Cooking Smart: Brussels Sprouts + Greens

brussels sprouts green kale

One thing you can do to significantly reduce your bill = cook smart. Whether your stove is gas or electric, or if you’re in a tent in the woods with only one match: here’s how you do it.

Object Lesson A: Brussel sprouts and greens
Let’s say you have brussels sprouts and some greens that have wilted slightly and/or would taste much more satisfying cooked. You have a pot to cook in with a lid, and a knife of some sort.

Trim brussels sprouts of any soiled leaves. If you have a knife, chop off the base of the sprouts (which can tend to be dirty).

Boil sprouts in enough water to cover them. Cover with lid to bring water to a boil more quickly. Once the water begins to boil, lift the lid and add a few shakes of salt if you have it. This will help tenderize the sprouts and reduce overall cooking time. Boil covered for 6-12 minutes. If you like them a bit softer, err on the side of 12.

Turn off heat and remove sprouts with a spoon or strainer, leaving the vegetable water in the pot. Immediately throw your greens into the pot. Cover with lid, allowing the heat from the water/vapor to cook the greens. The salt in the water will also tenderize the greens, allowing them to cook quickly and serve while the brussels sprouts are still warm. Serve with the broth/leftover water to warm your insides and to maximize nutrient intake. The brussels sprouts and broth taste taste delicious as is, but also when lightly seasoned with lemon juice and black pepper.

brussels sprouts greens brussels sprouts and kale brussels sprouts and greens

More Cooking Smart recipes to follow…

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Green Bean Salad with Crushed Red Pepper

This recipe is inspired by something I found online when I Googled “green bean salads”. I found one that had a spicy and citrus-y flavor profile, with crushed walnuts. I’m allergic to walnuts, so I used pumpkin seeds instead. Since walnuts taste semi-sweet and pumpkin seeds do not, I added 1/16 tsp stevia extract to compensate. Also, in place of red pepper-infused olive oil I topped the salad with crushed red pepper flakes (the kind generally used as a pizza topping). Unlike the recipe that was its inspiration, this one is oil-free and calls for only 5 ingredients. Continue reading

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Romaine and Cucumber Salad with Pepitas, Cranberries, and Balsamic Vinaigrette

pumpkin seed romaine cucumber salad
To follow my 5 Salad Dressings ≤ 5 ingredients post, here is a salad ≦ 5. Most ingredients can be found at your average run-of-the-mill grocery store, and the salad as a whole tastes great with my oil-free balsamic vinaigrette.<--more-->
I just now realize how holiday-ish this recipe is. Pumpkin seeds, cranberries…Thanksgiving, anyone? Bookmark it for next fall. Tell your friends.

for the Balsamic Vinaigrette:


1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp agave nectar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp dried basil
Juice of 1 meyer lemon

This should make enough for two to three meal-size portions of salad. Ingredients in the salad i.e. dried cranberries and garlic have distinct flavor profiles and are meant to stand out. In other words, excess dressing might throw off the balance.

for the Salad:


1 head romaine lettuce, shredded or chopped
2/3 cup shelled pepitas/pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cucumber, finely chopped
1 tsp granulated garlic, or more to taste.

Mix. *Tip: throw all ingredients into a large pyrex container with lid. Cover tightly and shake. Remove lid, add dressing, and shake again. This method works well, and doubles as an arm workout.

*Things to consider: The recipe calls for granulated garlic, not garlic salt. Be sure to observe the difference. Granulated garlic is sold for under $1 per ounce, on the spice rack at Mexican markets or the “Hispanic Foods” section at grocery stores. Look for ajo in 1 or 2 oz plastic packets.

If you buy unsalted pepitas/pumpkin seeds, you might want to add a bit of salt to taste. I used salted pepitas for this recipe, so naturally I didn’t need any extra. To stay on the safe side, avoid the task of determining the perfect ratio. Just provide a salt shaker and everyone can doctor the salad to their liking.

I think this salad is genius, but I’d like to hear other opinions. If you try the recipe, please leave a comment to let me know what you think.

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Backpacker’s Guide: Hair Care

cooking-oilWhat’s the best hair product in Guatemala or Mexico? Vegetable oil, hands down.

