Ch-Ch-Ch Chia Pudding

I spent a good many of my childhood holidays pining after the Chia Pets shown in those catchy commercials. Would I find the Chia Sheep, Chia Cat, or coveted Chia Dinosaur under the tree this year? Nope. I sadly never got one.

Now that I am grown and had completely forgot about my chia pet hopes as a child (until writing this post…note-to-self for next holiday), the chia seed has come back into my life in a completely different light. The chia seed is great eats!

The record of chia seeds as a cultural superfood date to Mayan and Aztec times in Mexico. Hailing from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, they are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, calcium, and manganese.

When exposed to moisture, chia seeds make an emollient gel similar to flax seeds and expand to approximately 4x their original size. The gel is a great beauty treatment for the skin, but also is perfect as an all natural pudding! We make almost weekly batches of chia pudding at our house and our two year-old loves to dump in the ingredients and stir it to perfection. It is a fabulous, healthy treat you can feel great about giving to…well…anyone!

Chia Pudding

2 1/2 cups milk of your choice (cow, almond, hemp, coconut, etc)

2-3 Tablespoons of sweetener (agave, brown rice syrup, honey, maple syrup)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped

1/2 cup Chia Seeds

zest of 1/2 lemon (optional)

In a large bowl, whisk together the milk (I like to use a combo of almond and coconut milks), sweetener, and vanilla. Add chia seeds and lemon zest (if using) and stir to combine. Refrigerate approximatey 4 hours or until the mixture has reached a pudding-like consistency, stirring occasionally.

Eat it up! It is even great for a nice, summer breakfast.

Since discovering the benefits and deliciousness of including raw vegan foods into her diet in 2008, Stephanie has been experimenting with “new to her” nuts and seeds with great success. Luckily, her husband and daughter are willing lab rats.

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Summer Fresh: Basil and Bulgar Salad

This recipe is always a total crowd pleaser (and won’t heat up your kitchen). As the tomatoes, basil, and cucumbers are flourishing in ours gardens and at the farmer’s markets, let’s keep it fresh! Bulgar wheat is easily found in the bulk food sections of more natural-type grocery stores. If you are cutting gluten from your diet, try quinoa instead. It is just as delicious!

Basil and Bulgur Salad

Base

1 cup fine bulgur (cracked wheat)
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth or water
2 tbsp. chopped walnuts
1 cup basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
juice of one lemon
salt, to taste

A drizzle of olive oil

Topping

1 large or 2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
1 tbsp. olive oil

1tbsp. red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the vegetable broth to a boil and add the bulgur. Remove from the heat and cover. Let it stand about 20 minutes until wheat is tender and water is absorbed.

Place the walnuts into the food processor and puree. And the basil, garlic, and half of the lemon juice, and process until a coarse paste is formed. Add salt and olive oil  and additional lemon juice to taste. Process one more time. Combine the bulgur with the pesto and toss well. Set aside. (The bulgar/pesto combo can either be served warm or at room temperature…both equally delicious).

For the topping, combine all ingredients and toss to coat.

Divide the bulgar between bowls and top with the cucumber/tomato topping. Eat it all up! (A little secret? It’s vegan too!)

Happy Eating!

 

Stephanie is currently trying to tackle apartment gardening. So far, the leafy greens are rocking the house!

Raw Cherry-Blueberry Cobbler with Coconut Whipped Cream

When it is a bazillian degrees out I can’t bear to cook. So I don’t. I turn to my raw foods cookbooks (or un-cookbooks if you want to get technical) and whip up some surprisingly satisfying fresh and tasty meals all made without so much as turning on the oven or stove. The inspiration for this recipe came from a particularly steamy week in Boston a few weeks ago. Even though I was simmering in my own juices while giggling at my toddler who was sitting naked on the couch eating a popsicle, I still wanted something sinful for dessert that night. A little chop chop and zip zip of the food processor and I was done. Tasty, decadent, and nutritious (yes, no empty calories here!). It was a hit!

