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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chocolate and Child Slavery

Before you go out and stock up on Halloween candy, please read this. Do you have any idea that most of the chocolate that we buy in the United States comes to us via child slaves on cocoa farms on the Ivory Coast in Africa? Over 40% of the worlds farms are located in Cote D' Ivoire, where at least 12,000 children, some groups say up to 200,000, have been forced into slavery so we can enjoy our chocolate treats. Most of the children are under the age of 12 and work from 12-15 hours a day. They carry huge bags of cocoa beans that are often bigger than they are and weigh more. They are fed only bananas and are forced to sleep with 20 other children locked in a tiny room where they sleep on wooden planks and urinate in a can. The children are often beaten with cocoa tree branches. 

*I did NOT purchase this candy. It was collected by my kids at our community's Trunk or Treat

The following are companies that get their cocoa beans from countries that use child labor. This Halloween, please do your part. Take a stand and do not buy candy from these companies.

M&M Mars
Ben and Jerry's 

You can find Fair Trade chocolate at the following retailers:

Dunkin' Donuts
Fred MeyerWhole Foods
Wild Oats
Safeway (includes Tom Thumb)
StarbucksTrader Joe's

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sweet Potato Fries

I grew up thinking I didn't like sweet potatoes. It wasn't until I had them while at a friend's for Thanksgiving 12 years ago that I realized I had been missing out all those years! Sweet potato fries have become a staple in our house. They are so delicious and full of vitamins and nutrients. I will often make a batch to keep in the fridge for snacking. They are great cold and with their natural sweetness, will even satisfy a "sweet" craving.

Here is my simple recipe:

Sweet Potato Fries

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

2 large sweet potatoes (or yams)
sea salt

Peel the sweet potatoes

Cut them into fries and drizzle them with about 1/4 cup olive oil. Toss.

Sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika and cinnamon, to taste.

Arrange them on a baking sheet so that all fries are touching the pan.

Bake them at 425 for 15 minutes. Flip them over and bake another 15 minutes or until desired level of crispness is achieved.  (they will not get as crisp as a deep fried potato, obviously!)


Friday, October 14, 2011

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

I love when Fall rolls around each year because that means pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies....I even saw a recipe for pumpkin chili this year! I made pumpkin pancakes the other morning and had lots of pumpkin puree left. I searched for some pumpkin cookies and found this recipe (I also got some yummy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies from our neighbor earlier this week-thanks Aimee! Check out her blog at
I changed it a bit....instead of a 1 2/3 cup of white sugar, I used 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup agave. I also used white whole wheat flour and used coconut oil in place of canola oil. I put raisins in but left out the walnuts.
Here is the recipe with my changes. Happy Fall!

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

by IsaChandra
Makes 4 dozen cookies
These are soft out of the oven, but as they cool they are nice and chewy. They are a serious crowd pleaser, for crowds with taste buds.
Note: I use flax seeds because they make the texture a little chewier, but I’ve made them without and they’re still good!
baking sheets
2 mixing bowls
2 cups flour (white whole wheat)
1 1/3 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 2/3 cups sugar 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup agave
2/3 cup canola oil 1/2 cup coconut oil
2 tablespoons molasses
1 cup canned pumpkin, or cooked pureed pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla
optional: 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds (yes!)
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 350. Have ready 2 greased baking sheets. (I used parchment paper)
Mix together flour, oats, baking soda, salt and spices.
In a separate bowl, mix together sugar, oil, molasses, pumpkin and vanilla (and flax seeds if using) until very well combined. Add dry ingredients to wet in 3 batches, folding to combine. Fold in walnuts and raisins.
Drop by tablespoons onto greased cookie sheets. They don’t spread very much so they can be placed only an inch apart. Flatten the tops of the cookies with a fork or with your fingers, to press into cookie shape. Bake for 16 minutes at 350. If you are using two sheets of cookies on 2 levels of your oven, rotate the sheets halfway through for even baking. You’ll have enough batter for 4 trays.

Remove from oven and get cookies onto a wire rack to cool. These taste best when they’ve had some time to cool and set. They taste even better the next day!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

October Newsletter

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.
-Mark Twain

Time Management

Have you ever wished for a few more hours in the day? Why is it that some people seem to get everything done effortlessly and others feel that time constantly eludes them? The secret to managing your time well isn’t working more hours. It is about prioritizing the important things and learning to use the time you have more efficiently and effectively. The secret is working smarter, not harder.

