KITCHEN GADGETS I USE AND LOVE

You wouldn’t embark on any endeavor without all the correct gear, right? You wouldn’t go out for a winter hike without snow pants, hats, mittens, scarves and boots. It would make your excursion an unpleasant and non-enjoyable experience.

I feel cooking is the same. It can be cumbersome and sometimes difficult (but still possible) if you don’t have the rights tools and gadgets.

I have here for you some of my top favorite MUST-HAVES for my kitchen. Just click the link in the title and it’ll take you to the item description.

Cooling Rack –  Talk about a space saver! When you have fresh goodies from the oven that need to cool, I like the 3 tiered cooling rack.

Large Food Processor – I use my food processor a lot. This is a great quality large sized processor for the bigger jobs.

Small Food Processor – Sometimes you just have a small amount to process and don’t want a large machine to use (and wash!) when you are done. This is another one that gets used pretty much daily in my home from grinding oats to make my own oat flour to coarsely chopping up carrots for a meal.

KitchenAid Stand Mixer – Picking a favorite kitchen tool is like picking your favorite essential oil….I can’t pick just 1! But this definitely TOPS the list. I make/mix nearly every dough, including my homemade gluten free bread dough, in my KitchenAid Stand Mixer. It really does save time because you can be starting to clean up while it mixes and kneads whatever you have in there. If you get nothing else, get THIS.

Ceramic Loaf Pan – I stay clear of aluminum based cooking apparatuses. You can read about the dangers here. Because of that, I use ceramic, stainless steel, or silicone (for low temperatures). When baking bread I use ceramic loaf pans. I have found the bread comes out more evenly cooked, plus the ceramic pans just look prettier. 🙂

Silicone Baking Molds – I love my silicone muffin mold. The muffins fall right out (without greasing before hand) after about 5 minutes of cooling.

Silicone Candy Molds – These are somewhat new to me. I became kind of obsessed with these molds over the holidays. At Halloween I wanted my kids to be able to have candy treats without indulging in the truly harmful conventional candies they’d get from door to door. It spilled over into the Christmas season when making cookies. Especially the Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies and the chocolate dipped PB cookies. I didn’t want to have to use the traditional candy (loaded with milk and sugar) topper, so I melted down dairy-free/low sugar chocolate and put them in a mold. That spilled over into making our own chocolate covered raisins, chocolate covered cashews, chocolate covered anything! And they come in so many fun shapes and sizes!

Nutribullet – Like I said before, how can I possibly pick 1 favorite?! I love this little guy, too! I use it for making smoothies, nut butters, and for milling seeds such as flax seeds or chia seeds. It gets used a lot. And I bet yours will, too!

Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls – My friend just recently alerted me to this find. She got a set for herself and since I was looking for something like this myself (stainless steel bowls in various sizes with lids) so when she told me she found it I of course got a set as well. And I LOVE them!! Go. Get. These!!

15 Things You Should Know About Essential Oils

It is no secret to anyone who knows me that I LOVE essential oils. All things natural and healthy, really. But especially my oils! They smell good, they are powerful, and they WORK. We are at the point now that even my kids run to the oil cabinet and apply something when they need it because they know what oils help with what injury or ailment.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about oils before getting started. Then WHEN you are interested in getting started (because I know you will be 🙂 ) then click the link at the end of this post. Or contact me! As an essential oil educator I LOVE talking and teaching about the wonderful world of essential oils!

  • What are essential oils?They do not contain the fatty acids that constitute what we would consider an actual oil. What they are: highly concentrated plant constituents that possess potent medicinal and cosmetic qualities. They are the life force of the plant.

 

  • Most essential oils are high in anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties: This makes them an excellent addition to your homemade cleaning preparations. Oils that are best for cleaning are: Lemon, Thieves, Purification, and Tea Tree.

 

  • Essential oils are minuscule in molecular size, which means they are absorbed well by the skin and break the blood/brain barrier – making them perfect ingredients in personal care items intended to heal, soften, and nourish. However, they do not accumulate in the body over time – they offer up their healing properties and then pass on through.

 

  • Scientific studies have shown that rosemary essential oil helps your brain perform.Specifically, smelling rosemary essential oil helps memory recall and performance on tests. Interestingly, studies have also shown that groups that inhaled either rosemary or lavender essential oil felt much more relaxed than those who inhaled no odor at all. This is a combo I love to use for my kids while doing school work.

