Relaxing Lavender Scrub How-To

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Confession: I am a bath junkie...totally addicted. I'm in the tub at least 3 times a week, and I don't do just plain ol' warm water baths, either. Specific salts, scents, and scrubs definitely complete the ritual, and are - in my opinion - my dear friend, what make a bath worth taking. 

Sometimes, I can tell if I've accidentally eaten something with gluten in it because I won't be able to sleep for 2 or 3 nights in a row. Completely miserable! (You can read more about my gluten-free journey here.) So for me, a relaxing night time routine can be super beneficial. I am a big fan of essential oils, and lavender is my go-to for relaxation. Now before you throw your red flags up, let me just say this. Lots of people right now are "into" essential oils. I used to think it was all just a bunch of hippie hype, but I tried some, and you know what? They actually worked. And because I'm weird and I just have  to find out stuff I get curious about, I did a lot of research on their clinical benefits. Journals of neurology, psychiatry, internal medicine, pharma, and countless organizations have conducted and published research on the health benefits of every oil under the sun. Their benefits are clinically proven and real, and in fact, tons of our pharmaceuticals are derived from the very plants we extract essential oils from - essential oils just haven't been messed with and don't have other chemicals added with them. My philosophy is to always try to do things nature's way if possible, rather than pumping myself full of chemicals, hence my oil usage schpiel. Aside from clinical benefits, they are a great way to get good smellin' without dies, synthetic fragrances, and carcinogen-laden perfumes. Now. Back to my bath euphoria. 

My relaxing baths consist of rediculously hot water. I'm talking, detox-sauna-sweat-it-all-out hot. Lavender. Epsom salt. Some kind of bath oil. Exfoliation. Low lights. No phone, no wine (it interferes with your ability to sleep if you have it too close to bed time!) and a glass of water or some chamomile tea. It takes way too much prep to measure out the salt and oil for every bath, plus I like to exfoliate with the salt, so I made a scrub to keep on the window sill by my tub. It's ready and easy to use whenever I want to relax. I've also made this as a gift - seems like it could be a good one for Mother's Day or end of the year teacher appreciation! 

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 Whether you're ready for a little self- indulgent treat, prepping for a great night of sleep, or looking for a DIY gift idea, here's what you'll need to make yours! 

  • I tightly sealing glass jar
  • 1/4 cup organic coconut oil (the solid kind - but soften it by running hot water over the jar before you measure it out)
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup Epsom salt
  • 2 Tablespoons dried lavender petals (you can find this in the bulk spice section at grocery stores, or dry your own lavender blooms at home. If you don't have this part, it's okay, just skip it) 
  • 15 drops lavender essential oil, 20 if you don't use dried lavender too
  • 5 drops lemon essential oil

In a mixing bowl, combine the softened coconut oil and baking soda. It will be a whipped cream-like consistency. Add the salt and essential oils. At this point, assess how it's shaping up. Do you like the consistency? If it's feeling too chunky, add in another spoonful of coconut oil. If it's too creamy, add another 1/4 cup of Epsom salt. Finally, mix in the lavender petals gently. 

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If you are gifting this or want to make it look nice to keep out, you can wrap the jar with some twine and tuck a sprig of lavender into it. And boom...relaxation in a jar!

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I enjoy plopping a scoop of it into the tub and letting it dissolve while the water is running, and slathering it on my arms and legs during the bath. The baking soda really softens your skin! I'd love to hear your bathtub relaxation recipes. Enjoy!

Homemade Gluten Free Cinna-Apple-Carrot Larabars: The Best Snack Ever.

Being a celiac, I basically can't buy any processed food. Being a mom, I need readily available pre-made snacks on hand at any given time. Being one who eats like a man, I need these snacks to be substantial. A handful of nuts ain't gonna cut it around here, you know what I'm sayin?

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ow, if you haven't yet had the pleasure of eating a real live store-bought larabar, you haven't lived. They are sooooo good! Non-GMO fruit and nut bars - and they fill u up! I love traveling with them because you can stash some in your bag for the week and always have something handy in a pinch. But they are at least $1.50 per bar, and they are small. 

Soooo. I make my own and I get like double the amount for the same price. nd now you can too! Here's the recipe: 

*Preheat oven to 350.

