Vitacost Haul Video: Gluten-Free food, supplements, natural home care & personal care items

*I purchased all of these items and receive no compensation from Vitacost for this post, although affiliate links may be included. What follows are my honest opinions*

If you read my post about Barganic Alerts you know that I am really passionate about making natural, green-living choices accessible to anyone who desires to make them. Throughout my evolution as a parent and as a person, one of my goals has been to seek out healthier foods, which for us includes prioritizing organic foods, avoiding GMOs, and respecting our gluten and dairy sensitivities. This can add a lot to our food cost bottom line, but it is well worth it to me; better health is priceless.

In addition to what we put in our bodies, I am also mindful of what we put into our home environment via cleaning and household products, and what we put on our bodies through cosmetic and personal care items. This week, research out of University of California-Berkeley demonstrated that by swapping out just a few personal care products for ones with safer ingredients, the chemical body burden of teen girls decreased significantly within a period of a few days. This powerful finding only serves to reinforce for me the importance of prioritizing healthy products for my family.

The desire to buy the best food, supplements, home, and personal care products that we can afford has moved me to research the resources available to us in our community and through the interwebs to stretch our dollars. There are a few online retailers that I have found who offer very competitive pricing on high-quality natural, organic, and food allergy-friendly food items. Vitacost is a retailer that I shop with often for supplements, personal and home care items, and nonperishable foods. Not only is the value very good, but they offer an extensive range of products that are not always available to me locally.

Recently I got an email from Vitacost promoting a 15% off any order of $100 or more. This was the motivation that I needed to place an order. I also went through ebates and earned an additional 4% off of my purchase. You can see the complete haul video above. A select few of the items that I ordered were excluded from the promotional offer, but I still found the Vitacost price to be better that what I could find elsewhere.

I encourage you to do your own research to see how pricing compares to what is available near you. To give a sense of the prices during this deal, I have provided a sample of my purchase prices below. The promotion is no longer active, but Vitacost frequently offers various deals. You can sign up for their emails to be alerted of sales.

Prices are before tax and do not reflect the additional rebate received through ebates. For ease of comparison, I have converted pricing for “bulk” items into price per ounce or per pound as appropriate.

Xlear Spry gum 600 count: $33.99
Herbatint Permanent Haircolour Gel: $6.79
Ancient Secrets Bath Salts-2 lbs.: $7.51
Biokleen Automatic Dish Powder-32 oz.: $6.54
Ener-G GF pretzels: $2.16/bag (8 oz.)
Kinnikinnick GF graham crackers $3.29/box (8 oz.)

So what do you think, are these prices a good value for your area? Do you have any healthy food and personal care resources to share?

If you are new to Vitacost, this link will save you $10 off of your first order.

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Our Gluten Free Chinese New Year Hot Pot Celebration

Crunchy Parent Gluten Free Hot Pot for Chinese New Year

This past week seems to have been a holiday extravaganza. People all around have been celebrating the Lunar New Year, Mardi Gras, and preparing for Valentine’s Day. Throw in the Superbowl (a holiday to some, I suppose) and it’s really been quite a festive week.

I’d mentioned the other day that our family had a fun hot pot dinner last weekend to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year. The meal tradition was introduced to us by some close friends several years ago. It was a great way to bring families together, learn about another culture and their traditions, and have some fun (and some delicious food). It also works to our advantage that the hot pot meal is very easily adapted for gluten free eating, since it consists primarily of broth, vegetables, proteins, and rice.

According the Wikipedia the hot pot meal has been around in some form for over 1000 years. For those unfamiliar, hot pot is like an East Asian version of fondue; dishes of raw meats, seafood, noodles, and vegetables await cooking in a communal pot. When enjoying hot pot, the foods are cooked in a boiling broth and fondue forks are replaced with small metal baskets like these. The cooked food is often enjoyed with a bowl of rice and any of a number of dipping sauces. The added beauty of hot pot is that the broth can be a mild or spicy soup base whose flavor is further enhanced by the ingredients as they cook in the broth. At the end of the meal when our bellies are all stuffed full, we add many of the remaining ingredients to the pot to make a rich and hearty soup to enjoy as leftovers in the days ahead.

In past years, we have had hot pot as a large feast with one or two other families, each bringing a portion of the meal components. Since moving, this was my first year doing the dinner on my own. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed taking it all on alone. As a result, I chose to focus my efforts on the broth, raw ingredients, and dessert. I opted to purchase prepared sauces and appetizers. I got lucky. Our local grocery store must have been celebrating the Lunar New Year as well because they had the whole range of San-J gluten-free, non-GMO Asian cooking sauces on sale as well as gluten free dumplings and egg rolls by Feel Good Foods that were also dairy-free, non-gmo, and contained no msg. Experience has taught us that the meal is far more enjoyable if the children have some prepared foods to eat while they wait for their other foods to start cooking in the hot pot, so these egg rolls and dumplings were perfect.

Before we could think of doing any cooking though, I had to purchase a pot. I mention this here because it was a bit of a task to find a pot that I felt comfortable using. Many electric skillets or hot pots (also referred to as Shabu Shabu pots) have a non-stick coating on the inside. For a multitude of health reasons, I do not use non-stick cookware. I am also dubious about ceramic-coated cookware as well after hearing discouraging information about its safety across manufacturers.

I wanted to buy a stainless steel pot that was going to be large and deep enough to work for a hot pot application and be affordable. After spending the better part of a day researching my options, I purchased this pot. It came with a non-stick grill insert, but I won’t be using that, and the pot part is all stainless steel. I worried that it would be too small to use for a group larger than our family, but I reasoned that if it worked well and we wanted to invite others to join us in future years, I could purchase a second pot if need be.

I spent the days leading up to our meal gathering ingredients from local grocery stores, and then Rich made a quick stop at a large Asian specialty grocer to get the remaining ingredients. We had a range of vegetables including scallions, spinach, bok choi, broccoli, carrots, and various mushrooms. I also purchased organic firm tofu, mung bean “glass” noodles, sticky rice cakes, thinly sliced pork belly, small crabs, calamari, and added some thinly sliced boneless chicken breasts and beef sirloin. In addition, we had bowls of minced cilantro, garlic, and ginger to toss into the pot or to spice up our rice bowls as desired.

Children anxiously await the start of the hot pot meal.

Children anxiously await the start of the hot pot meal.

The kids were so excited for the meal to begin. We got the pot going and I added the broth that I had made from simmering homemade chicken bone broth with fresh ginger, garlic, bay leaf, and some star anise. Each child was given a bowl of brown rice and a small dish for dipping sauces. They also were given two cooking baskets a piece.

Broth in and pot on as we prepare to feast.

Broth in and pot on as we prepare to feast.

We had a lot of fun cooking our foods, trying out the different flavors from the sauces and fishing escaped bits of food out of the pot.

The rice bowls begin to fill with the cooked food.

The rice bowls begin to fill with the cooked food.

The chicken dumplings and vegetable egg rolls that we tried received raves, and the Asian barbecue sauce from San-J earned the highest overall votes as the favorite condiment. All things considered, I still wish that I had time to make some steamed Asian meatballs and some sauces of my own, but there will be other years to do that.

Green vegetables for close family ties; noodles and sticky rice cakes for prosperity and longevity.

Green vegetables for close family ties; noodles and sticky rice cakes for prosperity and longevity.

During our meal we talked about the symbolism of the various foods that we were enjoying. We discussed the tradition of the Chinese New Year Celebration and how it has evolved over time. We talked about the Year of the Monkey and the concept of a Zodiac year versus a Zodiac month. The topics prompted a lot of family conversation and cultural appreciation.

All full. Time to make the soup!

All full. Time to make the soup!

We ended the meal by scooping portions of the remaining ingredients into the pot to make soup for the next day.

Red bean butter mochi cake about to be devoured.

Red bean butter mochi cake about to be devoured.

Finally, we wrapped up the evening with delicious, sticky slices of a gluten and dairy-free version of a red bean mochi butter cake. I will share that recipe in a post to follow soon. Alina has already requested it as her birthday cake this year.

Although we very much missed sharing the celebration with friends as we had done in year’s past, I was glad to broaden the kids’ horizons and create some fun family memories around a happy kitchen table. The leftover soup warmed our bellies throughout the week, and as I write this a week later, I do it with a smile on my face.

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Haul Video: Vitacost Natural, Organic, Gluten-Free Food

*I purchased all of these items and receive no compensation from Vitacost for this post, although post may include affiliate links. What follows are my honest opinions*

If you read my post about Barganic Alerts you know that I am really passionate about making natural, green-living choices accessible to anyone who desires to make them. Throughout my evolution as a parent and as a person, one of my goals has been to seek out healthier foods, which for us includes prioritizing organic foods, avoiding GMOs, and respecting our gluten and dairy sensitivities. This can add a lot to our food cost bottom line, but it is well worth it to me; better health is priceless.

The desire to buy the best food that we can afford has moved me to research the resources available to us in our community and through the interwebs to stretch our dollars. There are a few online retailers that I have found who offer very competitive pricing on high-quality natural, organic, and food allergy-friendly food items. Vitacost is a retailer that I shop with often for supplements, personal and home care items, and nonperishable foods. Not only is the value very good, but they offer an extensive range of products that are not always available to me locally.

Recently I got an email from Vitacost promoting a 20% off all food and beverages sale. This was the motivation that I needed to place a big order. I also went through ebates and earned an additional 4% off of my purchase. You can see the complete haul video above.

There were a few items that I bought that were not included in the sale. Specifically, the raw, organic honey was actually part of a buy one, get one 50% off special, making it an even better deal. The Spry gum was not part of any additional sale beyond the regular Vitacost price, but we needed it and by piggybacking it onto this order, it shipped free.

