Monday, July 27, 2015

Healing Herbal Toner

The weather has finally starting acting like summer this past week. While I love the heat, my pores have decided to open the flood gates, leaving my skin with breakouts, blotchy-ness and enough grease to start my own McDonald's (bleh!).

Nature does not dissapoint, for even though my pores are going through a teenage rebellion in this heat, these warmer months also provide a ready aresenal of healing herbs to help calm things down. On Living Life Granola's Facebook page, I had given a heads up to start saving your strawberry leaves in the coming weeks. Strawberry leaves are an excellent gentle astringent for combination and oily skin. It helps to rid the skin of excess oil without over-drying, which is so important, especially for skin that has to deal with breakouts and wrinkles (thanks Irony, love ya, too). To dry the strawberry leaves, just leave the clean leaves on a tea towel for two to three days until they are completely dry. Store in an airtight container or sandwich bag.

In addition to the strawberry leaves, there is also calendula, which is known for its healing qualities, rosemary as an antiseptic, chamomile as an anti-inflammatory and sage as a disinfectant & astringent agent. All of these wonderful herbs are then cold steeped in witch hazel, which itself is also a gentle astringent, to completely de-grease and refresh the skin- all without over-drying!

Most of the herbs were bought from Whole Food's bulk section.  Mountain Rose Herbs online is also a great source for all kinds of herbs. If you are lucky enough to have any of these plants growing in your back yard, use them! Just up the amount of fresh herbs to one tablespoon.

Healing Herbal Toner
By: Living Life Granola
1 16oz bottle of witch hazel
2 tsp  dried strawberry leaves
1 tsp  dried sage
1 tsp dried calendula flowers
1 tsp dried chamomile flowers
1 tsp dried peppermint leaves
1 tsp dried rosemary

*Use organic ingredients whenever possible.

Pour the witch hazel into a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Add in all the herbs and shake well.

Store in a dark cabinet for two weeks, shaking everyday (or whenever you remember).

After two weeks, strain back into the witch hazel bottle. Apply with a cotton ball, shaking the bottle before use. The toner will last for a year.

This toner has been a life saver for me in the summer but it is also great after workouts or anytime you will be breaking a sweat. You can even pore a little into a small glass spray bottle for a little refresher through the day, as well. So no more hiding under layers of powdered foundation to help soak up all that excess oil (You're choking your skin!).  This toner will give you the glow without the shine!

Linked with the Homemade Mondays and Simply Natural Saturday blog series.

Monday, July 20, 2015

American Fries

American fries were always part of my birthday dinner requests while growing up (along with a rack of ribs and sparkling grape juice- what can I say, I've come a long way diet-wise). I remember standing next to my dad as he turned the potatoes in the hot, popping oil waiting for those babies to be just cool enough to do the "chew, blow, chew, blow, wave hand in front of mouth" routine because I could not wait to chow down.

These days, instead of frying the potatoes, they are baked in the oven. They are still as delicious and crunchy as I remember as a child but without all the cleanup from splattered grease everywhere. I have used all different kinds of potatoes with success along with olive oil (not extra-virgin!) and coconut oil as well. Enjoying fries at home has never been so easy!

American Fries
By: Living Life Granola
3 to 4 large baking potatoes or 6 to 8 small heirloom varieties
3 to 4 tbsp olive oil (not extra-virgin!) or melted coconut oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

*Use organic ingredients whenever possible.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Scrub potatoes and dry on a tea towel. Using a mandolin slicer, slice potatoes 1/4 of an inch thick width-wise into rounds. Alternatively, slice potatoes using a sharp knife as thin as possible. Arrange in a single layer on two  baking sheets, that can fit in the oven side-by-side.

Brush the oil over each round, salt and pepper to taste, then flip the rounds over and repeat on the other side.

Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, turning once, halfway.
Serve immediately and store any leftovers in the fridge. These fries are even great cold the next day for lunch!

