Looking at photos of our little guy from a few days ago, I was moved to haiku …
I see in his Spring
future Love in his sweet heart
and my spirit Soars
… and my spirit soars …
I heard a story on NPR a few weeks ago about impoverished Chinese women who live in remote regions of China. The story was about the struggles these women endure to raise their families and work the land as their husbands, forced by their economic situation, are emigrating to cities for months at a time to work low-wage factory jobs to send little sums of money home.
For about three and a half seconds I thought … yep … that’s my life.
You see, my husband works in the movie business and has been in Vancouver, Canada, since January working on a film. He won’t be home until mid-August. And we miss him something fierce.
It’s so easy to feel frustrated because I’m alone with the littles all day every day. That running to the store is never just a quick stop. It involves car seats and carts and hand holding and kids asking for things we don’t need or I don’t want them to have. It means being the good guy and the bad guy (sometimes at the same moment). It means saying “no” often … and refereeing a lot of sibling squabbles. It means being strategic about finding time to take a shower. It means taking out all the garbage. Mowing the lawn (or shoveling the snow … depending on the day). Washing all the dishes. Cleaning up all the messes. It means trying to make sure the littles remember how much their dad loves and misses them.
It means not having strong arms around me when things get overwhelming.
And then I came to my senses and got over my pity party because to compare our struggles with that of a Chinese peasant who might not have a roof over her head and works in the fields every day not because she happens to like gardening, but because if she didn’t work the fields her children wouldn’t eat … yeah … I got over my pity party fast.
And then I decided I needed to step it up with regard to how I approach these months our Cowboy is away.
You see, it’s easy to get depressed and want to just sit in the house and watch movies all day. And in the midst of our snow-heavy winter, with short days and cold dark nights, it seemed like a totally okay option.
But the littles don’t deserve to be short-changed on experiences because it might make my day a little more complicated.
And that’s not just about making sure they got to the ski hill, or get to ride horses, learn to swim and go to the park. It’s about little things, too. Like making sure we sit down to a civilized meal at least once a day. It’s about giving them opportunity to try new activities and new foods.
Because even though I’m a real food blogger and spend way more time than I should caring about the food that goes into my body and that of our littles, I am still human, and it’s easy to slip into the pattern of making something easy for dinner, which is not always the “good” choice. It might be organic pasta with butter, but it’s still pasta with butter. Or sourdough pancakes. Or egg tacos. Carb-overloaded ease. I still have a responsibility to expose the kids to a varied diet of good greens and grassfed-pasture-raised proteins even if it takes me a few minutes to prepare.
To be honest, they don’t love it all. Some nights I’m sure they would prefer pancakes. But once in a while there’s a moment when even I’m surprised by what they like.
Balsamic Brussels Sprouts
Wash and quarter Brussels sprouts and toss in one to two tablespoons of avocado oil and then put them in a roasting pan in a single layer.
Turn the oven to 400 degrees and place the roasting pan in the preheating oven.
When the oven reaches temperature (it takes ours about 10 minutes to hit 400), stir the Brussels sprouts and let them roast for another 15 minutes.
A few minutes before the sprouts are done, sauté the chopped shallots in just a dash of oil until they are translucent. Remove the shallots from the heat, add the Balsamic Vinegar. Then take the sprouts from the oven and toss with the balsamic and shallots. Serve.
Makes 4-6 servings.
Surprisingly easy to make tasty Brussels sprouts that go great with steak or fish or chicken or on a big leafy salad. They look elegant and taste delicious. I would serve these at a dinner party, for sure, if my life was about dinner parties these days. Since it’s not, I’ll just keep sharing them with the kiddos and be grateful for whatever challenges this life has to offer.
SHARED on Kelly the Kitchen Kop
“I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.” – Lloyd Dobler (Say Anything)
And that sort of goes triple for me.
I mean, I am not a fan of sales people.
I once didn’t buy a Honda because the salesperson spent the entire time I was looking at the vehicle bad-mouthing the competition (Volkswagon).