  • 2 large whole carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks. 
  • 5 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
  • 4 cups certified gluten free oats. * To make a paleo version, substitute 3 1/2 cups almond meal and 1/2 cup coconut flour for the oats. It will change the texture a bit, but tastes great. 
  • 4 cups pecans. If you have walnuts, those are ok too, but I find pecans taste better and make it crunchier
  • 4 cups pitted organic dates
  • 1 cup organic raisins
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

First, spread the oats/almond meal on a cookie sheet and the pecans on another cookie sheet. Put both cookie sheets in the oven to toast them till u can see they've browned a bit and you can start to smell them. (Prob 10-15 min) Take them out to cool, but leave the oven on. 

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While that stuff is cooling, put 1/2 of the carrots, apples, raisins and dates in a food processor. Pulse or blend until it becomes a salsa-like consistency. You want there to be obvious specks/small chunks of carrots and apples maybe the size of a lemon seed.  You don't want it super chunky, but you also don't want it to be a purée either. Spoon that half into a bowl, and do it again with the next half. When you're done, spoon that half into the bowl too. 

Now dump the oats/almond meal and the pecans in the processor with the cinnamon and salt. Pulse it until it resembles brown sugar.  

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Now dump it all into the bowl with the carrot/apple/raisin/date mixture and stir it up really good until it combines evenly.

Line a 9x13 baking dish with parchment paper.

Plop the contents of the bowl into the parchment, and spread it out evenly in the dish. Make sure to smooth the top!

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Bake for 20 minutes if you left the apples and carrots chunky, 25 minutes if they were more on the puréed side.  

Let them cool completely.  

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With a sharp knife, ut into bars. I can get 24 bars out of this if I slice it right! Wrap each one in foil, and stick them in the fridge or freezer. I keep mine in the freezer. Now you've got a healthy snack ready to go! They defrost quick - within 5 or 10 min at room temp. Perfect for packing in the diaper bag when I'm going to be out for the day. 

hope you enjoy! 

How To Make Non-Toxic Whitening Toothpaste

I have huge teeth. And a huge mouth. My family makes fun of me, and it's kind of a joke amongst my friends as I always seem to be captured mid-laugh in photos, making my jaw appear as though it has come unhinged. Case in point: this lovely gem.  

Huge huge huge.  

Huge huge huge.  

Up until a few years ago, I always enjoyed bright white teeth. But during pregnancy, it was like the baby sucked the white right off my teeth somehow. Then when I got diagnosed with celiac disease, the malnutrition I suffered during the onset of the disease further stripped my teeth of their white bright healthy look. I was left with sensitive, yellow teeth, and I got my first cavity at age 30. Prescription toothpastes did nothing. Crest Complete and Colgate Total left weird tastes in my mouth and almost made it feel numb. So I was in the market for an alternative.  

Then I heard this podcast (http://www.bengreenfieldfitness.com/2014/12/302-how-to-reverse-tooth-cavities-the-healthiest-cookware-how-to-use-a-squatty-potty/) from my friend, (I call him my friend...we've never actually met. But I know enough about him through listening to his podcasts that we'd be friends if we ever did meet. So, we're friends.) Ben Greenfield, about how it actually is possible to re-mineneralize your teeth, reverse cavities, and whiten them all without chemicals. (Start at 25 minutes in to hear the tooth section) And I got this recipe for non-toxic, teeth whitening, remineralizing toothpaste. I'm so shocked by how well it works and how clean my mouth feels when I use it. Listen to the podcast for other recipes and more info about how diet can actually fix a ton of tooth probs. Here's how to make it! 

Homemade Re-Mineralizing Whitenening Toothpaste

You'll need baking soda, trace mineral drops, essential oil of choice, coconut oil, and (optional) stevia. Also a jar to store the toothpaste in. 

2 parts coconut oil (I use 4 TBSP) 

1 part baking soda (2 TBSP)  

20 drops trace minerals

20 drops essential oil, such as peppermint or clove.  Make sure you are using a food-grade essential oil (Young Living and doTerra are good ones) because the cheapy ones are cut with lots of chemicals and that's precisely what we are trying to avoid here! 

