Friday, October 16, 2015

Foodie Fridays - Paleo Caldo

Fall is on the air with our crisp cool mornings of late - which means it is soup season!

Caldo de Res is a soup common to Hispanic cultures, especially Mexico. My grandmother made it for us often when we'd visit, and it was my favorite of her soups. Caldo de Res is a great "kitchen sink" or "stone soup" type recipe with a beefy bone broth base and a wide variety of cold hearty veggies thrown in. The traditional version is a bit different than this paleo-friendly adaptation using lots of green veggies, but the result is just as satisfying.

I make a large batch of this soup then divide it up into freezer safe glassware to keep until needed. Then I take it for lunches and such. The nutrients from the bone broth, meat and marrow and all those green veggies make this a super food soup.


  • 2 quarts water
  • Beef short ribs, bone in (Beef shank will work as well)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 head cabbage, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 2 red potatoes, chopped (optional)
  • 1 hatch or poblano green chili, de-seeded and chopped 
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 bunch cilantro (optional)
  • Salt to taste (I use about 3 tbsp. of full-spectrum real sea salt)


Pour water into a large stock pot, dutch oven or slow cooker on low heat. Add short ribs to water along with salt to begin broth. Allow this to cook for at least an hour before adding your veggies.

Chop your cabbage, onion, zucchini, and other vegetables into spoon-able sized bites. Then add to your broth pot. Add more salt to taste. Cook for another hour, stirring occasionally, then serve. Yields 8-10 servings.

I love to have this soup with a quesadilla or a couple tacos (the real kind, made with non-GMO corn tortillas pan fried in lard and filled with pulled chicken or pork). Corn tortillas are obviously not strictly paleo, but just the soup by itself is paleo friendly and can be modified for special diets such as GAPS or autoimmune paleo.


Friday, October 2, 2015

Foodie Fridays - First Freeze Chili and Cider

Since moving to Colorado my family's tradition has been to make chili the evening after the first hard freeze, usually some time in October. I like to add a cup of warm spiced cider to go along with my chili.

Quick and Dirty Chunky Beef Chili

1 lb. beef stew meat
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed minced (1 tsp. if from a can)
Chili powder, paprika, cumin, seasoned salt and pepper to taste (I use a LOT of chili powder)
Lime juice to taste

Add ingredients to a sauce pan on medium heat until it starts to boil, then put down to simmer and let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. I find that the onion, tomato and stew meat have enough moisture for the texture I prefer in my chili, but if you like yours a little more soupy, adding a cube or two of frozen beef bone broth is a good addition. Serves 2-3. To stretch into more servings I suggest serving with quesadillas, made with gluten free corn tortillas of course.

Fall Spiced Cider

1 gallon apple juice or cider
2 tbsp. maple syrup or raw honey
1 cup pomegranate or cranberry juice
Mulling spices
Cheese cloth or tea strainer

Pour liquid ingredients into a large sauce pan. Simmer on low to medium-low heat (higher heat destroys all the great vitamin C in the juices). Put 1 tbsp. of mulling spices into a cheese cloth bag or tea strainer and add to the pot. (Technically you can put them in loose, but then you have to be careful not to pour them into the drink, and you also can't take them out and reuse them for a fragrance simmer pot). This recipe freezes well, so you can make ice cubes out of the left overs, then pop them into a mug to reheat any time the urge for a cup of spiced cider strikes.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Natural Alternatives for Women's Health

Moving away from the issue of real food and how that effects our whole lives - including our fertility and child bearing - I wanted to focus this week on natural options for women's health issues. We will go more in depth on many of these topics in later posts, but I hope this post will serve as a good primer on the topic.

