One of my favourite things to do is listen to Podcasts. I’ve always enjoyed listening when driving or walking the dog, but especially since becoming a mom since my time available for learning has plummeted. Podcasts let me consume content while doing something else! The Balanced Bites podcast is one of my favourites, and it was also the first place I learned about Cold Brew Coffee (a popular brand in the USA is a sponsor).
Fairly early into my coffee journey (I started enjoying a cup daily midway through high school. I blame my parents! lol) I realized iced coffee was amazing. But my favourite was a super sweet fake dessert iced coffee from Starbucks – so not super ideal for health. Then one VERY HOT summer working on a rooftop restaurant in Toronto, I started drinking plain ol’ iced coffee with some milk and sugar. I quickly learned that the best results came from brewing an espresso, chilling it and then turning it into iced coffee – that way it wasn’t watered down like when you brew coffee and try to chill it quickly with just ice! But it also took forethought.
Fast forward to this summer, where my coffee obsession is fairly high (this time I blame the baby. Ha!) and it’s hot. I’m often heading out in the morning when I want my second coffee, and can’t stand drinking hot coffee on a hot day. I tried to make an extra pot in the morning and chill it for later, but it doesn’t usually happen. That’s why DIY Cold Brew entered my life.
Cold Brew Coffee is exactly as it sounds. Coffee that’s been brewed cold, instead of with hot water. There are many reasons for the rise of Cold Brew Coffee – with the most common being the smooth, rich flavour it has combined with the less acidic feeling in the stomach. I like it because it takes 1 minute to prep and allows me to have iced coffee all week! Here’s how:
Homemade Cold Brew Coffee
1. Measure out ¾ cup of organic, fair or direct trade coffee (why direct trade?), ground on the coarsest grind setting you have. I’m sure a high powered blender would work if you don’t have a coffee grinder. Fine grind = bitter coffee, so make sure it’s coarse! Coarser (like with a mortar and pestle coarse) is better than fine any day!
2. Dump coarse-ground coffee grinds into a 1L jar.
3. Add 3 cups of filtered water to the jar. It can be cold or room temperature. Secure lid and place in fridge for 12-24 hours. (Note, after making this once, I no longer measure the water because I know that the jar is almost full with the water and grinds combined!)
4. After desired length of brew (I like 18-24 hours best), remove from fridge, strain into another jar and voila – you’re done! Coffee for the week, or a few days if you are sharing with someone.
Keep in mind that cold brew is MUCH higher in caffeine. So enjoy smaller servings and/or water down with water, ice and your desired milk (I like full-fat coconut milk or grassfed cream). I also like to sweeten with a touch of maple syrup!
My favourite way to enjoy cold-brew is:
small cup, filled with ice
½ cup cold brew
¼ cup water
2-3 tbsp coconut milk
1-2 tsp maple syrup
You can also heat up cold brew and enjoy it like a normal cup of coffee! I do this on Crossfit mornings, when I want cup of coffee fast, and don’t want to wait for it to brew. I can have a delicious cup of coffee ready to go in less than a minute!
Are you an iced coffee drinker? Or are you a purest and only enjoy a cuppa joe hot. Share your favourite way for enjoying this delicious vice in the comments below!
When you start down the path of more natural living and trying to detox your home, it can be a bit overwhelming as you realize how insidious toxins are. This can be especially scary for parents, or soon-to-be parents!
Note: as someone with a rigorous science degree, I’m careful of using the word “chemical” as a bad thing. Everything is made up of chemicals! So many scientific terms are misappropriated in common language. For the sake of this article, I am going to use the word “toxin” to describe chemicals that can be harmful to the body.
Pretty much everything we use is full of toxins – make up, perfume, dishwasher detergent, tile cleaner, carpet cleaner, air deodorizers, sunscreens, moisturizer, toothpaste, food containers, food, water… Like I said – overwhelming. I’m not going to get into what these toxins are and how they impact your body, because that’s a HUGE can of worms. Instead, I’m going to share my favourite products that I use on a daily basis, after years of trial and error! If you want to dig deeper, check out The Environmental Working Group, or read Slow Death by Rubber Duck.
I always recommend taking a slow, methodical approach to detoxing your house because it’s less over-whelming and less of a financial impact! So each time you finish a product, make a conscious effort to replace it with a cleaner one (either from the health food store/health section or make your own!) However, according to Gretchen Rubin what’s most important when making change is to know yourself. Are you the complete overhaul, 180 degree turn, all or nothing kind of person? Then go for it. Toss it all and replace accordingly! Once you figure out what works best for you, here are the main areas I recommend addressing.
1. Cleaning Products
Have you ever noticed how many different products you are told you need for your house? It’s all marketing friends. And marketing of some serious toxins. The majority of the ingredients in household cleaning products are hazardous – the warning is right there on the label. And the funny thing is, it’s totally not necessary! There are 3 amazing house-hold products that are just as effective at cleaning (both aesthetically and bacterially-speaking) as toxins, without any of the nasty side effects. These are:
Baking soda. Vinegar. Lemon.
