Thursday, December 20, 2012

Essential Oils

I have been reading about essential oils for a few months now. This passion started when I read Secrets Beyond Aromatherapy by Myra Sri.  It was a free read through Kindle and it really opened up a lot of questions for me.

The next book I picked up was Advanced Aromatherapy by Kurt Schnaubelt.  This is a great book which goes in depth about the properties of each oil and why it is effective for certain treatments.  

The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Worwood is a great reference guide for everyday ailments.  I would probably recommend this book if you are new to essential oils and want an introduction.  I checked it out of the library and read it before purchasing it.  I like to dabble in a book before seeing if I want to spend the money on it.

The most recent book I read on essential oils is Kurt Schnaubelt's Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils. It goes into depth about certain plants, their secondary characteristics which have allowed the plant to fight disease and how those chemicals can help us fight off certain infections.  I really enjoyed the chapters on how to use essential oils for the bath/shower and information on contraindications.

 Essential oils from Mountain Rose Herbs:

Essential oils and mixtures from a local shop, Aromatones. I am a big fan of their Tea Tree oil, it is really strong!

Left to Right, Swiss Aromatics, Mountain Rose Herbs, Ananda Apothecary:

 Ananda Apothecary Essential Oils- 100% Therapeutic Grade Oils:

If you are just starting out with essential oils, I really recommend reading a few different books.  Some authors will site safety with certain oils (some are not to be used during pregnancy, lactation, on children, etc), while other authors don't touch upon this as much.  Some oil distributers will list not to use but there is no evidence that the oil is not safe, it seems to be more of a precaution.

Some oils I love:
Tea Tree from Aromatones: great diluted in a spray bottle with salt water, spray on athlete's foot 2X's a day.

Swiss Aromatics: Bay Laurel

Ananada: Narrow Leaf Eucalyptus, Lavender, Rosemary Verbenone, Ravensara, Hyssop, and Thyme (linalol)- there are different types of thyme essential oils, this is a gentle one.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Vegan Alfredo Pasta

I have made vegan alfredo many times; it is so good!  Tonight I made it with spiral pasta but I usually use fettuccine.  This recipe is a slightly adapted version of "Alfredo-Style Fettuccine" from Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson.

1/2 TBSP organic olive oil
1/2 medium sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 TBSP dry white wine
1/3 cup almonds
4 ounces of soft silken tofu, drained (I use Mori-Nu)
1 TBSP mellow white miso paste
1 1/2 cups Rice Dream Original, rice milk
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
freshly grated nutmeg (just a pinch)
pinch of cayenne
pinch of fine ground black pepper
16 oz pasta
2 TBSP fresh organic parsley, minced

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, cover and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 more minute. Take off burner/turn off heat and stir in the white wine. Set aside.

Blanch the almonds- Boil some water. Put almonds in and boil for 45 seconds on rolling boil.  Take almonds out of the water ASAP and strain. Rinse with COLD water for 10-15 seconds.  Slip skins off and put naked almonds in the bowl.

Finely grind the almonds in a food processor. Add onion mixture and process until smooth. Add tofu and miso, process. Add 1 cup rice milk, the salt, nutmeg, cayenne & black pepper, process until smooth. Slowly add as much of the remaining 1/2 cup of rice milk as necessary until a sauce-like consistency is achieved. I like to use all of it because the sauce thickens up over time.

Transfer to a medium sized saucepan over low heat. Heat it up slowly. Taste and adjust the seasonings, keep warm.

Cook your pasta in a large pot of water, until al dente. Drain and place in a large serving dish. Add sauce & toss. Sprinkle top with parsley.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Super Easy Eco-Wrapping Paper for the Holidays

My sister passed this project along to me. She has made this wrapping paper the past few years and I love it! This is a really easy way to save money on wrapping paper & to recycle old items.

Brown paper bags
water color/non-toxic paints (I used red, yellow, green and white)
a few old sponges
paint brush
plates to put paint on
a little bit of water

*optional- a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice to the paint. This adds a little holiday scent to the paper.

Cut paper bags down the side. Cut along the bottom to make one large piece of brown paper.

Make sure sponge is dry (easier to cut it this way).  Cut to desired shape (I made stars and a circle). Rehydrate sponge but squeeze excess water out. In a bowl or plate put a squirt of paint and a few drops of water. Dab your sponge stamp in the paint and print where you want on the brown paper bag.