We use chemically treated cotton to sop up Aunt Flo's monthly visit, hormones and plastic to prevent an unplanned pregnancy and 1/3 of births in this country happen by c-section. But is there a more natural way than pills and chemicals to deal with the health and hygiene issues particular to women? I contend that there are many! A combination of factors sent me down this path, including a family history of ovarian cancer, bad emotional side effects from being on the pill and a concern that almost every birth I ever saw on TLC's A Baby Story ended up as a c-section (A procedure I'd always associated with emergencies and high risk pregnancies - not every other episode of a birth show. I knew on very basic level that these healthy women with normal labors should not be going in to get sectioned so quickly - and now I know the science of why as well). Here is what I've discovered.*

More Natural Menses
In treating PMS symptoms I have found that the best ways to help are to prevent through proper diet (check out the resources Nourishing TraditionsReal Food and Practical Paleo for more information). Even with a healthful diet however, hormone fluctuations that effect how our bodies function are a natural (and even essential) part of being a fertile female.

For cramps I recommend . . .
  • Warm epsom salt baths
  • Body rubs with warm grapeseed and/or coconut oil with a drop of your favorite relaxing essential oil such as lavender
  • Heating pads (electric pads work, but the infrared heat may be dangerous in large doses, rice or barley stuffed flannel pads are probably a better option)
For flow I recommend . . . 
  • The Diva Cup (or other menstrual cups) - I can honestly say, I've not had success in positioning mine - but for those who have been successful in this key step, I've not heard a single complaint. They are certainly as easy, if not more so, than non-applicator tampons
  • Cloth menstrual pads - The brand I use is Naturally Simple, but there are others available (including here). These are comfortable and reusable, which also makes them great to have in case of a SHTF-type situation where conventional pads are unavailable. You can also make your own.
  • If cloth pads or Diva Cups aren't for you, there are more natural options for feminine hygiene products such as Seventh Generation unbleached feminine hygiene products and other organic lines. (Though, honestly, for the money, I'd invest in organic cotton-based reusable pads).

Hormone-Free Birth Control
I cannot speak more highly of the Fertility Awareness Method for both hormone-free birth control, and for pregnancy achievement when ready. Not only does it help to identify most fertile periods for abstinence or barrier protection to be used (or for intimacy if trying to achieve pregnancy), it also helps us to be more in tune with our body's natural rhythms and to identify symptoms of potential fertility issues. The bible for FAM is Taking Charge of Your Fertility. TCOYF has charting resources available for free online, as does Fertility Flower. Both also have premium subscriptions with more features that might be especially useful for women trying to achieve pregnancy. I can happily recommend both, or either. You may also be able to find similar tools available for your smart phone. I use My Period Calendar, since I am not married, and therefore chart only for feminine health (rather than birth control or pregnancy achievement), this program provides all I need and is easily portable no matter where I'm going. In order to chart you will need to invest in a basal body temperature thermometer available at your local drug store, grocery store or discount store, usually for less than $10.

Natural Childbirth
This is one topic where my knowledge is more theory and science than practice, so I welcome comments from those who have experienced natural child birth first hand. My knowledge comes from books and films I've pursued in copious amounts over the last 5 years or so and the few births I've been privileged to attend. Since I don't have as much first hand experience here (yet) I'll stick to just a few key bullet points and then a long list of resources to allow you to dig deeper into this topic for yourselves.
  • Child birth in healthy women is not a medical condition to be treated but a physical process to be supported
  • The United States has one of the highest rates of c-section of any developed nation, and well over the rate that research shows to be beneficial to both babies and moms (which is to say the rate at which c-sections are truly life saving for the women and their babies who receive them). This is largely due to the interventionist friendly environment of the American OB-GYN system.
  • While c-sections and other interventions are great tools to have when truly needed - the vast majority of women do not and will not need them given proper support and understanding of the natural process of birth.
  • C-section rates go up just before shift changes and before the weekend at many hospitals - this belies the true reason for many unnecessary interventions - convenience for the doctor - not the health of the patient.

My favorite books about midwifery . . .
My favorite must-see midwifery films (in order) . . .
What ways do you tackle women's health in a more natural way?