Usually canola mixed with soybean or sunflower oil, it’s the most commonly sold and works the best. Seriously, forget coconut oil. Before I lived in Mexico for the first time, I was in a staunch raw-food phase and only in the rarest of circumstances would I go so far as to eat steamed vegetables. During that phase I made a lot of raw chocolate with agave nectar (at this point, I had yet to discover stevia).

To make the raw chocolate I used extra virgin coconut oil, which cost something like $13 with my Whole Foods employee discount. I have a distinct memory of attempting to sell coconut oil to a customer when they asked me where to find moisturizer, eye makeup remover, and a natural alternative to the silicone hair serums used at salons. Coconut oil works for all of those things. The body care department manager at the store I worked at stepped in to inform the customer that eye makeup remover, hair serum, and moisturizer are three very different things. Lesson learned. Or not.

I loved working at Whole Foods. I worked there for 6 years, from high school through college. I would have stayed a seasonal employee had transportation complications not prevented me from returning to California to fulfill my shift. Without a doubt, I really loved working there—but this isn’t about that. The point I intend to make concerns the multi-functionality of coconut oil as a body care product, eye-makeup remover, and all-around genius alternative to any hair product I’ve tried. If that sounds cool, just wait. There’s more. When in Mexico, or Guatemala, or anywhere else in the world for that matter: should you happen to come upon the unfortunate realization that your suitcase landed in an entirely different continent much to your inconvenience—take a deep breath. There is no need to fret. If you’re in Latin America, don’t go to the Superama for hair serums and moisturizers. Go to the Superama for canola oil and eucalyptus oil. I would recommend tea tree if you’re in the states, but 70% of my travel experience pertains to Mexico and Guatemala—and I have never found tea tree oil in a Superama. Eucalyptus is similar and slightly milder, but has the same effect on things like acne and has a similar scent. It’s an astringent, that I guarantee will render obselete all of your Proactiv bottles of “toners”, “cleansers” and “pre-cleansers”, or the Proactiv spin-off, X-Out. I know acne can be genetic, or something you can “grow out of” but unless the universe played a significant trick on me when I was 13 I imagine that tea tree (or Eucalyptus) can legitimately cure acne. Unless it was just stopping meat-eating or dairy consumption. I imagine those were also influential factors. Only buy the pure kind, steam-distilled from leaves of the Eucalyptus or Eucalipto tree. It also works as a repellent for most insects, almost as effectively as DEET—minus the threats to your genetic makeup and that of your future children.

Finally: canola, or sunflower, or combonation-vegetable oil (and even safflower oils) literally function just as well as coconut oil, as an eye makeup remover, hair serum, or body moisturizer. The effects of ingesting specific types of oils might have differences among them, but in terms of hair care and body care–trust me. Anything sold as an “edible” oil or otherwise sold for food with the word “vegetable” in the title will work perfectly. I can see how this might seem sarcastic, but trust me. It’s not.

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Your Grocery Bill & How to Reduce It

paleo vegan shopping

Is a paleo-vegan diet more expensive than a “conventional” vegan diet, or a lacto-vegetarian diet? Is it more financially straining to maintain a vegan or paleo-vegan diet than a lacto-ovo or ovo-vegetarian diet? Even though some people–myself included–don’t consider egg consumption “vegetarian”, I’m including it in the comparison here because many self-proclaimed vegetarians do eat eggs.

While I think it’s common knowledge that protein-rich and nutritious foods i.e. broccoli, or beans purchased in bulk, cost a lot less per pound than any cut of meat above grade D, the argument that “a vegetarian diet is expensive” continues to rear its head in all its irrational and outdated glory. So, this post will include certain rebuttals to that argument.

Moreover, the plethora of “meatless monday”-esque books circulated among mainstream audiences in the recent past e.g. Forks Over Knives and The Omnivore’s Dilemna lead me to believe those books and others of a similar genre at least kind of, sort of turned those readers (or readers of the hype surrounding those books) on to eating less meat and/or caring about where their food comes from. Meat, when raised “humanely” or “grass-fed”, or kept in something other than a cage or stall merely twice its size during its meager and miserable lifespan before slaughter, costs a lot more than broccoli, dried beans, or other vegan protein sources.

For resources and tips on maintaining a paleo-vegan diet without breaking the bank, keep reading.

