Category: Food

This Chocolate Mousse Is Raw, and a Fabulous Source of Antioxidants

american-heritage-chocolateSome close friends of ours (and parents to two adorable girls) remember too their first years — with $8 in the bank at times, and trying to start their own magazine (they succeeded by the way); they had to get creative.

When you’re broke and courting, (or broke and married!) you really get to know each other when all the trimmings are stripped away. You get creative, you figure out how to keep the pampering and indulgence alive. I may be talking to some of you who know this far better than I.

I would never say the broke years were the best in my life (I love travel, philanthropy and the freedom of choice that money can bring), but I will say they weren’t the worst either. My brilliant designer friend talks about how you need boundaries on a room or project to get the most creative. Our boundary for the first years with our first son was money, and I’ll never take money for granted as a result.

Before You Begin:

Block the time with your family in advance. Above all, no cell phones, no interruptions, no cheating! Have papa take the kids to the park or somewhere outside the house for your refreshment time.

Suggestion: Make the mousse for Step 3 first, for optimal relaxation — that way, you’ll get straight out of the bath-turned-spa, and indulge!

Step 1: Relax in a detoxifying bath (approximate time: 20 minutes)

This suggestion is entirely inspired by Earthsavers Rejuvenating bath salts — my complete obsession. (Coincidentally, my first Earthsavers bath salts were one a precious gift.They smell so good to me, I keep a jar by my sink just to sniff, like grown-up glue.) The epsom salt – dead sea salt – baking soda combination is what I often use for kids’ detoxification… The peppermint, eucalyptus, and rosemary is just for you.:)

This combination softens skin and relaxes muscles, relieving minor aches, pains, and strains. This combination of essential oils uplifts and invigorates. Feel free to create an essential oil blend that you prefer, such as 5-10 drops of relaxing lavender, or the beautiful-smelling, funny-sounding ylang-ylang.coconut-oil

ingredients:

  • 2 Cup Epsom Salt (or dead sea salt, or a 1/2-1/2 combination)
  • 1 Cup baking soda
  • 10 drops peppermint essential oil (optional)
  • 6 drops rosemary essential oil (optional)
  • 3-4 drops eucalyptus essential oil (optional)

Mix ingredients together before adding to bath. Fill your tub with water, adding 1 Cup for every 6 inches of water. Sit in this bath for 20 minutes (or however long you’d like!) After the bath is over, be sure to rinse off with a glycerin soap, to remove any impurities from the skin.

Step 2: Give yourself an energizing foot scrub (approximate time: 5-10 minutes)

This recipe was inspired by both The Idea Room and Sprout Wellness — (a Goop favorite, amazing organic skincare line that gives out a very similar body scrub recipe — and let me know how easy it really is…)

ingredients:

  • 1/2 Cup Natural raw brown sugar
  • 1 Tblsp. Coconut oil
  • 1-2 tsp. Coconut flakes
  • 3-5 drops Peppermint essential oil

Over low heat, mix coconut oil into sugar and coconut flakes until sugar just begins to dissolve — very quickly. Take off heat, add peppermint essential oil drops and stir. Take up to bathroom, lay down plush towel on the edge of tub if you have one, and massage away, in gentle, circular motion — for as long as you’d like. Rinse away with warm water.

Finish with this homemade lotion if you’re lucky enough to have some on hand, or use whatever natural favorite you have available). Put on socks — to keep your footsies pampered and moisturized — and to keep you from slip-sliding your way on to Step 3…

Step 3: Eat guiltless chocolate: my recipe for Healthy Chocolate Mousse (approximate time to make: 5 minutes; time to eat: 5 luxuriously long minutes, small slow bites required:))

This chocolate mousse is raw, and a fabulous source of antioxidants, and totally indulgent

Jen’s Best Ever Healthy Raw Chocolate Mousse:

Makes one decadent cup…‘cuz it’s just for you. (Feel free to bookmark this recipe and double, triple, quadruple it as you wish.)

ingredients:

  • 3 pitted dates (placed in water for 3-5 minutes to soften)
  • 3 Tblsp. maple syrup
  • 1 Tblsp. coconut oil
  • 2 Tblsp. raw cacao powder
  • 1/2 Cup coconut water
  • 1 small avocado
  • 1 pinch sea salt (I use pink Himalayan salt for added beneficial minerals)
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 pinch cinnamon
  • 1 pinch nutmeg

Combine dates, maple syrup, coconut oil, raw cacao and coconut water in a food processor or blender. Add avocado, one scoop at a time until mixture reaches your desired consistency (no more than one full avocado). Add salt, cayenne, cinnamon, and nutmeg to taste. Don’t be afraid – these give it a mild kick that makes the flavor complicated and delicious.

Final step: return to your family utterly refreshed — with a radiant glow, a happy disposition, and yummy-smelling feet. 🙂

Morning Sickness: Remedies, Trials, and Tribulations

Dear readers, I’m pregnant again. I wish I were saying this to elicit congratulations and by way of launching a new column about pregnancy — and I am, at least, doing the latter, but the truth is, I also have been pretty miserable. The good news with morning sickness is that it can indicate that your body is producing the natural and necessary hormones for a healthy pregnancy.

