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Sunday, June 23, 2019

My Favorite Things - Personal Care Edition

Friends and family often ask me for recommendations on everything from personal care items to kitchenware, cleaning supplies to shoes.  I haven't blogged in almost four years, and I kept making lists in my head of things people frequently asked about in conversations.

I decided to dust off my blog and compile a list of my favorite things in several categories and explain why I like each.  In general, I look for things that have a very clean and safe ingredient list, are free from gluten, corn and soy, have glass packaging, eliminate single usage or plastic, and are very effective.  I’m going to do several editions of my favorite things for each grouping of products I use on a day-to-day basis.  Hopefully this will be helpful to you and serve as a reference in the future.

For the first edition of my favorite things, I'm going to start with personal care items, which is a big list!  In general, my favorite personal care products come from Public Goods, Carina Organics, Acure, Pacifica and Red Apple Lipstick.  Any and all of their products are well-made, free from chemical junk and perform effectively.  Vitacost, Thrive Market and Public Goods are where I tend to buy most of the items below.  Both Thrive Market (get 25% off your first order with this link) and Public Goods (get $20 off your first order with this link) require an annual membership, but I have found them to be well worth the cost.  I tried to link to as many items on Vitacost or Amazon below as I could, as they don't require a membership.  Some of their prices are a little higher than Thrive Market or Public Goods, as they don't have discounts from a membership format.


Why I like it:  It’s fluoride-free, xylitol-free, whitening and tastes good.  I do wish I could find an alternative toothpaste tab in a glass jar, but I have yet to find one that doesn’t have xylitol in it, to which I am extremely allergic!  If and when I find one without xylitol, I will update this item!  If you are switching from a conventional toothpaste, such as Crest or Colgate, a natural toothpaste will take some adjustment.  It's not going to taste as sweet or strong, but that's because you're used to the artificial flavors and sweeteners.  It won't take long until you get used to the new toothpaste and enjoy the real mint flavor!

If you are currently using Colgate Total, please do me a favor.  Go to your bathroom, pick up the tube, and put it in your trash can.  It has triclosan in it, which is classified as a pesticide.  Triclosan used to be an ingredient in anti-bacterial hand soaps and gels but was banned by the FDA a few years ago and pulled out of all anti-bacterial hand products, due to causing antibiotic resistant bacteria.  Yet, for some reason, Colgate Total still has that awful chemical in it.  You do not want to be putting that in your mouth, ever! 


Why I like them: They are cheap, not made of plastic, and can be composted once you’re ready for a new one.  Just pull out the bristles with some pliers before you put the bamboo handle in the compost.  If you have trouble keeping track of who’s toothbrush is who’s, make some marks with dots or other designs on the handle with a colored marker.

I also do use a Sonicare electric toothbrush.  I love how clean my teeth feel from their toothbrushes.  I don’t like having to throw the brush heads away, but I don’t see much of an alternative at this time.

Tongue Scraper
The Dirt copper tongue scraper.  You can also get these on Amazon.  There are cheaper brands available, but The Dirt ones are the nicest I’ve tried.

Why I like it: Brushing your tongue with your toothbrush only goes so far.  Scraping it with a copper scraper makes a huge difference.  You will be amazed and disgusted at the same time by what you can scrape out every day!  It makes your mouth feel so much cleaner, I swear!


Why I like it:  It comes in a refillable glass container.  I used to hate having to throw out the plastic floss container every other month.  This floss container is refillable, and it just looks cool.  And there is no corn, gluten, soy or chemicals in it.  The silk floss can also be composted.  By the way, did you know Glide floss has Teflon in it?  That’s why it glides across your teeth.  Don’t be putting that in your mouth!


Why I like it:  It’s reef safe, non-nano, no chemical sunscreen, gluten-free, soy-free, for sensitive skin, hypoallergenic, and doesn’t make you look too white or make you feel too sticky.  The only negative on this is that it’s too big for bringing in your carry-on luggage in your bag of liquids.  When I need sunscreen in my carry-on, I just bring the Mineral Fusion below and use it on my body as well.

