How to Make Your Home Smell Like Fall

By: Dr. Alyssa Musgrove

Fall is finally in the air! While the changing leaves add visual beauty to our surroundings, the comforting and soothing scents of the season are cropping up all around us. It’s time for pumpkin spice and everything nice!

Scented Candles Aren’t the Best Choice

While it’s easy to reach for candles and air fresheners to enhance those fall fragrances this time of year, these products may not be the healthiest choice. Many scented candles and air fresheners use synthetic perfumes. These perfumes are not aggressively regulated, so it’s difficult to know exactly what is being released into the air. On top of that, many candles and air fresheners contain phthalates. Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors that have been shown to play a role in hormone abnormalities and other health problems.

A Healthier Alternative

The good news is that it’s very easy – and a whole lot healthier – to make your own stovetop air fresheners from whole food ingredients. A basic stovetop potpourri made of spices, dried fruit peels, and extracts will fill your entire home with a wonderful toxic-free aroma that lasts throughout the day.

Additionally, simmering potpourri on the stove is a great way to add moisture to the air. I often leave mine on for an hour or two, replacing the water as needed. All of that extra moisture helps the heat to stay longer and carries the aroma throughout the house.

Below are several of my favorite simmering pot recipes.  Any of these recipes can be modified to suit your personal preference. There are an infinite number of combinations, so go ahead and experiment!

Be sure to discard the ingredients in the pot once the mix starts to smell or look “off.” (I’ve never simmered a stovetop potpourri for more than a week.) It also helps to have a dedicated pot for your stove top simmers, as cleaning the pot afterwards can be a chore and involve some scrubbing. This is definitely not something you want to do in your favorite pot!

Basic Fall Stovetop Simmer

  • 5 cups water
  • 2 navel oranges, peeled
  • 1 apple, sliced in half
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon-sized knob of fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried orange peel

Combine all ingredients together in a saucepan and heat over low heat until simmering. I have kept this going for a few hours, adding additional water when needed. You can also place everything in a small crockpot and set it on low or high with the top off.

Other variations:

Ginger Orange

  • 3 cups water (or enough to cover the fruit and spices)
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 oranges cut into wedges or 1 cup dried orange peel or 2 cups fresh orange peel
  • ¼ cup grated or thinly sliced fresh ginger or 2 Tbs. dried ground ginger

Cinnamon Apple

  • 1 quart water (or enough to cover the fruit and spices)
  • 2 apples cut into slices or 1 cup dried apple peel or 2 cups fresh peels and/or cores, organic if possible
  • 6 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 Tablespoons whole cloves or 1½ Tablespoon ground cloves (I think whole have a stronger scent and I love these cloves)

Apple Cider Chai

Winter Woods Simmering Pot

  • ½ cup juniper berries
  • 1 sprig thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 1 sprig rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary)

Ginger Citrus Simmering Pot

  • ¼ cup grated ginger (or 1 tablespoon ground ginger)
  • peel of 2 oranges
  • peel of 1 lemon
  • 1 bay leaf

Citrus

  • 1 Orange, Sliced
  • 1 Lemon, Sliced
  • Cranberry Bliss
  • 1 orange
  • ½ lemon
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon cloves

Spinach Salad with Beets and Goat Cheese

Spinach Salad with Beets and Goat Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 2 cups peeled cubed beets
  • Olive oil to drizzle on beets
  • 6 cups  spinach
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • Dressing:
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons  Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Roast the beets drizzled with olive oil for 20-30 minutes at 400 or until fork tender.
  2. In a large serving bowl, add spinach, goat cheese and walnuts.
  3. Add  beets to salad mixture.
  4. Combine all ingredients for the dressing in a separate bowl.
  5. Pour dressing over salad and serve immediately.

Sweet Potato Hash Browns

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 sweet potatoes, peeled and grated
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • Egg wash (1 egg beaten with a tablespoon of water)
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the onions, garlic, and sweet potatoes.  Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Sauté for 10–15 minutes in coconut oil until sweet potatoes are tender and onions are translucent.
  3. Transfer the sweet potato mixture to a baking pan and brush with the egg wash.
  4. Broil for five minutes, or until potatoes have reached your desired crispiness. They should be just a little browned on top.

Cowboy Caviar

 

Ingredients:

  • 15 ounces canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15 ounces canned black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 3/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon maple sugar
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ avocado, diced
  • Grain-free Chips

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving.
  2. Serve with your favorite grain-free chips.

