low waste valentine’s day

 

Valentines zero waste

Disclaimer: I’m really not into holidays much- I grew up with a mom who was a Jehovah’s Witness so we never celebrated them.  Therefore, it’s not something I have strong connections with- no nostalgia, memories, or traditions tied in.  I know this sounds really ascetic and miserly, but it wasn’t and I’m actually really grateful, because I don’t feel pressure to participate in what I feel can tend to be overly materialistic aspects of holidays.  It’s pretty freeing to just spend time with family and give small and meaningful gifts from the heart as I feel inspired to, instead of on a specific date set in place by capitalistic white patriarchy:  I love the quote from that article- “practically everything in every store you walk into has some sort of Valentine’s Day limited edition, overpriced junk. Rational people ransack the joints, and leave with packages of third world manufactured festivity supplies that will tomorrow find their way to third world landfills. Sentiments, probably born in some gray cubicle, are expressed in cards written by someone else, somewhere else.”  Anyways….I’m not really an expert on holidays so forgive my mistakes if I overlook aspects of them.

Zero waste kids valentines

At Carmela’s school, they exchange valentines.  I can’t control what things are given to her, but I can control what we give out.  I volunteered to make the cookies for their class party so that they were healthy-ish and not bought in plastic from Costco as has happened in the past.  She makes her own valentines every year, from recycled materials such as brown paper bags, the backside of once used paper, old wrapping paper, even pretty chocolate bar wrappers we’ve cut up and used.

Valentines

Gold foil from chocolate make a great decoration to cut out too.  For paste, I do an easy homemade flour and water paste– its messy and it doesn’t hold up forever but it’s fun and biodegradable.  Be careful to find out if any kids in the class have gluten sensitivities if you use it since it does have flour.

Zero waste valentines

As little favors to go with the Valentine’s in lieu of plastic toys or candies, we made some candied orange peels with the leftover peels from local organic navel oranges we ate.  They’re really easy- just basically peel, slice into thin strips and then boil in simple syrup- this recipe works great.  I dip in melted chocolate after.  A good quick option would be bulk candy in a little paper bag or diy envelope/pouch.  We are also adding in little “treasures”- a marble, bit of sea glass, crystal, shell, pretty rock, dried flower, bead- I’ve found that younger kids really love these things and they can be free things you’ve found or repurposed.

Shells treasures beach

I attach the Valentines to the paper pouch with a bit of biodegradable jute twine.  One year, we gave sunflower seed packets and they were a hit, too.

orange peel candy

For the cookies, the teacher requested I make the same ones I made for their Christmas party, which are these Hot for Food gingerbread cookies.  I’ll cut them into hearts and add a little beet juice or cranberry powder to the icing for a natural pink. You could probably sub chilled coconut oil for the vegan butter but one of the kids in the class has an allergy.  I bring them in on one big plate and the teacher uses compostable paper napkins to serve (the school has a worm compost in their garden!)

valentines

If you’re thinking about giving flowers to someone, I’d suggest a gorgeous living plant instead to bring joy and life into your loved ones’ space for much longer and its so much more environmentally friendly.  Or homegrown flowers!

orchid

Plus, who isn’t obsessed with plants?  From a little succulent to a big handsome fiddle leaf fig, there’s an option for everyone.  Orchids are beautiful and the blooms last several months, and can keep blooming for years.  Below is a monstera that my husband gave me a couple years ago.  Since then I’ve propagated and divided it into a couple new plants, given a few away to others, and it’s brought me joy every day.

Monstera

If you can, choose fair trade and organic chocolate or ideally, buy locally if possible.  If you’re in Sacramento, Ginger Elizabeth’s is delicious and really nice about putting stuff in your own container.  You can also DIY this 5 minute chocolate bark from the archives that is infinitely customizable and looks like a million bucks.

chocolate bark vegan pomegranate superfood

For cards, personally I always appreciate getting a handmade card or even just a piece of pretty paper with heartfelt words rather than a premade card with a regurgitated message and signature.  I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel loved and appreciated to receive a lovely note, poem, etc.  A wonderful gift on Valentines is a book that celebrates self love- like Rupi Kaurs Milk and Honey + The Sun and Her Flowers.

