Monday, December 30, 2013

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Mexican Casserole

In my household, my husband is currently steering clear of meat and dairy products for health reasons so I have been making more meatless dishes that we can both enjoy.  Over the holidays, I had to bring a dish to both of our families Christmas parties.  I wanted something hearty and filling and most importantly full of flavor.  This dish I came up with, which is inspired by a dish I saw on Homegrown & Healthy, satisfied all three of these things!

 Sweet Potato & Black Bean Mexican Casserole
by Herban Adventures
1 cup -  Red Quinoa
2 cups -  Broth (vegetable or chicken, depending on dietary preference) or Water
4 cups - peeled, diced Sweet Potatoes (about 2 medium sized sweet potatoes)
1 (8oz) can - Strained Tomatoes or Tomato Sauce
1 1/2 cup - Water
4 Tbsp - Taco Seasoning (I used one packet of Simply Organic Southwest Taco Seasoning
2 (15oz) - Black Beans (drained & rinsed)
1 - small Onion (diced)
1 - Red Bell Pepper (diced)
1 container - Grape Tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup - Nutritional Yeast
Salt & Pepper
Cornstarch or Arrowroot powder (optional)
Garnish:  Sliced Avocado (optional)
1.  Allow red quinoa and broth to come to a boil in a small sauce pan.  Reduce heat, cover and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.  Take off heat, stir and cover, allowing the quinoa to absorb all the broth. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
2.  In a small sauce pan, add strained tomatoes, water and taco seasoning.  Stir and let come to boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer on low for 10 minutes to allow it to thicken a bit. (If you want your sauce thicker, add a little bit of cornstarch or arrowroot powder until reach desired consistency. I made it with both a thick sauce and a thinner sauce and they were equally delicious!) Take off heat and allow to cool a little.  Add the nutritional yeast and stir.
3. Fill a large pan with water, let come to boil and add sweet potato.  Cook until the sweet potato is tender.  Drain.
4.  In large bowl, combine the sweet potatoes, black beans, onions, bell pepper, tomatoes, sauce and quinoa. 
5.  Pour into a 9 x 13 baking dish.  Bake at 350F for 30 minutes.
6.  Cool and serve.  Top with avocado slices as a garnish, if desired.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Homemade Elixir for Cold & Flu Season

Today was one of those days where I could not seem to shake off a general feeling of yuckiness.  This yuckiness has been slowly getting more and more hard to ignore over the course of my Saturday morning, which is not good at all.  There is just no way I can let myself get sick, not that I ever want to let myself get sick, but this is by no means a good time for this to happen.  First, Christmas is only a few days away and I have parties to go to and food to prepare.  Secondly, a co-worker retired on Friday, leaving us a bit short-handed at my place of work and I really can't afford to have to take a sick day right now.  Nope, this girl just ain't getting sick!!!!

There was no choice but to call in for reinforcements.  My husband, Andy, has a tried and true homemade remedy for just these kinds of moments.  Any time we feel like a cold or the flu is imminent, we start drinking Andy's "Icky Hot Elixir" to knock it out of the park, so to speak. It doesn't sound pleasant because it really isn't.  I'm not going to lie to you here. It tastes kind of nasty and the drink is a hot one.  Knock it down quickly and just remember the fact that your throat will be burning after downing this drink can only mean it is killing all those nasty bugs and viruses!

Andy's "Icky Hot Elixir":
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp Ground Ginger
1 tsp Tumeric
1 tbsp. Raw Honey
juice of 1 Lemon
12 oz water
--Mix all ingredients together and drink twice a day until you feel better.

What cold and flu home remedies are your tried and true favorites?

Medical Disclaimer: All information about home remedies in my post is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Homegrown Collective November 2013 Subscription Box Review

Without a doubt Homegrown Collective is the most perfect subscription box for those of us who are on this amazing journey to living a natural and eco-friendly lifestyle.  In fact, they even state on their website that you will, "Receive seasonally appropriate, professionally curated  products that deliver the satisfaction of living a more self-sufficient & sustainable lifestyle to your doorstep each month."  Well, I can tell you they definitely deliver on a month to month basis. 

Since this is a subscription service you will sign up to have a new box delivered to your door every month, and you can cancel at any time.  The cost is $39/month + $9.00 shipping.  It is a bit pricey, I'll admit, but I have found it to be well worth the cost. I've learned some really invaluable techniques which I probably would have never learned if I hadn't received a kit with all the tools & instructions in which to complete it all spelled out for me.  If you can't tell, I am really excited about this company and their boxes!!!

Every month they have a different theme, with a couple of projects centered around this theme. This month's theme was "Almond De"Light".  The projects in this box were making your own Chocolate Almond Milk and a DIY Evergreen Oil Lamp.