Mineral Fusion Mineral SPF 40 Facial MoisturizerIf you are currently using a sunscreen with avobenzone, oxybenzone or any other chemical sunscreen (typically found in Neutrogena, Banana Boat, Coppertone, etc.), please stop.  It’s killing our coral reefs, and it’s killing you!  The chemical has to be absorbed into your bloodstream to work.  This is especially bad for anyone who is pregnant.  Look for sun blocks with a physical SPF, which would be zinc and/or titanium dioxide.  If you want to learn more about why chemical sunscreens are so bad, check out this article by Mamavation

Why I like it: The ingredient list is very clean, it’s a mineral sunblock, it’s hypoallergenic, it doesn’t bother my face, and the zinc whiteness disappears after a few minutes once applied.  You can find this at some Whole Foods as well.


Why I like it:  It’s a natural deodorant that smells wonderful, but also eliminates the waste from single-use plastic containers.  You just order a new cardboard insert for your reusable deodorant dispenser as needed, or sign up for their auto-ship program.  It comes in eucalyptus scented and unscented.

Toilet Paper

Why I like it:  It's made from bamboo and not paper.  Bamboo is much more renewable than trees, and grows much faster.  This paper is also very strong and thick, so you don't need as much.  There is no plastic packaging with any of the Who Gives a Crap brand items, which is great.  Everything is wrapped in paper, which is recyclable.  Also, because it's made from 100% bamboo, there is no recycled paper content in it.  While I love that paper gets recycled and reused, all recycled paper has BPA in it, which is a hormone disrupter.  BPA gets into recycled paper from thermal receipt paper that people put in with their other paper recycling, which then ends up in the toilet paper.  I don't want to be wiping my butt with BPA, thank you very much!

Hand Soap

Why I like it:  It ranks very well on the EWG Skin Deep site.  The lavender is the best-rated out of the scents.  There is no corn, soy or gluten.  Many of the ingredients are coconut-derived.  I always get the refill-sized bottles and refill my dispensers at home.

Public Goods also has a nice hand soap that comes in a refill pouch.
Shea Terra Organics Facial Soap Rose Hips & Pink Clay

Bar Facial Soap

Why I like it: Very clean ingredient list of things you can pronounce and no plastic packaging!  Rose and pink clay are supposed to be calming and draw out impurities from your skin.  This is very gentle and lasts forever!  I actually cut the bar in half and have half in my shower and half in my travel kit and/or other bathroom, so it's very economical.

Hair Care and Body Care
Carina Organics for shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, leave-in conditioner, body lotion, face lotion, hair gel, hair spray

Carina Organics North AmericaWhy I like it: Hands down, they make the safest hair and body care products you can find.  They consistently rank as the safest in the Mamavation product testing, and they are free of any chemicals, gluten, soy, corn or artificial fragrances or colors.  I have been using their products for about 5 years now, and I love them.  My skin and hair love them as well.  They are a Canadian company and they have wonderful customer service.  I do wish I could get refills somehow, without having to get things in plastic, but that isn’t an option.  I’ve been ordering their products in large jugs, and just refilling the smaller bottles to keep in my shower and bathroom vanity.

Runners up:
Acure & Public Goods – these are the brands I get for my husband for his shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream and soap.  You can find Acure at Whole Foods.

Shower Scrubbers

Ayate WashclothWhy I like it: It’s a natural material and not made out of plastic like most shower puffs.  And it’s easy to periodically disinfect with vinegar and then compost when you’re done with it.

Why I like it: This seems like a pretty basic item, but it’s not.  It exfoliates so well, it’s amazing.  I had no idea I would like this thing so much!  It makes my skin so much smoother.  It’s almost like dry brushing, but you’re doing it while you’re in the shower and washing up!  I also like that it’s made from just agave fibers and nothing plastic.