In the video I talk about a few things that I wanted to link to to if you wished to learn more. First, I mentioned that I store my bulk grains in large food-grade plastic buckets with Gamma Seal lids. They provide an air-tight seal that keeps out moisture, critters, and prolongs freshness. They are a workout to get on the bucket at first, but after the initial set-up they are very easy to open and close. I love them.

I also mentioned a few recipes in the video that I make using some of the products that I ordered. These include my versatile gluten free flour mix, my favorite green smoothie, and my gluten free/dairy free banana bread with hemp seeds and chocolate chips.

I encourage you to do your own research to see how pricing compares to what is available near you. To give a sense of the prices during this deal, I have provided a sample of my purchase prices below. The promotion is no longer active, but Vitacost frequently offers various deals. You can sign up for their emails to be alerted of sales.

Prices are before tax and do not reflect the additional rebate received through ebates. For ease of comparison, I have converted pricing for “bulk” items into price per ounce or per pound as appropriate.

Lundberg Organic short grain brown rice $1.72/lb.
Arrowhead Mills organic brown rice flour: $1.52/lb.
Vitacost potato starch $1.60/lb.
Vitacost tapioca starch $1.60/lb.
Nutiva organic raw hemp seeds: $0.60/ounce
Glutino GF crackers: $2.74/box (4.4 oz.)
Ener-G GF pretzels: $2.39/bag (8 oz.)
Kinnikinnick GF graham crackers $3.29/box (8 oz.)

So what do you think, are these prices a good value for your area? If you want to give Vitacost a try, you can save $10 off your first purchase through this link. Do you have any healthy food resources to share?

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Recipe: Gluten Free Pumpkin Spice Aebleskiver

Crunchy Parent Gluten Free Dairy Freen Pumpkin Spice Aebleskiver Recipe

I love autumn and all of warm, rustic colors and flavors. I am grasping to these last few days of fall before the winter solstice rolls around in the weeks ahead; folding a bit of autumn into our lives here and there as I can.

One of our family traditions in to make a big batch of gluten free pancakes from scratch every weekend. Rich generally wields the spatula for these breakfasts. On occasion the kids will ask me to break out the Aebleskiver pan and make various iterations of the Danish filled pancake balls. We love filling them with chocolate chips, homemade jam, or leaving them unfilled and dipping in cinnamon sugar or drizzling with syrup.

The November Raw Spice Bar envelope included a packet of fresh, custom blended pumpkin pie spice and a recipe for round pumpkin ricotta donuts. The recipe was not a good fit for our food sensitivity needs but something about the shape of the donut reminded me of aebleskivers. I happened to have some leftover canned pumpkin around from another recipe and thus, gluten free, dairy free pumpkin aebleskivers were born. They were delicious stuffed with a sprinkle of chocolate chips in the center, but the hands down favorite was a spoonful of pumpkin butter in the middle. If I’d had apple butter around at the time, that would have been my next experimental combo. They were perfect little bites of fall.

The fresh, flavorful spices from Raw Spice Bar were delicious in this recipe, but you can substitute in any Pumpkin Pie spice blend or your own combination of autumnal spices such as cinnamon, clove, allspice, and ginger. You will need an Aebleskiver pan to make this recipe. I highly recommend using a cast iron pan (I have nothing nice to say about Teflon or its toxic, non-stick, chemical friends). I found mine at a thrift store, but Amazon or kitchenware stores should have them as well. To turn the ableskivers, I often opt for using bamboo and wood skewers. I happened not to have any on hand so toothpicks worked out in a pinch.

 

Ingredients:

2 c. milk substitute

1 T. lemon juice

1 1/2 T. coconut oil, melted (plus additional for frying aebleskivers)

2/3 c. canned pumpkin puree

2 eggs

2 c. gluten free flour

1 T. Pumpkin Pie Spice

1 t. baking soda

1/2 t. baking powder

1/2 t. salt

1 T. sugar

goodies for filling aebleskivers such as pumpkin butter or apple butter, chocolate chips, jam or preserves

Directions:

  1.  In a bowl mix together flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
  2. In a second bowl, blend together milk substitute, lemon juice, coconut oil, pumpkin puree, and egg until well mixed.
  3. Add liquids to dry ingredients and stir until evenly mixed. IMG_3840
  4. Warm up your aebleskiver pan over medium heat. Brush the inside cavities of the pan with coconut oil to coat.
  5. Fill cavities approximately 1/2 full with batter.
  6. Quickly top with a dollop of your chosen filling, trying to keep filling in the center.

    Pumpkin butter fills the center.

    Pumpkin butter fills the center. (Overfilled the batter on these a bit-oops).

  7. Add another small dollop of batter to the top, covering your filling.
  8. When bottom browned (approximately 1-2 minutes,) carefully flip the aebleskiver and cook the second side until done. pumpkin spice aebleskiver recipe gluten and dairy free
  9. Serve warm aebleskivers sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, powdered sugar, or syrup and enjoy!
warm and gooey pumpkin butter center-yum!

warm and gooey pumpkin butter center-yum!

 

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The Halloween Fairy Spills the Beans: Resources for Natural Halloween Candies & Food Allergy Safe Treats

Crunchy Parent-Where to easily find treats for a natural, food allergy safe Halloween

As I recently mentioned, our children work in partnership with the Halloween Fairy every year. The kids go Trick-or-Treating and gather candy throughout the neighborhood. At the end of the evening they each get to keep any non-edible Halloween goodies as well as select 5-10 pieces of their Halloween loot to enjoy over the days ahead. They have to avoid their specific allergens, but we allow them to save candies even if they contain food dyes or artificial flavors, genetically modified sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc., which of course is in basically all conventional candy. I cringe a bit inside, but it’s about finding balance so that is the route that we take right now.

When the selections are complete, the kids gather up the remaining candy and leave it in their collection buckets for the Halloween Fairy. During the night, the fairy comes and takes the candy, to be distributed later to children who did not get to go Trick or Treating on Halloween. In exchange for the candies left, the Halloween Fairy always delights our kids with very special sweets and treats that are free of artificial dyes and flavors, and do not contain the allergens that each child avoids. She also gives them small gifts that are non-edible.

The children are always so excited to wake up in the morning on November 1st and see what treasures await them. The Halloween Fairy seems to know some really esoteric and amazing Halloween treats. I was fortunate enough to have a chance to interview the Halloween Fairy and she gave me the exclusive scoop as to where to find some of her favorite natural and food allergy-friendly Halloween treats. I went and toured some of the local spots myself, and am excited to share my finds with you. The Halloween Fairy even told me about some online resources for those who prefer to shop online.

We also talked about a lot of great non-edible gifts that she brings to delight children too. I will post a second interview recap in a couple of days with those ideas. For today, we’ll consider this a celebration of the edible abundance that is Halloween to many children, with gratitude that the Halloween Fairy makes that aspect healthier and safer for many children.

Just before we get to that, she asked me to mention that she takes care to consider our children’s food needs which include sensitivities and allergies of varying degrees to gluten, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, and sesame depending on the child. What she brings my children may not meet the needs of your children in terms of ingredients or manufacturing purity. Always read labels and consider the needs of your child before adding it to your approved list for the Halloween Fairy. Now, on with the show….

Probably the most widely accessible natural candy resource that the Halloween Fairy mentioned is the local drugstore. On a recent trip to Walgreens, I spotted one of our longtime-favorites, natural candy brand YumEarth (formerly Yummy Earth). We fell in love with their products back when all they made were delicious lollipops. They have since expanded the line to include gummy candies, jelly beans, sour gummies, hard candies, and licorice. All of their candies are free from most common allergens, organic, and GMO-free. They do not use any artificial colors or flavors. Moreover, their flavors are a blend of the more unique (e.g., tangerine/mango, blueberry, pomegranate) and the classics (e.g., grape, cherry, strawberry). All are delicious. My local Walgreens carried a selection of their line that I know would be a happy find on Halloween morning.

YumEarth sighting at Walgreens.

YumEarth sighting at Walgreens.

If the drugstore selection leaves you wanting for more, the local Target store also carries YumEarth products. They are even 10% off in my Target Cartwheel app right now, and Target had some really cute Halloween-themed YE products. In addition, Target carries other natural candy options including Surf Sweets (see below).

Depending on the dietary needs of the children in your home, Target offers many choices. Our local Super Target carries Unreal chocolate products. The brand started as a response to the artificial ingredients found in common candies like M&Ms. They tweaked the concept, making their candies fair trade and free of GMOs and gluten. They also only use natural color in their candies, and leave out any artificial flavors. Their signature “chocolate drops” contain dairy, but a number of their candies, such as their dark chocolate peanut butter cups are both gluten and dairy free. Check their website for store locations. Not all Target stores carry their line.

Justin's organic peanut butter cups and nut butters at Target.

Justin’s organic peanut butter cups and nut butters at Target.

If nuts are okay for your child, Target also carries a selection of organic, GMO-free, products from Justin’s, including their dark chocolate peanut butter cups, and single-serve sized squeeze packs of sweet nut butters like maple or vanilla almond butter or chocolate hazelnut butter. Justin’s even makes snack packs of their nut butters with gluten free pretzels for dipping.

BarkThins at Target. Yum!

BarkThins at Target. Yum!

Another win for the chocolate lovers, Target has a selection of snacking chocolates from BarkThins. We absolutely adore their blueberry quinoa variety which does not contain any gluten, dairy, or nut ingredients. BarkThin’s products are also Fair Trade and free from GMOs.

Gluten free granola bars at Target. Some contain nuts, some do not.

Gluten free granola bars at Target. Some contain nuts, some do not.

Of course, not all sweet treats need to be candy to be enjoyed for Halloween. Target has a host of dye free and food allergy friendly granola bars and cookies, as well as dried organic fruits, and delicious toasted coconut chips free from GMOs.

