Roasted Cauliflower Leek Soup (paleo, with vegan option!)

I was really hoping by this point in the year that it would’ve been a little chillier. I’m ready to turn my A/C off…. But here we are.

For my non-US friends…. What’s it like to not stress-eat and go about your merry day, this week? We’ve been on edge waiting for the results of this election, and I will (hopefully) breathe a huge sigh of relief when this is done. Not that I don’t enjoy politics or anything – Political Science was actually one of my majors in college so I really enjoy a good debate. This year has taken the fun out of it though – less science and reason, more feelings. Having said that, I will be glad when the collective US people calms down a bit. Hopefully.

Even though there hasn’t been a whole lot of chilly fall weather, I’m ready for it. I’ve been making soups and crockpot recipes and baking…. Dare I say, I am even ready for some snow? I’m interested to see how my new Jeep fares in some powder, and I got some Carhartt wool socks that I’ll be sporting (it’s the little things, really). It’ll be a little different this year, since normally I’d love for it to snow and then get together with friends to cook and drink wine, but COVID has sort of hampered those plans. In the meantime, we all have to make due with whatever is thrown our way, and make sure we’re practicing self-care.

Out of curiosity, how much have you seen that term thrown around, “Self-Care”? It’s been adopted by a lot of trendy magazines, beauty lines, and has this spa-like association to it. To be honest, that really makes me mad. There’s nothing like ruining the meaning of something because it makes money – you’re selling someone an idea, something for them to reach for, and the wellness industry has done little to show people what it actually means – all the more reason for no one to really dig into the definition of self-care. From my own personal perspective, it even feels like it has this feminine tie to it too – doll yourself up, take a bubble bath, wear a fuzzy robe on Saturday night in –  all the more damaging, since self-care is for everyone.

What does self-care actually look like? Not to keep with the vague answers, but that really depends on you.

To me, self-care is reaching for water instead of wine after I’m done work, to make sure I stay hydrated.

Self-care is turning off the news for the day, because it gives me anxiety.

It’s making sure I shower before bed, because I like getting into a clean bed with clean pajamas, and clean hair.

It’s prioritizing my meetings, switching a less impactful one to tomorrow, because I need to get away from my desk and get some fresh air outside.

It’s being patient with myself when I short-circuit because I am stressed, or being kind to myself because I was in my feelings and gained some weight in quarantine.

It’s making healthy choices, and not overly depriving myself of things I enjoy as I’ve slowly shed my quarantine weight, and reminding myself that my friends still love me, no matter what I weigh.

It’s asserting my boundaries, telling people I’m uncomfortable with large gatherings, but respect that they can still do what they want.

And if doing these things inspires a big ol’ lumberjack man to put on his fluffy robe, sip Pinot Noir and take a bubble bath, then so be it.

Does this all sound mushy and weird to you? If so, it’s because we never understood that self-care is making sure we’re doing and feeling okay, respecting our own limits, and honoring our needs. To assign some sort of marketable idea that it’s to just shut off and shut down to primp and pamper, I think we’re doing ourselves a disservice. Learn what it is that you do for yourself when you feel your best, and then do more of it.

If it’s cold where you are, you’re going to love this soup recipe. It’s deceivingly creamy, and you may even fool some vegetable haters out there too. Get out those delicious leeks and let’s roast some stuff!

Roasted Cauliflower Leek Soup (Paleo and Keto, with Vegan option!)

prep time: 15 min

cook time: 25 min

serves 4-5

Ingredients

  • 1 quart chicken stock (vegetable stock can be used to make vegan)
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, thicker stems removed
  • 1/2 to 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 leeks, sliced thin – using only the white or lighter parts
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely minced or pressed
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tsp paprika (plain, not smoked)
  • 2 tbsp ghee or olive oil
  • juice of half a lemon
  • Salt + pepper (to taste; I used approx. 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper)

to garnish(optional)

  • Scallions, sliced
  • Crumbled bacon, prosciutto or pancetta

Directions

  1. In a large pot over medium heat, add your ghee or olive oil, leeks and onion. Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until onions and leeks become translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Next, add your garlic and more ghee or olive oil if needed, and stir, cooking for another 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add the cauliflower to the pot next, stirring so that it starts to soften and brown – about 3-4 minutes. Add just a pinch more salt and pepper. This allows the vegetables to “sweat” and incorporate each other’s flavors better.
  3. Now, add your chicken or vegetable stock, thyme and paprika, and bring the mixture to a boil. Once the broth starts boiling, reduce heat to medium low and cover with a lid simmering for about 15-20 minutes – allowing the cauliflower to cook thoroughly.
  4. Once the cauliflower has simmered, add your lemon juice. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. If you don’t have one on hand, you can also carefully add the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. If using a blender, add back to your pot once blended.
  5. Taste the soup for additional seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, paprika or lemon as needed. You can also thin it out a bit with additional stock, if it’s too thick.
  6. Serve with garnish (optional), and enjoy!