 

Apple Cinnamon Waffles

 

Apple Cinnamon Waffles

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup flax seed meal I used Organic Golden Flax from Bob’s Red Mill
1/4 cup Swerve Sweetener
1/4 cup unflavored protein powder
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
4 large eggs room temperature
1 cup finely chopped or grated apple
3/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp apple extract optional, helps intensify flavor
Instructions

Preheat a waffle iron to medium and grease if necessary.
In a large bowl, whisk together almond flour, flax seed meal, sweetener, protein powder, baking powder and cinnamon.
Stir in eggs, apple, almond milk, butter, vanilla extract and apple extract and stir until well combined.
Spoon a few tablespoons of batter into each section of the waffle iron and close lid. Cook 4 to 6 minutes, or until golden brown on both sides (the amount of batter and time of cooking will depend on your waffle iron).
Remove waffles and repeat with remaining batter.
Serve with sugar-free syrup.

Mason Jar Chicken Taco Salad

Chicken Taco Mason Jar Salads

Ingredients
For the dressing:
½ cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt can substitute with mayonnaise or sour cream
½ cup taco sauce can substitute with your favorite salsa, but it will create a thicker and chunkier dressing, so you may need to thin it with a little bit of water or milk
4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
12 ounces cooked diced Southwestern-seasoned chicken (I find this in the refrigerated section of my grocery store, but you can substitute with any cooked chicken that you season with a little bit of taco seasoning or southwest seasoning)
1 cup black beans from a 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn can use fresh, frozen, or canned & drained
1 cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes
1 cup 4 ounces Sargento® Fine Cut Shredded 4 Cheese Mexican
4 16 ounce/pint-size wide-mouth jars
Instructions
Whisk together dressing ingredients in a small bowl until completely combined.
Place an equal amount of dressing at the bottom of each jar.
Divide remaining ingredients among the jars, layering in the following order: chicken, black beans, corn, cheese, tomatoes and lettuce. Twist on the top to seal your salads and refrigerate until ready to serve.
When you’re ready to eat, just dump the jar onto a large plate or bowl and enjoy!

Healthy Buffalo Chicken Tenders

Buffalo Chicken Tenders Recipe

Ingredients:
1 pound chicken tender strips
½ cup cassava flour
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons coconut oil
½ cup hot sauce, plus more to taste
¼ cup ghee
Directions:
Cut all chicken strips in half.
In a medium bowl, combine cassava flour, paprika, cayenne pepper, sea salt, pepper and garlic powder.
In a separate bowl, pour in hot sauce.
Melt coconut oil in pan over medium heat.
Coat both sides of chicken with flour mixture.
Dip floured chicken with hot sauce.
Place all in pan and cook for 6–7 minutes.
Add butter to pan and flip the chicken.
Cook second side for 6–7 minutes until cooked through.
Remove from heat and add additional hot sauce as needed.
Serve hot.

5 Ingredient Sausage and Kale Baked Ziti

 

Ingredients
12 ounces ziti (or any pasta shape).  I recommend gluten free pasta.
1 lb. ground Italian sausage (I strongly recommend using “spicy” Italian sausage)
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 large handfuls roughly-chopped kale leaves, stems removed
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (I used 2% low fat)
optional additional toppings: shredded Parmesan cheese, crushed red pepper flakes

Instructions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Heat a large stockpot full of generously-salted water for the pasta.
In a (separate) large skillet, saute the Italian sausage over medium-high heat until browned (about 8-10 minutes), breaking the sausage up with a spoon into bite-sized pieces while cooking.  When the sausage has browned, add in the minced garlic and saute for 1-2 additional minutes or until the garlic is fragrant.  Remove pan from heat and set aside.
While the sausage is browning, cook the pasta al dente in the stockpot of boiling water according to package instructions. Drain.
Return pasta to the stockpot and add the sausage, garlic and kale. Gently toss to combine until the kale is dark green and slightly wilted.
Pour half of the pasta into a greased 11×7-inch or 9×13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with 1 cup of cheese. Layer the remaining half of the pasta evenly on top. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining 1 cup of cheese.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cheese is melted and just barely starts to turn golden. Remove and serve immediately, sprinkled with additional toppings if desired.

Cooling Down with Cucumbers

By: Dr. Alyssa Musgrove

 

When those summer temperatures begin to rise, it’s normal to reach for tasty options to help cool us down. But before you reach for the ice cream and lemonade, take a moment to think outside the box. Cucumbers are a naturally cooling food that offer many nutritional benefits. Low in calories and containing a good amount of fiber and water, cucumbers are an ideal summer treat that can refresh the body, while also helping promote hydration and weight loss.

 

Often thought of as a vegetable, the cucumber is actually a mild-tasting fruit. Cucumbers are members of the Cucurbitaceae family, which also includes melon and squash. Cucumbers come in a variety of colors and sizes. Most commonly, they are sliced and eaten fresh or brined and made into pickles.

