Shopping for clean beauty products 

A friend today asked me about how I find non toxic bath and beauty products. I told her that actually just today I purchased some shampoo, conditioner and mascara. Whenever I shop, I usually look for natural products that don’t have a lot of “toxic junk” that could harm me or my family. So many beauty products are filled with hormone disrupters and carcinogens and I try very hard to keep those out of my home. 
I told her that while I was in the store I googled a couple of the products that I saw with “EWG” after the name of the product. The Environmental Working Group is a non profit organization whose goal is provide information to the public about dangerous toxins in our environment. I depend on them when buying shampoo, lotions, makeup, toothpaste, deodorant, baby lotions, diaper cream, etc.  They break down the ingredients and tell you what could be harmful and how harmful it is on a scale of 1 to 10. It’s so user friendly and has made shopping for my family so much easier for me. 
Today I ended up with these items. Here are the screenshots from my phone so you can see what I saw when I did my quick search. 
If you are just starting out and feeling overwhelmed on how to find healthy products that aren’t toxic or harmful to yourself or your family and friends, I highly recommend that you use EWG as a resource.  

Vegan buttercream frosting 

Now that the holidays are over and I’m on a sugar detox, of course I’m dreaming of all the yummy things I ate the past month. These delicious (toddler decorated) Christmas Cookies and this birthday cake come to mind…. as I snack on these baby carrots. I made a vegan buttercream frosting on both that was just divine. 

One of my best friends, a self proclaimed meat eating vegan, has given up dairy and eggs this year to continue breastfeeding her son who has severe food allergies.  We celebrated her baby’s first birthday and had a Toddler Christmas Cookie decorating party in December. And since that sweet little boy is one of my favorite kids on earth, I made sure the toddler cookie party was completely vegan friendly. I wouldn’t have had it any other way, but my friend called me after the party and said she was so incredibly thankful that everything was vegan friendly because there was no other cookie party on earth she could have gone to and not had to worry about what crumbs her 1 year old was finding on the floor.  

For the sugar cookies I used the Minimalist Baker’s sugar cookies recipe and they honestly turned out AMAZING. The binder in them is puréed pumpkin and I was so impressed with how they turned out. 

For both the sugar cookies and the birthday cake, this is the butter cream recipe I used. Earth balance vegan buttery baking sticks worked like a charm and everything tasted delicious. Like so delicious that people didn’t know it was all vegan until we told them. And no one missed the dairy or eggs! Try it out and and let me know what you think. 

Vegan Buttercream Frosting
Easy vegan buttercream frosting that can be used to decorate cakes or cookies.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup softened Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks (leave them out on the counter overnight)
  2. 3 cups powdered sugar
  3. 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  4. 2 tsp vanilla extract
  5. 3 tablespoons rice milk (or any other milk alternative you prefer - almond, coconut, hemp, flax, etc)
Instructions
  1. Beat softened "butter" in your stand mixer at medium speed for 3 or 4 minutes until creamed.
  2. Add the powdered sugar and start the mixer on low speed and then gradually move up to medium speed as it incorporates in.
  3. Once all the sugar is incorporated, turn the mixer off. Add the vanilla, salt and milk in the bowl. Then then the mixer back to medium and beat for 3 minutes.
  4. These measurements have always worked for me, but if your frosting seems too thick, add a little more milk. If it seems too thin, add a little more powdered sugar.
Love Via Food http://loveviafood.com/

Vegan buttercream frosting
Ingredients:

1 cup softened Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks (leave them out on the counter overnight) 

3 cups powdered sugar 

1/4 teaspoon sea salt 

2 tsp vanilla extract 

3 tablespoons rice milk (or any other milk alternative you prefer – almond, coconut, hemp, flax, etc) 
Method:
1. Beat softened “butter” in your stand mixer at medium speed for 3 or 4 minutes until creamed. 

