Hello and happy August! I’ve been getting so many requests lately for plant-based recipes so I thought I would share some of my recent favorites. Jules and I have been doing a lot of baking, and he’s also been doing a lot of cooking projects with our lovely nanny Alayna. Here are some of our recent winners:

  1. Lavender-infused lemon cake 

Lavender Cake

This was absolutely delicious! We swapped out a lot of ingredients and added in some special items along the way, so I encourage you to personalize it as well 🙂 The recipe link is below, but here is a summary of how we adjusted it:
Ingredients:
  • 1 & ½ cups All-purpose Flour
  • ÂĽ teaspoon Baking Powder
  • â…› teaspoon Baking Soda
  • ÂĽ teaspoon Salt
  • ½ cup Butter, softened
  • 1 cup Sugar (we used 1/2 cup coconut sugar and a bit of maple syrup)
  • 3 Eggs (we used 1 egg and 2 “flax meal” eggs)
  • Âľ cup 2% Greek Yogurt (we used Forager brand cashew yogurt)
  • 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 teaspoon Lemon Zest
  • 1 tablespoon dried Lavender (we infused 3 Tblsp dried lavender flowers into some macadamia nut milk by simmering it on low for 10 minutes and straining it into cake rather than just throwing in the flowers whole)
  • Optional: we added a half scoop of our favorite Aloha brand vanilla protein powder (pea protein)
  • Also: I’d add extra lemon zest, that was my favorite part!
For the Drizzle:
  • ÂĽ cup Icing Sugar (we completely re-crafted our own drizzle with maple syrup, the lemon juice, some cashew yogurt and vanilla extract)
  • Juice of ½ Lemon

**Full recipe from Spice in the City:

2. Vegan carrot cake
Carrot Cake
YUM. Alayna and Jules made this today for the home visit of Jules’ Wadorf school teacher Angela. Turns out she can’t eat gluten or coconut oil so we ate it ourselves 🙂 I almost always use organic brown rice flour instead of white flour but we were out of it today.
Ingredients:
cake:
  • 2ÂĽ cups (256g) flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (125g) applesauce
  • 1 cup organic almond milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup coconut sugar
  • ½ cup (melted) coconut or canola oil
  • 2 cups (240g) grated carrots, medium-packed
frosting:
  • ½ cup (58g) raw macadamia nuts (soaked, drained and rinsed)*
  • ½ (68g) cup raw cashews (soaked, drained and rinsed)*
  • ÂĽ cup almond milk
  • ÂĽ cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt

**Full recipe from Love and Lemons: https://www.loveandlemons.com/vegan-carrot-cake-macadamia-frosting/

3. Cashew Veggie Pad Thai – seriously to die for

PadThai

This recipe from Faring Well only makes 3 servings, so definitely double it!

stir-fry
1 medium zucchini
2 medium carrots
1 red bell pepper
1 package of kelp noodles (note: the kelp noodles are kind of spongy; I made it with soba noodles and liked it much better! Also – leave out the chili flakes if you’re making it for kids)
1 package of tempeh
2 tablespoons olive oil

cashew sauce
1/2 cup toasted cashew butter (plain)
1/2 cup filtered water
2 tablespoons tamari
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes

toppings
cashews, toasted and chopped
fresh cilantro leaves
wedge of lime

**Full recipe: http://faring-well.com/cashew-veggie-pad-thai/

And finally, here are some great plant-based food blogs: 

http://faring-well.com/
http://www.veganricha.com/
http://www.picklesnhoney.com/
https://www.loveandlemons.com/
http://onetwosimplecooking.com/vegan
http://ohsheglows.com/
http://minimalistbaker.com/
http://heartbeetkitchen.com/
http://healthyslowcooking.com/
http://www.greenkitchenstories.com/recipe-index/
http://www.theglowingfridge.com/

This one isn’t specifically plant-based but has some great vegetarian recipes: https://smittenkitchen.com.

Enjoy!

Love,

Mama Ashlita

Ps. I’m starting my new job this coming week, so I will post more information as soon as I can 🙂

Ash and Bas

Mama and Bas summertime snuggles

Jules

My sweet Jules, 4 yrs old

Lavender Lemon cake

My healthier take on the lavender lemon cake 🙂

Bas

Basje, 1 years old

Fairies

Fairies in the house!

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We are so sad it’s our last day here! The heat wave is back and we’re in such a beautiful groove with the boys. Our little house is small and simple, with a canal right out front that Bas can throw rocks into endlessly, where we see bunny rabbits and baby ducks, the boys can run right over to the most epic green lawn with a big trampoline, teeter totter, swings and slides, and we’re right next to sand dunes and a forest leading to the beach. The beauty of simplicity. So yummy.

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We also had a great time visiting Muidorslot, an incredible castle surrounded in water! It was used as a fortress in the 1600s. So enchanting.

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And this church in Gouda was simply exquisite! We were all mesmerized by the organ music that plays from 12-1pm every day (we were lucky to hear 15 min. of it!!), so magical with the copper floors and stained glass windows with God coming out of the sky and huge pillars.IMG_3928IMG_3859Teaching the boys about praying, and Jules was very impressed by God coming out of the stained glass windows aboveIMG_3819IMG_3774IMG_3751

IMG_3674IMG_3688IMG_3651IMG_3711We also took a ride on the Van Kesteren’s Bakfiets – the traditional bikes all the families use here to transport their kids around. You’ll see mamas in high heels biking 2-5 kids around at once just cruising through traffic! I rode one and it’s so fun and easy (the lack of hills helps!).

IMG_3385IMG_3347We loved the family reunion where 40 of Erol’s Dutch family members gathered to meet the youngest generation! So many wonderful friends and family here…

IMG_4100IMG_4126IMG_3580IMG_3558IMG_3527IMG_3518IMG_3482IMG_3432IMG_7977We’ve spent more time with the Van Kesteren family than any of Erol’s blood family members. They’re from Voorhout where Henny grew up. We adore them. Niek and Marjan have 3 daughters and 10 grandkids! We’ve been to all of their homes and had many meals together this trip. Here are some of the cute grand kids:IMG_3340

I truly love this country. The only thing I have a hard time with is the prevalence of the meat and dairy industry. It’s not easy being a vegetarian and eating out here – so much meat. Yes, cheese production has a rich cultural and historical importance here. But sometimes traditions need to change when they’re causing big problems, like in this case, global climate change! You’d think it’s all friendly family farms driving from Noordwijk to Amsterdam to Haarlem and Gouda and Delft, with so many cows and sheep everywhere, but it turns out there are indeed factory farms here. And Dutch milk products are very popular in China, so even as milk consumption decreases here, much of it will go to export.

