Everything You Thought You Knew About Raw Honey Is Wrong–Plus Buying Tips!

raw honey in jarsSo if you try even a little to eat clean, or healthy, or organic, or paleo, you’ve likely heard someone wax poetic about the benefits of raw honey:

It possesses super healing powers…

It helps to treat allergies…

It’s basically the Chuck Norris of natural sweeteners…

Don’t get me wrong, honey is my favorite sweet ingredient for some of those reasons, indeed. But the truth is raw honey is highly misunderstood and a lot of the hype surrounding its recent popularity is anecdotal at best.

So I thought I’d debunk some raw honey myths so you can better understand what you should be spending your money on, what you can expect raw honey to do for you, and how to use it for maximum nutritional impact. Basically, I want to save you from making my rookie mistakes. ‘Cause I’m a giver like that.

Let’s start with a definition.

The National Honey Board defines honey as raw when it’s sold “as it exists in the beehive or as obtained by extraction, settling, or straining without adding heat.”

Now that you know what qualifies as raw, here’s what you’ve probably heard about raw honey nutrition.

Raw honey provides vital health benefits, including:

  • soothing coughs(1)
  • eliminating free radicals due to antioxidant properties, and possibly even acting as a cancer preventative(2)
  • delivering a time-released energy boost(3)
  • moisturizing skin and hair
  • reducing dark circles and signs of skin damage

The good news is that all of the above is true. 


All of the above is true for processed honey as well!

In fact, a 2012 study by the National Honey Board analyzed the levels of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals in both raw and processed honey. The study concluded that neither the antioxidant activity nor the nutrient levels of honey were affected by processing. So…

The nutritional values for processed and raw honey are the same.

Honey being drizzled onto a spoonThis was big news for me. I spent a lot of time worrying that the way I prepped a recipe that included raw honey as an ingredient was rendering the health benefits moot. This affected everything I did in the kitchen, from baking to sweetening my morning coffee. I was convinced that heating raw honey above 95 degrees was ruining each pricey golden spoonful, so I eventually bought processed honey for all those myriad “heated” projects and saved the raw honey for what was left, namely drizzling over my morning yogurt.

Then I wrote a product description about honey for a client and did a bunch of research. Which led to a facepalm.

Don’t be like me.

Be smarter. Go boldly forth into the health food store, secure in the knowledge that:

Heating raw honey doesn’t affect its vitamin and mineral content.

Now if we were to go beyond applying honey topically for beautification, and wanted to make use of its antimicrobial qualities, raw honey actually is superior to processed when it comes to:

  • helping wounds heal faster(4)
  • healing herpes(5)
  • diminishing acne(6)

This is because the pasteurization process kills the beneficial bacteria and enzymes. Instead, try manuka honey–made in Oz and New Zealand from tea tree pollen. It has the highest levels of antibacterial activity and is often referred to as medical grade honey.

Manuka honey is so powerful at inhibiting the growth of microbes, it even works on drug-resistant bacteria, providing a natural wound remedy that doesn’t contribute to antibiotic resistance.

Stop the presses. Drug-resistant bacteria? In this regard, honey is more potent than man-made medicine!

High five, honey.

WAIT! I hear someone shouting from the back of the room.

What about raw honey for allergy relief?

Ah yes, that is what everyone is talking about it, isn’t it?

The theory that local raw honey can prevent seasonal allergies initially came into existence because raw honey has small amounts of pollen present in it. This pollen is missing from conventional honey because of the filtration process.

Some people believe that regularly consuming small amounts of local pollen might act like a series of allergy shots. Over time, the body will build up an immunity to that offending allergen in your surroundings.

Unfortunately though…

There is very little proof to substantiate that raw honey can prevent or diminish the effects of seasonal allergies.

Bee harvesting pollen on a sunflowerOne issue with this hypothesis is that the amount of pollen present in honey is negligible–we’re talking less than 0.5%. Not only that, but some experts claim that the pollens that are the greatest cause of allergies are small, windblown types that are not typically found in honey at all.

Very few studies have been conducted on the subject, contributing to the confusion. This study found that participants showed no change in allergy symptoms regardless of whether they consumed local, unpasteurized, and unfiltered honey or commercial, filtered, and pasteurized honey. The researchers, therefore, concluded that regardless of its processing, honey is ineffective for treating allergies.

Of course, the participants were only instructed to eat one tablespoon a day.

This study, on the other hand, did see its participants’ allergy symptoms improve…the only difference was that a 150-pound person had to consume just over three tablespoons of honey per day! And if you weighed more, you took more.


It’s also important to note there is no mention of “raw” honey in this experiment. Quite possibly, the researchers used the good ol’ store-bought honey bear, and the results can just be attributed to that Chuck Norris quality that all honey has.

Since we’ll likely never know, I settled on “jury’s still out” or “most likely hype” for this one. Feel free to check out the studies and decide for yourself.

But don’tcha feel just a little bit smarter than everybody else now?

You’re welcome.