zero Waste wrapping

However you celebrate or don’t celebrate this February 14th, I hope you have a wonderful day and bask in your self love.  If you get a teddy bear and unethical chocolate and lingerie and red roses and a hallmark card it’s ok too.  It’s wonderful to be alive and I love you all xx

low waste christmas

Curious about our low waste Christmas?  Here’s a little recap of how we tried to keep waste, consumerism, and junk to a minimum this Christmas while still keeping it cozy and fun, plus all the goodies we gave + received.  My philosophy is to keep gifts simple, minimal, useful.  (You can see my gift guide here if you’re interested)  Let’s go!

vegan kid christmas zero waste
A little last minute grocery shopping with this cutie for Christmas Eve

Wrapping: I wrapped everything in brown paper I had saved from shipping materials or upcycled paper gift bags.  For ribbons, I chose to use jute or cotton string (biodegradable and compostable).  Decorations included bay leaves, rosemary sprigs, fresh herbs, flowers, and clippings from the Christmas tree.  Check out this YouTube video from the lovely Alli for tips on wrapping sans tape.

Zero waste plastic free no tape wrapping present christmas

Tree: we did buy a tree this year, it’s not my ideal choice BUT the kids and J outvoted me on this one.  We bought it from a local business + I saved the string that we tied it to the car with for tying gifts.  All the ornaments/decorations on the tree are from when I was a kid, or glass ones handmade by my mother in law.  There’s a few paper and ceramic ones Carmela has made at school over the years.  I don’t buy any new ones.  We’ve been using the string lights for a few years and thankfully they have been fine!  Our city picks up the trees with our normal green waste (compost) and chips them to make mulch for city parks.

Christmas tree zero waste compost wood chips

Gifts:  Joel and I don’t exchange gifts (it’s just not our thing, we never have) BUT we give the kids, Joel’s mom, and a few friends gifts.  For my best friend, I gifted: a bottle of local sparkling wine from a cool winery, a bottle of good local, sustainable olive oil (from the farmers market which sells it in bulk!), and a jar of homemade green olive tapenade.

zero waste recycle Christmas present plastic free
that’s the olive oil wrapped in recycled paper and fresh bay leaves

For another friend, I gifted: a bottle of wine + one of my favorite books (picked up a cool vintage copy at a used bookstore) and wrote a little note on the inside flap.

wine secondhand book Christmas gift zero waste
He’s a minimal kind of guy, that’s why the wrapping is naked on these.

Carmela received: a tiny metal music box that plays Für Elise (her favorite song to play on piano), a hand knit beanie from her grandma, locally made soap, a new notebook, a pretty amethyst crystal, and a stack of books (her favorite gift always).

secondhand Christmas book zero waste kids
cracking a book open already

Vincent received:  a thrifted large metal tin filled with thrifted cars, a hand knit beanie from his grandma, a subscription to Click science based magazine, replacement pieces to the Operation game we own (thrifted by his grandma), and a book with cut-out paper airplane dragons.

Hot wheels car kids tin zero waste Christmas gift

For Joel’s mom, we gave her some local bulk coffee, a locally made apricot rose palm oil free soap bar, and a locally made candle in a glass jar.

As a family, from our lovely friend, we received a membership to a local museum which was the most thoughtful gift and one we can use all year long.  YAY

For others like: teachers, mailman, acquaintances etc we gave gingerbread cookies in thrifted metal tins lined with parchment paper.

no waste plastic free family Christmas holiday
this is how she wrapped it- totally waste free and beautiful!

Food: Christmas Eve dinner, we had stuffed cabbage rolls + festive red salad and baked vegan latkes.  

Christmas dinner vegan latkes gluten free radicchio winter

After dinner we drove around to look at lights with bulk homemade popcorn (air popper, tamari to season) to snack on.  The kids really enjoyed this as you can see.

Christmas kids eve

In the morning we had this v/gf monkey bread.  For appetizers: local baguette + cashew cheese, bulk olives, bulk in shell mixed nuts (so fun to crack), apples, tangerines all on a platter.

Vegan appetizer zero waste nut cracker
I thrifted the ceramic bowl and the ceramic coasters a few years back!

My mother in law brought homemade limoncello in a upcycled glass jar to share.  We received some plastic wrapped, non vegan cookies for our neighbors that I refused (which wasn’t fun to do, but I couldn’t just accept them and throw them away year after year). At least they will know for next year.

Music: on Spotify: Christmas jazz + Bossa Nova Christmas- for a more swanky, calm vibe.

minimal style french red lip
a little red lip for Christmas morning. Buon natale!