Project #1: Chocolate Almond Milk

I already make my own Almond milk, but I have haven't made a Chocolate version as of yet, so I am excited to try this.  You can read about why I stopped buying commercially made Almond Milk, along with the recipe I've been using, here.  For this project, Homegrown Collective supplied the Almonds, Cacao Powder and Shredded Coconut.  They also supplied a cheesecloth for separating the ground almonds from the milk.  I would highly recommend using a mesh milk nut bag to do this instead of a flimsy cheesecloth.  It will save your life from a whole lot of messy cleanup, trust me!!!! 

Project #2:  DIY Evergreen Oil Lamp

I was really excited about this project, although a tad bit worried when I actually lit the wick that the flame would rush down the wick into my jar of paraffin oil and catch on fire.  I was prepared to chuck the lamp outside into the snow if need be. :)  Thankfully, my worries were completely unfounded, as they often are.  My imagination is somewhat overactive!  The completed project is rather beautiful (but please do not leave the lamp unattended). 

The box included all the supplies needed to make this lamp:  one mason jar with a hole already punched in the lid, indoor paraffin lamp oil, a fiberglass wick along with a latex glove to handle it, and an assortment of "filler" items (evergreen cuttings, holly and pine cones).  The instructions were easy to follow and quick to complete.  Essentially you just toss all the filler into your jar, fill it with the oil, add the wick and your ready to light it!  

I have one tiny suggestion for the Homegrown Collective company. Can you please provide new members with a binder so we can keep all your projects organized and in a central location for future reference?  What do you think of the November Homegrown Collective Subscription Box?


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Green Beauty Characters Tag

I was super excited when I was tagged by Sarita Coren at Edible Facial the other day.  It was my very first Tag here at Herban Adventures, so I was beyond flattered.  If you don't follow Sarita on Twitter, do it now!!!! I really think she deserves a special award for being the Sweetest Person on Twitter.  She is absolutely fantastic.  Thanks again, Sarita!

This Tag all began from the mind of Sonja at Life In Blush, another fantastic green beauty blogger I am learning a lot from. 

Ok, here goes nothing.....

1. On my nightstand you'll find: 

A photo of my husband with our dogs (The photo is an old one.  One of our dogs in it has passed on and we have since then added on to our furry family).  I am an avid reader so I am never far from my Kindle Fire, but I still like to read an actual book with real pages from time to time.  The book I have waiting in the wings is " Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns" by Lauren Weisberger.  I've got a sunflower coaster (my favorite flower), a sweet little Fairy girl nick-nack who is yawning big, ready to hit the sack.  I've got a couple hair barrettes, my alarm clock and lamp.  I am also constantly trying to hydrate my poor dry, cracked hands, so I've got a couple of hand creams/lotions that I am trying out:  Aubrey Organics - Replenishing Moisturizing Lotion in Honeysuckle (CoQ10) and Inesscents Aromatic Botanicals - Creamy Organic Cocoa Butter.  Fingers are crossed they'll help do the trick!

2. The Literary Character I am most like (via quiz found here):
I am Hermione from the Harry Potter series. "You are smart, witty, and love a challenge. You use rationality and reason in all things. You are measured and stable and you don't let people push you around." - I love Hermoine, so I am good with these results! :)

3.  I am Currently Obsessed With:
Subscription Boxes.  I can't get enough of them, which is not great on the pocket book, so I have to check myself from going overboard.  I really like that you can find some really great eco-friendly subscription boxes, with more popping up every day.  These have been a perfect way for me to test out and discover new green beauty/food/cleaning products.  You can read my October 2013 HomeGrown Collective Box Review, here, and my Season's Box (August 2013) Review, here.  I am also a huge fan of the PopSugar MustHave Box, as well as, Stitch Fix.  Oh, and I've asked my husband for a subscription to the Yuzen Box for Christmas this year, too! Yikes.....I really am obsessed, aren't I?

4. My Favorite Super Hero is: 
Like Sonja from Life in Blush, I, too, really love She-Ra, Princess of Power.  I really love childhood nostalgia, so when I found this adorable She-Ra vinyl "Action Figure" that I just had to have it! 

5. Favorite Beauty Product of 2013:
Without a doubt it has to my Schmidt's Natural Deodorant. Ok, so it is actually a personal care product but whatever.... You can read my review here.  I know some people have a lot of trouble with the baking soda found in many natural deodorant's but this one works great for me.  I love it! 

6. If I could have Dinner with anyone Dead or Alive it would be:
Jane Austen.  I would also have to invite my Mom to this dinner date as she would never forgive me if I didn't.  We both share an insane love of all things Jane.  I will admit that my Mom is arguably the super fan between the two of us though!  My BFF and I have a joint blog, Once Upon A Friendship, where I wrote about my love of Jane.  We've since then taken a bit of a hiatus with this blog but hopefully we will get back in gear sometime in the future. You can read my post, here

7.  Winter is Coming - How do you Prep your Skin for Battle?: 
So first of all, after reading this question the theme song from Game of Thrones started playing in my head. "Winter is Coming" happens to be a key quote from the book/tv series? Is anyone else a fan?  I can't wait for Season 4 to start again!!! 

