Monday, September 1, 2014

Homemade PSL!

September is here! It's my favorite month and the start of my favorite season (and everyone else in the world).

So a few days ago, I posted this article from on Facebook about the actual ingredients in the ever-popular Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks. In addition to not actually being any pumpkin (no surprise there for me), it has synthetic caramel coloring that has been cited as being a carcinogen in some studies, in addition to around 50g of sugar.

Since then I've seen tons of articles and posts on social media about the PSL and arguments about whether 50g is actually a toxic dose of sugar and whether or not caramel coloring is linked to cancer, etc. Lots of people fighting ferociously for the right/personal permission to indulge in a PSL this season despite knowing whats in it.

Here's the deal...the occasional PSL isn't gonna kill you. 50g of sugar is concerning to me, and I personally don't appreciate that Starbucks insists on charging almost $5 for a coffee drink that is made with poor quality, GMO milk and crappy coffee. However, I understand the PSL is tasty and lots of people have a tradition of ringing in the fall season by drinking one.

We don't make a habit of going to Starbucks very often for the reasons I listed above. Since we try to only consume grass-fed organic dairy (when possible) and avoid sugar, I usually end up just getting black coffee and it usually tastes burnt. But, I do love pumpkin spice flavored things! So I set out to recreate my own version of a PSL at home.

Guess what? It's possible, and I made 16 servings for around $6. And it is DELICIOUS.

I looked at a bunch of different recipes, and the one I ended up mostly following was from Once a Month Meals. Mostly what I loved was their idea to divide it up into single servings and freeze it so you can have them on hand. Brilliant!

picture: not mine. PrimalPal.net, which actually looks to be kind of a cool thing! 


Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte (Cheap & Clean)

3 cups grass-fed, organic whole milk (I used Kalona brand)
1 can pumpkin (organic preferable. mine wasn't.)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract (or more to taste)

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend on low-med for a few minutes. Taste to see if it meets your sweetness preference. I wanted to keep it lower in sugar, but you might want to add more maple syrup.

NOTE - I don't think I would use a different kind of sweetener for this recipe. I've seen ones that call for Stevia and Honey, but I really think the maple syrup adds to the autumn flavor of the drink. I think Honey or Stevia would add a weird flavor to the drink. But if you must, give it a shot.

Once blended, you have 2 options:

1. Add roughly 1/4 cup of the mixture to a 16oz coffee cup and add 12oz hot, strong coffee. Stir and enjoy! The pumpkin will melt and mix in.

2.  I put plastic wrap over a muffin tin and carefully poured the mixture into each muffin cup. Place in the freezer until hard, then pop out and store in a freezer bag or container. When you want to enjoy, just pop one of the little "pucks" into your coffee mug (overnight might be preferable to allow it to thaw) and pour 12oz hot, strong coffee over it. Yum!


Monday, August 18, 2014

Memory Lane: First Day of College

The last few days, my social media feeds have blown up with pictures of kiddos going back to school. It makes me almost kind of miss school! Almost.

I was reminiscing with myself today about school and college days, and remembered a pretty hilarious story about my first day of college at SBU. It had been a beautiful August weekend in Bolivar, but on Monday when classes started, we woke up to rain.

No worries. I was prepared with an umbrella!

I got up early and put on a cute outfit for the first day of school, and made sure I was all organized and prepared. I even left early to go to breakfast before my 9:00am class.

On my way in to the cafeteria, I gracefully tripped and fell into a puddle and got an entire leg of my jeans soaking wet and covered in mud. Not exactly the ideal way to start off a new semester in a brand new place.

So...instead of breakfast, back to the dorm I went to change my clothes.

Donning outfit #2 of the day, I decided to drive to my class instead of walk since it was still raining, figuring I could at least walk with my umbrella through the parking lot and make it to class relatively unscathed by the morning's events.

