Summer Gazpacho with Heirloom Tomatoes | SCD, Paleo, Vegan


One of the greatest treasures that Ohio has to offer are their fresh, homegrown summer tomatoes. Did you know that Ohio is the third-largest producer of tomatoes in the United States, harvesting over 6,000 acres of tomatoes annually? And that Ohio designated tomatoes as the official state fruit of Ohio in 2009 and tomato juice has been the official state beverage of Ohio since 1965?

In our family, tomatoes take on more meaning because one of our restaurants most famous dishes is the classic "Bender's Tomato," which consists of hand-selected tomatoes topped with dry blue cheese, basil, parsley, red onion and a homemade Italian dressing. Over the years of owning and operating the restaurant, my father-in-law has become a tomato connoisseur and has traveled all over Ohio in search of the perfect tomato.

With the current trends of farmer's markets, farm-to-table restaurants and eat local campaigns, almost everyone has heard the term heirloom tomatoes.
But what exactly makes a tomato an heirloom?

Characteristics of an Heirloom Tomato:
Heirlooms are open pollinated and must be able to reproduce from seed, which means they are pollinated by insects, bird and animals or the wind. Not by human intervention. On the other hand, hybrid tomatoes are pollinated with human intervention and are created for consistency, commercial characteristics and transport for distribution. Therefore, these hybrids are genetically modified.

The seeds of an heirloom tomato have been passed down from generation to generation in a particular region and are rich in history. Every heirloom variety is genetically unique and inherent in this uniqueness is an evolved resistance to pests and diseases and an adaptation to specific growing conditions and climates, making their characteristics dependent on the region of origin.

Heirlooms often vary in color, shape, texture and size and, depending on the species, flavors can be full, rich, meaty and sweet.

Be aware of what you are buying, especially since heirlooms come with a higher price tag. Large farms often market their tomatoes and piggy-back off the heirloom hype and sell an inferior product that most likely isn't even a traditional heirloom. Just because a tomato is labeled "heirloom" doesn't automatically mean that the tomatoes were grown locally, organically, or in any way that you might associate with the traditional traits of an heirloom. Know your farmers and try to stay local!

Even better, grow your own!

SCD, Paleo, Gluten-Free, Vegan
yield: 8 servings

2.5 pounds heirloom tomatoes, core removed and cut into large pieces
½ small white onion, cut into pieces
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into pieces
½ yellow pepper, cut
1 garlic clove, diced
1 small jalapeño, sliced (optional)
3 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus more for garnish
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
fresh basil, chopped

Garnish Ingredients:
cracked black pepper
chopped peppers
diced cherry tomatoes
drizzle of olive oil
Liberated Specialty Foods pizza crust, toasted in the oven and broken into wedges

1. Add tomatoes, onion, cucumber, pepper, garlic and spices to a large bowl and toss with vinegar and olive oil. Let stand 30 minutes at room temperature.
2. Transfer mixture to a blender or food processor and purée until smooth; about 2-3 minutes.
3. Strain through a coarse-mesh sieve into a large bowl or pitcher and chill until cool, about 1 hour.
4. Divide gazpacho among bowls. Top with garnishes of choice. Some options include: chopped basil, cracked black pepper, chopped peppers, diced cherry tomatoes, chopped radishes, a drizzle of olive oil. Mix and match to your palates desire!

Tomato Tip: never refrigerate tomatoes!


Petit Collage | Why I Buy Ethically

Petit Collage
Petit Collage
Petit Collage
Petit Collage
Petit Collage
Petit Collage
Petit Collage
*This post is created in partnership with Petit Collage

We strive to live a simple life. A life filled with clean, good food and quality sustainable products. The idea of a healthy lifestyle goes far beyond what we eat and drink. Our health is impacted by the world around us; the air we breath, the clothes we wear, the products we use on our bodies and the toys we touch and play with.

“But man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.”
Rachel Carson

Part of our journey to live a simple, sustainable life has been to cut out and reduce our plastic consumption. While plastic is a functional and cheap material for toy manufacturing, it can be harmful to the environment and to ourselves, reasons why we try our best to avoid plastics. By choosing environmentally-friendly materials, we are focusing on high quality, eco-friendly products. Did you know that several of the chemicals used to give plastic their flexibility (plasticizers) have been shown to be endocrine disruptors and are linked to the development of tumors, birth defects and developmental disorders? No thanks!