2. Add the powdered sugar and start the mixer on low speed and then gradually move up to medium speed as it incorporates in. 

3. Once all the sugar is incorporated, turn the mixer off. Add the vanilla, salt and milk in the bowl. Then then the mixer back to medium and beat for 3 minutes. 

4. These measurements have always worked for me, but if your frosting seems too thick, add a little more milk. If it seems too thin, add a little more powdered sugar. 

Soft Boiled Eggs

My best friend Natalie and her sister Melissa introduced me to prepping soft boiled eggs for the week. For the last several months, the three of us always send snaps of our SBE’s (soft boiled eggs) to each other on snapchat. Yes, we are tools. But they are soooooo good!!! My husband and 3 year old love them too. I make a big batch of them on Sunday night and then we have them ready to go in the mornings for breakfast. 

I go through phases with eggs. I think because I avoided runny eggs when I was pregnant, now I am making up for lost time. Sometimes I love them, sometimes not so much. I’ve been in love with these SBE’s lately and I love that it’s a super convenient source of protein for my family. Also my 3 year old loves peeling them. Actually it’s a big problem if I try to peel it for her. Three year olds are very calm and rational people. 

Side note – did you know that super healthy chickens that eat organic and frolic around in the sun have SUPER yellow yolks? I’ve gotten some from local farms where the yolks are so yellow it’s almost orange. I LOVE IT. Honestly since I started eating almost all organic, conventional eggs taste and look gross to me. If you haven’t tried them yet, do yourself a favor!! I really think it makes a difference. 

Ingredients:

Organic eggs – from a local farm if you can! You can use any amount that you need. It just depends how many will fit in your pot. 

Method:

1. Boil a pot of water. 

2. When it is already boiling, with a large spoon, carefully cradle the eggs into the pot with the spoon. 

3. Set a timer for 8-9 minutes. 8 minutes is about the perfect SBE. I usually do 9 minutes if sharing with my toddler. 

4. While the eggs are boiling, prepare an ice bath. Put about 10 ice cubes into a large bowl and fill with cold water. 

5. When your timer is up, carefully spoon the eggs into the ice bath. Let them sit for at least 5 minutes or until cool. 

6. Dry the eggs off with paper towels. They will stay fresh in your fridge for about a week. I like to pack 2 in sandwich bags to grab easily for breakfast during the week. 

Molasses Cookies

Molasses cookies are my absolute favorite Christmas cookie. They are slightly spicy from the ground ginger, warm from the cinnamon and cloves and they are SOFT. They are super easy to make and they are very fast. You could easily make these in about 20 or 30 minutes start to finish. 

These molasses cookies are also great for kids since they are so soft. I actually brought these in for my daughter’s birthday treat at her preschool because the teacher told me that they all just lick the icing off of cupcakes anyway – ha! The kids LOVED them! 

I also like to use blackstrap molasses which has lots of vitamins and nutrients from the sugar cane plant that are lost in the process of making sugar. Actually when my daughter was anemic, I used to give her a teaspoon of blackstrap molasses every morning to boost her iron. 

Ingredients:

3/4 cup melted butter 

1/4 cup blackstrap molasses

1 egg

1 cup brown sugar 

2 1/4 cup flour

2 tsp baking soda 

1/2 tsp kosher salt 

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger 

1 tsp cloves 

3-5 tablespoons granulated sugar 

(Use all organic ingredients if possible!)

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 375. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. 

2. In a large bowl, whisk together melted butter, brown sugar, egg, and blackstrap molasses. 


3. Add in flour, baking soda, and spices. Mix well. You’ll end up with a really smooth brown dough. 



4. Put your granulated sugar in a separate bowl so you can roll the cookies in it before baking. 


5. Form small (about 1 or 1.5 inch) balls and roll them in the sugar before putting them on the cookie sheet. 


6. Bake for 8 minutes at 375 degrees. Cool completely before moving the cookies. They come out looking like this. 

These are what Santa will be getting this year!! Hope he likes them! 