*I am not a physician, these recommendations are based only on my personal experience and reading. In issues of both child birth and fertility especially, none of this should be a substitute for the advice of a trained medical professional with whom you have a trusting relationship.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Don't Fear the Fat

One thing I've been learning over the last several years is to get over my fear of fat. Fat gets a bad wrap since it also is what is often found in our spare tires and saddle bags. Fortunately, Time and other media outlets are finally getting the word out that fat is an important nutrient to our bodies, vital in fact. It helps create our hormones, line our myelin and serves as fuel. It also carries essential fat soluble nutrients - like vitamins A, D and K - that are especially important for our bodies to be able to build healthy ova, sperm and, of course, babies. In fact, both protein and fat are essential to human function. We can live completely without carbs. Not that I would, but I could and so could you! I now see the enemy to my health and fertility as refined carbs. Nutrient dense carbohydrate sources like fruit and especially vegetables are great. Added sugar, grains and their refined flours are not good for us. Yes, I still eat grains in small amounts (and always gluten free), but now when I add a cup of rice flour to a recipe I see it as adding a cup of sugar, because that's how it will react in my body.

The documentary Fat Head (embedded below) does a great job of explaining why sugar (and insulin resistance) is pro-inflammatory and the enemy of weight loss and maintenance, not fat.

One caveat on fats though, trans fats and rancid fats are good for no one. So avoid hydrogenated oils and cooking with vegetable and seed oils. Olive oil is great as a dressing, but when cooked the healthfulness of the oil breaks down due to oxidation. So keep that in mind when choosing which oils to cook with. My personal favorites include coconut oil, butter, ghee, tallow and lard.

For more information on the science behind this I would encourage anyone to check out the Weston A. Price Foundation. I would also recommend the book Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck. It was this book more than any other that started me down the path to whole foods and clean eating. It's a great resource for moms, moms-to-be, and single girls like me who want to maintain and protect our fertility until we are able to have families of our own.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Foodie Fridays - Not Your Mother's Meatloaf

This hearty fall meatloaf recipe is inspired by the meatloaf my mom used to make. So moist and juicy it never needed extra ketchup or sauce, and a great flavor! Unfortunately my mom's recipe called for crackers or bread crumbs and cream of mushroom soup - both of which usually contain gluten. So here is my gluten free spin on mom's meatloaf!

1 lb. ground beef - You can substitute any ground meat, such as turkey, venison, bison or lamb
1 cup gluten free bread crumbs - I made my own by setting out 4 heels from gluten free loaves of bread to stale and then crumbling them by hand
2 large eggs
2 tbsp. heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup chopped mushrooms - I used fresh, but you could use canned or dried as well
1 small yellow onion chopped, or half a large onion
1 tsp. sea salt
Seasoned salt, sage and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Mix all the ingredients in a medium bowl, you can use a spoon, but I prefer to use my hands. Once well combined add to a greased 5x9 loaf pan. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, until the center is no longer pink. Serves 4-5.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Paleo 101

When it comes to overall health I have not yet found a diet that yields the same results as real food, and especially a paleo diet. I admit I'm not the most faithful paleo lifestyle liver, but I can say from experience that the more faithful I am to paleo the better my health. My digestion is better, my skin is clearer, my allergies are less severe, my joint pain is practically non-existant and I am closer to my ideal weight range the stricter my paleo lifestyle. I've seen a lot of misinformation out there on the interwebs about paleo, so this is my attempt to cover the basics of what to eat, the most frequently asked questions, and to point you towards some excellent resources that have more and better information than I.

What Do You Eat on Paleo?
Lots of real good food! Meats (preferably pastured, organic, humanely raised sources - it's better for the animal and for you, I promise), fish, eggs, lots of vegetables, fruit (especially berries - yum!), nuts, seeds and healthy fats (like olive oil, pastured ghee and coconut oil).

What Do You Not Eat on Paleo?
No grains. (That means no wheat, oats, corn, yes corn counts as a grain, etc. No quinoa either). No legumes (No beans, no peanuts, technically no green beans or peas - but those are in a grey area). No dairy, unless you tolerate it well - and then you should aim for pastured, organic sources - even raw if possible.

Is all that fat bad for you?
Heck no! It's all that sugar, not the fat, not even the saturated kind, that is killing you. Some fat is bad for you - trans fats are good for no one. I repeat - No One. Omega-6 fats (the kind you get from seed oils like corn and canola) are bad for you if not in balance with your omega-3 fats. Saturated fat is also good for you when it is in balance. (No it won't raise your cholesterol and give you heart disease - but sugar will).