Passing the time:  board games, going on walks, watching A Christmas Story, cozying up and reading with a good book…I’m enjoying this one right now-

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We are having a fantastic Christmas + if you celebrate, I hope you are too.  I wanted to say a huge THANK YOU to all of you who read my blog and/or follow on Instagram!  You guys are so kind and positive + I’m so happy to have been able to connect with you through this online platform.  I love sharing and inspiring you, and being inspired by YOU in return!  Thanks for being a part of this little space.   All my love xx Amanda

healthy holidays: 5 tips to keep your glow

lemon water detox bitters liver holiday glow vegan

Whew!  Can you guys believe its already DECEMBER 4th?!?!  I feel like things are shifting up to top speed already.

Welcome to the crazy holiday season: traveling, cooking, cleaning, hosting, wondering what the f@#$ happened to your healthy habits.  butter! candy! cheese and crackers!!  people you can’t really stand but have to play nice with!  traveling!

If there’s any time of the year where you need some extra energy and grace, it’s definitely now.  Not to mention you want to look your best, glowy, vibrant self when you’re heading out to 3495069 dinners, holiday parties, family reunions etc.  So, here’s 5 tips to keep it healthy during the festivities.

palm tree holiday christmas

  1.  start every day with warm lemon water and green smoothie.  This simple habit is especially great during the holidays because it kicks sugar cravings and boosts the liver.  You’re getting your greens in FIRST THING which is promoting healthy, clear skin and resetting your palate.  Add in hemp, chia, or flax for a nice omega boost which helps keep you full longer (so that later you won’t be rummaging through that box of candy your neighbor gave you).  This recipe is nice and creamy.  Not a fan of green smoothies?  Try a turmeric carrot smoothie for similar anti-inflammatory, detoxifying properties.
  2. practice meditation daily.  Even if it’s just 5 minutes!  Taking that time for yourself to ground down, breathe, and stop the constant flow of thinking what you need to do next.  This is ESSENTIAL any time of year, but especially when you have a to-do list with no end.  I like to meditate 5-15 minutes right when I wake up to start with a calm, clean slate + right before I go to bed, to let go of whatever happened/didn’t happen that day.  You don’t have to be sitting, either- sometimes I do this when I take a shower, especially at night.   I like to visualize the water taking my stress, worries, and attachments + rinsing them right down the drain like mud.  If you need a little help meditating, I highly recommend the app Headspace.
  3. chlorophyll.  These little green drops are magic, especially when you’re lacking in sleep and/or drinking alcohol.  You just add a few drops to water and they boost liver function, support detox + are intensely alkaline.  That extra alkalinity will help balance out any acidity you may have from coffee, less-than-ideal foods, and stress.  Chlorophyll also increases energy, immunity + oxygenates skin to support that glow.  Of course, whole plant greens are better than extracts, but when you’re traveling or just need an extra boost, the drops are amazing.  You should be able to find these at any health food store, but here’s a link just in case.4272A317-86EB-4E04-A811-F231EB1E61E3.jpeg
  4. digestive bitters.  It’s all too easy to over indulge during the holidays, even if you normally eat healthy.  Keeping a bottle of digestive bitters in your purse is an easy way to help.  You can take them after eating if you overdid it to soothe a too full, bloated, or gassy tummy.  You can also take them before eating to stimulate your digestion and reduce cravings (even do a dropper full right into your cocktail!).  Bitters are super supportive for your liver + keep skin glowing and clear.  I like these from Urban Moonshine + they have a tiny spray bottle version too which can tuck into even the smallest bag.
  5. meal prep.  INVEST IN YOURSELF by prepping a breakfast/lunch the night before so you don’t even have to think about what to eat when things get crazy during the day.  That way, no matter what, you will be eating healthy.  Prep some of Loni Jane’s burcha the night before and keep it in jars in the fridge to grab and go.  Make a big batch of quinoa and chickpeas and a dressing or two.  Roast a big sheet pan of veggies and pick up some fresh salad greens.  Now you have everything you need to make a buddha bowl for lunch- just mix and match.  If you’re really exhausted, bring your own container to a salad bar like at Whole Foods and get your own healthy takeout.  No excuse to eat like crap, no matter how busy you are.  There’s always a better way + you deserve better.

