Two VERY handy sites, and making Coconut Butter

The internet is LOADED with too much information, so much that I have a hard time sifting. Let me sift a little for you. And hopefully, you’re not completely sick of white stuff in jars since I keep posting them. But don’t worry, real food is coming. I’m just setting the stage for future greatness, giving you the tools if you will, to make wonderful things soon.

So first, have you ever found yourself cleaning out your cupboard or pantry and realized you had three cans of veggie broth, or that jar of roasted red peppers you knew was back there had been tucked away for longer than you’d thought – like two years? Did you know that the best by date isn’t always the definitive date? Yes, you probably do, but I still have friends for whom this is new information and so, I share.

Still Tasty not only tells you how much longer your canned goods are good for (sometimes two or three years!), but your fruits and vegetables, and well, everything other edible in your kitchen. There is so much information on this site, you could spend days and still probably learn something new, or at least novel. I will confess, there are many items lacking, BUT the catalog is continually increasing.

So, if after checking StillTasty you find you probably shouldn’t use that tempeh that ended up in the back corner of your fridge for six months, there is yet another site I frequent. It is where I go when I realize I am missing what I THINK is a vital ingredient.

The Cook's Thesaurus

Unfortunately, the URL is rather than its name, but I love the URL since it’s easier to remember when I’m looking for a substitute ingredient. It’s not as easy to navigate as I would like, but the search bar is pretty helpful. One of the best parts is that some recommended substitutes have how-to directions!

I wanted to make Shira’s brownies at InPursuitofMore, but I did not have nor had I ever made coconut butter. So I foodsubbed it. This is what I found:

coconut butter  To make your own:  Toast grated coconut over low heat in a frying pan until lightly browned, then whirl it (while still hot) in a blender until it has the consistency of a smooth paste.

There were no pictures, but hey, those are pretty straight-forward directions and I’m not as dumb as I might look sometimes. So, I tossed some shredded, unsweetened, dried coconut and did just that. Heated it and popped it in the Vitamix and started it running. I was surprised by how it transformed from a pile of dried coconut into a creamy, SUPER-HOT, fatty quasi-liquid. It almost had the consistency of what happens when you mix cornstarch and water – a liquid-solid. It was also very much like butter (though very coconutty) and not anything I imagined should have worked.  As it cooled, it hardened much like coconut oil and works like butter in recipes. Cool, huh?

I have since repeated the procedure with more precise measurements to be more helpful. I know I would have appreciated a bit more info when I first tried it. I don’t think a regular blender could handle this, and I recommend a VitaMix because I found the tamper VERY useful. A BlendTec definitely has the power, it just requires more stopping and starting as you stir the contents.

Here are the details in a better form.

Homemade Coconut Butter
Adapted from Cook’s Thesaurus
Yield: 2 cups

4 c. shredded, unsweetened, dried coconut

Over medium heat in a large non-stick skillet, allow coconut to LIGHTLY toast, stirring or flipping frequently to keep from burning. (The goal is primarily to get it hot, but a bit of nuttiness from the toasting improves the flavor.) Quickly add the coconut to power blender, and turn it on and up. Using the tamper if you have one, push the coconut into the blades, adjusting blender speed in order to keep the coconut moving. You may need to stop and start, especially if you don’t have a tamper; pulsing it and shaking the jar will be helpful! This will take a few minutes and the contents will get HOT, as they reach maximum smoothness. The coconut will start moving itself as it begins to liquefy, at which point you’re close. Stop occasionally and check consistency – it should be quite smooth.

When it’s done, it’s done! Pour into a clean container and allow to cool at room temperature. If you’re really ambitious, pour into a muffin tin to get ½ cup portions because it’s pretty tough to break up after it cools.


Pi Day – 3.14


We do school here, as in within the walls of our home. You know, like “HOMESCHOOL”? I don’t know how to spin or weave, so they don’t wear homespun (j/k), but we do call playing soccer in the backyard and going on trips “school”. We also teach our five year old about mobius strips, birds of the world (he can identify more than a few), indulge his desire to read books about the desert, legos, and scriptures, and let him color his leprechauns whatever color he wants…though they’re usually green. But if he WANTED, I wouldn’t care if they were red or yellow, or if he didn’t even color one.

So, today, March 14th, aka 3.14, we celebrate Pi. That obscure number that helps us calculate the circumference and area of circles and other roundish things. I think I’ll be making a strawberry pie to celebrate to teach my child mathematical principles. How will you celebrate learn?

To Read: What your gut is telling you (Real “Clean”)

By now you probably know I’m a bit of a gardening geek and a food nerd. In fact, this week I’m working on making water kefir and sourdough culture to comfort my inner nerd and geek with the impending truncation of my growing season outside (though the outrageous fashion show the mountains put on totally makes it worth it).