If you look a little closer past the happy cows on pasture, you’ll notice that many of them have utters so full and engorged that they can barely move. I’ve spent many days here with a very heavy heart after seeing so many cows in this state. Being a lactating mother myself, I can’t imagine the pain those poor mama cows must be in with utters 10x bigger than what size they should be. The dairy industry is cruel and entirely obsolete with all the innovations in food science today. Nut milk alternatives not only taste better, but they are better for human health and the environment!

As my friend Thomas King, Executive Director of Food Frontiers, so articulately explains:

Earlier this week I met a group of calves while being filmed at a farm in Holland. They were so sweet and gentle, most just wanted affection. Many were only 48 hours old and tried desperately to suckle on my hand in lieu of their mother’s udders. 

Ten minutes later a truck pulled up, and they were loaded in and sent to slaughter. The farmer told me that 70-80% of them will end up as trash, and the rest will have their small bodies carved up and served as veal. This is dairy farming in 2017. 

These babies are the by-product of milk production. Their mothers – who are valued solely for their ability to lactate – are impregnated so frequently they give birth every year, which keeps them at maximum “production”. Their offspring are removed within 24hrs, which causes significant stress and grief, and these mothers typically undergo 5–6 cycles of birth and loss before they’re considered “spent” by the industry and are killed. 

No matter the region and no matter the farm, these same practices occur routinely around the world – even on small country properties like this one in the Netherlands, where animal welfare standards are considered the highest in the world. There are always surpluses of unwanted calves in dairy production, particularly males, as they have no purpose in an industry that exploits the female reproductive system. In Australia, over 400,000 of these unwanted babies are born and slaughtered every year.

In my short time with them, I did what I could to give these little ones some love and attention with head rubs and chin scratches, hoping that they could experience some pleasure during their brutally short lives. I think it’s clear, however, that they shouldn’t be there in the first place – and I believe any sane, compassionate person would agree with that. 

Luckily, each of us has a powerful tool to prevent this unnecessary cruelty: our food choices. It’s never been easier to choose kindness over cruelty with the abundance of delicious dairy-free options now available (http://bit.ly/1rhpDb9), which will only continue to grow. 

This coming week, if you usually choose dairy, try a plant-based option instead. Order your morning latte with Bonsoy; pick up some insanely delicious Over the Moo caramel coconut ice cream; or try Vitasoy’s Oat Milk on your cereal. 

These options are also better for the climate, and they’re better for our health according to major peer-reviewed studies (by Harvard and others), which have debunked time and time again the myth that dairy is necessary and beneficial to human health. 

If nothing else, do it for this little man, ‘number 18’, and the millions of other hidden victims like him who deserve so much better.

Thomas and Cow.jpg

The future is plant-based!

xoxo,

Ashley

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Wow, what an amazing few days! Since my last update we have been having the best time ever! We spent another incredible day exploring Holland by boat (Erol’s Uncle Teo’s house in Walbrougga to Leiden and back), enjoyed a magical beach day at Wit Sands on the north sea, followed by two magical days in Delft, where Erol’s grandfather was born and raised.

It is so so special to be here again with Erol, 7 years later, this time with our two beautiful children in tow, taking them to Erol’s family roots. Every time we drive by Erol’s grandfather’s church or the little attic where Henny was born in Voorhout, Jules says, “there’s where Omi was born!” We visited Erol’s uncle Teo’s home in Walbrougga, and it was so so Dutch – the art on the walls, the design of the house, perched among the fields of flowers and black sheep right on the canal and the boats, smelling so freshly of cow poop in the wind – it reminds me so much of Erol’s mama (not the poop) and I can feel so deeply this land and the family history here. It’s really incredible. Everywhere we drive Erol has stories about his childhood, how when he was 11 he spent 2 months here and biked all the way to Belgium with his friend, alone, and when he was 13 adventures of biking to other faraway towns alone.

Here are a few photos from our time at Erol’s uncle’s house. Om Teo is 87!!! And so present, clear and sharp. He still works in his garden and cooks his own dinner every night. Such a sweet, kind man, even after losing his life partner many years ago and last year his only son ;(

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After a sweet visit at Om Teo’s house, we prepared the boat and headed out on our canal adventure. Yves was the captain again. We were a bit worried about the weather on our ride all the way to Leiden by canal, but the forecast said the sun would be out shortly. Due to the unexpected rain, we kept the boat tent up and going under a very low bridge, we ripped the boat cove and had to build a fort to stay dry. It was a memorable adventure!

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After our adventurous day of a rainstorm and blustery day on the water, we had the most epic sunny, hot beach day at Wit Sands! The endless beach and sparkling pools of water keep the boys entertained for hours. And there is this Bohemian beach chalet called Tolum with dream catchers everywhere, the best fresh coconut water ever, orange carrot juices to die for, and dope reggae beats blasting from the speakers. We posted up here with Fluer and Lotta, our Dutch girlfriends.

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After our dreamy day on the beach, we made the short 45 min. drive to Delft – it was my favorite day of the trip so far. Delft is this quaint, gorgeous little town south of Noordwijk (just south of the Hague). It’s a miniature version of Leiden, which is a mini version of Amsterdam. So many old churches, stunning stained glass windows, incredible doors, narrow brick and cobblestone pathways winding through town, and of course the quintessential Dutch canals, boats, and stylish people on bikes EVERYwhere.

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It rains so much here, the landscape is wonderfully lush and deep green! We’ve been driving all through the countryside and cities every day, astounded by the vibrant colors and stunning beauty. The towns and cities are quaint and regal – fastidiously kept and so seamlessly integrated into the agricultural lands with community gardens, fields of flowers, and farm animals everywhere.

