a simple, [mostly] homemade beauty routine

beauty IIHi, my name is Erin and I have a confession: I’ve gone all-out hippie. I always smell of herbs (not those herbs)  and I dream about composting and layering ethnic fabrics all over my home. I prefer to sit on floor cushions and would rather drink kombucha than a margarita. Well, most of the time.

Hand-in-hand with my crunchy tendencies go my green-and-clean beauty routines. For the past year I’ve been working hard to detoxify my beauty and body care products, and the more I research it, the more I love it. I’ve gone from purchasing products to making my own, and not only is it saving my money but my skin is reaping the benefits. Let me tell you a little about what I’ve been doing lately.

In the mornings I wake up, drink some water, and make myself a mug of apple cider vinegar tonic. Inspired entirely by my friend Jane at Raw Milk Marathon, I boil water and measure out 1 Tbsp. unfiltered raw apple cider vinegar, 1 Tbsp. local honey and a few dashes of a cinnamon-tumeric combo, plus some fresh grated ginger if I have it. That, plus 8 oz. hot water, makes a stimulating tea that tastes exactly like hot apple cider and does incredible things for my digestion and clears up my morning brain fog. Take note of this, because it’s remarkable: digestion affects skin. Isn’t that crazy? It’s amazing, and I learned it from Liz Wolfe’s Skintervention Guide.

Whenever I remember in the mornings I like to do a quick lymphatic massage and some dry brushing to stimulate circulation and wake my body up. I’ll usually splash my face with water or a spritz of a toner, then moisturize and add makeup, if necessary for the day.

The bulk of my cleansing happens in the evenings. I cleanse my face with the oil — not surprisingly, it’s called the Oil Cleansing Method — using only hemp oil these days. To oil cleanse, you simply massage a small amount of oil into the skin on your face, then steam the skin with a washcloth soaked in warm/hot water. The warm washcloth opens the pores and will also eventually help remove the excess oil. I do this cycle a couple of times before gently wiping my face with the washcloth and finally splashing my face with warm water.

For a while I was using a combination of olive oil, castor oil and tea tree essential oil, which worked well enough, but I was craving some experimentation and hemp oil fit the bill. I’ve also cleansed with straight jojoba oil and coconut oil before, and those were also good alternatives — I still remove mascara and other stubborn makeup with coconut oil. After cleansing I spray on a toner, like Lovely Lady Everlasting toner or a homemade apple cider vinegar toner (from the Skintervention Guide). Now I’m spritzing with plain orange blossom water and it’s incredibly refreshing.beauty III

To moisturize, I apply some more hemp oil or any variety of salves and oils I have stockpiled. I have a bottle of Tarte Maracuja Oil that I like, a little tub of Green Pastures Beauty Balm, some Lovely Lady Everlasting-Argan Immortelle Facial Nutrient, and a tin of Zum Rub in frankincense & myrrh. They are all different and beneficial for different situations, but lately I’ve been using the Zum Rub exclusively to combat breakouts and it’s worked really well. Speaking of which, I use tea tree or lavender essential oils for spot treatments or a dab of Primal Life Organics Banished Primal Blemish Serum for more serious breakouts. (Which are, thankfully, rare these days.)

I exfoliate my face gently with baking soda, and I exfoliate the rest of me with dry brushing before the shower and my homemade coffee scrub while in the shower. I wash my body with Dr. Bronner’s liquid castille soap or an herbal-infused Lovely Lady bar, and moisturize with Everyday Shea unscented shea butter lotion or plain coconut oil.

I brush my teeth with homemade tooth powder and finish with a swish of hydrogen peroxide and flossing.

My deodorant is another homemade concoction, made with coconut oil, baking soda and lavender + orange essential oils. I recently won some goodies from Primal Pit Paste and I’m eagerly awaiting their arrival in the mail.

Every Sunday evening I try to make the time to apply a cleansing mask, and for a few minutes I feel like I’m at a spa. My current favorite mask  is a mix of equal parts clay, cocoa powder and maca powder, combined with water. Find the recipe here. In the evenings I also try to drink some herbal tea — I love Traditional Medicinals brand Detox tea and Roasted Dandelion tea — for its relaxing and liver detoxifying qualities. Quality sleep and regular liver detox can also help with skin health and vitality.

