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.