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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
  • ¼ teaspoon Baking Powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon Baking Soda
  • ¼ 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)
  • ¾ 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:
  • ¼ 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:
  • 2¼ 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)*
  • ¼ cup almond milk
  • ¼ 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.

IMG_3071IMG_3073IMG_3112IMG_3122IMG_3125Between the beach and our house: sand dunes and nature trailsIMG_3152IMG_3189

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

IMG_3599

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.

waldorf_winter

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

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

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  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
  • ⅓ cup coconut oil
  • ¼ tsp. fine sea salt
  • 1 cup 100% organic crunchy peanut butter
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 cups crisp rice cereal (I used organic)
  • 2⅔ cups old fashioned oats
  • ⅔ 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

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  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

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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

 

Boost Fertility with Acupuncture!

Boost Fertility with Acupuncture!

Many of the women in my community are currently pregnant, which I find so exciting. I realize we have a crazy overpopulation problem on planet Earth, but I think it’s important that a) every woman has the opportunity to experience the sacred path of motherhood, if desired and b) I am especially supportive of the environmentally conscientious ladies out there raising children that are environmentally and social justice oriented! Which is why I’ve been inspired to write this post. After getting asked about fertility by a few different women who are currently trying, I decided to share what worked for me in terms of preparing my body for the divine journey of conception, pregnancy, birth and motherhood. NOTE: This is not based on science but rather personal experience.

The first element that comes to mind is acupuncture. Acupuncture is a powerful form of alternative medicine and a key component of traditional Chinese medicine. It stimulates specific acupuncture points to correct any imbalance in the flow of energy, or “qi” through our body’s energy channels, ie meridians.
Acupuncture has played a huge role in my own life in achieving regular menstrual cycles and more recently was responsible for gifting me my miracle baby (I did acupuncture every other week for a year and while actively not trying to have a baby conceived one). Many acupuncturists can tell you about the correlation between fertility and acupuncture!
“Acupuncture provides better circulation and better blood flow to the womb. It will give a better chance for the eggs to be nourished and therefore carried.” – Dr. Raymond Chang
Acupuncture and mocsa over the womb

Acupuncture and moxa over the womb

I think lifestyle also plays a huge role in one’s fertility. Preparing your body for conception is a process, both mental and physical. It’s important to invite the being you are desiring into your world and set that intention meanwhile treating your body like a sacred temple. For me this entailed minimal drinking/partying, adjusting my body to the rhythms of the sun as much as possible (early to bed, early to rise), doing regular exercise and some sort of spiritual practice, and duh, eating well.

 Diet is so so so important and plays a massive role in the health of your body (perhaps this is obvious but it’s amazing how many doctors don’t even start by looking at your diet when you approach them with a serious health problem). Personally, I gravitate towards a cleansing diet in the summer and fall, and a building diet in the winter and spring. In other words, lots of salads, smoothies, raw fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and lighter foods in the warmer months and more warming, filling soups and stews, casseroles, and baked goods in the colder months. I try my best to only eat organic food so as to avoid the many harmful effects of pesticides and GMOs.
Good luck ❤
Organic, gluten-free nut loaf

Organic, gluten-free nut loafI often share recipes on my blog if you want to poke around. One of my most favorite new recipe resources is a publication of Radiant Life called The Guide to Making Coconut Flour Breads. I’ve made my own variations of the date nut loaf several times with farm fresh eggs, Himalayan raisins and organic walnuts and it is ridiculously warm and delicious! My toddler loves it with peanut butter on top.

 On a separate note, my favorite Aussie just asked me what to buy for her pregnant sister – local items to ship to Australia. Thought I’d share my list for inspiration.
Here are a few of my favorite things that are local:
1. Tiny amazing ABCs book called A is for activist by Nagara (Oakland based)
2. California Baby soothing conditioner
3. Get her a locally made mother’s milk tea to boost milk production in the early weeks
4. Locally made oil to massage baby after baths. I did this every night until Jules started wiggling away around a year. An olive oil base is nice. Def not coconut or peanut oil, they go rancid.