Raw Honey Buying Tips

Ideally, you would buy raw honey from a local beekeeper. Other considerations include:

  • Filtered–filtering, or straining, doesn’t require the application of heat so isn’t technically considered processing. Unfiltered honey has bits of wax and bee parts, so if you don’t enjoy spreading those things on your toast and you have an option, choose filtered.
  • Unfiltered–because the straining process removes the “bits,” it’s thought to remove the pollen and the propolis too. You already know the pollen probably doesn’t matter, and even though propolis is a fascinating thing that sounds crazy good for us, if the National Honey Board says the antioxidant activity of honey is the same whether raw or processed, then it doesn’t matter that much either.
  • Pure–100% unadulterated honey with no added ingredients, like water, sucrose, flavorings, or colorings.
  • Organic–to be considered organic, honey producers must consult with every land user within a five km radius to ensure the crops are free of chemical residue. They must also regularly test the samples and keep the hives free of sugar and antibiotics. But finding 100% organic is nearly impossible. I mean, they’re bees. They do what they want.
  • Manuka–the FDA approved the use of medical honey in 2007. The healing action is attributed to what’s known as the “Unique Manuka Factor (UMF).” Official manuka honey displays the UMF on the label. Look for a rating higher than 5; 10 is acceptable for clinical use. This is definitely the honey to use topically, but it decreases inflammation and assists in creating a healthy gut biome when taken orally as well.

But wait there’s more!

There’s some cool research out there on the interweb regarding honey helping with weight loss.(7) The science looks sound, and I feel compelled to deep dive into whether a spoonful of honey before bed will, in fact, make me superhuman. Okay, maybe not superhuman, but well rested, lean, and detoxed, which is close enough.

I’ll be sure to post my results for you here so we can assign “honey helps with weight loss” to its proper category of fact or fiction.

Until then, I wrote this post about how honey can help prevent hangovers in case you want to whip up a Bee Sting and do something delicious for yourself. You know, for science.

*I love to cook delicious things. Though for many years I cooked healthy food for people with dietary restrictions, I am not a nutritionist. Back then, I researched the hell out of things, absorbed all I could from speaking with my clients about their allergies, and at the end of the day, just followed the instructions I was given by their respective doctors.
Therefore nothing on this blog is meant to constitute medical advice. Health-related posts are, at best, anecdotes about what works for me or are meant for sharing interesting info I come across in my research. Take it all with a grain of salt and always consult your doctor or nutritionist before making a major change to your diet or health regimen.

All-Natural Gummy Candy (Refined-Sugar Free)

Front view of all-natural gummies: worms, bears, and mustachesJust in time for Easter, here’s a recipe for natural candy you can feel good about feeding your kids. Traditional recipes based on the Haribo-style gummy bears are laden with corn syrup and use Jell-O, in its artificial glory, as the base. With just a couple modifications, however, you can create all-natural gummy candy that tastes and looks as good as the real thing and contains health-promoting ingredients.

Plain, unflavored gelatin is protein‐rich, not only giving you healthy hair, nails and skin, but also helping to heal digestive disorders and increase your metabolism. Be sure to get the kind that comes from grass­fed cattle, which is available at most health-­food stores. Great Lakes is the brand I use. While you’re at the store, pick up some expeller-­pressed juice or organic citrus to squeeze yourself. Local honey is what makes these babies refined sugar-free, plus you get the bonus of all those vitamins, enzymes, and phytonutrients that make honey so nutritious!

Plan Ahead

It’s easier said than done to find gummy bear molds. If you want to make these this week, you best get to ordering your molds now. Thank god for Prime 2-day shipping!

Since our base is unflavored gelatin, I highly recommend ordering some all-­natural flavor extracts, like this one from LorAnn. I chose the pomegranate, orange and lemon flavors. I truly don’t think this ingredient is optional if you want your natural gummies to taste really awesome. My experiments with leaving out the extract and subbing citrus zest instead left no room for doubt. Hands down, the gummies with the drops of extract added to the recipe were far superior. Plus the zest made the gummies slightly bitter, which might not be ideal for a child’s palette.

Citric acid powder, the ingredient that gives candy that coveted Sour Patch tang, contributes a depth of flavor (sweet and tart, as opposed to just sweet). While the gummies can be made without this ingredient, I highly recommend you include it.

One last ingredient, also non-essential, is non‐toxic, veggie-­based food coloring. Leaving it out won’t affect flavor, the colors will simply be more muted and look less like their store-bought counterparts. The pomegranate mustaches in my images, for example, are rich in color without the need for any additional coloring.

Close up of all-natural gummy candy

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Do you have a favorite Easter candy that you’d love to see made over into a healthy version? Respond in the comments and I’ll add it to my To Do list of culinary wizardry.

For a cocktail you can make with local honey that may or may not have superpowers, check out Honey in Your Cocktail May Prevent a Hangover.

*Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase through my link. This helps to keep this blog free. All of the products I mention are from companies I know and trust.

Switch to All-Natural Cleaners, Recipes Included!

A mop, a broom, and a dustpanFor years I’ve had a thing. I’ve loved walking into a recently cleaned room that smelled of bleach. Oh sure, my nostrils would burn, but in direct proportion to the degree to which my face was on fire, I’d feel this satisfying sense that everything around me was sterile. I could eat off this floor! As much as this catchphrase makes me laugh, I’ll admit there’s something comforting about being in a perfectly sanitized environment.

All of that changed the day I walked into a space that smelled like lavender and tea tree oil. It was subtle and oh-so-pleasant, a stark contrast to the nose hair-singeing experiences of my past. So imagine my surprise to discover that this room was just as sterile as the bleach-soaked example above.

So for the latest installment of tiny-changes-you-can-make-that-will-impact-your-life-in-a-big-way, I want to ask you, dear reader: If you could get the same efficacy from non-toxic, all-natural cleaners, would you make the switch?

The Big Why

I hear people joke that everything causes cancer. Pesticides, air pollutants, skincare chemicals, plastics, food additives, and industrial compounds are just a few that come to mind. That sentiment is usually piggybacked by some variation of the following: Womp womp, it’s all just a lost cause.

