Healthy, Delicious, and Fresh Packed Lunch Ideas

8459976360_3c160f881d_bNow that the kids in back and school, the routines can begin again. In my house we prepare for school the night before by making sure the homework is checked, clothes are picked out, and lunch is packed. Often times, I find that we get stuck in food ruts and pack the usual sandwich and carrot sticks. To battle the food rut I look to the internet to search for new and healthy ideas, and I get overloaded with options.

Here are a few new favorite foods that are loved in our house so far:

Whole-wheat “Pita Pizza” (toasted in the toaster oven and then served cold)Pita_pizza_(17188259486)Organic Ham and Cheese Rolls

Whole-wheat waffle sandwich stuffed with fresh fruit or jelly

6995490557_690963d7ff_oPlain yogurt with a variety of delicious add ins

  • Granola
  • Peanut or Almond Butter
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Vanilla Extract and Coconut Flakes
  • Honey
  • Vanilla Extract and Mini Chocolate Chips



Frozen Smoothie

Apple with Peanut Butter

8466410432_65a56dbe8a_oWhole-wheat carrot applesauce muffins

Carrot_Cake_Muffins_(4135137580)Grilled Cheese with Pesto on Whole-wheat (served cold)

Whole-wheat Cinnamon Raisin Bagel with Organic Cream Cheese

BLT on Whole-wheat

15169375890_5b513e327cAn other great choice that allows your child to have fun is packing lunches themselves. Here are two really terrific and yummy packed lunches from the Blog 100 Days of Real Food:

Build a Taco Lunch

  • Corn Tortilla
  • Shredded Pork Taco Meat with Bell Peppers
  • Cheese
  • Lettuce
  • and other desired sides100 Days of Real FoodConstruct a Pizza
  • Whole-wheat Pita
  • Organic Tomato Sauce
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Additional Desired Toppings such as Vegetables and Pepperoni, etc.

100 Days of Real FoodDon’t get stuck in a rut because there are a lot of great sources that help you to expand the food options you can pack in the lunches. Whatever you choose to pack, make sure it is delicious and nutritious!

Nature’s Sleep Aids

Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? One of the easiest ways to combat insomnia and sleeplessness is to utilize the benefits of natural essential oils. Whether you apply the oils topically, add them to a warm bath, diffuse them, or spritz* them onto your pillowcase or eyemask, certain essential oils provide relief for insomnia and aid in falling and staying asleep.


lavender By now, many people know that lavender helps to soothe and relax tired minds and muscles. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “Scientific evidence suggests that aromatherapy with lavender may slow the activity of the nervous system, improve sleep quality, promote relaxation, and lift mood in people suffering from sleep disorders.” It is also beneficial as a bug repellent and antibiotic, for all you avid campers.

 Ylang Ylang

imagesThis essential oil is one of my favorites for relaxation, probably because of its fragrant floral notes. It reduces stress and relaxes the nerves. I like to mix a couple drops of this with lavender or chamomile for added benefits.

 Roman Chamomile

chamomile-401490_640Roman Chamomile has a sweet, fruity aroma. It has a calming effect, and is great to diffuse for a soothing and peaceful environment, i.e., one that promotes and supports sleep.



Bergamot is a good choice for someone who loves citrus scents, but it is much more calming than the more stimulating oils of grapefruit or tangerine. It is great for “clearing your head” in preparation for a peaceful night’s rest.



This essential oil is extracted from the root of the vetiver plant. It has a warm, earthy scent, and promotes sleep while also relieving stress and muscle tension.

* I recommend adding a couple drops of essential oil to a water-based spritzer so the oil does not stain your bed linens.

Is Sunscreen Really Protecting You?


Many people think that exposing their skin to the sun will give them skin cancer. So to combat it, they either slather on sunscreen when going outdoors or try to avoid the sun as much as possible. Sadly, neither of these is a good solution.

Smaller amounts of sunlight can be healthy, but overexposure is what can be harmful. In modern times, most people do not get enough sun as a result of spending large amounts of time indoors. Many people actually become Vitamin D deficient, which can cause more problems than having too much sun exposure. Vitamin D deficiencies have been connected to several types of cancers and problems during pregnancy.