-S

The BEST Broccoli Salad (Vegan, with options!)

Hello my friends.

It’s Thursday, which means it’s almost Friday, which means it’s time to party! By myself.

Mars retrograde began yesterday – just another exciting moment for 2020. We all know that when Mercury is in retrograde, things go haywire, people act weird…. But Mars is a different breed, only going retrograde about every two years. Mars is masculine energy – moving, aggressive, and intense. However, in retrograde, things just move and happen slower… and these next two months will prove to be frustrating in needing to have a lot of patience.

Speaking of moving backward, since today is Thursday – it’s a throwback Thursday! Taking this recipe back from the past. I used to work as a sub shop as a teenager, down in the boonies of Landenberg. I made homemade chicken salad, deviled eggs, sandwiches.. and broccoli salad! I loved making this, but I haven’t had it in years. I made a few minor tweaks to keep it current, and above all else… vegan! Enjoy the last bits of warm weather with this side salad for your social-distancing BBQ.

The BEST Broccoli Salad (Vegan, with options!)

Prep time: 10 min

Cook time: n/a

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 2 heads of broccoli, cut into small, bite size florets
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ of one small red onion, minced
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup of walnut pieces
  • 1 cup carrots, julienned
  • 1 cup vegan mayo, such as Vegenaise
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 heaping tbsp of coconut sugar, or 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp celery seed

Directions

  1. Whisk together mayo, sugar or maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, and celery seed in a small bowl. Place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, combine broccoli, walnuts, green onions, cranberries, carrots and red onion in a large serving dish.
  3. Toss the dressing with the rest of the salad ingredients and stir. Allow to sit for at least 30 min to an hour prior to serving to allow the dressing to absorb.

Enjoy!

-S

Smoked Salmon Breakfast Quesadillas with Spicy Mayo (PALEO!)

This week flew by. It was not without struggle though – tackling some difficult work tasks did a number on my patience… but it’s Friday! Which means… a weekend filled with wine-tasting and sunshine/pool time. Work hard, play/relax hard.

It only took 4 months of depressing quarantine where I drank a bazillion bottles of wine and ate cheese every day, but I have finally been hitting the gym and lifting again, 5 days a week. Some days I wake up and feel unmotivated and lazy, but I remember that if I want to work out when no one’s there, 6 am it is. At this point in 2020, none of my friends go to the gym right when it opens anymore, and I’m fine with that. No offense to anyone else, but I don’t want to breathe your air right now. Stay blessed….  From 6+ feet away.

I’ve also been cooking a lot more! Who would have thought that a total shutdown of my life would’ve afforded me all the time in the world, but also halted all of my passions and will to live my daily life as I know it? Total transparency – I am fine now. 3-4 months ago, not so good. Now that I’m busier, it’s like I have also regained the motivation to cook. I even went without buying White Claw this week. Baby steps.

Part of my motivation is also to cook some breakfast, as healthy as I can. Why not indulge in the AM, if you have the time? I recently stopped at Whole Foods and picked up a few treats I don’t normally buy. (PS – If you wanna know how my 2020 is going, let’s consider that I think about what my dog will eat with me when I cook. My dog has moved up to ‘roommate’ status, from ‘pet’ status. #LivingAloneDuringQuarantine). Smoked salmon made the grocery list cut – I love this stuff. However, I’m not so sure I vibe with how normal chain grocery stores supply their smoked salmon. I don’t know their farming protocols, I don’t know what chemicals or fake flavoring they’re adding to treat the salmon, or if it’s even really properly smoked. I know it’s a lot to really considered where you source food like this, but in a world where we have little control over a lot of things, making sure your food is responsibly cultivated and healthy can combat some of the stressful things we think about otherwise. Whole Foods won the highest rank on Greenpeace’s 2018 Supermarket Sustainability scorecard (source), and specifically for salmon, the buyers actually live in Alaska or PNW during the summer to choose their salmon for the store (source). That’s a lot better than I can say for a lot of other places.

Having said that, let’s share some food!

Smoked Salmon Breakfast Quesadillas with Spicy Mayo (PALEO!)

Prep time: 10 min

Cook time: 10 min

Makes 1 quesadilla

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup chopped smoked Salmon (Whole Foods’ brand that I like!)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 stalks of scallions, chopped, plus more for garnish if desired
  • 1 tbsp diced red pepper
  • 2 Siete Almond Flour wraps
  • 1 tbsp spicy mayo (recipe here!)
  • sprinkle of garlic powder
  • sprinkle of paprika
  • salt and pepper, to taste

If you aren’t strict paleo or just like breakfast and smoked salmon, feel free to add cheese!