But seriously, to answer the question, I moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.  I've been using coconut oil on my face and neck (which oddly enough seems to be helping with my acne. Has anyone else seen this result with coconut oil?)  and "Alba Botanica" - Very Emollient Body Lotion on the rest of my body. For what I've been using on my hands, refer to question #1. 

8.  My Perfect Date Night Make-up Consists of:
Honestly I am still working on finding the perfect green everything for my make-up routine.  Right now I am using Juice Beauty tinted mineral moisturizer for my foundation (I really want to try W3ll People's foundation next though) and "Mineral Fusion'- Loose Powder Foundation.  My mascara is Nvey Eco, which is nice but seems to run off my lashes fairly easily which is frustrating.  I am still using "Bare Minerals" in Golden Gate for my blush.  For my lips, I've been using "Pacifica"- Color Quench Lip Tint in Sugared Fig and I absolutely adore this lip tint!  It looks great on and smells fantastic.

9.  My Go-To Skin-Beautifying Snack/Drink is:
Green smoothies.  I add fresh/frozen fruit, spinach, or other greens, and water to a blender and, viola, a cold refreshing drink is born!  I drink at least one green smoothie a day.

10.  My TV Boyfriend is:
I am going to have to go with Jim from The Office.  I know it isn't on anymore but I just love his character.  I've always thought he would be the most perfect husband (other then my very own, real life, perfect husband that is!)  John Krazinski is absolutely adorable and the whole Jim and Pam love story still warms my heart in it's pure loveliness.  This YouTube video does a really fantastic job of summing it up.  Oh dear, I may have to sit and watch the first few Seasons of the Office now to get my Jim fix!!! :)

11.  If my Evening Clutch could only hold one Beauty item it would be:
The "Pacifica"- Color Quench Lip Tint in Sugared Fig.

12.  One Beauty Tip I would pass on to my Niece (since I do not have a daughter) is:
Go easy with the make-up. It's not a tool to hide behind, but a tool to enhance your natural beauty.  Keep it simple!

13.  The Most Nostalgic Item from my Childhood is:
Strawberry Shortcake.  I had all the dolls and my bedroom was all decked out in Strawberry Shortcake, from bedding to my curtains and even my trashcan!

14. My Favorite TV show of the Moment is:
It is way to hard for me to choose just one.  My must watch shows right now are: The Big Bang Theory, New Girl, Once Upon A Time, House Hunters and The Walking Dead.  Oh, and Game of Thrones when it comes back on in the Spring! 

15. My Favorite Quote is:
"Sometimes you will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory" -Dr. Seuss
I am a very nostalgic person.  So this quote has always resonated with me. Think back on the people of your life and it is truly amazing what memories will pop up.  From the mundane to really big moments, it is really interesting which ones really stick with you for the rest of your life. It shows how precious every moment in life really is!

*House Rules:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

No more bedhead, curl your hair while getting some Zzzzz's

I love how my hair looks when it's all curled up but I've always hated the whole process of curling my hair.  If I don't have at least an hour to devote solely to twisting my hair around a curling iron, it just isn't going to happen.  Needless to say, my hair is normally worn straight.  At least that was my norm up until a month ago.  You might be wondering, did I somehow find an extra hour in my morning to devote to styling my hair?  Not a chance!  I like sleeping way too much, my friends, to start dragging my butt out of bed any sooner then I have to.  No, I stumbled upon a marvelous discovery which will change my life forever and I'm not being dramatic here.  It really is a beauty life changer.  All it took was a click on a YouTube video tutorial and voila, I am now a member of the group of women who will curl their hair on days when its not just a special occasion!
All you need for this super easy technique is a stretchy headband, a bobby pin or two, and slightly damp hair.  Place the headband around the crown of your head, on top of your hair.  Start by taking a small section of hair (1 inch or so) from the front side of your head and loop it over and around the headband.  Keep looping this section of hair around the headband, adding a little more hair with each loop.  Once you get to the back of your head, stop and begin on the other side.   You will likely end up with a section of hair in the very back that you won't be able to wrap around the headband anymore.   Twist this section tightly and pin curl it to the back of your head right above where the headband lays on your head, securing it with the bobby pins.  You can jump down to the end of this post to check out a YouTube tutorial which was done by The Paper Mama. 

This technique will work differently for different hair types and lengths.  If you want tight curls use small sections of hair, and for larger curls use larger sections of hair when wrapping it around the headband.  I also recommend using slightly damp hair.  It'll hold much longer.  Mine actually looked fantastic on day 2, even after sleeping all night on the curls.  The only problem I seem to have with this technique is the curls around my face turn out super Shirley Temple-esque, so I just pull some of the front sections back in clip or hairband and problem solved!  I am also really excited about using this technique to get some great texture and fullness to my hair to help create some fun up-do's in the future.
Have you tried this particular technique before?  How did it turn out for you? 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Homegrown Collective October 2013 Subscription Box Review

This is my second box from Homegrown Collective and I am completely smitten! Without a doubt this is the most perfect subscription box for those of us who are on this amazing journey to living a natural and eco-friendly lifestyle.  In fact, they even state on their website that you will, "Receive seasonally appropriate, professionally curated  products that deliver the satisfaction of living a more self-sufficient & sustainable lifestyle to your doorstep each month."  I can tell you they definitely have delivered! After my very first box, I completely changed the products I use to do my laundry.  Is that not life changing, then I don't know what is! 