1. Take advantage of the government

The USDA publishes reports on the cost of vegetables and fruits, per pound, per region, complete with spreadsheets, bar graphs, and pie charts. Here is a PDF of the most current report.

2. Shop with your inner skeptic

Buy in bulk, but do your homework first and think critically. Before buying 4lbs of raw cashews or almonds because they’re “on sale”, look at the cost per ounce. Sometimes sales can be deceiving. Do you typically rely on sunflower, pumpkin, or sesame seeds as your main protein source? Are you drawn in by the $2 off nuts when seeds provide the same nutrients and cost $10 less per pound? Also, sales often happen because a product is nearing its expiration date.

3. Organic isn’t always the the answer

Eating organic is of course ideal, in most cases. I’ve learned, after living in various states and countries, to see the benefit in buying locally-grown vegetables and fruit (even when the farm in question hasn’t received a certification regarding its organic status) as opposed to organic produce from New Zealand sold at high-end, gourmet natural-foods stores in Guatemala, Mexico, etc. that cater to tourists. A local crop sold at the mainstream grocery store, open-air market, or direct from a farm is typically cheaper and fresher, with a significantly lighter carbon footprint.

4. Know what’s in season by month


broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, grapefruit, kale, leeks, lemons, oranges, parsnips, rutabagas, tangerines, turnips


broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, grapefruit, kale, leeks, lemons, oranges, parsnips, rutabagas, tangerines, turnips


artichokes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, parsnips, pineapples, radishes, rutabagas, turnips


artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, pineapple, radishes, rhubarb, spring peas


apricots, artichokes, asparagus, cherries, lettuce, mangoes, okra, pineapples, radishes, rhubarb, spring peas, strawberries, swiss chard, zucchini


apricots, blueberries, cantaloupe, cherries, corn, kiwi, lettuce, mangoes, peaches, strawberries, swiss chard, watermelon, zucchini


apricots, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, green beans, kiwi, lettuce, mangoes, okra, peaches, peppers plums, raspberries, strawberries, summer squash, swiss chard, tomatoes, watermelon, zucchini


acorn squash, apples, apricots, blueberries, butternut squash, cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, figs, green beans, kiwi, lettuce, mangoes, okra, peaches, peppers plums, raspberries, strawberries, summer squash, swiss chard, tomatoes, watermelon, winter squash, zucchini


acorn squash, apples, beets, butternut squash, cantaloupe, cauliflower, eggplant, figs, grapes, green beans, lettuce, mangoes, mushrooms, okra, peppers, persimmons, pomegranates, pumpkins, spinach, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, tomatoes


acorn squash, apples, beets, broccoli, butternut squash, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cranberries, grapes, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, parsnips, persimmons, pomegranates, pumpkin, rutabagas, spinach, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, turnips, winter squash


apples, artichokes, avocado, beets, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, celery, chard, chestnuts, cranberries, diakon radish, fennel, guava, kiwi, kumquat, lemon, winter squash


apples, beets, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, collard greens, cranberries, dates, endive, escarole, fennel, grapefruit, kale, kiwi, leeks, lemoms, mushrooms, mustard greens, onions, oranges, papaya, passion fruit, persimmons, potatoes, radicchio lettuce, radishes, rutabaga, spinach, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, tangerines, turnips, acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash

5. When in doubt, DIY

Hypothetically, let’s say you really enjoyed certain foods as a kid or in the more recent past that you can no longer afford or don’t want to buy on principle because you consider them outrageously expensive. For example, the sprouted almonds that cost $16-$20 per pound, or the plastic containers of Just Peas that cost $17.79 per 8oz container. Raw almonds are easy to sprout, and cost a lot less than $16 a pound i.e. $5. Peas, for example, you can find for less than $1 per pound frozen, at many retailers in the states—and can be easily dehydrated in an oven to mimic the aforementioned Just Peas.