Today we went to Amsterdam for the second time. We started the day in the Van Gough museum and then ended up in a toy store where Bas woke up from his nap puking super smelly vomit everywhere. Really nasty. So that was kind of the end of that story. Other than our rough day in Amsterdam today, traveling with the boys has been a dream, we’re flowing together so well and full of gratitude! We never want it to end. Savoring each and every day together! It’s amazing how the kids have been getting along so well here, not like at home where they fight over their toys and their play spaces. How blessed we are.

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Oh my goodness, we are having such a dreamy adventure so far – our first little European family vacation! How blessed we are. As I write this, warm winds are blowing outside off the North Sea in this small beach town called Noordwijk, it’s 10pm and still completely light out. It appears that we have a pattern of bringing California heat waves with us to Holland – they had the hottest day of the year this week, on the summer solstice, just two days after we arrived. The last time Erol and I were here in June 2010, it was the hottest week of weather they had had all year. But the massive thunder and lightning storm yesterday definitely blew in a cooler front, we shall see how the next couple of weeks bode.

 

The flight here was pretty great all things considered – Jules slept the entire way in the middle seat and Bas sort of slept most of the time on me (cozy for him, rough for mama). It was nice to jump right into the new time as we arrived around 12pm and kept the kids up until 8pm when we all crashed hard (and the kids slept til 10:30am the next morning, yeehaw! I think the homeopathics and calm powder helped). Our only rough patch of the trip so far was the day we landed: first KLM lost 2/3 of our bags, then on 2 hours of sleep we managed to find the rental car booth only to find out that they would not rent us a car as my license had expired and I still didn’t have the renewed card. And then whoops, Erol forgot his credit card, so we were shit out of luck. Somehow an angel always shows up during our travels though when we are in need, and of course mid crisis a new woman took over the shift and hooked us up no problem! Hallelujah. Feeling like we just got a get out of jail free card, we then proceeded to get pulled over by a police man on the final stretch to our home. That whole signaling in the roundabout thing. So to complete the stretch of hilarious mishaps, he followed us all the way home on our tail (which made the already exhausted Erol feel like he was, indeed, drunk driving).

Sleeping until 10:30am our first morning here was heavenly – I can’t remember a single morning except the first time we returned from Hawaii with Jules where I got up before the kids, after going back to sleep three times leisurely. Our little huisje (house) is so cozy. It’s called Bungalowpark Puik en Duin and everyone is so so nice. They have a huge grassy play yard for the kids next door with a big trampoline, teeter totters, swings, bars, etc. and we’re surrounded in the most picturesque fields of purple and yellow and white and pink flowers, sheep, horses, cows, vibrant green crops, and sand dunes and nature trails through forest right to the North Sea. The sand is so white and fine, and there are thousands of blue mussel shells scattered along the water’s edge. The kids are in heaven playing in the pools of water 20 feet before the north sea’s waters calmly lap the beach.

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After getting a new outfit for the boys (thanks, KLM, they literally only had the dirty plane clothes) we visited our dear friends the van Kesteren’s in the neighboring town Voorhout, the town where Erol’s mama Henny was born and raised.

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Jules and Bas played with the other kids in the heavenly back yard – Niek and Marjan have 3 daughters and 10 grand kids between the ages of 15 months and 17. We stayed with them our last trip. Their home is so full of vibrant colors, we love them!

We also paid a visit to Hein and Nell, Erol’s uncle and aunt. The boys loved all their pig toys and visiting the cows.

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We also spent a day in Leiden – a mini Amsterdam – it was just so so beautiful and we had the most amazing morning at a quintessential European coffee shop in a gorgeous cobblestone plaza drinking coffees, hot cocoas, fresh bread and fresh squeezed orange juice.

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Erol’s aunt Marjorie took us to an incredible outdoor market place along the canal where we bought incredible, fresh Muhumarra, pesto, olives, macadamia nuts, and aged gouda. I could spend hours in those open marketplaces along the water! Then we bought too much at the organic “biologique” grocery store and somehow carried it all and the two kids back to the car a mile away 🙂 It was worth it – the fresh pasta with Muhumarra sauce was orgasmic.

Our first day in Amsterdam was a huge highlight! We found two different organic health food shops, the kids devoured their first smoothie in a week, I savored every drop of my cold-pressed green juice, and Erol had 3 different coffees and a chocolate croissant 🙂 We cruised around the Museumplein, had so much fun taking pictures and window shopping, and loved all the sweet musicians. And then we met up with Erol’s cousins Yves and Charlotte and spent the day seeing the spectacular city by water. What a treat! Yves owns the boat and he and Jules were the captain steering us all day long. Such kind people!

IMG_2098IMG_2084IMG_2020IMG_2179IMG_2158IMG_2134IMG_2024IMG_2023IMG_1998IMG_1996IMG_1989IMG_1981IMG_1953IMG_1725Today we go to Erol’s uncle’s, Oma Teo’s, in Woubrugge and go on another day-long boat ride from Woubrugge to Leiden. Unfortunately our heat wave is over, but that won’t stop us from all the beautiful adventuring! Jules has said every day of the trip that he wants to live here, good think he has a Dutch passport and can go to university here for free if he so chooses 🙂

Hello! How is it already June 2017?! Despite the unbelievable political reality and depressing state of the world, in my own little family & career bliss bubble 2017 has been an amazing year of manifesting big life dreams!

newchapter
After nearly 8 years working at Rainforest Action Network (RAN), I am diving into the universe to follow my heart and greatest passion! Today was my very last day at RAN, so bittersweet as I love my RAN family and the edgy, effective campaigns we run. But it was time to move on, and the universe made that crystal clear for me…I jumped into the unknown by giving my notice before I knew what was next, and sure enough I had two amazing opportunities manifest within weeks.
I just accepted an exciting position to design and launch a new campaign to make plant-based solutions to factory farming mainstream, and to drive major institutional reforms in our food system.
plant-based-whole-foods

 

This has been my dream for so many years and I can’t believe it’s actually happening!! This campaign will launch around a book and serious movement-building effort with high profile and deeply committed environmental advocates–and together we will raise awareness about the environmental and health impacts of meat production and consumption, build a movement of activated partners and individuals around the globe calling for action, and create market-based solutions to factory farming. We will be connecting food and climate, on a national and global scale employing a multi-pronged and sustained effort developing educational resources, corporate and NGO partnerships, point of purchase influencing, and high impact video, PR and social media.