Since this is a subscription service you will sign up to have a new box delivered to your door every month, and you can cancel at any time.  The cost is $39/month + $9.00 shipping.  It is a bit pricey but I have found it to be well worth the cost.  In just two months I've learned some really invaluable techniques which I probably would have never learned if I hadn't received a kit with all the tools & instructions in which to complete it all spelled out for me.  If you can't tell, I am really excited about this company and their boxes!!!  

This month's theme was "Preserving & Preparing the Harvest Feast"  As you might guess, the big project in the box was canning.  Now I have always wanted to learn how to can foods but, to be completely honest, I was really intimidated by it so I never ever tried it before.  All the tools/ingredients you need were included with the box, except for the pot to heat everything in. The instructions were step by step and super easy to follow.  In fact, I was extremely surprised with just how easy the whole process really was.  It probably took a little over an hour from start to finish, and I ended up with some wonderful cranberry chutney which is going to be wonderful on top of my turkey this Thanksgiving! 

A second little project was also included in this month's box.  It was to make your own candle inside of  gourd.  Yes, a gourd.  This was the most adorably sweet little candle I have ever seen, let alone made myself.  I will tell you, we had to pull out a handsaw to get the gourd open.  It is a tough little bugger! A knife just wasn't powerful enough.  Besides that, this project was a piece of cake. You simply scoop out the insides, melt your wax, place your wick, pour it inside the hollowed out gourd and let it sit.  Viola! 

I can't wait to see what's store for my November box!!! 


Monday, November 4, 2013

5 Tips for Eating Organic on Vacation

My husband and I recently got back from a trip to Sedona, Arizona with a side trip to the Grand Canyon (as seen in the photo above).  It was truly a gorgeous place.  The landscapes alone will blow your mind! We had a lot of fun exploring and taking in all the sights.  Along with all the touristy stuff, we also enjoy eating out while on vacations. Who doesn't, right?  It's always something I look forward to, however this time around my husband and I soon learned that trying to stick to only eating organic while on vacation is pretty darn tough.  I don't always eat organic.  I know I should, but I'll be honest and tell you I've managed to be about an 80% organic eater. However my husband is now a 100% organic eater so we are extremely mindful of this when traveling.  While we can't just walk into a random restaurant off the street anymore, eating organic isn't impossible, and I've got a few tips to share to make eating organic while traveling a little less stressful.  (These will also be helpful tips for anyone vacationing with dietary restrictions, for instance gluten free eaters.)

Tip #1:  Do your research before leaving for your destination.  Plan, plan, plan.  I can't stress this enough.  It is my #1 tip for a reason.  If you don't already know the places you can go to get organic foods, you'll spend way more time then you should trying to find them while on your relaxing vacation.  Buy a cute little notebook that will fit in your purse and write down the names and addresses of every place you find not only near your hotel but near the different attractions you plan on checking out.  This way you have it handy and have no excuses to stray off your dietary path! (It's sooo easy to do this on vacations when we tend to think we are on a vacation for everything in our lives.)

Tip #2:  Don't expect to eat out all the time on vacation.  In other words, get a hotel room with a mini fridge and make a trip to the organic section of the local grocery store.  It's not hard to make salads or wraps in the comfort of a hotel room.  It's also a lot cheaper then eating out all the time!  As my husband says, "An apple is the perfect fast food!"  He is so right.  It is the perfect snack to munch on when you're on the go.  It's portable and full of lots of body-craving nutrition! 

Tip #3:  There are a lot of great, useful resources available to help you out, so use them!  A couple of great websites we used for our last trip, which are also available as apps for your phone, were:
*Happy Cow - The Happy Cow website will let you search for vegan, vegetarian, veg-friendly and health food stores in cities around the world.  If you can first find some of the vegetarian restaurants you are more then usually on the right path to finding organic places to eat.  (Not all vegetarian places offer organic foods, so you still have to do a bit more digging.  The restaurants website should tell you.  I find that, most of the time, if they offer organic foods, they are very proud of it and will promote the fact.)
*UrbanSpoon - This site actually lists "organic" as a type of cuisine you can specify for when doing your searches.  It is really handy website and I've had really good luck with it.  I use this app the most when doing searches with my phone.

Tip #4:  Once you get to your destination, talk to the locals.  Don't be shy!  They may know of some other great organic places to try that you might have missed in your research because they are new or just an off the beaten path kind of place. 