6. Ignore the hype

On the shelves at many mainstream grocery stores exists a vegan “cheese” or faux-meat section stocked with marinated tofu, seitan steaks, tempeh; boca burgers, garden burgers, etc. in addition to a lot of other renditions I assume are up-and-coming and I haven’t heard of yet—and I won’t knock until try. I’m generally of the opinion that pizza doesn’t require cheese or any commercial mock-version of it. From prior experience and attempts at vegan recipe development I learned that nutritional yeast, seeds, lemon juice, and a bit of finesse can make a cheese-like sauce or “cheez” that won’t break the bank—and tastes a lot better than the packaged, store-bought variety. To make your own (while saving $$$) you must bypass the pricy cashews and almonds, even if they’re on sale (see tip #2). Go for seeds instead. They’re cheaper, and nuts aren’t nutritionally superior.

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Seared Purple Cauliflower “Steaks” with pea purée and rainbow chard

Day 3 in the paleoveganista mono-diet challenge. At the grocery store I spotted purple cauliflower and organic rainbow chard. The ease of availability [of everything one could ever want from the vegetable kingdom] is a privilege I formerly took for granted when I worked at Whole Foods Market and saw things like purple cauliflower, orange cauliflower, and romenesco (my favorite vegetable, hence the Paleoveganista logo) multiple times during every shift. It wasn’t until I lived in places where the only available cruciferous vegetables took the form of anemic broccoli or canned collard greens that I began to understand how lucky I once was.

Despite my enthusiasm for the vibrant color of the purple cauliflower in itself, I began to research it after moving back to the states to determine how its nutritional value compares with standard *white* cauliflower.

As it turns out, purple cauliflower contains anthocyanins, a subtype of flavinoid compound that studies show may be very useful in regulating blood sugar levels, improving brain function, and promoting weight control. It makes sense that purple cauliflower would be a step up from white cauliflower in terms of nutritional benefits. I can’t be bothered by over-analyzing the vitamin content of the vegetables I eat, however. The one golden rule I keep in mind is: the more color it has, the higher the quality+quantity of absorbable nutrients it contains.

**Update: Shortly after writing this post I learned that multicolored (purple, orange) cauliflower resulted from breeding experiments conducted at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y. in which scientists effectively bred caronetene into the cauliflower plant, turning it orange and 100 times richer in Vitamin A than white cauliflower. Apparently Dr. Micahel Dickenson achieved this by accident. Interestingly, the orange shade of the mutant cauliflower was derived from a process similar to that by which humans convert vitamin A (manifesting in darker skin or a “tan”). According to the documentation I read, Dr. Dickenson’s mutant orange cauliflower led to experimentation resulting in subsequent strains with pigments manifesting in different colors i.e. purple. By the year 2003, orange and purple cauliflower became available commercially. 11+ years later: nearly everyone in the states has seen a colorful cauliflower, so the novelty might have dissipated but demand is as high as ever.**

Unlike yesterday’s recipe and the two others before it, this one is more entree-like and the vibrant seared cauliflower looks gorgeous atop the pea puree alongside the rainbow chard. Unfortunately the pictures I took of this dish went missing, so I’ll have to add them later when I find them or try this again at a later date. I want to stay consistent in posting my recipes/meals plan during this mono-diet experiment, so I’ll post this now despite the lack of photographic representation.seared-purple-cauliflower-steaks-paleo

Seared Purple Cauliflower “Steaks” with pea purée and rainbow chard


1 head purple cauliflower
1 x 16oz bag organic frozen peas (I wish I’d had the time to find them fresh and shell them myself, but unfortunately my day job wouldn’t permit it).
1 bunch rainbow chard
2-4 garlic cloves (2 if you tolerate garlic; 3 if you like it, 4 if you love it)
Sea salt and black pepper


Remove the leaves and the tough core from the cauliflower, and transfer to a bowl filled with warm water to loosen any dirt or debris. Yes, the leaves and core are part of this recipe. I’ll explain later.

Pre-heat oven to 450* F

Remove skins from the garlic cloves in 20 seconds or less using back of a knife to press each clove. This might be very common knowledge, but since I didn’t learn it until 19 I thought I’d mention it just in case.

If using a food processor or blender, add the peeled garlic cloves to the pitcher along with the non-dairy milk, lime juice, salt, and pepper. *Note: I personally can’t stand the taste of over-salted foods, so I add salt in increments of a “pinch” (about 1/16 teaspoon). Blend until a smooth liquid is achieved. Transfer to a container of some sort, and set aside.