Organic banana chips and coconut chips at Target. Puts some natural sweetness into Halloween.

Organic banana chips and coconut chips at Target. Puts some natural sweetness into Halloween.

Another favorite shopping destination for us, that the Halloween Fairy seems to favor as well is Trader Joe’s. There you can find a host of more natural sweet treat options. They do a very nice job of highlighting items that are vegan, as well as those that are gluten-free or free from gluten-containing ingredients.

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Honey Mints are great for a more natural or food allergy safe  Halloween with only three ingredients.

Made with only three ingredients, Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Honey Mints are great for a more natural or food allergy safe Halloween.

I am a huge fan of the Trader Joe’s three-ingredient, dark chocolate honey mints. They are a much purer, healthier, and creamier version of York Peppermint Patties. Other family favorites include TJ’s vanilla meringues, gluten free ginger snaps, and naturally colored and flavored fruit jellies, among so many other great options.

Trader Joe's natural Fruit Jellies.

Trader Joe’s natural Fruit Jellies.

It came as no surprise to me that the Halloween Fairy mentioned Whole Foods as a great place to find Halloween treats that could be enjoyed by children with differing food needs. On a recent trip to Whole Foods, Alina and I quickly stumbled upon an entire food-allergy friendly, dye-free Halloween display with brands like YumEarth, Justin’s, Annie’s Homegrown, Surf Sweets, and TruJoy.

Whole Foods Halloween display of natural and food-allergy safe candy treats.

Whole Foods Halloween display of natural and food-allergy safe candy treats.

Alina was especially captivated by a bag of Surf Sweets gummy spiders and Truejoy’s organic fruit chews, which are comparable to Starbursts. The aisles of Whole Foods were packed with myriad candy, non-candy sweets, and less sweet options that would be very well-received by my kids come November 1st morning.

Food Allergy safe chocolate candies at Fresh Thyme market.

Food Allergy safe chocolate candies at Fresh Thyme market.

My talk with the Halloween Fairy even inspired me to check out my local specialty grocer, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market. They are a small healthy, fresh, grocery chain in the Midwest. Fresh Thyme had wonderful food allergy-friendly chocolate candy options; a host of raw, organic, vegan, and gluten free macaroons and granolas, and even raw, sprouted cookies. I also saw micro-brewed, natural, sodas that would be a huge treat for my girls; some of which were even stevia sweetened to temper the sugar rush that is Halloween.

All natural and stevia-sweetened sodas.

All natural and stevia-sweetened sodas.

If you follow me on Twitter you know that I even walked out with my own bag of Hail Merry macaroons that were somewhat alarming in their deliciousness. I am sure that other smaller grocery chains that cater to a “healthier” demographic would have similar offerings. You may want to direct the Halloween Fairy to them if she is less familiar with the smaller markets in your neighborhood.

Delicious Hail Merry macaroons offer another natural, gluten-free, vegan treat option from the Halloween Fairy.

Delicious Hail Merry macaroons offer another natural, gluten-free, vegan treat option from the Halloween Fairy.

The Halloween Fairy is as busy as the rest of us this time of year, if not busier. Sometimes online ordering can simplify or ease the process of getting all of the goodies that will be “just right” for the children that she will be visiting. She shared with me that one of her very favorite online resources is Natural Candy Store. Everything that they sell is free of artificial flavors, sweeteners, and dyes; as well as being free of preservatives and hydrogenated oils. They also have an amazing special diets search option that allows the buyer to select the exact allergens that they need to avoid, as well as the level of stringency for each ingredient (e.g., “no milk ingredients” vs. “strict milk free”).

I recognized many of our favorites from the Halloween Fairy at this site, including some absolutely delicious stand-ins for Snickers, Butterfinger, Milky Way, or Three Muskateers bars. I cannot express how special it is for my children to receive those “real” candy bars once a year. They look forward to it so much, and always hope that the Halloween Fairy remembers these favorites.

Other candies that the kids often see but don’t get to enjoy due to allergies included versions that they could eat of candies such as taffy, Tootsie Rolls, and candy corn. I also loved these fun Halloween lollipops. They reminded me of a year that the Halloween Fairy got especially ambitious. She ordered lollipop molds in Halloween shapes and made her own lollipops for my kids-oh Halloween Fairy, bless your heart.

Actually, the Halloween Fairy has surprised the children with many successful homemade goodies over the years. This can be a great option to ensure that she knows exactly what ingredients were used and to save money versus purchasing all of her specialty treats. She has left small bags of popcorn or vegan caramel corn, vegan pumpkin seed brittle, maple candy, crisped rice marshmallow treats, and homemade marshmallows. We really think that the Halloween Fairy rocks.

Of course, some years the Halloween Fairy likes to let her Amazon Prime account do the heavy lifting for her. She can order and have everything delivered right to her door in a snap. Sunkist Fruit Gems are a great Amazon option because they seem almost impossible to find in stores. Perhaps it’s because they are gluten free, colored and flavored naturally, and are made in a peanut free factory. They also have a satisfying gummy texture that doesn’t make the crowns on my teeth twitch, so that’s a win. YumEarth and Surf Sweets can also be found on Amazon. For the gum chewers, Amazon carries Spry, Glee, and Pur, all of which are free of artificial flavors and dyes, and are sweetened with xylitol.

With so many options, the Halloween Fairy could easily shower your child or children with Halloween abundance to rival that of any conventional candy-eating kid. Of course, not every family is looking to place so much emphasis on the candy that surrounds the holiday. As mentioned earlier, the Halloween Fairy also talked with me about some of her favorite non-edible gift ideas. She mentioned many of the things that she has left for my kids and many others over the years that have been well-received, and have helped to carry on the memory of Halloween longer than an overindulged-Halloween-induced stomachache might ever last. In fact, they are so delightful that you may just decide to go candy-free for Halloween altogether.

I will be recapping the non-edible suggestions from the second part of our interview in the days ahead. Please be sure to subscribe to CrunchyParent.com so that you don’t miss out on this, and other exclusive magical interviews. Happy (almost) Halloween!

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Crunchy Parent’s Ultimate Guide to Crunchy-Friendly Subscription Boxes-Fall 2015 Update

For those seeking subscriptions for organic, eco-friendly, non-toxic, green beauty, food-allergy friendly, pregnant, new baby, fair trade, indie, and other crunchy awesomeness.

For those seeking subscriptions for organic, eco-friendly, non-toxic, green beauty, food-allergy friendly, pregnant, new baby, fair trade, indie, and other crunchy awesomeness.

Crunchy, green living is on the rise, and there has been tremendous growth in the area of natural, conscious, and otherwise crunchy subscription box offerings. The Fall update of the Crunchy Parent Ultimate List of Crunchy-Friendly Subscription Boxes follows. All subscription services that are new or new-to-me since the summer update have been indicated in bold. If you are wondering how I came to compile this list, keep reading. If you just want to get right to the list, scroll on down.

As I mentioned briefly in this post I have been making conscious attempts to make self-care a higher priority in the last several years. Parenting can be all-consuming, at least it has been for me many times, and I tended to seriously neglect myself. My cancer diagnosis almost five years ago was a wake up call that I absolutely needed to take better care of myself mentally and physically if I wanted to be able to continue to be a good parent to my children, and to live a healthier and more balanced life. I also wanted to feel better about myself and how I presented myself to the world. Realistically, I still was not going to have oodles of “me” time, and being able to get away from home to do things alone is even more challenging.

Moreover, although I had been interested in naturally-based personal care items since I was a teenager, my diagnosis shifted green beauty from an interest to an absolute non-negotiable. Skincare, haircare, body care, and cosmetic products simply had to be no- or low-toxin for me to use them. I would rather go without than slather myself with ingredients that might make it harder to stay healthy, but I really didn’t know where to begin. My skincare products had distilled down to aloe gel, shea butter, and coconut oil and they just weren’t cutting it. So, I decided that one aspect of my self-care plan would be to join some monthly subscription services.

Just in case you’re unfamiliar, subscription services send out a “mystery” package (usually monthly) of products in sample or full sizes for you to try that fit within a certain theme such as eco-friendly beauty and skincare products, or gluten free snacks. I figured that by joining a service, I would get a special package (or more) each month just for me with products to encourage me to pamper myself. It would also help me discover new natural, organic, or otherwise eco-friendly products that had already been screened and curated by companies with values like my own. Once I got my boxes, I could have some R&R time with a new face mask after the kids went to bed at night, or if I had an occasion when I might want to wear lipstick, I might actually own one that I felt good about using. I have been receiving subscription boxes for almost two years now, and I must say that it has been great! Not only have I been enjoying receiving amazing green beauty items, but I have found boxes to promote mindfulness and balance in my life, to support my yoga practice, to discover new food-allergy friendly foods for our family, and more.

I personally found it overwhelming at first to select a couple of subscriptions to try. I always want to know all of my options to allow for informed decisions. Additionally, there are countless services available, with many different target markets and missions. There are new subscriptions being introduced and old ones phasing out all of the time. I decided to put my well-honed research skills to work (they didn’t give me that Ph.D. for nothing), and compile the most comprehensive list that I could of subscription boxes that represent values or areas of interest that are consistent with living a crunchy, natural, green lifestyle.

