Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Paleo Veggie, Bacon, and Beef Chili

I know what you're thinking.  Another Paleo chili recipe?  The recipe world is inundated with them, so why would I waste my time making another? Ummm...  because this one is the best, that's why!  Don't get me wrong, I've tried quite a few of the chili's out there, and some are really good, but each one I tried seemed to be lacking something.  If it was meaty enough, there weren't enough veggies.  If it had lots of vegetables, it was lacking in flavor.  I wanted create one that had a thick, meaty texture, with lots and lots of veggies, and that had enough spices so that it actually tasted like chili.  Oh, and bacon.  Because, well bacon makes me happy. 
I add a crap load of veggies to my chili because other than a salad, there's not many veggie side dishes that go well with chili, and I love the idea of a one pot meal that contains every component of a healthy, well rounded meal.  Feel free to play around with different veggies and different meats.  I used ground beef because it's the most economical, and it's a staple in most people's fridges.  I've also made this with top sirloin, which was crazy delicious, and you could use ground turkey as well. 
This chili receives the highest praise from the hubby and even my boys and it improves as it sits, which makes it perfect for leftovers.  My boys eat raw dairy and so their bowls are topped with copious amounts of shredded raw cheddar and sour cream, adding to the deliciousness of this dish.  If you don't eat dairy, no worries, this chili is plenty good without it. 

Confession.  I'm starting to get a little bit annoyed concerned.  Once upon a time, in an enchanted land far, far away, I was able to get up at 5:00 a.m., and blog or prep meals without the kids underfoot.  I am not sure what's changed, but the time I have to wake up to have some solitude keeps getting earlier and earlier.  My boys are usually up by 5:30, which means for me to get at least an hour of uninterrupted productivity I have to get up at 4:15!!  As sad as it makes me to think of them getting older, I would be lying if I said I'm not looking forward to the day where I have to wake them up.  All you moms with early risers know what I'm talking about.  Is it too much to ask to have a moment of peace in the morning?  Look outside.  Is it still dark?  Has mom enjoyed a cup of coffee yet?  If you answered no to any of these questions, please, please stay in bed.  This needs to be a law.  I wish I knew how to enforce it.  That should be my next post.  How to successfully keep your kids sleeping in bed until the exact moment you want them to wake up.  I bet it would be my most popular post.

And right on cue, Murphy's Law just reared it's ugly head.  My oldest just walked downstairs and my two year old is screaming, "Mama, meeee, uuuuppp!"  It's 5:32.  Right on schedule.  Looks like I was able to down at least one cup of coffee and manage to write almost all of this post before they got up.  Oh well, there's always tomorrow. 
On a positive note, it's a gorgeous, gloomy, rainy day here in Northern California, which means it's a perfect day to enjoy a big bowl of this warm, comforting chili.  At least my dinner is taken care of.  I prepped everything last night, which means come tonight, all I have to do is throw all my ingredients in my stock pot, let it do it's thing, and I'll have a delicious dinner on the table in no time.  Because this chili is made all in one pot, complete with all the veggies, protein, and healthy fats right inside, it means I only have one dish to wash.  For that I am thankful.  And although it may have seemed like I was complaining, I am extremely grateful for each moment I get to spend with my little monkeys, even if those moments come at the crack of dawn :)
Paleo Veggie, Bacon, and Beef Chili
1 yellow onion, diced
1 large bell pepper, diced (I used red, but any color will do)
2 zucchini, diced
1 large carrot, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb grass-fed beef, turkey or steak
5 slices of bacon, chopped
1 14 oz can of diced fire roasted tomatoes
1 14 oz can of tomato sauce*
1 c bone broth or store bought stock
1 T apple cider vinegar
3-5 T chili powder (I used 5, might have even been 6, I like my chili well seasoned.  Start with 3 and add more if desired)
1 T paprika
1 T cumin
2 t red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
avocado, diced
optional but highly recommended: raw cheddar cheese and sour cream
Heat cubed bacon in a large stock pot over medium heat and cook until fully browned.  Remove cooked bacon from pan and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain. 
Add onion, bell peppers, zucchini, and carrot into the hot bacon grease and cook for a few minutes until the veggies begin to soften.  Add garlic and cook for another minute.
Add in ground beef, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon.  Allow the meat to cook for a 1-2 minutes and then add all your spices, chili powder through salt and pepper.
Pour in diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, bone broth, and apple cider vinegar and give the mixture a good stir.  Bring it up to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 45 minutes.  Remove lid and simmer for another 10 minutes.  Taste for seasoning and adjust to your liking.  Add diced avocado, cooked bacon, and cheese and sour cream if using. 
 *If you prefer your chili a little thicker, I would opt for a small 8 oz can of tomato sauce instead of the 14 oz.  I use a 14 oz can and it is always perfect for us, but hey, it's your dinner, so do what you like!