Is all the red meat bad for you?
No. But if you're concerned about it you can always stick with poultry, fowl and plenty of fish! Not to mention lots of fruits and vegetables.

Where do you get your carbs?
From all those lovely vegetables and fruits! Paleo is not necessarily low-carb. Yes, you can make it low carb. (And if you have metabolic syndrome that's probably wise). But no, it doesn't have to be. Sweet potatoes, bananas, mangos and papaya are just some of the higher-carb fare that you are free to eat on a paleo diet.

Where do you get your fiber?
From all those lovely vegetables and fruits! (Really - and they come packed with many more nutrients and far fewer anti-nutrients than those whole grains that the food pyramid wants you to get your fiber from).

Okay, I'm interested, where can I find more information?
The two best books I've read on the paleo diet are Practical Paleo and The Primal Blueprint. Some other good ones include The Paleo SolutionYour Personal Paleo CodeEat The Yolks and Primal Body, Primal Mind. For more info see below or check out these resources.

Here are some great websites and blogs on the Paleo Diet and ancestral health:
Marks Daily Apple (author of Primal Blueprint)
Everyday Paleo
Whole 9 Life (authors of It Starts With Food)
Balanced Bites (author of Practical Paleo)

Here are some more books for both the science and recipes:
Make it Paleo
Paleo Comfort Foods
The Paleo Diet Cookbook
Primal Blueprint Cookbook
Good Calories, Bad Calories
It Starts With Food
Well Fed

It should go without saying that I am not a doctor and while I am a strong proponent of the paleo diet because I've seen it work first hand, I do not know your unique situation or medical history. Always consult a trusted physician before undertaking a new diet or exercise program.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Rewards That Don't Involve Food

As I've thought about my own struggle with weight it's become clear that I have an unhealthy relationship with food. One could reasonably say an addiction to junk food. This shouldn't be too surprising, it's well known now that food companies use flavors to hit the pleasure center of our brain, filling us with empty calories and leaving us a craving more. Our broken food system is only part of the problem for me and many others though.

For me, and I'm sure some of you and others you know as well, our unhealthy relationship with food also started in childhood when junk food was used as rewards or for special occasions. Our parents, rightly, didn't let us have these foods often, but when they did it was always a treat. We got to go out for dinner on the last day of school. We got candy for holidays. We'd get a gumball at the grocery store if we behaved well. We got cake or cupcakes for our birthdays. We got soda at big family events, like the Fourth of July picnic, or on those rare special occasions when we went out to eat. The circumstances of our treats added extra ties to the pleasure centers in our brains, above and beyond what was being created by the junk food alone. For me at least, later on in life, as I was able to make more and more of my own food choices, when I was (am) stressed out I crave those "good feeling" foods like cupcakes, cookies, brownies, chips, fast food and soda, all the more because I've treated them my whole life as a reward. So if I've had a really rough day I've "earned" that cupcake, or two.

In addition to serving "real food" to ourselves and our children, avoiding processed grains, sugars and industrial fats, I propose that we also need to re-think the mentality of junk food as a "special" treat. It is okay to have such things as a once in a rare while food - but I have come to believe that tying it to the idea of a "treat" may be as unhealthy for us as the food itself.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Foodie Fridays - Paleo Pollo Asado

Marinade Ingredients
Juice of 2 limes
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup oil (I recommend olive or avocado)
1/2 cup of chopped cilantro
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. paprika
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tsp. salt

Retain the limes and lemon after squeezing out the juice and cover the chicken with them if using a dish to marinate, or throw them in the bag with the chicken if using a bag. (I prefer to use a casserole dish because the acid in the citrus juice can cause chemicals to leech from plastic bags that I'd just prefer to avoid - plus a glass dish is reusable). This marinade will cover about half a chicken or 5-6 pieces of dark meat chicken. (I recommend using just dark meat, personally. Definitely use bone in and skin on cuts regardless though). Marinate for at least 30 minutes, but preferably over night.