I thought that I would try to save you some of the trouble that I went through. I have compiled the most comprehensive list of subscription services currently available that may appeal to people of the crunchy mindset; wherever they may be along the crunchy continuum or whichever aspect of crunchiness is important to them. I have tried to include beauty and lifestyle boxes that might be organic, or vegan; that might be eco-friendly, GMO-free, or support charities. Food boxes might be gluten, nut, and/or dairy free. They may feature organic or non-GMO products, or provide pre-packaged produce all ready to juice for your next cleanse or to boost a new health practice. I’ve listed herbal boxes, essential oil boxes, fair trade boxes, and eco-friendly boxes for the expecting or new mama. Boxes for children likely feature organic products, high-quality wooden/battery-free toys, or promote natural handmade crafts, storytelling, and more. There is even a toy rental subscription service included. Some of the subscription services are large and well-established. Others are small, limited, indie subscriptions or may be just starting out. In any case, I hope that you will find what you are looking for.

For the sake of brevity I have included shipping information assuming shipping in the United States. Many of these companies may send boxes elsewhere for an additional cost. Please see individual sites for information. I have attempted to screen companies to most closely adhere to natural personal and family living ideals, but I cannot speak to the specifics of any individual subscription, nor am I recommending any of these services over any other. I am attempting to sample and review as many of these subscriptions as possible to allow for a more in-depth look at what each service provides. Wherever possible, I have included a link to my unboxing and reviews following a subscription’s description. If you have any personal experiences that you wish to share, or if you know of any subscriptions that you think should be added to this list, please mention it in the comments.

To see all of my crunchy subscription box reviews, look here. If you wish to exclusively view the video unboxings, you can do that on my YouTube channel here.

Beauty/Lifestyle

BabeBoxx $24.99/month includes free shipping. Discount on multi-month subscriptions. Focused on skincare, cosmetic, and grooming items, BabeBoxx goes for the products that are, all-natural, organic, hand-made, and free from the harmful toxins and chemicals. Their goal is to guide you through a unique and exciting journey to natural beauty! This recently-launched indie subscription partners with artisans to bring the newest products to their subscribers.

Bare Bliss Box $19.99/month (free shipping) Discounts with multi-month subscriptions. In every box get 4-6 “healthier” sample-sized skincare and makeup products that will nourish your body and enhance your life, with occasional bonus lifestyle items. BBB screens products for ingredients such as artificial fragrances and dyes, parabens, SLS, and other potentially harmful chemicals. They also emphasize products that are cruelty-free and organic.

Beauty Heroes $39.99/month includes shipping. Less with multi-month subscriptions.The Beauty Heroes mission is to provide their customers with products from the very best non-toxic, clean, green beauty brands. Each month Beauty Heroes sends one full size luxury product, sometimes with a smaller bonus item (because every superhero loves a good sidekick). Products are chosen to fit with the season, and are screened to avoid an impressive laundry list of villain ingredients; and to include natural superpower ingredients to nurture your skin. For my Beauty Heroes reviews, look here.

Blissmo Box $19.95/month plus shipping, free shipping with multi-month subscriptions. Value of $20-$40+ per box. A monthly box of premium organic, non-toxic and eco-friendly personal care and food products. Full & trial-size. Allows choice among three themed box offerings each month (usually a food, beauty/personal care, and seasonal themes). Also allows for skipping a month if none of the themes seem to be a good fit.

BuddhiBox $32.95/month. Less with multi-month subscriptions. Box contains 4-6 full size items to enhance your yoga practice and lifestyle. BuddhiBox is committed to supporting non-profits. Most of the items featured are organic and vegetarian, and a brief questionnaire also allows the purchaser to indicate a preference for vegan items if desired. Each month BuddhiBox picks a charity and donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the boxes to them. They also offer a smaller sampler box for $11.95/month, and a jewelry box for $49.95/quarter. To see my BuddhiBox reviews, look here.

Calmbox $35/month, shipping included. Each month’s box features 4-8 mindfully chosen items to help with unwinding and calm such as candles, natural minerals and crystals, aromatic herbs, inspiring books, music, tea, motivational cards, and physical aids. Every month highlights a new theme like meditation, zen, or mindfulness.

Causebox Ships quarterly. $49.95 per shipment and includes shipping. You will receive at least $150 worth of full-size products for women from Sevenly’s favorite socially conscious brands. Each box also includes a new, exclusive Sevenly product. For every box sold, Sevenly gives $7 to one of 7 partner charities. Additionally, the box features products from companies that are committed to doing good all over the world. Some give one-for-one, some give meals, some medical aid, others give money to help various causes.

Conscious Box $40.00/month including shipping for the newly launched “Premium” version. Conscious Box had historically offered smaller boxes along the themes of classic, vegan, or gluten free. Boxes typically included small sample sizes of mostly food and supplement items with 1-2 full sized products. In their new re-branding, all boxes will be vegan and gluten free and contain more full-size and luxury items including stylish home items, delicious snacks, and lush beauty products hand-selected from brands who care about the planet. Conscious Box promises that every box will be valued at a minimum of $60.

Eco Salon This quarterly box is not a subscription, rather a first come, first served seasonal collection of food/nutrition, beauty, accessories, etc. There are generally pretty limited numbers of boxes available (around 50). Price and value varies but generally cost is $100+

Goddess Provisions $33.00/month with free shipping. Discounts with multi-month subscriptions. Goddess Provisions in a recently launched subscription service by the sister company to Vegan Cuts. Each month, GP sends a box filled with tools to nourish your inner goddess and grow your spiritual practice. Boxes feature a mix of 4-6 full size items, spanning across the categorizes of aromatherapy, apothecary beauty products, superfood snacks, teas, crystals, books and more. All items will be 100% vegan and cruelty-free. To see my Goddess Provisions reviews, look here.

Goodebox $19/month, including free shipping. Modest discounts offered for multi-month subscriptions. Goodebox is a trial and discovery service providing expertly curated, trial-sized healthy beauty and personal care products, along with samples of natural & organic health and wellness products. Each Goodebox includes a pre-screened selection representing what Goodebox thinks are among the best healthy beauty products available.

Hemp Box/Hemp Box for Men $19.99/month includes free shipping. Hemp Box features 5 health, beauty and nutritional products each month that contain hemp.

Herbal Bliss $25/month including free shipping. Discounts for multi-month subscriptions (e.g. an annual subscription drops to $18/month) Herbal Bliss contains an exclusively curated assortment of high quality herbal delights. Five items will be included each month, representing the categories of well-being, culinary, aromatherapy, blissful body, and “spotlight.” All suppliers are small-batch producers.

holBox $30/month. includes shipping. holBox is a subscription service for women who desire to live a holistic lifestyle. It is intended to serve as a starting point for women transitioning into a holistic lifestyle. Each box contains 5-7 different sample products, and will include products that you can use for the body, hair, mind and in the household.

Honest Beauty $50.00/month. The Honest Company has recently expanded its product and subscription line to include cosmetic and skincare items. Each month, select three full sized items of your choice from among the products in the line.

Klover Box $25/month free shipping. Discounts for multi-month subscriptions. Klover Box features natural, cruelty-free and organic beauty, health, nutrition and home products. Klover Box aims to provide opportunities to try affordable eco-friendly products, handpicked by their health conscious curators to allow the buyer to incorporate better products into every aspect of life. Each box features 4-7 sample and full sized products.

Love Goodly $35.00/box including shipping. Ships every other month. Cost per box is less with multi-box subscriptions. Each box includes 5-7 cruelty-free, natural, vegan products, including a mix of full size products and deluxe samples of nontoxic beauty and skincare, healthy snacks and eco style accessories. All products have been screened to eliminate Love Goodly’s banned ingredients and all products are selected and labeled to support one or more of Love Goodly’s values, which include organic, non-gmo, gluten free, and fair trade. Every purchase from Love Goodly supports either Farm Sanctuary or F*ck Cancer.

Mindfulness Box $29/month includes shipping. Discounts for multi-month subscriptions. A monthly subscription box service promoting wellness and reflection by giving people the tools to live with more intention and in the “present moment.” Boxes contain 4-5 items each month intended to promote mindfulness, meditation, and reflection. Offerings include holistic and homeopathic mineral/essential oil based health care products, handcrafted jewelry, delicious biodynamic treats, natural minerals/crystals evoking positive energy and MUCH more! To see my Mindfulnesss Box reviews, look here.

Nourish Beauty $34.95/month includes free shipping worldwide. Receive four full-sized products each month, including three full-sized, natural, earth-activated, cruelty-free, healthy beauty products, and one eco-friendly canvas tote bag, with limited edition, original print. Average total retail will be $70+

Organic Authority Goodie Box Organic Authority is a sister company to Eco Salon (see above) with a similar approach. They are not a regular subscription, rather a first come, first served seasonal collection of food/nutrition, beauty, accessories, etc. Numbers are quite limited. Price and value varies but generally cost is $100+

Petit Vour $15/month includes shipping. Petit Vour focuses on cruelty-free products, but tend to feature product lines that are also natural and organic. Petit Vour delivers 4-5 fresh beauty miniatures right to your doorstep each month. The samples are generously sized (and sometimes full-sized!)

PureBox $39.99/month (free shipping), less with multi-month subscriptions. Each box includes one full sized product and several deluxe samples from 1-2 featured brand per month. All products are ethically sourced and selected for being luxurious, of premium quality, cruelty free, and with gluten free and vegan choices. PureBox specializes in non-toxic, natural, and organic beauty products that are handcrafted and hard to find. Boxes will reflect a retail value of $60-$80. For PureBox reviews, look here

Prospurly $49.95/month includes shipping. Often run coupon codes for 10% off per month for the life of the subscription. Boxes feature 6-8 luxurious products each month that are artisinal and often organic. Items may be useful for home, beauty or personal care; food, beverages, and more.

Pumeli $49.95/month, less with multi-month subscriptions. Pumeli is a monthly delivery of relaxing goodies for busy women. Their mission is to inspire women to unplug and make time for themselves through practical tips, tutorials, and time-slowing rituals that are simple enough to do at home or the office, yet leave you feeling relaxed, recharged and present in as little as 5-10 minutes. Pumeli likes to feature products that are sustainable and handmade, and every box will include teas, items for journaling or reflection, and handcrafted items such as candles or handcrafted jewelry.