I go to Rodan & Fields parties and feel pressured to buy sunscreen even though I’m freaked out by the long list of ingredients (including cancer-causing parabans and sulfates) in the formulas.
And as much as I love Pampered Chef (and I do … I LOVE Pampered Chef … I want everything in their catalog) I just can’t bring myself to “join sales team.”
In fact, it’s taken me more than five years of continuous use of essential oils to get the courage to actually write this post. (Yes, I’m that weird about multi-level marketing deals even though I know they are effective and useful ways to earn money for one’s family).
But I’m here now.
And there’s no turning back.
Because this blog is about good food, health, wellness, simplicity, sustainability and caring for our littles.
And we’ve been relying on essential oils for years.
Specifically, we’ve been relying on Young Living essential oils for years.
When I was pregnant with our first, I was on a business trip to Russia. It was the ONLY time I had morning sickness during either pregnancy. And if it wasn’t for Thieves Oil Spray, I wouldn’t have made it through the trip. Seriously. I sprayed it on my bed and pillows when I arrived at the hotel because all I could smell was sweat and body oils in the room, even after housekeeping changed the sheets for me. (I was pregnant. I could smell EVERYTHING.)
A few hours later, when it was time to sleep, I had my first moments of relief the entire trip.
When someone in the house has a fever, my first line of defense is peppermint oil on the soles of little feet because it has consistently brought temperatures down that critical one or two degrees that lets tiny bodies keep fighting disease, without any extras like preservatives and sugars. (This is NOT to say that I won’t turn to acetaminophen if we need it. I’m not anti-medicine. But I’m personally not into over-medicating, so if I can use a safe alternative wholistic approach, I’d much rather start there.)
When I nearly set fire to our kitchen, what did I turn to? Purification and Lemon Essential Oils made all the difference.
And most recently, I was starting out on an 18 hour road trip with the kiddos and the little one ended up with a bummer case of motion sickness.
And I had just vacuumed the car and washed the carseats.
(I mostly felt bad for the little guy, but I’d be lying if I didn’t have my own little personal pity party right then and there …)
After a wipe down and a change of clothes, a little EO on his belly and we were good to go. No, I didn’t take a picture mid-crisis. It would have been gross and totally inappropriate! But here’s the “after” photo:
Hooray for YL Lavender Essential Oil!!!
Anyway … you won’t get pressure from me to buy Young Living (or any other equally reputable) essential oil. But I’m passionate about living holistically and simply and sustainably and want to share with you some of the solutions I feel good about that we’ve found along the way, which includes our experiences with YL Essential Oils. Here’s an affiliate link or two to my “store.”
… And I’m here if you want to talk essential oils (selling or buying).
And I want to hear how YOU use essential oils?
Reminder (disclaimer): I’m not a doctor and any advice I suggest is simply based on my personal experience or that of my family. It’s not intended to replace the guidance you receive from your medical professional team. Talk to your doctor before changing your regime.
I wrote this a few years ago now. But I was looking through old files, cleaning up the mess that is my computer, and stumbled upon it. And since it’s Mother’s Day, it just seems appropriate to share it because …
Because like most people, I love my mom. And I don’t mind bragging about her 🙂
If you’ve met my mom, you are probably already aware that she’s one of the most loyal, passionate, compassionate, fearless, resourceful, bend-over-backwards-to-help-anyone-women you know. And that’s if you’ve spent five minutes with her.
If you are in her circle of friends or family she will stand by you, support you, defend you, love you and honor you until her own heart breaks.
And on top of that, she’s actually funny … laughs from the depths of her soul and knows how to enjoy the moment she’s in. She may hold onto hurt, but she lets go of pain (which is not a contradiction if you think about it for just one moment). And for as long as I’ve known her, she’s been an example of what’s good in the world.
So you can probably also imagine that, having this woman as a mother, it’s a bit challenging to come up with just one special memory … and the list of things she’s done to make a difference in my life is pretty much endless.