Stevia to taste. (I didn't use any...but if this is your first foray into natural toothpaste, it could help you ease into it.)

Here are the brands I used.  

Here are the brands I used.  

Coconut oil starts to melt at 76 degrees. You can place your bowl in a sink full of hot water to help soften the coconut oil if you are having trouble mixing it. Or if you live in Texas right now, step outside and the whole jar will melt in .02 seconds. 

Coconut oil starts to melt at 76 degrees. You can place your bowl in a sink full of hot water to help soften the coconut oil if you are having trouble mixing it. Or if you live in Texas right now, step outside and the whole jar will melt in .02 seconds. 

Done!  

Done!  

It's a little funny to get used to, as this toothpaste doesn't foam like Crest would, but your mouth will feel so clean! Also, you may want to spit into a cup vs. the sink because you don't want all that coconut oil solidifying in your drain. 

Quality time vs. quantity time...is one really better than the other?

If you've read my "about me" page, you know that my husband and I have made sacrifices so that we have margin in our lives for THE GOOD STUFF. And to us, GOOD STUFF = time together, silliness, and having room in our schedules to make healthy food and - if you can believe it - actually having time to eat that food together as a family. It's so 1950's of us, right? But we have gone out of our way for it because we believe that you really can't schedule quality time. 

"Blasphemy!" you might say. Heck, that statement might downright tick you off. I'm sorry if it does. That's so not my motive here! So stick with me! I've heard it said "I don't have much time, but we make the time we have together count." It's a nice thought, and one I've had myself. But when I actually try to put that notion into practice, it always ends up falling apart before I even have a chance to get out the door. See, in my experience, quality time just happens...usually right in the middle of every-day life. It's hard to have quality moments when you're rushing from one thing to the next, don't you think? Because this is what a busy day at my house typically looks like - before we even get out the door:

Me: "Ford, where are your shoes, buddy? I JUST put them on you! Quick, grab them and I'll put them on again in the car!" (Baby simultaneously soils diaper. Ford somehow unscrews lid and spills sippy cup of milk all over himself and the floor.) 

Ford: (Crying because he got his beloved John Deere shirt dirty, but still drives his trucks through milk puddles on the floor.)

Me: (While changing baby's diaper in the middle of the hallway) "Ford! I just asked you to do something. Please don't make me ask again. Let's go!" 

Ford: "Okay! Hustle! I will huuuuuustle! My shirt is sticking to me, Mom. Is this shirt dirty, Mom? Do I have to change shirts, Mom?" (Runs out the door. Forgets shoes.)

Me: (Grabbing shoes, purse, diaper bag, snacks, drinks, keys, baby, all while setting alarm and holding the dog back so she doesn't escape into the garage as I'm leaving. Out of breath, and starting to sweat. Ignore milk till later.) Nope, you're good! Thanks, buddy! 

<<Repeat in between every errand>>

Hard to have a moment for some quality convo in the midst of all that ruckus, no? Sure, you can schedule special outings or events and those can definitely turn in to quality moments, but the real GOOD STUFF kind of quality time I'm talking about just shows up unannounced, right in the middle of quantity time. And you'll miss it if you aren't carving out regular time to spend together. It stinks for us busy people, us DOERS. And I def put myself in that category. But do you see what I'm saying here?

Case in point:

The other day, I was folding laundry, and the boys were "helping" me. Exactly. So, really,  I was endlessly folding and re-folding clothes. But it was in the middle of this hum-drum being with my kids kind of day that Quality Time decided to make an appearance. As I was re-folding a shirt for the third time, Ford asked me "Mom, do you remember that green lady who lived outside?" (We had driven to downtown Dallas months ago, and there was a homeless lady wearing a green shirt sitting at a bus stop with her shopping cart that had all her stuff in it. I told Ford about how some people don't have houses to sleep and eat in, and how they have to live outside and how God has given us so many good things so we can help people if they need it. We talked to her and gave her a homeless pack - basically a bag of goodies I keep in the car to give to homeless people when I come across them.) "Yes, I sure do," I said. "Do you think she has a shirt to wear today? Maybe we should give her some of these shirts. I like my John Deere green shirts." I mean, I gotta tell ya, my heart just about exploded with joy right then and there. We continued to talk about the green lady and how we could help her, and other boys and girls like her. We rounded up shirts for the green lady and her friends from Ford's closet, Finn's closet, and my closet, and we took them to the donation center. It was an amazing moment because I got to tell Ford how proud I was of his heart, and that God was so proud too because he was using his heart and his special gifts to share with people who need them, and it will be a quality lesson that sticks with Ford for a long time. And it was fun. But it never wouldda happened if I was in a hurry. 