There’s an adage I’ve heard, “sick mama, healthy baby” and I’m not sure I agree entirely, but I do cling to it when I’m sick and can’t sleep at 1am. That’s about it for the good news. It’s week 13 now, nearing the end (thank goodness I’m one of those women, a woman I know from my son’s school was still throwing up the day before her son was born), so I’m almost at the point where I can share with you what worked — and what didn’t — when it came to managing morning sickness…but still sick enough to empathize strongly with those of you who aren’t out of the woods yet.smoothie

Here are the easiest, safest and most effective remedies I’ve come up with (with the help of midwives, recent studies, Chinese medicine, and centuries of women to whom I owe a debt of gratitude passing down their remedies before me):

1.  Protein, protein, protein — even the word makes my stomach that is saying “I only want fruit” turn a bit, but a very experienced midwife friend of mine recently reminded me that not enough protein is often the reason morning sickness is called morning sickness. The body that has to go through an entire night without food often wakes up with low blood sugar, that may trigger morning sickness.

Pregnant women should be getting between 60-100 grams of protein every day. Protein — an egg, or yogurt smoothie first thing can take the edge off and stabilize blood sugar throughout the day. It also is an excellent building block for all the construction going on within. In my case, morning sickness has really been more prominent at night. Her take? I haven’t been eating frequently enough during the day, or enough protein to keep my blood sugar stable, which is why by nighttime I’m sicker than before.

2.  Which bring me to point number 2: eat small amounts of food frequently. I was just at a conference where I came to be known as the ‘nut lady’ — hopefully because of the amount of nuts — and dried fruit, and almond butter I was carrying around with me in my bag. It helped.

3.  Ginger. Ginger tea, ginger ale, ginger candies in a pinch, all of this helped a little to take the edge off of my nausea. This isn’t always the cure-all, as I discuss in point #4, but it has helped in many different instances of nausea — motion sickness, chemotherapy side effects, ‘sour’ tummy from over-eating or eating poorly, and it is often a nice soothing remedy and hydrator to sip on a few steeped slices of ginger in water throughout the day. ginger-teaPregnancy hormones slow digestion down, and ginger, according to its properties in Chinese Medicine also helps to keep digestion moving. It is warming in properties, however, so if you are running hot, you might try suggestion number 4 instead…

4.  Peppermint. While no herbal tea should be taken in excess (as my father always says, and I suspect he stole this from Confucius, “everything in moderation”), peppermint is generally considered safe for pregnancy, and has been used for centuries to temper many of its unwanted symptoms, including morning sickness. Wonderful side benefit: I am running hot hot hot (as in, I leave the windows open on 40f degree nights hot) — and peppermint is wonderful at cooling you down.

5.  B vitamins and natural ‘blood boosters’. Studies are showing some signs, although not conclusive, that vitamin deficiencies, especially B vitamin deficiencies may contribute to morning sickness. ‘Blood-building’ teas ended up being beneficial for me, such as the natural iron and B vitamin supplement Floradix. Ask your natural practitioner about this, you don’t want too much iron when pregnant, but in my case, it helped. Without the guidance of a practitioner, I much prefer using whole food sources for my vitamins — beans, nuts, lean meats are all good B6 sources (the B vitamin most closely linked with helping morning sickness so far…)

6.  Acupuncture. There is NOTHING I felt like doing less than getting sticked with even very fine needles while feeling ill, but I have to admit, acupuncture can’t be beat for calming pregnancy symptoms as diverse as swelling, constipation, hip pain, fatigue, sleepless nights and, of course, nausea. And in the end, I was always thankful I went.

7.  Acupressure. When all else fails, use your thumbs. By pressing firmly but gently on the inside of your forearm, three finger widths from your wrist crease on either or both arms, you can take the edge off of nausea and queasiness. There’s also a great point four finger widths below your kneecap on the outside edge of either shinbone (there’s usually a slight, quarter size depression here, and a bit of tenderness that makes this point easy to find.) When I feel nausea coming on, I press for 1-3 minutes at each of these points on both sides — I make a little clockwise routine of it. I’ve seen dramatic results from this at the moments when the saliva wells up and you think you know what’s coming next — these acupressure points have taken my nausea back down to a persistent ick in the background rather than a disability.

I’m happy to say, that, with these tools at my disposal, my all-day morning sickness has mainly been an inconvenience — albeit a large one at times. The bad news is, nothing has eliminated the symptoms entirely — they’re still bad enough to function as a potent form of future birth control. At least, I’m swearing this to my husband…

Keeping Our Children Healthy This Summer

Summer is nearly upon us – and with it, a lot of changes, excitement, and challenges for our little (and too rapidly, I fear, not-so-little) ones. Some of the changes in temperature, activities, and schedule may be obvious to us as we transition our children into summer programs, take them on vacations, and spend more time outdoors – at the pools, playgrounds and outdoor events. Some of the changes may be less obvious to us – the dramatic changes our children’s bodies make when they move from the outdoors to highly air-conditioned indoor activities, the digestive changes their bodies make from season to season, the immune challenges their bodies may face when traveling.

