealing. Okay, maybe I do know why - green sludge? Yuck.

So why on earth am I posting a recipe devoted to green here? Call me a convert, determined health nut, or stubborn redhead but I was not going to let a green smoothie get the best of me. I got over wheatgrass didn't I? And that really is blended grass! Sure these so called superfood smoothies are packed with raw vitamins, minerals, and fiber but, if I'm really honest, what motivated me the most was the idea of my daughter loving them. She will eat pretty much anything she sees enter my mouth so why not a funny green juice? Ironic how being a parent can make you do things you never thought possible.

Turns out, with me or not, she likes them. Well more accurately loves them. She wakes up asking for a "mooey" which translates to smoothie and when she begins to see the big leafy kale come out, heaven help us all. Normally she'll drink hers and then move on to consume the remainder of mine followed by desperate pleas for more. How is a mom to resist? I finally got smart and started making a triple batch - one for my daughter, one for me, and another for my daughter.


If you haven't tried smoothies with your kids, I highly recommend you do. Smoothies are a fantastic treat for kids and provide great camouflage for those veggies that seem to find the edges of the dinner plate rather than the intended stomach.  Start with all fruit to get them used to the idea and then slowly add it veggies. Carrots make a great first vegetable addition as they are more sweet than some of the others. If you want to add greens but have a really picky eater, try using blueberries in place of the peaches of this recipe. The blueberries will turn any green to purple.


8 kale leaves, washed, stemmed and torn into pieces
handful of romaine lettuce leaves
1 organic apple, cored and cut
2 large or 4 small carrots, scrubbed [you don't have to peel if you scrub well and purchase organic]
1" piece of ginger, peeled
4 dates + soaking water [soak overnight or cover dates with boiling water and soak for 10 minutes]
1 tbsp. of ground flax or chia seeds soaked in 3 tbsp. of water [soak for 5 - 10 minutes to create a gel]
1  - 2 c. frozen peaches [I froze some really delicious organic white peaches that work great]
pure water

Place all in a powerful blender, like a Vitamix, or food processor. Cover about half way with water. Blend, adding water if necessary, until smooth and juice-like. You can add ice if you prefer a thicker consistency.

Pour into glasses [I like using Ball jars] and serve cold. You can also store in the refrigerator, covered, for a mid-day snack.

Other add-ins: mint, parsley, spirulina, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, homemade nut / seed milk, soaked oats, chard, dandelion greens, spinach, blueberries, bee pollen granules, wheatgrass juice.

Makes 3, 3 cup servings.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


This post will be short and sweet but will link you to something I have been laboring over [no pun intended] for a few weeks now.

You can now find a link to "Pregnancy and Breastfeeding" information on this blog. Click on the tab at the top of the page [or go here] and you will be immediately directed to the page.

Childbearing and care is such an important and wondeful responsibility. Taking the time to educate yourself on what is best for you and your baby will not only lead to a healthier pregnancy but also a healthier, happier baby and you!

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Actually this tea is so light and calming, almost romantic, that "latte" really doesn't do it justice. Infusion is probably a better description. This tea is fantastic used as a late-night, pre-bedtime soother. It calms anxiety and brings a sense of peace to my body. As my muscles relax and mind quiets, I know my body is saying "thank you". I also find this useful after I put my daughter down for her nap, especially on tough days.

Chamomile is one of my favorite, use for everything herbs. I put it in my daughter's diaper rash ointment, in her after-bath oil salve, in our all-purpose first aid salve, in teas and anywhere else I can sneak it in. This year I'll be attempting to grow it myself, I use it that frequently! These little flowers are famous for their calming effect on the nerves but are also a powerful all-around children's herb and especially used for colic, nervous stress, infections, and stomach disorders. Chamomile is also a great digestive aid. I use it whenever I feel an upset stomach coming on or just feel "blah". These flowers have strong anti-inflammatory properties for both internal and external use such as gastrointestinal distress or sore, achy muscles.

I use lavender in the same way I use chamomile - all the time. It's known as "a first aid kit in a bottle". Nervous disorders, like anxiety, headaches, tension, stress, and insomnia can all be aided or alleviated by lavender. You may want to keep the essential oil on hand as it is a wonderful soother for insect bites, bee stings, and burns [when mixed with honey] and is safe to use on infants and children.

My 20-month old loves this tea and I give it to her from time to time before bed or if she is unusually cranky or anxious. I choose to forego the honey when giving it to her but the real "rule" here is no honey prior to 12-months old.


1 c. water
appx. 2 tbsp. of chamomile and lavender, mixed [3 parts chamomile to 1 part lavender - you can mix a large batch and store it in a tightly sealed glass jar]
1/4 c. non-dairy milk [I love using homemade cashew milk, strained, but you can also use a seed milk if nuts pose a problem for you]
1 - 2 tsp. of honey [optional, or to taste]

Bring water to boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and add herbs [either loose or placed in a cotton tea bag or tea ball] to water. Let steep for 5 - 7 minutes [you will want a stronger tea].

Remove tea bags / ball or strain herbs. Add honey and non-dairy milk and warm over low heat.

If you prefer a light froth, place in a blender and secure lid. Blend on high for 20 seconds. Pour into a glass or tea cup and enjoy!

You can find chamomile and lavender here or purchase it in bulk from here. You can also find a great chamomile tea blend, "Evening Reprose", at both of these places or use Tazo Tea's "Calm" tea bags.