 

Composed of about 96% water, cucumbers can also help you meet your daily fluid and hydration needs. They also contain magnesium and other electrolytes that aid in hydrating the digestive system and keeping the bowels relaxed and regular. One cup of cucumbers is only 15 calories and provides about 20% of your daily need of vitamin K. Vitamin K, in combination with other essential nutrients, can help improve calcium absorption and contribute to good bone health.

 

When shopping, look for dark green cucumbers that are firm and smooth without any soft, waterlogged spots or bruises. Plan on eating the whole cucumber, as the skin and seeds contain important health-boosting compounds. Organic and unwaxed cucumbers will pack the biggest nutritional punch, especially if you are consuming the skin. Cucumbers should be stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them (usually within 3-5 days of purchase).

 

Most recipes call for raw cucumbers. This is because, due to their high water content, cucumbers tend to be soggy when cooked. Here are a few ways you can incorporate cucumbers into your daily diet when the dog days of summer are in full force:

 

Create a refreshing summer drink: Thinly slice a cucumber and add it to your water for additional flavor and nutrients. Or try combining 4 ounces of coconut water with the juice of 4 celery stalks, 1 cucumber and 1 lime.

Whip up a salad: Try this quick and healthy cucumber salad with just 5 ingredients: Cut two large cucumbers into 1/8 inch-thick slices. Combine with one small white or red onion chopped, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 teaspoons of dill.

 

Use cucumbers as salad boats or a bread replacement: Cut the cucumber in half and remove seeds in order to have the most room to stuff with your favorite salad. (My local favorite is the chicken salad from Sweet Kneads.) You can also stuff the cucumber with tuna salad or make your own BLT salad.

 

Add to a fruit salad: While it may sound odd, this tasty salad combines multiple fruits that provide a good dose of hydration. In a large bowl combine: 1 container (16 oz.) fresh strawberries cut in half, 1 english cucumber cut in half lengthwise and then into ¼ inch slices, 1 cup cubed honeydew melon. Chill until ready to serve. Just before serving, whisk together: 3 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons lime juice and 1 teaspoon grated lime zest and drizzle over the cut fruit, tossing gently to coat.

 

Finally, try this recipe at your next summer potluck. It is light, refreshing and has great flavor.

 

Cucumber and Chickpea Salad

3 cans (15 oz. each) chickpeas or garbanzo beans rinsed and drained
4 large cucumbers, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch pieces

2 packages (3.5 ounces each) feta cheese
1 cup finely chopped red onion
½ cup ranch salad dressing
2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Combine cucumber, onion, feta, chickpeas. In a separate bowl mix ranch dressing, dill, salt and pepper, pour that over the salad ingredients, toss continuously to coat. Refrigerate covered for 1 hour before serving.

 

One Pan Lemon Parmesan Chicken and Asparagus

One Pan Lemon Parmesan Chicken and Asparagus
Ingredients

1 and 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or tenders
1/3 cup flour
1 cup panko*
1 cup parmesan cheese separated
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3-4 lemons
1 tablespoon minced garlic
8 tablespoons melted butter separated, I use unsalted
1 tablespoon lemon pepper seasoning
1 pound asparagus
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons honey
Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
Grab three bowls. Add the flour to one bowl.
Combine panko, 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, dried parsley, garlic powder, about 1/2 teaspoon each of salt (I use seasoned salt) and pepper. Stir.
In the final bowl, add 1-2 teaspoons lemon zest, 4-5 tablespoons lemon juice (depending on lemon flavor intensity desired), minced garlic, and 5 tablespoons melted butter. Stir. Remove 4 tablespoons of this mixture and set aside.
Slice chicken breasts to the size of tenders (about 1 and 1/4th inch strips) or use chicken tenders.
Coat in flour, heavily dredge in garlic lemon mixture, and then coat in the Parmesan panko mixture.
Place on prepared sheet pan. Use any remaining Parmesan panko mixture and sprinkle over tenders. Sprinkle lemon pepper seasoning over the tenders (I use Mrs. Dash lemon pepper)
Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes and remove.
Flip the tenders to the other side.
Place the asparagus next to the tenders and drizzle the reserved lemon butter sauce. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese over the asparagus and toss with tongs.
If desired place lemon slices over the chicken (optional)
Return to the oven and bake for another 10-12 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken has reached 165 degrees F.
Meanwhile, whisk remaining 3 tablespoons melted butter, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 1-2 teaspoons lemon zest, 3 tablespoons olive oil, and 3 tablespoons honey in a small bowl. Add some pepper and parsley if desired.
Remove from the oven and top with the honey lemon mixture and fresh parsley if desired and enjoy immediately.
Do not top chicken breasts with the honey lemon mixture unless eating immediately and aren’t planning on having leftovers since it will make it soggy.