American fries make a great accompaniment to any meal without any of the trans-fat that you get from the fast food guys. Depending on the size of the potatoes used, you can also give these a try on the grill for another vegetarian grilling option. Just lower the cook time to about 10 minutes total. However you cook these American fries, you can enjoy not only the taste but also the fact that they are made from fresh ingredients that are safe and nutritious!

Linked with the Simply Natural Saturday blog series.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Whole Wheat Vegan Pancakes with Whipped Coconut Cream

Sunday mornings were made for breakfasts smothered in maple syrup and fresh whipped cream. Sundays are also the day our farmers market is held, so come morning time, my fridge is looking rather sad. While my family are flexatarians in practice, these vegan pancakes fit the bill for an empty pantry. The pancakes are so fluffy and yummy that I don't even miss the eggs or buttermilk in typical pancakes. It is also a great way to help lower your dairy consumption without compromising on taste.

Whipped cream is a personal favorite of mine but having pastured heavy cream around all the time isn't always feasible financially or health-wise. By always having a can or two of coconut milk in my pantry, I can ensure a steady supply of mock whipped cream that can be made up in a snap.

Whole Wheat Vegan Pancakes with Coconut Whipped Cream
By: Living Life Granola
Pancakes (makes around 20 four inch pancakes) :
2 cups stone-ground whole wheat pastry flour (or sprouted flour)
2 tbsp turbinado or coconut palm sugar
4 tbsp aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 cups almond milk
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted + more for skillet
1 tsp vanilla extract

Whipped Cream:
1 can full-fat or 1  11 oz condensed carton coconut milk
1 tbsp tapioca starch
1 tbsp turbinado or coconut palm sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt

*Please use organic ingredients when possible.

If using the canned coconut milk, scoop off the top cream and place in a medium-sized mixing bowl along with the other whipped cream ingredients. If using the carton, pour into a cheesecloth-lined sieve over a bowl to drain for a few minutes. Save the coconut water for a later use (great in smoothies!).  Either using a handheld or stand mixer, whip the cream for 2 to 3 minutes. The consistency will be thin. Place the mixing bowl in the freezer while making the pancakes. Move the bowl to the fridge if it is longer than 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to the lowest setting (mine is 170 degrees Fahrenheit) and place  an oven-safe serving plate on the highest rack.

Melt the coconut oil over low heat in a small pan.
Place a large skillet on the stove and turn the heat on the lowest setting to preheat the pan.

Meanwhile, mix the flour, sugar, 4 tbsp baking powder (4 tbsp is not a typo. This is what will give the pancakes the light and fluffy texture!) and salt in a large bowl.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the almond milk and melted oil. Whisk until smooth.  Let sit for 5 minutes to let the baking powder do its magic.

Turn the heat on the stove to medium-low and add a little coconut oil to coat the pan. I use a large metal serving spoon to scoop the batter onto the skillet- then use the back of the spoon to help smooth the pancake out. When bubbles start forming on the top of the pancake, it is time to flip. Let cook for a couple minutes more then transfer to the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding coconut oil to the skillet as needed.

Right before serving, take the cream out of the freezer (or fridge) and whip for another minute to get a nice whipped texture.

Serve pancakes with the coconut whipped cream, maple syrup and fresh fruit.

July is the perfect time to take advantage of all the stone-fruit and berries that are in season and on sale. Don't forget to check your farmers market for the freshest produce around. These pancakes are delicious on their own but the peaches and cream made them over the top. Happy and healthy eating!

Linked with the Homemade Mondays and Simply Natural Saturday blog series.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Breast Milk Lotion

OK- so I can hear the ewwwww's now but really this stuff is a miracle in a jar. We know that the benefits of feeding babies breast milk are innumerable. The milk is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and has anti-bodies. These benefits can also be utilized topically as well. When my daughter was a few months old she broke out in eczema all over her body. We tried everything: coconut oil, homeopathy, organic eczema cream, pro-biotics- as well as me not eating any dairy for a while (not fun). Nothing was working. Even a trip to the pediatrician didn't yield any results because all they wanted to do was slather her in steroids (umm, no).