I beg to differ, however. If we are exposed to cancer- and other disease-causing toxins day in and day out, shouldn’t we try to eliminate as many as we can control? Let us not throw our hands up in the air and proclaim keeping ourselves healthy an impossible task. Let us instead come from the perspective that every little bit helps.

Blue bottle labeled poisonAre They Really That Dangerous?

Environmental experts say the average household contains 62 toxic chemicals. Typical cleaning products have been linked to acute hazards such as chemical burns and respiratory irritation, as well as chronic effects like asthma, cancer, reproductive disorders, neurotoxicity and hormone disruption.

Let’s look at just one of these long-term effects more closely. Hormone disruptors either block messages the body is sending or mimic the hormones themselves. So we’re talking a high possibility of male birth defects and greater incidence of breast cancer as a potential cost of refusing to throw out your Clorox. Yikes.

Of course, manufacturers argue that modest amounts of exposure to their products isn’t likely to be a problem, but what about the notion that frequent use of these chemicals adds to the body’s toxic burden–aka the number of chemicals stored in its tissues at a given time? It follows logic that consistent exposure has a cumulative effect.

And if that’s not scary enough, these same chemicals change the way our immune cells function, which regulates our reactions (or over-reactions) to the foods we eat. This indicates that exposure to toxins could be a major cause of the unprecedented increase in celiac disease and food intolerance.

But Is All-Natural Really Effective?

Hands cradling a bunch of fresh lavenderThe US National Library of Medicine published a study showing that certain plant essential oils, including those from lavender, have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that are effective against salmonella, E. coli bacteria and even some strains of staph. The first two are the most common strains of food-borne bacteria, so if my Lavender Antibacterial Spray recipe can combat those, it’s ideal for use in my kitchen. (1)

Author Annie Hauser did a trial run of homemade all natural cleaners versus corporate chemicals and had this to say: “On the whole, homemade cleaning products are worth the effort. Not only do they save money, but also they can provide the same cleaning power as store-bought brands without harsh chemicals like bleach or ammonia. Plus, despite what advertisers want you to think, you really can use the same natural products for multiple surfaces around your home.” (2)

I’ve been using all natural cleaners in my home for well over three years now and I’ve been thrilled with the results. But don’t take my word for it…it’s high time you see for yourself.

All Right, How Much is This Gonna Cost Me?

All of the ingredients in the recipes listed below can be acquired at your local grocery store and at online retailers. Buy them once and they will last a ridiculously long time—and as an added bonus, the cost savings will boggle your mind. An initial investment of about $30 will bring the cost of your cleaning supplies to mere cents per bottle over the lifetime of the ingredients.

It Sounds Like a Lot of Work

Trust me, it isn’t. Twenty minutes or so is all it takes to make all your products the first time and then plan on about five minutes to throw together a refill. I use a label on each bottle large enough to include the recipe along with the cleaner’s name, so I don’t waste any time looking up what ingredients I need.

The five recipes that follow are sure to cover 95% of your home cleaning needs. I have yet to try a floor cleaner, wood polisher or laundry detergent that I love, but I will update when I do:

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*Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase through my link. This helps to keep this blog free. All of the products I mention are from companies I know and trust

Lettuce Wraps with Tangy Asian Slaw (Gluten- and Refined Sugar-Free)

Close up of savory pork and vegetable filling in lettuce wraps

I’m obsessed with things wrapped in lettuce.

Which seems an appropriate response to having a gluten allergy, since buns and bread are effectively off the table, right? Every week I eat at least one dish that uses crisp romaine or butter lettuce wraps as the vessel with which I deliver said deliciousness into my belly.

I’m also a fan of simplicity, and this recipe couldn’t be easier. You can even be super lazy and just buy grocery store Hoisin sauce, although, for anyone with celiac, that’s a risky proposition, as most store-bought brands contain soy sauce. Also if you don’t make the sauce from scratch, you’re missing a huge part of what makes this dinner so flavorful and awesome. The moral of this paragraph? Make the sauce. In fact, make a double batch.

What makes my lettuce wraps recipe different from the mainstream recipes out there, is the addition of more veggies. The best thing about Asian cuisine, to my mind, is the ease with which all sorts of vegetables can slide into a dish all stealth-like and punch up the color, crunch, and fiber quotient while making only a modest flavor difference. Typically the sauce situation takes care of that. So I say “more veggies for all!” Seriously though, add even just one additional veggie to your stir-fries or your take-out from now on. Your body and your taste buds will thank you.

Savory filling in lettuce wraps topped with bright coleslaw

Since I didn’t want to monkey with the original filling recipe too much except to add bamboo shoots, I opted to veg-ify this recipe with the addition of a crisp coleslaw, reminiscent of cucumber salad. Packaged broccoli slaw is my favorite mixture to use for this crunchy condiment, although last time when I couldn’t find it, I subbed a lovely kale, cabbage and Brussels sprout slaw to which I added shredded carrot. Basically, whatever shredded veggie combo strikes your fancy ought to do the trick. Toss a handful of that in a tangy dressing infused with sesame oil and chili flakes, chill briefly before serving and you have a bright garnish that almost steals the show. Almost. There’s still that dreamy sauce…

Another great thing about this recipe is that you can make it with whatever protein your heart desires. Organic, grass-fed beef makes bomb lettuce wraps, but you’ll usually find these babies made with ground dark-meat turkey in my household. Even the roommate can’t get enough of these and he generally likes to eschew my healthy cooking as dramatically unsatisfying by virtue of it being gluten-free.