There are a few additional ingredients that can be used too, such as borax, castille soap, washing soda and essential oils. But it really doesn’t have to be complicated. The cleaning products I use in my house are:
And that’s it…. honestly. Do you know how much money I’ve saved on products over the last 5 years or so? I wish I had the numbers, but it’s gotta be up there. I haven’t bought laundry detergent, or the ingredients to make it in over 18 months.
If you’re a little more particular and want some specific cleaning products for targeted areas (like hardwood, antiques etc.), check out One Good Thing by Jillee.
But there are lots of clean options if you visit a health food store! Be skeptical though. Green-washing is a major thing these days since “going green” is super trendy. Check the ingredients and make sure there aren’t any wonky ones like parfum, parabens, or sodium lauryl sulphate.
TOP PRIORITY: the strongest smelling product in your arsenal, or the one that makes you a little woozy if you don’t open the windows. Bathroom cleaners and deodorizers (Febreeze, Glade plug ins etc.) are often the worst!
2. Personal Care
First and foremost – stop using perfume/cologne. It is purely synthetic and made of almost exclusively dangerous toxins. Over hundreds of toxic chemicals that the company is not required to disclose – it’s proprietary info. It’s the number one thing you can do to reduce your toxin exposure. Ok, now that that’s out of the way, here are my favourite products (sort of in order of use during the day):
Shampoos & conditioners by Prairie Naturals. They have a variety of types based on hair-type. I personally use the avalanche line in the winter (helps with dry scalp) and the moroccan moon line the rest of the year. Some people have success with the no-poo method, but it didn’t work for me.
Soap by The Soap Works. I use this for my hands and any parts of my body that need a good scrub – like my feet if I’ve been barefoot! But honestly, I usually just use a loofa and water in the shower.
Toner – DIY. I dilute 1 part apple cider vinegar with 4 parts water and store in a little spritzer container in the shower. I use this on my face, neck, chest, shoulders and upper back. It tightens pores, but also helps mitigate blemishes. If my diet has been off a bit and I find some odour emanating from the armpit region, I’ll spray some on there too. I rinse off immediately after spraying!
Moisturizer – argan oil or olive oil (as part of oil cleansing method, see below)
Make up by Pure Anada. I love this brand. It’s Canadian and works so well. I used to buy it at The Big Carrot on the Danforth, but now order it online. It’s mineral make up, so it lasts me years. Other mineral-based make ups are great options as well. Just be careful not to inhale!
Deodorant – DIY. I used to use my DIY deodorant, but a client of mine makes her own and it’s the best I’ve ever tried. I’m working on getting her to sell it!! Before I changed my diet, healed my gut and balanced my hormones, I was a major sweater. It was bad. I never wore t-shirts. Grey was a nightmare colour. Ugh, it was the worst. So this was the last thing I changed. For the longest time I used Tom’s anti-perspirant – which still had the aluminum for reducing sweating, but the rest of the ingredients were pretty darn clean. I still sweat a fair amount, but not anywhere near what I did before balancing my body! I even own a grey t-shirt! That I wear on not very hot days… 😉
Perfume. I’ll be honest, I don’t use any. It was never really my style anyways, they always bothered me. However, I do sometimes use essential oils as perfume (especially blends designed for mood balancing like Peace & Calming if I’m going to an event which I know I’ll find overwhelming, or Valor if I need a confidence boost). Pacifica is an easy to find brand of perfume that is mostly essential oils.
Face-cleansing / moisturizer. I follow the oil-cleansing method which I learned in The Purely Primal Skin Care Guide. It works wonders for my skin (after a few weeks of adjusting) and I can’t imagine going back. It took a little trial and error to determine the right oils (which is complicated by the fact that winter and summer have different requirements – always have for me), but it’s amazing. Another way I save a TON of money.
Toothpaste – Earthpaste is my favourite (it does a great job whitening too), although we sometimes have Jason’s.
UPDATE: I am also including a variety of Beautycounter products as part of my regular routine. Click here to learn more.
TOP PRIORITY: anything that has the word “perfume” or “parfum”, followed by things that stay on your skin. So moisturizer is more important than shampoo.
Drinking/ice/tea/kombucha etc. This was a very important area for us, since it is a major area of exposure and our water is full of SOOOO much junk. As soon as we bought house, we did some digging into the best water-filtration unit. We were willing to spend thousands on a whole-house system, but after doing some research (made easier by The Wellness Mama) we ended up going with a Berkey. At around $450, it was perfect for our soon to be growing family. Easy to use and gets rid of everything we don’t want, while also remineralizing. Bonus is it’s free-standing so when/if we move, we can take it with us. The best compliment we received was from a friend who said our water tasted like the water on his parents farm (in a very remote area!) – especially cool since the water that goes into the filter smells like a swimming pool. NOTE: previous to the Berkey, we used a Brita which has its downsides but is better than nothing. As soon as the water filtered through I dumped it into a glass juice jug so it wasn’t sitting in plastic all day.