Raw Cherry-Blueberry Cobbler with Coconut Whipped Cream

Serves 8

Filling:

2 pounds (about 8 cups) cherries (pitted and chopped) and blueberries (any ratio of the two fruits will do…whatever makes you happy)

2 Tablespoons raw honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Crust:

1 cup pitted dates

3/4 cup nuts (I like a combo of walnuts and almonds)

1/3 cup chia seeds*

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)

1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

*if you don’t have chia seeds on hand, add 1/4 cup more nuts

To make the filling, combine the cherries, blueberries, honey, and vanilla in a large bowl. Mix well to coat. Set aside. To make the crust, combine the nuts, chia seeds, salt, and spices (if using) in the food processor and pulse into coarse pieces. Add the dates and process until mixed well. If you are using one, large serving dish, sprinkle half off the crust in the bottom of the dish, scoop in the fruit mixture and then top the fruit with the remaining crust. My favorite way to eat this treat? Layer it parfait-style in individual glasses and top with the Coconut whipped cream…

Coconut Whipped Cream

1 can full fat coconut milk

powdered sugar to taste

Place the unopened can of coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight or for 8 hours. Put your feet up. A magical thing happens. When you open the chilled can you will find that all of the creamy coconut has risen to the top. Skim it off and place it in a bowl (add the liquid below the cream to your next smoothie). Whip the creamy coconut with a whisk or electric mixer until stiff peaks form. If you desire, add a bit of powdered sugar for increased sweetness.  A perfect way to top off your cobbler!

Enjoy!

Stephanie’s new obsession is Coconut Whipped Cream. After her daughter goes to bed, she often finds herself rummaging through the fridge for a rogue can of coconut milk she may have forgotten about and that she can subject to the mixer. Lately, she has come up snake eyes.

Carnival: Travel and Vacation

Welcome to the June edition of Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Vacation and Travel.

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by The Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic Parenting. This month our participants are sharing ideas, inspiration and information on travel and vacations! Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Travel Goddesses! It has been too many weeks. It just so happens that the last installation of my Traveling Light with Kids series coincided with this wonderful Carnival dedicated to Travel and Vacation hosted by Authentic Parenting. The plus? Not only will you get my tips for traveling light, but you will also get travel tips and stories from scads of other family road (and sky) warriors. Bonus!

Without further ado…

Traveling Light with Your Toddler

So far I have given you some juicy tips about efficiently packing for yourself, lowering your overall traveling stress level, and traveling light with an infant. If you missed those posts, you can check them out here, here, and here. Now, let’s talk toddlers!

Toddlers are totally fantastic. I wake up every morning excited to see what will come out of our daughter’s mouth or what new skill she will master. They are high energy little learning sponges. These characteristics, while endearing, can make traveling a bit of a challenge. When your toddler is used to spending days at the park, exploring at the library, or playing at home and with friends, the concept of staying in one place for an extended period of time during your journey can be a bit of a challenge. Little things can make all the difference. How can you travel light, but still have all the things you need at your fingertips to pack a heavyweight punch of enjoyment for your toddler? Try these tips…

Tip 1: Smart Snacks

Is there anyone who doesn’t like special snacks on a trip? I do. And your toddler will especially appreciate them. They occupy time and really taste good. My one go-to snack of choice for airplanes and car-trips alike is freeze-dried fruit from Trader Joe’s (the strawberries are great!). They are physically light, calorically light, healthy, delicious, and fun to crunch. I find these are particularly useful on airplanes during the dreaded “we have boarded but are still waiting for everyone else to get to their seats” times. They are also stellar upon take-off and landing to keep your little one’s ears free and clear from the altitude changes. So, dig in! Just make sure to check to see if your brand has added sugar and consider making them an exciting treat reserved only for your travels.

Tip 2: The animal pillow/blanket combo

One of the marvels of plush toy innovations is the animal pillow/blanket combo. The belly of the animal is actually a blanket that has been rolled tight and has had the animal velcroed around it. It’s great for naps, chilly planes/cars, and something familiar from home that can become an instant travel buddy. Another plus? They are inexpensive. We got ours at Costco for $7. It has been worth every penny. Worried about space? Simply slip a carabiner around the neck and attach it to your carry-on bag. This is bang for your luggage buck!

Tip 3: Ditch the Stroller

You are the proud owner of a mover and groover. Don’t worry about bringing a stroller. Its heavy, bulky, and your toddler will most likely want to walk anyways. Why fuss with extra “stuff?” Traveling by plane? Don’t forget your Ergo- or Boba-style carrier for those times when your toddler love wants to be carried through the terminal and your arms are full. At this stage, they especially think its fun to ride (and fall asleep) on your back! Driving? Stick your carrier in the trunk for impromptu museum visits and hikes. They are great and all-terrain!

Tip 4: Simple Toys

If you are adventuring, the change-of-scenery is like one, big, new toybox. The bonus for you is that you can keep the toys you bring with you very simple and light. Pack a small bag for plane, train, or automobile with a Magnadoodle, stickers (this is a must), paper, and a few books. Voila! Long-time entertainment. Also consider making your toy choices unique to only the times you are traveling…it makes it all the more exciting.