Meaning, he rarely eats my food, out of principle.

This recipe, however, makes him say, “Principles be damned!” Actually, that’s never happened. But since he’s happily munching away on these as I type, that must be what he’s thinking, right?

Point is, you’re going to want to make this your something delicious today.

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If you dig dinners with an Asian vibe, check out my Elimination Diet-friendly Chinese “Chicken” Salad that is just as yummy with chicken as it is without.

Honey in Your Cocktail May Prevent a Hangover

Honey, lemon, and vodka martini flanked by lemons and a small bottle of AbsyntheOver dangerously smooth anise-perfumed cocktails the other night, a friend told me his mother’s tried-and-true hangover remedy just so happened to be the MVP in our cocktails–honey. I scoffed a bit—isn’t sweet stuff the reason why I hurt so badly the morning after? But four Bee Stings, six hours of sleep and no hangover later, I was convinced.

So honey can banish a hangover? No more throbbing head, dizziness or sour tummy after a night of drinking? Sign me UP!

I poked around a bit to get to the bottom of this delightful mystery, and was able to come up with the following fun facts. It just so happens that honey is acclaimed by scientists for its ability to aid the body in breaking down alcohol. This little nutritional powerhouse can neutralize booze toxins, according to an article in the US National Library of Medicine. Author Arthur Cederbaum states that because honey contains natural fructose, which helps the body metabolize alcohol more quickly into a harmless byproduct, it can end the hangover period faster. (1)

Furthermore, honey pumps us full of antioxidants that protect the liver from alcohol damage. It also contains electrolytes–like sodium and potassium–which our systems exhaust while processing the alcohol, and which need replenishing in order for us to feel better.

Not too shabby.

And I can’t help but think that the whisper of Absinthe–a spirit made from medicinal herbs–must be the proverbial cherry on top, no?

I mean this cocktail is almost…dare I say it…good for you! 

So why not ring in the new you this new year by embracing a cocktail that will love you almost as much as you love it? Now doesn’t that sound delicious?

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What do you use to sweeten your cocktails? Let me know in the comments below!


Five Simple Detox Strategies

It seems appropriate, in light of the fact that I have never consumed more cheese (chocolate/bacon/eggnog) than I have in the last two weeks, to do a post on detox strategies. Around the holidays it’s easy to be aware of how polluted you feel, when indulgences wait around every corner, and your waistband gets tighter by the hour.

But even in our normal, mostly “healthy” lives, we are subjected to toxins on a daily basis—from pesticides on our veggies, to allergens in the air, to chemicals in our food-storage containers.

So this month’s health tip is to create detoxifying rituals to combat this constant exposure.

I’m going to start with the obvious one: drink more water. Drinking lots of water not only flushes toxins, it keeps our digestion regular and helps with weight loss. Furthermore, it makes our skin supple and allows our brains to run at maximum efficiency. Read tips on how to adopt this healthy habit into your routine here.

Then, Sweat It Out

You knew this was coming: of course exercise is on this list, because at the end of the day, strengthening your heart and circulatory system and maintaining agility is the key to vitality. But eliminating toxins is yet another bonus of working up a sweat.

A study published in Scientific World Journal (1) compared the amount of phthalates (a toxin found in personal care and household items) eliminated from the body based on the type of elimination—sweat or urine—and found that sweating was the superior method. In fact, the amount of toxin present in the sweat was twice that found in the urine. So flush your system with water, but don’t think that replaces a trip to the gym.

I’ve got great news though: even sitting in a sauna is an effective detox. As your body gets hotter and blood flow increases, toxins that are stored in body fat get released. These toxins might include pesticide residues and drugs—legal or otherwise.

Take Epsom salt baths to detoxifyThen, Soak It Away

I love any health tip that includes adding baths to the repertoire. The key here is to add 2 cups of Epsom salts, which contain magnesium and sulfate. The sulfates in Epsom salt help flush toxins and heavy metals from the cells. Your skin is highly porous, and adding the right minerals to your bathwater triggers reverse osmosis. This process actually pulls salt out of your body, and harmful toxins along with it.

As an added bonus, Epsom salt absorbed through the skin replenishes magnesium levels in the body. This helps produce serotonin, a mood-elevating chemical in the brain that creates feelings of calm and relaxation. Research shows that magnesium also increases energy and stamina. Experts believe that bathing with Epsom salt at least three times a week helps you to look better, feel better and gain more energy.

And get this! There are a gazillion more uses for Epsom salts, so please go read about them here. Then I bet you’ll want to thank me for telling you to take more baths and proving that they’re soo good for you.

You’re welcome.

Try Something Different

“So drink water, work out and take baths, that’s it?” you might be saying. “Those are things I already do!”

I know, isn’t that awesome? Just ramp it up a notch. And then check out these two things you might not be doing.

Take Activated CharcoalActivated charcoal flushes toxins

Activated Charcoal—not to be confused with charcoal used in your grill (giggle)— has a negative electric charge that causes positive charged toxins and gas to bond with it. This in turn helps promote a healthy digestive tract by removing the very toxins that cause allergic reactions, oxidative damage and poor immune system function, in addition to reducing bloating and gas. Hurray!

To optimize your health, routinely cleanse the digestive tract by taking 10 grams of activated charcoal 90 minutes prior to each meal for two days, according to Dr. Josh Axe, certified doctor of natural medicine, chiropractic and clinical nutritionist. During the cleanse, eat only organic fruits and vegetables, grass-fed meat, and wild fish.