Pollo asdo technically means grilled chicken, so if you have a grill or grill pan - cook them that way, if not then baking or cooking in a skillet will work just as well. Remove them from the marinade, but do not pat dry or otherwise try to remove any marinade that sticks to the chicken. Cook until cooked through and the citrus juices left on the skin form a crispy caramelized crust.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Foods for Fertility

As a single woman that just just turned 30 and who dreams of being a wife and mother, one thing is abundantly clear - I must protect my fertility now. If I want to be able to, God willing, naturally conceive, carry, birth and nurse my own children in my 30s, I have to be guarding my fertility. Appropriate exercise is helpful, but a nutritious diet is probably more key than anything else. So, being an librarian, of course I read a lot on the subject of fertility diets, especially the books mentioned at the end of this post. Here is what I've learned, so far.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Simple Steps to Real Food

Simple steps? Yes, truly simple. Moving towards more real food has some hurdles, but I assure you most of them are psychological. Making the switch to real foods can be intimidating. Real food tends to be a little more expensive ("But I only have one income to feed a family of 4"), it may mean cooking more from scratch ("But I burn water"), and it may mean avoiding some foods you consider staples ("But I love ramen noodles and cheese puffs"). But it really needn't be as frightening as all that. You don't have to be perfect, just move in a positive direction, one simple step at a time. Taking just little steps towards real food is worth the effort!

If you're ready to take steps to improve you and your family's health - then you're ready to take some simple steps toward real food! And yes, I'm preaching this as much to myself as to any blog readers. I'm by no means an expert or perfect adherent to this crunchy lifestyle, but I'm working on it!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Foodie Fridays - Balsamic Berry Parfait

If you're a friend on Facebook you know that one of my favorite weekend activities is watching cooking shows on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Recently I saw an episode of Giada at Home where she made raspberry balsamic parfaits topped with caramel crunch. They sounded delicious, but what sounded even better to me was candied bacon instead of the caramel crunch. So this is my spin on the balsamic berry parfait, sending out summer with a bang, using the last of the season's berries in my balsamic berry bacon parfait.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Whole 30 - Days 0-3

Day 0 - I am glad I committed to this! I am already feeling better just from keeping gluten free the last few days, I know this will help me feel spectacular. I can do this! I went shopping today at Natural Grocers and some other errands with a couple girl friends. While out I mentioned that I was planning to do a Whole 30 during the month of August and one of the girls said she would love to join me! The other offered to help me with food prep if I wanted, we could just hang out and cook. I was not expecting local support, I figured I would be looking mostly for support online. Now I have both!

After hitting up the grocery store I came home and got straight to work on prepping food. I caramelized onions to go in casseroles, with browned ground beef and in meat balls. I baked a spaghetti squash for my egg casseroles and to have with meat for a quick meal. I sauteed zucchini. I got meat out to thaw. I chopped mushrooms. I made two egg casseroles. One savory: with onion, leek, bacon, spinach, potato and spaghetti squash. One sweet: with apples, walnuts, cinnamon and spaghetti squash.

I didn't get done until almost 10 at night, when I crashed in my bed. Overheated in my un-air conditioned house. Phew!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Confession: I Suck At Keeping Gluten Free

The very first task I aim to tackle on my Crunchy Checklist is to just eat real food. I have been paleo full time in the past and know how well I felt all around when I was. Yet two years on, I still have a hard time getting and staying on the paleo wagon.

For instance, while I haven't been keeping strictly paleo lately, I had been keeping gluten free. Early in the season my allergies were getting really bad. It was taking me 2-3 allergy pills (meant to take just 1 pill for 24 hour relief) to get through the day, and still I was itchy and sneezy - just not as itchy and sneezy as I would have been without the medication. So I decided to see if going gluten free would help at all. Low and behold it did! Now, it could be the placebo effect, but then you'd think the placebo effect would have worked just as well with the allergy pill I was taking without necessitating a change in my diet. It didn't make my allergies completely disappear, but most days I didn't even need my allergy pill and on days I did just one pill was enough to completely alleviate my symptoms.