Tip 5: Invest in a travel potty

Sometimes, you’ve just gotta go. For those toddlers that are already good-to-go in this area or for those still in training, this can be a total stress reliever for you and them! My current favorite is the Potette Plus 2-in-1 by Kalencom. For about $15 you can invest in a travel potty that doubles as a stand-alone and a seat insert all while fitting into a medium-sized handbag. Awesome! It brings me peace of mind knowing that I can attend to her needs whether we are hiking on the trail (please observe pack in/pack out rules), in a busy airport, or in the car without a bathroom in sight.

Tip 6: Seek out some reversible clothing

Did your strapping boy get a little too fiesty with the ketchup at lunch? Wipe off the big chunks and turn his jacket to the other side! I stumbled upon the joys of reversible children’s clothing by accident when I bought a cute spring jacket for our daughter at a consignment shop this year. We have since invested in more reversible pieces that we bring with us whenever we travel. With two sides in one, you can pack less and be less stressed about doing laundry and changing clothes during the day. When you show up at Grandma’s house for special Sunday dinner, she will be none the wiser that junior has strawberries smashed down the front of his shirt (because it’s on the inside).

Travel light and safe family road warriors, and check out my other blog posts (see above) for additional traveling light tips! Travel is an amazing experience for folks of any age, but especially our little ones. The more you travel, the more they will grow to love and appreciate the diversity of our Mother Earth. It is a gift that will live inside of them forever. That is pretty incredible! So, get out there and get going!

Stephanie is a seasoned traveler who refuses to think that owning a home is the American Dream. There are far too many amazing places to live and experience! Someday she hopes to travel to New Caledonia off the eastern coast of Australia to experience as close to what it was like to live in the Jurassic Period 160 million years ago as she can get!

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APBC - Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic ParentingVisit The Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in the next Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Traveling with a Sick Child — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares her tips and tricks for traveling with a sick child based on firsthand experience.
  • Educational Travel | Pennsylvania, New Mexico &; LouisianaThat Mama Gretchen relives three childhood trips while outlining a plan for future homeschooling adventures.
  • Babymoon: A Cruise in Europe — Bianca from The Pierogie Mama writes about the babymoon that she and her husband took to Europe, via a week long cruise through the Western Mediterranean..
  • Travelling with our little oneStoneageparent describes what travelling means to her family, exploring the link between attachment parenting and travelling
  • I Just Can’t Do It — aNonyMous at Radical Ramblings describes the nightmare it is trying to travel with her daughter, and how for the moment day-trips to local areas will have to suffice.
  • Carnival: Travel and VacationMacgyvermama rounds out her “Travel Light with Babies and Kids” series with some juicy tips on how to travel light and stress free with your moving and grooving Toddler!
  • Traveling: Adventure, Nature, Family — Brenna at Almost All The Truth shares her hopes and fears for her Great Summer Camping Road Trip with her three small children.
  • Frustration Free Flying with Kids — Based on her extensive experience flying with her family, Laura at Authentic Parenting shares tips on how to make the trip fun for you and your children.
  • 12 Awesome Toys To Bring Along When Traveling With ChildrenAriadne over at Positive Parenting Connection is sharing about toys her children love and playful ways to use them that make travel with children more fun and less stressful for the whole family.

NonPetroleum Jelly

Photo credit: D. Kuster 2009

This is the only balm that you will ever need.

I wish that I could tell you that this is my recipe. It’s not. Instead, it is one of the ingenious concoctions of Annie Berthold-Bond (www.anniebbond.com), a best-selling author of five green living books. I came across her book, Better Basics for the Home, while I was registering for our baby shower. I instantly ordered it. It was one of the best $13 I have ever spent. It is truly a labor of love.

I made a batch of NonPetroleum Jelly when our daughter had a bout of severely dry skin at the beginning of Winter. Other lotions and creams wouldn’t touch it. NonPetroluem Jelly did the trick after one application. Safe, effective, and cheap…we had pretty much hit the jackpot. Over the course of using the first batch, my husband and I started using it on ourselves as well. We used in on our faces, lips, body, scars, cuts, dry patches, bug bites. It seemed to work on anything. I like to think of it akin to Windex in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. This balm nourishes through olive oil, protects through beeswax, and preserves through grapefruit seed extract. Try it!