The Remedy Rush $59.00/quarterly box includes shipping. (boxes ship around the seasonal equinox). Discount for annual subscription. Each box includes a collection of seasonally-appropriate items for skincare, body care, and home. Products are screened to exclude a host of harsh irritants and health-compromising synthetics. Only the finest wildcrafted or organic herbs, herbal extracts, pure essential oils, cold-pressed, fruit, nut oils and butters are chosen as key ingredients in cherished brand creations. All products are cruelty-free, and all product containers, packaging, shipping, and marketing materials are made from 100% recyclable and/or biodegradable components.

Sapphire Soul Balance Box Sapphire Soul offers 5 different box configurations ranging from “Crystal Pack” of 1 or more crystals at a price of $9/month to “Large Lotus Balance Box” at $52/month which features a crystal, essential oil, a piece of handmade crystal healing jewelry, and one or more additional products (soaps, candles, and aromatherapy products tend to be featured frequently). Overall the box highlights holistic products to nurture mind, body, and soul; striving to increase balance and positive energy. Prices do not include shipping.

Teens Turning Green Conscious Collection Not an auto-billing subscription, but a first come, first served single purchase box available in limited quantities, and sometimes comes in both “male” and “female” versions. Cost is $75/box plus $20 shipping. The box includes Approximately 20 deluxe and full size items per collection. Each box highlights thoughtfully curated, ethically-produced products across many lifestyle categories. Product selections are based on health of ingredients, environmental impact, efficacy, and verified standards like USDA Certified Organic, non-GMO, Fair Trade, and data from the Environmental Working Group. Proceeds from the box benefit the Teens Turning Green non-profit organization.

Terra Bella Box Offering two levels of subscriptions for $17.95/month or $37.95/month respectively (shipping included and less with multi-month subscriptions). Terra Bella box features products that are created in small batches by small businesses, are always cruelty free, and are made with natural ingredients. The Terra Bella Lite box offers 2-3 products per month, and the full-sized Terra Bella Box offers 5-6 products per month. Items include skincare, body care, and cosmetics, and are a mix of full size and trial size items, with the majority being full sized. For those who like to try before making a larger commitment, Terra Bella offers a one-time Trial Box option for $24.00 and includes 4-6 items.

The Cosmic Box Cost is $27/month including shipping. Discounts for multi-month subscriptions. Items for this indie box are chosen for being crafted with spirit, eco-consious, and cosmically good. Boxes include items from various artisans and also feature products from Wild Honey Apothecary, the sister company of The Cosmic Box. Boxes feature a mix of 3-6 trial size or full size goods and include everything from toxin-free skin care, organic/gmo-free artisan edibles, unique home goods, gems, jewelry, and more. A portion of the proceeds from each month’s boxes go to a charity, which varies from month to month. To see my reveiws of The Cosmic Box, look here.

The Simple Soap Cost is $19.99/month for a three bar box or $14.99/month for a two bar option. Shipping included free. The Simple Soap is a family-owned indie subscription box service that sends out their own organic, handmade bars of soap. Their soaps are scented with essential oils and plant materials, and do not contain artificial perfumes or other additives. According to The Simple Soap, a single bar of soap will usually be enough for one person for an entire month.

Truly Organic $55/month (shipping included). Each month’s box will include six full-size products from Truly Organic’s natural hair care and body care line consisting of shampoo, conditioner, scrub or body wash, lotion, face cream and a surprise accessory from the country your ingredients were harvested. Truly Organic offers several collections, including lines for mother and baby. All products are natural, organic, vegan, and fair trade as well as being free of sulfates, GMOs, and gluten.

Vegan Cuts $19.95/month included shipping. Modest discount for multi-month subs. Vegan cuts features 100% cruelty-free brands, many of which are also natural and organic. Each box contains 4-7 full and sample-sized products to try, ranging from unique cosmetics to luxurious skincare.

Yogi Surprise $35.96/month with free shipping. Each box features 6-8 full-size products designed to nourish and support your well being, vitality and growth. Items include pure, natural, and handcrafted goodies that are vegetarian, cruelty, and GMO free.

Yuzen $33/quarter includes shipping. Yuzen strives to include only the very best eco-conscious products to nourish the body and soul. Each beautiful box includes high-quality natural and organic personal care products, healthy snacks, and lifestyle items carefully chosen from about 6 companies.

Food

Cuisine Cube $34.99/month includes shipping. Discounts with multi-month subscriptions. Each monthly box features at least five exciting full-sized gluten-free breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, and dessert items. Cuisine Cube tries to introduce lesser-known artisanal brands. Some products are certified gluten free, others use only gluten-free ingredients but are not certified gluten free. Many products are certified organic and CC strives to avoid GMOs and artificial ingredients.

Farmivore products Three box sizes range from $25.95-$69.95, which includes shipping. Farmivore sends boxes filled with all that you need to make blended or juiced drinks using only organic, GMO-free, fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices. Subscriber can select delivery frequency and either all-green juice boxes or “mixed” boxes with green, red, and orange juices featured. Produce will be sent bagged with recipes to create each of the juices featured in that shipment, and each box makes between 4-16 servings of juice depending on box size. Currently Farmivore ships to eight states in the Northeast.

Farm To People Tasting Box Two tiers of subscriptions (Casual Foodie-$29.95/month and Food Critic: $49.95/month both of which include shipping). Boxes include 2-3 or 5-8 full size products respectively. Items included will be unique, humanely made food items that are locally produced in small batches. All foods are GMO free. FTP also advertise that they are happy to accommodate any serious food allergies or dietary restrictions if you email them directly. Each box centers around a theme. Past themes have included Oktoberfest, Heat Things Up, Turkey Day, among others.

Green Blender $49/week shipping included. Each box brings you pre-portioned and individually wrapped ingredients to make 10 servings of blended smoothie drinks (2 servings each or five different recipes). Boxes include fruits, vegetables, superfoods, and whatever else you need to make a week’s worth of smoothies (you just provide the blender and the water). Produce is organic, local, and seasonal whenever possible. Currently Green Blender delivery area covers approximately a dozen states throughout the Northeast.

Healthy Surprise Offer three subscription options: Classic Box, Big Box, and Paleo Box. Boxes range from 15-21 full size snacks and are priced from $49-$74 depending on subscription option. Multi-month subscriptions are discounted. All items are gluten, soy, corn, wheat, and GMO free. Paleo box also does not contain any refined sugar, grains, dairy, or legumes, but may contain some items with honey, eggs, or high quality meat or fish. Classic Box and Big Box are 100% vegan.

Love with Food Offers three subscription options (Tasting Box, Deluxe Box, and Gluten Free Box) ranging in price from $12-$29/month, shipping included. Discounts for multi-month subscriptions. Designed to help you discover new organic or all-natural snacks. Boxes feature between 8-20 snack items depending on subscription type. Snacks are either organic or all-natural, GMO-free, gluten-free or free of artificial junk. All snacks in the Gluten-Free box are guaranteed to be gluten free. For every box sold, Love with Food donates a meal to several food banks such as the Feeding America Network and Share Our Strength – No Kid Hungry.

NoMoo Box $20/month plus $5.49 shipping, less with multi-month subscriptions. Boxes include carefully selected dairy free foods, coupons, recipes, and the occasional surprise. Each month you will receive 6 to 9 items in your box, including some full size and some sample size dairy free products. You will also receive coupons from dairy free brands to help with the cost of a specialty diet. A portion of the proceeds from every box goes to donate dairy free foods to a local Food Bank for families in need of a dairy free diet.

Num-Nums Munch Box Offer Single Box ($21.99/month) or Double Box ($43.50/month) plush shipping. Each box available as either Gluten Free, Dairy Free, or Nut Free, although most snacks are selected to be top 8 allergen-free (dairy, egg, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish) so the entire family can enjoy them. Single box contains 10 to 12 single-serving snacks, and double box includes 20-24 single-serving snacks. The assortment of snack items includes snack bars, chips, sweets, cookies and more. Although snacks are free of identified allergens, they may be manufactured in factories that process other ingredients.

Send Me Gluten Free $30/month includes free shipping. Discounts with multi-month subscriptions. Each box will include 8-12 gluten free products and will include at least 1 full-sized item. Product selection will include food, personal care items, supplements and household products that support a gluten free lifestyle.

Paleo Life Box $35/month shipping included. Less with multi-month subscriptions. Each box includes 8 to 10 snacks hand-picked from the best Paleo companies on the planet. Paleo Life likes to send a few of new discoveries each month in addition to several tried and true favorites.

Tasterie $25.00/month, includes shipping. Four box varieties (Gluten Allergy, Gluten and Dairy Allergy, Nut Allergy, and Top 8 Allergy). Each box includes 4-8 full and single-serving sized allergy-free foods. Nut allergy and Top 8 allergy foods are all confirmed to have been made in a nut-free facility.

Taste Guru $19/month plus shipping. Discounts for multi-month subscriptions. Each box contains a mix of full and single-serving sized gluten free food items. Around 10 items per box.

Trade As One $99/quarter 12-15 hand-picked, ethically sourced pantry products. Each box is seasonally themed and includes a broad range of items from everyday staples to fun discovery items. We also help you unpack the meaning of the items in your box with stories from producers, tasty recipes, and product highlights.

Urth Box Offer multiple sizes from Mini (4-5 products) to Large (20-24 products), which range in price from $9-$49/month, including shipping. Each box includes food and beverage items focused health. All boxes are offered in one of four varieties: Classic, Vegan, Gluten Free, or Diet. In addition to snacks, boxes may include “extras” from categories such as supplements, personal hygiene, hair and skin care, gourmet and more. Products will be full sized, although this may include single-serving items.