Then, just over a week ago, since the grass pollen season is all but over (and because I was craving a sandwich on chewy, yummy, gluteny bread.... *drool*), I decided to chance it with gluten. Over the last week I've had burgers, sandwiches, cookies and other snacks chock full of gluten. It was delicious.

Foodie Fridays - Gluten Free Chicken Nuggets and Honey Mustard

I've made a commitment, in an effort to both save money and eat more healthfully (no cheats), to cook all my meals at home unless I'm out of town and unable to do so. Which means taking time to make things I'd get at fast food or out of a freezer bag from scratch. It is worth the effort, in my book, because I know all real food is going into my food and the flavor can't be beat.

One of the things I've often been tempted to just buy is chicken nuggets. Unfortunately, most conventional nuggets out of the freezer section or at the fast food place are full of gluten, fillers, hydrogenated fats and tried in unstable polyunsaturated seed oils. No thank you. So this is my real food spin on a classic.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Simple Living at the Library

Over the last several years I have worked hard at tackling my debt and living in a more frugal way. Living frugally is definitely one of the "crunchy" things I embraced pretty early on. On of the easiest ways I've found to cut back is on entertainment. Entertainment expenses can quickly absorb a lot of one's disposable income. There's the $60 internet/cable bundle with it's extra $30/month of equipment fees. There's your Hulu Plus, Netflix and/or Amazon Prime subscription on top of that at $10/month each. There's the monthly hockey game or football game during the season with tickets going for $45 or more. There's parking fees for a night downtown. There's bar tabs and dinner bills. The gas to get around. Ski passes, new books, gym memberships, etc. etc.

If you're really trying to live tiny, get out of debt or stay out of debt and build a more sustainable lifestyle, the library is your best friend. And this is why.

  • Movies & TV - Libraries have DVDs of popular films, documentaries and more without the licensing restrictions of Netflix or Amazon. If you like binge watching TV series and are willing to wait until the DVDs are released, the library has your back. Even Netflix shows like House of Cards release DVD version of their full seasons. Some libraries even have streaming movies available online with your library card. And all for FREE! I don't pay for cable or Netflix anymore, I just use my library.
  • Health & Fitness - Curious about the latest diet craze or want to try yoga? The library has you covered here too. You can check out the latest health book for FREE, and borrow your favorite fitness DVDs and books to build yourself an at home workout to rival any gym membership or system you have to pay for. You'll never get bored with all the variety available. Did I mention it's free?
  • Internet Access - If you're really trying to cut back and even not pay for internet access in your home, your local library almost certainly has public computers you can use and probably free wifi as well.
  • Free Programs - Many libraries host free programs on financial planning, learning to knit, adult craft nights, cooking classes, movie nights, yoga classes and even singles mixers. Have children? There are story times, book clubs, movies, craft programs, science labs, teen gaming nights and so much more for free, or at least very cheap, at your library.
  • Magazines - Most libraries circulate copies of popular magazines such as Better Homes & Gardens, National Geographic and regional magazines like Zone 4. Many also make magazines available for free online in print through their database access, or even full digital version through Zinio for Libraries. Cancel your magazine subscriptions and get them for free at your library.
  • Music - Want to listen to a new CD before buying it? Download music for free legally? Public libraries have you covered. Did I mention it's free?
  • Special Collections - Some libraries have special circulating collections, maybe your local library has something like this or would be willing to start one. I have seen libraries that circulate cake pans, power tools, toys for young children, story time kits and science lab kits. Check at your local library to see what they have - for free!
  • Books - Last but not least. Books are of course what libraries are known for. Rather than drop $24 for the newest bestseller that you'll only read once, why not check it out at the library? Before you commit to buying a non-fiction title for your personal reference, check it out at the library to see if it's really worth adding to your personal collection. There are ebooks you can borrow for free and audio books as well.
Can't find what you're looking for? Provided you're not wanting to borrow weapons grade plutonium, your library can often borrow copies of books, films and CDs from other libraries if they do not have them in your local collection. I have borrowed books from libraries as far away as Pennsylvania, Missouri and Texas thanks to this interlibrary loaning system. 