NonPetroleum Jelly by Annie Berthold-Bond

2 ounces olive oil (more oil to make it less thick)

1/2 ounce beeswax

12 drops grapefruit seed extract

Combine the oil and beeswax in a double broiler and place over medium heat until the wax is melted. Remove from heat, add the grapefruit seed extract, and mix with the hand or electric mixer until creamy.

Prep time: 25 minutes

Shelf Life: 1 year

Storage: Glass jar with a screw top

If you are not sure about using the grapefuit seed extract, this is a natural preservative. Add it if you plan on storing the balm for a long time, as the oil can go rancid. I have never used it because the batches that I make never hang around more than a few weeks.

For fun, let’s do a price breakdown! For my balm I use Trader Joe’s Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil (33.8 fl oz for $5.99), a block on beeswax from Joann’s Fabrics and Crafts (1 lb for $6.99 after coupon). The ingredients for one batch of NonPetroleum Jelly costs: $0.35 for the olive oil + $0.21 for the beeswax for a Grand Total of $0.56. Not bad! If we add in the cost of 12 drops of grapefruit seed extract we would add on approximately $0.03.

Choose your favorite ingredients and start mixing!

Stephanie loves making her own skincare products, not only because they are better for her skin-type, but also because she is a total cheapo.

Carnival: Embracing Your Birth Experience.

Welcome to the June 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Embracing Your Birth Experience

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about at least one part of their birth experience that they can hold up and cherish.

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Photo credit: S. Kuster 2010

“Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity”

-from the Tao Te Ching as translated by Stephen Mitchell

Giving birth is extraordinary. On the ever-changing evolutionary tree, it is one of the characteristics that binds us Mammals together. We are different. We are wonderful. On the moment that new life emerges from our womb, we can connect, suckle, soothe, and bond. There is no time for sitting on the nest. There is no room for laying eggs only to go on our way to leave them to the fate of the world. Each mammal from the tiniest mouse to the largest elephant shares a kinship in live birth and we each have our own birth story to tell.

Humans have a special place in the mammalian world. Over the course of a few million years (2Ma to present) there have been approximately 12 species of human prior to modern Homo sapiens sapiens (i.e., you and me!). How do we know this? Paleoanthropologists (the scientists that study human evolution) have examined prehistoric skeletal specimens from around the world and painstakingly put the pieces together on how humans have evolved through time. Each new skeletal find yields exciting additions to the always-developing human story. As we look at the course of human evolution from 2 million years ago to the moment that you are reading this post, there are two characteristics that stand out above all others concerning the birth process: increase in brain size and the narrowing of the pelvis.

What a combo! Homo sapiens sapiens have huge brains compared to their body size (and our brains are getting bigger!). If you look around you, this is major plus. Our technological advances are beyond compare. We have culture, computers (and, thus, The Other Baby Blog), and can fly to the moon. However, if we look at our skeletons, a problem begins to emerge. Whereas our brains have gotten larger (and, thus, our skulls as well), our pelves have not. As humans began to walk upright (on two legs), the mechanical changes required a narrowing of the pelvis (for more information on the Obstetrical Dilemma click here) for more efficient locomtion. However, if you cannot fit a fetus’ head through the birth canal, you cannot give birth (until recently, of course), and species population suffers.

The pelves of other mammals are large in comparison to the head size of the emerging baby, whereas human baby heads completely fill and expand the birth canal an astounding amount. The message is clear. Compared to the rest of the mammal world, humans have a painful and sometimes dangerous disadvantage for giving birth successfully.

But, we do it! And we do it with vigor and a primal excitement unlike any other we will ever experience. There is no perfect birth. All labor is work. It’s hard. We do our work as the Tao Te Ching suggests. No matter what happens during the journey of birth, whether you manage completely unaided or have to receive an epidural or cesearean section, we all strive towards one outcome: a healthy baby and a healthy momma at the other end. Be flexible! We are all in the trenches!

Wonderful women! Stand back from your work and embrace what you have accomplished. I have. Thank the people who have helped you through your birthing journey. You and I are now part of a long lineage of Homo sapiens who have taken part in an extraordinary (and anatomically amazing!) feat. And it feels amazing.

As you hold your newborn baby, put your toddler to sleep, or smile at your teenager from across the dinner table, it gives you a chance every day to stand back from your work and feel the serenity of what you have accomplished. Birth is just the beginning.

Stephanie’s favorite field seasons were spent at the Olorgesailie prehistoric site in the Great Rift Valley of Kenya. She studied the geology of an ancient lake littered with stone tools created by our ancestor, Homo Erectus, about 1 million years ago. 