Shower/bath – we also installed filters on our shower heads, and bought a bath ball. This is important because we actually absorb more chlorine through baths and showers than drinking. One of the mechanisms for this is gaseous chlorine in steam gets inhaled and crosses the lung barrier. There are several options available at health food stores – we’ve used both the Santevia and The Original Bath Ball.
TOP PRIORITY: this is a tough one, I’d say both. But from a financial perspective, I’d do what we did – shower filter + basic water filter to start.
First and foremost, stop eating man-made, fake foods. It is a good idea to always avoid the following:
Food dyes / artificial colours (That means sprinkles, candy and common beverages like gatorade. There are dye-free options at health foods stores if you absolutely need it.)
After that, we purchase organic whenever we can. Not because organic foods contain more nutrients (although many do), but because of what they don’t contain – pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, hormones, antibiotics and genetically modified DNA. The order in which we prioritize that is as follows:
Meat. This gets the top priority since it concentrates toxins up the food chain. Purchasing quality meat impacts your health, the health of the animals and the health of the environment. This includes animal-fats like lard, tallow, bacon-grease, duck fat etc. The fattier the meat, the more important, since toxins are stored in animal fat.
Dairy. We don’t eat dairy (both have serious allergies), but if we did, it would absolutely be grass-fed or organic for the same reasons as above. This includes butter/ghee.
Dirty Dozen vegetables & fruit. The reason this isn’t at the top, is if our budget is a little tight, we don’t buy these guys. We’ll stick to the veggies on the Clean Fifteen and buy them conventional.
Other produce. If the price isn’t too much different, I”ll buy the organic version of the Clean Fifteen – because it is better for us and the environment. However, if it has been flown across the continent/world, I won’t.
Other foods to consider buying organic include:
Corn. If it’s not organic, it has been genetically modified to secrete it’s own pesticide that damages the intestines of the pests that eat it, which kills them. (sound familiar?)
Soy. If it’s not organic, it has been genetically modified to withstand ridiculously high levels of RoundUp, so everything around it dies, but the soy doesn’t – it just gets covered in it and then we eat it! Keep in mind that RoundUp used to be used on lawns (remember the commercials??) and is now banned in areas like Toronto, because it is so toxic.
TOP PRIORITY:fake foods, followed by fatty cuts of meat.
Even BPA-free plastics. Plastics are toxins. End of story. BPA-free plastics have just had a different plasticizer used, that doesn’t have the drama around it. Same stuff, different day. The most important ways to avoid plastic include:
Temperature. Never heat food in plastic! Even for a few seconds! Don’t put hot food in a plastic container either. This includes leaving your water bottle in the car in the sun.
Acid. Highly acidic foods break down the plastic, which then leaches into your food. Tomatoes and citrus are the most common culprits.
Fat. Foods that are high in fat/oil also leach plastic out of the solid state. So whenever possible buy oils and nut-butters in glass.
Water. With the amount of water we need to drink, our exposure to plastic sky rockets. Recyclable water bottles start to degrade as soon as you open them, so definitely don’t reuse those. But even standard water bottles break down over time. Choose stainless steel or glass instead.
Dry foods are not nearly as much of a concern. So storing things like baking ingredients, grains (if tolerated) and spices in plastic isn’t something to worry about! For kids dishes – silicone is great option! Keep an eye on places like Canadian Tire, which often have sales on glass tupperware. Also start reusing jars instead of recycling! I wash salsa and nut butter jars, and reuse them for freezing food, DIY mayo and broth!
TOP PRIORITY: heating food in plastic.
Reducing your overall exposure to toxins is a process – trust me, I know! It probably took me a good 2 years to fully clear out my house of toxins. You don’t need to change everything all at once (unless that’s your personality type). Just making 1 or 2 small changes can have a huge impact. Do some research. Determine your priorities. Consider speeding up the process a bit if you are / plan to be pregnant or have little ones at home, but don’t stress! To help prevent stressing, at the end of each section above, I highlighted the top priority, to help you start your detoxing journey. Enjoy the process and learn as you go!
Please share in the comments below, what your favourite clean products are and where you find them!
Last Saturday was my husband’s birthday and the previous Tuesday was my birthday – so to celebrate, we spent Saturday afternoon at an open house at a local farm. Doesn’t everyone celebrate birthdays that way??
We have been on the hunt for a local farm that raises 100% grassfed beef and pastured pork, from which to buy a ¼, ½ or whole cow and a ½ or whole hog. Why you ask? Well for a few reasons.
