Monday, February 28, 2011

In Need Of Oscar Party Snacks? Mix up a batch of healthy hummus dip!

I’m looking forward to celebrating the celebs (and their gowns, hair-dos and jewelry!) on Oscar night. After all, the event’s glitz and glamour is a great reason to throw a little get together. Of course, organizing a fun night for friends—who all have kids of their own—can be tricky.

The key to a successful party that works for both youngsters and their parents is to make any food served fun for the whole family. Instead of preparing two separate spreads—one for the wee ones and one for the parents—create a menu that works for everyone.

The best food choices will be healthy and nutrient-rich for the kids, but still look and tasty fancy enough to be grownup fare. My “go to” dip is hummus because it’s super nutritious, kids and adults love it, and is easy to make—check out my recipe below. Note that this is more of a blend of ingredients rather than a true ‘recipe,’ you adjust the flavor to taste as you go along. Can easily be doubled, just keep the ratios the same.

  1. 1 can (15 ounce) of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  2. 1/3 jar (16 ounce) of tahini (I like raw vs. roasted for the health benefits and it has a lighter flavor)
  3. 2-3 garlic cloves
  4. 1-2 Lemons to taste (use Meyer if you have them)
  5. Sea salt to taste
  6. Cumin to taste (use sparingly, it has a strong flavor)
  7. Water, start with 2 tablespoons and add as needed to thin
  8. Paprika (to sprinkle on top)
  9. Olive oil (to drizzle on top)
  10. Parsley, optional
Place items 1 through 7 in a blender or food processor and pulse to mix. Add water if it is too thick to blend. Blend until creamy, stopping a few times to taste and adjust seasoning. Serve with whole wheat pita or veggies.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Five Reasons to Love Valentine's Day

I’m not a big holiday person, but I’ve come to appreciate Valentine’s Day because I like receiving flowers and the chances are high that my hubby will have a beautiful arrangement delivered to our home (hint, hint).

Out of curiosity, I did a little research into the history behind Valentine’s Day and its traditions are pretty murky. Some say St. Valentine was a priest who secretly married young lovers during the rule of Emperor Caludius II. Other stories suggest Valentine was a prisoner who fell in love with the daughter of his captor and wrote her letters signed, “From your Valentine,” kickstarting the tradition of sending love letters with that signature.


As for chocolate, the health benefits of eating a small piece of high quality dark, with a least 70% cocoa, are accepted by even the most fervent naysayers. I buy mine in bulk at a restaurant supply store here in L.A. called Surfas, http://www.surfaslosangeles.com/. I add two ‘pistoles’ to my coffee every morning, which turns it into a kind of coffee/hot chocolate concoction. I rarely have the desire to eat sweets and think it may have to do with my bitter chocolate daily a.m. dose.
Here are five reasons to love chocolate—and anyone sweet enough to gift you with some this month.
  1. It lifts your mood: Chocolate is loaded with phenylethylamine, a substance that is part of a group of chemicals called endorphins. Ever heard of a “runner’s high,” when your mood is lifted during exercise? That sensation is caused by the release of endorphins into the bloodstream. Eat enough chocolate and those endorphins will be flowing in no time, exercise not required!
  2. It helps you fall in love: High levels of phenylethylamine have also been linked to the feeling of falling in love—maybe those Aztecs were on to something, after all!
  3. It’s a natural stimulant: The caffeine in chocolate can give you a kick. Chocolate also contains alkaloids, like theobromine, which stimulate the kidneys and affect the central nervous system in a similar way to caffeine.
  4. It calms you down: Another chemical compound found in chocolate is seratonin, which is well known for its calming abilities.
  5. It keeps you healthy: Chocolate contains flavonoids, antioxidant compounds that are known to help prevent heart disease and cancer. Yes, you can also find these substances in fruits and vegetables, but, one day a year, I’d rather receive a box of chocolates (and flowers!) from my love than a bouquet of broccoli any day!


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Concentrated Products—like California Baby washes—need a little know-how

I recently bought a High Efficiency (HE) front load washer and dryer made by Miele. The first time I used the washer, it overflowed with bubbles. Why? Not only was I using the too much laundry detergent, I was also using the wrong kind. Most laundry detergents are formulated to bubble—and bubble a lot. We, as consumers, have been trained to use large quantities of product. The combo of pouring in our detergent and seeing the bubbles gives us a feeling of accomplishment and we feel confident that the product is working. It's all smoke and mirrors. Most detergents and personal care products contain up to 95% water! Why would companies do that? Because water is cheap and consumers want low prices—"give the customer what they want" is their motto. But it's not so good for the environment.

Thankfully, we now all get it…that what is good for the environment is good for us, and more importantly, our children. America is going green by leaps and bounds. For example, sales of solar panels are up almost 3 fold, according to EIA, the official energy statistics of the US government. And suppliers of household cleaning, laundry and personal care are getting the message about producing concentrated versions of their products.

California Baby is doing our part!
Our shampoos and bubble baths are very concentrated. This means that you are getting more cleaning power (solids, not water) in each bottle and you can wash more with less. California Baby is once again on the pioneering eco-trail and putting more of the good stuff in each bottle—when other companies are cutting corners. California Baby doesn't believe in cutting corners. We never have, never will. Instead, we believe in eco-value by offering concentrated washes, bubble baths, creams and lotions. The gentleness or effectiveness hasn't changed, you just need to use less. That's powerful.

Tips!
Concentrated products may take a little getting used, but once you get the hang of it, you will appreciate the time, water, product, and ultimately money you are saving your pocket book—and mama earth.

  • Wash your hair only once, but let it sit while washing the body, allowing the product to do its job of washing away dirt and oil. Ideally about 30 seconds (wash your body while you let our shampoo sit in your hair)
  • Use a puff or natural sea sponge. The best investment you will make! This will help to dramatically reduce the amount of product you need—just one squirt or pump does the job for your whole body.
  • Pump bottles: just a half to one pump is usually all you need to wash head-to-toe. California Baby pumps lock in the 'up' position (click left, click right), and the pumps sold for the 8.5 oz sizes lock in the down position ... just a quick click helps put a temporary stop to enthusiastic little hands.

You will find that your concentrated California Baby products should last you longer. I confess it took me a while to get used to. I would pump 3-4 times just to wash my hair! What was I thinking? I guess I just wasn't hip to eco-concentrates. Now I am—and I love it. Hope you do too.

All my best,

Jessica