 

My path to get here was pretty incredible. I had just received a dream job offer from one of my favorite environmental groups to launch a new campaign targeting meat producer companies with a strong environmental health component. It was a great fit for me, but the universe had other plans in store. This new gig was too much of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pass up, and when divine synchronicity appears in my life like this, my general rule is to bow in gratitude and accept, trusting that I am on my soul path.

I’m so honored to join this team in this critical work, and I can’t wait to share more soon!

Cagle_CivilEats_meatUSAheader-frontAt the nexus of the most serious environmental problems of our time – climate change, deforestation, water scarcity & pollution, and biodiversity loss – life on earth looks grim unless we can make industrial animal agriculture obsolete. I’m so thrilled to finally be dedicating my skills and passions to this important work on behalf of all the animals suffering in factory farms and our children whose futures depend on it.

I’ve spent the past 12 years working on corporate campaigns to force industries and sectors to shift, using people power to challenge business as usual. I’m excited to build on that experience, but what I’ve realized these past few weeks is that I’m actually more excited about the solutions work to make factory farming obsolete than I am about continuing to run corporate campaigns on big meat producers. I think it’s crucial that groups continue to push for change from big meat and dairy producers, but ultimately I think it’s going to be harder to get meat producers to stop factory farming than it will be to get hotels, airlines, restaurants, food service and schools to increase plant-based foods and serve less meat. And obviously we can’t only do this work in the US. With meat consumption dramatically increasing in China and India, we must not only tackle consumption and production in the US but in other growing economies.

Check out my latest blog post on the Understory reporting back from the Reducetarian Summit on the amazing changes happening in our food system!
I am so excited to jump into my next role though I will miss my incredible team at RAN. My heart is overflowing from the beautiful day reminiscing about the past 8 years of hell raising. Here’s a few photos from my final day at RAN:
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Happy May! Today is one of those perfect, dreamy days of warm breezes and blue skies, and it’s officially my last day of sabbatical! I’ve been so blessed to have the last 12 weeks away from Rainforest Action Network (RAN) – a break from my computer and the stress – and instead focusing my full energy on my amazing boys, adventure, exercise, and creating delicious food. And all the while getting paid full time. I am eternally grateful to RAN for this gift it gives to its employees after 5 years of service.

Since having Jules 4 years ago and substantially changing my role at RAN, I’ve vacillated between staying and leaving the organization. Going down to part-time has been amazing as it allows me the best of both worlds – time to work hard to protect our planet for my boys, as well as time to be a present, engaged mother to my boys. This delicate balance, however, has come at a cost professionally, and I feel that I’ve been stagnating for some time.

For a few years now, my true passion and great calling is to transform our food system and the way we raise animals for food both so that animals are treated better, the climate, forests, and waterways are protected, and the workers treated with respect and dignity. Part of this work is to reduce meat consumption, which ultimately drives the irresponsible production of cheap meat, and with that our public health crisis, water scarcity and pollution crisis, etc. (Did you know that Americans eat 3x more meat per capita than any other country in the world? Our protein addiction is unsustainable.) And the other part of this is challenging the status quo of current factory farming production methods, which subject billions of animals to torture every single year and crap on our environment.

I was so honored and thrilled to be building a new program at RAN called Responsible Food Systems to tackle this huge threat to human and planetary health, but it hasn’t been easy. Every step of the way I received push back internally (Are we a vegan organization now? Why would we tell people to eat less meat – we’re a systems change organization, not a lifestyle change organization, etc. etc.) and I just found out that the Responsible Food work is getting cut entirely, so I am leaving the organization after 7.5 years! Ah. Sigh of happiness. 

The day after I told my director that I was leaving, I had a very intense dream about an ornate, very large structure of spider webs filled with spiders. I had a flash back of the dream world the following day and I knew spider medicine was weaving its way into my dreams to send me a message. But I forgot to read the Spider Medicine Card (from my medicine card deck and book I’ve had for years, which has been the most amazing source of wisdom and spiritual guidance!)…and then that day in our backyard, Jules had two spiders crawling on his foot at the same time (never happened before!). It reminded me that I had forgotten to read the book! Later that night, right before bed I was flossing my teeth in the bathroom facing the mirror and out of literally nowhere a huge spider crawls down from who knows where and lands on my shoulder. Seriously?! I never see spiders in our house! I flicked him onto the floor and watched him crawl away. Ok, now I really need to read the spider message! The problem was, the book lives in the room where baby sleeps, but I was determined to read it the following morning. So as if this isn’t already weird enough, just before bed, I walked into a huge web and started pulling big sticky web strands from my left ear and head and everywhere…I was entangled.

Tarantula: At a crossroads, claiming life’s purpose
The Tarantula represents a moment when a great decision must be made. It involves prioritizing your life’s deeper purpose, or dharma. A habit or routine from the past is sidetracking you from your dream, yet a voice inside keeps begging you to refocus your attention. In order to find true happiness, you must choose dharma. Until you do, satisfaction will be fleeting. The tarantula hovers, patient and calm, like an old friend that knows your inner soul. It already knows you’ll choose wisely. — 
From The Wild Unknown Animal Spirit book and deck

I was so incredibly struck reading the card as this is precisely my situation right now! The night after I gave my notice at RAN I had that dream, and then the ensuing 3 days I had spider and spider web encounters.

In my life, I always know I’m on my spiritual path, my life path, and fulfilling my life’s work when unexplainable events of synchronicity transpire, especially when they relate to animal medicine – my greatest teacher.

The Spider card also had a nugget of wisdom for me: The spider is an ingenious creator. Its greatest gift is weaving the thread of dharma into a vast intricate web that supports the spider (and those around them) both financially and spiritually. It is hard work, but the spider neither tires nor becomes impatient. This card reminds us creativity is everywhere. Be process-oriented rather than results-oriented, and soon your “work” becomes like the weaving of a magical, priceless tapestry. Abundance follows. — From The Wild Unknown Animal Spirit book and deck

This is very helpful advice for me right now. It is exhausting and daunting applying for jobs, trying to re-imagine your professional career and the myriad directions you could take it all the while supporting a family.