Helper 1. In case you were wondering, the John Deere shirts did NOT make the donation stack because Ford figured the Green Lady already had one. 😉 

Helper 1. In case you were wondering, the John Deere shirts did NOT make the donation stack because Ford figured the Green Lady already had one. 😉 

Helper 2. Mostly he just oversaw things and shouted orders and wrecked my stacks.  

Helper 2. Mostly he just oversaw things and shouted orders and wrecked my stacks.  

He melts me!  

He melts me!  

Learning.  

Learning.  

So what's a busy mom to do? You'll prob have to take some inventory of the day. What can you cut? Trust me - it will be worth it. Cut a little bit, and gain a lot. Take some time each day to slow down. And just be with. Be with your hubby. Be with your kids. Be with God. And wait for those sweet quality moments to show up, because they will! And when they do, I'd looooooove to hear about it! 

 

 

Healthy Roasted Asparagus and Tomatoes with Shrimp and Rice

This is such a visually appealing dish. If you are trying to "eat your colors," this is a good one to mix in. And it's super easy to make. Pow pow!

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  • 1 cup sprouted rice
  • 1 3/4 cup veggie broth for cooking rice
  • 1 TBSP coconut oil
  • 1 bunch skinny stem asparagus. Trimmed and cut in thirds
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

*Preheat oven to 375F

Start with the rice, and prepare according to package instructions...but read this first! I used Lundberg's Sprouted Rice. When preparing grains, lots of people know it's best to use whole grains. [Be sure to check the label - and if it doesn't explicitly say "whole,' it's not.] Most people don't know that there are additional health benefits to consuming sprouted grains. When grains are sprouted, some of the starches that can be hard to digest are broken down and used in the sprouting process. Sprouted grains can also have higher levels of nutrients, protein, vitamins, and minerals compared to unsprouted grains, and are found to have health benefits relating to depression, cardiovascular health, blood pressure, diabetes, and benefits for nursing moms to name a few. [source: wholegrainscouncil.org] Sprouted grains are available in the "healthy" section at standard grocery stores, or widely available at stores such as Whole Foods or on ThriveMarket.com. 

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One more brain buster for you. When you prepare the rice, instead of using water to cook with, use broth. Chicken, veggie, mushroom, bone or beef...doesn't matter. I used veggie because I had an open box in the fridge. Also, for each cup of rice, add 1 TBSP of coconut oil. Doing this actually changes the starch in the rice to a complex starch...making it much healthier. Read more about it here!

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Next, place trimmed and cut asparagus and halved tomatoes on a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over the veggies. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss them a bit to make sure each piece is coated. SO PRETTY!! Bake for 15 minutes, until tomatoes blister but don't blacken. Set aside. 

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This is a good time for a lil break. We danced to #TSwift Bad Blood during ours. Hey-o! Excuse the PJ pants. It's my cooking uniform. 

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Okay. Back to bidness. After the rice has been cooking about 20 minutes, start the shrimp. Melt 1/2 the butter in the skillet and add 1/2 the garlic and 1/2 the shrimp. Sauté for 2 minutes on each side. Don't overcook the shrimp or they'll be tough! Pour all that yummy stuff - melted butter included...no, ESPECIALLY the melted butter - onto the pan where the veggies are resting. Start the next batch, and repeat the process. 

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Now for the good part! Time to plate up! Rice, then veggies, shrimp, butter, and garlic. 

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Does that not look divine? Enjoy!

  

Making the little stuff count.

My husband, Ryan, is a great man. And a great dad. One of the things I love that he does is making THE GOOD STUFF out of the small moments with our kids. When he was growing up, he remembers how special his parents made really mundane things - like grilling burgers or watching football on Saturdays - into fun events that they really looked forward to. And he's been purposeful about doing the same thing with our boys. He's great at building up the simple stuff to be the really fun stuff, and it's these little moments that turn into the best memories. Remember the good old days when going for ice cream could light a fire of excitement under your tush? Remember how we were totally fine with pretending to have stuff, instead of actually having it? Do you ever feel like our kids are missing that?