I could tell you about the road trips she and my grandmother made to visit me in Washington, DC … hours upon hours on the road, only to be relegated to eating over-cooked penne with store-bought sauce, drinking red wine with my girlfriends on the floor of a basement studio apartment … three of us later sleeping on a full-size futon … and then being willing to trek around the corner in her pajamas to my favorite local coffee shop. I didn’t have a coffee maker and for some reason would NOT let them get dressed before we had coffee and they were both game to make the walk … I wish I had a picture of this … kick myself daily for not capturing our slumber parties on film.)
Or I could tell you about the Christmas we spent at a condo in Hilton Head. No Christmas tree in sight, so my mom whips out a 3-inch butter knife adorned with a mini evergreen and we spend the next three days taking pictures holding the “tree.” (Somehow I don’t have any of the photos, but I promise, this happened and if you were there you might have laughed)
I could also tell you about how, raising seven kids on the income of a nurse and a mailman, she was miraculously able to create a world in which we had no idea how hard they had to struggle to make ends meet. We had a beautiful home that was meticulously clean and equally welcoming. Good food in our bellies. Magical Christmas mornings and very few cares in the world.
That’s one good mom, in my estimation.
But the moment that just blew me away was five minutes after my daughter was born.
I thought MY life was flipped upside down by her birth. I was pretty scared. My job was on the line. My future was up in the air. And to be honest, my whole perspective just took a 180 degree shift.
And my mom was a rock.
She was amazing.
Actually, she completely blew my mind.
She changed everything.
She somehow convinced her boss to switch around her work schedule and got in the car at the crack of dawn (or earlier) every Monday morning and drove two plus hours in horrible traffic from Indio to Los Angeles so she and and my retired-step dad could spend four days a week living in a small guest room caring for our little girl. She fed, bathed, played with and loved my daughter like no one else. I never had to worry about what it would be like to leave her with a stranger.
She gave me the courage to face each day with a smile. She laughed at me when I got too “new mom crazy.” And she gave me the confidence to take a step back and make changes in my own life for the sake of my daughter … the way she made changes for me.
It was her example that gave me “permission” to change my life for my daughter’s.
It was her passion and compassion that inspired me to quit the 14-hr-a-day job so I could spend time with my daughter, even though it meant giving up some of my precious independence to do it.
My Mom has always lived by example. She puts the people she love higher on the priority list than “stuff” and her heart is where my heart resides.
I have a phenomenal mother.
And I am thankful.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I love you!!
Before you spritz that vegetable cooking spray in your pan …
Put the vegetable oil down and step away from the stove!
If you’re still cooking with vegetable or canola oil, I want you to consider that canola oil is only five percent saturated fat (WHICH IS NOT A GOOD THING). The process to extract the oil from the rape seed requires high heat, hydrogen, solvents, bleach, deodorant, etc, to make it palatable. It has a high sulphur content, and goes rancid quickly and easily, which makes it difficult for our bodies to digest.
Thankfully, there are finally reports reaching the mainstream that are showing what Weston A. Price knew in the 1930s when he was doing his research on the benefits of traditional diets. Saturated fats are not the enemy.
The news is out: Saturated Fats are not bad for you.
I know a lot of people who live in fear of fat.
They cook with teflon or add a squirt of cooking spray to the bottom of the pan. Butter their bread with margarine. Drink low fat milk. Eat non-fat yogurt. And they do it on the order of their heart-conscious doctor.
I’m not going to tell you to ignore the advice of your medical professional. I’m not a doctor, after all.
But I’m going to ask you ton consider that you share this article with him/her. Ask about the new research. Engage him/her in a conversation to understand where the recommendations come from.
In her book Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon, PhD, shares pages and pages of evidence refuting what she calls the “Diet Dictocrats” with studies from all over the world that suggest we need fat. She states simply “Fats from animal and vegetable sources provide a concentrated source of energy in the diet; they also provide the building blocks for cell membranes and a variety of hormones and hormone-like substances. Fats as part of a meal slow down nutrient absorption so that we can go longer without feeling hungry. In addition, they act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Dietary fats are needed for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A, for mineral absorption and for a host of other processes.”
