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Monday, November 11, 2013

Whole30: Salmon Cakes

Most of you know that last Monday (11/4/13), JR and I started a Whole30.  If you haven't heard of this or ever done one, I urge you to read up about it and give it a whirl.  It's 30 days of no sugar, no alcohol, nothing processed, no legumes, no dairy, no grains (of any kind, including seeds like quinoa that mimic grains), and no soy.  Yes, I realize that soy IS a legume, but because it is in nearly EVERYTHING in the aisles of the grocery store, it needs to be mentioned in its own category. If 30 days of this sounds impossible to you, then you most definitely need to do this.  After all, it's only 30 days!  (Trust me when I say that if you--for instance--get seven days into this and try one tiny Reese's peanut butter cup, you'll want to continue with the Whole30 way of eating past the 30 days...not that this happened to me...this morning...)

Anyway, I've made lovely, wonderful, REAL food for a week now!  Thus far, our two favorite things have been some Mexican oven-braised beef short ribs and some salmon cakes.  In this post, I'm going to show you the salmon cakes!  Mmmmm--seriously, go get the things for it right now and make them tonight.  I made a bunch last night to freeze, just so I can have them whenever I want!

I found the original recipe on Everyday Maven, and though it is wonderfully Whole30 compliant as is, I tweaked it a little (solely because of the flavors I was wanting at the time--I'm going to try the original recipe next time!).  So here it is!

Whole30/Paleo Salmon Cakes

1 can (14.75oz) wild-caught salmon (I get the kind with bones and skin...pick out the few bones, leave in the skin)
1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato
1 large egg
1/2 cup almond meal (you can use almond flour if you want--I only have almond meal in the house at the moment)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (or 2 tsp dried)
2 Tbsp minced fresh dill (or 2 tsp dried)
2 scallions, white and green parts, sliced thin
2 Tbsp minced shallot
1 tsp hot sauce
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt (pink Himalayan sea salt FTW!)
1/4 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp liquid fat*

* I list "liquid fat" because I'm leaving it up to you as to which fat you use.  Olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, clarified butter...these are all great choices.

1.  Preheat the oven to 425.  Put parchment paper on a baking sheet and set aside.

2.  Drain salmon and crumble fish into a large bowl.  Add all ingredients except for the liquid fat and mix until well-combined.  Chill 5-10 minutes.

3.  Brush parchment paper with liquid fat.  Using a 1/3 C measuring cup, fill and gently pack with salmon mixture.  Drop onto the parchment paper (I had to whack my cup on the baking sheet and it plopped right out).  Cakes will be about 2.5" wide and 1" thick (or thereabouts).

4.  Bake for 20 minutes, flip salmon cakes, and bake another 10 minutes.

I served these over a salad with a Paleo Ranch dressing (I actually made it up as I went along, but then found an almost identical recipe the next day!).  If you want to make the dressing, it is as follows:

3-ish Tbsp Paleo mayo (if you don't want to pay upwards of $7 for a jar of it, make your own for a couple bucks--it's one egg, some lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and dry mustard)
1 Tbsp almond milk (it goes without saying that you shouldn't be using a sweetened or vanilla form of almond milk for a Ranch dressing...)
salt and pepper
garlic powder
onion powder

Don't go overboard with the seasoning amounts.  In that small of a wet amount, we're talking a pinch or two of each.  Put everything in a bowl and stir.  That's it. 

Have fun and happy Whole30-ing!

You can't tell from the picture, but Dr. Habib ate three of these suckers for his dinner and was a VERY happy camper!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Why This is of Utmost Importance!

I have been asked by quite a few people why I'm doing this.

"Why are you making everything at home?"
"Are you going all granola?"
"Why does it matter what's in this stuff?"
"If it was bad for you, they wouldn't be able to sell it, so why should I be worried?"