But, above all, a healthy diet and good stress management are key to maintaining good skin. I take a few supplements here and there to help out with the process, but by keeping my food in check, my rest plentiful, and my reactions to stressful situations positive, I can manage skin health and rely less and less on products. Because really, natural beauty is truly the most beautiful!

a book review + watercress pluot salad with lime-nutmeg vinaigrette

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In one of my recent weekly visits to the blog Gluten Free Girl and the Chef I stumbled across an excellent review of a new book, Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson. Shauna writes about Robinson’s dedication, research and passion for both wild plants and modern cultivars, and discusses the connection between plants of the past and our diets of the present. That was enough to pique my interest, and as soon as I could get to the library I picked up my own copy.

Early into the first chapter I knew this was going to be a great read. I started keeping a pen and a notebook with me while I read it to jot down interesting tidbits about vegetable varieties and how to make them more nutritious. With recipes, historical anecdotes (with one involving the nuclear bomb tests on Bikini Atoll, no less!), gardening advice and shopping tips, Robinson combines all of her knowledge, in a pleasant way, her gentle voice shining through the academic citations.

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Robinson breaks the book down into two parts – fruits and vegetables – and from there divides the categories into chapters for individual varieties. There is a chapter devoted to lettuces, to berries, to apples, to corn. She describes to history of each plant, tracing the modern lineage back to its ancient ancestor, and details how the varieties have developed through science or by accident.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the book is how Robinson ensures the reader comes away with an appreciation for a plant’s nutrition – it’s not all about color and flavor, although these usually play a key role in tapping into the nutrients. From this she offers ingenious ideas on ensuring we as consumers can choose the most nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, and then learn how to enhance those nutrients through cooking and storage techniques.

The tip I’ve been remembering the most has to do with garlic. Studies crop up like weeds about the anti-cancer properties of garlic nowadays, and traditional remedies recommend choking down pungent concoctions with the stuff to stave off colds and the flu. Robinson reveals, however, that the disease-fighting properties of garlic are not so easily accessed as to swallow a clove whole. There are two enzymes contained in a clove of garlic, and it is only after the whole garlic has been processed somehow – by chopping, pressing, smashing – that the two enzymes can combine to create the cancer-fighting enzyme that is so often lauded in scientific studies. It is important, as Robinson reveals, to process the garlic and let it rest for 10 minutes to activate the production of the helpful and healthful enzyme before cooking. Through this, and only through this, will you extract the most nutrition and the most disease-fighting properties from your common garlic clove.

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This is just one of many amazing kitchen-nutrition tips that Robinson offers, like the fact that cooking beets with the skins on retains more of the nutrients, or cooking and then chilling potatoes overnight before serving reduces the glycemic load of the starchy tuber. Fascinating!

I kept a running list of interesting varieties of fruits and vegetables to plant in my someday garden, thanks to Robinson’s recommendations at the end of each chapter. From Carolina Ruby Sweet Potatoes to Brigadier broccoli, to Tuscan Kale and Hawaiian Currant Tomatoes, to French Gray Shallots and Merlot lettuce, to Spanish Roja Garlic and Detroit Dark Red Beets, I am inspired to reap the benefits of nutrition and flavor in my own plot of land someday.

Eating on the Wild Side also inspired me to try some new produce at the grocery store. Instead of my typical kale and spinach, I purchased two bundles of delicate watercress. Instead of apples or berries, I chose a handful of translucent-skinned pluots. With a homemade vinaigrette and some gently toasted pistachios, all I needed was that new and vibrant produce to create a new salad. I made this twice I liked it so much – something about the bitter greens, the sweet fruit, the crunch of the nuts and the acidic spice of the vinaigrette combined perfectly.

Truly, as Robinson writes, when the fruits and vegetables are fresh and nutritious, they need but a little dressing up to turn them into a good meal.

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Watercress Salad with Pluots, Toasted Pistachios and Lime-Nutmeg Vinaigrette

1 bunch fresh watercress, washed and trimmed

2 pluots

1 c. raw pistachios

1 lime, juiced

1/4 c. olive oil

1 egg yolk

1 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. sea salt

Arrange the washed and trimmed watercress in a large salad bowl, Slice and pit the pluots and arrange on the greens. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and toast pistachios with a pinch of sea salt and a splash of olive oil until fragrant, about 5 minutes, before sprinkling over salad.