Tip #5:  Look for eco-friendly hotels to stay in.  There are more and more eco-friendly hotels & resorts popping up worldwide.  These are perfect options for people who are focused on green living.  Hopefully their staff will also be knowledgeable in organic eateries nearby, too!

I hope these tips will help you in planning for your next trip.  I'd love to hear how you plan your meals when on vacation, whether you're focus is organic foods like us or have other dietary restrictions.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Green Laundry Solutions: Soap Nuts Review

Have you ever tried washing your clothing with Soap Nuts?  Maybe I should ask, have you ever even heard of soap nuts?  I had not heard of these little nuts, well actually they are berries but I'll get to that in a bit. I learned about soap nuts when I received a handful in my last Homegrown Collective subscription box.  I should have done a full review of this box as it was really amazing.  I learned so much about eco-friendly, non-toxic ways to do my laundry.  It was really eye-opening and I've actually been excited for laundry day to roll around so I can use all my new products!  
I've used the soap nuts for four loads of laundry now and I am really liking the results.  My clothes are coming out of the laundry fresh and clean.  It's pretty amazing!
So, what is a soap nut?  They are the dried shells of berries which are grown on trees found in the Himalaya's.  Yes they are grown on trees, so you this is definitely a natural, organic alternative to laundry soap.  You can't get much more natural then that I would think!   The reason they effectively clean your clothes is they have a substance saponin in them which is the "soap."  The detergent action of the saponin comes to play when warm/hot water and agitation stimulates its release.  Saponin acts a surfactant which is what helps break down oils and frees the dirt and grime from your laundry.  It is just like what all those synthetic chemicals do to clean your clothes.  Saponin won't foam up as much as what we are all used to from our synthetic soaps.  Just because it doesn't give you that "normal" amount of bubbling action, doesn't mean it won't clean.  This is important to remember and ingrain in your head.  This will actually help clean your clothes better as you won't get any leftover soap/chemical residue in your clothing.  They are going to be squeaky clean and chemical free. Woo hoo!! 
Soap nuts are safe for use in HE washing machines.  What you'll do is place 3-4 soap nuts in a small canvas drawstring bag and tie it tightly.  Don't worry if the bag does happen to open during the wash cycle, it only means you'll have to hunt through your clothing to find the loose nuts.  Toss the tied bag directly into the wash basin.  You can leave them in the entire time, even during the rinse cycle. Now, if you wash your clothes with cold water, you will want to first place the bag of soap nuts, using 6 nuts, in a small jar and add HOT water.  Seal the jar tightly and shake it up and down really good, until you see some good froth.  Dump the water with the bag of soap nuts into your wash basin, along with your clothes, and wash as normal.
It's almost seems too simple to be real, but it is and I love it!  If you'd like to try soap nuts yourself, you can find many different options to try here.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pumpkin Smoothie Recipe

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Last year, I made a pretty simple change to my diet.  I began drinking smoothies twice a day.  I have to tell you this is one easy way to add fruits and veggies into your diet on a daily basis, and your body will love you for it.  I feel a noticeable difference in my overall health!   

With Fall quickly approaching, this gives me the perfect opportunity to share one of my favorite smoothie recipes, a Pumpkin Smoothie.  I don't know about you but there is just something about the cool, crispness of the Fall air that starts my taste buds craving pumpkin.

1/3 can, canned pumpkin (15oz) or 5 oz homemade puree
1 Tbsp raw honey or agave nectar
1 Tbsp Cinnamon
2 tsp Ginger
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (I recommend homemade)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 frozen banana

Add all the ingredients into a high powered blender.  Blend until smooth and creamy.  Enjoy! (makes 2 servings)

*Note:  Be sure to tweak this recipe to your own taste buds.  Add more of less of the spices or sweetener and be sure to experiment with additional spices. I think adding some nutmeg would be fantastic, too!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Homemade Pumpkin Puree

Fall for me means sweaters, skinny jeans with a cute pair of boots, hoodies, Husker football games, spiced apple cider, falling leaves,  Halloween, and pumpkins.  By pumpkins, I'm talking pumpkin pie, pumpkin smoothies (recipe will be coming soon on a future post), pumpkin bars, pumpkin whoopee pies, pumpkin muffins...oh my, I'm starting to drool a bit.  In order to make all these divinely scrumptious baked goods you'll need to stock up on lots of pumpkin puree.  Normally, I would use Farmers Market Organic Pumpkin Puree, but this year, after seeing some organic pumpkins in the produce section at Natural Grocers, I decided it was about time to try making my own.  

Homemade Pumpkin Puree:
**I want to credit Organic Authority for the instructions which helped me learn how to make this puree.

1 whole Pumpkin (I used a 4 LB Sugar Pumpkin)

1.  Preheat your oven to 350F.

2.  De-stem and cut the pumpkin in half.  Remove the seeds but don't throw them away.  Roast those babies for some good snacking later on!

