AIP Zucchini Pesto Sauce

AIP Zucchini Pesto SaucePasta is one of those foods that I just straight gave up a long time ago. After going gluten-free I went through a phase of eating gluten-free pasta here and there, and while there are some good brands the cost alone is enough of a deterrent to keep it from becoming a regular dietary staple. After going paleo and now AIP I have found absolutely no point in trying to figure out how to create a legitimate pasta substitute. That being said, I am a big fan of spaghetti squash.

I don’t really view spaghetti squash as a pasta substitute. It doesn’t taste like pasta, it doesn’t feel like pasta, it’s not a comfort food like pasta, but it is good in its own right. The only problem is that my go to sauce option for all things spaghetti squash was tomato based. Now, with nightshades out of the question, I had to find a new sauce to liven up my menu.

With warmer temps becoming the norm, pesto sauce crossed my mind. The only problem is that being nowhere near basil season in my garden, I was going to have to buy a bunch of fresh basil with a bit of a price tag. Plus, there is the issue of the cheese and pine nuts. So, I decided to look into making sauces with other vegetables… boy was that more challenging than I thought it would be. I had come up with the notion that I could make a pesto-like sauce out of zucchini, but I wanted to see if it had been done before. I found one semi example on the entire internet… slim pickings!

So I basically just went for it and the result was great! My hubby was very skeptical because he is not a huge fan of zucchini and even he said that he couldn’t tell a difference.

This is a great recipe to tryout if you have dietary restrictions, but it is also a great recipe to stick in the back of your mind for later this summer when you are drowning in zucchini and can’t bear to make another loaf of bread!

Zucchini Pesto Sauce: 

(Serves 2)

  • 1 Large zucchini

  • 6 cloves of garlic

  • 2 TBS of Olive Oil

  • 1/2 tsp of salt

Directions: 

Cut your zucchini in half, length wise, and scoop out the seeds. Drop it in a pot of boiling water for about 2 minutes. Take it out of the boiling water and place it on a plate or cloth to drain for a minute while you peel your garlic cloves. Then, put your zucchini and garlic into your food processor (This is the link to my favorite food processor).
While the food processor is running drizzle in your olive oil and add your salt. Blend until it is creamy and sauce like. Add it to your spaghetti squash and toss to coat. I added chicken to mine but this would be good, by itself or even with shrimp! Enjoy!

 

 

For more information on healing through the autoimmune protocol diet, check out Sara Ballantyne’s book The Paleo ApproachIt is packed with solid science and practical tips that have changed my health dramatically.

 

Essential Oils for Allergy Relief

DoTerra Essential Oils for Allergy ReliefAs much as we are all glad that Spring has finally arrived here in North Carolina, it has brought with it an abundance of pollen! Within a week our world went from grey and bleak to green and covered in a dusty yellow powder.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining. With pollen comes, leaves on the trees, beautiful flowers, and healthy plants. However, sore throats, runny noses, itchy eyes, and headaches also tend to appear as well. I am not a person with terribly bad seasonal allergies, but within the past few weeks I have started to notice a sore throat and some itchy eyes by the end of the day.

Before you reach for some over the counter allergy medicines though, think twice. These types of medications can cause a number of issues. I could link hundred of sources here on this topic but to demonstrate that I only write about things that I have personally experienced, here are two instances of problems I have encountered from taking allergy and asthma medications.