Meanwhile, whisk together the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a bowl or in a food processor. Combine the lime juice with the olive oil, salt and nutmeg, and briskly stir in the egg yolk until the dressing emulsifies. Drizzle over salad and serve immediately.

The salad does not keep well dressed — if you are making this ahead of time or in a large batch, dress only what you’ll be eating immediately, and store the greens, fruit, nuts and vinaigrette in separate containers in the refrigerator to keep everything crisp.

herbed [activated] almonds

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Water, a dash of salt, a pound of raw almonds, twenty-four hours. This simple equation is all is takes to transform something ordinary into something incredibly delicious and nourishing. By harnessing — and in this case, by encouraging — the force of nature upon a little seed, we unlock vast potential, almost as if a door has been opened and a flood of energy unleashed. Sound a little trippy? Embrace your inner hippie and come along on a biochemical nutritional geekery magic carpet ride with me.

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Almonds, on their own, seem like a healthy snack. In their raw form they are free of roasting oils and seasonings that would never be found in nature — BBQ or wasabi almonds, anyone? — and seem to be the best choice, as any wellness magazine would tell you. But in reality, almonds contain a host of warriors that fight against digestion and mineral absorption when consumed raw, and can cause more harm to the body than good.

I first learned about the chemical makeup of almonds (and most other nuts and seeds) from the nutritional tome Nourishing Traditionsif you haven’t picked up a copy for yourself, I suggest that you do. I learned about the anti-nutrient contained in nuts and seeds that exist to protect the reproductive potential of the plant. Phytatic acid is what prevents much of the digestion of almonds and hinders the absorption of minerals in the body, often encouraging digestive upset, mineral deficiencies and a whole host of other problems, potentially leading to leaky gut and autoimmune disorders.

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Take a difference perspective: if you were a plant, you would want to protect your DNA-containing embryo that would help your species propogate. It’s the same reason why fowl protect their eggs and wheat kernels are so difficult to digest without some form of processing. The organism needs those seeds to survive in order for the organism’s lineage to survive.

It doesn’t only happen with wheat and almonds — when birds eat berries they are able to fully digest the fruit, but the seed of the blackberry or blueberry they just consumed passes whole through their digestive system and is spread across the country through their waste. This is one of the ingenious mechanisms of biochemistry that allows plants and animals to work together, synergistically.

So if we take into account the anti-nutrients contained in almonds and why those anti-nutrients exist, should we even eat almonds and other nuts in the first place? Yes, I contend, but in small doses, and with proper preparation.

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There is a process — called soaking, sprouting or “activating” — that helps to neutralize the harmful phytic acid and make the minerals within an almond more bio-available (meaning, our bodies can absorb them better). By soaking nuts overnight in clean water with a pinch of salt, we activate the almond’s growing response and thereby “turn off” the production of harmful phytic acid. Think of it this way: the almond has been on the defensive, trying to protect itself and its genetic material for the future. But now, under the right circumstances, it is being encouraged to grow, to start a sprout, and to eventually produce more almonds. In this “safe place,” it no longer needs phytic acid to protect itself, but now can use all of its resources — resources that are nutritious to the human body — to propagate.

This is certainly more time-intensive than eating raw almonds straight out of a package, but it is worth it in the long run to reap the health benefits and negate the detriments of phytic acid on the body. Plus, by soaking/sprouting/activating the almonds, you open up a whole new flavor profile and an opportunity to customize. With my typical recipe, I soak and dehydrate almonds without the addition of spices, but this time I created an autumn-inspired mix with sea salt, dried rosemary, and a little extra time in the oven to promote a roasted, toasted flavor.

Look at this as one big science experiment and have fun with it — that’s half the reason why we get into the kitchen in the first place, to tinker and to play.

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Salted Rosemary [Activated] Almonds

1 lb. raw almonds

2 quarts water

dash of sea salt (or an acidic medium like apple cider vinegar)

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. sea salt

1-2 Tbsp. dried rosemary

Soak the raw almonds overnight in fresh water with a dash of salt or apple cider vinegar. This helps to begin the sprouting (or “activating”) process that removes many of the phytates and other anti-nutrients contained in the nut which prevent digestion and adequate mineral absorption.