In the absence of a food processor or blender: mince the garlic cloves as finely as possible. Then mix with the non-dairy milk and salt/pepper, using a whisk or a fork.

*Note: Both methods yield similar results; the main difference is that in the latter (manual) method the garlic will not pulverize completely.

Use a colander/strainer to drain the water from the soaking cauliflower leaves and stem/core. Check for any residual dirt, and rinse until clean. Slice thinly.

In a medium soup pot, bring 2 cups water to a boil. Add the cauliflower leaves and stem/core pieces. Boil for 5 minutes before adding the 2 cups frozen or fresh green peas.

Cover and let simmer on medium for 10 minutes.

As the cauliflower trimmings and green peas simmer, transfer the whole cauliflower head to a shallow oven pan and coat with garlic-lemon-nondairy-milk-blend using a basting brush if you have one. Otherwise. wing it by rotating the caulflower and gently pouring on the sauce to coat each side.

Oven temp should have reached 450* F by now. Place cauliflower in the oven. While it cooks, remove the green pea and cauliflower leaf blend from heat. Drain all liquid into a jar or other container. Set aside. After it cools for a few moments, transfer the pea-cauliflower leaf blend to the blender/food processor. Blend until smooth. It should resemble a very thick potato soup but not quite as thick as mashed potatoes.

Check the cauliflower. At this point it should need about 10 more minutes to fully “sear”. At this point the outer edges should look golden.

Pour the reserved [pea and cauliflower leaf] liquid into a saucepan. Meanwhile, chop the rainbow chard into bite-sized pieces. Sautee the chard in the vegetable water until tender. By this point, the cauliflower should be ready. It should look golden brown at the top but still distinctively purple throughout. Turn off oven and let cauliflower cool before creating the “steaks”.

Slice into the seared cauliflower to create pieces of approximately 1cm thickness. Plate atop a generous smear of pea puree and finish with a heaping spoonful of rainbow chard next to it. It looks really gorgeous. Let’s hope I find those pictures.

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Raw Vegan Japchae

skinny-japchae-featured (1)


Japchae, jabchae, chapchae, chop chae, or chap chae is a Korean dish traditionally made with sweet potato noodles aka dangmyeon (Korean: 당면) stir-fried in sesame oil with very thinly sliced aka julienne-cut carrots mixed with fresh spinach and thinly sliced shitake mushrooms and onion…topped with toasted sesame seeds and garnished with hot chili flakes. Served hot or cold depending on the season, japchae is vitamin-rich and considered medicine in a number of cultures within Korean society. The flavor profile of japchae is important, so I adapted it to the best of my ability to suit the diet(s) of raw foodists and the paleo inclined.

Developing this recipe proved less challenging than I’d expected, since shirataki noodles easily replicate sweet potato noodles* or vermicelli** (bean thread) in all recipes. The noodles I used for this particular recipe do not contain certain additives present in commercial brands of shiratakI. The type I buy fresh costs approx. $1.25 USD per 8oz package fresh–so for this recipe, if you choose to use fresh as opposed to dry shirataki you will spend $5 on noodles if cooking for 4-6 people. Obviously, all ingredients are vegan.

*The nearly carb-free noodles used in this recipe are made from Konjac yams as opposed to conventional yams or sweet potatoes–and often at Korean or Vietnamese grocery stores the labels do not provide translations in other languages. For this reason, I have provided the following images to assist you:

clear-shirataki-noodle clear-shirataki-noodle1 konjac-yam

**Also called bean thread noodle, vermicelli is as high in calories as sweet potato noodle but looks the same and tastes the same. For those with an aversion [regarding flavor] or lack of availability [to purchase] shirataki noodles I recommend kelp noodles as an alternative.

Now that we’ve established* that…let’s get on with it, shall we?

*Ask in the comments or shoot me an email if certain things don’t make sense.

Raw Vegan Japchae Recipe

Makes 4-6 servings


8 ounces dried shirataki noodles or
8oz pkg fresh or reconstituted shirataki noodles
4 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 Tbsp chili garlic sauce
1/4 tsp stevia powdered extract or 6 to 9 drops liquid extract
4oz fresh or reconstituted shiitake mushroom, stems trimmed, thinly sliced
1/3 cup sweet onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup fresh raw carrot, very thinly sliced (julienne-cut)
1/2 cup baby spinach or chopped spinach leaves
1/2 cup scallion or green onion, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

skinny-japchae-featured (2)


Step 1: reconstitute and/or marinade:

*To reconstitute dried shiitake mushrooms: Cover 1 ounce dried whole shiitake mushrooms with warm tap water. Let sit until softened, at least 6 hours or overnight.