Directions

  1. In a large frying pan, add a tsp of your preferred cooking fat. Add your diced red pepper, and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until softened.
  2. Next, to the same pan, add your whisked eggs and scallions. Scramble your eggs until cooked but not totally dry – adding a small pinch of salt or pepper. Remove from pan and add to a small mixing bowl. Add your chopped smoked salmon.
  3. Mix the tbsp of spicy mayo into your mixture – this will work to bind the ingredients together and to the tortilla, which is normally what cheese would do.
  4. At this point – your pan should still be on the stove. Carefully, so as to not burn yourself, wipe the pan out to clear any egg stickies, or caramelized stuff. Add another tsp of your preferred cooking fat.
  5. Here’s where this can go one of two ways – if you trust that you won’t burn yourself, reassemble your quesadilla right in the frying pan by evenly spreading your egg and smoked salmon mixture onto one tortilla while it’s in the pan. You can definitely assemble it outside of the pan and then add it, as long as you’re super talented and won’t drop stuff out of the sides. I am self-aware and know I can’t do that, so I just carefully do it right in the pan.
  6. (For y’all cheese people – this is where you add your cheese as a layer over or under your egg/salmon).
  7. Over medium low heat, gently brown your quesadilla. If needed, add another tsp of cooking fat once it’s time to flip the quesadilla. Brown slightly on both sides, then serve!
  8. Garnish with scallions and serve with additional spicy mayo, if desired.

Enjoy!

-S

 

WHIPPED Coffee, aka “Dalgona” Coffee! (Paleo, Vegan)

Hey y’all!

As it turns out, all I needed was a little globally-enforced R&R to feel rejuvenated and start churning out the recipes again.

I have been seeing a lot of videos and Facebook posts on this whole new “whipped coffee” trend. So… what am I to do with 16 hours of waking time in my house and nothing to do? I’m going to make the darned coffee.

I found out that it’s an Indian/Pakistani tradition and was popular long before these quaran-times…. I don’t know how we never found out about this until now.

No story time here, just going to give it to you straight. This recipe is PALEO! I’m doing my best to still eat healthy, but when there’s little else to do… I’ll eat whatever I’ve got. You can certainly sub this recipe out with regular granulated sugar, but it will definitely be sweeter. I drink my coffee black anyway, so I wanted minimal sweetness. The whole thing was different, I’d definitely try again!

A disclaimer…. This would be SUPER hard without a hand mixer of some sort. I had to whip it for about 5 minutes, and I’m not sure if it was because I didn’t use real sugar, but if you’re doing this by hand, be prepared for a workout!

Oh, and I also don’t recommend putting it in a champagne flute… but I didn’t want to waste any more almond milk than needed, gotta limit my trips to the store!

 

WHIPPED Coffee, aka “Dalgona” Coffee! (Paleo, Vegan)

 

Prep time: 10 min

Cook time: n/a

Serves 2

 

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp instant coffee
  • 2 tbsp coconut sugar (granulated regular sugar or really any other type will do just fine)
  • 2 tbsp very warm water
  • 8-10 oz piping hot almond milk (or other dairy/non dairy milk), or chilled with ice cubes if preferred

 

Directions

  1. In a mixing bowl, mix together the coffee, sugar and water. Whip until you have semi-stiff peaks, somewhat close to egg whites. Set aside.
  2. Over stovetop or microwave, heat your milk to preferred temperature and pour desired amount into your coffee cup or mug. If using chilled milk, pour over ice cubes into your cup.
  3. Spoon your whipped mix overtop, and enjoy!

-S

 

 

Roasted Dijon Winter Vegetable Medley with Pancetta (Paleo!)

Hello all, and happy 2020. 

I’ve been… for lack of a better word, dormant, so far this winter. I’ve been physically tired, trying to do a lot all at once, have been trying to balance work with fitting in time to cook, and that’s always really hard around the holidays. There was DEFINITELY not a shortage of food, which would be the reason for my favorite jeans being a bit tighter than my preference…. Hoping that with some water, more exercise and more sleep I’ll be back to my old self.

It’s been a whirlwind of a month so far, too. Out in the world there’s some whack shit goin’ down…. Plus we had a full moon that I swear made people turn into wild animals. I was talking with a friend about how this particular moon happened to coincide with a lot of feelings of anxiety, unrest and just general discontentment. I don’t like to feel stagnant – and I think that’s just what I’ve been feeling. I have a few goals, not New Year’s resolutions – I want these to carry on indefinitely, not just for the first six weeks. Although, I am doing Dry January and for those of you that love your red wine the way I do…. It’s been less than stellar but I’m getting by.