Small Stuff 6

For whatever reason, I think parents today feel like we have to create extraordinary experiences for our kids on a regular basis or they won't feel special. We feel pressure to create childhood magic, which is why we throw crazy huge birthday parties for 3 year-olds (**guilty sheepish grin**) or give iPhones to our 5 year-olds. It's just craycray! And I for one am drawing my proverbial line in the sand and stopping this madness. "Childhood magic" is simply the joy found in discovering new things about your world. Not having responsibilities to tend to. Having unabashed joy in the little things that delight you throughout your day. It's about "just being a kid." And ultimately, even though we probably set out thinking we are simply doing something extra special for our kids, if we do that too often, we end up creating munchkins whose expectations are that they must be entertained and catered to at all times. (Disclaimer: giving your kids gifts and making them feel special is good. I'm all for that! I'm just saying that over-doing it can actually become a negative if we aren't careful.) The good news is, we can foster that in our own homes for our kids...and they will actually like it! 

Every Saturday, we bring the boys in bed and snuggle for a little bit, enjoying not having a schedule. And then, Ryan announces, "Guess what daaaaaaaaay it is?" At this point without fail, my 3 year-old loses his mind because he knows it's Saturday, and from there, the boys proceed to throw on shoes and go to the donut store in their pjs to get a single donut. A whole 80 cents and 15 minutes later, they are back home, and we all have breakfast together and it's a time I will always cherish. 

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The grandparents join the party sometimes too. 

Small Stuff 3
Small Stuff 2
Small Stuff

 

I'd love to hear about the small moments you build up to be "the good stuff!" 

Doing life with a "threenager."

Look at this face. He's a doll! Right? 

So precious. And, as I tell him everyday, I will always love him no matter what. But I gotta say, life hasn't been all toothy grins over here as of late. My compliant, rule-following firstborn is totally a full-fledged threenager.  If you can relate, you prob agree that the so-called "terrible twos" were a breeze in comparison, amiright?!  So it's kind of left my head spinning, wondering how to lovingly shepherd this guy into obedience whilst keeping my patience and sanity. I have found several tools as my disposal, which I will gladly share. Some are serious, some are funny, all have been necessary at one time or another. Enjoy and employ!

  • Books: I'm the type who likes to do a lot of research about stuff I'm dealing with, so as you can imagine, I have an arsenal of parenting books I turn to on the topic when the going gets rough. These are all Christian-based books, because I'm committed to building a biblical foundation for my kids. If you don't deem yourself a Christian, I still recommend these books as the principles can be applied regardless.

The Mission of Motherhood, by Sally Clarkson: my favorite of all. Being a mom of littles can be exhausting, exasperating, and make you feel like you live life on repeat. This book helps me remember that each small day adds up to building a little life - and that matters. It stretches me to make the most of my time as a parent, and challenges me to focus on the eternal impact I have for my kids.

Real Moms...Real Jesus, by Jill Savage: a great read to help keep the mundane tasks of motherhood in perspective. 

Out of the Spin Cycle, by Jen Haymaker: for laughs. And inspiration. 

Don't Make Me Count to Three, by Ginger Plowman: a great resource when it comes to discipline. It helps you correct the attitude behind behaviors, not just the actions you are trying to fix.

  • Keep it fun: The more fun you have, the easier it is to be compassionate and understanding, and dole out discipline when needed. Make a habit of having fun together regularly. Having that baseline relationship with your kids really does help them be more receptive to correction. I can really tell when this balance gets out of whack because my little guy will start acting out, and I feel exasperated pretty much constantly. If this is you, mix in a play date together doing something you both enjoy, or just have a good tickle time. Laughing brings you closer!
  • Pray: I seriously could not be a good mom without praying multiple times a day for God to give me extra patience, love, and compassion for my kids. I have also been known to cry in the closet during nap time or the tub after bedtime while asking for those things too. 
  • Don't be afraid to bust out the "mommy juice." Maybe your bev of choice is a hot spot-o-tea. Or maybe it's a crisp glass of chardonnay. Or a Topo Chico and lime. I've been known to have all three lined up at once along the side of the tub before...so do what you gotta do every now and then. 