Spider’s body is made like the number eight, it’s the symbol for the infinite possibilities of creation. Her legs represent the four winds of change and the four directions on the medicine wheel…If Spider has dropped from her web into your cards today, she may be telling you to create, create, create! Look for new alternatives to your present impasse…Spider gets your attention so that you notice that something you have woven has borne fruit. Congratulations! Spider caught you just in time, before you missed the opportunity on the edge of your web or reality. — from Medicine Cards, Jamie Sams & David Carson

I am officially on sabbatical from RAN as of February 6th!!! What a dream! It feels so spacious and nurturing, I am full of gratitude. Despite all the sickness this season, it’s been such a beautiful winter, the most rain and cold we’ve had in years. Just loving it being cozy by the fire with my little family, cooking up a storm and escaping for the occasional rainy adventure.

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Winter altar at Berkeley Rose Waldorf

So, my almost 4 year old toddler has become so incredibly particular about the food he eats these past few months, and I’m having to get more creative. I recently concocted a few recipes that were a big hit for the mamas, papas, toddlers and babies alike so wanted to share:

chickpea-stew

Warming Coconut Chickpea Stew

  1. Saute an onion, about 7 cloves of garlic and 1 leek (only the white part of course) in a bunch of olive oil. Generously add salt, garlic salt, black pepper, cumin, tumeric, and a dash of yellow mustard seeds.
  2. Add 3 carrots and 1 celery stalk, chopped thinly.
  3. Add 1 can diced tomatoes in sauce, simmer
  4. Add 2 zucchini & a handful of crimini mushrooms
  5. When those are getting mostly cooked, add 8-10 steamed potatoes (medium sized creamer potatoes) cut into small pieces and about 3 cups of cooked garbanzo beans (I had soaked them overnight and cooked them the day before for this yummy Spinach and Chickpeas dish; the leftovers I added to this stew)
  6. Cover in a heaping portion of nutritional yeast (I probably used 1/2 cup)
  7. Add 1 can of coconut milk
  8. Cover with enough water & better than bouillon vegetable stock to make a nice broth
  9. Let simmer on low until everything is cooked & the right consistency
  10. Optional: top with parsley or other fresh herbs

I served with warm toast smothered in olive oil and salt. Delish! If I had had more time I would have blended half of it in the VitaMix to give it an extra nice consistency.

Desperate to prepare a dinner that my toddler would scarf on his own at the table (yes, it’s a challenge to get him to stay put and eat himself), I made this simple yet super delicious couscous dish.

couscous

Toddler Couscous

  1. Roast a head of cauliflower (cut into bit size florets), a red bell pepper (cut into slices) and green beans in the oven with salt, pepper and olive oil at 425 until soft.
  2. Boil 3 cups of water with a dash of salt. Throw in 2 cups of couscous (for every 1 cup of couscous use 1.5 cups water), turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for 10 min. Remove lid and fluff with a bunch of quality olive oil and some salt.
  3. Meanwhile chop organic plum tomatoes, kalamata olives, and cucumbers. Throw them in with some frozen corn (or fresh!).
  4. Top with the roasted veggies and voila!
  5. If your kids are less picky, this would be yummy with a bit of red onion and parsley.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Finally, we had a little super bowl party last weekend, and I made this delish spinach artichoke dip inspired by Pioneer Woman’s blog. Note: I usually post vegan recipes. This one has dairy (most of which you can sub out) – sorry about that!

spinachartichokedip

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons Butter
  • 4 Tablespoons Garlic, Minced
  • 1 bag Spinach
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 2 jars or cans Artichoke Hearts, Rinsed And Drained
  • 3 Tablespoons Butter (additional)
  • 3 Tablespoons Flour
  • 1-1/2 cup plain, unsweetened oat, soy or almond milk
  • 1 package (8 Ounce) Softened Cream Cheese
  • 1 1/2 cup Grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne
  • Pita Wedges, Tortilla Chips, Crackers

Instructions:

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Crank up the heat a bit and throw in the spinach. Stir around and cook for a couple of minutes until the spinach wilts. Remove the spinach from the skillet and put it in a small strainer. Squeeze the excess juice back into the skillet. Set the spinach aside.

Throw in the artichokes and cook over medium high heat for several minutes, until liquid is cooked off and artichokes start to get a little color. Remove the artichokes.

In the same skillet or a different pot, melt 3 additional tablespoons of butter and whisk in 3 tablespoons of flour until it makes a paste. Cook over medium-low heat for a minute or two, then pour in milk. Stir and cook until slightly thickened; splash in more milk if needed.

Add cream cheese, Parmesan, and cayenne and stir until cheese are melted and sauce is smooth. Chop artichokes and spinach and add to the sauce. Stir to combine.

Pour into buttered baking dish. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serve with pita wedges, chips, or crackers!

Enjoy!

Parenting Resources

On a final note, I want to give a huge plug for Kim John Payne’s Simplicity Parenting. I just heard him speak at the Marin Waldorf school and it was completely AMAZING and life changing! We’ve been in a difficult phase with Jules – not listening, saying “no” to everything, not wanting to eat at the table/asking us to feed him, acting aggressive, etc. Since I heard Kim’s lecture, and immediately started implementing his systems, it’s been smooth sailing. No more power struggles, asking Jules to do the same thing over and over, etc. Hallelujah! Check out some Simplicity Parenting resources here.

The other books I just ordered, which many friends and teachers from the Waldorf community highly recommend:

You Are your Child’s First Teacher

Heaven On Earth

The Awakened Family, A Revolution in Parenting

To a blissful and connected parenthood,

Mama Ashlita

2017 is off to a beautiful start. Despite the impending doom of the nightmare that is the Trump presidency, my little family is emanating love and chugging ahead on the home front. Since returning from Kauai for the holidays, it’s been cooooold and I’ve been so content spending days and days in the kitchen making soups and stews with the kiddos playing nearby with their new rainbow silks, tee pee and Waldorf play structure.