Oh and guess what else?

Activated charcoal can prevent hangovers. Dave Asprey, of Bulletproof Coffee Fame, suggests 2000 mg after you’re done drinking, in order to feel, well, bulletproof the morning after.

I like it.

Eat Broccoli Sprouts

There is so much talk about super foods it’s overwhelming to know where to begin. So if you only add one new thing to your diet, it ought to be these babies.

Broccoli sprouts contain a chemical called sulforaphane which greatly enhances detoxification, excreting mercury, carcinogens and air pollutants, just to name a few. Compared to vitamin C, which fights free radicals directly for approximately six hours after exposure, sulforaphane prompts our cells to make antioxidant proteins that can fight for more than 72 hours. Not only are these little powerhouses thought to combat cancer in multiple ways, studies suggest they contain 1000 times more nutrients than mature broccoli, and can even cause a reduction in symptoms of autism.

With a little patience, broccoli sprouts are easy to grow in your kitchen. You can get organic broccoli seeds here. Visit Ali and Tom’s amazing Elimination Diet site for instructions on how to grow them, and start reaping the benefits today of this simple addition to your wellness routine.

For a great list of other foods you should eat after a binge, check out this article.

And Now For Something Delicious

If you’re kicking off 2017 with a cleanse, juicing is probably top of your list. For that reason, I wanted to include one of my all-time favorite juice recipes, that just so happens to have extra detox properties due to the addition of beets. Since beets tend to have an earthy flavor (I’ve been told by more than one picky eater that they taste like dirt), the addition of fennel and apple work against that flavor profile, resulting in a juice that is just slightly sweet, deliciously refreshing, and not remotely dirt flavored. During a cleanse where grass-flavored green juices abound, I consider this combo almost a dessert-like treat.

Beets contain antioxidants and minerals that have been shown to be cleansing and detoxifying. These include betaine, which helps the liver cells eliminate toxins; pectin, which clears the toxins that have been removed so they don’t reincorporate back into the body; and betalains, which have high anti-inflammatory properties that encourage the detox process.

And there’s no need to peel raw beets before juicing. Just give them a scrub, roughly chop, and juice away.


Beet-Fennel Detox Juice
  • 1 fennel bulb, stalks and fronds included
  • 1 small beet, scrubbed and cubed
  • 1 sweet apple, like Fuji or Honeycrisp, seeds and stem removed
  • 1 handful parsley, with stems
  1. Place all items into a high powered juice extractor and turn it on.
  2. Pour into a chilled glass, or place in freezer for 20 minutes before enjoying.



*Of course, I should remind everyone that this blog is for information purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Because everyone is different, you should work with your medical professional to determine what’s best for you.




Why You Should Drink More Water

Water Trio

We all know we should drink more water. And yet I still hear this craziness to a shocking degree:

“I hate water.” 

Say what?

First of all, to my mind, that is like saying you hate air. Air is—generally—odorless, just as water is typically flavorless. How can you hate the taste of

Unless what you really mean is that you are bored. Bored by the blandness, the simplicity, the utterly unassuming quality of water. Water doesn’t come to the party wearing bubbles, or Red Dye No. 5. It won’t give you a buzz or make your booze taste anything but more, erm, watery. When your taste buds are used to partying with the likes of Mountain Dew and Gatorade, or Diet Coke and Snapple, water is like the wallflower that’s all too easy to ignore.

If this sounds like you, I beg you to indulge me. After all, you know how we sometimes drink nasty-tasting cough syrup because it will banish our cold symptoms and restore health? Or get painful shots to prevent diseases? How about imbibing ener-G concoctions the color of battery acid in order to get a quick pick-me-up during the 3 o’clock slump? None of those acts is as pleasurable as a massage followed by a nap, but we do them anyway, in the name of increased productivity, greater health and well-being, and higher energy.

So why this resistance to water–which is surely less grotesque than some of the above scenarios–when it is just so dang obvious that it’s good for us?

Here are a few tips and tidbits designed to abolish your excuses. And if you already subscribe to the notion that water is the JAM, then hopefully these hacks will help you drink even more of it and be an even bigger badass of wellness.

Invest in a Quart Jar

And then fill it up and place it next to your bed at night. The next morning, don’t begin your day until you’ve consumed the entire thing. It’s surprisingly easy to drink that much water in a sitting (I like to challenge myself to drink a quarter at a time–and mason jars have cute little lines to help you keep track), and you’ll be halfway toward your daily water goal before ever getting out of bed.

Just don’t forget to add in eight extra ounces for everything else you consume throughout the day that acts as a diuretic (in other words, causes dehydration)–things like coffee and alcohol.

Break the Chapstick Habit

The first thing I noticed when I started using the quart jar hack was that I no longer had a need for lip balm throughout the day. I still use it (because I’m an addict) but the point is, I don’t need it. That’s revelatory! So if, like me, you suffer from chronic chapped lips, take it as a sign! Don’t waste another minute! Run–don’t walk–to the water cooler! Your skin will thank you.

Purity is King

Raspberry waterCity water is full of chlorine, which is great for sanitation purposes but bad for the beneficial bacteria in our guts. It often contains pharmaceuticals like antibiotics and antidepressants as well. With options for re-filling your 5-gallon bottles with reverse-osmosis water for as little as $2 each, it’s easier than ever to drink the stuff your body wants.

What to do on the go? Brita makes super cool, BPA-free bottles that filter up to 40 gallons of tap water, like this one here. Replacement filters are affordable too—at $4.98 for two—which makes investing in one sort of a no-brainer.