It may not change your world.
It certainly may not change the mind of your doctor.
The evidence hasn’t yet swayed The American Heart Association, but the evidence is clear. And it’s worth a conversation, at least.
So now what?
What fats belong in your cupboard?
Some fats are good for cooking. They have a high smoke-point and retain their nutrient dense composition at high heat. They help us absorb nutrients from high protein foods. And they have a stable shelf life. These are the primary cooking oils/fats that we use in our kitchen:
EAT RAW (never heat)
These good-for-you oils are staples in our diet. We use them in salad dressings and smoothies, but never in the skillet as heating them destroys their nutrient dense composition and makes them really difficult for your gut to process.
RANCID OILS/FATS TO AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE
In the “good ol’ days” oils were extracted using cold pressed or expeller pressed methods that retained the integrity of the “food” in our food. I don’t want to seem old fashioned. But my personal problem with fats like Canola, Margarine, Shortening, etc, is that the process to make them is so volatile (involving solvents and bleaches and deodorizers) that what’s left for consumption has little resemblance to food. If it has to be deodorized because it smells rancid and unpalatable, chances are, it’s rancid and unpalatable. And I don’t need a chemist to trick my body into eating something it shouldn’t.
That said, these are the fats and oils that we’ve scrubbed from our kitchen:
So now it’s time to clean the cupboard …
… and use more butter.
Q: What healthy fats do you use and how do you add them to your diet?
Remember how how I was telling you all about the benefits of maca powder? And how by adding a tablespoon to my morning routine (in addition to reducing carbs and taking Pilates a few times a week) I’ve been able to shed a few pounds of winter weight that had settled on my middle?
I told you about the maca chai latte (a great warm way to start the day). But we’ve been visiting my mom’s in the SoCal desert these past few days and it’s honestly too warm to even think about a chai latte (sorry Montana friends. I heard about the six inches of snow!!)
Since a hot latte’s not in my life right now I wanted to find a cool tasty alternative. I also wanted something satisfying that would keep me “full” until lunch.
Did I mention my parents live in date central? Seriously, most of the dates available in the US come from the Coachella Valley. There are at least three date farms within a mile of my parents’ place.
Which is a long-winded intro to my new favorite breakfast smoothie:
Chocolate Maca Breakfast Smoothie
1/2 cup plain yogurt
3-4 chopped pitted dates
1 TBL raw maca powder
1 tsp raw cacao powder
1/2 cup filtered water
Combine all the ingredients in a high speed blender and purée until smooth.
Have you been inundated with all the “new” news about the ancient Peruvian superfood maca powder? I have to admit, I added it to my diet a few weeks ago because I’ve had these lingering extra stress pounds and I had read that it helps stabilize blood sugar levels, reduce cortisol production and boost fatigued adrenals.
And after just 10 days, the number on our scale finally started moving in the right direction. Three pounds in 10 days … not too shabby.
But I noticed other benefits, too.
Like, my mood got a little lighter. Things that have been stressing me out seem a little less intense … like the fact that every time our 2 year old is without diapers for more than 5 minutes he pees or poops on something other than the toilet. Two weeks ago that was a big deal. Now, while I’m not psyched about it, it seems to roll more quickly off my back.
Sure, it might just be that Spring is here. (At least I think it’s Spring. Isn’t that what evening snow and sunny daytime temps in the 40s is all about?)
But it might also be that the rumors about maca powder are true. Just in case, I’m keeping it in my morning routine.
WHAT IS MACA POWDER?
Maca powder is derived from a root that grows at high elevations in Peru and was for centuries a staple in the diet of Peruvians and Incans. It looks surprisingly like a turnip and is in the brassica family (like broccoli, cauliflower, mustard, etc).
It has the consistency of coconut flour and a subtle nutty flavor that is delicious with all things chocolate.