Goal #1 – get myself back to my best physical state. I don’t mean crash dieting, “getting thin”, etc. I’ve always been fairly thin, but I want my body to reflect how hard I’ve worked, and I want to feel my best. I dropped the ball at the end of last year…. I plan to continue lifting, and I signed back up for unlimited monthly yoga. My  first hot yoga class of the year was last night, and it was HARD.

Goal #2 – speaking of yoga, I want to take my practice more seriously. I want to be able to handle intense strength movement, and I plan to build upon that. Maybe a few new pairs of tights will be a good incentive.

Goal #3 – indulge in less wine. I’ve cut out all wine for the month of January, which is surprisingly a lot harder than I thought. In noticing this, I realized that my social drinking on weekends crept into a glass with dinner, which turned into one with and one after dinner, which became a lot more frequent that I ultimately want. Learning what is moderation for me and sticking to it will be most important.

Goal #4 – make time for mental clarity. This one is big. My self-proclaimed title as a workaholic is not a humble brag, or any badge of honor. In fact, I often feel shame if I am not working as much as I can – like somehow, I’m Less-Than if I’m not burning the candle at both ends. I don’t like to sit still, be idle, or not have a mental inventory of accomplishments that I can draw from to make sure I’m “still working hard enough”. What’s that even mean, anyway? Working “hard” enough? I’m an accomplished professional, I work long hours… I’ve had at least 2 jobs since I was 10, why am I still trying to check a box? Feeling burnt out already at my age is probably not a sign of good trajectory here, so I plan to take more Me-Time without the shame. I’m giving myself permission to bum it every now and again. 

Goal #5 – lower my expectations. Being realistic, optimistic, pessimistic… those are all still expectations. 2019 was a hard year – I went in feeling like it would be my best year yet, and it was far from it. I’m going into 2020 with the intent to be happy – however that looks, I’ll know in 12 months. Expecting things to go a certain way will set me up for disappointment, which I am not trying to fall into.

I think these are pretty realistic goals…they happen to coincide with the new year, but there’s something icky about calling them New Year’s Resolutions. Maybe it’s the idea that a new year must mean huge changes, and anything less than that means you’re falling short. I’m over that crap, I don’t want to go on thinking I’m failing some sort of test.

I’ve held on to this recipe for a while, and it’s actually really simple… just makes for a really nice combo for your winter meals. Enjoy!

 

Roasted Dijon Winter Vegetable Medley with Pancetta (Paleo)

 

Prep time: 15 min

Cook time: 45 min

 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 1 large shallot, sliced but left in larger pieces
  • 2 cups fresh butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 cup fresh parsnip, peeled and cubed
  • 2/3 cup pancetta, diced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • For the sauce:
    • 1 clove garlic
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 tsp dijon
    • ½ tsp paprika
    • Pinch of coconut sugar (to cut the acidity of the dijon)

     

    Directions

    1. In a large skillet over medium heat, add your shallot and pancetta. Sauté 8-10 minutes, until shallots and pancetta are somewhat brown – then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside, leaving remaining fat behind in the pan.
    1. Still at medium high heat, add your squash, parsnip and brussels, ensuring as many pieces are in contact with the bottom of the pan to crisp. Cover with a lid – this allows steam build up so that the vegetables can cook a bit faster. Stir occasionally – you don’t want the pieces to break apart, but you want them to thoroughly brown on all sides.
    2. Allow to sauté for about 10-12 minutes covered – once things are starting to brown, turn your heat down to medium low and continue to sauté uncovered and allow to crisp for another 20-25 min.. Season with salt and pepper, only stirring occasionally. Adjust heat as needed.
    1. Meanwhile, whisk together your sauce ingredients in a small bowl until emulsified. Set aside.
    1. Checking back with the vegetables, they should have started to caramelize – stir to ensure consistent exposure to the bottom of the pan. Add your pancetta and shallot back, continuing to gently mix. Add your sauce, drizzling over the contents of the pan, gently mixing.
    1. Remove from heat and serve. Delish 🙂

     

    -S

    Orange Ginger Kale salad (Paleo, Vegan!)

    Hello, my food-loving friends! This week is especially exciting for me for a few reasons. Let’s break this down:

    It’s a new moon on July 31st, which is quite fitting for me at the moment. New starts, new opportunities (and a pair of new shoes that should be coming in the mail that day….). So this particular one aligns conjunct with Venus and square with Uranus, so… to all my hetero friends, be kind to your significant others. You’re likely going to want to roundhouse kick someone, and the battling masculine and feminine energy of this alignment is all it’s going to take for someone to get sassy. Also – with this confusion and battling balance between yin and yang energy, try not to impulse-buy or make major decisions without really thinking things through.

    Let’s start with my upcoming vacay. I’ll be off this Friday for a week, spending some time down at the beach with friends. SOOOO excited. Against my better judgment, I’ll be laying around like a baked potato by the pool, cooking, enjoying some fun time with friends. I have a ton of new recipes and several willing taste-testers, so be on the lookout on my Instagram (@thedivinekitchen) to see what I’ll be cooking and doing.