So, there is nothing terribly revolutionary about this article, but it spoke to me on a few levels. Healthy, living dirt (my Soils professor would kill me for using that word) is one of my favorite smells. Healthy dirt is sustainable. A healthy gut protects not just our digestive system, but our whole body. Living food isn’t just about eating “raw”.  Those little tiny bugs could well be the making or breaking of our civilization.

So, if you have 4 minutes, it’s worth a quick read.

What your gut is telling you, by Maria Rodale

Getting My Green On

I’m generally a green person.  I recycle.  I’m happier in thrift store bargains than expensive store bought clothing.  I like to play outside.  And I’d rather be on foot or bike than in a car, though I am often limited on this one due to 3 kids in tow.

But alkaline- golly gee (been watching Leave it to Beaver lately.)

Talk about taking green to a whole new level!   I still have a ways to go, my steady pH has moved up from 5.5 to 6.2, and there are times in the day where I have hit 7.8.  The goal:  7.2.  The method:  as follows.

1) Wheatgrass.  Wheatgrass.  Wheatgrass.  To the point that when I drive up to Jamba Juice, my stomach rolls.

Since buying wheatgrass is so costly by the shot, I am working to master the art of growing healthy wheatgrass.  Unfortunately I have had a bit of a black thumb in this endeavor so far with round one growing only a blade of grass per square inch and round two developing major mold growth.  Round three is going beautifully and I am hoping to have it ready to use in just under a week.

Two youtube videos helped me understand the process a little better, both using very different methods.  My right brain connected with this video by a sweet gal who keeps it simple.  My left brain enjoyed the science behind this man’s methods– he’s not messing around.

Putting in an order for a wheatgrass juicer today.  After some research I have decided to go with the Lexen Manual Juicer.  It is cost effective and gets great reviews saying it is easy to clean and space efficient.  I especially like that I won’t have to worry about silver paint chipping off into my juice!

2)  Raw Green Super Food

Oh man, this stuff is disgusting.  I would rather choke it down straight with water than ruin my lovely smoothies with it.  But it works.  It’s green.  And I need it.  Better than being put on migraine medicine anyday!

3)  Green Smoothies, Juices and Salads!

My favorite part.  Getting in your greens can be delicious too!  I’ve been making all kinds of new salad dressings to keep things interesting.  Yesterday’s dressing was made with fresh grapefruit juice and lime juice.  Mmmmm…..  I’ve been hitting up a bunch of raw cookbooks too, hoping to start making raw crackers and snacks for on the go.  I have enjoyed Matthew Kenney’s book “Everyday Raw” so far and can’t wait to get my copies of these two in the mail:

“Practically Raw: Flexible Raw Recipes Anyone Can Make” by Amber Shea Crawley

“Raw Energy: 124 Raw Food Recipes for Energy Bars, Smoothies, and Other Snacks to Supercharge Your Body”
by Stephanie Tourles

4)  Staying away from junk and keeping active.

While eating my greens is wonderful for my health, it won’t do any good if I eat processed foods, sugars and other foods that are acidic and are self-defeating in the attempt to get alkaline.  And I can’t say enough about staying active.  A good workout actually helps flush the acids out of a body!  A win win I think, providing better fitness, stronger body, clearer mind, and more energy.

Such is my life.  Call me a Grinch.  The Hulk.  Frankenstein.  Oscar.  Kermit.  What have you.  It’s not easy being green, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Alkaline Food Charts

Hi again!  Sorry for the repeat post, but I forgot to add a couple links for Alkaline Food Charts that helped shed some light on the acid vs. alkaline mystery.  Here they are:

Have a lovely Sunday!

Veggie Dog Meat Analogue Review & July Giveaways!

It’s Tasty Tuesday. Are you ready for a month of Somer Giveaways?

We went up the canyon this week and had our first foray into the veggie dog world. Buying fake packaged processed vegan meat is not something I want to do often, but I can see now that there is an occasional place for these products. We bought Smart Dogs and Tofurky Italian Sausages both products are certified vegan (some veggie meats aren’t: MORNINGSTAR FARMS, always read labels).

 The Smart Dogs had less than 100 calories and 1 gram of fat. Nutrition stats here. These had the texture of cheap traditional hot dogs (as far as I can remember, it’s been a long time AND I used to buy the 100% kosher beef variety), but the flavor wasn’t as smoky, even after being cooked over a fire.  Probably because they didn’t contain nitrates, which is a good thing. However, once in a bun and dressed up with organic ketchup and dijon mustard it was pretty tasty. They charred nicely over the fire.