3.   Place the two halves face up on a baking sheet.  Place in the oven for 45 - 60 minutes, or until a fork can pierce the flesh.  Let me tell you....Your house will smell all sorts of amazing as this pumpkin is in the oven roasting.  Mmmmm!

4.  Allow the pumpkin to cool off a bit before scraping all the flesh off the skin.  Discard the skin.  Place the pumpkin in a blender, and blend until smooth and creamy. Note: A food processor may work better then a blender on this step.  I struggled a bit with my blender blending the pumpkin very well. I had to keep stopping and stirring it around a bit.  It may be the kind of blender I have, but I'm going to try a food processor next time to see if it makes this step any easier.  ***UPDATE**** Use a food processor for this step.  It works like a charm!!!!

5.  Drain off any excess water, if needed.  (I did not need to do this step but if your pumpkin holds a lot of moisture in it, you might have to.)

6.  Store in jars or freeze for later use.  I was able to get about 38oz of pumpkin puree from a 4LB pumpkin.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Seasons Box Review (August): An Eco-Friendly Monthly Subscription Box

Today I received my August Seasons Box. You're more than likely thinking...."It's the end of September and she's only now getting her August box!  What the..?"  Well, as I understand it there was a change in ownership and as with any kind of big change sometimes things like this can happen while the kinks are all being worked out.  It doesn't bother me at all, in fact I am really excited to see all the goodies the new owners have in store for their members every month! 

General Seasons Box information:

*Cost:  $34.90 per month.  You have the choice to either order a single box or opt for the monthly automatic service.  I really love companies that offer their customers the opportunity to make a one box purchase.  Many subscription box services only offer the automatic monthly purchase, so if you want to try just one you have to go through all that hassle to cancel before getting charged again the following month.

*Products:  Every month you are guaranteed  3-5 FULL SIZE products that are eco-friendly and tailored to the mind, body and home.  I can't emphasize how amazing it is that you get full size products.  I've tried quite a few different subscription box companies over the last few years and so many of them stuff your box full of all sorts of itty bitty samples.  I'm not knocking samples sizes by any means.  It is a great way to try a lot of different products.  The problem is I also started to notice the same products were showing up over and over again in my boxes.  I would much rather have 3-5 full size, hand picked, quality products every month.  I feel like I am getting the most out of my money this way!

August Seasons Box Products: 

*Theme:  "Get In Touch With Nature"

*Tiki Lotion Bar (1oz): $8  Vegan lotion bar with ingredients like green tea butter, wintergreen & spearmint essential oils.  This product smells good enough to eat although I wouldn't recommend it. I really like the container and size of this product too.  I'm always looking for a great lotion to take with me on the go that doesn't take up a lot of space inside my purse.  This will be perfect! 
The lotion itself goes on smoothly, in a light layer and doesn't feel greasy on your skin. 

* Puur Mist (4oz):  $8 These are handmade products and can be found on Puur Body's Etsy store.   The ingredients are: apricot kernel oil, isoproyl miristate, fragrance essential oils.  Right away, my eye zeroed into the isopropyl miristate.  The name itself, doesn't exactly sound natural to me so I had to look it up.  In my research I found: 1. It is actually spelled myristate.  2. It's a synthetic oil which helps the skin absorb products more readily, and 3. On all the websites I checked out, it is considered safe to use and is non-toxic and non-carcinogenic.  A couple other things I learned is it can also be very drying on the skin and is not recommended for acne prone skin.  My skin is already dry and is acne prone so this is probably something I wouldn't use on myself.  The website is worth checking out because there were many other products I would have enjoyed trying out, like a shea butter shampoo bar which looked wonderfully intriguing!  I'm always looking for a great natural shampoo to try. 

*Eat Green Tea (100 grams):  $25  Certified organic edible green tea leaves.  The company also tests the product for heavy metals which can commonly be found in soil.  I was very intrigued by this product.  Just 1 TBSP = 30 cups of brewed tea (I really limit my caffeine intake, but after reading the website I was relieved to find out that the caffeine content does not equate to 30 cups of green tea. You'll be getting the equivalent of only one cup of green tea per serving.  Thank goodness for that!).  I will more then likely try this out in my morning smoothies!

    *Vapur Anti Bottles Two Pack (0.4 Liters/ bottle): $11  BPA free.  These bottles are very portable, will flatten when empty and can be rolled for folded up for easy storage when not in use.  When full of liquid, these bottles are designed to stand up.  How cool and fun is that!!! 

August Seasons Box Total Cost:  $52

August Season Box Review: 
My favorite product in this box is the Tiki Lotion Bar.  I am also excited to check out the Eat Green Tea product.  It isn't something I would have probably ever bought on my own, which is one of the reasons I love subscription box services like Seasons Box.  It is such a fantastic and fun way to discover new products.  I love the plastic Vapur bottles.  They could come in handy while out on a walk or even just working out in the yard. The only product I personally won't be using is the Puur Body Mist because of my skin type.  It may work for one of my friends though!