Faves that aren’t necessarily local:
1. Organic pajamas are the best gift ever – babies spend half their lives in pajamas and conventional cotton is very toxic. Get em online or at EarthSake on 4th St. in Berkeley.
2. Nikki McClure First 1000 Days baby journal
3. Boiron brand Camilia – natural teething relief (saved us during teething)
4. Earth Mama Angel baby Natural Nipple Butter and/or any of their products!
5. Mamma Chia squeeze pouches – Green Magic (baby/toddler food)
6. Weleda Calendula diaper rash cream
7. Books to prep parents on parenthood – check out my list here

Even though Whole Foods is corporate and frustrates the hell out of me with it’s 95% conventional deli section, the new one on Gilman in Berkeley has a huge aisle filled with all the most amazing baby things in the world – green toys, herbal remedies, ointments, organic socks, etc. It’s my happy place.

Enjoy!

Pure: pyo͝or/
  • without any extraneous and unnecessary elements
  • free of any contamination

As the mother of an 18 month old and eager to get pregnant again, I do everything in my power to take back from corporations the control we once had over what’s going into our family’s bodies.

GMOs and the intense use of pesticides in our food system are new problems (the first commercially produced GMO products were marketed in 1994!). They therefore require a new level of diligence. Protecting our families from a consolidated food system that is corporate controlled just became a whole lot harder. It’s important to remember that Big Food – food corporations – do not have our best interests in mind! We should therefore not trust them; they exist for one reason – to make profit.

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It’s striking to me that striving for purity and acting on a deep desire to protect my family from the unbelievable reality of our food system is often perceived as elitism. In this sense, strangely, it feels like a burden to know what’s in my food.

I am shocked by how many uncomfortable community eating situations I’ve found myself in lately. As a passionate food and animal rights activist, it’s tough to strike a healthy balance between not saying anything at all, and opening your mouth at the risk of starting controversy. This is especially true when the people you love in your life are chowing down on pesticides, GMOs and factory farmed meat. In the end I simply want to educate them so that they can be empowered to make informed choices for their families, and in all likelihood they are probably eating those foods because they don’t know what’s really in them.

For example, a new study out of Harvard shows that even tiny, allowable amounts of a common pesticide can have dramatic effects on brain chemistry. Organophosphate insecticides (OP’s) are among the most widely used pesticides in the U.S. & have long been known to be particularly toxic for children. This is the first study to examine their effects across a representative population with average levels of exposure. The key finding is that kids with above-average pesticide exposures are 2x as likely to have ADHD.

It is unbelievably sad that every day people in this country, who work hard and live an earnest life, are unwittingly feeding this crap linked to obesity, lower IQ, ADHD, autism and asthma, to their families. Experts at the CDC recently released another round of data on how many kids in the U.S. are affected by autism and ADHD – noting that chemical exposure is a key contributing factor. The numbers are, once again, dramatically up.

In the U.S., GMOs are in as much as 80% of conventional processed food!

Time and time again I’ve heard friends and extended family say, “I’m not a purist, I am ok with the fact that sometimes I buy food at Target” or “I can’t afford to feed my family organic food,” or “vegetarianism and/or only eating organic food is such a white American problem/an issue of privilege.” Now although I agree with the fact that by prioritizing feeding my family organic foods I am paying more up front for those products and that it’s not cheap to buy organic, I have a hard time with these arguments for the following reasons:

1. Paying extra up front for organic food is one of the best ways to invest in your children’s long term health care. Especially during pregnancy and the early years, when your child’s brain is developing and so vulnerable to chemical exposure. The way I see it, we either pay the extra money up front for organic foods or we pay it months or years down the road on health care bills when your family members develop health problems associated with a conventional dietary regime.

2. The argument that eating organic is an issue of privilege is a tricky one. While I agree that buying organic is expensive, and that the systemic problems and injustices inherent in our broken food system often place the burden on low income communities and communities of color, that doesn’t negate the fact that we must do everything in our power to take on the corporate industrial food complex and get our food system back on track. Including avoiding conventional foods.

I believe it’s essential for all of us, especially mamas – the protectors of the den – to unite and challenge the food system at every step of production, through activism, advocacy, and education. And although I know there is skepticism about lifestyle activism and its ability to create real systemic change in the world, I believe it’s paramount that we walk our talk, and leverage our purchasing power and consumer voice to let the brands we love know that we won’t stand by irresponsible products.