Vegan Cuts $19.95/month includes free shipping. Each box contains 7-10 full and sample sized vegan food and beverage items. Most products are also gluten free.

Health/Wellness

Natural Herbal Living Herb box + magazine PDF $48/month ($44/month recurring) Mini Herb box + magazine PDF $24/month ($22/month recurring) Will include ingredients to make several recipes shared in Natural Herbal Living Magazine including, but not limited to, the herb of the month, essential oil, flower essence, additional herbs, oils, bees wax, vinegar, honey, and other herbal goodies necessary to make the recipes of the month. This also includes a generous amount of the “herb of the month” to experiment with above and beyond the recipes included in the herb box. The value of the contents of the box will range between $50-60 in addition to the magazine PDF ($4 value). All of the ingredients will be responsibly sourced and organic whenever possible. If the herbs are not certified organic they will be ethically wildcrafted. No box will ever include gluten, nuts, corn, or dairy.

Essential Oil Wizardry Three levels of membership $20/month gets 1 blend; $49/month 3 items including an essential oil and a tincture; $87/month for 5 items including EO, tincture, and, massage oil plus a 10% off coupon. (Shipping included). Limited to just over 100 members.

Kings Road Apothecary $53.50/month plus shipping. Multi-month subscriptions include free shipping. Kings Road Apothecary in an indie sub sending handcrafted, small-batch, herbal-based products that often are seasonal in nature. Boxes are themed (e.g., pinon, lymphatic support, seaweed, salt & water, etc.) and include four full-sized products in each shipment. Items may include an herbal tincture, tea, body scrub, facial mask or cream, massage oil, and more. Due to the sustainable wildcrafting of the box ingredients only approximately 50 boxes are available each month. This is not a re-billing subscription. Boxes are available as single purchases or can be pre-purchased as a multi-month subscription. To see my Kings Road Apothecary reviews look here.

Pregnancy/New Baby/Mom/Home

16 minute club $35/box, less with multi-month subscriptions. The one-and-only home-delivery lactation support program focused on helping new nursing mothers meet their breastfeeding goals. Developed by IBCLC Wendy Wright 16 Minute Club boxes are designed to provide lactation support for roughly baby’s first year, starting with a prenatal box option. Each box includes a chapter of the 16 Minute Club breastfeeding handbook, as well as a collection of breastfeeding support products. Boxes ship every 6 weeks.

21 Bundles $39.99/month, shipping included. Discounts for multi-month subscriptions. Started by a woman who has served as a pre and post-natal yoga instructor, post-partum doula, Certified Lactation Educator Counselor and nanny, 21 Bundles sends all natural, toxin free products to delight new mom or mom-to-be. Boxes tailored for whatever stage of pregnancy or of baby’s first year and will include 5-8 full size items, with a total retail value of anywhere from $50-$80.

Andrea Schroeder Candle of the Month Club $120 for a 3-month membership. Includes shipping. Each month’s box includes a full size 10.5 oz. Andrea Schroder candle, a travel size candle, a signature notecard, and a special hand selected gift from Andrea Schroder. Candles are made from a blend of coconut, natural, and palm wax. They are non-toxic and free of toxins, artificial dyes, or colorants. Candles are scented with essential oils stabilized with a blend of natural oils. Candles and ingredients are not tested on animals.

Austin Lloyd $49.99/month includes shipping. Discounts for multi-month subscriptions. Each box includes 3-5 premium toys and at least one book catered to your child’s developmental level and gender (or gender neutral), focused on children ages birth to 3 years. All items are non-toxic and BPA-free. These are unique, high end toys that are not typically sold at large retail chains and come from brands like Haba, Plan Toys, Melissa & Doug, and Manhattan Toys among others. They are designed to be engaging and targeted at improving fine motor, cognitive, and social skills. No battery operated toys included.

Ecocentric Mom $24/shipment, shipping included. Ships every other month. Available in three box types (Pregnancy Box, Mom Box, Mom & Baby Box). Each box included 5-9 hand selected products that are gentle on your body and the earth. Items are natural, sustainable, organic, and ethical. Boxes feature a mix of large sample sizes and full size products. Items range from skincare, wellness, snacks, and more in the Mom Box to diapers, skin cream, and organic first food in the Mom & Baby box, to skincare, makeup, spa products, and more in the Pregnancy Box.

Homegrown Collective $39/month plus shipping. Price reduced and shipping free for multi-month subscriptions. Receive a seasonally appropriate, professionally curated box of products that deliver the satisfaction of living a more self-sufficient and sustainable lifestyle. Examples of past boxes include Home Remedies and Cure Alls, Kombucha, Detox in a Box, and The Beauty of Coconut. Boxes include instructions and all supplies needed to create one or more awesome DIY products with each box (may need to provide some basic supplies). Also teaches you how to become more self-sufficient/sustainable.

The Honest Company Offers several monthly themed bundles: Eco-Friendly Disposable Diapers & Wipes ($79.95/month), Essentials-items for home and body care ($35.95/month), Honest Health & Wellness-food based and quality supplements (($35.95/month), and Organic Infant Formula + dha ($119.95/bundle; buyer sets frequency). With the exception of the formula bundle, bundles are fully customized buy the buyer within each theme and specified quantity of items (for example, any 5 items/Essentials bundle; any 2 items/Health & Wellness bundle.

Children/Adolescents

Happy Hedgehog Post Cost $30/month for a la carte purchases, less with multi-month subscriptions. See site for options to Canada. In addition, HedgehogPost offers a Sibling Envelope add-on for $18 with extra materials to make multiples of the primary crafts featured if you have multiple children or if you just want more. A monthly indie envelope subscription featuring products for children and families to enhance their home, crafts, and nature tables. With a distinct focus on the handmade and natural, this subscription may be a good option for families who are familiar with, and appreciate a Waldorf schooling and play approach. Each month will include materials and instructions for one or more craft projects, a Zine featuring season-specific stories, recipes, bonus craft, and more, and a special gift often appropriate for play or to beautify a nature table. 10% of the purchase price of every box goes to support a different charity each month. To see my Happy Hedgehog Post reviews, look here.

Little PNuts Annual subscription required, no month-to month or single box option. $60/quarterly shipment if annual fee of $240 is paid up front. Shipping is included. Can also opt for $25/month payments for 12 months ($300 total), but will still only receive 4 quarterly boxes. Filled with engaging Eco Friendly & Organic Toys designed to encourage creative play and discovery (3-5 toys/shipment). Choose from three programs : Infant 0-12 Months, Toddler 1-3 Years or Preschool 3-6 Years. Partner with many trusted brands such as Haba, Kathe Kruse, Green Toys, Tegu and more.

Love Yourself First Now $29/month, shipping included. Discounts with multi-month subscriptions. Developed by a mother of two and school psychologist. LYFN is targeted for young women ages 14 and up, and is aimed at promoting self-esteem and developing a sense of self through appreciating one’s self rather than looking to others for validation. Each month’s box features a theme and includes 4-6 functional products like jewelry, makeup, accessories, and inspiration to LOVE YOURSELF FIRST-now. Products valued at $40-$60. To see my Love Yourself First-Now reviews, look here.

Magic Craft Box $65/box or $250/year. Magic Onions sends four seasonally-appropriate eco-friendly crafts per seasonal box, using all-natural craft materials. Craft projects echo Magic Onion’s emphasis on handmade treasures for the natural home. Crafts are intended to be done by kids or with kids.

Mindfulness Box Kids $29/month includes shipping. Discounts for multi-month subscriptions. Intended for children ages 3-12 years. This monthly box is aimed at teaching mindfulness to children, while promoting peace in themselves and the world around them. Each month is thoughtfully curated with hands-on activities, literature, meditations, a healthy snack and so much more to nurture your child’s heart and mind.

SparkBox Toys One Sparkbox every 4 weeks $34.99/month; 1 Sparkbox every 8 weeks $19.99/month. Two month minimum for membership. Designed for children ages 0-4 years, Sparkbox is all about the Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. This toy rental subscription sends 4 age-appropriate, gently used toys to your child to enjoy for 4-8 weeks. When the fun is done, just sent the box back for more toys. Shipping both ways is included in the subscription price. Sparkbox will curate your box based on child’s age, but they allow members to review, edit, and fully customize their box if they desire. Toys are screened to be high-quality, unique, award-winners. Some may be plastic and/or require batteries (included), others are made from natural materials. SparkBox uses only eco and child-friendly sterilization solutions to clean their toys between shipments. All toys go through a 5-step cleaning process that includes surface cleaning, sterilization, disinfecting, inspection and vacuum sealing.

SwiggyDiggyDo $39.95/month. Discounts for multi-month subscriptions. Designed for children ages 6 months to four years, however currently box contents will only vary relative to clothing size so some items may be to hand down/gift or grow into depending on your child’s age. SDD seeks to find the best, eco-friendly products that are free of BPA, lead, bromine, phthalates and a bunch of other weird chemicals that companies decide to put into toys, clothing and basically everything else. You will get a custom designed, limited edition shirt for your kid. Along with the shirt, your box might include toys, crafts/activities, books, clothing, feeding items and more.

Whimsy Box $35 plus shipping. Multi-month subscriptions are discounted and include free shipping. In addition, they offer a Sibling Add-On option for $20 which includes the box contents minus the book if you wish to have duplicates for the sibling or if you already own the featured book and would like the additional items to enhance the story. Each month’s package features a book appropriate for children approximately ages preschool through age 8 years as well as several artisan and often handmade items related to the book’s theme to extend the story into the child’s play, as well as a few additional small extras such as stickers, organic treats, and post cards. Past items have included play silks, face masks, wooden figures, musical instruments and more, and often are made from natural materials. To see my Whimsy Kids reviews, look here.