After soaking, drain and rinse the raw almonds, shaking as much water off as possible. In a large bowl, toss the almonds with olive oil, salt and dried rosemary to coat. Spread on a lined baking sheet and leave in the oven for at least 12 hours at 170 degrees — the almonds are adequately dehydrated when they are crunchy and have a slightly sweet, toasted flavor.

Try other flavors and combinations:

smoked paprika + cayenne + garlic salt

pumpkin pie spice + maple syrup

cumin + chili powder + lime zest

oregano + tomato paste + olive oil + sea salt

honey + sea salt + sesame seeds

ginger + turmeric + honey

garam masala + sea salt

whole30: in conclusion

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My Whole30 challenged ended on Monday. Although I wasn’t 100% percent compliant for all of my Whole30 (I mentioned those rogue cookies), I was gluten-, dairy-, grain-, legume- and alcohol-free for 30 days.

I feel lighter, clearer and more in touch with both how I react to food and what triggers my cravings. I’ve lost a couple inches around my waist and feel more capable in the gym and on the trails. My sleep has been excellent, my skin is clearing up, and I no longer feel attachment to the treats I was dreaming about ten days ago. My mood has been more stable and PMS symptoms haven’t been so severe. I’ve had more energy and more of a positive outlook.

It wasn’t easy. There were a few times when I thought that I should just quit in the middle — what’s the point of this silly challenge? — but in the end I’m glad I stuck it out and made the full 30 days. Now I can see the other side of the coin, that in reality it also wasn’t that hard. Again, although I wasn’t “paleo perfect,” I feel an immense sense of accomplishment for sticking with something for an entire month. Doing a Whole30 is certainly about your health and the food you put in your mouth, but more than that I think it’s an exercise in discipline and self-control. Much like a spiritual fast, it represents the denial of momentary pleasure for a long-term payoff.

That being said, I find myself in more of a relaxed mental state now that the 30 days are over. I started to feel a little crazy, trapped with in the confines of the “rules,” and it made me greedy and grabby. I’m hoping I can transition back into normalcy without the mental restrictions yet while still maintaining the good habits I learned in the month.

I learned that I am addicted to sugar. I crave something sweet in the afternoons, in the evenings, or I reach for a treat whenever things get tough. I did not slay the sugar dragon during this Whole30; in fact, it may have gotten worse while doing this challenge as I wasn’t “allowed” sugar and therefore sought out more natural alternatives at every turn.

I learned that I am a stress-muncher and a mindless eater, and it is far too easy for me to disappear a bag of plantain chips without even realizing it while watching an episode of Parks & Rec. When I’m worried or anxious or busy or on a deadline, I grab handful after handful of whatever is lying around, and in devouring it I pay no attention to satiety or taste. The action of snacking is soothing, for some reason, and that quieting is all I pursue.

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I don’t snack because I’m hungry, usually. I snack because I’m bored, lonely, sad, anxious, annoyed, or have too much to do and don’t know where to start. I’m using physical inputs to try and satisfy a larger emotional need, and that, my friends, is where disordered eating comes into play. Challenges like the Whole30 are a great litmus test, removing us from our comfort zone and applying pressure and sting to see what kind of person comes out on the other end.

I found that I stopped missing breakfast treats like pancakes and waffles, and I feel my best eating a ton of veggies. Out of all of my sugary demons, dark chocolate was still what I missed the most. I think that’s okay. But, the cherry on top was how much I lamented my lost cocktails and glasses of wine.

Making a new cocktail every week or so was a fun ritual that Andrew and I would enjoy together — that, or picking out a bottle of wine and having a glass with dinner. Across the month we had several social occasions in which we’d meet friends at a bar or have drinks with food at a cookout or a movie night. It was surprisingly easy to navigate these situations, as I declared myself the designated driver and made sure to bring a bottle of kombucha with me for sipping. The fizz and the gentle sweetness helped me feel like I wasn’t missing out on the drinking. Now, I can tell that I run lighter without alcohol in my system, and I certainly sleep better without it. I don’t miss beer and would prefer not to drink it anymore. But all that to say: I’m looking forward to my next Maker’s Mark on the rocks, a gin & tonic, or a dirty martini sometime this weekend.