As for covering yourself in sunscreen for protection, what people don’t realize is that most sunscreens contain toxic and endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which can actually promote skin cancer and free-radical production in the body. They may protect against sunburn, but do very little to prevent skin cancer and signs of aging.


The best solution is to get limited daily sunshine to ensure that you are producing enough Vitamin D, but no so much that you risk getting sunburned. If you are planning on being outdoors for the entire day, you should consider loose clothing, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses, as well as locating shady spots to minimize the amount of time you’re in direct sunlight.


If you are in a situation where you feel it is necessary to use sunscreen (rather than get burned), the best thing to do is try a natural recipe for homemade sunscreen. Below I’ve listed a recipe by Wellness Mama, as well as her personal notes for preparation.

Next time you go out in the sun, be prepared and informed about the proper ways to protect your skin.

Natural Homemade Sunscreen

Homemade natural sunscreen with beneficial oils, zinc oxide and beeswax for water protection.

Author: Wellness Mama

Recipe type: Remedy



  1. Combine ingredients except zinc oxide in a pint sized or larger glass jar. I have a mason jar that I keep just for making lotions and lotion bars, or you can even reuse a glass jar from pickles, olives, or other foods.
  2. Fill a medium saucepan with a couple inches of water and place over medium heat.
  3. Put a lid on the jar loosely and place in the pan with the water.
  4. As the water heats, the ingredients in the jar will start to melt. Shake or stir occasionally to incorporate. When all ingredients are completely melted, add the zinc oxide, stir in well and pour into whatever jar or tin you will use for storage. Small mason jars (pint size) are great for this. It will not pump well in a lotion pump!
  5. Stir a few times as it cools to make sure zinc oxide is incorporated.
  6. Use as you would regular sunscreen. Best if used within six months.

Additional Notes:

  • This sunscreen is somewhat, but not completely, waterproof and will need to be reapplied after sweating or swimming.
  • Make sure not to inhale the Zinc Oxide- use a mask if necessary!
  • This recipe has an SPF of about 15, though adding more Zinc Oxide will increase the SPF.
  • Add more beeswax to make thicker sunscreen, less to make smooth sunscreen.
  • I recommend coconut or vanilla extract or lavender essential oils for fragrance.
  • Store in a cool, dry place or in the fridge.
  • I prefer to store in a small canning jar and apply like body butter. It will be thicker, especially if you use coconut oil in the recipe.
  • Remove the Zinc Oxide and this makes an excellent lotion recipe!

Grow Your Own Vegetable Garden In Limited Space


With Summer approaching and fresh vegetables coming into season, we begin to plan yummy veggie dishes to share with our family and friends. Farmer’s markets begin to open, and many people will venture there to pick up their produce. However, there is another option available: growing your own vegetables. There are many ways to grow your own veggies, even if you do not have a large yard for a garden. Here are several great places you can start a garden with limited space:


outdoor-pallet-furniture-28Hanging organizers or up-cycling pallets can create vertical garden planters that can be hung on exterior walls or fences. These hanging gardens can help keep your outdoor area clear, and can also brighten up your outdoor space with a lush look.


Patios or Steps


If you have a small outdoor space such as a patio, terrace, porch, or steps, you can use the space by planting your vegetables in pots. Almost any vegetable can be planted in a pot. Some even do particularly well in pots, such as tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, beans, cucumbers, and herbs. There are even varieties of berries that thrive in pots.



Vegetable gardens don’t need to be planted outside. Many vegetables will grow happily in a sunny window. Use long plant boxes that fit in the window to create a small veggie garden. When doing an indoor garden, stay away from vegetables like squash, since they spread as they grow and they can take over the planter. Vegetables that work best in small planters are vertically growing veggies, such as tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, and herbs.

Community Garden


Many people want to grow their own vegetables, but don’t have the space to do so. To accommodate the growing demand for fresh produce, community gardens have been created. These gardens are typically on public plots of land, and you can rent a plot in the garden to plant and care for yourself. To find a community garden near you, visit the American Community Garden Association.

Enjoy all of the yummy produce, whether it’s home-grown or from a local farmer’s market!


Have a Green Easter: 9 Organic and Eco-Friendly Ideas


Easter is a holiday of colorful decorations, sweet snacks, increasingly warm weather, and wonderful outdoor activities for the whole family. It is also a holiday that can create a lot of waste because of one-time-use decorations, toys, and wrappers. If you and your family are looking to have a greener Easter, here are some organic and environmentally friendly ideas.