Desperate at this point to try anything, I came across a thread on Baby Center talking about breast milk lotion. Bingo! Since I make my own lotion all of the time, I had to give it a go. Within a week the eczema was gone. Diaper rash? Gone. Baby acne? Gone. My fine lines? Still here… but how awesome would that be. Fine lines aside, if your baby or toddler is dealing with any of these issues, you have to try this lotion. The most important ingredient of the lotion... you supply yourself. Everything else can be bought at Whole Foods or a local health store. This lotion will still work out to be much cheaper than the $20 per jar I was dropping on the creams that we previously tried.

Breast Milk Lotion
By: Living Life Granola
1/4 cup breast milk (fresh or thawed is fine)
1/4 cup grape seed oil
1 tbsp beeswax
1/2 capsule vitamin E or 4 drops vitamin E oil
20 drops calendula extract

Fill a skillet with 2 inches of water and put on the stove. In a glass measuring cup, pour in the oil and beeswax. In a separate glass measuring cup, pour in the breast milk. Place the oil/wax measuring cup in the skillet and turn the burner on low/med. You do not want high heat because that can damage the oil- if it is too hot it will kill the beneficial properties of the breast milk once it is mixed together.

Occasionally stir the oil/wax mixture until all the wax has melted. This can take up to 10 minutes. During the last couple of minutes, place the measuring cup with the breast milk in the skillet. If the milk and oil mixture are around the same temperature, it will mix better. Take both measuring cups out of the skillet once the wax has melted.

While vigorously whisking the oil mixture, slowly pour in the breast milk. You will start to see a white emulsion. Keep whisking for one minute. Let cool for 5 minutes and then add the vitamin E and calendula extract. Whisk for another minute. Pour into a glass jar and keep the cap off until completely cool. Store in the fridge and use within 3 months. Makes 4 oz.

Breast milk lotion truly is a magic bullet for all skin ailments. Give it a try and be amazed!

Linked with the Homemade Mondays and Simply Natural Saturday blog series.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Summer Time Facial Masks

Summer-time offers a bounty of fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables that in turn supply excellent antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to your body. Those same benefits rub off (literally) on your skin as well. Homemade facial masks are simple to make with the bonus of making your skin absolutely glow. Overly ripe fruit work best so don't throw out any fruit that has over stayed its welcome in the crisper- make it into a healing, beautifying mask!

Some of these masks can be a little messy so wearing them in the shower will not only help you multi-task, it can make clean up a breeze. If you want to use the time to relax (which you totally should!), then wear an old shower cap and lay on a towel to prevent any food spills on areas you would rather keep clean. The mask recipes below make enough for one application. If there is any extra, don't forget to do your neck and decollete!

Sun Defense Mask

A little too much sun on the face is a quick way to age a little too fast. Aloe vera is healing and moisturizing while the plum helps neutralize free radical damage. Blueberries, with their high amount of antioxidants, help protect the integrity of collagen in the skin. The herb thyme calms irritated skin and promotes cellular turnover. You can use this mask everyday until the redness calms down. It is also healing for any area of the body suffering from sunburn- not only the face! (If you are looking for a sunburn remedy that is not a mask, check out this recipe.)

1/4 of a small plum
6 large blueberries
1 tbsp aloe vera
1 sprig of fresh thyme

Pulse all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Apply with clean fingers and leave on for 10 - 15 minutes. Rinse with cool water- do not rub off.

Acne/Oily Skin Mask

The heat, the sweat, the excess oil... it all combines to make a trifecta of misery for the acne sufferer. The clay in this mask deep-cleans by drawing impurities out of the pores. Cucumber is purifying and it also tones and shrinks the pores. Strawberries are great cleansers that also have a natural form of salicylic acid that helps unclog pores... while parsley helps to lighten hyperpigmentation (it evens out your skin tone). Use once to twice a week.