In the 6th grade I was diagnosed with year round allergies and put on zyrtec. I took it every day without a second thought for many years. However, after diet changes, environmental changes, and time, I decided to go off of the medication. After three days with no medication I began having relentless and severe itching all over my entire body. There was no rash or visible sign of an allergy just terrible mind numbing itching. I waited three days, suffering through this terrible irritation before I couldn’t take it any longer and I went back on the Zyrtec. The itching was gone in less than an hour. I tried multiple times over the course of a few years to get off of the medication to the same effect. Finally, I decided to wean myself off over the course of a month and I was able withdrawal from it without excessive symptoms. I have not had any severe allergy symptoms since then. I had a second, very similar situation when trying to withdrawal from the prescription allergy/asthma medicine singulair. At the same time that I was diagnosed with allergies I was diagnosed with allergy-induced asthma and put on singulair and a daily inhaler. After diet changes, lifestyle changes and time, I had not had an asthma attack in years and decided to go off of this medication.  Within a week I suddenly developed a reaction in my eyes that mimicked pink eye. Goopy, red painful eyes day in and day out. Seeing as how I was a daycare teacher at the time, pink eye seemed likely. I took a few days off of work, went on a topical antibiotic and expected it to clear up. It got slightly better, I finished up the antibiotic and went back to work. Within a couple of days it was back. My doctor, believing it was viral, put me on anti-viral drops and I took a few more days off of work, still no improvement. I was then put on an antibiotic gel that required me to lay with my eyes closed for 30 minutes 3 times a day! Still no improvement. Finally, after over a month of missed work, missed school, and miserable eyes I connected the dots. Within one day of going back on the singulair my eyes were perfect. A few years later, I took a month to wean off of that medication as well, I was able to withdrawal without further eye problems. This process demonstrated to me the addictive nature of these medicines. We assume that because they are easily available in stores they must be safe but our bodies can easily become dependant on them and our natural supply of cortisol and our bodies natural reactions to irritants become so suppressed that we cannot function without medication.

Therapeutic grade essential oils on the other hand, provide safe, temporary, non-habit forming relief from occasional allergy symptoms. It is important to note that I said therapeutic grade. Not all essential oils are created equally. Some brands are only meant for aromatherapy, some can be used topically or diffused in the air, but the only brand I trust to take internally is DoTerraDoTerra is the only brand of essential oils that is tested by a third party for purity and potency and approved for internal use.

About the Oils: 

Lavender is a natural anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory which makes it effective as an allergy relief agent.

Peppermint has pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties and is great for clearing nasal congestion.

Lemon is a cleansing oil and helps rid your body of allergens and toxins like that pesky pollen.

To Relieve Seasonal Allergy Symptoms:

Simply take 2-4 drops of lavender, peppermint, and lemon essential oils with water or in a spoonful of honey as needed. Generally, I notice relief within an hour and I only need to do this once a day for a couple of days.

 

What are your go-to seasonal allergy remedies?

 

 

 

Tips for Planting Spinach in Containers

Spinach SeedlingsIt’s that time of year again, praise the Lord! Vegetable garden time! While many people may think that vegetable gardening starts in May, it is important to work with what you’ve got and because I have a very shady spot of patio to work with I like to focus a good bit of my attention of slightly cooler weather crops during spring. Right at the end of March I went ahead and planted three containers worth of spinach and three big buckets of garlic. This is my first year of planting garlic so I’m not sure how it is going to work out yet, but this was my second year of planting spinach so I made a few adjustments this year. Here they are. (To read about last year’s spinach crop click here)

Tips for Planting Spinach:

  1. Garden PotsWait to plant the seeds until it is warm but still rainy and springy. Last year I planted my spinach in February and it was too cold for it to germinate so I waited and waited and waited for almost two months before anything came up out of the ground. This time, I waited until the days were going to be in the 60s and 70s and the nights were still cool.
  2. Start seeds in a paper towel: Last year I just put the seeds directly in the dirt and they did come up just fine, but because I waited longer this year I decided to give them a head start indoors. I put all of the seeds in a wet paper towel and stored it in a Ziploc bag for about three days. When roots started to peek out, then they went in the dirt.
  3. Compost! Ok this isn’t really new because I used compost last year, but it came from a bag. This year I used my own compost! How cool is that? Spinach needs a lot of organic material in the soil so I usually do about ½ compost and ½ potting soil.

With these couple of adjustments I saw spinach sprouts poking out of the ground in three days! That is quite speedy compared to last year. Now it’s just a matter of watching them grow and enjoying the result!

 

For The Ladies Only: Menstrual Cup 101

How To Green Your Period By Using A Mensrtual Cup In case you’re a man and you are still reading after seeing the title of this post, proceed at your own risk. I am very supportive of men having more information about female health, but if that makes you uncomfortable, I understand and you have been warned.

I have put off writing this post for a long time, because who really wants to read about someone else’s period? That being said, I get asked more questions in person about menstrual cups than I do almost any other product. I am very involved in the arena female health and natural childbirth so I suppose people just feel comfortable talking to me about their time of the month. So, if so many people are interested in cups who am I to withhold my knowledge on the subject?