To quickly answer these questions...
1.  Because I control what goes into everything (and it's way cheaper).
2.  No, taking poisons out of the house is not considered "going all granola..." It's considered being safe.
3.  It matters because if it's in the air, you're breathing it; if it's on surfaces, you're touching (or eating) it; and if it's on your skin, you're constantly absorbing it into your body.
4.  Yes, companies are still able to sell dangerous products to you...there is nothing illegal about that.  Not only do they sell you the poisons, but they tell you that you NEED them in order to be healthy.  FAIL!

Let's look at a quick rundown of a couple products...

TOOTHPASTE!  This has to be safe, right?  I mean, it goes in your mouth.  Of course we're all ignoring the fact that toothpaste has a disclaimer on the package that says to contact poison control if swallowed...but whatever.  

The first dangerous ingredient found in toothpaste is sodium fluoride.  I can find hundreds of "granola" websites that will tell you all about the dangers of NaF...but because the larger percentage of my audience isn't of the "hippie" persuasion, I'll use a commonly visited website for this information: livestrong.  Let's look past the fact that sodium fluoride is one of the main ingredients in rat poison and was used by the Nazis to sterilize prisoners, and look at THIS LINK.  We see three sections: toothpaste, water treatment, and industrial uses.  Sure, we can extol the dental benefits and talk about water...both things that, at some point, are in YOUR MOUTH.  Now, let's look at the first sentence of the "industrial uses" section: 

Because sodium fluoride is poisonous it is commonly used in pesticides, including fungicides and insecticides.

Um...why are we brushing our teeth with something commonly used in products that were specifically developed to KILL things?  Yes, NaF is used in a much higher concentration in those products; however, you are putting it into your body multiple times a day, and at this point, probably hoping that your kidneys and liver will just "take care of it."  Oh, and did I mention that it's a key component in sarin nerve gas? do the math.

Next fun product?  FD&C Blue Dye 1 and 2Here is a chemical information sheet on these.  Food coloring...vegetable dye...not considered hazardous...scroll down to the first aid precautions.  Here are the guidelines for ingestion:

Call Poison Control immediately. Rinse mouth with cold water. Give victim 1-2 cups of water or milk to drink.
Induce vomiting immediately. 
And yet we eat it in many things daily, it's in our toothpaste, and it's even used to dye know, so they look like they're "fresh and in season," when they really aren't.   These dyes are made from step above crude oil (and in fact, were originally made from coal tar).  They have been known to cause asthma attacks, nausea, headaches, fatigue, nervousness, lack of concentration, and cancer.  But hey, if you're okay with those, keep on with the dye!
The next ingredient of toothpaste is sodium lauryl sulfate.  Sounds all natural, right?  Right.   Aha!  We've all seen the increasing popularity of sulfate-free shampoo lately, yes?  It is a surfactant (foaming agent) that is used to disperse ingredients and make your toothpaste all foamy and bubbly.  SLS has been linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, organ toxicity, skin irritation, and endocrine disruption...and those are the "safer" problems.  In fact, when researchers are in testing phases of body products, they use SLS to irritate the skin before trying out their product on it.  Enough said.

 ANTIPERSPIRANT!  This is something that virtually everyone in western cultures starts wearing around the onset of puberty.  Why so young?  Because when puberty hits, the sebaceous glands go batty producing oil and sweat.  That combined with the bacteria on the skin (and let's face it: 12-year olds aren't the best at personal hygiene) makes so a 6th-7th grade classroom smells like a whole bunch of dirty butt, feet, and a little skunk spray mixed in.  Enter: antiperspirant.  You rub it all over your armpits and suddenly, VOILA!  Your pits are dry and not of the stink.  But how does it work?  Well, for the most part, your putting aluminum in your skin, which is plugging up the sweat glands and pores.  

Now here's the deal on the aluminum: the stance of researchers and safety personnel seems to be "let's wait and see."  It shouldn't be hard to decide...aluminum doesn't belong in pore- and gland-clogging areas.  

Parabens--disrupt hormones.

Propylene Glycol--made from petroleum oil...that was discussed up under blue dye.

Triclosan--well, the FDA classifies this as a pesticide...need I say more?