    Side note, as I’ve typed this, I need to share those shoes I bought. I’m a huge fan of Athleta, and I love those funky-looking Sorel Kinetic sneakers they use a lot in their ads. They’re edgy, different and apparently super comfortable. I’ve had my eye on them for about 2 years, but as a shoe-holic and sneaker junkie as it is, I figured I didn’t need a pair of play sneakers. Then, I saw Zappos was having a sale, and then a sale on top of a sale… so you bet your buns I caved and bought them. Go check them out and grab a pair while they’re still marked down! Link here.

    Now, onto the real excitement. I found out on Friday that I’ve qualified as a finalist in the Mushroom Festival’s Amateur Cook Off! The mushroom festival is a town festival in my hometown of Kennett Square, PA,  hosted to  celebrate our town’s claim to fame as the mushroom capital of the world. The winner wins some cash, bragging rights, and a ticket to the World Food Championships to compete again. Wow, talk about nerves! I never signed up for the show “Chopped” because it seems terrifying, and here I am trying to win and go to the World Food Championships. Ayeyeye. Maybe one step closer to being on the Food Network, my Guy-Fieri inspired outdoor kitchen, and having the horse farm of my dreams.

    My recipe is required to have mushrooms and this year’s sponsor item, Scaramuzza pasta. I will be making Ricotta Gnocchi with Sage, Pancetta and Mushroom in a garlic cream sauce. not paleo, but definitely tasty. I think I’ll be doing a lot of mushroom recipes as it gets closer to the festival so you guys can really appreciate mushroom recipes that aren’t weird. After all, it’s a fungi…. Eating fungus sounds gross in theory but mushroom recipes are delicious.

    All of that being said (and switching gears to something a lollbit healthier), try this delicious salad that’ll serve a crowd with some in-season summer goodies. Yum!

    Orange Ginger Kale salad (Paleo, Vegan!)

    Prep time: 15 min

    Cook time: 15-20 min for kale to absorb dressing

    Ingredients

    • 1 head of kale, ribs/stems removed, loosely chopped
    • 1/2 cup toasted pecans
    • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
    • dried white craisins
    • optional for non-paleo or non-vegans – 1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese

    For the dressing

    • juice of one orange, plus zest
    • 1 small clove of garlic, minced or pressed
    • 1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 2 tbsp champagne vinegar

    Directions

    1. In a medium-sized bowl, add your dressing ingredients and allow to flavors to infuse. Set aside.
    2. Add your kale to a large bowl.
    3. Stir your dressing once more, and pour through a fine strainer to catch the garlic and ginger chunks (no one wants an entire mouthful of garlic in a refreshing salad!)
    4. Stir to combine and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes, mixing gently every few minutes to let the dressing break the kale down a bit.
    5. Once ready to serve, add your pecans, shallot and goat cheese, if using.

    Enjoy!

    -S

    Caribbean Party Rice (Vegan, Gluten-Free!)

    Hey foodies. Half way through another week and the moon is now in Libra! To be honest, I don’t know that this would necessarily influence my life to the point where I stop and point it out to myself, but it’s nice to think about. I like to think that, similar to my actual birthday month, that this is my own little dedicated “me!” time, or that I should meditate or do more yoga during this time.

     

    I made a really fun dinner this past Sunday — I was inspired by the super bright and sunny day we had on Saturday and decided to make a Caribbean themed dinner. All I wanted was bright colors, spicy and earthy flavors, and… pineapple.

     

    I have a love/hate relationship with pineapple. It really does have a great flavor, but the texture is enough to make me gag and immediately spit it out. I think this stems back to my older sister force-feeding me pineapples after a stomach bug as a child. I’ll never fully recover.

     

    That doesn’t stop me from enjoying little bits of it every now and again though. While I used the majority of the pineapple in the rest of my recipes, I added a little dash to this dish. I saw a jerk spiced rice recipe with beans in it, but I wanted this to be a bit more fun and colorful. 

     

    Caribbean Party Rice (Vegan, Gluten-Free!)