I have been using a cup for almost a year now and I have to say, I love it! I was familiar with the concept of reusable pads, but I have always worn tampons, I hate pads, so I was very excited to find a reusable version of a tampon.  However, I was very nervous about trying it out.  I researched them online, read reviews, debated over and over and finally caved and bought one. I will admit that there is a learning curve. Everyone’s anatomy is a little bit different so there is no way to tell what your experience will be, but for me it took about two periods to really get it down. You have to learn how to twist it to get a good seal and then you just have to learn the best position for it in your body. It is not at all painful even if you don’t have it positioned 100% correctly, you just might feel some pressure against your bladder, I did for like one or two months, and now it is no longer a problem.

About the Cups:

  • There are a couple of different brands of cups to pick from. The only brands that I have personal experience with are the Diva Cup
    and the Lunette Cup. These are very similar, the only real difference is that the Diva Cup
    is clear and the Lunette comes in colors.
  • All cups come is two sizes. Size 1 is for women who have either not had children or are under 30 years old. Size two is for women who have either had children or are over 30 years old. If you have not had children but are close to 30 I would still recommend getting the size 2 because you want to be able to use it for a number of years.
  • The stem of the cup can be cut off: All of the cups are bell shaped with a stem at the bottom. The stem is for easy removal, but because the cup sits lower in your vagina than a tampon does the stem can often be irritating and stick out. Feel free to cut it off. Pretty much everyone does. You will not have any problems removing it without the stem.
  • Cleaning of the Cup is Simple: You do not need to buy a fancy cleaner or wash for your cup. When you are on your period and you empty your cup simply rinse it out with water. After your period. Wash it out with soap and then boil it in a pot of water for 5 minutes. Store it in the bag it came with and you are good to go.

The Lunette Cup Benefits of Using a Cup:

  • It Saves You Money: Honestly this is one of the biggest reasons I bought one. After switching over to a mindset of opting for reusable things over disposal things as a means to save money it seemed ridiculous to have to spend the next 30 odd years of my life buying boxes and boxes of tampons when there was a reusable version. Most cups cost between $35-$40 and they last for at least 5 years. That is a minimum of 60 periods without buying a single pad or tampon… you do the math!
  • Its Better for the Environment: Approximately 20 billion pads, tampons and applicators are sent to North American landfills every year and over the course of her lifetime every menstruating woman in North America will throw away approximately 16,800 pads or tampons in her lifetime. That is a lot of trash! Unnecessary trash! Tampons clog up septic systems, pads fill up landfills, all in all they are just terrible for the environment. (source)
  • Little to No Risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS): While the risk of toxic shock syndrome while using tampons is rare, it is still estimated that 1 to 17 in every 100,000 women will get TSS from tampons every year (Source). Since menstrual cups were invented in the 1930’s there have been no reports of it causing TSS (Source).
  • More Comfortable on Light Days: Because the cup is not absorbent like tampons it does not take away your bodies natural liquids or rely on your flow for comfort. This makes lighter days much more comfortable since you are no longer having to rip dry cotton out of your… you know.
  • Way Way Way More Convenient: The cup only has to be emptied once every 12-24 hours! Yes, for real! The manufacturer recommends emptying it once every 12 hours, but if you find that your flow is lighter and your cup is not even half full after 12 hours you can go longer. I empty mine once a day. No more days of getting caught in a public restroom with a leaking tampon and no replacement.
  • Zero to Few leaks: I have never had a leak with the cup in the entire year I have been using it. Now, if you have a heavy flow you may still have a leak or two, but it will be rare. If you properly insert your cup and create a seal you should not have a leak.

Basic Instructions:

  1. When you are ready to use your cup make sure it is clean. Then simply press your finger into the side of it, folding it in half making a C shape.
  2. Insert it about ¾ of the way into your vaginal opening. You want it in there enough that it stays but out enough that you can still get a good grip on the bottom of the cup.
  3. Grip the bottom of the cup with the tips of your fingers and turn it one full rotation. This is how you establish a seal.
  4. Push it in the rest of the way and adjust it so that it is comfortable.
  5. When you are ready to empty it, bear down slightly, grip it and pull gently.
  6. When it is out about ¼ of the way slip your finger up the side and press into the cup to break the seal, this make all the difference in the world in terms of comfort.
  7. Pull it out. Empty it into the toilet, rinse it out in the sink, and reinsert it.