**To reconstitute dried shirataki noodles: See above.

In a small bowl, combine the tamari/soy sauce with the stevia powder or extract, lemon juice, and chili garlic-sauce. Consult the stevia conversion chart. If using powder or granules, stir until dissolved.

Soak the sliced onion, carrot, scallion, fresh shiitake mushrooms, and baby spinach with the tamari/stevia blend for 2 hours or overnight. If using reconstituted shiitake mushrooms, you can do this step overnight at the same time. Just add the mushrooms to the mix after they hydrate.

Step 2: Drain shirataki noodles and return to bowl. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil. Drain excess stevia/soy sauce marinade from vegetables and toss with noodles. Top with scallions and toasted sesame seeds.

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DIY Spa Day facial, part 2

…continued from yesterday’s post
lavender toner

3. Toner

Commonly used before and after a facial, toner refreshes the skin and removes impurities.

Witch Hazel

Perhaps the quintessential toner and natural alternative to rubbing alcohol, witch hazel is an astringent extracted from the leaves and bark of the plant Hamamelis virginiana. Reportedly effective as a treatment for bruises, insect bites, sores, and for cleaning wounds, it was used medicinally by American Indians. Today it is used as a natural remedy for eczema, acne, oily skin, dry skin, redness, and other skin conditions. The active ingredient in many commercial healthcare products, witch hazel is perfectly effective on its own without all the fillers and parabens.

I’ve used many different brands, including the premium brand, Thayer’s (but mostly for the aesthetic appeal). Thayer’s manufactures several types of witch hazel blends including lemon, cucumber, rose petal, aloe, and peach. These are more expensive; a 12-oz bottle is $10 on the website and ranges between $6 and $9 in stores and online. Despite the novelty of Thayer’s “Since 1847” label, I’ll let you in on a secret. Plain witch hazel works just as well, at a fraction of the cost. You can buy it at most stores with a drugstore section. I once bought a 16oz bottle at Walmart for under $4. Other big-box stores market it under their own brand name. However I recently discovered a brand with a mid 19th century style label similar to Thayer’s called Humphrey’s priced at $8 per 16oz bottle.

Fancy labels aside, I recommend buying a bottle of generic witch hazel to use as a base for making your own rosewater, aloe, lavender, or lemon-infused toner. You might want to try one or all variations, depending on your skin type. To apply, use cotton cosmetic pads without fragrances or other ingredients. Saturate the cotton pad with toner and sweep across the face and neck, avoiding the eyes. To store the toner(s), any small bottle will work. At natural foods stores in the beauty and body care department you can typically find small glass bottles and spray bottles. I recommend going that route if you can. Otherwise, beauty supply stores sell small plastic bottles of various sizes–and most drugstores have a travel section stocked with 2oz plastic bottles.

Lavender Toner

Recommended for all skin types
Add 20 drops lavender essential oil to 4 oz of water. Lavender works well for dry, normal, oily, and combination skin. Its main benefit is its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties. In the past three years, lavender has been the subject of clinical trials for its potential use as a treatment for anxiety and depression. The FDA has not approved it as a treatment for either condition. However, reports from client surveys and subsequent research have only determined lavender to relieve stress, uplift the mood, and result in an overall sense of well being.

Rosewater Toner

Recommended for normal to dry skin
Combine 1 part rose water with one part water in a glass or plastic bottle. Shake gently. Tip: for daily use, Dilute 1 part rosewater with 3 parts water and pour into a spray bottle. Spray on your face and neck whenever you need a boost. Rose petal extract is used in aromatherapy for its rejuvenating and uplifting properties. Some consider it the best of both worlds; it calms anxiety and relieves tension while increasing mental alertness and uplifting the mood. According to traditional medicinal practices of other cultures, essence of rose petal is an antiseptic, astringent, antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and antidepressant. You can buy rosewater at natural foods stores, most drugstores, and online for roughly $1 per ounce.