Some of us, by nature, organize and get tasks out of the way before we relax, while others of us play first and work later. It is important to first recognize which type you are and whether your style is allowing you to have the life you really want. Maybe you are super-organized at work, but burned out because you don’t know how to make time for yourself. Maybe you are naturally a less organized person who knows how to relax, but you are dissatisfied because you aren’t fulfilling your goals and dreams.

Rather than labeling yourself or beating yourself up, realize that time management is an area of your life that you can strengthen. Like a new muscle, it takes practice and repetition to make it stronger. To help you get started, here are some steps to streamline your days at work and at home. Try the first one or two that jump out at you:

  • Allocate time for planning and organizing.
  • Create to-do lists that are realistic, not intimidating. Use only one to-do list.
  • Under-schedule your time: Leave time for the unexpected and for interruptions. When you estimate how long something will take, add on a third of that time.
  • Schedule your time in a way that reduces interruptions that lower your productivity.
  • Practice the art of intelligent neglect: Eliminate trivial tasks.
  • Prioritize what is most important and do that first.
  • Consider your biological prime time: At what time of day do you work best? Plan to do your most important work at that time.
  • If you say yes to everything that comes your way, learn to say no.
  • Ask for help and delegate.
  • In the evening make your to-do list for the next day, so it will be out of your brain and on a piece of paper. Leave work with a clear head and a clean desk.
  • Acknowledge yourself daily for all that you have accomplished.

Also take a look at the two biggest hindrances to using time effectively: procrastinating and lacking purpose. We usually procrastinate when a task seems too daunting, too large or too complex, or when we feel we won’t be able to handle it. When you get that “deer in the headlights” feeling, try “chunking”: break the large task into smaller, manageable action steps and start with the first one. We also often drag our heels or use our time inefficiently because we are bored, unengaged and uninspired. The most effective people will tell you that they love what they do and are aligned with a greater purpose. When it comes to managing your time, you may need to ask the larger questions, “Am I doing what I love to do? Am I doing something meaningful to me?”

As you strengthen your new time management muscle, keep your focus on getting organized so that you can live the life you came here for. Instead of being a chore, good time management can be your ticket to more fun, greater satisfaction and a vibrant, exciting life.

 Food Focus: Root Vegetables

The roots of any plant are its anchor and foundation; they are the essential parts that support and nourish the plant. Root vegetables lend these properties to us when we eat them, making us feel physically and mentally grounded and rooted, increasing our stability, stamina and endurance. Roots are a rich source of nutritious complex carbohydrates, providing a steady source of necessary sugars to the body. Instead of upsetting blood sugar levels like refined sweet foods, they regulate them. Since they absorb, assimilate and supply plants with vital nutrients, roots likewise increase absorption and assimilation in our digestive tracts.

Long roots, like burdock, carrots, parsnips and daikon radish, are excellent blood purifiers and can help improve circulation in the body and increase mental clarity. Round roots, like turnips, radishes, beets and rutabagas, are nourishing to the stomach, spleen, pancreas and reproductive organs and can help regulate blood sugar and moods, and alleviate cravings.

Recipe of the Month: Roasted Root Vegetables
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25-35 minutes
Yield: 4-6 servings

1 sweet potato
2 parsnips
2 carrots
2 turnips or 1 large rutabaga
1 daikon radish (or substitute/add in your favorites, like squash)
olive oil
salt and pepper
herbs: rosemary, thyme or sage (fresh if possible)

1.   Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2.   Wash and chop all vegetables into large bite-sized pieces.
3.   Place in a large baking dish with sides.
4.   Drizzle with olive oil; mix well to coat each vegetable lightly with oil.
5.   Sprinkle with salt, pepper and herbs.
6.   Bake uncovered for 25-35 minutes until vegetables are tender and golden brown, checking every 10 minutes to stir and make sure veggies are not sticking.
Note: Any combination of vegetables will work. Roasting only one kind of vegetable also makes a nice side dish.

Forward to a Friend
It’s such a pleasure to help those closest to us become happier and healthier. Please forward this newsletter to friends, family members or colleagues who might be interested and inspired by it.