Petit Collage founder, collage artist Lorena Siminovich, created an earth-friendly company that focuses on materials crafted from recycled cardboard to FSC-certified wood and soy-based inks. Petit Collage avoids plastic and their products are designed with the health of children, and the planet, in mind.

We had the opportunity to try a few of their new products, including the 5-piece Eco-Friendly Bamboo Mealtime Set, which is made from natural, renewable, and sustainable bamboo. It is shatterproof and plastic-free (yay!) and the perfect size for little hands. Bamboo is great choice for an eco-friendly material because this particular type of grass grows as tall as a tree in just three years. It has been used for many centuries in China for building furniture, homes and boats. Bamboo toys are perfect for kids because they are durable yet light, flexible and safe.

I also recommend the Animal Band magnetic play set, perfect for those long car rides (which we know too well) and dinners out. The characeters can be mixed and matched and are printed with non-toxic paints. Make sure to head on over to the Petit Collage website and check out all the products they offer!

With the release of their new product line, Petit Collage is also launching a very special campaign: #whyibuyethically. My family chooses to buy ethically because we want to avoid toxins and chemicals that are used in cheap materials, we want to support sustainable, eco-friendly products, we want to focus on renewable materials and we want to invest in pieces that are crafted with value and quality. Why are you passionate about surrounding your family with ethically made, well-designed products? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Petit Collage | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram



The weekend is finally here, the air is now warmer and the sun is shining! It's time to celebrate - with matcha pistachio bars! While matcha seems to be on the trend these days, it's important to understand the health benefits that this green tea provides. Forget the green tea bags you purchase at any standard grocery store, matcha is a high-grade, finely ground, concentrated green tea that has been traditionally used in Japanese tea ceremonies for hundreds of years.

Benefits of Matcha:
+ Extremely high in antioxidants, which will help you to fight off infections and diseases.
+ Green tea contains a specific set of organic compounds known as catechins. Among all the antioxidants, catechins are the most potent and beneficial and they are recognized for their cancer fighting properties.
+ It contains the amino acid L-Theanine, which helps balance out the caffeine, and gives a feeling of calmness without the drowsiness. Goodbye caffeine jitters.
+ Combats inflammation, oxidation, and aging.
+ The chlorophyll present in matcha is an excellent detoxifier which helps in cleansing the blood.
+ It is rich in vitamin A, C, E, K, and vitamin B-complex.

SCD*, Paleo, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free
yield: 6-8 servings

1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
2 TBS coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup pistachios
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt
1 tsp matcha powder
1/8 cup honey

Optional for Coating the Bars:
6 ounces 100% dark chocolate
3 TBS honey
2 Tbs coconut oil

1. Blend all ingredients together (I used my Vitamix for this) with the exception of the ingredients for the cocoa coating.
2. Press into a square container lined with parchment. Freeze for one hour.
3. Cut into one inch squares. Enjoy like this OR if you can tolerate cocoa, melt the cocoa in a double broiler. Add the honey and coconut oil and whisk together. Dip the squares until covered. Sprinkle with Himalayan pink salt and crushed pistachios.

*To make these Matcha Pistachio Bars SCD compliant, omit the cocoa coating. You can easily substitute raw cocoa butter (you can purchase here) melted with honey and Himalayan salt.

This post contains affiliate links.


Liberated Specialty Foods Paleo SCD Waffles + A Honey Apple Syrup

Paleo Waffles
Paleo Waffles
Paleo Waffles
Paleo Waffles
“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
Mother Teresa

Summer is on the horizon, and while it is so close and within grasp, it sadly feels so far away. We've come to that time of year where, mentally, I have checked out and I'm sure several of you moms out there can relate. I am tired of packing lunches, I'm tired of trying to keep up with the laundry, which I am failing miserably at, I'm tired of cooking and cleaning and I'm tired of driving all over the state (and other states) just to take my kids to sporting events. In fact, I'm just flat out tired.

Naturally, I have some goals for the summer that I would like to accomplish. I would like to take on some home projects; tackle the entry way and remove the wall paper, possibly prepare for some larger home projects, re-organize the pantry and rearrange some flower beds. But secretly? My main goals are to sit pool-side with a stack of books, to enjoy a casual run on my own time, to go outside and play basketball with the boys and not feel rushed, to sit down with my daughter and actually finish a craft together.

We have only today. Let us begin.