I’m deeply immersed in and insanely inspired by my Lifeways parenting seminar training. I just attended my sixth class (out of the eight I signed up for). We started with the importance of rhythm – daily rhythm, weekly rhythm, and seasonal rhythms. Then we studied the four temperaments, which was one of the most engrossing, fascinating subject matters I’ve ever studied. It gave me immense perspective on my nuclear family growing up, my own family dynamic, and understanding these four tendencies helps us to parent by temperament – a powerful tool. We then studied the 12 senses and how to give our children sensory nutrition. Followed by the development of movement in infants and how we are doing our kids a huge disservice by putting them into swings and propping them upright before they develop the proper muscles to do so on their own. Part of this class was looking at the importance of having appropriate play spaces and toys to foster healthy development, and made me come home and want to re-do everything!

The phases of development and biography class was super amazing – we spent hours exploring the earliest depths of our own memories of childhood to better understand how our children experience the world. We learned the various phases of development through childhood and our adult life. We also learned about working with our children’s Angel(s) – how very beautiful! And most recently, the development of play, which points out how essential uninterrupted play is for young children and how in today’s world parents and elementary schools are so preoccupied with academics that public school systems are no longer giving children time for imaginative play.

As a new parent, this Lifeways North America education has been transformational, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to support my children in this way. It’s made me even more committed to keeping my kids in Waldorf as long as we can afford it, at least til 5th grade I hope.

I wanted to share a few of my favorite family-friendly recipes recently.

Pasta with Creamy Alfredo Cheeze Sauce
Serves 8

CashewCreamSauce.jpg

  • Soak 2 cups raw, organic cashews in 4 cups water overnight, rinse and add another 4 cups water, put in the Vitamix
  • Sautee an onion and several cloves of garlic in lots of olive oil, salt and pepper, let cool, add to Vitamix with several heaping spoonfulls of nutritional yeast
  • Dump creamy mixture into a large cast-iron pan and heat on low, stirring often, adding more nutritional yeast and salt to taste, allowing it to thicken up to your ideal consistency (may add water if needed)
  • Pour over organic rice noodles and roasted veggies (we roasted zucchini, bell pepper, eggplant, onion, garlic and green beans with olive oil, salt and fresh herbs like thyme and oregano) for a seriously DELISH meal that your kids and husband alike will devour!

Potato Leek Soup
Serves 8

potatoleeksoup

 

  • Chop the stocks of 3 large leaks thinly and saute in large soup pot with olive oil and salt
  • Add 15 or so medium sized yukon gold potatoes chopped thinly, saute for a few minutes with more salt and olive oil until it starts to stick, then add water and veggie broth paste (I use organic better than boullon) to fill the pot with enough water for the ideal soup consistency
  • Add nutritional yeast and a bunch of fresh thyme, let simmer for 30 min. or so until the potatoes are cooked
  • Blend 1/2 of the soup at least in Vitamix to make it extra thick and creamy
  • Serve with garlic bread

 

Homemade Elderberry Syrup + Thyme cough syrup – both so yummy and they work like crazy! I got these recipes from the Food Revolution Network – here is the link to recipes!

home-remedies-stay-well-in-winter

One-pan Farro with Tomatoes

This recipe is from one of my fave food bloggers, SmittenKitchen. I just made it last night for my family and both kids couldn’t shovel it into their mouths fast enough – this is not a common problem and something I could get used to!!!!!

farro

Super Easy Banana Ice Cream

 

  • Chop up several over ripe (very spotty or black-ish) bananas and freeze
  • Once totally frozen, blend in Cuisinart for several minutes – the key to making ice cream is to keep blending for a long long time
  • After several minutes it will look and taste just like thick banana ice cream! You and your kids will LOVE it! I added a wee bit of peanut butter and cinnamon just for fun.

 

bananaicecream

And of course, since it’s winter, I’ve been making my favorite green soup which my kids love. Give it a try!

To your health!

xoxo,

Mama Ashlita

Ps. I drew the Swan as my animal medicine for 2017; as always it’s so fitting. I’m so grateful for this continued guidance from the sacred animal spirit world. 2016 was a very intense year – the intense joy & beauty of raising my two incredible little souls, matched with intense struggle & challenge trying to find balance between activism & motherhood, finding time to support my community when my own family is all consuming, finding time to sleep when the work feels so important, finding time to cook healthy meals to nourish my family even though it takes hours every single day, managing to swim & do yoga and feed my spiritual practice, and striving to be a loving wife and a good person.
I’m so humbled by the selfless act of mothering and have endless respect for all the women in the world raising kind, sensitive, conscious kids who hold the fate of the planet in their hands.
I have big dreams for 2017 with many changes ahead. Kicking the year off with a 3 month sabbatical to travel, grow deeper in love with my boys & do some soul searching. So grateful for this amazing opportunity. A family heritage trip to Holland. Would like to cultivate deeper relationships with my sisters in this life. Hope to manifest a longstanding vision with my life’s work to advocate for a responsible food system & protect animals. And will do everything I can to resist Trump and foster love in the world. Thank you for bearing witness. This life is so precious. May we never take it for granted. 🙏

swan

 

Jules is in his second week of preschool at Berkeley Rose Waldorf school and I am filled to the brim with joy to be a part of such an amazing community! I can’t get over how incredibly different (1000 times better) this experience is from The Berkeley School (TBS), the Montessori preschool next door that Jules attended for just one semester.