I made a few different patterns:

Granola Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

I made up this sweet potato dish the other day.  I really enjoyed the crunch that the oatmeal created. I kept stuffing more and more granola in mine.

The recipe is from Whole Living Magazine and can be found here: 
I made a few small changes to the dish I made (please see below)

2 medium/large organic sweet potatoes, washed and pricked all over with a fork
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1 and 1/2 TBSP maple syrup
1 TBSP organic olive oil
pinch of sea salt
pinch of cinnamon

Cook sweet potatoes for 45 minutes at 400 degrees. I flip them over after 20 minutes to ensure even cooking. I also will prick them a few more times at this point. Take out of oven and let cool slightly.

Put oats, almonds, maple syrup, olive oil, salt and cinnamon in a bowl. Mix until oats are well coated.
Spread out this mixture onto a cooking sheet in a flat layer. Cook at 375 degrees for 12 minutes. I stirred the oats every 3 minutes so they would not burn.

Cut the sweet potatoes open with a knife, then using a fork mash up the insides.  Stuff with granola.

Uncooked granola:

Cooked granola:

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mushroom Risotto

My brother-in-law makes this awesome mushroom risotto. I am not sure where he found the recipe but it is really good.  It is really creamy and flavorful!  I had purchased a container of assorted mushrooms on sale at the grocery store and decided that I should try to make this dish.

1 package organic assorted mushrooms, washed, and chopped
1/2 of a large sweet onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
organic olive oil
1.5 cups of uncooked risotto rice (I used Aborio)
1 and 1/4 cup of dry white wine
8 cups of veggie broth (I use 8 cups water and one cube of Edward & Sons Not-Chick'n Broth)
organic parsley, chopped

Saute chopped onion for 3 minutes on medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Stir frequently. Add mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are cooked (about 4-5 minutes). Stir frequently.

Make sure to have a separate pot with the 8 cups of veggie broth off to the side. I kept this pot on med/low so it was really hot but not boiling. You want this veggie stock to be hot!

Add 1.5 cups of uncooked risotto rice to the pot with the mushrooms, onions, garlic in it. Stir  constantly for about 2 minutes. When it is ready, the rice will "clink" a little when it hits the side of the pot/pan.

Add 1 and 1/4 cup of dry white wine to the mushroom dish (have wine at room temp). Let cook for 5 minutes. Stir often.

Ladle a cup or two of veggie broth into the pot with the rice and veggies. I like to cover the rice with the liquid. Stir constantly (like you are babysitting a 2 year old- you can't take your eyes off of it). Don't stop stirring. Once that liquid has evaporated, add another 1-2 cups and continue the process.  The liquid usually evaporates every 2-3 minutes.

I ended up using all 8 cups of broth and an additional 1/2 cup of plain water.  I kept taste testing the risotto to see when it was done.

Garnish the top with fresh chopped parsley.

Friday, December 7, 2012

My Favorite Restaurant: Plant

Plant is amazing!  I used to live in southern California where vegan restaurants are as common as mullets are in east TN.  I really missed the great vegan food when I moved here and had to learn how to cook many different kinds of vegan dishes so that my husband and I would not starve. 

Plant restaurant opened up in Asheville, NC a few years back and has blown me away. Fresh local veggies- yes!  Everything vegan- yes!  Homemade vegan ice cream- yes!  Great ambiance- yes!  If you live in Johnson City or Asheville you should definitely make your way over to Plant.  Sometimes they will have meals where some of the proceeds go towards animal sanctuaries :) Helping animals- yes!

Last week John took me to Plant for my birthday.  I had the following:

Appetizer: SMOKED HUMMUS- cucumber salad · roasted garlic bulb · pickled peppadew · grilled house bread   
(I make hummus all the time and it NEVER comes out as tasty as Plant's. Drool!)

Meal: HAZELNUT CRUSTED SEITAN- truffled cauliflower • Brussels & romesco • pickled haricot vert • shiitake bacon.   (This was ahhhhmazing. My husband usually wrinkles his nose up at cauliflower and I could not stop him from sneaking bites from my plate!)