Fair Trade/Handmade

Craftly Just launched and still in beta phase. $19.99/month plus shipping. A lifestyle subscription box for either men or women that features high quality products and handcrafted goods from independent artists, small businesses, and mid-to-large scale brands. Every month, subscribers receive a surprise box of 3-5 samples, full-sized items, and exclusive offers for home, beauty, grooming, tech, fashion, stationary, food, fitness, and more.

Fair Ivy $30/month. Currently monthly and multi-month subscriptions are full but you can request to be added to the wait list. Fair Ivy sends a handmade and hand wrapped gift each month. All items are created by individual US artists, with each month representing a single artist’s creations. Each gift you receive is vegan-friendly, and contains an information card with details of the artist’s process, background, or inspiration, so you can understand the time and care put into each hand-wrapped item. Past selections have included a single jewelry item, a purse or clutch, set of stationary, or selection of bath products.

Fair Treasure $35/month. Discounted for multi-month subs) FT hunts for the most amazing designs in home décor, jewelry, and other accessories, personally curating these finds for each month’s treasure boxes. Sometimes they even work collaboratively with artisan groups to develop and design unique products just for their boxes. Each box will contain at least $30 in retail value of ethically sourced treasures. Typically, your treasure box will contain 2-3 items. They will also include information on the people and communities who made your treasures and are benefiting from your purchase.

Fair Trade Friday $35/month plus shipping. Discounts for multi-month subscriptions. monthly membership club that delivers a box of 3-4 high quality items to your door by the first Friday of the month. The items in the box are often jewelry and accessory items, are fairly traded, and provide employment to women all over the world. 100% of the proceeds from each box goes to the empowerment of impoverished women.

GlobeIn Artisan Box $35/month, shipping free. Discounts for multi-month subscriptions. Each box includes 4-6 artisan-made products from around the world (a “globe in a box”) packaged in a Mexican palm leaf basket, as well as a story about the crafters whom you have supported with your purchase. In addition, GlobeIn just launched a new mini box called the Benefit Basket for $19.99/month, which will feature one lifestyle products per month in their signature Mexican basket. To see my GlobeIn Benefit Basket reviews, look here.

MakrBox $29/month MakrBox features handcrafted artisan goods from the Pacific Northwest. Each month subscribers receive 2-3 curated artisan made kitchen or home goods.

I hope that everyone can find something in the listing above that would be perfect to add a little crunchy delight to their mailbox own or to gift to someone else. If you know of a sub box that I missed that you think belongs in the list, please mention it in the comments.

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Doing Yoga With My Face: My Search for Greener Glamour (and a review of Jeffree Star Cosmetics)

I was at my Cancer Yoga class this morning. We were working on a balancing pose, and I was challenging myself with a more advanced version of the pose than I have been able to do before. Balancing is not my strength, especially after losing one of my quadriceps muscles to cancer. It is something that I have to work on consciously. As I was focusing on my breath and on the pose, aware of every wobble, I was actively reminding myself what we are often taught in yoga. This is my yoga practice. This is my practice to follow at my pace. The teacher or the person next to me are focusing on their practice; this is mine, and I am to focus on me. I may be at a different place in my practice from them today, or from myself last week or next week. This is my practice. This is my practice. I was grateful to be able to do more with the pose today than I had before. It is where I was today. It was not important how I compared to someone else, or even to other versions of myself.

I am practicing in my motherhood as well. The balance poses are the hardest for me there too. I have so often been completely consumed with my desire to meet the needs of my children to the highest degree and at the most advanced level, that I have been totally unable to find my balance at times. When the children were younger and nursing, waking at all hours, or needing to be sung to sleep, it was nearly impossible not to have my life revolve almost entirely around their needs. There was an extreme imbalance of self-care and child-care. I am not suggesting that is the way that it must be or should be; that is where I was in my practice at that time. I was at the bottom of my own list. Sleep was the most luxuriant indulgence that I could imagine when I could get it. Nutritious food (or any food sometimes) was the next. Focus on flattering clothing, cute shoes, or pretty makeup was beyond my scope. There was a considerable shift after I had cancer. Balancing became something that I needed to work on consciously in my yoga practice and in my “mommy practice” too. I am consciously striving to advance in my balancing in all aspects of my life. I want to acknowledge where I am today, each day, and focus on my practice as a mother, and as a woman too. I try not to compare myself to anyone else.

I received my July Birchbox in the mail recently. I imagine that I may not be the Birchbox target demographic. I find that the some of the products that they send are not a good fit for me and my green beauty preferences, but I have also discovered some great crunchy-friendly brands through them that keep me holding on to my subscription. I generally put some of the samples to the side and focus in on the healthier, greener choices that arrive. This month, Birchbox’s theme was “Go Bold.” They emphasized the point by including a bold, saturated, liquid lipstick in every box. The color that Birchbox selected for me was a bright, no-nonsense RED. This lipstick would have had no place on my face when I was a sleep-deprived new mother and it was all that I could do to make sure that the diapers were washed, the breast pump parts were cleaned, and the food was packed for the next day of work and daycare. It would have had no place on my face when I was a not-so-new mother and I was juggling the needs of a baby, a preschooler, and a second grader while trying to keep my eyes open as the toll of daily radiation treatments washed over me in a wave of exhaustion. This was not a “mommy” lipstick, certainly not a natural, crunchy mama lipstick, right? Natural, crunchy mamas are not bold. They are muted, and subtle, and Earthy. Then I remembered, this is my practice. It is about where I am, not the woman next to me. Not my perceived definition of what I am supposed to be. This is my practice, and I may be in a different place today then I was before; a different place than I will be the next week.

I had a moment of uncharacteristic impulsivity. I swear that the entire score from Kinky Boots started playing in my head and I grabbed for that red lipstick without even so much as glancing at the ingredients. This completely unprecedented move resulted in a bold, confident pout that had me looking for Mr. DeMille and mugging for my closeup. I felt glamorous in a way that tipped the scales drastically. This was not your mommy’s lipstick. I wore it out for a night on the town (well, I went and saw a movie with a friend, but that’s kind of a big deal for me these days).

The next day I sobered up from my lipstick euphoria, and took time to research the ingredients. I couldn’t help but notice both methylparaben and propylparaben. For those who are less familiar, parabens (methyl, ethyl, butyl, and propylparaben) are used as preservatives in cosmetics. There is increasing evidence to suggest that parabens can disrupt the endocrine system and may be linked to cancer. I avoid products that contain parabens. The lipstick was destined to be a one-hit-wonder for me. Now that I knew better, I was going to have to do better.

So with bold, glamorous dreams to motivate me, I went off in search of a liquid lipstick that would mirror the matte finish, bold saturation, staying power, and above all, gorgeous red shade of the Birchbox lipstick, but with greener, friendlier ingredients. It was no an easy quest, I tell you, but it led me to Jeffree Star Cosmetics, an indie brand with a cult following so strong that there are purchasing limits on each lipstick shade. (*Warning, Jeffree Star is bold in more than just lip color, you may wish to wait to view the website away from children or work as it is on the daring side.)

Jeffree Star Liquid Lipstick Ingredients

Although not marketed as a green beauty brand in the traditional sense, the gorgeous liquid-to-matte lip colors are free of parabens and gluten, and are vegan and 100% cruelty free. Enough to make me take notice. A definite step in the green beauty direction. I ran the other ingredients through the EWG skin-deep database, and they all looked pretty good; not perfect for a hard-core, crunchy-greenie, but pretty good overall. I scanned the colors to assess what might be the best match to the bold Birchbox red, and I settled on Redrum, described by Jeffree Star as, “the perfect red.”

Jeffree Star Redrum Velour Liquid Lipstick

When my lipstick arrived, I began my much anticipated side-by-side comparison. I could not believe how spot-on the color was. The shade and saturation of the two liquid lipsticks were almost identical. It seemed that I had found my perfect “greener red.”

Jeffree Star Redrum on the top. Birchbox bold red shade on the bottom.

Jeffree Star Redrum on the top. Birchbox bold red shade on the bottom.

Much like the Birchbox contender, The Jeffree Star lipstick went on easily and took just a little practice to achieve a neat line. In about a minute it had dried down from the shiny liquid to a stay-put matte. The Jeffree Star formula was ever so slightly more tacky to the touch and left a whisper of a mark on my water glass, but stayed bold and beautiful for hours. Most importantly, I loved how the color looked on my lips. Without a doubt, this was me being bold.

Trying on Jeffree Star Cosmetics Redrum Liquid Lipstick

I found that with both lipsticks removal was an adventure in color, and I looked strikingly like the Joker in The Dark Night, but it was only temporary. A cleansing oil followed up by a foaming cleanser removed all traces of the color.

I will continue to be on the lookout for ever greener options, but I was thrilled to be able to find Jeffree Star Cosmetics to scratch my newly sparked liquid lipstick itch. I was impressed by the staying power of the lipstick and the rich, saturated colors. I am pleased to see that even brands who do not market themselves as “green beauty” are being mindful about avoiding parabens, gluten, and other unnecessary ingredients in their products. I am glad to have a healthier choice that I can feel good about when I am in the mood to reach for that more advanced “Glamour Mama” pose in my life practice. After all, it’s all about balance.

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My Bagel Smash Breakfast: Gluten Free, Dairy Free

Gluten free bagel toast smash

Has the toast smash craze swept it’s way to your neck of the woods? The basic premise is that toast tastes even more delicious if you pile a bunch of goodies on top, especially if one of those goodies in a smashed avocado. The idea has crept its way into my kitchen, but this time the avocado has selected a gluten free bagel as its canvas.