There’s An App For That

How cool is it that there exist in the universe apps that allow you to track your water consumption,  monitor your hydration in real time, upload pics of your drinking glass, and help you stick to your hydration goals? Try Waterlogged (free) or iDrated ($0.99).

Boost Your Brain

Seriously, this is one of the simplest ways you can improve your health and it can be done for cheap or free. Here’s what science is telling us:

Drinking lots of water keeps our digestive systems healthy and regular, helps to flush out toxins, and facilitates the loss of unwanted pounds. I can dig it.

But here’s the really important part:

Your brain uses 30% of the water in your body in order to function at maximum capacity. This means that dehydration has exponentially degrading effects on your brain’s performance. When you are as little as 5% dehydrated, your brain is 30% less efficient. At 10% dehydration, you are 50% less efficient. Which begs the question, have any of us ever in our lives functioned at full tilt? Wowza!

Even crazier is the fact that dehydration can actually cause your brain to shrink! I’m pretty sure I’m willing to drink a hippopotamus’ bath water to prevent that from happening.

Infuse It

If you feel the need to give water a makeover in order to fall in love, this is the move. And if you are already having an affair with the stuff, this will become your go-to way to refresh yourself throughout the day.

Grab a glass pitcher (or a Voss water bottle for on-the-go), and fill it with your organic fresh herbs and fruit. Frozen fruit works best because cell walls are more broken down and therefore infuse more readily. You can also gently muddle the fruit to get even more of that yummy flavor. Rosemary has antimicrobial properties that help maintain a healthy gut. So you can chew on the sprigs for added health points after you’ve finished your water.

I was feeling summery (what? Los Angeles is FREEZING so I’m channeling the Bahamas) so I created this Peach-Rosemary Water and declared it good enough to bring naysayers to the dark side.


Ok, that’s enough. Go do something delicious!

*Of course, I should remind everyone that this blog is for information purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Because everyone is different, you should work with your medical professional to determine what’s best for you.

Pumpkin Pancakes with Cranberry-Pecan Compote (Gluten- and Refined Sugar-Free)

Pumpkin Pancakes Cranberry-Pecan CompoteAs a person with food allergies, sometimes I’ll get lucky while traveling and find gluten-free options in places you would never expect. Recently I attended a wedding in Neverwhere, Ohio, and was delighted that the first breakfast in our historic hotel the big city–Lancaster, that is–had gluten-free bread on offer.

I can order a breakfast sandwich?! That is something that never, ever happens. I have forgone breakfast sandwiches for over three years now, so I was understandably delighted.

The irony, however, was that there was something else on the menu that I wanted way way more than a breakfast sandwich. Something that was decidedly NOT gluten free. Something that the women I was traveling with (my mom and her best friend) could not stop raving about: pumpkin pancakes with cranberry-pecan compote. Oh my YUM.

If You Love Me, Lie to Me

Allow me to digress for a moment…I once dated this guy–let’s call him *Frank*–for far longer than was sane or reasonable considering what a poor match we made.

But he did this thing that was so irresistibly charming whenever he ate something I wasn’t allowed to have, it just might have been the glue that kept us together. He would bite into said glutenous item and wrinkle his nose, before describing in detail how disappointing the meal was. Then he’d take another bite and shake his head no, as if to illustrate how lucky I was not to be subjected to such torture.

I found the game delightful. One time, he was eating a bean and cheese burrito–one of my most-missed comfort foods which sadly seem to be gone from my repertoire in the absence of GF tortillas that actually resemble tortillas. He made a face of utter disgust and proclaimed that his burrito was just “too beany.”

I’m fairly certain that this action alone made me love him.

Too Damned Honest

*Frank’s* behavior stands in stark contrast to what my family does. Now, to be fair, we are a family who loves food. We are perhaps more likely to tell you what we ate on our European vacation than which museums we visited or what friends we made. But still, it’s hard when my mom eats a warm croissant so delicate that I can hear the crunch of 100 perfect layers as it reverberates in the part of my chest that acutely feels “lack.” I watch in slow motion as parchment-like crumbs drift gently onto the tablecloth like tantalizing golden snowflakes. Then she TELLS me how good it is. As if I’m not already dying a little inside.

Sigh…This particular memory ends with my mom actually rubbing the pastry on her face in an amorous gesture meant to make her more at one with the croissant. I might be embellishing, but who can tell anymore? All I know is that she didn’t lie to me.

Is that so much to ask?

Same Sh*t, Different Day

And that’s how it began with the pumpkin pancakes. It went something like this:

Me: (getting into the car after an entire day of flying and not eating due to a lack of G-Free options). Hi moms. How’s it going?

Moms: Hi girls. You are gonna love our hotel. It has GREAT breakfasts. Today we had the pumpkin pancakes. They come with a cranberry-pecan compote that is to die for. Oh my word…

Me: Sounds incredible. I’m starving. No chance they’re gluten-free (she asks hopefully)?

Moms: No…But they were goooooooooood. Mmmmm mmmmm! Really fluffy!! So full of pumpkin spice. I’ve never had cranberry compote on pancakes before, have you Lynda? No? No, me neither. Definitely not to be missed.

Me: Ok well I’m sure they have other good things on the menu.

Moms: Oh I’m sure, but these pancakes were reaaaaaaallly something. I’m thinking they’d be great for Christmas breakfast, don’t you think so Lynda? Just marvelous, really…


Suffice to say, I dreamt about pumpkin pancakes that night.