You will get very quick at this, I promise. I am to the point now that it is just as quick as using a tampon, but practice makes perfect.

All in all, if you are not using a cup you should. It makes your periods almost inconsequential because you have to worry with it so infrequently, it will save you a ton of money, and it will save the planet from being swallowed up by used tampons… there’s a mental image for you.

For more info on either the Diva Cup or The Lunette Cup see the manufacturer’s websites!

  • Note that most of the links on this page are affiliate links, so the prices are the same but if you purchase an item through the link it will support my blog. Thank you so much for your support, it allows me to continue blogging!

 

DIY Round Burlap Tablecloth

After 2I feel the need to preface this post right away by saying that I am a terrible seamstress! I am a novice; I went through a sewing phase in high school, it all got put on hold in college, I forgot everything I knew and I have only just picked it back up within the past few months. I know enough to sew a straight line and hem some pants and that’s about it. So, the fact that I undertook the project of sewing a tablecloth is a lot more of a challenge than it may seem. This is also important, because this is not a tutorial post. This is simply me sharing my experience. I made a lot of mistakes on this tablecloth. It has at least 3 more seams than it needed, I’m not even joking! However, I feel like it is important to share my imperfect experiences just as much as my successful ones so that we can go through this journey towards simplification together.

Spring has sprung and that means spending time outside. Whether you have a spacious porch or a tiny patio next to the road, like I do, spring weather deserves to be enjoyed. Now, because I am usually very strict about not spending money on superficial or purely decorative things I don’t often post about home décor related items. My garden is meant to grow me food not just be looked at and because last year was my first year gardening all of my extra money went into buying pots and dirt and shovels and seeds, not making things look pretty. This year, though, I have a bit less overhead and I decided I wanted to do something to spruce up our patio space so that it would be more inviting and attractive. We have a hand-me-down table and chairs and two seat cushions that were given to us when we got married and they are great, but the table has a hole in it that is meant for an umbrella so I prefer to keep in covered. Last year I had a plastic tablecloth that we were given at some point but over the course of the summer it got ripped to shreds.

In a flash of creativity a few weeks ago I decided that a burlap tablecloth would be perfect. It would be cute yet rustic looking and would be very gardeney (because that’s a word), while also being heavy and sturdy enough to take being outside all summer long. Perfect! The only problem was that the cheapest one I could find online was almost $30! No thank you! So, I decided I could make one myself. When you add up the diameter of the table and the height of both sides I needed a total of about 94 inches of fabric, and because I knew I would make mistakes and need extra, I got about 4.5 yards of burlap from Joann’s for $10 and I was off. Here’s what I did:

Step one:

The fabric is folded the wrong way, don't make this mistake!

The fabric is folded the wrong way, don’t make this mistake!

Fold fabric in half so that it is half of the intended length (47 inches), then cut it into two pieces.

Step two:

Step 3

 

Cut one of those pieces in half again, ending up with one wide piece and two narrow pieces. (The only problem was that I folded it the wrong way without realizing it so I ended up with 5 pieces instead of 3… attention to detail is not my specialty)

Step Three:

Step 4

 

After sewing the pieces together that I mistakenly cut apart I sewed the two narrower strips onto the sides of the wider strip, creating a square (with an extra seam down the middle, exactly what one wants to avoid)

Step Four:

Step 5

 

Fold your tablecloth twice to create a small square, then take a cloth tape measure and measure half of your intended length (for me it was 47 inches) and anchoring it at the top use it to draw an arc at the bottom of your square and cut.

I did not hem the tablecloth because it was going outside and I didn’t care about it that much, but you certainly can. Here it a picture of the finished product:

The arc in the front is a crease not a hem... just FYI

The arc in the front is a crease not a hem… just FYI

As you can see it has a hem straight across the top… If you fold your fabric the right direction in the beginning you can avoid this. Aside from that mistake I really like the way this turned out! It only took me about an hour and it saved me at least $20. All in all a very simple and enjoyable DIY project for spring! Maybe next time I make a table cloth I will make fewer mistakes… maybe!