 

  • Not only can essential oils help with physical ailments, they can help with mood, too. Citrus oils (orange,lemon, or grapefruit), or peppermint are found to have uplifting properties.  When you think about it, this makes sense.  Smells affect us. Pharmaceutical companies use nasal delivery for some medications, so the nose is one means of delivery into the body.

 

  • Many essential oils have been documented, through extensive research, to have many beneficial properties. Essential oils can be supportive to the immune system, moods, skin, muscles and more.  And each oil can serve many different purposes. They can be relaxing, uplifting, enhance clarity of thought and support emotional well-being.  Each essential oil contains several to several hundred different kinds of molecules, each of which offers benefits in promoting good health, healing and regeneration.  The more oils we use, the healthier we get.

 

  • Fragrance oils and essential oils are NOT the same thing.Generally, if you see the word “fragrance” or “fragrance oil” or even “perfume” on anything, you can assume this is synthetic and NOT natural. (Even if it says natural fragrance.) There is no regulation on the cosmetic industry. They can say “natural” when it is NOT.

 

  • Enormous amounts of plants are needed to produce essential oil.In fact, on the extreme end, it takes 4000 pounds of Bulgarian roses to produce 1 pound of essential oil. Other plants like lavender only take 100 pounds of plant material to produce a pound of essential oil.

 

  • Essential oils must be diluted when applying them, to start. They should be combined with carrier oils, waxes, butters, alcohols, or other diluting measures. Because they’re so concentrated, if you don’t dilute, you may end up with an unfortunate reaction (and unhappy skin). There are a few essential oils that are generally recognized as safe to use undiluted, but I recommend to always test first!

 

  • Never use an undiluted essential oil on a baby or child.Children have much thinner, more delicate skin than adults have, and tend to be very sensitive to the potency of essential oils.

 

  • To test if you’re sensitive to an essential oil (which is probably best to do before using it in a skincare preparation):Combine one drop of essential oil with 1/2 tsp carrier oil (like olive, jojoba, or sweet almond). Rub this on the inside, upper portion of your arm and wait a few hours. If no redness or itching develops, you’re most likely not sensitive to that essential oil. Everyone has a different biochemistry. What works for one person may not work as well for another.

 

  • Keep all essential oils out of the reach of children – and avoid contact with your eyes.These are standard safety precautions.

 

  • Not all essential oils are created equally. When you see a wide fluctuation in price, you can bet that the far less expensive one is likely lower in quality. Do your research!

 

  • Purity is paramount! Essential oils are absorbed easily through the skin and carried by the bloodstream to every cell in the body within minutes.  They can increase oxygen uptake, enhance absorption of nutrients, enhance longevity and help our bodies detoxify.  By simply inhaling therapeutic grade oils, we can uplift our mood and increase our feeling of peacefulness and well-being. So when applying or diffusing oils, you want top-notch PURE oils.

 

  • Store your essential oils in dark glass bottles and out of direct sunlight.This will help preserve their potency.

Here is where you need to go to get your starter kit and begin your journey to natural health and wellness. 

Stress-Free Eating for Optimal Nutrient Absorption

HOW we eat is just as important as WHAT we eat.

Our digestive system’s job is to take in and then break down food.  It is through the process of digestion that bits of food are transformed into vital nutrients.  A well-functioning digestive system has the wisdom to break down, absorb and utilize the nutrition it needs from the food we eat and let go of the parts and pieces that it does not.  When digestion is not working well, one can eat the healthiest, most pure, organic food in the world, but not absorb any of the nutrients.  Improperly digested food (whether of poor or high quality) over time, can lead to larger health concerns.  We spend so much time focusing on WHAT we eat, I think we often forget to look at HOW we eat and whether or not our body is able to process and assimilate nutrition from that food.

Our digestive processes are connected to our nervous system.  The enteric nervous system, which has almost as many neurons as the spinal cord, runs the length of our digestive system from our mouth to our anus.  The enteric nervous system is responsible for the secretion of digestive enzymes, bile and other fluids, the movement of peristalsis and the opening and closing of sphincters that allow food to pass from one digestive organ to another.  Tissues that contain these “communicating and thinking” neurons and neurotransmitters (the same as those found in the brain) surround the primary organs of the digestive system – esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine – and are responsible for much of its functioning.  When our senses are stimulated (smell, sight or taste), the enteric nervous system is triggered to begin the digestive process. Hence, digestion begins at the first whiff of food.

