The Magical Powers of Neroli

It can be very difficult to find vegan skin care products that are natural, organic and chemical-free. I usually resort to making my own homemade concoctions instead of spending a ridiculous amount of time and money researching, shopping and ultimately being disappointed in the experience. Until now, that is!

I ordered a few products including the Neroli Toning Mist from Annmarie Gianni’s skin care line and not only was blown away by how amazing they are, I also have found a new love – Neroli.

According to the handy information card that is included, Neroli balances natural oils, soothes skin and minimizes large pores. It also has an incredible aromatherapy benefit of enhancing your mood, calming your soul and can be used as an aphrodisiac. Wow!

So I did a bit of surfing to find out more . . . here are the highlights:

  • Neroli is made by distilling oil from the blossom of the Bitter Orange tree
  • Because it is steam distilled (due to the delicateness of the blossom) it takes 1 ton to make 1 quart of oil
  • It has been used to treat headaches, relieve insomnia and reduce nervousness and anxiety

The coolest thing I found out is that it was introduced to the world by Anne Marie Orsini, a 17th century princess from Nerola, Italy. Is it coincidence that another Annmarie, centuries later would bring it into my life and now yours? I think not!

So, now I have it sitting on my desk and every time I need a pick-me-up or my skin feels a little dry, I mist my face and neck, take a deep breath of the sweet, citrus aroma and smile.

If you want to find out how amazing this stuff really is, please visit Annmarie’s website.

Have you used Neroli in your life? Share your tips below!

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The Tantalizing Taste of Tahini

Aside from having a really fun name to say, Tahini is a pretty amazing and versatile vegan food. It adds creaminess to salad dressings, makes hummus smooth and adds a nutty flavor to any recipe you include it in.

For those of you who have yet discovered Tahini, here’s the scoop [pun intended!]:

What is it?
Tahini is ground up sesame seeds. You can get hulled, unhulled, raw and organic.

How is it made?
Sesame seed are soaked in water for a day, then crushed. The crushed seeds are put into salted water and the kernels that float are skimmed from the surface. These kernels are toasted in some cases, then ground to produce a paste. (There are speedier methods too.)

Why Should I Eat it?
It’s yummy! and a great source of calcium, protein, B vitamins, Vitamin E, Essential Fatty Acids (help to maintain healthy skin) and Methionine (the amino acid that helps your liver detox). You can see the full nutritional breakdown here.

My only ‘warning’ about Tahini is that a little goes a long way so only use a tablespoon in most cases. Otherwise, it will completely take over the taste of the dish you include it in and that’s no fun. Plus, since it is made up of mostly sesame oil and some recipes add olive oil, it’s best to use in moderation to keep your fat content to a reasonable level.

Even though Tahini is usually easy to find at your local store or online, you can make it yourself. There are lots of videos on YouTube that show various ways, but my favorite was the following since it includes fun facts, is entertaining and promotes a local nonprofit too!

What do you think? Do you like Tahini? Don’t hesitate – make that comment below!

Tamari or Soy Sauce?

I was recently asked why I use Tamari instead of Soy Sauce and I couldn’t answer. It had been a while since I made the switch and I knew it was for good reasons – just none that I could remember! So I promised to find out.

Here’s the scoop…

Soy Sauce:

  • Made from soy beans, wheat, water and salt; NOT gluten-free
  • Sharper taste
  • A product of China created ~2,800 years ago (wow!)
  • Looses most of its essential flavor (which are aromatic) when exposed to high temperatures
  • In some commercial brands, the soybeans are defatted with hexane; a petroleum derivative (ewh!)
  • Common production shortcuts include artificial fermentation methods using genetically engineered enzymes (double ewh!)

Tamari:

  • Made from soy beans, water and salt; gluten-free
  • Darker color and richer, smoother flavor
  • A product of Japan (evolved from soy sauce)
  • Retains its flavor after cooking
  • Has 37% more protein than soy sauce

I personally use Organic San-J Reduced Sodium Tamari. It contains 25% less sodium and is Certified Organic. According to their website, all of their Tamari is brewed for up to six months using traditional methods passed down for eight generations. They do not add MSG or artificial preservatives to any, and all are certified Kosher, Non GMO Project Verified and Certified Gluten-Free. Impressive!

So, now whenever I am asked in the future, I will be sure to remember the outstanding differences between the two and be able to confidently convince someone they are much better off consuming the obvious winner of this ancient competition – TAMARI!

I feel like taking an intimidating samurai stance with a corresponding scowl as I type this!

Maybe I’ll just stick with kickin’ butt in the kitchen. . .

Do you use Tamari, Soy Sauce or both? I would love to hear your comments on the blog, on Facebook or on Twitter.

Can Online Directories Help You Find Fresh Local Produce?

Because the majority of a wannabe vegan diet is fruits and vegetables, I am constantly trying to find fresh, organic and non-GM foods that are local and reasonably priced. With all of those criteria, it can sometimes be difficult. The following online resources make the process a lot easier and much more efficient.

Organic Consumers Association / Green People Directory
These two organizations have come together to provide one of the world’s largest databases of green and organic businesses. What’s cool about the directory is that you can search by category or filter your results by zip code, distance, type of product and keywords. For each company there is a short description and a hyperlink to a more detailed listing. The listing includes their contact information and a comprehensive description of what they offer. People can leave comments about the company too to further help you decide if you want to buy from them.

Local Harvest
This website is a treasure trove of information if you want to find farmers’ markets, family farms, and sources of sustainably grown food in your area. You can filter results by type of company, name, description, product or location. The results are mapped and include a hyperlink to a detailed listing that includes contact information, links and reviews.

The Organic Pages by The Organic Trade Association
This directory provides a quick, easy way to find certified organic produce offered by OTA members. There are a number of ways to search, from clicking on a map to filtering by category. It doesn’t provide a full description of each company, but does provide links to the company websites so you can find out more there.

Have you visited these directories? What do you think of them? I would love to hear your comments here, Facebook or on Twitter.

Where can I get the good stuff? Maca that is.

Now that we know the basics and benefits of Maca, I’m sure you’re wondering where you can get the good stuff – right?!

Searching the web, I found a lot of products that contained Maca in a combination product (fertility enhancer) and as a food ingredient (energy bar). I think that staying closer to the source is best when you are choosing products to put into your body, especially if you are trying something new and want to eliminate variables when evaluating your reaction.

So, I recommend buying Maca in these forms: (in order of preference):

  • whole and chunks (if you are in South America)
  • powder
  • capsules
  • extract

It is best to buy Maca that is from the Junin Plateau (best altitude, soil type and micro-climate), raw, organic, non-irradiated and non-GMO. If you don’t happen to be hanging out in South America at the moment, powder is my top choice since it usually goes through the least amount of processing (of course, that depends on who you buy it from). But if you don’t like the taste – which is a bit malty – or want a specific dose, the capsules and extracts may be a better option for you.

Here are my top picks:

Navitas Naturals Organic Raw Maca Powder
(certified organic, kosher, vegan, and raw)

Navitas Naturals Organic Raw Maca Powder Capsules
(certified organic, kosher, vegan, gluten-free, and raw)

Herb Pharm Maca (Pharma Maca®)
(certified organic, non-fumigated, non-irradiated)
Contains certified organic grain alcohol and distilled water.

Start with a small daily dose and work your way up after you see how your body reacts. Be sure to take at least one day off each week to let your body adjust.

Which Maca products do you prefer? I would love to hear your comments on the blog, on facebook or on twitter.