Clarisonic Mia Face Brush

I've been using one of these face brushes for close to a decade.  They make a huge difference.  If I travel and I don't bring my face brush with me, I can feel and see a difference in my skin.  This little brush is gentle enough to use daily, and it gets all the dead, flakey skin off your face.  I swear by it!

Lip Balm

Why I like it: The flavors are tasty, the ingredients are very clean, and I like to support small companies. I’ve tried a lot of lip balms, and this is the best.  If you want one that you put on at night when you go to bed and wake up in the morning and still have some on your lips, this is the one to get.  My dad even loves this lip balm.  I get him several tubes to put in his stocking every Christmas, and he is always excited to get more, as he uses them all up.  My favorites are the peppermint and cocoa, raspberry and pomegranate.  I wish these came in cardboard tubes, but I have to pick my battles.

Argan Oil
Facial Oils
Argan Oil from Acure and Public Goods

Why I like it: It’s simple, it works well, and you can use it for just about anything.  On your face, dry hair, dry cuticles, remove makeup, dry elbows and knees, and I’m sure there’s plenty of other uses.  I also like the fact that you can get it in a glass bottle, which is recyclable.  It’s a single-ingredient product, so there is nothing to hide!

Facial Mist/Toner
Why I like it: To tie into the argan oil, I always mist my face first with rosewater, and then put one squirt of argan oil on my face.  The rosewater helps your face to absorb the argan oil, so it doesn’t leave your face greasy.  A lot of people are afraid to use oils on their face, because they think it will leave them greasy.  The rosewater makes all the difference.  I’ve purchased several different brands of rosewater off of Etsy.  I try to find it in a glass bottle if I can.  The selection always seems to change every time I go to buy some!  I've also found the Heritage brand of rosewater at Marshalls and TJ Maxx for a cheap price as well!

Vitamin C Serum

Why I like it: My skin is very sensitive, and this vitamin C serum does not bother me.  It tingles a little bit upon initial application, but my face isn’t a red, raw mess from it the next day like I’ve experienced from others.  It’s also very clean and doesn’t have any junky chemicals in it and is free from gluten, soy and corn.  It also comes in a glass bottle, which is recyclable.  Vitamin C is great for clearing up uneven skin tone and hyperpigmentation.

Red Apple LipstickRed Apple Lipstick for lipstick, eyeshadow, mascara and blush

Why I like it:  This company is amazing.  They make wonderful-quality cosmetics that are free from gluten, dairy, soy, corn, harsh chemicals and other junk that ruins your skin and your health.  It’s a small company in TX run by a husband and wife, and they truly care about making safe cosmetic products.  I haven’t used anything but their cosmetic products for the last 5 years.

Tinted Moisturizer

Why I like it:  My skin likes it a lot, it’s very light coverage (I can’t deal with heaviness of regular foundation), has SFP 17, and just works well.  Without a lot of junk in it like other CC creams I’ve found.  I use the light color, and it blends in well.

Pacifica Natural Beauty Ginger Root 10-in-1 Hair VolumizerHair Volumizer and Protector

Why I like it:  As the name implies, this stuff does a lot.  It’s one of those things when you don’t use it, you can tell the difference.  If I’m rushing and I skip using it, my hair seems to be either frizzier, flatter, or both!  It's a very clean product as well, without chemical junk in it and rated with 0 bad ingredients in the recent Mamavation hair styling product investigation


Why I like it: This was one of the safest mousses in the recent Mamavation hair styling products investigation I mentioned above, and I’ve been using their mousse for several years and really like it.  It’s a natural product that’s effective, and gives my hair a lot of volume without feeling sticky or coated.

Pacifica Perfume Roll On Island VanillaPerfume

Why I like them: They are nice little glass bottles with a roll-on applicator that are great for travel or to pop in a handbag.  They don’t have phthalates in them or other junk like other perfumes.  The Island Vanilla and Indian Coconut Nectar are my favorite scents.  You can find these at Whole Food and Target as well, if you want to sniff all the scents in person!