The recipe is very simple, and of course it is just one of countless bagel smash possibilities. The avocado’s healthy fats give a real boost to breakfast to help fuel the morning. So here we go.

Bagel Smash Ingredients

Ingredients:

1/2 bagel (I used Udi’s Gluten Free Whole Grain bagels)
2 eggs (I recommend organic if you can)
1/3 medium avocado
oil for frying
salt and or pepper to taste

Extra virgin olive oil is getting increasing attention as not being the best choice for high heat cooking applications. I love EVOO and use it in salad dressings and when roasting vegetables at lower temperatures, but for pan frying and other higher-temperature cooking I increasingly opt for grape seed oil or avocado oil, which can take higher temperatures before reaching their smoke point. I used grape seed oil in this recipe, but I think I would grab avocado oil next time, in keeping with the avocado theme of the smash. Any neutrally flavored oil of your preference will do here though.

The first thing that you’re going to want to do is toast your bagel half and fry your eggs with a sprinkle of salt, both to your desired preference. I like my bagel light-to-medium and my eggs over easy-to-medium (I don’t like to be put in a box, what can I say)?.

Bagel Smash-frying eggs

While your eggs are frying, cut your avocado in half along the north and south poles (I used to think that this instruction was superfluous until I saw my husband cut avocados along the equator. It threw my entire Universe out of whack so I have since made it a life’s mission to promote correct avocado slicing). Moving along, scoop or slice out some of your avocado half and smoosh the avocado onto the bagel.

Bagel smash-avocado smooshing

Now you take those perfectly fried eggs and place them atop your bagel.

Bagel smash-eggs in place

Adjust salt and pepper and with great ceremony, pierce the yolks and smear them all around the top of the eggs (best part!) Dig in and enjoy. Easy right?

Bagel Smash-bite

So what are your favorite toast or bagel smashes? I’m always looking for new ideas.

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My Favorite Green Smoothie Recipe

In the summer months I especially love to start my day off with a cold green smoothie for breakfast. I like to pack it full of good protein, fiber, and healthy fats to give me lots of energy in the morning and some frozen fruits to make it thick and delicious. This smoothie recipe is the same one that I have been making for almost seven years because I just love it that much. I thought that it was high time that I share the recipe here. My version is free of gluten and dairy, but you can make substitutions that are appropriate for your needs and preferences. Rumor has it that children will even drink it sometimes too.

Okay, you are going to need some ingredients. Before I tell you what to do with them I am going to tell you long stories about the ingredients because I find food really interesting:

Green smoothie ingredients

Coconut Oil: I love coconut oil. I have been using it for a long, long time. When we initially changed our diet over to being free of dairy eight or nine years ago, coconut oil was the primary fat that I used as a substitute for butter in baking. I find that I use organic, sustainably harvested palm shortening more for baking now but we still use loads of coconut oil for anything from smoothies to popcorn and a host of non-food applications as well. I also like repurposing the big, clear containers for storing dry goods or craft supplies after I finish the oil. In addition to being delicious and coming in useful containers, coconut oil has tremendous health benefits. You can Google your day away reading all about it. To get you started, here’s a helpful article exploring its greatness. I always make sure to buy raw, or cold-pressed, organic, coconut oil to get the maximum health benefits.

Hemp Seeds: Another super healthy and delicious ingredient. Of the brands I have tried, my personal favorite is Nutiva (they also make excellent coconut oil). I remember meeting who I think was the owner of the company at the Chicago Green Festival Expo seven or eight years ago (if he wasn’t the owner he was a representative with an intense passion for hemp seeds and coconut oil). We had already been using the products for a while at that time and came home from the festival with a stroller loaded with oil and hemp seeds that we purchased at the event. Hemp seeds are delicious, having a nutty flavor that reminds me of pine nuts. They are a great source of protein and fiber as well as omega-3s. I toss them into quick breads, yeast breads, smoothies, and on salads.

Bananas: Frozen bananas give a very creamy texture and mouth feel to the smoothie. Since I make this smoothie often and go through a lot of bananas doing it, I keep a never-ending bag of bananas in the freezer. Whenever we have bananas that are getting too ripe for anyone to eat happily, I just peel them, break them in half, and toss them in the bag. Many of the stores around me will also reduce overripe produce for quick sale and bananas are frequent flyers in this area. I tend to stock up on these spotted or bruised bananas at 5-8 cents each and use them to keep the “frozen banana bag” stocked.

Strawberries: I keep big bags of frozen strawberries on-hand for my smoothie needs. I like the zing that they give to the smoothie. The iron present in the greens will also be more readily absorbed when paired with the vitamin C in the berries. I have found the best value pound-for-pound at Costco in their 4 lb. bags. Since I know that I will use this quantity, I have no problem buying in bulk. l don’t always buy all of my produce organic, but I strongly prefer to eat organic strawberries because the Environmental Working Group tells me that it’s an important one.

Milk Substitute: We use rice milk as our primary milk substitute. We have used hemp milk in the past as well when protein content was of a higher priority in a milk substitute (when it was Asher’s primary fluid source as a toddler because Mommy had cancer and had to wean him far earlier than expected). You can use other preferred milk substitutes too as well as cow’s milk if dairy is agreeable to you and to your constitution. You can even use water, but I don’t think that tastes as delicious.

Green Powder: There are eleventy jillion green juices, shakes, and powders on the market these days. I have always made this smoothie with Pure Synergy Superfood powder. When I was first looking for a green powder to use in my smoothies, one of the moms from the kids’ Waldorf school sang the praises of this one. In my experience the moms at the school were some pretty nutritionally-savvy ladies so I took the recommendation to heart. I like Pure Synergy because it is packed with organic, raw, sprouted, awesomeness with everything from mushrooms and sea vegetables, to herbs and grasses. I am not affiliated with this company, I just think that they make a great product. If you have another green powder that you prefer, just substitute that in, adjusting the quantity to be equal to one serving of whatever green powder that you use.

Alright, now to make your smoothie you need:

1 c. rice milk or other milk substitute
2 bananas, frozen
3/4 c. strawberries, frozen
2 T. hemp seeds
1 T. coconut oil
1 T. Pure Synergy powder (they recommend that you work up to this amount over time so that you’re body doesn’t explode from too much healthy right away).

Now, it is important to follow the manufacturer guidelines for your blender if you make this frozen delight. In my experience, if you have a high-powered blender like a Vitamix, you can just toss everything in and blend away, using the tamper thing to get it all well blended. If you have a less powerful blender, you will likely have to thaw the fruit a bit or it will be too hard and dense and you will risk breaking your blades or overheating your motor. You also may need to start the blender without the fruit and slowly add the fruit a bit at a time with the blender running to avoid problems (I once spent a good thirty minutes on the phone with a blender customer service representative discussing the importance of a “vortex” in proper blender usage).

Sunshine making smoothie look black in picture.  Sad for picture but happy sunshine.

Sunshine making smoothie look black in picture. Sad for picture but happy sunshine.

It should be noted that this is not a low-calorie drink. It is about 24 oz. of nutrient-packed goodness. I use this as my breakfast and to fuel me all morning. You can of course modify the quantities of hemp seeds and coconut oil or the type of liquid used to alter the protein, fiber, fat, and calorie contents to suit your personal health needs. I like it just like this.

IMG_9910

See? Yum!

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Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Recipe: Gluten, Dairy, and Nut Free (with Superfood Bonus)

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread-gluten, dairy, and nut free with hemp seeds

We’re celebrating another birthday around here. When asked what she wanted for breakfast on her birthday, Alina said that she wanted banana bread. Since I had a bunch of bananas on my kitchen counter growing ever-browner and squishier, I was all too happy to oblige. What with it being a birthday and all, chocolate chips seemed to be an appropriate addition. I have even made this recipe into 2 round pans in the past and frosted it as a layer cake for a child’s birthday (put chocolate chips in it and frosting on it, and it’s cake to me).

I like this recipe because it uses a lot of bananas, which lend a great deal of flavor, sweetness, and moisture to the recipe. As a result, you can scale back the sugar and oil if you desire and depending on your other plans (e.g., with chocolate chips and frosting, I’d cut back on the sugar. If you add seeds or nuts you might want to pull back on the oil). I add hemp seeds to all of my quick breads because they boost the protein, fiber, and nuttiness and make me feel mildly less guilty when I gobble a second piece.

*brown sugar not pictured because I forgot it in the photo*

*brown sugar not pictured because I forgot it in the photo*

Makes 1 9×5 inch loaf or approximately 2 dozen cupcakes

Ingredients:

2 cups 3, 2, 1 Flour Mix! or other gluten free flour blend
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 c. grape seed or coconut oil or a blend of the two.
2/3 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/3 c. mashed overripe banana (approximately 5-6 large bananas)
2/3 c. semi sweet chocolate chips (dairy free; technically optional)
1/2 c. hemp seeds (this brand is my favorite; also optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

Banana bread-dry ingredients

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Stir to combine.

Banana Bread-oil and sugar mixing

3. Mix together oil and sugar.

banana bread adding eggs and bananas

Add eggs and mashed banana, mixing until well blended.

banana bread-adding chocolate and hemp

4. Add flour mixture, chocolate chips, and hemp seeds to banana mixture.

Banana bread-mix to moisten

Mix to just moisten.

banana bread-ready to bake

Pour batter into prepared pan. If possible, try to use one that’s been in your mother’s kitchen since 1972. If you’re feeling especially festive, sprinkle top center of loaf with a handful of extra chocolate chips.

5. Bake in preheated for 65-75 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (loaf is very dense and takes a while to cook through). Muffins will take closer to 30 minutes to cook through.

Banana bread fresh from the oven

6. Cool and enjoy!

This recipe also freezes well. I tend to make them as muffins and then freeze them to give to the kids as treats or as snacks in their lunch boxes.

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