  1. Prepare a delicious organic Easter breakfast, like this recipe for Artichoke-Scrambled Eggs Benedict. It replaces the English muffin with artichoke bottoms for a low-carbohydrate alternative.

Artichoke-Scrambled Eggs Benedict

~Serves 4


            8 canned organic artichoke bottoms

            6 large organic eggs

            4 large organic egg whites

            4 teaspoons organic extra-virgin olive oil, divided

            1/3 cup chopped organic pancetta

            2 tablespoons reduced-fat organic cream cheese

            2 tablespoons reduced-fat organic mayonnaise

            2 tablespoons nonfat plain organic yogurt

            1 teaspoon water

            2 teaspoons organic lemon juice

            1/4 teaspoon organic salt

            3 teaspoons chopped fresh organic oregano, divided, plus garnish


Preheat oven to 425°F.

Toss artichoke bottoms with 2 teaspoons oil and 2 teaspoons oregano. Place artichoke bottoms on half of a large baking sheet, topside down. Spread 1/3 cup chopped pancetta evenly on the other half of the baking sheet. Roast until the artichokes begin to brown and the pancetta is crispy (about 12 minutes).

While the pancetta and artichokes are roasting, whisk lemon juice, water, yogurt, and mayonnaise in a bowl until smooth.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil on medium-high. Add the eggs, stirring and folding constantly with spatula for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and fold in cream cheese, salt, and 1 teaspoon oregano.

Divide artichoke bottoms among 4 plates, topping each with scrambled egg, pancetta, and lemon sauce. Garnish with oregano and enjoy!


  1. Instead of buying new Easter baskets, reuse baskets from previous years and revamp them with new decorations. If you don’t have any from last year, purchase them from a garage sale or resale store. Or, even better, make your own unique baskets from scrap fabric or any other materials you might have around the house.


  1. Don’t use plastic grass in your Easter egg baskets. Not only does it go to the landfill after one day of use, but it’s also toxic, and many young children end up ingesting it. Instead, shred some colorful paper from the office or home that was headed to recycling, or use some fabric from old clothing.


  1. Instead of using plastic Easter eggs, use real organic eggs, round stones, paper mache, or even felt. There are all sorts of creative alternatives to boring, toxic, plastic eggs.


  1. Rather than using artificial dyes for decorating your eggs, use natural alternatives. A variety of fruit juices can be used to get different colors, or you can try using saffron, coffee, or red wine.


  1. Use any leftover hardboiled eggs for a delicious Easter snack of potato salad, deviled eggs, or egg salad sandwiches. This way you are not wasting any unused eggs.


  1. Purchase organic chocolate bunnies and candies. Or for even more Easter fun, make your own organic fruit snacks with this easy recipe!

Organic Fruit Snacks


1 cup organic fruit puree

5 tablespoons raw organic honey

6 tablespoons organic gelatin


Puree your fruit of choice in a blender or food processor and measure out one cup of puree (about one and a half cups of chopped fruit should make one cup of puree).

Warm puree on the stove at medium heat in a medium-sized pot until the puree is warm, but not too hot to touch.

Mix in the raw honey and then slowly stir in the gelatin until it becomes an even consistency.

Pour the mixture into fun shaped silicone molds, or line a baking sheet with parchment paper and make a sheet that can be cut into shapes with a cookie cutter.

Place in freezer for 5 to 10 minutes to set, and they are ready to be enjoyed!


  1. Easter is the perfect time to plant a garden. This activity is perfect for kids, who can learn to plant seeds and water them until they grow. It is educational and eco-friendly!


  1. Adopt a bunny from your local animal shelter. The kids will love it, you will be helping an animal in need, and you will have natural fertilizer for your yard!

Warm Up with an Organic Soup

Bean and Barley Soup

Take the chill off this winter with a nice warm bowl of soup for dinner! Here is a great recipe for a healthy and organic soup that will please the whole family.