That being said, our digestive processes are influenced by all the same factors that influence our nervous system and to all those things that relax and worry us.  When the body is stressed out, anxious, sad or angry, these emotions trigger our sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight response). When the body is in this state, it goes into survival mode and digestion slows way down.  On the contrary, when we are relaxed, happy and at ease, the parasympathetic nervous system is active (rest and digest state).  When we are in the rest and digest state, the enteric nervous system functions optimally and there is better digestion, absorption and elimination.

So, if you want to get the most out of your food, to digest properly, the body has to be in a relaxed, (parasympathetic) state.  Otherwise, the enteric nervous system, which makes all these amazing digestive processes work, will be impaired and sluggish.

Digestion is about breaking down, absorbing, processing and letting go of far more than just the food we consume.  Supporting healthy digestion is also about acknowledging how we process experiences, emotions and energy.  The state and health of our digestion can have a direct impact on our emotional state and vice versa.  If you have an irritated, inflamed gut, you will feel irritated in your life.  If you have sluggish, slow digestion, you will feel slow, unmotivated and perhaps depressed in your life.  Supporting your digestion will positively influence how you feel, perceive, respond, react and initiate in your life.  Here are a few tips to support better digestion:

1. Don’t eat late at night. Consider intermittent fasting.

2. Eat regular, balanced meals and don’t snack when you are not hungry.

3. Do not drink cold liquids with meals. 

4. Do not drink more than 6 – 8 oz. of liquid with meals.

5. Be grateful for the food you are eating, for those who grew it and prepared it and for anything else you want to honor.

6. Take a quiet moment before eating to relax and take a few deep breaths.

7. Chew slowly and mindfully.

9. Prepare and eat your food with love regardless of how simple or elaborate the meal is.

10. Eat Bitter!  Bitter is the most metabolically active of all flavors, it stimulates the entire digestive process, supports absorption and elimination and is excellent for liver health.  Bitter foods include bitter lettuce, radicchio, dark leafy greens like dandelion greens and kale, and herbs like gentian, elecampane, angelica, artichoke leaf and dandelion root.

11. Support your digestive system with spices.  Spices increase metabolism and the absorption of nutrients.  They also help to relieve gas and bloating.

12. Eat fermented foods.  Fermented foods are full of probiotic bacteria that help support the health of our colon.  They support absorption of B vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins and folic acid and play a large role in immunity.  Healthy probiotic flora have also been linked to mental and emotional health.  Fermented foods include: sauerkraut, kim chi, kombucha, kefir, lacto fermented pickles, miso, and raw apple cider vinegar.

Essential oils can help promote a feeling of calmness in your body. The sense of smell is the strongest sense. Smell goes immediately to the brain which is like sending an instant message to the limbic system. Emotions attach themselves to cell receptors which compromises the cell’s ability to function properly. If a cell is not able to receive the molecules/information it needs then you won’t absorb the nutrients you need, even if you are eating the healthiest food on the planet. Certain essential oils can help promote the body’s ability to clean the cell receptor sites, and therefore function properly.

The following is a list of 4 top oils that help calm the body for optimal nutrient absorption:

  • Frankincense – to get clear minded.
  • Fennel – helps when feeling overwhelmed
  • Myrtle – relaxing to the limbic system (also promotes hormonal wellness)
  • Lavender – promotes relaxation

Some other essential oils that can be used to create a sense of peace are:

  • German or Roman Chamomile
  • Bergamot
  • Sandalwood
  • Rose
  • Citrus oils (lemon, orange etc.)
  • Cedarwood

Oils to assist in and promote healthy digestion:

  • Fennel
  • Peppermint
  • Nutmeg
  • Patchouli

To get started with  your own collection of the purest essential oils, click here and I’ll help you get started.

Gluten-Free Taco Pasta

Taco’s are my favorite meal. I could eat tacos every day and not get sick of it.

One night, when I had tacos on the menu, I realized (a little too late) that I didn’t have enough of the ingredients that I would need to make my homemade tortillas. Oops! But I did have some gluten-free pasta, so I figured, well, let’s see how it turns out if I make taco pasta.

I chopped up and cooked the veggies as I normally would, made taco seasoning, boiled the pasta, then mixed it all together. Viola! Pretty simple, really.