Butylated Hydroxytoluene--causes hyperactivity in children and is considered a carcinogen.  It has been linked to biochemical cellular-level damage.  The Skin Deep site ranks it as a high toxic hazard.  So...we're using this...why again?

So really, LOOK at your product labels!  Look up every single ingredient.  If it touches your skin at any point, it is being sucked into your body.  Next week I'll do another post about shampoo and laundry detergent...YEP!  They're equally (if not more) scary!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Toothpaste's been awhile!  I'm trying to find more things to replace in the house with natural alternatives--and I'm at a bit of a standstill because I've replaced all of the major products and most of the minor products in our house already!  (So, YAY and boo at the same time LOL!)  That being said, if you have an ideas of things to try, things you have tried and like, or things that you want to replaces but don't know how to go about it, leave it in the comments so I can try to figure something out!

On to today's item: TOOTHPASTE!

What this is: a natural toothpaste that is close to commercial toothpaste consistency, that whitens your teeth without using chemical abrasives and detergents (yes, you read that correctly--your commercial toothpaste has DETERGENT in it).

What this isn't: a super-sweet identical replacement for your current commercial toothpaste.  It is somewhat sweet, but it's also incredibly salty because of the baking soda.  It took me about 10 seconds to get used to the salty flavor...but whatever.  You're brushing your teeth with it--not eating it LOL!

So what do you need?

6 Tbsp organic unrefined virgin coconut oil
6 Tbsp baking soda
Around 1 tsp of stevia
Around 20-30 drops peppermint essential oil
Around 10-15 drops eucalyptus essential oil

Put the coconut oil into a bowl and whip it on a medium speed until fluffy (when you whip coconut oil, it turns into the consistency of a fluffy body butter--as a side note, if you do this and keep it temperature stable, you can use just this part as lotion).  Once fluffy, add in the baking soda and stevia.  Mix until just combined.  Now add the oils and mix one more time until blended.  Put it in a container and use it to brush your teeth!

As a side note, whip the coconut oil as little as needed--if you go to long, it will turn into liquid oil.  Of course if it does, stick it in the fridge for 20-30 minutes and it will turn solid again.  I put ours in some old baby food jars, which are the perfect size!

Sorry, there's no way to take a great-looking picture of two jars of white fluff LOL!

Have fun and happy brushing!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Baby Wipes

After poring over no fewer than 20 different "recipes" for homemade baby wipes, I decided to just combine the best aspects of a few recipes and make up my own!  Here is what I came up with:

What you'll need:
1 Tbsp olive oil (or melted coconut oil, grape seed oil, or almond oil)
1 Tbsp baby wash (whatever kind you use--pictured here is California Baby Lavender and Tea Tree Oil shampoo and body wash)
1.5-ish C warm water
Tea Tree Oil
Lavender Oil
Select-a-Size type paper towels
Container to fit 1/2 the height of the roll of paper towels (pictured here is ClickClack 3.5 qt container from Target--$14.92)

First, let me explain just a few things about the ingredients.  The essential oils are technically optional; however, USE THEM.  If you can only use one of them, use tea tree oil.  The tea tree oil will keep away any mold that could potentially grow in the container.  The container is a very humid environment--mold's favorite place to grow.  In most baby wipes that you buy, the mold is kept away from the alcohol they put in the wipes...but we don't want to use alcohol, so we use tea tree oil instead.  It is naturally an antiseptic, an anti-fungal, and infection-reducing.  That means that it will also help with diaper rash (getting it to go away AND keeping it away), eczema, and any sort of skin inflammation.  Lavender oil shares some of those same properties (and it just smells good!).  It is an antiseptic, an analgesic (pain killer), and a cicatrizant (promotes healing through scar tissue), among other things.  That means lavender oil can help with eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, scabies, and myriad other skin problems.