As the school year ends, I have decided to ease up on my workload so I can focus my time on my children and home. I love to set aside time to bake and cook in large batches for the week, but honestly, with our soccer schedule I have had no extra time. Thanks to Liberated Specialty Foods, I can still continue our tradition of sitting down to breakfast together without the hassle of cooking and cleaning and sacrificing hours of my time. For those of you who are not familiar with Liberated Specialty Foods, they are a company based out of Alabama who provide processed food that can be consumed by those on special diets like Paleo, SCD and GAPS. Founder Stacey Schlaman and her team of bakers provide you with quality products that do not contain starches, gluten, grains, preservatives, artificial sweeteners or binding agents. They sweeten their goods only with honey, fruit and/or vanilla extract. Not only do they avoid refined sugars, but they don’t use any complex sugars or low calorie sugar substitutes such as stevia, saccharine, aspartame, erythritol, or xylitol. And what you see on the label is what is in the product - no hidden ingredients or manufacturing agents.

I decided to combine Liberated Specialty Foods Waffles with some yummy toppings for the perfect breakfast/brunch that will leave you full and energized for the day. You can easily add any toppings you desire to meet your palette, but we used homemade yogurt blended with dragonfruit powder, pistachios and a mixture of fresh fruit all topped with my go-to syrup that we use year round for waffles and pancakes. From a moms point of view, these pre-made waffles made my life a little bit easier, but from a kids point of view, Jonas would say they are a two thumbs up in the taste department with little to no prep time - always a bonus!

Honey Apple Cider Syrup
SCD, Paleo, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free
yield: 4 servings

1/2 cup apple cider
1/4 cup honey (more if you desire)
3 Tbs butter, melted
1 tsp cinnamon

1. Combine all ingredients and blend well with a whisk.
2. Pour over waffles. Store remaining syrup in an air tight container in the refrigerator.

Liberated Specialty Foods | Website | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

Look for Liberated Specialty Foods in your local health food store!
*This post is in partnership with Liberated Specialty Foods


Maple Holistics Argan Shampoo

Benefits of Argan Shampoo
Benefits of Argan Shampoo

"Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live."
Jim Rohn

Incorporating a healthy routine is key to managing not only a healthy body on the inside, but also healthy hair, skin and nails. While it's important to watch what we put inside our bodies, it's just as important to watch what we put on the outside of our bodies, which is why our family has decided to ditch the toxins, harmful ingredients and chemicals.

Argan oil, native to Morocco, has several health benefits and serves as an all-natural moisturizer for skin and hair. It is extremely rich in nutrients including fatty acids and vitamin E. It is also packed with vitamin A, antioxidants, omega-6 fatty acids, linoleic acid and can help ease inflammation. Because of all these benefits, argan oil can help boost cell production and promote healthy skin and hair.

I have been hooked on oils and use them daily in my skin and hair routines. When it comes to hair, natural oils will add moisture and shine and will nourish the scalp. They can even aid in faster and healthier hair growth – all without the use of chemicals and overpriced products! I had the chance to try Maple Holistics Argan Special Formula Shampoo and I am thrilled with the results; my hair is soft and silky, full of body and smells amazing. As a mother, I am trying to manage my health and beauty in a natural way, but it's important that I also teach these techniques to my daughter. I want her to understand how important it is to take care of our bodies, from the inside to the outside, and choosing the right products to use is extremely important. Maple Holistics provide a natural, holistic range of premium products which can enhance hygiene, health and daily living. And, they are made in the USA, are cruelty free, sulfate free and contain natural ingredients.

AND, while I was searching the Maple Holistics website, I came across this article on their blog; "What Is a Dermaroller & What Are its Benefits?" To be honest, I had heard of derma rolling before, but I wasn't very familiar with it. Microneedling is when you use a dermaroller or microneedler over areas of the skin. The small hand-held device looks similar to a miniature lint roller but covered in metal spikes. The purpose of this at-home procedure is to stimulate collagen production and to increase the absorption of skin-care products. I was a bit skeptical at first, but I purchased a derma roller and gave it a go. I am surprisingly happy with my results; my skin feels and looks refreshed and even has a glow about it and my facial products seem to be working better.

To read more about Maple Holistics and check out all the products they have to offer head on over to their site!
Maple Holistics | Website | Facebook | Instagram

AND you can receive your own free samples with their free samples program. Click HERE for more info and to get your samples! This program gives you the opportunity to try out Maple Holistics products at no cost, all while learning about an all-natural, cruelty-free company based in the U.S.

This post is in partnership with Maple Holistics.