Hummus

Hummus is one of my favorite snacks. It’s so healthy, everyone in my family loves it, and it’s a great way to get everyone to eat some veggies as a dipping device! It also doesn’t take a lot of forethought because I also also have chickpeas in my pantry and tahini in my refrigerator.   I have been making this hummus recipe for years. My friend from high school, who is Lebanese, wrote out her rough recipe for me and I’ve perfected it over the years. 

You’ll need some kind of food processor. A mini food processor or a ninja would work perfectly. Also, I really love Target’s simply balanced organic chickpeas. With all the news about BPA in cans being cancer causing and endocrine disrupters, I like to buy my beans in paper boxes whenever possible. Also, if you don’t already have tahini, you can find it in most grocery stores. It’s a sesame paste and it will last in your fridge for a while. If you have a fresh lemon or lime, that is always best, but you can use bottled juice in this hummus recipe and barely notice. 



Ingredients:

1 can or box of chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

1 tablespoon tahini 

1 tablespoon lemon (or lime) juice 

1-2 garlic cloves, smashed 

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 

Cracked black pepper
Method:

1. Drain chickpeas into a cup or bowl. You’ll use the drained liquid. 


2. In your food processor, mix chickpeas, garlic, salt and pepper, and 3 tablespoons of the reserved chickpea liquid. Blend until you reach your desired smooth texture. If it still looks like there’s too many chunks, add more of the reserved liquid. Today, I ended up adding 2 more tablespoons. So I used a total of 5 tablespoons in my hummus. 


3. Check the flavor and add salt and pepper if needed and your lemon juice. Pulse a couple more times to combine. This is also the time that you can play and add whatever other spices you want. Cumin or chili powder and cayenne are fun. Or you can do jarred red peppers or sundries tomatoes. Blend again. Have fun! 


Serve with whatever you want. We love baby carrots, cucumbers and pretzels. 
 

Thanksgiving donations 

Recently at church, we were able to take  brown grocery bags with a grocery shopping list on it to collect thanksgiving donations for a local shelter. Basically, it is the ultimate way of showing LOVE via FOOD. So many times in my life it’s been easier to just write a check or toss a $20 towards a charity or fundraiser, but this ministry was one I wanted to be personally involved in. I went to my favorite grocery store with my list in hand and set out only for the items on it. I already did my grocery shop for my family for the week, so this trip was truly dedicated only to my Thanksgiving donation bag. It was such a good feeling picking out food for those in my community who can’t afford it this holiday season. I bought stuffing mix, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, corn, green beans, a pie crust, pumpkin pie filling, evaporated milk, macaroni and cheese, cranberry sauce, and cornbread mix for my Thanksgiving donation bag. I know how much it means to me to sit around the table and enjoy these things with my family, so I love being able to pay it forward and allows some others in my community to do the same with their loved ones. 
I’m not the best Christian in the world. We only make it to church once or twice a month. But honestly this opportunity to help others and show them love and compassion by providing them with food really spoke to me and made my heart feel full. The Operation Turkey coordinator at my church told me that we donated over 900 lbs of food and $745 towards buying turkeys for people in our community. That, my friends, is love. Via food. 

Do any of you have charities that you support that really speak to your heart over the holiday season?  Pleas Share them with me! It’s so important to give back and teach our kids to do the same. Xoxo

Sausage Asparagus Parmesan Pasta 

This sausage asparagus parmesan pasta was a “throw together” dinner. I had thawed out some ground sausage to make over the weekend and never got around to it. I also had some asparagus in the fridge that needed to be used. This was super easy and ready in 20 minutes which made it perfect for midweek dinner. 