While I was changing my clothes and driving across campus to class, the rain decided to flip the switch to monsoon and started coming down in torrents. Awesome. I pulled into the parking lot and couldn't even hear the radio in my car because the rain was so loud outside.

Is it better to be late on the first day of class, or to arrive soaking wet? I was torn. There were really no good options left for making good first impressions on professors and classmates!

I decided to make a run for it. Convincing myself it sounded like it was "letting up" (it wasn't), I opened the door, whipped out my umbrella and ran for it! About 3 seconds into my sprint through the torrential rain, my umbrella flipped inside out and rendered itself completely useless, so that was nice.

I arrived to my very first class looking like I had just stepped out of a fully clothed shower. Not a single inch of me was dry. Thankfully, other classmates also arrived wet....but nobody looked quite as soaked as I felt.

Oh, but it gets better still! My first class that day was Introduction to Public Speaking.
And everyone knows that in a college speech class, the very first day is impromptu introduction speeches.
Yep. That's right.
I gave my first college presentation looking like a wet dog.

Humble pie was served that day.

Thankfully, I can look back and laugh now at how ridiculous that day was!
Hopefully your back to school days go better than mine!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Taking Stock

This post kind of reminds me of Xanga, which was an awesome blog site back in the old days and I was a much more consistent blogger about the drama and angst of teenage me. Thankfully everyone lost their passwords to Xanga around the same time we all got sick of each other's drama and grew up, and so we no longer have those blogs anymore.

Anyway, I read Kate's blog and she posted this and got the idea from this blog, which I've never read. I thought it was cute so I decided to do it, too!

Making : plans to learn how to make kombucha next week with a friend! so looking forward to making our own and experimenting with flavors, and saving a ton of money by not buying kombucha anymore.
Cooking : Chocolate Avocado Cookies...recipe to come
Drinking : water, water, water. because i drink too much coffee, coffee, coffee.
Reading : Trusting God by Jerry Bridges. Highly recommend. And Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple by Dr. David Stewart.
Wanting : for God to change my heart on some things.
Looking : for new opportunities...an open door, a change in course...
Playing : this weird puzzle game on the iPad where you connect colored dots to each other without them crossing or touching. it is boggling.
Wasting :  food is the worst. :-(
Sewing : nothing but I have a sewing machine and half a closet of clothes that are too big so I wish I was a better seamstress!
Wishing : that abs weren't made in the kitchen, because chocolate avocado cookies are in the kitchen.
Enjoying : the long summer days where it is light outside until 9pm. there are only a handful of these days each year and they are my favorite.
Waiting : on The Lord.
Liking : that we very rarely have a need to go to Wal-mart anymore.
Wondering : what the future holds?
Loving : new and old friendships that are becoming so rich

Celebrating : four years of marriage with my love









Hoping : that I can reach a goal I have set for myself before the end of August.
Marvelling : at how smart my dog is.
Needing : a highlight and haircut
Smelling : Lavender...Stress Away...Dragon Time...Peppermint.
Wearing : shorts comfortably for the first time in my life.
Following : all the Young Living convention happenings this week and wishing I could have been there!
Noticing : a lot of hurting people in the world.
Knowing : that my attitude is always a choice
Thinking : about God's sovereignty and providence.
Feeling : sticky.
Bookmarking : www.seedtoseal.com
Opening : hopefully packages from Amazon with my kombucha tea and glass bottles!
Giggling :  with my husband - always.



And a picture of my Stella hugging my arm with both paws. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Make your own...nut butter!

The other day, as I was eating the last of the nut butter in the entire house again, I was complaining to my husband that it feels like we run out of nut butter every 3.5 days. It happens frequently, okay?

We had a short, unproductive conversation about our VitaMix blender and the fact that we were pretty uneducated about what it could do besides make smoothies...

I went to hang out with a friend at the pool for the afternoon, and pretty soon I got a text with a picture of a 3lb bag of almonds and a question: Should I roast these before I make almond butter?