Hair Color

Why I like it: This was the last chemical item I cut from my life almost three years ago.  It was a hard switch, but my hair is so much healthier for it.  It fades out slightly after about 4 weeks.  This won't work to bleach hair, and only deposits color.  I mix a few colors together (red and medium brown) to get a custom color.  It is a bit of a messy process to apply, and you will smell a bit like wet hay for a day or two and need to use an old towel to dry your hair for the first few washings, but it’s worth it to eliminate the chemicals and keep my hair healthy and shiny.  I usually buy this at Whole Foods.

Nail Polish

Why I like it: This is the safest nail polish I’ve found so far.  It’s free of 13 different chemicals found in most nail polishes.  It’s also water and air permeable, so both water and air can get to your nails, keeping them much healthier.  The polish has a base and top cost all-in-one, dries quickly and can last for close to a week if you’re not doing anything too crazy with your nails.  I usually buy this at Target or CVS.

Feminine Products

Why I like it:  it’s just made from organic cotton, and nothing else.  Most other brands have plastic, fragrances and other chemicals in them.  The wrappers are paper and the applicators are cardboard, so they are completely plastic-free!

Why I like it: They eliminate the worry from leaks, they are not single-use items, they are pretty indestructible, they are great for when you’re not sure when your monthly friend might show up, or the last day or two of your cycle, and great for sleeping.  I’m not quite sure how I managed without these for the first 26 years of having a period.  

That's it for now for personal care items!  I will update this list from time to time, as I find new products that pass my tests.  Hope this list was helpful to you.  Let me know if I missed anything.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Vegan Kabocha Squash Pasta Sauce - AIP-Friendly

For the last seven months, I've really missed tomato sauce while on the AIP diet.  I've made a few "nomato" sauces from pureed winter squash, beets and seasonings, but it was just missing that savory, robust taste you get from a tomato sauce.  I found several kabocha squash sauce recipes online, but most of them were filled with heavy cream, cheese and spices I couldn't have.  I decided to try to make something that was vegan and AIP-friendly, and it worked!  I'm happy to say I found a replacement that makes me not miss tomato sauce one bit!  I could have eaten the entire pot of sauce. It smelled wonderful while cooking and was absolutely delicious!  This is my new favorite!  This recipe will serve 4.

  • 1 3-pound kabocha squash 
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • ⅓ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast
  • ½ cup full-fat coconut milk (I recommend Natural Value, as it has no additives)
  • ⅛ teaspoon mace
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons ume plum vinegar
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper (omit for AIP)
  • Vegetable stock or broth, if needed, to thin to desired consistency (make sure to use one that's free of nightshades or use homemade)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Cut the kabocha squash in half width wise. Scoop out and discard the seeds and stringy pulp. Pour a thin layer of water (about ¼ cup) into a baking dish and place the squash halves cut side down in the water. Bake the squash until it is fork tender (an inserted fork goes in and out with ease, about 45 minutes). Once the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh from the skins and transfer to a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth. Discard the skins.
  2. In a medium sauce pan, warm avocado oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft (4 – 5 minutes). Stir in the kabocha squash puree and cook for an additional minute. Slowly add the coconut milk into the squash mixture, making sure it is completely incorporated before the next addition. Add the nutritional yeast, mace, garlic and ume plum vinegar, stirring to incorporate. If you want sauce with a thinner consistency, stir in vegetable broth or stock until desired consistency is achieved.  
  3. Remove the sauce from the heat and add parsley and lemon juice. Taste your sauce and season with salt, pepper and additional lemon juice if needed. 
  4. Serve on spiralized vegetable noodles, cooked veggies, cooked sweet potato starch noodles (Korean glass noodles) or anything else you please!

Vegan Plantain Pancakes - AIP-Friendly

Since I've been doing the AIP diet for about seven months now, I've been craving pancakes. I used to make some decent gluten-free ones back in the day, but that was no longer an option after cutting out all grains. I had seen some interesting pancake recipes using plantains, but every single one either had eggs or gelatin in them, which is neither AIP nor vegan!