Monday, November 18, 2013

All-natural Diaper Cream

My love affair with homemade beauty products goes something like this.  For years, before I was the crazy research nut that I am now, I slathered myself with every fragrance-filled, chemical bomb of a product that littered the shelves of the beauty aisles.  Then my first son was born, and my world was turned upside down.  I began scrutinizing not only everything we put in our bodies, but everything we put on them as well.

I was horrified when I learned of all crap I had been putting on my body.  And if you think the stuff you apply on yourself isn't as important as the things you put in it, think again.  Skin is our largest organ, and every single product you use gets absorbs into your bloodstream.  This is the very reason applying antiperspirant to the sensitive, thin skin of the underarm has been linked to breast cancer.  What we put on us, we are putting in us.

To be honest, before I became the crazy, witch doctor that I am today, (as my husband so lovingly refers to me as) I don't think I ever even bothered to read the ingredient list on any of my personal care items.  Sure, I was eating healthy, but I was spreading garbage all over myself. 

This immediately changed when my son was born.  Carefully reading the ingredient list of any and everything that I bought became the very first thing I did before I even considered purchasing it.  The Environmental Working Group, or EWG, became an invaluable resource for me as I began to delve into the scary world of cosmetic ingredients.  They have an amazing database, where they rate beauty products according to their toxicity and give them a rating from low to high hazard.  All you have to do is enter the product name, from Burt's Bees to Pantene, and you can see where your favorite products rank.

Armed with my new found beauty product knowledge, I ditched all our chemical laden junk and replaced my family's products with natural ones.  Everything from lotion to shampoo to diaper cream got an overhaul.  I was fairly happy with this situation until one day it finally dawned on me that I could produce the same results, perhaps even create a better product than anything I could find on the shelf of my neighborhood drugstore, by making it myself.  Not to mention, most homemade products cost a fraction of the big name guys and they are so easy to make. But the best thing about making homemade beauty products?  You decide what ingredients go into it, and which ones don't.  You can provide your family a product made with only the purest, highest quality ingredients nature has to offer.

My family's motto when it comes to diet and personal care products is simple.  The fewer the ingredients, the better it is.  We choose products and foods that are still in their natural state, just the way Mother Nature made them.  This diaper cream meets those requirements.  It is made of only four ingredients, five if you include the essential oils in your recipe.  Each of the ingredients are unaltered, straight from nature to you.

What makes this cream so great?
Shea butter- a rich, creamy, emollient, vegetable fat derived from the nuts of the Karite tree in Central and West Africa.  It is rich is vitamins A, E, and K and is extremely soothing for the skin.  When used in it's raw state, it also has anti-fungal properties and is effective in killing yeast.  I have yet to find another skin salve as moisturizing and soothing as raw shea butter.

Bentonite Clay- one of the most powerful healing clays known to man.  It is made of aged volcanic ash and is prized for it's ability to remove toxins, chemicals, heavy metals and impurities.  It can be taken both internally and externally and is extremely effective at treating various skin ailments. Due to it's anti-bacterial properties, bentonite clay has been shown to be an effective candida killer, which is the cause of most yeast rashes. Bentonite clay is rich in minerals, including, calcium, magnesium, silica, iron, and potassium.

Coconut oil- probably the most amazing oil on the planet, coconut oil has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties, while also being a highly effective moisturizer and wetness barrier.  The benefits of taking coconut oil internally are just as impressive as it's topical uses, and range from promoting healthy brain function (which is why it is been found very effective in preventing and reversing Alzheimer's) to strengthening the immune system, and increasing metabolism.  As a family, we strive to take at least 3 T of coconut oil daily.

Beeswax- recognized for it's conditioning properties, beeswax has a array of benefits for the skin.  It has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, and protects the skin by creating a protective barrier that keeps environmental assaults at bay, all while trapping moisture in and preventing dryness.  It is rich is vitamin A, and is a very effective wound healer.  One of the great things about beeswax is it is a natural thickening agent, which gives this diaper cream a great texture and prevents it from turning into soup in hot weather!

Homemade Diaper Cream


1/2 c raw shea butter (available online or at most health food stores
1/4 c extra virgin coconut oil
1/4 c bentonite clay
2 T grated beeswax
essential oils such as tea tree, lavender, chamomile, or calendula 


Place beeswax and shea butter in a double boiler, or a glass bowl over lightly simmering water, and gently melt while stirring occasionally. 

When almost melted, add coconut oil and continue to stir until fully melted.

Remove from heat and allow to cool to a semi-solid state, somewhat like pudding consistency.  You can place it in the fridge to expedite this process.  

Add bentonite clay and essential oils, if using, and mix thoroughly. 

Place in a glass container where it will keep for up to a year.

Spread on baby's bottom with every diaper change to repel moisture or at the first sign of a rash to quickly heal it! 

*Please note, due to the use of natural oils and butters in this recipe, it may change texture depending on the ambient temperature.  The beeswax does help immensely with this, but in very warm climates (or homes) you may end up with a much softer, thinner cream.  While this doesn't affect the effectiveness of the cream, it is wise to store in a jar with a tight fitting lid so you don't end up with a big oily mess!