My Loss=Your Gain

The silver lining to this story, my friends, is that I came home on a mission.

A delicious mission.

And hopefully you will reap the benefits of it as much as I’m getting to. We start with a crazy healthy pancake recipe–one of the pumpkin-iest pumpkin recipes I’ve made. These babies actually qualify as paleo and are only mildly sweet, so they pair perfectly with your choice of toppings. One point that is particularly noteworthy: flax seed and meal is very delicate and will only stay fresh if you keep it frozen. Your best bet is to buy a small quantity of flax seeds in the bulk bin at your local health food store and grind them yourself. I make all the pancakes at once and then freeze them in a single layer. Then take them straight from freezer to toaster for quick weekday breakfasts.

The cranberry compote is super simple to make, and is bright and tangy with the flavors of orange and pumpkin pie spice. Of course you can serve this as a condiment for poultry or pork, spread it on toast, stir it into oatmeal or spoon it over vanilla ice cream. I make it a day ahead to cut down on prep time and thin a little bit with OJ or water when I’m ready to serve. Toast the pecans and add them at the end so they’re perfectly crunchy.

Pumpkin Pancakes (Gluten-free, Refined-sugar free, Paleo)
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 2 T flax meal
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2-1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 can pure pumpkin
  • 6 eggs, whisked
  • 2 T coconut oil, plus more for cooking
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (use extract for paleo)
  1. Whisk dry ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. In another small bowl, whisk wet ingredients.
  3. Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until combined.
  4. Heat griddle over medium heat.
  5. When beads of water dance on the griddle’s surface, it is ready, Pour approximately 1/4 cup of batter onto the griddle at a time and use the back of a spoon to spread it into a circle.
  6. When small bubbles form on the surface, flip pancakes and cook for another 2 minutes.


Cranberry-Pecan Compote (Refined sugar-free)
  • 1 bag fresh cranberries
  • 3 oranges, zest and juice
  • 1/4 cup + 2 T coconut sugar, or more to taste
  • 1 tsp homemade pumpkin pie spice (see below)
  • 1/4 cup raw pecans
  1. Place cleaned cranberries in a 2 quart saucepan.
  2. Add the zest of three oranges to the cranberries. Halve the oranges, and add the juice. Cook over medium heat.
  3. Stir in coconut sugar and spices. Allow mixture to come to a boil then lower heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the moisture has evaporated and sauce has thickened to desired consistency.
  4. Meanwhile in a dry saute pan, toast pecans over medium low heat until fragrant and just starting to brown. Allow to cool. Roughly chop.
  5. To reheat, add 1/4 c of water or orange juice to compote and slowly warm over medium low heat.
  6. Spoon warmed compote over pancakes. Top with toasted, chopped pecans.


Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  1. In a small bowl, whisk all ingredients together.
  2. Store in an airtight container in a cool dark place.


Green Tomatillo Salsa (with Avocado “Crema” Variation)

Tomatillo Salsa

My mom has a friend named Maria Garcia. She’s adorable for so many reasons, and not just because her name rhymes. She’s always dressed in cheery, colorful clothing. She’s never without a broad smile and the room is perpetually filled with her lyrical laughter. My favorite thing about her though?

She usually has a shot of tequila in her hand.

That, and she makes a killer tomatillo salsa. I’ve known Maria for most of my life and lucky for me, her signature salsa makes an appearance at most of our gift-giving occasions.

I love tomatillo salsa. Give me a choice between salsa verde and just about every other condiment known to man, and the green variety is going to win 9 times out of 10. But Maria’s is something special. She doesn’t use any onion, which I like because I’ve had too many salsas where the onion dominated the flavor.

And she doesn’t shy away from the spice–another key to my heart. In truth, I ask chefs to make dishes “spicy like you hate me,” and yet I have never, not ever, used the number of jalapeños Maria suggests in her recipe. She is far more bad-ass than I.


She also boils her jalapeños and tomatillos, which I like as artistic license. I’ve had salsa verde made from fresh ingredients blended in a food processor, and while delicious, that version of tomatillo salsa tastes much “greener” in flavor and less seasoned or intense. Furthermore, the addition of lime juice becomes essential, otherwise there is hardly any tang. When you boil your veggies, the spice becomes spicier and the tang comes out of the tomatillos naturally.

boiling peppersWhich brings me to tomatillos, the funny little things. They tend to be quite hard when you purchase them and enclosed in a little husk. Although I wasn’t able to find any documented reason why, I’m told the husk can be boiled with nopales (cactus) to remove the slime that nopales–and similar plants like aloe–are notorious for. Which makes me wonder if it can be used when cooking okra…And also whether this is just an old esposa’s tale…

But I digress.

Ironically, tomatillos also have a lot of pectin in them. I say ironic because the husks reportedly remove goo, whereas the fruit itself can cause your salsa to get thick and well, goo-ey, once refrigerated. If this happens to you, it simply means that not enough liquid was added to the recipe. Just stir in a tablespoon at a time of warm water until you reach the desired consistency.


The only thing I do differently from Maria when I make tomatillo salsa–aside from using fewer than 10 jalepenos–is to add lime zest. As stated above, I don’t really feel that lime juice is a necessary addition, but part of me was yearning for a nod to that flavor. Zest to the rescue! I looooove citrus zest–it’s just got such zing to it! Apparently I also love four letter nouns that start with “z!”