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TBS felt like an in-and-out operation for busy working parents, a mandatory 5 day/week schedule with 24 kids in each of the 4 classrooms (huge for little people!) where many kids stay from 8am-6pm. You may ask why we even started there in the first place. My husband convinced me to try it out as people for some reason love it, it’s next door to our house and has an incredible outdoor play space. But I found the school way too academic (40 min. circle times with academic lessons, for 2-4 year olds, no thank you!) and lacking any real magic, love for the children or intention.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Berkeley Rose Waldorf approaches education from the emotional, spiritual, and physical needs of the child. The classroom creates sacred space in every nook and cranny, it is so magical! Some examples of the extraordinary care children receive at Berkeley Rose (which are common staples of Waldorf):

  • Teacher Angela came to our home the week before school started for a home visit to get to know Jules, our family, and see him in his element – so special!
  • She assigned him and all the children a spirit animal based on their personality, which they label on their school cubby and the little basket they carry their lunch in each day
  • Even the drop-off process is a sacred ritual! I just love the intention and love Teacher Angela infuses into everything she does. We arrive, put on Jules’ wool inside shoes, go potty & wash up, and then get in line at the door. She’s waiting in a thrown next to a sacred alter. She gives him a big warm hug, with these dreamy eyes and light surrounding her, she gives him a treasure, he puts it on the alter, she whispers in his ear, he gives me a big hug goodbye and joins the other kids in prepping the home-cooked snack of the day, folding laundry, or art.
  • There are many beautiful festivals throughout the year to honor the changing seasons, our community, and the earth. “Celebrating festivals throughout the rhythm of the four seasons can help raise life up beyond the day to day, cultivating wonder, joy and gratitude.” The first one, the Harvest Faire, is coming up and involves pressing our own apple cider, making corn husk dolls, leaf crowns, performances from each class, singing and dancing to live music, and a visit from the sacred Mother Earth.
  • They make their own snack every day – of course all local and organic, and I love the consistency & rhythm it establishes for them, how healthy it all is, and how very beautiful that they get to participate in the preparation each morning! And they don’t allow any packaged food in lunches 🙂
    • Monday: Rice, nori, sunflower seeds
    • Tuesday: Oats, apples, raisins
    • Wednesday: Bread baking day, honey-butter
    • Thursday: Millet, goat cheese
    • Friday: Soup
  • They have a little bunny named Juniper and the kids feed him veggies each day
  • All of the families make a commitment to eliminate exposure to electronic media to protect our children’s health and imagination
  • His amazing Teacher Angela prioritizes regular communication with me. She tells me anecdotes from each day, shares stories about sweet things Jules did or said, and makes suggestions about what I can do to help Jules grow. She is warm, approachable, and genuinely cares about my child. [Note: this was far from the case at The Berkeley School, the little Montessori preschool next door where Jules did 1 semester; those teachers hardly touched him or any of the children and never gave us feedback about Jules. As a matter of fact in the one parent-teacher conference, the only thing they told us was that he was crying a lot less, that he liked to eat snack, and that he had a difficult time communicating.]
  • Class size – there are 15 kids in Jules’ class compared to 24 at TBS.
  • Visiting lecturers – so far I’ve heard Dennis Klocek and Nancy Mellon speak at the school, both luminaries full of wisdom who give us tools to tap into the deeper spiritual world of connections with our children.

I love that every transition is marked by song. Today Jules came home singing, word for word, after only 2 days of school!

Give thanks to the mother Gaia
Give thanks to the father sun
Give thanks to the plants in the garden where
The mother and father are one

How sweet is this? I just love this school!

I am so inspired by Waldorf education that I just started a parenting seminar with LifeWays North America. I’ve only attended one class out of the eight I signed up for and already I am blown out of the water by how much I’m learning and how many changes I want to make in my home. Some notes that inspire me:

  • The importance of rhythm: rhythm is centering for children, grounding. It is not controlling. The moments between kids can be so free and relaxed when they have rhythm in the day to day.
  • Important to sit down for meals with the whole family, start with a blessing, show young children how to sit up right, hold utensils themselves and eat themselves – this centers them (I still help Jules eat and he’s almost 3.5 yrs old! And he usually only has a few bites at the table then runs off. After just 2 days working towards this, he’s eating a full meal at the table on his own and putting himself to bed at night, go figure!). It’s important to set boundaries and stick to them. Have house rules. Be firm. I am the queen of the castle.
  • Kids should eat fats and proteins for breakfast and grains at night, ideally no later than 6pm. It’s too hard on the liver otherwise and kids can get dark circles under their yes if the liver is over taxed.
  • We have to teach our children to sleep now because of the day in age where noise, buzzing of wi-fi or smart meters etc. make sleep more difficult. Make going to sleep a delight for them – stoke out their beds beyond belief, make their sheets smell good, have the right blankets and pillows. Not talking about Cry-It-Out (CIO) here, which is too traumatic for young children, talking about gentle ways to help children fall asleep on their own.
  • Get your kids in tune with the movement of the moon and the sun. Once it gets dark, don’t turn on any bright lights – use a candle. Note that rhythms will change in the summer and winter depending on nature’s rhythms.
  • Kids thrive on basic rituals ie after school sitting down with mommy and letting them know – I see you, I love you, I want to know you, or sweeping the floor after we clean up from dinner
  • Our biggest goals in raising children is resiliency. Kids need to know that the adults in their life care about them and are in charge.
  • Studies show that affluent kids have more issues than under-privileged kids. Don’t fill your house with too many things. Keep play spaces harmonious, well thought out, nature-inspired.

And some of my favorite photos from the last 6 months:

Love,

Ashley

Happy March! I can’t believe how the time is flying, I had a newborn when I last posted and he is already a half year old, today! Our little familia is thriving, loving the early spring vibes and wonderful rain. In fact, the young magnolia tree we planted in our front yard when Jules was born is blossoming with gorgeous, deep purple flowers! This is where both Julius Azul and Sebastian Rio’s placentas are buried, under the room where both born. Magic!

IMG_7020I’ve had a lot of mamas asking me about recipes lately, so I thought I would post a few of my favorites. Nothing fancy, but the soups are staples for my family and the sweets are great ways to enjoy being naughty without all the refined sugar. Every time I craft something delicious I think to myself, ‘Ooh! Gotta blog this one!‘ and yet the months go by without any new blog posts. Having two boys under 3 years is so special and also at times a bit crazy making 🙂 Working 3 days a week, finding time for yoga and swimming, getting nutritious, home-made meals on the table 3 times/day, and of course baby night duty, keep me busy!

Green Soup

IMG_7101This is an iteration of a green soup I may have posted a while back – one that Jules has always loved – which is a terrific way to get lots of greens in his belly 🙂 I just made it today and it’s so filling, warming & yummy!