Make your self care a priority this holiday season so that you look + feel your best.  I’m sure you guys have some tried and true tricks yourself for keeping it healthy in a hectic time- if so, comment below!  I’d love to hear them.

xx Amanda

zero waste holiday gift ideas

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With the holiday season beginning, I offer you this compilation of zero or low waste gifts, hoping that they will help you brainstorm and give with intention this year.  In my opinion, gifts should be well thought out, from the heart, and functional.  They should bring joy to the receiver (like edible gifts and experience gifts) or serve them for years to come (material gifts).  Where applicable, I’ve linked to items that I mention, but of course it’s best to search out items in your local area.  Not only will they be more special and personal, you’ll also be supporting your local economy.  At the end of the list, I’ve also included some wrapping ideas for less waste that are beautiful and much nicer than brightly colored shiny paper with plastic ribbon.

edible gifts:

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rosemary chile almonds

superfood chocolate bark

organic medjool dates (buy a box and portion them out in pretty jars!)

fermented hot sauce

pickled onions/carrots/beets/giardiniera/jalapeños

citrus marinated olives

olive oil, maple, and sea salt granola

growler of local beer 

local loose leaf tea + a stainless steel tea ball

organic coffee + a reusable cotton coffee filter

organic, biodynamic and/or local wine

beautiful handmade chocolate

sourdough starter + a straw bread proofing basket

curry paste

a nice olive oil and vinegar

a CSA box or Imperfect Produce subscription

experiences:

membership to a local museum, co-op, botanical garden, aquarium, state park pass

tickets to a ballet, play, opera, concert

classes: ceramics, art, language, dance

gift card to a lovely restaurant

subscription to Headspace (an amazing meditation app)

for people who love books:

Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking : a gorgeous cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi

At Home in the Whole Foods Kitchen : one of my all time favorites, lovely whole food recipes.

A Modern Way to Cook: 150+ Vegetarian Recipes for quick, flavor packed meals : a lovely cookbook with TONS of flavorful and quick recipes

Milk and Honey (an empowering feminist collection of poetry)

The Year of Magical Thinking (love Joan Didion.  This is especially lovely for someone who has recently experienced the death of someone close)

Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life (a quick read and very inspiring)

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (by Neil deGrasse Tyson and amazing)

beautiful vintage books- you can usually find these cheaply at a thrift store or second hand bookstore

for someone who loves food:

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glass and metal teapot

handmade linen bento bags

a sharp lovely knife

dutch oven- Obviously Le Creuset and Staub are wonderful, but World Market and Chantal both do high quality ones for cheaper

handmade ceramics- especially if there’s a local potter!

straw farmer’s market tote

mortar + pestle

french press

beautiful walnut wooden spoons

reusable silicone baking mat

cast iron skillet: these are an easy find at thrift stores!  Just give it a good clean + oil

for people who love to stay active: 

natural cork or rubber yoga mat

sustainable body roller for sore muscles and recovery

pass or punch card to a local yoga or pilates studio

raw, sprouted vegan protein powder in a glass jar

online membership to Ali Kamenova online yoga videos

for beauty lovers:

Lavender + Cocoa dry shampoo

Kjaer Weis organic refillable makeup

True Botanicals non toxic skincare that is clinically proven to work

reusable/washable facial rounds

non toxic, pretty highlighter in glass

RMS beauty non toxic lip+cheek colors that come in glass

rose facial mist

spa/sauna/facial/non toxic hair salon gift certificate

DIY body butter

set of therapeutic grade essential oils

Rent the Runway membership

masculine sorts of things:

beard balm

stainless steel safety razorDIY bay rum aftershave

vintage silk tie + tie clips/pins

gorgeous pocket knife (engravable, too, if thats your thing!)

chic metal mechanical pencil

minty lip balm  in a paper tube

zero waste stuff:

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bamboo toothbrush + DIY toothpaste + refillable dental floss

water bottle, reusable to-go coffee cup

reusable produce bags + cute mesh grocery tote

stainless steel tiffinsteel/  bamboo/  glass straws + set of reusable to-go silverware

stainless steel chopsticks+ pretty cloth napkins

set of mason jars/weck jars/le parfait jars

for the plant lover:

indoor plants from a local nursery like Fiddle Leaf Fig, Rubber Tree, ZZ plant, spider plant, fern, Monstera, succulents

a lovely pot or stand (thrift stores have tons of cool ones)

a crocheted plant hanger: simple DIY or BUY

kids:

Kazoo Magazine for girls (use code MYFAM for 20% off) or Cricket media magazines: they have a bunch of different ones for all ages and genders

pass/gift card to a local museum, bookstore, aquarium, ice cream shop, rock climbing, whale watching, movie theater, pizzeria.