I decided to take matters into my own hands and do some experimenting yesterday morning. I was very pleased with the outcome, and would definitely make these again. They weren't too flat, and they were not rubbery, as I've heard some plantain pancakes can be when made with gelatin.  They have a slight banana taste to them.  If you don't like or don't have bananas, you could replace it with an equal amount of applesauce.

  • 2 large green green plantains, chopped
  • 3/4 cup cup organic full fat coconut milk (I suggest the Natural Value brand, as it doesn't have any additives ) 
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed (around 1/3 cup)
  • 1 tsp homemade vanilla extract (omit for AIP)
  • 1/2 rounded tablespoon of homemade egg replacer powder mixed with 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda 
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch sea salt 
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

  1. Place the chopped plantains and coconut milk into your food processor or blender and blend until smooth.  Next, add the banana, melted coconut oil, vanilla and baking soda and blend again. 
  2. Transfer the blended ingredients to a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients.  Stir well to combine.
  3. Oil your griddle or frying pan with coconut oil or coconut spray and heat on medium.
  4. Using a 1/4-1/3 cup measure, scoop the batter into the pan or griddle to form pancakes (you may need to jiggle the pan to get them to flatten out a bit).
  5. Cook the pancakes for 3-4 minutes per side, until completely cooked through.
  6. Serve and enjoy with maple syrup, chopped banana, berries or other favorites!
Recipe yields about 10 pancakes, depending upon size

Mini Vegan Pumpkin Pie Cups - AIP-Friendly

It seems like most every fall and winter, I need to become a mad scientist and figure out a new work-around recipe for an old seasonal favorite food.  The latest experiment for me was how to make a pumpkin pie AIP-friendly.  By omitting the crust, that makes things much easier (and cuts down on the calories!), but the filling still needed some adjustments.  I always struggle with what to do about egg replacements.  I recently made a homemade powdered egg replacer that has worked very well in several recipes, and this was another success story!

For this particular recipe, I made mini pies in coffee mugs.  If you're using smaller ramekins, you could make 8 servings.  For larger mugs, this makes 4 larger servings.  Without the crust, the 4 larger servings seemed like the right size.

The consistency of this comes out like a cross between a pudding and a mousse.  It sets up, but it's not as firm as a baked pie would be.  However, I found the light consistency to be much nicer, and all my guests who ate it agreed.

Anyone who tries this would find it impossible to believe this is free from gluten, egg, dairy, corn, grains and nuts!  If you like pumpkin pie, you'll love this.  And no oven is required!  Serving is also a breeze, with everything pre-portioned into cups.

Prep Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
Yield: 4-8 mini pies, depending on size of cup or ramekin

  • 1 13.5 oz can full-fat coconut milk (about 1.5 cups) - I recommend Natural Value, as it does not have any additives 
  • 1 15 oz can pumpkin puree (about 1.5 cups) - if you have homemade pumpkin, even better!
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 heaping tbsp homemade powdered egg substitute mixed in 4 tablespoons water
  • 1 tsp homemade vanilla extract (omit on AIP)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp mace
  • 1/8 tsp cloves

  1. Combine all ingredients above into a small saucepan. Stir on low heat for about 5 minutes, until all combined and heated through.
  2. Pour into small mugs or ramekins.  I used a ladle to make portioning out easier.
  3. Set in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight if preparing ahead of time. 
  4. Enjoy!

Vegan Egg Replacer Substitute Powder - AIP-Friendly

One of the most difficult things to substitute in both an AIP and vegan diet are eggs.  They are an important part of many recipes to bind ingredients together, help them rise or thicken.  I was using chia and flax seeds for a while, before I had to cut out seeds.  Store-bought egg replacers were also no longer an option due to the cornstarch and potato starch.  I had to find something!  I found a homemade egg replacer recipe online, but it still wasn't AIP, so I decided to try to make it work with some modifications.  I'm happy to say, it's worked in making flatbread, breadsticks, pumpkin pie, and a few other items.