  1. Soak a small bag of white beans over night. Rinse in morning and boil till simmering, cook until soft. Set aside.
  2. Saute 1-2 yellow onions and 6-8 cloves garlic in olive oil (be generous). Add cumin, paprika, garlic salt, pepper,  2 tablespoons vegetable broth paste and some fresh thyme. Add carrots and celery. Once golden add criminy mushrooms and plenty of salt as this is the primary seasoning for soup. Set aside.
  3. Steam fingerling potatoes (a small bag – maybe 20?), a large box of spinach and 2 heads of broccoli crowns. Set aside with a bit of brags liquid amino, gamazio and olive oil.
  4. Once cool, blend 1/2 of mixture in batches in Vitamix, adding water, a tiny bit of half and half.
  5. Pour mixed soup (very thick and green) into a large soup pot. Add water and more vegetable broth until ideal consistency is achieved. Add salt to taste.
  6. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan if desired.

NOTE: All ingredients should be organic if possible to avoid exposure to toxic chemicals in pesticides, especially if feeding young children.

Gluten-Free, Mini Chocolate Brownie Bites

  1. Mix together the following ingredients until smooth:
  • 1/2 cup creamy almond butter
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 overripe banana
  • 1/4 cup pure Grade B maple syrup
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1tsp baking soda (aluminum free!)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 3 Tbsp cornstarch

2. Fold in 1/4 cup chocolate chips or raisins for a healthier version

3. Grease (or line) a mini cupcake pan and divide mixture among the holes (about 2 heaping tsp each).

4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 17 min.

Beluga Lentil Soup

IMG_6513

  1. Soak a bag of black beluga lentils over night, rinse and cook until soft
  2. Meanwhile saute an onion, a bunch of garlic (roughly 7 cloves), celery and carrots in olive oil, adding plenty of spices like salt, pepper, cumin, garam masala, paprika, turmeric and nutritional yeast.
  3. Add a can of tomato puree or chunky tomato to simmer over vegetables for 5 min.
  4. Add other vegetables of your liking like cabbage, mushrooms, lots of spinach and bell peppers
  5. Pour vegetables into pot of cooked lentils and add vegetable stock / broth until ideal consistency is reached
  6. Add 1 can of coconut milk to soup and spice to taste

NOTE: All ingredients should be organic if possible to avoid exposure to toxic chemicals in pesticides, especially if feeding young children.

Homemade No-Bake Chewy Granola Bars

granola barsMy colleague brought these into the office and they are to die for. This is a modified version without refined sweeteners, adapted from this mama blogger’s site.

Ingredients
  • 1½ cups honey
  • â…“ cup coconut oil
  • ÂĽ tsp. fine sea salt
  • 1 cup 100% organic crunchy peanut butter
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 cups crisp rice cereal (I used organic)
  • 2â…” cups old fashioned oats
  • â…” cups ground flax seed
  • ½- 1 cup mini chocolate chips
 NOTE: Extra important the peanut butter is organic as conventionally grown peanuts carry a very high toxic chemical load.
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, combine your oats, crisped rice cereal, and ground flax seed. Stir with a large spoon until well combined. Set aside.
  2. Measure out sugar, honey, coconut oil, and sea salt and place in a sauce pan over medium heat. Bring it to a boil. Stirring the whole time, boil for exactly 1 minute so mixture combines and sugars dissolve. Take pan off the heat and add in the crunchy peanut butter and vanilla extract. Stir until smooth. Pour this Peanut buttery honey deliciousness over your oat/rice crispy mixture. Stir until well combined.
  3. Let this mixture sit for about 5-8 minutes. Meanwhile, Grab a large cookie sheet or jelly roll pan sized(mine is sized at 12½ x 17½ by 1 inch), and some parchment paper. Place cookie sheet on a large piece of parchment paper and trace around the outside of it. Cut it out and place this on the inside of your cookie sheet. It should fit perfectly. This will help later to keep the granola bars in one piece before cutting up.
  4. Next pour out granola bar mixture onto cookie sheet. Press with a second cookie sheet so it is flat. Then immediately spread your chocolate chips on the top and press again.
  5. Allow to cool. You can add it to your fridge or leave on counter to cool. Once the bars have cooled completely, slide solidified mixture out of your pan. Now take a knife and cut the bars into the size of your choosing.
  6. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze, ideal for packing in your kids’ lunches each day!

Shepherd’s Salad

IMG_7197

  1. Soak white beans over night, drain and rinse several times. Cook until soft and set aside.
  2. Once beans are cool, add chopped parsley, bell pepper, onion, tomato (if in season), cucumber, purple cabbage, carrots, arugula and a handful of whole raw cashews and/or almonds.
  3. Drizzle with a delicious sauce of equal parts olive oil & red wine vinegar, a generous heaping spoon of nutritional yeast, a tsp of vegan, zesty garlic aioli, a splash of soy sauce, a dash of pepper and plenty of salt.
  4. Mix and serve!

NOTE: All ingredients should be organic if possible to avoid exposure to toxic chemicals in pesticides, especially if feeding young children.

Nutty Kabocha Squash Soup

IMG_9919

This is my absolute favorite soup lately! It’s the vegan adaptation of this recipe from A Pinch of Yum. It is so so nourishing, filling, and rich, without any the cream!

INGREDIENTS
1 medium (ideally red) kabocha squash
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed (optional – I like it both ways)
2 tablespoons olive oil
sprinkle of cayenne pepper
2 handfuls toasted walnuts & cashews
salt to taste

NOTE: All ingredients should be organic if possible to avoid exposure to toxic chemicals in pesticides, especially if feeding young children.
INSTRUCTIONS
Cut the squash into wedges. Scoop out the seeds, cut off the rind, and dice the squash.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the squash, onion, and garlic. Sprinkle with a little salt and saute until lightly browned and the squash is cooked through.
Place the cooked squash in a blender and add the nuts and cayenne. Blend for 3-5 minutes or until the mixture is very smooth. Season generously with salt.

Best Salad Dressing Ever – Seriously

My absolute favorite salad dressing, which I adapt for the Shepherd’s Salad, is as follows:

  • 1/3 cup water + 1/3 cup soy sauce + 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • Mix with 1 cup olive oil and 1 cup nutritional yeast.
  • Add 3 cloves of finely chopped garlic and shake!

Enjoy!!

Love and Blessings,

Mama Ashlita