Lemon Toner

Recommended for oily and acne-prone skin
Juice 1 lemon or lime and mix with 1 tbsp witch hazel. The natural astringency of the citrus reduces the amount of witch hazel needed. If your skin is not oily or prone to breakouts, use this occasionally but not daily. If your skin is prone to dryness, avoid toners containing citrus.

Aloe Toner

Recommended for sensitive skin, suitable for all skin types
Mix 1 part pure aloe vera juice* with one part witch hazel. Bottle for use as a toner and/or a spritzer (no need to dilute, as this is most likely the gentlest toner invented). *Note: NOT the recently-popularized aloe vera beverages containing sugar. You can either juice your own from an aloe plant, or buy it. I’ve tried a few different brands but Lily of the Valley seems to be the most commonly sold in stores. It feels redundant to elaborate on the healing properties of aloe since it is nature’s gift to people who don’t wear sunblock (guilty) or for those who do but still burn like lobsters no matter how high the SPF.

4. Facial Steam

Steams are effective on their own or as part of a complete facial treatment. Aromatic steams sooth and hydrate the skin while gently removing impurities from the pores. At a spa, essential oils such as lavender, eucalyptus, and lemon are common. Aromatherapists tend to administer specific essential oils on a per-case basis. I am not qualified speak authoritatively regarding what type of essential oil to use for those that have inquiries or concerns about anything besides basic skincare. That said, as a teenager I worked with an aromatherapist and acupuncturist to deal with severe acne that resulted in poor self esteem. It was expensive but remarkably effective. After three years of salicylic acid, benzyl peroxide, clindamycin, tetracycline, doxycycline, topical retinoids, and hours spent popping zits while staring into a magnifying mirror–I tried the holistic route and it actually worked. In fact, sometime during high school the embarrassing breakouts ceased and nearly a decade later I haven’t experienced more than the occasional blemish. Part of the treatment involved steams with tea tree oil which I administered myself after I stopped seeing the specialist. This was never painful, and resulted in the side benefit of clear nasal passages and avoiding the flu. However, in some instances tea tree is reported to be abrasive and not effective as a treatment for acne. Despite its effectiveness in my case, the following is not advice but shared information. Instructions for administering the steam follow the descriptions of each essential oil and its properties.

Tea Tree

Reportedly effective as a treatment for acne. For sensitive skin that is acne-prone, eucalyptus oil is a milder alternative. In the past 5 years, tea tree became established as the forerunner for natural acne treatments. Example: Desert Essence. Recent studies have also brought about evidence of its efficacy.


According to Jean Valnet MD, it takes 3,000 lemons to produce one kilo of oil. This makes it more expensive than other essential oils. Instead, use lemons or limes (which I prefer, and tend to also be cheaper). In place of the essential oil, add 2 lemons or limes, sliced.

aromatherapeutic Steam – Method

Boil 3 cups water. Remove from heat. Add the ingredient from your chosen recipe. Steep for 10 minutes or until the temperature of the water has reduced to 140 degrees. Transfer water to a large bowl. Carefully, position your face over the bowl with a towel draped over your head. You can stay there for 5-15 minutes. Relax and enjoy!

To be continued…Next post: Facial masks

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Dinner at Gomier’s in Punta Gorda, Belize

While in Punta Gorda, Belize (referred to locally as “PG”), I was introduced to Gomier’s Restaurant. I went for dinner with my mom while we were staying at Hickatee Cottages (Ian and Kate, who own and run Hickatee, recommended that we try it). We were very impressed with the curried tofu vegetable and barbecue tofu plates we ordered (we ended up sharing because they were both equally delicious). We ended up chatting with Gomier (owner & chef) about the origin of the restaurant and philosophy behind it, and learned about the tofu-making lessons he offers to community members and tourists. I was excited to learn more and write a piece for, so we set up an interview for later in the week.

I will post the full review & article soon! In the meantime, here’s a preview: Tofu cheesecake garnished with dragonfruit and soursop ice cream…

Tofu Cheesecake with Soursop Ice Cream

…because when it comes to delicious vegan treats made from scratch, with all ingredients sourced from within a 5 mile radius (if not from the adjacent garden or nearby fruit trees), “dessert first” is a no-brainer.

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