Do you regularly use your local library? What is your favorite resource they have?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Getting Debt Free

While real food, health and wellness are a big part of my journey to embrace the "crunchy", another important part is living within my means - rejecting consumerism, being a producer and living simply.

huge part of simple living, or tiny living, is getting out of debt and staying out of debt. The average consumer debt is $15,000 per household in credit cards - that's not counting mortgages, student loans or other secured or unsecured debt. Add the $300K+ mortgage on a McMansion, a $200/month car payment on a newer model car and student loans of $20,000+ and it is no wonder so many people went into default during the recession. (Of course the spend, spend, spend model we see from our Federal Government is hardly setting a good example of fiscal responsibility).

For me, I got into credit card debt when my parents lost their jobs during my junior year of college. From the spring of 2006 through moving back to Colorado I worked part-time or full-time and lived cheaply, but still paid for many of my expenses with credit cards because my parents could not help me with them. On top of over $20,000 in credit card debt I was also $20,000 in the hole on student loans from my private Christian school undergraduate education. About a year after moving back to Colorado I had my own debt crisis when I was forced to shoulder the full monthly rent on a two-bedroom apartment when I could not find a new roommate for a few months. Doubling my rent quickly sent me into a spiral of late payments and underpayments. Something needed to be done. Here is what has helped and continues to help me chip away at my debt. I still have some debts, but paying them off is my top financial priority. After paying for rent I pay my debt - even before buying food!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Foodie Fridays - Stuffed Calamari

I originally posted this recipe on my old blog, hence the text in the picture, but I think it holds up. Enjoy!

1 large egg
1 tbsp. coconut or almond flour (gluten free or all-purpose flour will work as well)
2 oz. crab claw meat
6-7 shrimp, cooked, peeled and chopped
10-12 calamari bodies (tentacles removed)
2 green onions, chopped
1 tbsp. coconut manna (aka coconut butter)
Curry powder, sea salt to taste

Thaw and rinse your calamari bodies and set them on a plate. Beat 1 egg in a small mixing bowl, then stir in flour, chopped shrimp and crab claw meat. Then add coconut manna and green onions. Add a pinch of sea salt. Add curry powder last a little bit at a time to taste (you can always add more, you can't take it out once it's in though). The mixture should have the consistency of a thick paste or cookie dough.

Preheat oven to 350. You can try to stuff the calamari with a small spoon - but I found it easiest to just get messy and use my hands to stuff about 1 tbsp. of the mixture into each calamari. Then put them on a foil lined baking sheet, lightly salt them and then bake until firm (about 15 min). Serve them up plain, in lettuce wraps or over a salad. Make great appetizers or a nice seafood meal. Yields about 1 dozen.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Amy's Almost-Edible Pit Paste

Part of this paleo journey I'm taking is minimizing my exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. While I still wear a conventional antiperspirant sometimes (like for Murph or a long hike with friends), I am moving towards all-natural deodorants for every day use. I tried some brand names, like Tom's of Maine and Jason's and found that, for me, they didn't succeed in deodorizing. After a few weeks of use my pits smelled garlicky or skunky, or both, in any case - not an attractive odor.

Then I tried making my own. Through some trial and error I came to the following recipe:

3 tbsp. coconut oil
1 tsp. avocado oil
1/2 cup corn starch or tapioca starch
3 tbsp. zinc oxide powder (I just used store bought talc-free baby powder)
1 tbsp. baking soda
1 tsp. witch hazel
A few drops of the essential oil of your choice (I used grapefruit - I like the fresh citrus smell)

Melt the coconut oil first then mix in the other oils (avocado and essential oil). Then add the dry ingredients gradually mixing well until you get a smooth paste. As the coconut oil cools it will become more solid, the avocado oil will keep it at consistency that is spreadable (plus avocado oil is great for your skin). I just spread a dollop (probably about a tsp.) under my arms in the morning and it keeps me fresh all day - even when I walk to work in 90+ degree weather. A note for those with very sensitive skin: you can leave out the essential oil (fragrance) and/or baking soda. I found the baking soda to be a bit abrasive, so I don't put much in, but you may want to avoid it altogether.

Monday, July 20, 2015

What is Real Food?