We really don’t eat a lot of sausage, but when we do, it’s from my favorite farm in Southwest VA called Polyface. I love the way that the farmer, Joel Salitin, treats animals and environment. I feel better knowing that the pigs got to roam freely in the pastures, enjoy the sunshine and live how pigs are supposed to live. If you don’t already have a local farmer that you love and know, I urge you to check out your local farmers market and find one that you want to support. I feel good supporting farms who grow food the way it’s supposed to be, feeding my family healthier and organic meat without nitrites, preservatives and additives, and taking less of a toll on the environment as Polyface’s farming practices are sustainable. 
Sausage asparagus parmesan pasta 

Ingredients:

1 bunch of asparagus, cleaned and trimmed

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided 

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese 

1 lb box pasta of your choice (I picked an organic whole wheat penne) 

1 lb ground sausage (mild, hot or breakfast sausage are all fine)

Salt and pepper 
Method:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a baking sheet, add your trimmed asparagus, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 tsp of each). Roast for 20 minutes. 

2. While the asparagus is roasting, boil your water and cook pasta according to the instructions on the box. Add 1/2 tsp of salt to the pot to season the pasta from the inside. 

3. Also while the asparagus is roasting and your pasta is boiling, brown the sausage in a frying pan over medium high heat. Once it is browned, transfer it to a plate or bowl that is lined with paper towels to absorb some of the grease. 

4. Check the pasta for doneness. When you reach al dente, drain it and return it to the pot. DO NOT RINSE IT!! You want some of the starch to bind with the cheese. 

5. When the asparagus is done, cut it into bite size pieces. Add asparagus, sausage, and parmesan to the pot. Add 1 tablespoons olive oil and stir. I don’t recommend adding salt and pepper until testing your season at this point. You may already have enough salt from the asparagus, sausage and cheese and enough pepper from the sausage. If not, add salt and pepper to your liking at this point. 

Oatmeal Apple Cinnamon Muffins 

Oatmeal apple cinnamon muffins are an easy grab-and-go breakfast that are perfect for the fall. I love them because they are made with all organic whole ingredients. There’s no added sugar or flour. And my toddler loves them because they are delicious and they have the perfect amount of  natural sweetness and spices. Plus she calls them cupcakes, so whatever. Perception is reality, girl. Ha!

I originally created this recipe for my friend Maggi who is breastfeeding her son  Daniel. He has a severe dairy and egg allergy and she’s always looking for easy meals that are Daniel-friendly. But the more I started talking to my mom friends, the more and more I realize people are really in need of dairy, egg and gluten free recipes. Whether it’s for a kid or a breastfeeding mom who is avoiding eggs, dairy and/or gluten, these Oatmeal Apple Cinnamon Muffins are a perfect treat that won’t leave you feeling elimination diet deprivation. 

These also freeze well and travel well. I made a few batches this summer and brought them to Michigan with us for an easy grab-and-go breakfast. I like to make them on Sunday night so we have them for the week. 

Try them out and let me know what you think! This recipe will make 12 Muffins. 
Ingredients:

1 tbsp flax meal, 2 tbsp water 

2 cups organic gluten free oats 

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon 

1/4 tsp nutmeg (optional)

1/4 tsp kosher salt 

1 cup organic rice milk (or any milk or your choice) 

1/2 cup applesauce (or if you’re a toddler mom, 1.5 Kirkland applesauce pouches)

2 tbsp honey

1 apple of your choice – peeled and diced 

(Use all organic ingredients if possible)
Method:

1. Preheat oven to 375. 

2. Combine flax meal and water in a small bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to set. Flax eggs are so amazing for baking. I use them for pumpkin bread even though we don’t have egg allergies in my house! You can also just use one egg here if it’s easier for you. 


3. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. (By the time you add everything to the bowl, the flax meal and water mixture should be ready) 


4. Line muffin tin with muffin liners and spray cups with cooking spray. Scoop evenly into 12 cups. (I like using an ice cream scoop)


5. Bake 22 minutes. Cool completely and enjoy! 

Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyard

Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyard might literally have the most picturesque view on earth.  The Blue Ridge mountains, rolling hills, wild flowers and herb and vegetable garden can be seen from the porch where there are tables and 4 tasting bars set up.  We arrived at 11am when they opened as my Charlottesville local friends told me they get extremely crowded on the weekends.  We were able to score a table on the porch where we could enjoy the view, delicious farm-to-table fare, and try their wines.

 

My best friends from college and I planned this day as an afternoon kid free getaway.  When we all get together with our (8 and a 9th on the way) kids, it’s rare to finish a thought or a conversation.  Being together just us to catch up on life, and enjoy all that Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyard has to offer was truly a treat that we cherished.

 

Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyard focuses on local, in season, sustainably grown food and wine.  Their garden is harvested daily and they have fall vegetables growing now. I loved this board inside the winery that shows what was currently being harvested and what veggies are still growing. 


To share, we snacked on a delectable cheese board with local cheeses, dried fruit and nuts and French bread. Hummus and pita was also a big hit. 

For lunch, I loved the heirloom tomato and goat’s milk burrata salad. The basil was grown in Pippin Hill’s garden. 


I truly appreciate places that make local and sustainable food a priority. The farm-to-table concept at Pippin Hill coupled with their amazing view creates an unparalleled experience. The service was also outstanding. 

My favorite wines were the Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Rosé.  If you are planning to visit the Charlottesville area to go wine tasting on the Monticello Wine trail, definitely visit Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyard! 

By the way, they were setting up for a wedding as we were leaving. Can you imagine having this backdrop in your wedding photos?? 


Have you enjoyed any good vineyards lately? Or just a nice place to get together with friends? Drop me a line in the comments so I can try out your favorite places too! 

Veggie Quesadillas

Veggie Quesadillas are an awesome mid week meal because it’s FAST, everyone in the family will eat it, and you know you’re eating your veggies!  


My friend Karen brought over some bell peppers and onions this weekend from a local farm called House in the Woods Farm in Adamstown, MD.  This is a certified organic farm and their mission is to grow produce in a way that is sustainable for the farmer, consumer, and the soil.  SWOON.  Their veggies were the perfect inspiration for this vegetarian dinner.  I love throwing vegetarian meals into our mix because it’s healthy for my family and also good for the environment. Win-win.  


Side note – as if I needed any reasons to love Target even MORE, their Simply Balanced line has a lot of affordable organic products.  I am using their organic tortillas and cooking spray because I know they aren’t filled with junk and GMOs.  

 

Ingredients:

3-4 small or 2 large bell peppers

1/2 medium yellow or purple onion

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp kosher salt

cracked black pepper to taste

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp cumin

1 cup shredded cheese (mozzarella, cheddar, mexican blend – anything will work)

4 large tortillas

cooking spray

 

Method:

1. Chop your veggies.  Extra points if your toddler eats them raw while you chop!



2. Over medium heat, heat olive oil and add peppers and onions.  Add salt, pepper, chili powder and cumin and stir often until peppers are soft and onions are translucent.  Set veggie mixture aside to cool a bit.


3. Heat another pan over medium heat.  Spray one side of a tortilla with cooking spray and put the sprayed side down in the your frying pan. Scoop 1/3 cup of your veggie mixture on one half of the tortilla.  Top with 1/4 cup of shredded cheese and fold the tortilla over.  Spray another tortilla for the other half of your pan.  Repeat the veggie mixture and cheese process and fold over.  VERY CAREFULLY flip your quesadillas after about 4 minutes.  Check for when it becomes golden brown.


4. Cut into thirds for adults, or smaller for toddlers.


You could easily add black beans or other veggies to this recipe.  I just used peppers and onions because I needed to use them.  Serve with salsa or guacamole!  I hope you enjoy this veggie quesadilla recipe. What are some of your favorite vegetarian dinner recipes? Please share on my Facebook page!