Simple Summer Bucket List

 

With so much happening in May, the end of preschool and the beginning of homeschool for our family, this summer seems like a great time to slow down and focus on simplicity, enjoying life right now just as it is. I asked our oldest son to help me put together a summer bucket lis focused on the simple things he loves to do!

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SIMPLE SUMMER BUCKET LIST:
+ Play at the pool with friends
+ Stay up late and look at the moon and stars with our telescope
+ Lay on a blanket outside at night and look at the stars
+ Chase fireflies in the backyard
+ Make homemade strawberry ice cream
+ Go to the beach!
+ Run through the octopus sprinkler with friends (ours was a gift, but this looks neat!)
+ Pick blackberries and make jam
+ Finish our Summer Brain Quest book and start the next one!
+ Go on our annual family reunion in North Georgia (the waterslide is a favorite!)
+ Start a bi-weekly dinner club with some local friends + their little ones

We will add to it as we go if we think of other things as well. What is on your summer bucket list??

 

Cooper Creek WMA

 

One of our favorite quick weekend getaways with our kids is the Cooper Creek Wildlife Management Area in north Georgia! The river is easily accessible from the road or campsites, so it’s a fun place whether you are just up for the day or if you are camping! We will often drive up and take a picnic lunch, then just set up for the day next to the river to let the boys play, fish and explore. I also really enjoy cooking breakfast at the campsite and sitting by the fire with a cup of coffee. Sometimes it’s the littlest things that make us the happiest!

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Most recently we went up to camp and although all the sites were full, we were able to find a spot on the side of the road that worked just fine. We spent the day in the river building fairy houses, splashing around and doing a little fishing. The Department of Natural Resources stocks the creek with trout, so the likelihood of catching something is higher here, especially after a stock happens!

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Camping with the boys is one of my favorite activities. While it can sometimes be stressful with tiny ones, pushing through and going anyway has always been so rewarding. (Tips on camping with babes, toddlers and kids coming soon!) We started camping with Elliot around the six month mark and Isaac when he was just a few weeks old! It is worth every back packed, every car ride song, every hour of missed sleep to see them love and explore nature, to hear the things they say around the campfire, and to get some really great snuggles at night. We are already looking forward to all our fall trips, including one to Grayson Highlands in Virginia!

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Friday Favorites: Simple Swaps for a Green Home

 

Simplifying our cleaning products and routine can feel like an overwhelming task, so here are a few simple swaps that you can make today to ditch and switch!

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+ Wool dryer balls:
I used to be a devout dryer sheet gal! I love for our clothes and sheets to smell good, but I found a better way! You can ditch the toxic dryer sheets and switch to sustainably sourced wool dryer balls + essential oils for scent! This is a super simple and inexpensive switch that will impact your health and the plant and make your laundry smell so good! We love peppermint or eucalyptus oil for adding yummy smells!

+ Foaming hand soap (DIY or DI-Buy) and glass dispensers:
Instead of purchasing single use hand soaps, opt for a reusable container and either make your own or use our favorite foaming hand soap (gentle on the skin yet kills all the ick!).

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+ One all-purpose plant-based house cleaner:
Our favorite cleaner is the Thieves cleaner! Because it cleans our ENTIRE home, it has replaced all the cleaners we used to have under the sink. Simplicity at its best! Thieves cleaner is safe for pets and little ones and is super cost effective - one capful makes a 16oz glass spray bottle. We use it in in a lot of simple DIYs - stain stick, stain pretreatment, mattress and upholstery spray, sink and tile scrub (find all of them here!). I like to keep a spray bottle made up in the kitchen and one in the bathroom so that even the five year old can clean up after himself!

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BONUS:
Grab an essential oil diffuser and our favorite essential oils to make your entire home smell like Anthropologie without the toxins from candles (EPA now says candle fumes are the new second hand smoke, so crazy!) I used to love scented candles and would wait anxiously for my favorites to go on sale each year. Now we diffuse some of our favorite blends, our home smells so good, and I can even leave the diffuser going when we’re gone and come home to a clean, purified and amazing smelling home!