From a cost perspective, nothing compares. When you buy a ¼ cow, it ends up being $4.99/lb for all the different cuts. That means even the steaks are $4.99/lb!
You can select the types of cuts you want and you will get all of the odds and ends, including back fat (for making tallow), bones and organs. (You don’t have to take these bits, but eating snout-to-tail is not only ethical, it’s delicious and incredibly healthy)
It is important to us to support local farmers.
We want to be connected with where we get our food from. It can be hard to “meet your meat” but we believe it’s an important part of the process. If you see the animals alive, you can’t help but be respectful and grateful for the life that was given, to allow you to live your life.
I can’t remember how I stumbled across these guys but oh boy am I glad I did. Harry and Silvia Stoddart from The Stoddart Family Farm are the real deal when it comes to raising animals properly. Two incredibly intelligent people – Harry worked in corporate finance and Silvia has a background in biochemistry – their passion for ethical meat production was inspiring.
Harry calls both Joel Salatin from Polyface Farm and Allan Savory of the Savory Institute his mentors and he has implemented many of their farming practices on his acreage. You might remember Joel Salatin from Food Inc. – he’s the farmer who always talks about allowing the pig to express its pigness! He has developed a rotational grazing system on his farm that not only encourages the health of both the animals and the pasture, but results in an exponential increase in profit per acre because it’s being used so strategically. He sums it up on his website in this creative and intriguing way:
For context, please understand that we don’t do anything conventionally. We haven’t bought a bag of chemical fertilizer in half a century, never planted a seed, own no plow or disk or silo—we call those bankruptcy tubes. We practice mob stocking herbivorous solar conversion lignified carbon sequestration fertilization with the cattle. The Eggmobiles follow them, mimicking egrets on the rhinos’ nose. The laying hens scratch through the dung, eat out the fly larvae, scatter the nutrients into the soil, and give thousands of dollars worth of eggs as a byproduct of pasture sanitation. Pastured broilers in floorless pasture schooners move every day to a fresh paddock salad bar. Pigs aerate compost and finish on acorns in forest glens. It’s all a symbiotic, multi-speciated synergistic relationship-dense production model that yields far more per acre than industrial models. And it’s all aromatically and aesthetically romantic.
Allan Savory is doing incredible work rehabilitating the earth in Zimbabwe. About two thirds of the earth is not arable – so it cannot be used for growing crops. When we try to play God and manipulate the earth to grow crops on such land, it is an incredible drain on resources such as water, it causes more damage to the earth because fertilizers are heavily relied upon and it exacerbates drought and nutrient-deficient soils because no animals are there to return the nutrients to the soil. According to the Savory Institue:
For centuries we believed livestock were a major cause of desertification, but Savory’s research showed that the cause lay in how those livestock were managed. His solution involved mimicking the behavior of the formerly vast herds of wild grazing animals he had witnessed as a young biologist. He devised a simple method any pastoralist can use to move massive amounts of carbon and water from the atmosphere back to the soil and begin reversing thousands of years of human-caused desertification – on the scale required, which no technology imaginable can accomplish. In the process, we can feed more people and enhance societal well-being.
Both Salatin and Savory are going against the grain – literally. They are combining the wisdom of our ancestors who had to live in rhythm with the earth, with advances in technology to feed the world and rehabilitate the earth at the same time.
According to Harry, there are 3 pillars of raising animals for consumption:
It must be healthy for the animal.
It must be healthy for the human who will consume it.
Every decision they make at Stoddart Family Farm has to be consistent with all 3 pillars and because of this, they raise incredibly healthy animals whose nutritional quality is unparalleled, and their pasture is a lush and diverse ecosystem full of frogs (a major indicator of pasture health), bugs and a variety of plant matter.
Last Saturday they had an open house, and we happened to be around, so we drove the 45 minutes northeast of Whitby to the far side of Lake Scugog. Boy we were in for a treat! Harry took us on a tour all over the farm, including out to all the pastures. It was a beautiful day, we were out there for over an hour, and we loved every second of it! Here are some photos I snapped that day – bear with me, they are taken on my phone.
As we left, we felt incredibly inspired and grateful. We have our very own version of Polyface Farm at Stoddart Family Farm. That night we cooked up some of the most delicious burgers we’ve had in a long time, with ground beef purchased from the farm. We immediately put in an order for an entire cow and pig – which we will be sharing with my parents and some of our close friends. And while I can’t vouch for the pork yet, if the beef was any indicator, we are in for a treat.
If you are currently purchasing grassfed or organic meat at a local butcher, and are finding it tough on your budget, I strongly recommend looking into Stoddart Family Farm. At $4.99/lb you are getting an incredible deal on the highest quality product possible. And most importantly, you will be supporting a small, local farm, whose primary goal is health – of the animal, the consumer and the earth.