What are your thoughts on the August Seasons Box?  Are there any other great eco-friendly services I need to check out?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Way to go Chipotle: Raising awareness of our food supply (commercial)

A wonderful commercial by the Mexican fast food chain, Chipotle, popped up on my Facebook newsfeed tonight.  It really moved me and here's why.   First,  I have to tell you I absolutely love the song choice!   Ever since I was a child watching Gene Wilder sing it in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, it has always resonated with me.  Secondly (and most importantly), the majority of us are blissfully unaware of what we are eating on a day to day basis. Thankfully, slowly but surely the word is starting to get out and spread.  You wouldn't have even heard of the term GMO, five years ago and suddenly I see it everywhere. This is good, we need to open our eyes to this kind of thing and reclaim our food back!!!   I hope this short little "cartoon" will resonate with people and stir people to really start thinking about what exactly we are putting into our mouths on a daily basis.  Is it really, truly actually food?  Third, I love that a popular fast food chain is out there trying to make a difference, by raising awareness and making changes to their own menu.

Please watch the video and share it with your friends and family if it moves you like it did me!  

Monday, September 16, 2013

Schmidt's Natural Deodorant Review

One of the most frustrating products I've found to convert over to is a natural deodorant.  The main reason for this is simple, I don't like a sweaty armpit.  Natural Deodorant products are designed for eliminating odor, not sweat.  It's the aluminum found in mainstream deodorants which acts as an antiperspirant to eliminate wetness.  Aluminum, a metal, is toxic to the body and has been linked to conditions like Alzheimer's disease and breast cancer.  Of course I don't want either of these things, but as much as I want to avoid this ingredient, I still struggle.  Sure, its natural to sweat.  Sweating helps detox and cool down our bodies. I get that. Maybe it is vain of me, but I just don't want sweaty pits ruining my all my outfits not to mention sweat stains are also extremely embarrassing. 

I've still been very hopeful something will come along which will not only keep the odor away, but will also help keep the sweat in check :)  I learned about Schmidt's Natural Deodorant when it popped up in my twitter feed one day about a month ago from a blog I recently began following, Organic Beauty Talk.  What intrigued me to immediately add this product into my shopping cart, was this statement taken directly from Schmidt's Natural Deodorant's site:  "Our formula effectively neutralizes underarm odor and absorbs wetness without the use of aluminum or other harmful chemicals."  Could this really be true??? Could it really help with wetness??  I couldn't wait to try it and find out.

Schmidt's Handcrafted Organic Deodorant - Bergamot & Lime (2oz) $11.99
~Amazon Affiliate link

* Ingredients: Butyrospermum parkii (shea butter), Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), Maranta  arundinacea (arrowroot) powder, Theobroma cacao (cocoa) seed butter,
Citrus bergamia (bergamot) essential oil, Citrus aurantifolia (lime) essential                         oil, Tocopherol (vitamin E), Humulus lupulus (hop) extract

My review:
  • Packaging: I love the little jar it comes in.  It's simple yet adorably chic.  It even comes with a little spatula to help scoop the deodorant out of the jar.  You can use your fingers but when I do that I get deodorant underneath my fingernails, so I prefer using the provided spatula. 
  • Texture & Application:  The deodorant is kind of a flaky, semi-solid cream.  It warms up when you begin rubbing it into your skin becoming very soft and pliable.  A pea sized amount sufficiently covers the entire area.  It absorbs right in and won't leave you feeling greasy or slimy or anything like that. 
  • Scent & Odor Protection: In the jar and for about an hour after application, it has a very pleasant, lime scent.  After wearing for about an hour, the lime scent disappears, leaving more of a fresh, very light, almost piney scent.  It still smells feminine though and I really like it.  I think the best part is it keeps the odor away, lasting all day and even overnight.  
  • Wetness Protection:  The baking soda and arrowroot powder are what is added to help with controlling wetness. 
  • Extra Bonus: Made in the USA in Portland, OR.  I love buying USA made products!
I am very thrilled with how well this product has worked for me. I've been wearing this now for a month now and have been very impressed. I've still had a few sweaty moments especially when I've been stressed out and even aluminum based deodorants do nothing for me in those moments. The product doesn't rub off on your clothing and you won't get all those little white flakes caking all over your underarms.  Odor control is fantastic. This deodorant held strong through a college football game I attended with temps in the 90's and 100% humidity, so I'd say it works!!!  I am super excited about this natural deodorant.  I can finally toss out another yucky, toxic product from my bathroom shelf!  