Planet Earth II

wooden toys

coloring book + a nice set of colored pencils

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls

puzzles + board games

beautiful hair ribbons- you can purchase these at a fabric store by the yard, magnifying glass.

My kids especially love “treasures”: crystals, shells, smooth or interesting rocks, sea glass, acorns, dried flowers + a lovely wooden or metal box/tin to keep them in.

watercolor paper notebook + DIY mini watercolor tin or BUY: this company hand makes their watercolors and you can buy them in a shell instead of a plastic pan!!  Kids think this is so cool.

how to wrap with love and care for both the recipient and the earth:

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Reuse what you already have: newspaper, brown packing paper, a paper grocery bag are all great.  You can also buy a roll of brown paper/butcher paper to use for wrapping gifts.  Wrapping in cloth, furoshiki style (tutorial here) is lovely as well because its beautiful and adds a bonus gift- the cloth! For tying up your gift, pick up natural string: cotton, hemp, jute, or kitchen twine.  These are easy to find, especially at hardware stores or in the cooking section of stores.  If you can’t find that, go with a pretty ribbon.  You can buy this at a craft store and it can be reused.  For decoration, go with natural adornments that can be used or composted: flowers, rosemary, sprigs from your fir tree or christmas tree, thyme, fresh bay leaves.  If you are gifting something edible, try using glass jars or metal tins from the thrift store, lined with parchment paper if necessary.  Write and create your own cards if you have time- they’re much more beautiful and I always appreciate them more than something generic.  Or, pick up a handmade one on Etsy or from a local artist.

I hope this list is helpful to you, and I hope it inspires you to gift lovely things with a circular economy in mind instead of a disposable, or linear economy.  I’d love to see photos of your waste free gifts this season!  Tag me on Instagram to share! @mamaeatsplants xx

vegan + gluten free thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving (and all holidays) are really low key at our house.  It’s just us for dinner- me, J, and the kids.  We usually go on a hike in the early morning- AMAZING because usually no one else is out.  Then we come home and cook and watch a movie together.  We cook a lot of food because: leftovers (not having to cook again for days is amazing).  Here’s our simple, no fuss vegan and gluten free Thanksgiving menu:

Main: lentil + walnut loaf (this recipe): this is so delicious and has all those stuffing-esque flavors.  Plus, it’s sliceable and works perfectly in lieu of turkey in those leftover sandwiches (arguably the best part of Thanksgiving)

Gravy: mushroom gravy (this recipe): if you’ve never made mushroom gravy you’ve been cheating yourself.  Mushrooms are the perfect umami flavor and it is rich, easy, and delicious.

Mashed potatoes: I use a potato ricer to keep them super fluffy and then fold in splashes of coconut milk, garlic, and salt to taste.  Also perfect here is Miyoko’s vegan butter if you’re into that (and who isn’t?)

cranberry sauce: I buy cranberries at my co-op which offers them package free!  Usually I just wing it and throw them in a pot + simmer with orange juice/zest, maple syrup and cinnamon.  For a hands off oven version,  this recipe is perfect.

brussels: super simple, I just slice them in half (or quarters if they’re huge) + roast in the oven at 400 with a drizzle of EVOO, salt + pepper until they’re crispy and tender.

kale salad: I feel like you always need a fresh, raw, bright component for Thanksgiving to cut through all the heavier flavors and textures.  I’ve been OBSESSED with Amy Chaplin’s creamy kale slaw recipe so I’ll probably make that.  I’ve made this brussels slaw with maple pecans before too, with delicious results.

kabocha pie with coco whip: I’ll be experimenting this year with pumpkin pie and subbing my own homegrown pureed squash instead of canned pumpkin, and experimenting by converting a much loved cashew-ginger-spelt crust to GF (fingers crossed).  This easy V/GF crust from Pure Mamas looks amazing too.  Last year we did these awesome and super easy pumpkin pie parfaits with vanilla cashew cream. For the coco whip, here is a super easy tutorial from Oh She Glows with step by step pics.  I heard that TJ’s carries a coco whip too if you’re short on time!