As for paper towels, pick whatever brand you want to...but make sure they're the "select-a-size" type.  Here is what I know about paper towels: much like toilet paper and cheese, YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.  I paid less than $1.50 for the pictured roll of Viva paper towels.  However many towels the package says it has, you'll be getting twice that many wipes...just make sure that unless you have a wide container, you don't want one of the double rolls.  

So how do you make them?

Get out your cutting board and a sharp knife!  Some recipes said to make sure you use a serrated knife, but I had no problem with a flat-edged knife.  It just needs to be sharp.  Lay the roll of towels on their side.  Now saw away until you're all the way through.  Now you have something that looks similar to two rolls of toilet paper.

In a glass measuring cup that holds at least two cups, add 1.5 cups of warm/hot water.  Add in the baby wash and oil.  For the essential oils, I used about 10-12 shakes of the tea tree oil and 15 or so shakes of the lavender oil.  It'll look really pretty like this:
At this point, I put the liquid into another container with a tight fitting lid, and shook it around to mix the oils up a bit.  In retrospect, I would probably add all of the oils, shake it up, and THEN add the body wash.  It got a little foamy!  Oh well.

Put one half of the paper towel roll into the container, cut side down.  Pour the liquid over the towels slowly.  I tried to get a good amount around the center and the edges so it could soak in from both sides.  If your towels are still really dry, feel free to add a little more water.  It'll look like this:
That yellowing is the olive oil.  See how the cardboard tube is pulling away?  Once it's pretty wet, you can pull it out of the center.  The towel that is attached to the tube can be pulled out of the middle.  This is where you'll pull the wipes from.  Now put the lid on and let them continue to soak for awhile.
I used these today and they work wonderfully!  The only thing I would change is that I would add maybe an extra 1/2 C warm water at the end.  I like my wipes a little more wet than these were--you know, for the demon adorable poops that come out of the toddler.

Have fun and happy wiping!


Wednesday, July 31, 2013


I've only put one food item on this blog so far, but these pancakes were good enough that I decided to post the recipe.  I found the recipe on Pinterest a month or so ago and wrote it down so I could make them.  I lost the recipe and just found it this I decided to make them.  Unfortunately, I didn't save it on my recipe board, so I can't give credit to the person who originally posted it.  Whoever you are, these are DELICIOUS!

3/4 C. milk
2 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 C. flour (I used a mixture of different whole wheat flours--regular, pastry, white whole wheat)
2-3 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
2 Tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Pour the 2 Tbsp of white vinegar into a measuring cup and add milk until it reaches the 3/4 C. line.  Give it a quick stir and let it set for 10 minutes.  In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients.  In a small bowl, whisk together milk, egg, vanilla, and butter.  Pour wet into dry and whisk until most lumps are gone.


Heat a skillet on medium heat.  I used coconut oil in the pan, but you can use whatever oil you want to.  Coconut oil gives the pancakes a slightly sweet crunch to the edges.  The batter will be thick--I dropped just shy of 1/3 C. at a time.  The pancakes don't really get the same "bubbles" as regular know, the ones that let you know it's time to flip the pancakes over.  I cooked them for about 2 minutes on the first side and 1 minute on the second side...but it'll vary by how hot your pan is.

Now...EAT THEM!  I had mine with just a little butter and some blueberries.  Isak ate his dry with blueberries, blackberries, and sliced banana.  I'm sure they'll taste good with syrup--but I'm not really a syrup person LOL!

Have fun and happy cooking!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Shower Cleaning Spray

There are loads of products on the market that claim to do everything from eliminate soap scum to babysit your children make your bathroom sparkle.  None of them really work all that well, at least in my experience--and all of them have such a strong chemical clean smell that they leave me with a headache and sniffles.  I've looked all over for different homemade recipes, and finally found one that works.  Unfortunately, I don't have a really gross "before" picture to show you how well this stuff works (we have one of those dish wands filled with Dawn and vinegar in the shower that I do a quick scrub down with every it never gets REALLY bad...but the soap scum still eventually builds up).  But you'll get the idea with what I have.  