Because it’s one of the few crops that grows successfully above 7,000 feet above sea level, it’s not surprising that it made it into the diet of high elevation civilizations. But it’s also been celebrated through the ages as a miracle food. Medicinally, it’s been used to boost sex drive in men, alleviate hormonal issues in menopausal women, control weight, and boost mood and energy. Some say a tablespoon of maca is better than a strong cup of coffee for a morning energy boost).
WHY IS IT GOOD FOR YOU?
HOW TO INCLUDE IT IN YOUR DIET
Include it in baked goods … I’ve added it to sourdough pancakes with great success (just a quarter cup of maca in this recipe). And I’ve considered adding it to the paleo yam brownies that my kids like so much. But I haven’t done it yet.
Add it to your morning coffee … Just a teaspoon. Any more and I find that it sort of overwhelms the coffee.
Or, my favorite treat these past few weeks …
MACA CHAI LATTE
To make the Chai Tea, boil 2 cups of water with cardamom, cloves, pepper, ginger and cinnamon added. Reduce to simmer and add the Darjeeling tea bag, let it steep for 5-10 minutes. Add maca powder, honey and coconut milk and enjoy!
Short cut: Steep a Tazo organic chai tea bag for 5-10 minutes. Add maca powder, honey and coconut milk. Enjoy!
Maca Maca Maca …
But this Gwyneth Paltrow thing is really getting under my skin.
Like Gwyneth Paltrow, I worked in the movie business. And while I wasn’t a “star” getting called to Wisconsin on a moment’s notice, I had my fair share of work trips to New York and London and Atlanta and West Virginia. And before I retired from the business I was working on a film that was getting ready to shoot in Mexico, which would have sent me (and maybe my family) out of the country for about 6 months. (I can look back now and be thankful that project fell apart so I was given the opportunity to take stock and rethink my life.)
Also like Gwyneth, I am a real foodie (although I’m not friends with Mario Vitali). I am a recipe developer (many of my successes appear on this blog, and we’re working on our first cookbook). And I’m passionate about creating a “conscious,” natural and sustainable life for my homeschooled kiddos.
So I’ve had the good and lucky fortune to be a working mom and a stay at home/work at home mom. I feel uniquely qualified to have an opinion on her awfulness.
And part of me wants to sympathize and feel sorry for her out-of-touchedness. Because it really is so sad that she is so out of touch.
But I can’t.
Because it’s pathetic.
Who on earth does she think she is to comment on the “ease” of living life of woman with a “regular” job? No doubt her nanny takes care of feeding and bathing her children, getting them to school, bandaging their hurts. Her assistant takes care of scheduling her calendar (making time for pilates and yoga and whatever other meditation time she needs). I have little doubt her housekeeper does the laundry. Her gardener takes care of the lawn. She doesn’t do her own grocery shopping. She probably doesn’t make her bed or clean her own toilet.
And she certainly doesn’t do those things when she’s working on a movie set for 14 hour days … for about 3 months of the year … a movie set where her children are welcome (unlike the kids of almost every other person on set).
Let’s consider what a day is like for a movie star on a film set. I’ll give you this: they often have to arrive early (pre-dawn) for make-up, hair and wardrobe. Sometimes they are showered. But since they’re about to have their hair and make-up done by someone else, it’s not as though they have much to do before leaving their homes except wash their bodies and don clothing. And a reminder: they’re not the first ones on set … there’s a whole team of people (Hair Stylists, Make-up Artists and Costume Designers/Dressers) who have to be ready to greet the star. And then what about the team who have to be ready to make the first scene ready to shoot when the sun comes up?
Her “consciousness” is clearly limited to her “uncoupling.”
And we are left to listen to her erudite pomposity… to get Paltrow-fied descriptions our our relationships via Slate.com (I’m apparently “magnanimously bound” to the love of my life) … to read and re-read her declaration that moms who work 9-5 jobs have it so much easier. (By the way, do you know anyone who actually has a 9-5 job? Everyone I know who works outside the home works 10-14 hour days. And most SAHMs work just as much.)