2 inch slice of cucumber
2 leaves fresh basil
5 - 6 leaves fresh parsley
1 large hulled strawberry
Clay, enough to make a paste,  about 1 tbsp

Pulse all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Apply with clean fingers or fan shaped facial brush and leave on for 10 - 15 minutes. Follow with appropriate toner and moisturizer for skin type.

Sensitive (Red) Skin Mask

Help cool and calm things down with this mask that includes colloidal oatmeal (ground oats) to soothe irritation, watercress to strengthen skin and improve skin tone and chamomile tea that has potent anti-inflammatory properties. Use once a week.

1 heaping tbsp colloidal oatmeal
1 tbsp watercress leaves, chopped fine
2 tbsp chamomile tea (or enough to make a paste)

Mix all ingredients to form a paste. Apply with clean fingers or a fan-shaped facial brush. Leave on for 10 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water- do not rub off. Follow with appropriate toner and moisturizer.

Anti-Aging Mask

Yogurt is my favorite base for a mask. The lactic acid content in yogurt exfoliates by dissolving dead skin cells and promoting the growth of newer, stronger cells for a more youthful appearance. Both blackberries and watermelons have a good amount of antioxidants. Blackberries also have vitamins B, C and K along with omega-3. Watermelon has vitamins A, B and C. Use once to twice a week.

1 tbsp whole milk yogurt
5 blackberries
1 inch cube of watermelon

Pulse all ingredients in blender until smooth. Apply with clean fingers or a fan-shaped facial brush. Leave on for 10 - 15 minutes. Follow with appropriate toner and moisturizer.

Firming Mask

As we grow older, elastin and collagen start to break down in the skin and we get the saggy, baggy look of old age. This mask, albeit temporarily, will do a wonderful job of tightening things back up. Cucumber also helps to tone and shrink pores. Can be used once a week.

1 egg white of a pastured egg
1 tsp cornstarch
1 inch slice of cucumber

Pulse in a blender until mixed well. Apply immediately with clean fingers or a fan-shaped facial brush. Leave on for 10 minutes- you will not be able to move your face once it has dried. Rinse well. A wash cloth can also be used with upward strokes. Follow with appropriate toner and moisturizer.

Moisturizing Mask

This one is hard not to eat before you actually get it on your face! I listed the benefits of using yogurt as a mask above but it is also wonderfully moisturizing. Even in summer, the skin can get dehydrated and make you look older than your actual age. Peaches have antioxidants and are high in vitamin C, while also packing calcium and beta-carotene. Honey is a great humectant, drawing moisture into the skin and keeping it there. Can be used once or twice a week.

1/4 of a very ripe peach
1 tbsp whole milk yogurt
1/2 tsp local raw honey

Pulse in a blender until smooth. Apply with clean fingers or a fan-shaped facial brush. Leave on for 10 to 15 minutes. Follow with appropriate toner and moisturizer.

These masks can be the epitome of homemade if you use produce from your backyard garden. Farmers markets would be another great place to find organic produce. No matter where you get your fruit and veggies from, just get in the kitchen and start mixing. You glow girl (boy- whatever)!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Banana Bread Muffins with Hemp Seeds

I live in a muffin house. We eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and...  any reason, really. With just a few changes, these banana bread muffins will turn into a healthier version without compromising on taste.