Kid tested and approved! 😉

Taco Seasoning

1 tbsp chili powder

2 tsp onion powder

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp Himalayan Sea Salt

Taco Filling

3 green peppers, diced

5 roma tomatoes, diced

1 large onion, diced

1 package gluten-free pasta

1/2 cup vegetable broth

  1. Boil the pasta according to package instructions. Be really careful to not over cook gluten free pasta. It tends to get really gritty and mushy. Keep an eye on it.
  2. Dice and saute veggies until slightly softened. Add in the vegetable broth and taco seasoning. Stir in the cooked and drained pasta. Serve hot.

Gluten Free Gingerbread Men Cookie

It took several tries to get this gingerbread man just right.

This one is full of crunch with a very distinct ginger and molasses flavor.

The best part, though, is: NO refined sugar, NO dairy, and gluten free!

1 1/2 cups almond flour

3/4 cups tapioca flour

3/4 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp Himalayan sea salt

3 tbsp maple syrup

3 tbsp molasses

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the dry ingredients.
  3. Add in the molasses, maple syrup, and vanilla to the dry ingredients.
  4. Roll/press dough into a ball, then flatten to 1/4 inch thick between 2 sheets of parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Pull back top layer of parchment paper and cut out gingerbread man shapes with a cookie cutter.
  6. Bake for 10-11 minutes. Let them cool on the pan.
  7. We chose not to decorate ours in an effort to stay away from refined sugar, but feel free to decorate yours as you wish. Just be sure the cookies are completely cool before doing so.

 

Almond Flour “Cut Out” Cookies

My favorite cookies to bake every Christmas were sugar cookies, mostly because it was so fun decorating them. They never were my favorite to eat. I wanted to continue the tradition with my own kids, though, but didn’t want a pile of cookies that wouldn’t get eaten.

I played around with this one a while and last Christmas came up with this recipe and they’re delicious! And guess what, they don’t have sugar!! The sweetness comes from the honey and applesauce. No processed sugar. The almond flour gives it such a rich nutty flavor. These make it hard for me to keep my hands out of the cookie jar!

I didn’t frost them in order to stay clear of sugar over-load. I did let the kids decorate them with red and green sprinkles, though,  to keep them festive.

2 cups fine ground almond flour

1/4 tsp Himalayan sea salt

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup local honey

1-2 tbsp applesauce, no sugar added

1 tbsp vanilla extract

  1. In a medium sized bowl, combine dry ingredients, mix together well. Then in a separate bowl, mix together the butter, honey, applesauce and vanilla.
  2. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine until a ball forms. Wrap in parchment paper and let chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 325.
  4. Once dough is ready, press (dough will not easily roll with a roller, so press with your hands) the dough out and cut shapes out with cookie cutters. If the shapes stick slightly to your work surface, gently slide a spatula under them to transfer to a baking sheet.
  5. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden on the edges.
  6. If you are just using sprinkles to decorate, then do that right out of the oven and gently press them in so they’ll stick. If you intend to use frosting, then wait until the cookies are completely cool before adding frosting.

 

One-Pot Italian Dinner

Who doesn’t love a flavorful, warm, nutritious meal that can be on the table in 30 minutes and only takes 1 pot?!

For those nights when you are just too busy this One-Pot meal will be your go-to, for sure.

On the nights when I don’t make my own gluten-free spaghetti or fettuccine I buy a package of gluten free pasta. In my experience the brown rice pasta has a mushy, gritty texture so I don’t use that, I opt for a quinoa pasta.

4 cups vegetable broth (or more if you want it soupy)

12 oz gluten-free spaghetti or fettuccine

8 oz frozen chopped spinach

5-6 diced roma tomatoes

1 medium onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

freshly cracked pepper, to taste

handful fresh chopped basil

(optional but DELICIOUS – so I would recommend it – is 1 drop of Young Living Basil essential oil and 1 drop Young Living Oregano essential oil)

  1. Add four cups of vegetable broth to a large pot. Add the pasta to the pot along with the tomatoes, frozen spinach, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and some freshly cracked black pepper.
  2. Place a lid on top of the pot, and then turn the heat on to high. Allow the pot to come up to a full boil over high heat, then remove the lid and turn the heat down to low.
  3. Allow the pot to continue to boil over medium heat, without a lid, for 10-15 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked through. Stir the pot every few minutes to prevent pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  4. Remove from heat then add fresh chopped basil.