Oh boy.

I honestly didn't know but I guess the answer was yes, because about 30 minutes later I received this picture:


Ta da! Roasted almond butter! 
Literally just almonds freshly roasted and blended in the VitaMix. 
He said it took less than a minute. 
And he watched several YouTube videos before he did it. 

I'm seriously impressed, because this stuff turned out SO creamy and gooey - the perfect consistency that always seems to be lacking in almond butter, am I right? We think the texture has something to do with the fact that the almonds were piping hot when they were blended. 

Either way, he totally did it right because it is delicious. We figured that roughly 3 cups of roasted almonds made a little over 2 cups of almond butter. SUPER inexpensive considering you can usually find almonds on sale in bulk at health food stores.

Next up we are thinking cashew butter. Holy moly. 

Also, to clear up confusion, we had heard that the VitaMix blender 64oz pitcher was for "wet" ingredients and if you wanted to make your own flours or grind nuts, you would need to purchase their "dry" container for blending. I guess we decided to take a risk and used our wet pitcher to make almond butter and it worked out great! 
However, our almonds were very warm and probably a little soft from roasting, so I would not recommend trying to blend up rock hard nuts in your VitaMix without doing a little research first. 
Show some love to the VitaMix, people. 


Coming soon: we are in the process of starting to make all kinds of things on our own...including kombucha, water kefir, and almond milk! I could not be more excited about spending less money at the grocery store and having fruity fizzy probiotic drinks in my fridge! 



Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Granola! (NYT Olive OIl)

A few days ago, some friends of mine on facebook were having a discussion about granola recipes. To my delight, several friends posted their own recipes that were their favorites, and next thing you know I had a hankering for granola.

Usually we don't eat grains at our house. Most grains cause at least a little bit of an inflammatory response in the body, especially if they contain gluten. Even if they don't, they aren't the best and they really don't give you any nutritional benefit -unless you count a blood sugar spike a benefit.

The one grain I am occasionally willing to make an exception for is oats. Not in excess, mind you, but every once in awhile, I say oats are okay. I have made granola only out of nuts before, but good grief that gets expensive.

So when my friend Natalie posted a link to this  New York Times Olive Oil Granola , I was all over it. There are only a couple of recipes that I have blogged about immediately after making, because they were so so good that I wanted to always have the recipe on hand. This blog is kind of my own personal cookbook, btw.



I made a few adaptations to the recipe, and it still turned out fantastic. Here's what I did:

NYT Olive Oil Granola

3 cups whole grain oats (gluten free)
1.5 cups hulled pistachios
1 cup pumpkin seeds hulled (except mine weren't...)
1 cup coconut chips (I used flakes)
3 Tbsp Chia seeds
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger & nutmeg (Recipe calls for cardamom, which I didn't have, but it would be amazing)
Handful of raisins and chopped dried apricots

Preheat oven to 300. I added all the dry ingredients together in my mixer, and then added the liquids on top and mixed well. Reserve the dried fruit until after it is all baked, otherwise they will turn into little rocks that will break your teeth. I baked it all in a jelly roll pain for about 55 mins and stirred every 15. Once it is baked, add your raisins and chopped apricots and stir together. Enjoy!

The recipe I linked above suggests serving this with ricotta cheese and fresh berries (yum). I think it would be delicious with a splash of coconut milk or grass fed cow's milk, or used as a topping with some baked apples! It is calorie dense, but has lots of good stuff in it so it would be a great pre- or post-workout snack to give you energy! Hope you enjoy!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Sunburn Relief with Essential Oils

While in Jamaica earlier last month, we were a little naive when it came to how strong the sun was there. Our first day was cloudy, so we stayed and played in the sun way too long, and paid for it with a pretty bad sunburn. Ouch!

Obviously, I brought my oils with me, so I was prepared with a brand new bottle of Lavender in case a sunburn happened. As it turns out, we definitely needed it and used almost the entire bottle!