My post-Whole30 plan is this: keep going. Continue to avoid grains, gluten, dairy, legumes and sugar. Seek moderation in my dark chocolate indulgences. Have a cocktail once in a while. Celebrate Andrew’s upcoming birthday with homemade brownies. Relax. Settle into a rhythm. Congratulate myself on a job well done.

And then have a handful of my favorite snack, completely guilt-free. Yum.

than to receive

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I mentioned earlier this week that over the weekend our neighbor left a big box of bread on our doorstep as a gift. I’ve been thinking about that gesture all week, what it meant for him, what it means for me, and what it means when I read “It is better to give than to receive.” 

Our neighbors aren’t wealthy, by any means. At any one time there are five to seven people living in that house, with two travel trailers parked in the back yard and at least eight dogs barking through the fence. There are a couple of decomposing vehicles, waiting for a little love and repair, sinking into the dust of the driveway. They buy their bread in bulk from the discount bakery and put most of it in a deep freezer to preserve throughout the month.

We aren’t wealthy, either. We’re living off of one paycheck, augmented by sporadic bursts of income from my [freelance] end of the deal. We shop at the commissary, we put money into savings as often as possible, we rarely go out and we buy secondhand. But we have no debt from school or car payments, no crushing loans or credit card responsibilities, and we live comfortably.

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Lately I’ve been thinking about our neighbors when I bring home a big bag of groceries or when I shop at the farmer’s market. The luxury of it all. How is it okay that I’m in my kitchen, cooking macadamia-encrusted cod, while less than fifteen feet away they’re waiting on this month’s disability check? How it it okay that I can choose not to eat grains and sugar and instead buy fresh veggies and some grass-fed meats and eggs from a farmer when they subsist on Subway and Stripes?

I’m living in my own little world and it is insular and protected against the reality of poverty, of hunger, of financial security. What am I doing to alleviate those pressures on the world around me?

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So much is going on in my head and my heart. I’m reading Acts and Galations. “Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows.” (Gal. 5:14 MSG) My world is in a tailspin, thanks very much to Jen Hatmaker and her revolutionary book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. (More about this later.) I’m in the middle of inventory-ing our home to prepare for our move and I’m facing the sheer magnitude of how much stuff we have. All good, beautiful things that we need and use. And all of this to say — we have been given so much, and what are we giving in response?

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I’m thinking about the national socio-economic divide that is displayed in the microcosm of my little neighborhood, my home next to my neighbor’s, and how much that relates to Dr. King’s revolutionary “I Have A Dream” speech we celebrated yesterday. I’m thinking about radical generosity — I am not thinking about socialism or political reform — and how Jesus loved and gave to the least, how Paul worked for what he needed and lived with what he could carry.

I’m struggling to make sense of it all and how it works realistically in my life. How do I give and serve without perpetuating the endless cycle of poverty? It’s the same question I face every time a homeless person asks for spare change: How is this going to help you? Does it make any difference in the long run?

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Heavy stuff for a post about enchiladas. I made these with equal parts joy and creativity combined with a good dose of solemnity, with one eye out the kitchen window to where that little ramshackle house sat. I’m trying my hardest to figure out what place I have in this mess. How to start small but make a big difference. How to get out of my comfort zone. How to shake up my concepts of service and generosity and love.

So far I haven’t accomplished much by way of revelation, and so far these ramblings have very little direction, but I’m leaning into the tension and looking for opportunities to act. To show that I care enough. To give. For it is far better to do that than to receive.

All of this from a box of bread.

SONY DSCVegetable Enchiladas with Salsa Fresca

6-9 med. plantain tortillas (or corn tortillas if you’d prefer)

1 med. butternut squash

2 med. pattypan squash

4 garlic cloves, crushed

2 Tbsp. lard or coconut oil

sea salt + black pepper

1 c. homemade broth

1/2 c. coconut milk

1 tsp. smoked paprika

pinch of cayenne

Incredibly, all of this produce came from my farmers market — except for the plantains, that is. Those were dirt cheap from our commissary. I don’t think anyone else knows what to do with them so I’m counting myself lucky that they even exist in west Texas. 