And her ability to see outside herself and her pristine elitist world … ugh … I struggle to find words for how much I dislike her.
Thanks for letting me rant.
Now back to our regularly scheduled food blog!
Last summer we started making homemade chia pod treats.
And as time has gone on we’ve made them again and again. They are totally portable. Absolutely delicious. And completely healthy. (Have you read our post about why you want to add chia seeds to your diet?)
But we don’t limit ourselves to peach pods (because that would be boring, and peaches are not all that available here in Montana). We love chocolate pods. Vanilla pods. Coconut pods. Strawberry pods. Blueberry pods.
But our favorite of all favorites …
Cherry Vanilla …
(which might be because even in the midst of a spring snow storm we are anticipating cherries from our tree)
Cherry Vanilla Chia Pod Recipe
Puree all the ingredients in a VitaMix or high speed blender until well blended.
Divide into individual portions (we use small mason or jelly jars) and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to “set.”
Makes 8 servings.
Enjoy as a healthy snack, as a tasty dessert, a lunch-time treat, an on-the-go-breakfast or anytime (like maybe in the middle of the night after the kids are asleep and you don’t feel like sharing … which is not something I ever do … I swear!
HAVE YOU TRIED MAKING YOUR OWN CHIA PODS?
Would you like to see your homemade chia pod creation make it into the O’Mamas kitchen?
Submit your recipe here before April 15th, 2014. (Email us with your name, your recipe, at least one or two photos of your favorite version, and a way to contact you. Use “POD RECIPE” in your subject heading please!).
We’ll post our favorite FIVE recipes and you can decide what pod you like best!
I’m Irish on my mom’s side. (Shout out to the Donnelly and Murray clans!)
But my mom doesn’t make Irish Soda Bread because one of her best friends Ann (who is Irish), makes great Irish soda bread and for years shared it with our family on St. Patrick’s Day. And if you have a best friend who makes great Irish soda bread, you don’t have to. (Not that my mom needs an excuse not to bake Irish soda bread because not everyone loves to be in the kitchen, right Ma?)
I don’t have Ann’s recipe.
But my friend April also makes amazing Irish Soda Bread.
Like I said, YAY for friends!
But April doesn’t live in Montana. So she shared her recipe with me nearly two years ago and all my Irish soda bread cravings were abated. This is easy and delicious and I bet you will love it as much as we do.
Also … yes, there’s white flour and brown sugar in this recipe. We make sourdough or long-rise bread for daily consumption, but this is a “memory” food for me, and I don’t want to mess with the recipe since it’s something we enjoy only a few times a year.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. While preheating, put in a cast iron dutch oven that’s been rubbed with Olive Oil. (Or, if you’re like me and don’t generally cook with Olive Oil, try Avocado Oil.) The dutch oven (with the top on) should be in while preheating the entire time.
Mix everything in order with a wooden spoon, except the kefir (yogurt). Once the dry ingredients are mixed, add the kefir (yogurt). Stir until combined. The dough will be sticky. Don’t over mix.
Take out the preheated skillet. Sprinkle more rolled oats on the bottom of the pan. You don’t need to cover the bottom, just sprinkle a small handful. Pour the dough into the pan, and you should hear a sizzle. Make sure the dough is touching all sides of the pan. Top with combination of three or four of the following (I used pumpkin, chia, sesame and a few more rolled oats): pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, flax seeds, etc. Cover.
Bake at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Remove the cover and continue to bake for another 20 minutes**. The crust should be browned and solid. Take the bread out of the pan to cool.
Makes ONE loaf.
Everyone together now: “THANK YOU, APRIL!”
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!!
* at our high altitude in Bozeman, I add an extra quarter cup of bread flour
** also at our altitude, I bake for 35 minutes, but am leaving April’s recipe the way she makes it because so many of our readers don’t live at this altitude!