I hope you all have a wonderful time enjoying food, friends and family this Thanksgiving!  Please consider donating your time to a local food bank to give back to others who may be less fortunate on this holiday xx

zero waste halloween

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This is the story of how we survived Halloween with 2 kids, no waste and still had a fantastic time in the process.

I always struggled with the idea of Halloween.  I love the costumes and energy of all the kids coming together in our small friendly neighborhood.  However, I always felt guilty about the waste; the hoards of candy that we accumulated to give, the massive amount we received, the amount my kids ate, the amount that went in the trash afterwards.  It just seemed like a ridiculous idea to me: go out and ask for candy that I didn’t even want from people who used their money to buy it, just to trash/donate it afterwards- a wasteful futile lifecycle.

Other parents commiserated with me.  Really, no one wants their kids eating that much candy- most people I talked to said they let their kids eat as much as they wanted that night and then trashed or donated the rest.  Personally, I don’t agree with teaching kids to gorge and binge on candy that night- I try to foster a healthy relationship with food in our house.  Plus, I don’t want my kids eating any of that cr*p.  Whether you are vegan or not, I think we can all agree that the candy ingredients are the scariest part of Halloween.  High fructose corn syrup, palm oil, hydrogenated oils, artificial colors and flavors!!!  Spooky stuff.  Donating the candy seems like a good idea, but honestly I don’t believe anyone should be eating this unhealthy “food”.  Taking the candy also supports the companies behind it- big companies like Nestle who aren’t sustainable, fair trade, or socially/environmentally responsible.  ALSO all that individually wrapped, plastic candy creates SO. MUCH. TRASH.

I wanted to share our  waste free Halloween alternatives this year to hopefully inspire you for next year. To show you that YES, not creating trash on Halloween is totally doable, even with kids.  And even if you make one small change or even just file this information in the back of your head for later, it will be so worth it.

  1. Pumpkins: instead of carving pumpkins, I buy the sugar pie pumpkins and let the kids paint them.  After Halloween, instead of trashing them, I peel the skin off and use them in pies, roasted, in smoothies, pumpkin bread, pumpkin butter, etc.  If you do carve pumpkins, COMPOST it after Halloween instead of trashing it!  Food waste in the landfill creates methane gas which pollutes our air.
  2. Costumes: I always use what we have to make costumes OR buy a thrift store costume.  It is environmentally friendly, cheap, and unique.  This year, my daughter was a night fairy with an all black outfit, glitter and stars on her face, and wings someone gave us.  Vin was Spongebob (a $3 costume we found at Thrift Town).  Other ideas: host a costume swap with friends, or check on Freecycle or Craigslist in your area.  In the U.S., we spend $3.4 BILLION DOLLARS on new costumes every year, with most of them being thrown away after Halloween.  If you do buy a costume, be responsible and give it away to a friend, someone in your community, sell it online, or donate to a thrift store after Halloween.
  3. Trick or Treating: This year, in lieu of trick or treating for candy, my kids collected donations for UNICEF which supports and defends kids in need worldwide.  We got the little orange donation boxes via school, but you can get one from UNICEF or download a DIY form from their site.  This year we collected almost $60!  Doing so teaches my kids to care about others and emphasizes giving rather than getting.  This is a normal thing in my neighborhood and mostly everyone is prepared with change to give.  Some people aren’t prepared or interested in giving and that’s ok!  I talked with the kids about this earlier so they were prepared for this.  Some people still snuck a candy to Vin (mostly old people).  I avoided this as much as possible by going up to the door with him to make sure.  We ended up with 5 pieces of candy that I gave back to the neighbor kids.
  4. Giving out candy:  If you’ll be at home giving out candy, consider using bulk candy or these amazing Alter Eco truffles which have a compostable wrapper.  Theres a lady in our neighborhood who gives out tangerines with little spooky faces drawn on them with Sharpie too and the kids love them!
  5. Alternative Treats:  Instead of candy, my kids picked out treats ahead of time to enjoy after trick or treating was over.  They chose these raw lemon bars and bulk candy they chose from the store that we bought in our own bag.  My friend brought over carrot cake whoopie pies too.  They were really excited for this, and I was happy to let them indulge in these healthier treats made with real whole food ingredients.
  6. Parties:  If you are going to a Halloween party, be sure to bring your own cup!  My neighbors host a party every year where Solo cups are the norm.  I bring my mason jar to enjoy the drinks waste free.  If you are hosting the party, consider using reusables and doing bulk candy instead of the individually wrapped stuff.
  7. Decorations:  Use things you already have, or buy them at the thrift store and save them to use year after year.  There are so many decorations you can find in November that are donated after Halloween.  Pumpkins, gourds, squashes, are all festive and either edible and/or compostable.