Begin by making your plantain tortillas or, if you’re short on time or prefer the flavor of masa harina, use small prepared corn tortillas. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large skillet, melt 2 Tbsp. of lard. Peel and de-seed the butternut squash and dice into small cubes. This will go into the skillet first, with a generous pinch of salt, to brown and soften. Once squash is tender, remove half of the amount from the skillet and set aside for the sauce. Add in diced pattypan squash and crushed garlic, plus a little more salt and pepper. Saute until all is tender.

Meanwhile, make the enchilada sauce: in a food processor, combine reserved butternut squash, broth, paprika, cayenne and coconut milk. Blitz until smooth and season to taste.

Begin filling the tortillas with a scoop of the squash mixture and roll into little enchiladas. Fill a 9×11″ glass baking pan with the enchilada rolls — or, if you’re lazy like I was, layer the tortillas with the squash, stacking it up flat. Top with all of the enchilada sauce and bake until tortillas are starting to crisp and sauce is bubbling, about 20 minutes.

Serve with a big scoop of this salsa fresca:

Pomegranate-Sungold Salsa Fresca

2 qt. sungold tomatoes

1 med. pink pomegranate, seeded

1 lg. bunch cilantro, chopped

1 lime, juiced

1/4 red onion, sliced thin

In a bowl, combine halved tomatoes, pomegranate seeds, cilantro, lime juice, and paper-thin red onion slices with a pinch of salt. Toss to combine and let marinate while the enchiladas are baking.

whole30, round two

Yes, I am here again proclaiming my intentions to complete a Whole30. You may remember how I stopped mid-way through the challenge this past January, learned a lot, and continued to implement paleo/primal details into my diet and lifestyle. Welp, I’m at it again. I’m declaring this to you, anonymous internet, for a little bit of accountability and for record-keeping benefits.

One of my goals for this month was to complete a Whole30, modified to match my schedule for the month. Instead of starting on August 1, I started on Monday and will go through the end of the month into September. What is the Whole30, you may ask? This is a great resource, but you can also do a quick web search and come up with a ton of results based on individuals’ experiences.

Over the weekend I prepped some meals to make weeknight cooking a little easier — I hardboiled half a dozen eggs, roasted up a couple of sweet potatoes, washed and chopped raw veggies, set some chicken thighs in a brine and some beef in to marinate. I made a big batch of Mel’s yummy Silky Gingered Zucchini Soup, and I put on a pot of bone broth to simmer overnight. Plus, I’ve got activated almonds, plenty of farmers market melon and a jar full of EPIC bars. I think I’m going to be fine.

Here’s my progress so far:

BREAKFAST  1/30: egg and veggie scramble with cilantro pistou. Coffee.

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LUNCH 1/30: salad with veggies and leftover beef kabobs, zucchini soup.

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SNACK 1/30: Israeli melon from our farmers market.

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DINNER 1/30: coriander chicken thigh, garlic roasted cauliflower, side salad.

BREAKFAST 2/30: kale and roasted sweet potato with two fried eggs, PG Tips tea.

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LUNCH 2/30: leftover coriander chicken thigh, salad with 1/4 avocado, zucchini soup.

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SNACK 2/30: “apple pie a la mode” pudding.

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DINNER 2/30: beef liver fajita salad with bell peppers and onions, avocado and cilantro pistou.

DESSERT/SNACK 2/30: blended frozen banana with coconut milk and cacao.

SONY DSCBREAKFAST 3/30: cashew cookie Lara bar, leftover broccoli sauteed in ghee, deli turkey. Coffee with coconut milk and grass-fed gelatin.

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DESSERT/SNACK 3/30: “apple pie a la mode” pudding with ground flax.

BREAKFAST 4/30: kale and sweet potato hash with two fried eggs. Coffee.

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LUNCH 4/30: remaining zucchini soup, salad with smoked mackerel and fresh dill.

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SNACK 4/30: CocomoJoe “baby bar” and remaining Israeli melon.