If there's a healthy coping mechanism I'm missing here, please enlighten me! Us moms, aka #bossladies, need all the support and encouragement we can get!

 

Fresh and Zesty Take on My Favorite Soup from Gloria's Restaurant

I LOVE Tex-Mex. And I love to eat healthy. Oh, and I have to eat gluten free because I have Celiac Disease. Which kind of poses a problem because the three don't tend to co-exist very peacefully. 

BUT - my favorite place to get Mexican food (okay, Latin food in this case), is a restaurant in the Dallas area called Gloria's. Best queso ever. But it's not GF. In fact, of all the Tex-Mex places I frequent, they have the smallest amount of GF offerings. BOO! 

I also happen to love their chicken soup, so I decided to see if I could replicate it at my house. And lemme just say, I think I did a pretty dang good job. The boys and the hubs agreed. So without further ado, here's a GF/dairy free/grain free version.

***I always try to use free-range or pastured organic meats and organic veggies. 

  • I started by making a crock pot chicken. I use this recipe (sort of...I just eyeball my spices for the rub and use whatever I have on hand, but if you're new to it, just follow the recipe). Cooking a whole chicken at a time is not only healthier, but it kills like 8 birds (no pun intended) with one stone because you have plenty of meat left over to make other meals with, and you can make broth with the skin and bones and use them in tons of other recipes. The link above also includes a recipe for broth. Homemade chicken/bone broth is SO beneficial for healing from sickness, pregnancy/birth, and a host of other things your body may be recovering from. The store-bought kind really just doesn't compare, especially if you add in some good stuff like apple cider vinegar, cilantro, parsley, and turmeric for additional minerals and ions. 
  • In the meantime, I took about 6 cups - up to 8 cups is fine - of my chicken broth (mentioned above) and brought it to a boil. 
  • Dice up a rib or two of celery, 1 small crooked neck yellow squash, 2 vine ripened tomatoes, 4 cloves of minced garlic, and 1 yellow onion and throw them in the boiling broth. I also threw in 2 cups of frozen mixed veggies (corn, carrots, peas, and green beans were in my mix). 
  • Add 1 tsp sea salt (make sure it's Himalayan or something comparable - if not, you may need to add a little more than 1 tsp), 1 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp turmeric, and 1/2 tsp cumin. I tend to guess at measurements, so if you like more of one particular flavor, feel free to throw in a little more of it!
  • Lastly, ream 1 lime and add all that juice to the pot. 
  • Let it simmer for about 30 minutes. 
  • Once it's ready, chop up some of the chicken from the crock pot and add it in. Then serve! 
  • Chop up 1 avocado, and a handful of cilantro for garnish. Or 6 avocados if you're like me. :) And if you really want to werk your kitchen like a bosslady, you can make your own tortilla strips, like I did. They were DIVINE!

 

  • 5 corn tortillas
  • 1 heavy frying pan. Do not use a non-stick pan! I went for cast iron, but a dutch oven would work fine too. 
  • This part is really technical, so pay attention. 1 glob of coconut oil, one hunk of grass-fed butter (such as Kerrygold), 4 glugs of avocado oil, and 4 glugs of olive oil. Got that? Clear as mud? Seriously, the exact quantities don't matter here - the goal is to have enough to pool up in the bottom of the pan. I was trying to achieve a good mixture of fats that are safe to heat to a high temperature, which is how I ended up with this combo. 
  • Heat the oil on MEDIUM. If it starts smoking, it's too hot, and you need to turn it down, STAT, or you'll risk it catching fire! 
  • Slice up the tortillas, and in about 4 batches, put them in the oil. Cook on one side for about 3 minutes, turn, and cook the other side for 3 minutes. You want them to be golden brown. I did this while the soup was simmering. 
  • Remove from the pan, add a little sprinkling of salt, and drain on a paper towel before serving. It helps mop up any oil sitting on top of the strips.

All in all it took me about an hour to make this little ditty. Well worth it! I'd love to hear your comments about how to make it better or your thoughts if you make it!