Bean and Barely Soup

Yield: 4 (serving size: 1¼ cups soup and 1½ teaspoons cheese)


1 cup organic pinto beans

1 tablespoon organic olive oil

2 cups finely chopped organic red onion

1 cup finely chopped fresh organic flat-leaf parsley

1/2 cup finely chopped organic celery

1/2 cup finely chopped organic carrot

1/2 cup chopped fresh organic basil

9 cups water

2 cups organic vegetable broth

2 organic bay leaves

1/3 cup uncooked organic pearl barley

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon of your favorite hot sauce

2 tablespoons grated fresh organic Parmesan cheese


Sort and wash beans; place in a large saucepan. Cover with water to 2” above beans; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes; remove from heat. Cover and let stand 1 hour. Drain beans. Wipe pan dry with a paper towel.

Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add onion, parsley, celery, carrot, and basil; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add beans, 9 cups water, vegetable broth, and bay leaves; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1 hour and 15 minutes or until beans are tender. Discard bay leaves.

Place 3/4 cup beans and 3/4 cup cooking liquid in a blender; process until smooth. Return pureed bean mixture to pan. Stir in barley, salt, pepper, and hot sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes or until barley is done. Ladle soup into individual bowls; sprinkle with cheese.  


Organic Holiday Treats


This holiday season you deserve a special treat! Why not try an organic recipe to make a more healthful holiday delight? If you are planning on bringing a little something special to Christmas dinner, try this Organic Gingerbread Cookie recipe. For a decadent Hanukkah treat, try this Organic Zesty-Pistachio Rugelach recipe. Whatever you decide to bake, make sure you have a happy and healthy holiday season!


Organic Gingerbread Cookies


  • Organic light brown sugar (½ cup)
  • Organic whole wheat pastry flour (2 ¾ cups)
  • Organic baking soda (½ teaspoon)
  • Organic sea salt (½ teaspoon)
  • Organic ground ginger (1 teaspoon)
  • Organic ground cinnamon (½ teaspoon)
  • Organic ground black pepper (½ teaspoon)
  • Organic ground cloves (½ teaspoon)
  • Organic egg whites (2)
  • Organic coconut oil (½ cup)
  • Organic vanilla extract (¼ teaspoon)
  • Organic molasses (10 tablespoons)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the dry ingredients and set aside for later (organic light brown sugar, whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, sea salt, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground black pepper, and ground cloves)
  3. Mix organic molasses, coconut oil, brown sugar and vanilla extract for 5 minutes with an electric mixer set on medium
  4. Continue to mix on medium and add egg whites
  5. Slowly mix in dry ingredients until evenly distributed
  6. Refrigerate dough for up to half an hour, or until completely chilled and slightly hard
  7. Place dough between two pieces of parchment paper and roll out to about ¼” thickness
  8. Use some festive cookie cutters to make some fun shaped cookies
  9. Place cookies on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper
  10. Bake for 8-9 minutes (not any longer, or they will get crunchy)
  11. Enjoy!


Zesty-Pistachio Rugelach


  • Organic cream cheese (8 ounces, chilled)
  • Organic unsalted butter (1 cup, chilled)
  • Organic grated lemon zest (1 tablespoon)
  • Organic sugar (1/2 cup and later 2 tablespoons)
  • Organic sea salt (¼ teaspoon, fine granulated)
  • Organic poppy seeds (1 tablespoon)
  • Organic all-purpose flour (2 cups)
  • Organic egg (1, large)
  • Organic pistachios (1 cup, unsalted, finely chopped, more optional for garnish)


  1. Blend organic butter and cream cheese in a food processor until smooth
  2. Add organic lemon zest, sugar (1/2 cup), sea salt, and poppy seeds and process until evenly distributed
  3. Add flour and pulse until it becomes a dough
  4. Separate dough into two balls and flatten each into a disk with a roller
  5. Cover and refrigerate the disks for 4 hours
  6. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  7. Generously flour work surface and rolling pin and roll out one ball of dough into a disk
  8. Cut the disk into 16 wedges (like a pie)
  9. Brush dough with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar (1 tablespoon) and half the pistachios
  10. Roll up the wedges, starting at the wide edge and ending at the point
  11. Curve the rolls into crescents and place them on the baking sheets
  12. Brush crescents with remaining egg and sprinkle with pistachios (optional)
  13. Repeat process with second ball of dough
  14. Bake 25-28 minutes until golden
  15. Let cool and enjoy!