So if you’re down with the zest, go for it. But know that it’s totally optional. I assure you the results are delicious either way!

zesting limes

Oh and one last thing. This is delicious on fish tacos, where it can comingle with a little lime-crema. But if dairy is no bueno in your universe, try my Avocado Crema variation. Just blend half a ripe avocado with a cupish of green salsa in your food processor until the avocado is completely blended and the mixture is creamy. Add more or less salsa depending on how pourable you’d like your sauce to be. I’ll sometimes make it on the thicker side and dip cold, crunchy crudite into it. Yum!

Green Tomatillo Salsa (with Avocado “Crema” variation)
  • 8-10 tomatillos, husks removed
  • 1-3 jalapeños, depending on your spice tolerance
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt, to taste
  • zest of one lime, optional
  • 1/4 c water
  • small bunch cilantro leaves, torn from stems
  • tomatoes, optional
  • half a ripe avocado, peeled and seeded (for Avocado “Crema” variation)
  1. Put tomatillos and jalapeños in a saucepan with cool water. Bring to a boil and simmer 8 minutes until tomatillos are soft.
  2. Remove from water and allow to cool to the touch.
  3. Remove fibrous stems from tomatillos and peppers (retaining seeds and pulp) and place in food processor with garlic, salt and lime zest, if using. Process until combined. Add water, beginning with 1/4 c until salsa is slightly thinner than the perfect consistency. It will thicken in the fridge.
  4. Add cilantro leaves and pulse until just combined.
  5. Taste. If your salsa is too spicy, you can add whole fresh tomatoes. Just add one at a time until you reach your desired spice level. Or you can make the crema variation that follows, since the fat in the avocado also cuts down on the spice quotient.
  6. For Avocado Crema: Pour salsa into a bowl or beaker, preferably one with a pour spout. No need to clean the food processor.
  7. Process avocado until smooth and creamy. Pour in 3/4 to 1 cup of salsa and process until combined.
  8. Enjoy!



Better Stuffed Peppers (Gluten- and Dairy-Free, Vegan)

Stuffed Peppers with Quinoa, Mushrooms, and Black Beans

I’ve never liked stuffed peppers.

I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the notion of eating spaghetti sauce as a meal. Maybe it’s because it’s usually spaghetti sauce mixed with rice and topped with melted cheddar, which is not a flavor combination that really sings to me, you know? Or it could be the sagging, wrinkly pepper that serves as a receptacle for these weirdly blended filling ingredients.

Either way, when a client asked for stuffed peppers, I groaned on the inside.

Of course I’ll feed a client whatever they want, but it means that I have to taste that uninspired dish along the way and ultimately serve something I couldn’t be convinced to eat myself. It’s the artistic equivalent of paint-by-numbers. And nobody respects a hack.

So needless to say I was intrigued when she sent me a recipe she’d found—a version using ingredients I’d never heard of in a stuffed pepper recipe—and utilizing spices that made it more southwestern than pseudo-Italian. And it didn’t have meat or cheese, making the already gluten-free dinner option vegan to boot, so possibly
useful for me to have in my arsenal?

I was still skeptical, however. For starters, when has taking the cheese out of a recipe ever made it better? And secondly, at that time in my life, I generally ate things in spite of them being vegan, and not because of it.

But I bit the bullet and tried the new fandangled spin on the old classic. And discovered I was wrong. Deliciously so.

Turns out I DO like stuffed peppers. Damn, I love a happy accident!

Over time, I’ve made the recipe mine; adding spices, subtracting toppings. I’ve tried multiple variations—the addition of potato, for instance—great for when you’re trying to bulk the recipe up from six servings to eight. I’ve boiled the peppers for two minutes all the way up to ten. Turns out I prefer them not boiled at all. I like the tiny bit of crunch they retain after just the single bake.

mini peppers

Then I discovered what a great appetizer these make when you stuff them in tiny sweet peppers, like these.

These babies are a perfect one- or two-bite snack and are delicate enough that they don’t need to be baked at all. Serve them at room temperature or while the filling is still warm.

And since I wholeheartedly believe that food exists to be a vessel for sauce, I just couldn’t leave well enough alone. As delicious as these are topped with the traditional tomato sauce, by far my favorite flavor combo is made by drizzling these little poppers with my vegan avocado “crema.” The cilantro, lime and tomatillo marry perfectly with the cumin, chili powder and black beans in the stuffing.

Simply divine. I’ll never look at a stuffed pepper the same way again. And hopefully, neither will you.

Better Stuffed Peppers (Gluten- & Dairy-free, Vegan)
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups mushrooms, finely chopped (I like to pulse them ever so briefly in the food processor)
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
  • 1/2-15 oz can tomato sauce, other half reserved for optional garnish
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 6 large red bell peppers, ribs and seeds removed
  • 1-15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tsp pure maple syrup
  • small handful cilantro, chopped, for garnish (optional)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup avocado “crema,” for garnish (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350Âș F.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, sauté the onions in olive oil for 3 to 5 minutes, until onions are translucent.
  3. Add garlic and mushrooms; sauté until the mushrooms have released their moisture and the mixture begins to look dry, about 5-8 minutes.
  4. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Sauté until fragrant.
  5. Add the quinoa, water, and 1/2 can of tomato sauce, reserving the rest. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until quinoa is cooked.
  6. For softer peppers, submerge in boiling water for 5 minutes. For tender-crisp peppers, skip this step.
  7. When quinoa is finished simmering, add the beans and maple syrup. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
  8. Stuff each pepper with the filling, and place in a baking dish. If using tomato sauce, pour the remaining over the peppers.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes.
  10. Garnish as desired.