The first item listed on my Crunchy To Do List was to "Just Eat Real Food", and I put it first for a reason. I know if I go crunchy in no other area of my life, just eating real food will make a tremendous difference in my well-being.

A couple years ago I had some attacks of abdominal pain that put me in the emergency room. Subsequent testing never gave me a firm answer on the source of the pain, but I was ultimately diagnosed with IBS-D. Since then I have researched several differing, but often overlapping, views on what foods would improve my health and well-being. All of the diets listed below are what I would consider to be "real food" - that is, based on whole ingredients (not processed and packaged junk) and traditional foods.

The one that ended up working best for me has been paleo, which is why paleo is included in the website address for this blog. Though I've not always been on the paleo wagon (and that's one of the reasons this blog exists - is to help keep me accountable by giving myself an audience) - the stricter I have been the better I have felt overall.

Depending on your situation one of these "real food" diets might work better for you than another  - but the common ground is clear - make pastured meat, wild caught fish, natural fats, and whole fruits and vegetables the cornerstones of your diet for better digestion, reduced inflammation, clearer skin, good energy levels, reduced disease risk and better holistic health for life. I like how Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Liz Wolfe of Real Food Liz puts it as well.

Here is more information on all of these diets so that you can find the best option for you and your family.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Foodie Fridays - Summer Zucchini and Carrot Bread

I love squash breads! I made this recipe for the first time a couple years ago and took half the loaf to work where it got rave reviews from the other library staff. It's super moist and just about as healthy as you can get for a sweet treat (short of a piece of fresh fruit). I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

1 medium zucchini squash, grated
1 medium carrot, grated
3 eggs
1 cup gluten-free all-purpose baking mix
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 cup butter (or coconut oil) melted
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
Spices to taste (I recommend cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and ginger - I use lots of cinnamon!)

Preheat oven to 325. Grease two 4x8 loaf pans (or you can use a greased or lined muffin tin and a 9x5 loaf pan like I did). Combine sugar and eggs well. To this add melted oil (butter or coconut or both), vanilla and maple syrup. Once well blended add the dry ingredients and veggies to the mixture. The texture should be a thick, but not stiff, batter. Fill your loaf pans (or muffin tins) to about 3/4 full and then bake for 40-60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

How To Be Crunchy Checklist

As I mentioned in my introduction post, I have definitely got some latent crunchy/granola/hippie genes. I value real food, even if I don't always make food choices in line with those values. I value self-sufficiency, even if I can also be a pretty darn good consumer of things I could just as easily make myself. I value the great outdoors and conservation, but I do not always recycle or use the greenest products available to me. I value health, but I definitely have some chronic health issues common among populations in the developed world.

So how can I start living out these values I hold more consistently? How can I embrace my inner "crunchy earth goddess"? That is why I started this blog in the first place! To find out. To experiment. To try new things and to more fully integrate the beliefs I already hold into my daily life.

To that end, I have compiled a "Crunchy To Do List" of sorts. Compiling information from other natural and holistic health blogs, books I've read, etc. I have created a list of things to do to fully embrace my inner crunchiness. They fall into a few main categories: Food, Hygiene and Health, Household, and Lifestyle; though some could easily fit in more than one, and others don't quite fit where I've put them - that's where they are listed all the same. So here goes .....

Saturday, July 11, 2015

How To Be Crunchy?

I'm a young woman living in the heart of the Colorado Rockies. Over my life I've dealt with various minor chronic health issues like allergies and IBS, which have become progressively worse over time. I am also overweight and, while I am not willing to compromise my health to lose that weight, I know that my weight probably reflects issues with metabolism and inflammation.

I definitely have some latent crunchy hippie genes, I am what some have called "scrunchie", but in a quest for holistic health and wellness I am on a road to fully embrace a crunchy lifestyle and all that entails. From just eating real food (and trying to decipher whatever that means) to natural fertility (because I may be single now, but I definitely want kids when the right guy comes along), reducing toxins (and trying to decipher what that means too) and trying to live more sustainably and simply. 

You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram too! Join me on my journey as I learn How To Be Crunchy!