Dessert: Pumpkin Cheesecake- almond crust · ginger snap pumpkin seeds ·  chai caramel · maple-pecan ice cream (So delish. I wanted to lick my plate but we were in public so I had to sit on my hands to stop myself. In LOVE with the maple-pecan ice cream).

I am actually salivating looking at this picture.

If you are veg curious or newly veg and want to try local vegetarian/vegan restaurants is a great place to start. Type in your location to find local veggie restaurants.  Check the "stars" to see ratings (happy cow actually rates by cow heads but I didn't want to confuse you before clarifying). We use it all the time when traveling to find vegan friendly places.

If you are ever in Asheville, western NC, or east TN- treat yourself to Plant! Check out their website if you want to read about a fabulous restaurant -

Some other recommendations if you go to Plant:

Entres I like:
RED CURRY TOFU- jasmine rice & kaffir lime cakes · teriyaki broccoli & Thai basil ·  galangal-peanut curry · arugula  (this is spicy!)

JERK char broiled seitan · smashed sweet potatoes · sautéed collards · spicy serrano crudo · fried banana & celtic salt (this is spicy!)

WILD FOREST-  maitake & beech · smoked-jalapeño mashed Yukon · herbed vegetables · ciabatta · micros

Cannolo- handmade anise shell • candied orange ricotta • warm espresso puddle • mocha ice cream

Ice Cream (my fave flavors)- maple-pecan, mint, peanut butter crackle

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Switch It Out: Blush

I used to be a Tarte addict (OK I still am). I love their Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush.  Instead of tossing the container, I saved it, removed the inner pan and now use the exterior part to swirl loose foundation powder in.

Below are my three favorite healthier/safer blushes: I purchased all of them when the companies were running sales. I did not pay the cost price that I list below (that is the non-sale price).

Skin Deep Rating: 1
Cost: $$$  ($27)
I love that this is a solid blush. Sometimes I feel like loose powder gets EVERYWHERE. I like the control that I have with this product.  Jane Iredale has several different colors to choose from but not all are vegan; Cinnamon is, but many aren't.  Check to see if the product ingredient list contains carmine (crushed up bugs).  No carmine for me please :)  I bought this blush when a local retailer ran a 25% off sale.  I have never seen the online Jane Iredale store run a sale. 

Skin Deep Rating: 2
Cost: $$ ($13)
I like the color of this blush. It is slightly warm.  I actually bought a sample of this before buying the full size. Pure Hearts Clean Hands sells samples for $1 each! It really helps when trying to find which colors work best for you.  I have received several compliments when wearing this blush. It seems like it has a lot of pigment.  Also, I like the sifter (i can better control how much product enters the top area).
Pure Hearts Clean Hands runs promotions every so often, if you sign up for their newsletter, they let you know via email.

Skin Deep Rating: 0
Cost: $$ ($18)
This was my first mineral blush.  I purchased a sample of it a few years back; I liked it so much that I bought a larger size. The color Misty Rose is light and shimmery.  It adds a hint of color.  I wish I had purchased the larger container 20g jar (I bought the smaller one 10g jar for about $10.75).  The smaller container makes it more difficult to fit my blush brush in.  I'm also not a huge fan of their sifter, I like the containers with the holes on the top better.  Sometimes Maia's Mineral Galaxy runs 20% or 30% off deals- I receive emails every once in a while for promotions. I just had to sign up online.

For both of the mineral blushes I spray my face with Jane Iredale Balance Hydration Spray afterwards.  It helps to "set" the blush and keep it on my face longer. I am sure that spraying your face with a very fine mister of water would achieve the same results. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Not Your Momma's Root Beer Float

My dad told me about this liquor that he tried and I decided to pick some up too! It's called ROOT.  There is a great video on the website about how and why the company came up with the idea for creating ROOT (an organic liquor).

The original recipe is here:

I changed it up a bit (less alcohol). It is really tasty!

1 shot of ROOT
6 oz Virgils Rootbeer
2 Scoops of So Delicious Dairy Free Coconut Milk, Vanilla Bean

optional: shaved nutmeg or cinnamon

Note: This is not a healthy recipe. It has lots of sugar in it. I would not recommend this if you are feeling draggy or sick.  Sugar increases inflammation and I try to stay away from it if I feel like I may be getting sick or am already ill.