Eastern and some western health traditions place a lot of emphasis on keeping our children’s bodies aligned with the general atmosphere and properties of every season, both in their food and in other aspects of their daily life. Summer is characterized most often as a Yang time of year: a time of growth, expansion, light, outdoor activity. This is as true of our crops as of our summer rituals – fruits and vegetables of summer get brighter, juicier, and abundant. The time of hibernation ushered out by Spring is officially over. Here are some basic ways to keep your child in sync with the rhythms of summer – and what to do when they get out of sync.

Summer Nutrition

One of the easiest and most beneficial ways that we can help our children make the transition into summertime is by making sure that their diet changes along with the change of seasons. Summer is a time to start minimizing meat, eggs, and large amounts of nuts, seeds, and grains (heavy foods when it’s hot out can make all of us sluggish) and incorporate more cooling foods. In eastern tradition, cooling foods include salads, sprouts – especially alfalfa and mung sprouts, cucumbers, fruits, and if your child tolerates soy well, moderate amounts of tofu and soybean sprouts. Coconut water is a great, and sweet, way to stay hydrated and cool. Summer is also a good time to use cooking methods that retain water in the food – quick sautéing, steaming, using less salt and more water.

Because minerals and oils get sweated out of the body after play, Summer is also an important season to make sure your child is eating a good variety of foods, especially fruits and vegetables. …and even though I can’t promise that you’ll never see my family eating the treats of summer — ice cream, sugary treats, soft drinks – these tend to lower immunity because of their sugar content, water-summerand in large amounts end up robbing their bodies of the minerals that our kids are already sweating out during active play. If our son seems to be rundown, tired, or cranky from time outdoors, or we’re gearing up for a trip, we’ll generally forego these treats in favor of a vitamin-replenishing smoothie or a fruit pop which we’ll make out of a variety of fun things, like almond milk with cinnamon or fresh apple juice. (experimenting is half the fun!)

Some eastern traditions counsel the use of room-temperature drinks (not iced), warm teas and liquids, and some use of hot spices during the summer so as not to shock or contract the digestive ‘fires’, and to induce sweating during the summer months. (ever tried Indian food on a hot day, with a great mango lassi? We love it…) With children, who tend to be hot-natured anyway, I have found that this approach is best used in moderation, and with the incorporation of some of the cooling foods mentioned above. If your child tends to sweat and get flushed easily, this may not be the approach for you. If, however, your child does not sweat easily, and tends toward a more frail constitution, a little spice can encourage a good circulation, and a little healthy sweat to cool the body down.

Other Tips to Keep your Child Healthy During the Summer:

  • Make sure your child is staying hydrated. How much a typical child should be drinking depends on their body weight, but at 44 lbs they should be drinking at least 50 oz (over six 8oz glasses) of fluid a day or more, especially during active outdoor play. Add at least 0.3oz to their requirements for fluid for every pound over 44 lbs. Watch their urine, if they are peeing nearly clear, a pale yellow, they are getting enough; deep yellow pee or complaints of thirst, and they are already dehydrated. Signs of dehydration also include crying without tears, sunken appearance, and the ‘pinch test’: skin on the arm or hand stays up for a moment after being gently pinched before returning to its normal position.
  • A good way to keep your child hydrated, and getting electrolytes, is to add 10% fruit juice (such as organic apple juice) to their water. Another way is to always send them off with a bottle of some healthy liquid – and remind them to sip off of it whenever they run by to check in with you.
  • About to go on a trip? We eliminate white sugar and foods with high sugar content at least two days before heading out on vacation. Why? Studies show that even low to moderate amounts of sugar lowers immune system and white blood cell ability to remove invaders for over five hours after eating it. Since germs of airplanes and recirculating air, changes of climate, and changes in diet when we arrive can also take a toll, we try to minimize immune challenges where we can.
  • Your child is getting irritable, lethargic, and/or getting very flushed? Time to get out of the sun. I know it sounds obvious, but I’m afraid to admit the number of times my family forgets the simple solution in favor of a more complicated one… (If these symptoms seem extreme, or are accompanied by fever, confusion, erratic behavior, signs of dehydration, vomiting or diarrhea, it may be sunstroke and is time to check in with a medical professional…)
  • One of my favorite simple preventative measures for summer is also to remember the downtime. If Summer is an active, or Yang time of year, this should always be balanced with the yin – quiet ‘cool-down’ times – time with less stimulation – for reading books, solitary art projects, even just unscheduled time at home for quiet play. One of my favorite reminders from last summer of the importance of this yin time (after an active day of children’s museum, park, snacks) was when the little girl we were playing with announced that ‘too many activities is giving me a headache.’ Point taken.

A lot of this information may seem basic and intuitive. I hope it is… in the Chinese medicine tradition at least (the tradition in which I have much of my education), the obvious clues we get, whether from the season, the local foods available, our natural tendencies, or our children, often lead us in the healthiest and most balanced directions. I wish everyone a healthy, balanced and rejuvenating Summer!