coconut oil

Sea Salt Date Caramels

photo (1)

Dear Dillan,

I see you used dates for this recipe. That seems weird. Why would I want to use dates instead of sugar? Can't I just make caramels the old-fashioned way?

Love, Someone who really wants to know

Dear Someone,

I used dates because there are a whole-food source of natural sugar. It makes way more sense to me, as a health coach and sugar-attracted person, to eat real food that tastes sweet than just pure sugar because sugar does nothing GOOD for my body and only makes me feel tired, angry and achy.

How does it make you feel?

Love, Dillan

PS you can do whatever you want, really. Isn't it nice to have choices, though?

Sea Salt Date Caramels*

*these are a tad bit labor-intensive. Block off some time and put on some high-vibe music to make these babies.

(makes about 15 medium caramels)

Ingredients 1 cup pitted medjool dates. To measure, take the pit out of your dates and then pack them into the measuring cup before soaking them in the hot water. I used about 14 smallish dates. 1/4 cup coconut milk (full fat or light), warmed 1/4 cup melted coconut oil 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, optional 1/4 - 1/2 tsp. unrefined salt Coconut flour, for dusting

Chocolate coating 1/4 cup cocoa powder (I use Navitas) 1/4 cup organic coconut oil 2 Tbs. raw honey or pure maple syrup OR use melted dairy-free chocolate chips (about 1/3 cup chocolate chips, use more if needed)

Instructions

1) In a pot of very hot water, soak the dates and then drain them. In a blender, combine the dates, coconut milk, coconut oil and vanilla extract to make a paste. Add salt, blend, taste and add a bit more salt if desired.  Set in the freezer until firm.

2) The original recipe said 3 hours but I left this for a day or two until I was ready to make them. The mixture was firm but melted in my hands so I highly recommend you use two spoons to form the date mixture into balls. Dust lightly with coconut flour, place on a cookie sheet and store in the freezer to stay firm.

photo 1
photo 1

3) To make the chocolate coating: melt and stir together the cocoa powder, coconut oil and raw honey over very low heat until combined. If it's too runny, place in the fridge for a few minutes to harden. Remove from fridge and stir until desired consistency.

  • If you are using the chocolate chips instead of the homemade chocolate coating, melt the chocolate chips over low heat until smooth and add a bit of coconut oil, if needed. Do not overheat.

4) Take one caramel at a time and dunk into the chocolate. Roll it around until covered. You will know your chocolate coating is too hot if the date ball melts between your fingers. I learned this lesson the hard way. Place the dripping, delicious mess on a baking sheet lined with unbleached parchment. Sprinkle a few grains of salt on top and put the sheet in the fridge to firm up the chocolate coating.

photo 2
photo 2

5) Store these suckers in the fridge to keep their shape. If you somehow manage to not eat them all in a day or two, they should keep for about two weeks.

photo 3
photo 3
Thanks to Empowered Sustenance for the recipe idea!

Natural Moisturizers for Winter Skin

Winter is here!We all know how that bitter winter wind dries our skin out. Naturally, we slather on facial moisturizer and body lotions, most of which contain any number of toxic chemicals and additives. Our skin in our largest organ. Check the labels on your products. Can you pronounce them? Do you know what they are? If not, rethink where those chemicals are going and what they may be doing on the inside, once they are absorbed.Fear, not. The natural products industry is here to help.According to the Organic Consumers Association:

"Natural Foods Merchandiser magazine's 2010 Market Overview reports healthy growth for the natural and organic products industry. With more than $81 billion in total revenue last year, the industry grew 7 percent over 2009, showing that consumers are spending again and that the natural products industry is healthy and growing."

Cool. The word is out. It might have something to do with this amazingly handy video: The Story of Cosmetics created by The Story of Stuff Project. If you want to know more about what's in that bottle of yours on the shelf, I recommend you check it out:

Know that not all health/body care products labeled "natural" are good for you. The Organic Consumers Association exists for that very reason, to make sure natural body care and health foods are what they claim to be--natural and healthy alternatives to mainstream products. Unfortunately, according to the OCA:"many brands market their products as "organic," but they don't have enough organic ingredients to be USDA certified, and they use ingredients that would never be allowed in USDA certified products."Again, all hope is not lost. The OCA homepage provides a VERY long list of companies known for making high-quality and legitimately natural products, many of which can be found in local stores within walking distance from you. See something you want on that list? Consider asking your local retailer to carry it, or special order it for you. Having worked in a few local stores in Somerville and Cambridge, I am willing to bet your request would be happily granted.In the meantime, while you're waiting for your luxurious new moisturizer to arrive, consider three very healthy, very natural and extremely affordable and versatile moisturizers provided by the mother of natural beauty, Mother Nature herself.WATER: Some clients of mine are surprised when I tell them to amp up their water consumption during the winter. They assume the summer months are the best time to chug-a-lug nature's top shelf beverage and they aren't wrong. The summer is hot. We perspire. We need to replace that lost moisture with more water. It makes sense. However, the arid, cold air of winter and overconsumption of sugar can wreak havoc on our skin. Drink plenty of fresh water (half your body weight in ounces) each day for well-hydrated, glowing skin all year.EAT YOUR FATS: Cooking with olive or sesame oil and eating avocadoes and/or real butter* are excellent ways to hydrate your skin from the inside-out. Or pull up a chair beside the ol' Nutcracker during the holidays because the nuts found in your standard mixed nut assortment (still in their shells) all contain the healthy fats needed for perfect nutrition for your body, skin and your brain. With all we have going on at the time of year, who can't use a brain boost?!

COCONUT OIL: Derived from coconuts, this oil is truly a miracle in my house. Some folks are still on the fence about its health benefits, but I'm sold on it. We cook* with it, add it to smoothies in the morning and slather it directly on our skin post-shower. A little goes a long way both internally and topically, and you can't get more natural than this oil right out of the jar. Why buy coconut-fragranced lotions packed with questionable chemical ingredients when I can use the real thing?!*As with anything in life, be sure to ingest these foods in moderation, being mindful of quantities and the quality of what you're consuming. It's true that coconut oil and butter contain saturated fat and too much of that isn't good for anyone, but many alternatives (low-fat or oil-based butters) contain chemicals or additives far more dangerous to your health. If you're not sure how much is too much, or not enough, ask your health care professional or let me know if I can support you.