AIP Coconut Flour Thumbprint Cookies

Coconut Flour Thumbprint CookiesAs much as I am in love with the autoimmune protocol diet and what it has done for my health I have to admit that it is easy to get in a rut. If you’re creative, the possible combinations of foods truly are endless. However, when the actual allowable ingredients are limited, it is easy to become lazy and let creativity fall to the wayside.

Recently, I was in the mood for dessert. Not fruit. Real dessert. This had the potential to be a real dilemma because unless you have a lot of time and a grocery store in your living room many of the AIP dessert recipes out there are not going to be ideal. There are a lot of good ones don’t get me wrong; they’re just not necessarily simple.

I had been playing around with basic coconut flour cookie recipe a few months earlier and I had developed one that was suitable, but honestly it was a bit plain. Then, I remembered that I still had a ton of jam left over from my summer canning sessions and I decided to give these little thumbprint cookies a try. They are super simple and delicious and they are a great way to utilize jam when you can’t have bread or yogurt or anything else that jam traditionally goes on!

Coconut Flour Thumbprint cookiesThis recipe only makes about 6-8 small cookies so it’s a great recipe for one or two people, but if you want to make more I recommend making multiple small batches instead of doubling or tripling the recipe. Coconut flour can get dry so you want to make sure the proportions are exactly right.

 

Coconut Flour Thumbprint Cookie Recipe:

Ingredients:

6 TBS of Coconut Flour

4 TBS of Coconut Oil (softened but not completely melted)

2 TBS honey

Pinch of salt

Approx. 6 TSP of Honey Sweetened Strawberry Jam

 

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 365 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. In a medium bowl stir together your coconut flour, coconut oil, honey and salt. Once everything is well mixed and your dough has formed scoop out TBS sized balls onto your baking sheet. Using the back of a spoon or your finger create an indentation in the top of the cookie and fill it with jam. Bake for about 6-8 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Watch carefully so that they don’t burn, coconut flour burns very easily. Allow them to cool for 5 minutes; they will be too soft to eat straight out of the oven. Enjoy!

For more information on healing through the autoimmune protocol diet, check out Sara Ballantyne’s book The Paleo ApproachIt is packed with solid science and practical tips that have changed my health dramatically.

 

Surprise Announcement: From Scratch Magazine Interview

From Scratch Magazine Picture

The Interview about Sweet Potatoes and Social Change begins on page 50 of the latest issue of From Scratch Magazine! Click to check it out!

After a year of writing I feel I can say that blogging is simultaneously one of the most validating and alienating activities a person can undertake. On the one hand, it is so incredible to gain a new follower or receive a kind comment from someone you don’t know. You feel as though, maybe, you’re making a difference. On the other hand, it is so strange to sit at the computer day after day putting out content without any honest, personal feedback. I put things out on the internet, sometimes they are seen sometimes they are not and I have no idea whether these things are appreciated or not. It is this space of alienation where I spend most of my time, never quite sure if I should continue on or not.

So, imagine my surprise when out of the blue I receive a note from the editor of From Scratch Magazine, Mr. Steven Jones, asking me if he can interview me for a blogger profile to be featured in their upcoming issue! What?! Um, Yes!

From Scratch Magazine April/May 2014

Click here to read the latest issue of From Scratch Magazine!

is a free online magazine for modern homesteaders. They have information on everything from raising chickens, to growing food, and living more sustainably. In their last issue they even had a photo essay about a cattle ranch in Montana! These guys are legit!

After my initial shock wore off, I excitedly responded to the interview questions included a few pictures and sent everything in. Then came the waiting. Let me share a little secret with you, I am a pessimistic person at heart. Through years of encouragement and self-training I have thankfully become much more positive than I was as a child, but when push comes to shove, I still tend to anticipate the worst. I was so afraid to get my hopes up about this magazine article I pretty much convinced myself that the issue would come out and I would be nowhere in it.

Well, once again the wonderful world has proven me wrong because the issue came out and my interview takes up 6 pages! WOW! I am so honored and excited I can hardly even take it! I could never have guessed that my goal to live a more sustainable life would interest so many.

I hope you all check out the article and subscribe to From Scratch Magazine so that you can keep up with all of the wonderful information they have to share!