     

    prep time: 30 min

    cook time: 30 min

    Serves 6-8

     

    Ingredients

     

    • 2.5 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
    • 1 13oz can of coconut milk
    • 1 cup pineapple juice
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped, seeds and ribs removed
    • 1 small yellow bell pepper, finely chopped, seeds and ribs removed
    • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
    • 1/2 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
    • 1 large jalapeno, finely chopped, seeds and ribs removed
    • 3 stalks of scallions, thinly sliced, green and white parts added
    • 1.5 to 2 tsp of sea salt (to taste – I love salt but tend to intentionally under salt)
    • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
    • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

     

    Directions

    1. In a large saucepan, add your coconut milk, cloves, cayenne pepper, pineapple juice, water and rice. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and cover. allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes, checking to ensure rice is not stuck to the bottom of the pan. Stir, check that it’s cooked (should be soft, no al dente rice!) and allow to air out, fluffing as it dries.
    1. Meanwhile, as you’re waiting for the rice to cook, add your bell pepper, red onion and garlic to a large frying pan with your preferred cooking fat, over medium heat. Sauté until onion stars to become translucent, about 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add your garlic and continue to sauté for another 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat until you’re able to add your rice (if it isn’t finished cooking).
    1. Once your rice has finished cooking, add it to your skillet, over a medium low heat. Add your fresh jalapenos and stir, adding additional seasoning if desired. Don’t be afraid to kick up the spices in this one — if you want flavorful rice, you must be generous with your spices!
    1. Continue sautéing until rice is thoroughly mixed, brought back to temperature and browned in some spots. Once finished, remove from heat and stir in your cilantro. Serve immediately.

     

    Enjoy!

    -S

    Bacon-Wrapped Pepper Bites with Guacamole (Paleo!)

    I need to step my game up. I feel like every time I make a post, it has to do with either the full moon or new moon…. which means I am not posting all that much. I don’t know why I’m so busy, but I do know that it’s from running around like crazy. 

     

    So one thing I’m going to start doing more of this year is Reiki. I’m definitely going to do a whole post on the practice, benefits and effects of it, but for now, my priority is to get a plan together for continuing to practice. Stay tuned for more of that if that interests you.

     

    Onto more of the GOOD STUFF…. I have a lot of recipes I’ve been saving and just haven’t gotten around to posting because I like to put up what I think people are most interested in seeing. There are definitely times where a recipe idea jumps out at me and I have to make it and post it, and let me tell you… this is definitely one of those times. These things came out just as good as I hoped they would, which is excellent — I love bacon. If you have a party coming up, these are perfect for the guacamole lovers in your life. I’m not even kidding when I say you should probably make a double batch though, because you won’t want to give any away.

     

    Bacon-Wrapped Pepper Bites with Guacamole (Paleo!)

    prep time: 20 min

    cook time: 20 min

     Ingredients

    • 1 lb nitrate-free bacon, kept chilled until use (I recommend Butcher Box, or Wellshire!)
    • 1 large bag of mini sweet peppers – yields about 18-24 peppers
    • handful of toothpicks, soaked in water for 15-20 minutes
    • 2 large ripe avocados
    • 1 tbsp red onion, finely chopped
    • 1 roma or vine tomato, finely chopped (this part is important!)
    • 2 heaping tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
    • juice from 1/2 lime (or more, to taste)
    • salt and pepper, to taste
    • Ziploc bag or pastry bag, for filling peppers

     

    Directions

    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cover a baking sheet with foil.
    1. Cut the top off of each pepper, discarding the stem, seeds and ribs from the inside. Make sure the pepper is cut so that it can stand on its own, flat side down, when placed on the baking sheet.
    1. Starting from the uncut side, carefully wrap each pepper with bacon completely. Depending on the size of the pepper, you may want to start with a half-slice of bacon. If you happen to do multiple layers, it’s alright too – the bacon will still crisp because it isn’t lying flat on the baking sheet. 
    1. Once wrapped, secure the bacon to the pepper by poking the toothpick across the pepper, near the flat side. This will keep the bacon from unwrapping as it cooks.
    1. Place your bacon wrapped peppers in the oven, spaced apart evenly, and bake until the bacon is thoroughly browned, about 20-25 minutes.
    1. Meanwhile, as your peppers cook, prep your guacamole. In a medium sized mixing bowl, gently mash your avocado thoroughly, ensuring there are minimal chunks left. You don’t want to beat it too hard though, as it will start to become runny.
    1. Next, add your onion, tomato, cilantro, lime and seasoning. Mix thoroughly, adjusting salt and pepper to taste.
    1. Once peppers are done, remove from heat and set aside, leaving toothpicks in place until partially cooled. Once cooled, add your guacamole mixture to your bag. If using a Ziploc bag, place guac into the bag before cutting a small part (about 1/2 in across) of the corner off your bag. If you don’t cut enough, you can always cut more off.
    1. Squeeze your guacamole into your peppers until just filled. Arrange on a plate, and enjoy!

     

    -S

    5 Great Everyday Benefits of Chamomile

    Greetings, foodies. Guess what? It’s going down to 4 degrees tonight. Guess what else? I saw that in Fargo, ND, the windchill is going to be -54 degrees FAHRENHEIT! Is that even livable? What happens to your house, do the walls literally just shatter? Where are your dogs? Does fire actually still… work??? Honest questions. I struggle with 30 degrees. I can’t even comprehend weather that cold. My hands and lips are already crusty from this cold weather, I lotion about every 45 minutes, drink about 8 bottles of water… everything is just so DRY.