To be honest, I was a little worried the kids wouldn’t have as much fun this year .   I was imagining an ascetic, miserly affair.  We actually ended up having loads more fun.  The kids were so excited to raise money for UNICEF in their little orange boxes.  We met up with kids in our neighborhood plus a few of our friends.  We got a lot of positive comments from people at the door and other parents.  Afterwards, our friends came back to our house with us and we all shared and enjoyed treats and chili.  Carmela excitedly counted all the money we had raised (about $60 total!) and we played and talked for a few hours before bed.  We had a lovely time together, ending up with MEMORIES instead of THINGS.  It felt so good to live our values, to teach our kids to stick to what you believe in, even when it is totally different from what others are doing.  Here’s to new traditions with much more fun, love, compassion, and a lighter footprint on our gorgeous planet.

5 minute superfood dark chocolate bark

chocolate bark vegan pomegranate superfood

I have been making a batch of this chocolate bark every week and keeping it in the fridge, enjoying a few pieces each night as an after dinner treat.  Silky and rich, with tons of different flavor nuances just like a good wine.  With lots of polyphenols and antioxidants, dark chocolate is a healthy treat.  Just make sure you’re eating 70% or higher cacao content to ensure that you’re reaping all the healthy benefits chocolate has to offer.  Cacao has a specific antioxidant, epicatechin, that lowers the risk of stroke, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and dementia.  Some researchers even consider epicatechin an essential vitamin.  It reduces inflammation, improves blood flow, and elevates nitric oxide in the blood ( this is what Viagra does- no wonder chocolate is considered a love food) .

This bark is infinitely customizable and only takes about 5 minutes to put together. The one I made today was sesame seed (gives a savory quality to it, almost like chocolate covered pretzels), coconut flake, hemp seeds, pomegranate arils, flaky sea salt, and almonds.  Almonds are my favorite nut to use because they give the biggest crunch payoff.  Get a pretty tin to put it in and it makes a wonderful last minute gift, too.

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Superfood Dark Chocolate Bark.

8 ounces or so (2-3 bars) dark chocolate, preferably 70% or above and organic (I prefer Scharffenbergers (not organic but no-gmo soy lecithin) or Green&Blacks)  update: I now use bulk Tcho chocolate

Any or all of these healthy toppings:

hemp seeds

coconut flakes (toasted or not)

sesame seeds

almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or cashews

pomegranate arils, freeze dried raspberries or strawberries, dried cherries, goji berries, etc.

flaky sea salt (like Maldon)

Rig a double boiler: fill up a large saucepan halfway with water, then place a heatproof mixing bowl over the pot.  Make sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.  Start the water boiling and chop up your chocolate.  It doesnt have to be super tiny pieces, just a rough chop will do fine.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with a Silpat (aka the best invention ever) or parchment paper.  Now put all your chocolate in the bowl of your double boiler.  Stir with a rubber spatula until thoroughly melted.  Pour your chocolate onto your lined pan.  Spread the chocolate out with your spatula until it is the thickness you desire.  I like it thin so I spread it out a lot.  Sprinkle all your desired toppings over.  Pop in the freezer for 10 minutes to harden up.  Peel the chocolate carefully off of the silpat/parchment and break into coarse pieces.  Store in the fridge or freezer for a snappier chocolate, or keep at room temperature (no hotter!) in an airtight container.  If you give it as a gift it would be a good idea to seperate the pieces with parchment paper so they dont stick together.

My personal favorite: Scharffenberger 70% cacao.  Their 85% is AMAZING too.  Rich, nuanced chocolatey flavor with NO acrid/bitter flavors that I taste in many dark chocalates from other brands.  Green & Blacks is my second choice, organic, and more widely available.  Update: I now use bulk Tcho Chocolate, equal exchange is good too.

scharffenberger bittersweet

Enjoy!

Love,

A.

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