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


5 Tips For Traveling Light and Stress-Free with Your Infant

Photo Credit: Dan Kuster, 2009

Have you booked your Spring and Summer travel, God(dess)? Don’t be scared, especially if you are lucky enough to have a beautiful, gurgling infant. My mom, in her infinite wisdom, gave me an awesome piece of advice when our daughter was born. She said, “Travel now while all you need is a boob and a diaper!” (or in our case, some boobies,  a baby potty, and some back-up cloth diapers). I think at the time I rolled my eyes, overwhelmed with 24/7 nursing, very little sleep, and the obligatory “peak crying” at 46 weeks.

However, as the purple haze of the first few weeks of mommyhood lifted, we began to plan trips on planes and automobiles, and it was actually fun! Most likely your first trip will be to a grandparent’s house. It is a great place to get your sea legs and adventure more from there. Please enjoy these tips for traveling with your infant…and GET GOING!

Tip 1: Bring your nursing pillow.

The breast idea in the entire world! When my husband first suggested this for our first flight from Boston to Iowa with our daughter, I balked at the idea. Seriously? That was not my idea of traveling light. But once I removed the cover and stuffed it with baby’s clothing, cloth diapers, and burp cloths I realized how brilliant this was. Not only did I have everything I needed at hand, but also had a comfy place for our daughter to sleep during the flight. The result? I nursed her during take-off, she fell asleep for the entire flight, and I got to snuggle her without getting an arm cramp while reading a book. Win win win!

Tip 2: Ditch the stroller, bring the carrier.

Strollers take up a lot of space. Babies are light and love to be close to you. Bring your carrier! You can literally sashay through the airport, adventure forever through museums, go on long walks with grandma, and sooth her if you need to. A bonus? They are all-terrain!

Choose a carrier that is correct for your babe’s development. A Moby and Baby K’tan are great for very young babies (and pack down small too). For those with more head and torso control, I recommend the Boba or Ergo style carriers.

Tip 3:  Don’t forget the duct tape!

Macgyvermama approved! Duct tape can fix anything. Got a hole in your muffler during a road trip? No problem. Need a prom dress? Whip one up! However, a roll of duct tape is also a cheap (and light) way to baby-proof where you are staying away from home. If your babe isn’t mobile yet you don’t have to worry about this, but if you have a crawler/cruiser on your hands, duct tape is just the thing you need to blast out some DIY socket covers in the hotel room. You can also use it to tie up loose curtain and electrical cords, keep drawers closed, and patch sharp corners. Remember, less stress = more enjoyment. (Just make sure it doesn’t take the paint off the wall).

Tip 4: Organize baby’s clothes

Babies are small. They have small shirts, small socks, and small pants. When packing for your child (after you have packed your suitcase, God(dess)) use small, reusable drawstring bags (or gallon Ziplock bags if you prefer) to organize clothing. One outfit (shirt, pants, socks, etc) goes in each bag. This avoids overpacking and reduces the barrier to getting baby dressed (or re-dressed throughout the day). Whoever is with baby at the time of a wardrobe change can simply pick a bag without disturbing Papa from his nap or Momma from her soak in the bathtub.

Tip 5: Leave space for pottying and/or changing

I snuck this one in to see if you were following the “Travel God(dess) 75% Rule” from our last travel post. If you have followed the rule, you already have plenty of space! Traveling by car? Leave space either in the backseat or trunk to comfortably potty and/or change your little world traveler. It is less stressful than trying to dodge dirty truckstop bathrooms with your bundle of joy. Traveling by plane? Good luck. Most planes have itty bitty changing tables and most seat inserts fit on airplane toilets. Just take a deep breath (or six) and imagine yourself in a Saturday Night Live skit.

Continue practicing Elimination Communication as much as you can while you are traveling. You will gain a lot more space by not having to pack as many diapers and a little potty/bowl is an easy thing to bring with you. You may be surprised how your little babe rises to the occasion of travel!

Worth a mention: If you are planning a trip overseas with your baby, call the airlines and reserve a flying bassinet. Baby not only can sleep in it, but it makes an excellent “play space” where baby can sit and admire her surroundings.

Next up, Traveling Light with Your Toddler! Join us in two weeks. Happy travels!

Stephanie’s daughter took her first road trip to see her Grandmother in Maryland at 4 months old. It ended up being an 11 hour trip full of traffic jams, the Jersey Turnpike, and nursing escapades. She was a complete rockstar and hardly fussed. That was more than she could say for her parents.