    Queue to a friend of mine at work giving me a nice  big bag of dried chamomile flowers from Barefoot Botanicals. I have some jojoba oil that I’m going to infuse with the chamomile for dry skin. I love to use that kind of thing rather than store-bought lotions, that way I’m sure of what’s in them. I had a bad reaction to a lotion I thought I really liked that was seemingly “natural” – smelled like coconut, had coconut oil in it, was made by a small business, etc. I come to find out, the ingredients were artificial, sourced overseas and god knows what I was actually using. Maybe a few drops of an essential oil I’m feeling (lavender, ylang ylang, maybe some citrus), and I have myself a nice skin oil.

    Speaking of, I want to  share with you a lot of great things you can use chamomile for. It’s definitely a useful thing to keep around the house, so be sure to go grab some and stock your pantry with it! Unfortunately Barefoot Botanicals is out of stock, but you can find some to order online here!

    5 Great Everyday Benefits of Chamomile

    Anti-Itch Remedy for Bug Bites

    Chamomile is great for reducing the pain and itchiness insect bites due to the elevated levels of quercetin and luteolin, two types of flavonoids found within the buds. For lack of some science-y stuff, it it contains stuff that suppresses the production of certain enzymes that your body produces as a response to the bug bites. Drinking a cup of chamomile tea is great, but a bath with a few tea bags couldn’t hurt!

    Better Sleep

    Having trouble sleeping? A cup of chamomile tea before bed has been known to act as a calming agent due to the flavanoid it contains, apigenin. This bonds to benzodiazepine receptors in your brain that are known to reduce anxiety and stress, making it easier to sleep.

    Relief from Acid Reflux

    Chamomile is known to calm an upset stomach, but it’s also useful for acid reflux, which is something I am VERY happy I know. Studies have shown that it can calm the muscles within the digestive tract and can support a proper pH within your stomach acid by inhibiting helicobacter pylori, a bacteria that contributes to stomach ulcers.  A helpful tip would be to drink this after a large meal to aid in digestion.

    Minor Scrapes, Cuts and Burns

    Using chamomile as a natural means to help heal superficial wounds has shown to be highly effective. In a scientific study, a trial showed that the antimicrobial properties of chamomile helped speed the process of epithelialization (skin cell regeneration) and wound contraction (further healing). In addition to disinfecting, you can heal your boo-boos faster with chamomile!

    Sun Burn Relief

    Who’s had sunburn? Yeah, not proud of the number of times I’ve let this happen… but it does. Remember those anti-inflammatory properties of chamomile I mentioned before? It’s great for reducing inflammation after a long day out in the sun. That, coupled with its ability to promote faster skin cell generation, may greatly reduce the pain of a pesky sunburn.

    Hopefully these tips make your life a little easier and give you a little boost with all this cold weather. Enjoy!

    -S

    Sources:

    Chamomile: a herbal medicine of the past with a bright future. Srivastava, Shankar, Gupta, 2010. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2995283/

    Chamomile: An ancient pain remedy and a modern gout relief – A hypothesis. Hamed, Ali, Sanaz, Afshin, Afagh, Feb 2012. https://academicjournals.org/journal/AJPP/article-abstract/F0DF1C635194

    Functional foods with digestion-enhancing properties. Marco Valussi, 2012. https://doi.org/10.3109/09637486.2011.627841

    Chipotle Twice-Baked Sweet Potato with Bacon and Avocado (Paleo!)

    Hey y’all. Still cold. However, apparently there’s a snowstorm on the horizon…. Which I LOVE. I am ready for  snow, 100%.

    As I sit back and think about how  close December is, and how close to an end 2018 is, I think about how much happened in 2018, and how much still has yet to happen as a result of what’s since passed this year. 2018 was a prime example of looking at things through a lens lined with emotional and spiritual maturity, peace and loving energy. What’s that really mean, outside of all the foo-foo stuff? Really, just this – as we begin to evolve more quickly, which is happening more and more each year, it’s easier for us to stay aware of what’s changing and going on around us, and how we can react to best suit our needs and heal.