Now for the Tofurky Italian Sausages

Not super impressed with the nutrition stats on these babies, they had nearly as much fat and calories as the real deal: 270 Calories and 13 Grams of fat Per link. Ew. They were however, somewhat tastier than the Smart Dogs, but likely this is because I adore sun-dried tomatoes and basil. They also browned more evenly.

Blame my husband for buying the white buns, I don’t know how he succeeded in buying ones that were vegan, but they were. So he gets extra points there 😉

Now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for:

Grand Prize: 1 magic shirt AND 2 free meal cards: Amber

Runner’s Up: 1 magic shirt each: Suzanna & Welchfamilyadventures

Winners were selected by using the service. Please email your addresses to me at and I will mail you your prizes!

Jealous? Don’t worry, I have another giveaway, like I will for every post I do this month.

I will be giving away 1 bottle of natural insect repellant to 1 lucky winner.

Winner to be announced Tuesday June 10th, 2012.

 Rules of Engagement:

1- You must be a follower of this blog, if you don’t know how to do that, there is a “Follow blog via email” button at the top column to the right. This contest is open to all followers, including International Readers and those too lazy to make their own natural insect repellant.

2- You must like this post (click on the title name of this post, then go to the bottom of the post just above comments and push the like button),

3- You must comment below, telling me your about your favorite camping spot

Warning: this works against Utah Mosquitos, I haven’t however used it in Wisconsin, where I know there are mosquitoes of a saber toothed variety.

 Happy Trails! Stay tuned for Somer Saturday, where I will have a LULULEMON GIVEAWAY!

To Read: A sugar shortage?

I know I just posted one of these, but this is fully entertaining. What would a sugar shortage do to our nation? Well, after the initial withdrawal issues, I’d love to see it!

Feds to farmers: Grow GMO beets or face sugar shortage

New Beginnings

Life is a funny thing, the way it unfolds and never ceases to surprise.

It’s no secret I still use chicken broth and use dairy and meat in our kitchen, though much less than I used to.  My replies *excuses* in the past as to why I haven’t made the jump to a plant-based diet have been many:

1.  I am iron and protein deficient so I can’t quit meat.

2.  My husband likes junk and it’s hard to carry a whole household when everyone is not on the same page.  I have tried cooking multiple meals a night so many times, it gets exhausting.

3.  My life is crazy, I don’t have that much time to spend in the kitchen!!  If I had a personal chef, I could totally do it.  And lastly, if time, money and culinary abilities weren’t an issue, a vegan I would be.

Well, much has changed in the last few months.

I went to a new doctor two days ago.  I have had a laundry list of health problems (asthma, migraines, joint problems,  fibromyalgia, depression)  since I had my 3rd baby and it was time for a new opinion.  He looked at my blood test results and said:  “You aren’t iron deficient.  The last doctor misread the test results because you aren’t prediabetic either.  Or hormone deficient.  It is all in your gut.”  After the worst 9 months of health problems EVER, he said that changing my diet should clear up all my symptoms.  Could it really be true?  I am wary after so many other doctors have messed with me over the last couple years, but remain moderately optomistic.

It is now time to make that step.  For the first two weeks of the new diet, I can eat all veggies except corn and potatoes, nuts (not peanuts, they are a legume), olive oil, seasonings, vinegars, braggs, lean meat (chicken, fish and eggs), lemon water and veggie juices.  I am just cutting the cord completely and skipping the animal products.  If there was ever a time to make the jump, this would be it.

Week 3  add fruits, one per day.

Week 4 add legumes, one per day, especially lentils.

Week 5 add whole grains, one every 3 days (to help see if there are any allergies.)

If everything progresses as promised, all of my symptoms should clear.  This is TBD.

Other roadblocks have cleared as well.  My hubby has gone gangbusters on his health/diet related reading and has turned a new leaf.  While vegan may not be on the horizon for him as of yet, he is eating tons more veggies, sticking to whole grains, and has lowered his milk and animal product intake.

One week until summer!  Less driving to school and extracurricular activities.  I can *relatively* dictate our family’s schedule each day to include more time in the kitchen.  It is hard for me to make myself a priority- my 3 kids have so many needs and my list of responsibilities is endless.  But the time has come when my self-neglect is keeping me from being able to do my daily jobs as a mom.  I have to say it’s OK to take the time to give my body what it needs.  Loving myself will help me love my family even better in the future.

I still would REALLY LOVE a personal chef, but necessity calls and whether I like it or not, I will be cooking more.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE to cook.  I love picking things from our garden and turning them into something delightful.  Can’t beat the therapy that comes with creating a meal for my family.  And I really love eating healthy goodness.

So the time has come.  I’m really going to do it.  The day is here.

I’m going plant-based.