So what will you need?
Dawn (the original blue stuff)

The recipe is a 1:1 ratio, so equal parts of vinegar and Dawn.  Here is the important part--you want the vinegar to be hot.  I put it in a glass Pyrex measuring cup and microwaved it for two minutes.  If you use smaller amounts, you might not need to heat it that long.  I used a cup of each, in order to spray down the whole shower.  Put the hot vinegar and Dawn in a spray bottle and flip it over a few times to mix it without shaking it too much.

 Now spray it all over the shower (or the area of the shower that you want to clean).  It won't run all that much, so you want to saturate the soap scum areas (otherwise when you wipe it down, you'll have clean areas where the gel was and soap scum surrounding it).

Okay, so I forgot to take out my hair and body stuff when I sprayed it down.  Don't do that.  It's annoying to clean up.  This part of the shower didn't have a whole lot of soap scum on the walls, so they aren't saturated as much as, say, the area under the products where all of the soap and junk collects.  Once you spray down the shower, leave it alone for two hours (or longer if you have really stubborn yuckiness).  After that time, get a sponge wet in warm water and wipe everything down.  Most of it was just gentle wiping and everything came off--there were a couple parts where I had to scrub.  Regardless, it all came off!  After wiping it down, spray it with your shower head (or if it doesn't reach, just get a bucket and dump water on it to finish rinsing it).

Voila!  All clean!  It's somewhat time consuming, but if you figure that the majority of the time was taken up with Isak napping and me watching SVU while doing laundry, it doesn't really matter, right?  Now I need to find out if this works on shower liners.  No amount of cleaning seems to work on the liner curtain!

Have fun and happy de-scumming!


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Summer Rolls

I don't know about you, but Vietnamese summer rolls are one of my favorite things to eat...all year long.  There is something so refreshing about biting into a summer roll, especially when it has just been made.  One of my favorite parts is dipping it in copious amounts of peanut sauce; however, JR is allergic to I don't make the sauce at home, I just have it at restaurants.

I was amazed to find out how easy these are to make.  Honestly, the hardest part is figuring out how long to soak the rice wraps before using them.  You can put basically whatever you want into the rolls.  Some things would be harder to wrap than others, so use your good judgment when deciding what to use.

What did I use?
Butter lettuce leaves (I used the living lettuce--I LOVE it!)
Cooked vermicelli noodles
Shredded carrots
Chopped green onions
Mint leaves (these give it the traditional summer roll taste, so don't leave them out!)
Cooked shrimp (cut in half as shown)
Rice wrappers

You'll want to cut all the vegetables first and put them in separate containers.  It's MUCH easier this way.  Although I say you can pick whatever you want to put in them, there are a few staples: mint (trust me, if you've had a summer roll before, this is what you taste), cooked vermicelli (noodles will make up about 1/2 of the contents, give or take), and lettuce leaves (this is important in order to keep vegetables from tearing the rice wrap).

Put a couple inches of water in large bowl or pie plate.  Only soak ONE wrap at a time.  Just make sure all of the wrap gets wet, soak it 10-15 seconds, and pull it out.  Do not wait until the wrap is totally pliable to pull it out of the water--it will be impossible to use.  When it comes out of the water, it will still be mostly stiff.  Don't worry, it'll continue to soften.  At this point, put it on a damp towel/paper towel/whatever on a cutting board or hard surface.

Pile your stuff on the wrap about 2-2.5 inches from the bottom of the wrap.  Lettuce on bottom, then noodles, then veggies.  Fold the bottom over the vegetables, then fold each side over snugly (think: like wrapping a'll still have a relatively wide middle part of the wrap to deal with).  Fold the vegetable part over once.  At this point I placed (right next to the filled part) a mint leaf, a shrimp half, and another mint leaf.  Then roll the rest of it up (just like a burrito).  If you want to make them vegetarian, you can put anything in other than shrimp--tofu, a peach slice, a spare tire, whatever.

This is what the finished product looks like.  It's not beautiful, but it is incredibly delicious!

Have fun and happy rolling!