Monday, September 9, 2013

Homemade Almond Milk

My husband recently sent me an email titled "Almond Breeze is Crap".  For those of you who don't know, Almond Breeze is a widely stocked brand of Almond Milk in most grocery stores.  It's the brand I have been drinking for years now.  The reason for my husbands harsh words were due a blog he had read about an ingredient called carrageenan.  Now to be fair, Almond Breeze is not the only company who uses this ingredient.  There are in fact a lot of "crappy" almond milks out there.  It is found in all of the brands available at my local grocery stores.  You'll find it in the coconut and soy milks too.  Interesting side note:  This morning while brushing my teeth, I decided to check out the ingredients on my Tom's of Maine Fluoride-free toothpaste and guess what I found?  Yes, carrageenan is in that as well.  I suppose my next project is to find a new toothpaste or make my own.

Carrageenan is extracted from a red seaweed, Chondrus crispus, or Irish moss. The carrageenan found in your processed foods is in an un-degraded form and is chemically processed.  It has no nutritional value and is primarily used as a binder and thickening agent to improve texture in foods like ice cream, yogurt, almond milks, coconut milks, etc...   When researching carrageenan on the internet, you'll find both the pro and cons as to whether or not this ingredient is thought to be "good" for us to consume.  The key arguments for the cons were what spoke to me, and in particular the research studies on laboratory mice which have shown this type of carrageenan to be linked to malignancies, inflammation of the GI tract, glucose intolerance and impaired insulin action among other things.  Since a properly working digestive system is my primary health goal, the inflammation of the GI tract findings really worries me, enough to immediately make a dietary change.  There is a lot of nasty stuff out there in our foods and beauty products.  It is sure hard to avoid them all, but I am always happy when I become more aware of them.  Knowing more about carrageenan can only help me make better informed choices for myself.  Since I drink almond milk every morning, I know making my own is a surefire way to help me avoid this nasty ingredient in my daily morning drink!   

PLEASE NOTE:  This is only a very short synopsis of my own internet research findings, but the blog post my husband sent me which inspired me to dig a bit deeper and then make a change can be found on the blog Higher Purpose Living.  Please read it, as it has really great and detailed information about Carrageenan. 

Homemade Almond Milk:

Making my own almond milk has always intrigued me, but after learning about carrageenan and not liking what I was learning, I was immediately spurred into action.  Thankfully, I already had all the necessary ingredients on hand or I would have been making a late night run to the store!

The best thing about making almond milk is it's not hard to do.  The most time consuming part is soaking your almonds.  You'll want to make sure and soak them overnight for optimal results.  The worst thing about making almond milk is there are a few pieces of essential equipment you'll also need:
1. a high powered blender, and
2. a nut milk strainer bag.  I tend to do a lot of my on-line shopping at Amazon, where there are a variety of options for $6-8. 

Once your almonds are sufficiently soaked and rinsed off well, toss them in a blender.  Add 3-4 cups water, sweetener (i.e. dates) and anything else you may want, like vanilla or cinnamon.  Blend at high speed.  Transfer to your nut milk bag and strain into a large bowl.  That's it, you're all done.  It is so easy to make and tastes so much more fresh and delicious then the store bought variety that you won't want to go back to store bought anymore, carrageenan or not, anyway, which is kind of the point.  Right?  :)

You can find the full recipe with step by step directions at Oh She Glows.  Enjoy!!!


Sunday, September 1, 2013

My journey to living a natural & organic lifestyle

I've been toying with the idea of starting a blog about natural & organic topics for a few months now.  I think it's best to start with why my husband and I have been moving towards a natural & organic lifestyle.  Our biggest influence has been my husband's chronic health problems.  He has been struggling for over 10 years now with a variety of symptoms.  We've been to a countless number of Doctor's all across the US who were, quite frankly, of little to no help.  They couldn't offer any kind of definitive diagnosis for why he was feeling so awful.  What they did offer was pain pills, antibiotics, sleeping pills, and more to help "manage" his symptoms, all the while my husband felt worse and worse.  Our frustrations were obviously mounting.  We were going in the wrong direction, he is supposed to be getting better, not worse and we wanted answers. My husband began doing his own research. (Thank God for the internet!!!)  Through his research, he's changed his whole way of thinking about health, starting with his diet.  He is now eating a raw, vegan diet.  I am not, LOL, however I have dramatically changed my eating habits and am noticing very positive changes to my own health. We've even changed our dogs food. (Yup, no more Kibble for us!)

This journey hasn't only been one of changing our diets, we have become more conscious of all the nasty chemicals we've been using on our bodies, inside our household and on our lawn.  We're not perfect, I'd never even dream of claiming that.  I don't always eat organic (gasp!).  I still pop a bleach tablet in my toilet tank to help keep the ring around the toilet bowl away.  If anyone has a good option for this please let me know!  I guess what I'm trying to say is the journey is a gradual one.  My husband and I are constantly learning, constantly discovering new products to try out, and always working towards a better sense of health and wellness for the both of us.  While my husband is still not well, he is noticing small changes for the better, and we can both sense he is now, finally, on the right road to recovery.  Yippee!!!!

My goal for this blog is to share ideas, recipes, product reviews, natural remedies and what-not,  Most importantly, I need help, and I hope to learn from others who are also interested in a natural & organic lifestyle.