These are a few of my Favorite Things

Yes, sing it to the tune. This blog post isn’t about food…. Shhh! It’s about some of the products I love that I can’t live without. Since going plant-based, I realized that if I wasn’t putting garbage into my body via food, why would I put garbage and chemicals in my home or on my body via product? Just because my friends are starting to call me the ‘Hippie-Vegan Obama-Lover’ doesn’t mean I want to look all crunchy granola! So as you can imagine, I had to revamp some of my makeup, lotions, potions, cleaning products and more. Some of these products are “natural” but may not be from perfect companies.  I’m okay with that and I am making steps in the right direction! Here are the ones I am using right now that I love the most:

Everyday Minerals: This is my favorite makeup hands down! I have been using their products for over 5 years now. In the past I used almost all of the “fancy” department store brands and have spent some serious cash on makeup. NO MORE. This is a super affordable product from an environmentally friendly, vegan and organic company. It absolutely beats the pants off mega-giant Bare Minerals, Bare Escentuals, or I.D. or whatever it’s not really natural product name is. They have DOZENS of foundation colors so you are sure to get your exact match. “How do you get the exact match?” You ask? Well, they provide you with FREE SAMPLES of their products so you can find your perfect shades.  I use the foundation, blush, bronzer, concealer, eyeliner, eyeshadows and more from these guys.  They offer 25% off when you order your own 3 product customized kit!

Oh Burt’s Bees, how do I love you? let me count the ways! While I daydream about the lusciousness of their must always have with me at all times classic bees-wax lip-balm that makes my breath all minty fresh. I realize this product IS NOT Vegan. I’m okay with that, just like I am okay with honey. That may change someday, but for now I moisturize with their lotions and potions and use their shampoos and conditioners, and color my lips with their minty lip shimmers, and use their lovely baby powder as an affordable dry shampoo. Use promo code SPRING25 to get $5 bucks off a purchase online.

Thank you Neutrogena for coming out with a natural skin care line that I can find at a local grocery store! Girls lets talk moisture. These lotions are the bomb. I use the day cream, the night cream and the makeup remover. It’s in my budget and I love the way it makes my skin look and feel. Oh, and here is a coupon to make it even more affordable!

Doterra: Okay Okay! I know this is an M.L.M. but I bought some oils at a local health food store and was so mad when I got home because the label said “for aromatic use only”. Doterra’s oils are medicinal grade and can be used both internally and externally. I have spared my children from taking antibiotics twice in the last few months because I used these oils. We used On Guard for strep throat and Lavender and Melaleuca to treat an ear infection. The Lavender helps us sleep better too. Seriously in love with these products!

Norwex: These products are seriously out-of-control-environmentally-friendly. Imagine cleaning your whole kitchen, every surface disinfected and shiny and glorious, including GLASS AND MIRRORS and stainless steel appliances in minutes with just a cloth and water! I seriously can see my reflection on my granite counter-tops after cleaning them with this product. Getting the amazing enviro-cloth even made my husband interested in cleaning the kitchen (NO KIDDING). The products are microfiber woven with antibacterial silver fibers. The cloths pick up the bacteria on surfaces without spreading it around and the built-in silver allows the cloth to disinfect itself. Best part, they only need to be washed once a week and don’t get all stinky and stiff like a normal dish cloth does! Woohoo!

Physician’s Formula Organic Wear Makeup: So my above mineral makeup company, Every Day Minerals doesn’t make a mascara 😦 I am a serious mascara girl! Unfortunately, most mascara is basically nasty, chemically laden boot polish  equivalent. This mascara however is the first natural one I have tried that gives me big full lashes and (mostly) stays put. I will put up with a tiny bit of smudging and flaking in exchange for not having chemicals so near my eyeballs! I’m sure their other organic wear makeups are great too, just can’t part with my mineral brand to branch out. p.s. this is one of the giveaways for a Green Smoothie Challenge Winner.

Lululemon: Ok, so this isn’t necessarily a ‘natural product’ but the company is based on yoga and running clothing which helps us workout junkies achieve our perfect Zen while looking amazing. The company also gives back to charity and has yoga ambassadors all over the world.  It’s my favorite brand of running clothing at the moment. Isn’t that the cutest running skirt you have ever seen?!? Their stuff is crazy expensive so I try to add one piece at a time and go without cute jeans, wear worn out shoes and cut back on other things so I can rock the lulu while hitting the trails.

Total Cheater – Make your own

I would love to think that I could compile my resources and make my own awesome list for you to follow (by you, I mean me, which is why I am posting it so I don’t lose it). But I’m not that good.

But this blogger is. A list with links to recipes on everything she makes herself. I love people who are willing to do the work for me.

Homemade Substitutes for Grocery Staples

Now, if only I can get my act together and start making some stuff. Probably not though.