By using whole wheat pastry flour (sprouted flour is even better!), you are upping the nutritional content exponentially while allowing for a moist, light muffin. I've written about the benefits of pastured dairy and meat here. By using eggs from pastured-raised hens, you get to reap the benefits of omega-3's and CLA's. Coconut oil has been written about extensively for good reason- the stuff is awesome! Yes, it is saturated fat but the body metabolizes it differently by using it for energy right away instead of storing it as extra pudge. Of course, this is in moderation so don't eat a quarter cup of the stuff not expecting to gain a little weight. The star of these banana bread muffins are the hemp seeds that replace the typical walnut addition. While both seed and nut have omega-3's, hemp seeds have an impressive fiber and complete protein content along with a wide range of minerals including iron, potassium, zinc and magnesium. It is also one of the few alkalizing seeds on the planet.

Costco is currently selling a 28oz bag of Manitoba Harvest hemp hearts for $13. Outside of these banana bread muffins, hemp seeds are also good in/on homemade granola bars, smoothies and salads, just to name but a few.

Banana Bread Muffins with Hemp Seeds
By: Living Life Granola

1 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or sprouted flour)
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup turbinado sugar + more for sprinkling on top of muffins
2 pastured eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 medium-sized)
1/2 cup hemp seeds
12 If You Care bleach-free baking cups

**Use organic ingredients when possible.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cream together coconut oil and sugar, add eggs and beat well. Mash bananas in with the oil/sugar mixture.

Combine flour, salt and baking powder and soda in a bowl. Stir in the banana/oil/sugar mixture. Fold in hemp seeds.

Place the paper baking cups into the muffin pan and fill each cup 3/4 full with the batter. Sprinkle a pinch or two of the turbinado sugar over the top of the muffins.

Bake for 25 minutes and then place on cooling racks.

Store in an airtight container with paper towels below and above the muffins. Consume within 5 days.

This recipe can also be doubled with the extras being frozen for later consumption. These muffins are great on their own but by adding some pastured butter or ghee you can really turn these muffins into a nutritional powerhouse. Enjoy!

Linked with the Simply Natural Saturday blog series.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Homemade Facial Towelettes

Our family loves to go camping. The food tastes better, you sleep better and just by being in nature, you feel better. The only down-side to all of this better-ness is the limitations in the hygiene department. That's why I think facial towelettes are the best thing since air mattresses when it comes to camping. They are the perfect way to cleanse your face without needing water or a towel. The towelettes can also be waste-free if they are thrown in the fire pit to be burned after use.

Unfortunately, store-bought towelettes are filled with parabens and other harmful chemicals. Anything that is put on the skin will be in the blood stream within fifteen minutes. Since towelettes are not rinsed off it is important to have the ingredients be as pure as possible. Just like the Cheaters Facial Lotion that I posted about a few months back, these towelettes can be customizable to your skin type. The different formulas are listed below.

Homemade Facial Towelettes
By: Living Life Granola
25 Large cotton facial ovals (found in the same section as cotton balls)
1/4 cup witch hazel
1/4 cup aloe vera juice
1 tbsp glycerin
8 drops essential oil of choice*
Small air-tight container

*Hormonal acne: 3 drops lavender essential oil, 3 drops geranium essential oil and 2 drops carrot seed essential oil

*Teen acne: 3 drops lavender essential oil, 3 drops geranium essential oil and 2 drops tea tree oil

*Red/Sensitive Skin: 3 drops blue chamomile essential oil, 3 drops lavender essential oil and 2 drops calendula extract

*Anti-aging: 3 drops carrot seed essential oil, 3 drops lavender essential oil and 2 drops cedar wood essential oil

Place the cotton ovals in the air-tight container. In a small glass measuring cup mix all the remaining ingredients together. Carefully pour over the cotton ovals in the container. Place the lid on the container and store up-side down until all the liquid has been absorbed by the towelettes.

If possible, let synergize for four days in a dark cabinet.

Use within 1 month.

Even if you are not big into camping, these towelettes also make great make-up removers and hand sanitizers- especially if you use tea tree oil in them. As with any essential oil, take care when using around the eye area.

These towelettes are super easy and quick to make and won't be draining to your health or wallet. Keeping it beautiful, even while camping!

Linked with the Simply Natral Saturdays blog series.