I had also packed an aloe vera gel that I had bought from a health food store. Most aloe vera gels in stores have alcohol as their primary ingredient along with a long list of other sketchy ingredients that are hard to pronounce. The one I brought was 99% pure aloe with water and a few other natural ingredients.

Here's what I used to treat my sunburn - and within 24 hours it was no longer painful or pink, and by the end of the week had turned mostly to tan skin!



I would layer those 4 items over the burned areas in that order, topping off with coconut oil to seal in moisture. I reapplied every hour or so the first night, mostly because the peppermint felt so good against sunburned skin! If I had been at home, I would have treated the sunburn first with apple cider vinegar to help take the burn out even more! 

This felt so much better than just slathering on aloe vera gel from the drugstore that makes your sunburn feel worse after a few minutes of relief because it is robbing your skin of moisture. Sunburned skin will become very dry and start to flake anyway, so it's very important to keep it moisturized! Hope this helps you get prepared for the sunny summer days ahead! 

BTW - It's best to avoid sunburn at all, so use this DIY sunscreen recipe and wear a hat and know when to get out of the sun! 

If you are interested in using Young Living Essential Oils to help you eliminate and replace toxic products in your home, and have safe natural alternative remedies, please leave a comment or message me on Facebook, or email me at hbshanks@gmail.com. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

DIY Sunscreen - Really!

Hopefully you have heard by now that most chemical sunscreens found in stores are loaded with chemicals that are toxic to the human body. Sun exposure is a tricky thing, because too much is obviously not good for us. The body has been given a mechanism to tell us when to get out of the sun, because our skin starts to burn after awhile. A little bit of sun exposure is actually really good for us, because our body knows how to convert cholesterol in our skin into vitamin D3, which is a vitamin we all probably need more of in naturally occuring forms like sunshine and food. 

However, we all know that there are times when we will be in the sun all day, whether it's a vacation on a sunny beach, bright days on a ski slope, or a day full of outdoor activities in the summer, there are times when we know we will exceed the limits of "responsible sun exposure" and be in the sun most of the day (willfully or not!). On those days, we need some form of sun block. 

But what to do if you're committed (like me) to not using any toxic chemicals on your skin? 

I have a solution!

I know all these natural homemade things make people super skeptical - for good reason. We don't want to trade something out if it isn't gonna work. However, I have personally tried the following recipe while we were in Jamaica a few weeks ago, and it really does work! 


  • I used an old empty lotion bottle about 8oz, 
  • and filled it with roughly 1 cup melted coconut oil
    (which I melted with my hair dryer. classy, right?)
  • and then I dropped the whole 5ml bottle of carrot seed oil (about 85 drops) into the container, 
  • and added 20 drops of lavender, and then shook well to mix. Ta-da!
Coconut oil melts at 76 degrees, so if it hardened in our hotel room I just set the bottle outside for a few minutes and it liquefied so I could use it.

I purchased a natural sunscreen with zinc oxide in it at a health food store, because I didn't want to mess with mixing the zinc in and wearing a mask, etc. I would put a few swipes of the zinc sunscreen on the most exposed areas (shoulders, face, ears, etc), and then use my homemade sunscreen all over. I feel like using the Carrot-Coconut oil sunscreen helped thin out and spread the zinc (which is extremely hard and gross to rub in!) over my skin much easier. 

When you use this sunscreen, you have to remember to reapply! As usual with oils, early and often is the key! Apply at least 15 mins before sun exposure, and reapply every 1-2 hours, or after being in water.

 The only time I got burned in Jamaica was when it was a cloudy afternoon, and I was naive and thought that I wouldn't get burned if it was overcast. So I didn't reapply sunscreen for about 4 hours, and got nice and pink on my legs, stomach, shoulders, and nose.  I'll share what I did about that sunburn in another post on another day!