    Again, what does this really mean? Here’s a few examples:

    • Not believing every first thought we have – some are rooted in human emotion and fear, and don’t suit our best interest. Taking a step back and realizing that our thoughts have a greater influence on what goes on around us can make a WORLD of difference in keeping with the positive instead of sticking without knee jerk reaction. Be patient with your thoughts, and allow yourself to process before coming to conclusions.
    • Not sourcing our own value from someone else’s perspective – on the flipside, while your thoughts do control your life around you, they cannot directly manipulate people around you. Focus on only your reactions, and understand that if you’re too worried about someone else’s thoughts, you lose sight and strength over your own.
    • Focusing your sights on not having enough, and whatever lackthereof is ailing you – this sounds counterintuitive if you gloss over it, but this one is the most important. I’m a FIRM believer in the law of attraction, for many  reasons. If you go around thinking about everything you don’t have, it will never be any further from you. You say… but, Sarah, how do I live my life like I have all the stuff I need, if I don’t already have it? Well, you choose your words carefully. You wake up in the morning, count your blessings (no matter how few there are), and thank the universe for the opportunity to gain everything you’re destined to. Once you’ve done this enough times, two things happen. First, you truly see how valuable what it is you do already have, and then simultaneously open your doorway for more.

    Everyone is guilty of these thoughts at some point, because we are human. In order to truly evolve and heal, we need to catch ourselves and recondition our knee-jerk reactions into things much more suited for growth, and self love. We also need to stop thinking of self-love as a foo-foo, dirty of silly term, and start defining what that means to us, little by little.

    Side note, I was pretty excited to see that my store introduced plum for the holidays – what a great color to finish off the year with. Plum, or violet, or any rich shade of purple, is an extremely powerful color – often associated with royalty (the Advent candles are also purple….) 🙂 I came across a healing technique recently, having to do with envisioning a violet flame – both the color, and visualization, are extremely powerful in that they present a quick spiritual “recharge” that we can do for ourselves.

    The  color violet is special in that it holds the highest frequency within the spectrum of colors – this is a scientific fact. By identifying the highest color vibration we know of, we provide a segue to the next level of vibrational light. What’s the brightest thing you can think of, that you’ve seen on earth? Fire.

    If I haven’t lost you yet, by envisioning a violet colored flame, we are calling our thoughts to move to the highest level of light our minds can think of. Light such as this has the ability to heal our physical bodies (think of laser therapy), alter our perception of what’s around us (think of illuminating a dark room), and provide warmth and comfort, helping heal our emotional bodies. A quick visualization can put you on the path of healing with a few steps.

    In a quiet room, visualize yourself seated and surrounded by violet light. While you’re visualizing it, imagine it flickering as if it were a candlelit  flame – anything to create a realistic image.

    • As you picture yourself immersed completely within the violet light, say this to yourself several times:
    • “I am within the violet light, because the violet light is within me.”
    • Express your gratitude for the opportunity to connect with the Violet Light – this actually is a representation of connecting with your higher self.

    If you’ve never visualized something like this, I may have definitely lost you. Trust me when I say that at the very least,  you will feel more calm, and definitely more empowered. Repeat this as necessary throughout the rest of the year.

    —–

    I bet you might be hungry after reading all of this. I know I am. Since it’s still COLD as a witch’s…. broomstick, please enjoy this tasty healthy version of a twice baked potato. Gluten-free, dairy free, paleo, keto-compliant, this thing is the bees knees. You won’t be sorry 🙂

    Chipotle Twice-Baked Sweet Potato with Bacon and Avocado (Paleo!)

    Prep time: 30 min

    Cook time: 90 min

    Serves 5-6

    Ingredients

    • 3 sweet potatoes, more round/fat in shape
    • 1 lb of thick cut bacon
    • 1 heaping tsp of ground chipotle powder
    • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
    • 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
    • 2-3 ripe avocados
    • Cilantro, for garnish
    • Salt and pepper, to taste

    Directions

    1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Prick your sweet potatoes with a fork, and coat with your preferred fat/oil (I like avocado oil). Bake for 50-60 minutes, until tender. Once cooked, remove from heat and allow to cool before slicing neatly in half. Further let cool once cut and halved. Turn oven down to 350. If using to cook bacon on a cookie sheet, bake until slightly browned. Leave oven at operating temperature. (skillet cooking bacon is fine too – just cook and set aside). Chop into small pieces, and set aside.
    2. In a skillet over medium heat, add 1 tsp of your preferred oil and saute onion until translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Then add your garlic, continuing to saute until starting to brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
    3. In a large mixing bowl, gently scoop the contents of each sweet potato half, leaving behind a thin layer if necessary to keep the skin in tact. Mash the sweet potato, adding the garlic, onion and chipotle. Next, add your bacon. You likely won’t want to taste test for more salt until after your bacon is added, since bacon does tend to add a lot of salty flavor. Add more chipotle, if desired.
    4. Scoop contents back into the sweet potato skins, dividing equally. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, until potato starts to form a golden crust.
    5. Meanwhile, as the potatoes are cooking, mash your avocado in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and a pinch of chipotle if desired. If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can make this as you would any other guacamole (link to my recipe!), depending on what ingredients you have on hand.
    6. When potatoes are finished cooking, remove from heat and serve with a scoop of avocado on top. Garnish with cilantro.

    Enjoy!

    -S