The ingredient list is fairly simple:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  
  2. Store in an airtight container with a label with the following measurement instructions:
  • 1 large egg = 1/2 rounded tablespoon egg replacer and 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 egg yolk = 1/2 rounded tablespoon egg replacer and 1 tablespoon water
  • I store my egg replacer in a Mason jar with a screw-on plastic lid with the instructions written on a piece of masking tape on the side.
  • If you don't have a half tablespoon measuring spoon, use a rounded 1.5 teaspoons.
  • This recipe works best for recipes that are not egg-heavy.  This would not work for a quiche, meringue or something along those lines!
  • Make sure to put items into the oven right away when using this egg replacer.  The recipe looses its oomph if you wait too long.  
  • I've also found that having a bit of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar in the recipe helps it to rise more with this egg substitute.
  • This recipe replaces 45-50 eggs

Corn-Free Baking Powder - AIP-Friendly

One of the first things I was most shocked that contained corn was baking powder.  I couldn't understand why it contained corn.  Now, I ask myself that question about 10 times a day about many different things, so it's the norm, unfortunately!

After doing some Google searching, I found making your own baking powder is quite easy.  You just need three ingredients, and you'll be all set.  In fact, if you're on AIP or a paleo diet, or avoiding corn or grains, you probably already have these ingredients handy!

This homemade baking powder can be used 1:1 as you would store-bought.  This recipe will make one cup of baking soda.  If you're going to also make homemade egg replacer, I suggest at least doubling this recipe, so you'll have enough.

  1. Combine ingredients with a whisk and mix well.
  2. Store in a tightly closed container (labeled, so you know what it is!) to prevent activation of the ingredients from moisture.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Vegan Squash or Pumpkin Soup - AIP-Friendly

One of my favorite soups is pumpkin or winter squash soup.  It's not only delicious, but it's very festive and great for the holidays or get-togethers with friends and family.  While on the AIP diet, I had to make some changes to the spices I use for cooking, and this recipe is no exception.  I find that this particular recipe is more tasty than previous versions I made using dairy or other alternative milks, such as almond.  As with any soup recipe, it always tastes better the next day, so I make it a day ahead of serving.

This recipe is very versatile, and you can use pumpkin, butternut or kabocha squash with equally-delicious results!  This recipe makes about 4-6 servings, depending on the size of your bowls and appetite.


  • 1 4-pound pie pumpkin, butternut or kabocha squash, or a 29 oz can of pumpkin
  • 3 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 large or 6 medium garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground mace
  • ⅛ teaspoon cloves
  • Freshly ground black pepper (omit on AIP)
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (homemade or nightshade-free)
  • ½ cup full fat coconut milk (homemade or the Natural Value brand, which has no additives)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Carefully halve the squash or pumpkin and scoop out the seeds.
  2. Place the squash cut sides down onto the baking sheet, and add about 1/4 of water to pan. Cover with foil.  Roast for 35-40 minutes, until the flesh is easily pierced through with a fork. Set squash aside to cool slightly.  If you're using canned pumpkin puree, skip steps 1-2 and move right onto step 3.
  3. Heat 3 tablespoons avocado oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add onion, garlic and salt to the skillet. Stir to combine.
  4. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes. In the meantime, peel the skin off the squash and discard. Add the cinnamon, mace, cloves and a few twists of freshly ground black pepper to the pot, followed by the squash flesh.  Pour in the broth. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15, to give the flavors time to blend.
  5. Once the squash mixture is done cooking, stir in the coconut milk and maple syrup. Remove the soup from heat and let it cool slightly. You can use an immersion blender to blend this soup in the pot, or transfer it to blender for a smoother consistency.  Working in batches, transfer the contents pan to a blender to blend and be careful not to burn yourself with the steam (don't try to do this with extremely hot soup, or your blender may explode!). 
  6. Ladle soup into individual bowls and season to taste.