DINNER 4/30: coriander chicken thigh with peach-cherry tomato salsa, kale salad with avocado dressing, smoky spiced sweet potato fries.SONY DSCI’ll be keeping track of my progress throughout the month and will report back regularly on how I’m feeling and what I’m eating. This time around I have a better mindset, and have approached the guidelines with less of a sense of duty and perfection and as more of an investment in my health. Plus I’ve been really busy lately with new projects and moving preparations, and eating this way dramatically simplifies my day-to-day. I’m feeling light, energetic, positive and nourished — not deprived.

Across the weekend I’ll be working on incorporating more fermented foods, homemade bone broth, seaweed and fresh vegetables into my meals. My snacks have been a little heavy on the fruit, and as I’m trying to curb sugar cravings I’m going to pay more attention to how I snack from now on.

Meanwhile, I’m going to continue to pretend that red wine and gin and tonics do not exist. It’s just a little bit easier that way.

who says you can’t go home

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Last week I was home in Arkansas again for a quick visit – too quick, in fact. The time I spend there goes by at warp speed, particularly in comparison to my days spent traveling to and from. My layover in one airport felt excruciatingly lengthy and the distance between my connecting flight and destination seemed to stretch agonizingly, even though I spent less than an hour in the air. There’s something about anticipating something good that makes time behave badly. It’s the same thing that makes it slip through grasping fingers like liquid when you want it to slow down, to savor something good that’s been a long time coming.

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Flying into the regional airport always gives me a thrill, anticipation notwithstanding: the plane descends over patchwork pastures dotted with grazing cattle or tiny golden bales of hay, casting perfect replicas of themselves in their shadows. Corrals and ponds make crop circles in the fields. We come upon clusters of trees so vibrantly green, rises in the elevation so smooth as to seem like silk. I’m sure the other passengers think I’m a novice traveler because I’m like a little kid peering through the plane window, my eyes stretched wide to see it all and my smile barely contained.

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It was good to be home.

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It was good to see the familiar sights of the chickens, the tangle of garden growth, the way the sun slants over the hill and into the horse barn in the evenings. It was good to walk barefoot on the grass and to ride in the old truck without a seatbelt. It was good to navigate through a mess of junebugs, with their whirring wings like lawnmower motors, just to get at the juiciest wild blackberry. All these things come back to me quickly even though they’re no longer a part of my daily life. Then they stay there, lodged in my heart like the stubbornest of brambles.

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My favorite part of the trip was my first night at home. My parents and I grilled outside on their patio and ate on the picnic table to the sound of peepers and the nudges of a begging puppy’s nose from beneath our seats. We had incredible steaks with truffle butter, grilled white asparagus and fresh tomatoes from the garden, seemingly still warm from the sun. We watched the stars come out from behind the trees and worked our way through a bottle of wine, as if to coax them out with toasts and clinking glasses. A few clumsy bats swooped over our heads. The insects of the night began to warm up their orchestra of wings.

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That was what it felt like to be home – those moments of closeness, of jokes, of intimate conversation with two of my favorite people, with our animals around us and the land of my birthright beneath my feet. If only every meal could be that powerful, that delicious.

SONY DSCSavory Tomato Tart (gluten-free, grain-free)

For the crust:

2 Tbsp. melted butter, coconut oil, ghee or lard

½ Tbsp. raw honey

1 egg, beaten

1 ½ c. almond flour

½ c. + 2 Tbsp. arrowroot (or cornstarch, if you don’t have any)

1 Tbsp. coconut flour

½ tsp. salt

¼ c. grated parmesan

¼ tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. dried oregano

Sift together dry ingredients. Beat together wet ingredients in a separate bowl, and then combine, kneading until a moist dough forms. Roll into a ball and wrap in plastic film – chill in fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and make the filling. After the dough has chilled, press it into a tart pan. Prick the bottom with a fork and then brush with a little egg white. Bake for 10 minutes, until the crust begins to brown.

Filling:

½ lb. fresh tomatoes, sliced thin

salt and pepper

fresh basil

Arrange tomatoes in par-baked crust. Sprinkle generously with coarse sea salt and fresh cracked pepper, plus a good handful of fresh basil leaves. Cover the tart crust with a foil barrier and bake for another 15 minutes. After elapsed time, crank up the oven to 500 degrees for 5-10 minutes, until tomatoes are beginning to broil. Make sure the crust doesn’t burn. The end result should be a crisp crust with tender, jammy tomatoes and an herbal flavor throughout.