 

Simplifying for the Summer

 
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This year our calendar was completely full the first two weeks of May - things to attend, gifts to prepare, family functions to organize. It was a beautifully sweet time, but it left us feeling a bit frazzled and solidified my desire to ensure that our life doesn’t maintain such a pace. As a family we want to make sure we are moving at a slower pace, enjoying the little things in life and not rushing through our days, and with homeschool and extracurriculars just around the corner, it seems important to emphasize this now. We want an ‘old fashioned’ childhood for our little ones - bare feet in the grass, leaf piles for jumping, summer days with sprinklers. So I put together a list of areas to really focus on simplifying over the summer.

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SIMPLE ACTIVITIES:

We want our kids to be excited about little things like leaf piles in the fall and sprinklers in the summer! Though that doesn’t mean that we won’t throw in a family beach trip!

+ Early summer camping - before it gets too hot! We love heading up to the Nantahala river and playing in the stream.
+ Backyard pool days - we have this pool sitting between our raised garden beds and recently thrifted a big slide to up the fun!
+ Family walks and bike rides on the local trails
+ Dinner on the back porch - Friday nights are family night, and during the colder months we build a fire and watch a movie. For the summer we’ve decided to take family night outdoors! I’m envisioning grilling, dinner on the patio, solar twinkle lights and kicking around the soccer ball.
+ Star gazing - One of our favorite things about our annual trip to Grayson Highlands is all the beautiful stars! We’re bringing the feel of the mountains to the backyard with later bedtimes, blankets on the hill and peeking through our thrifted telescope.

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SIMPLE RECIPES:

I want to focus on recipes with just a few ingredients and utilize all the wonderful summer produce from our garden and local CSA!
+ This simple strawberry crumble is a huge hit, easily comes together and is perfect for using all the summer berries (or peaches)! Our blackberry and blueberry bushes are full this year, so we will be trying this out with our backyard haul!
+ This lemon chicken salad is a staple in our house and is perfect for summer picnics! We love it with gluten-free crackers, homemade tapioca bread (recipe coming soon!) or with sliced avocado.
+ Canning our summer tomatoes (full post to come!)
+ Five ingredient salads - I will share these as we go!

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PHYSICALLY DECLUTTER + SIMPLIFY:

+ Playroom - I’m planning a major clean and purge for our playroom this summer! There is a local consignment sale in September, so toys will either be donated or saved for the sale.
+ Homeschool area - Since we are beginning kindergarten homeschool soon, I want to carve out a little space in our dining room for us to use. We have a sideboard in there that we’ll clean and tidy to have some space for organizing any school items.
+ Boys’ closets - At the end of every season I go through the boys’ clothes and donate or store any items that not longer fit. I also want to take inventory of what we have for the fall/winter to keep their wardrobes as simple as possible!

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I’d love for you to join me! I’ll also be sharing over on Instagram (with plenty behind the scenes in stories!), and I’d love for you to join me! Let’s focus on simple, chase slow and live the little things together!

 

Organic Mattress Search + Avocado Mattress

 
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After almost of year of debating + researching we finally purchased an organic king mattress. We searched high and low for one that fit our requirements without breaking the bank, and finally decided on an Avocado Mattress. We looked through many of the most popular brands and compared them based on whether or not they were: organic, zero VOC, sustainably sources, chemical-free, made in the USA and affordable. Here are the other brands we researched and how they compared to Avocado. Note: the prices are based on king size mattresses.

 
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Avocado:                                                               
Organic: YES                                                                
Zero VOC: YES                                                             
Sustainably sourced: YES                                            
Chemicals: NONE                                                        
Made in USA: YES (handmade to order)                    
Price: $$ (1100)                                                            

Saavta:                                                                         
Organic cotton: Yes                                                    
Zero VOC: Low VOC                                                    
Sustainably sourced: Yes                                             
Chemicals: No                                                              
Made in USA: Yes                                                         
Price: $$$ (1700)                                                         

My Green Mattress:
Organic cotton: Yes
Zero VOC: Low VOC
Sustainably sourced: Yes
Chemicals: No
Made in USA: Yes
Price: $ (1200+)

Intellibed
Organic cotton: N/A
Zero VOC: Yes
Sustainably sourced: ?
Chemicals: No
Made in USA: Yes
Price:  $$$$ (3799+)

 
 
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We obviously chose Avocado and are over the moon happy with our mattress! It is comfortable, firm and supportive but soft, safe for our family, and we are supporting a small USA-based business. To say we are happy is an understatement. The edges are supportive, so you don't feel like you are sinking in when you sit on the side of the bed, and I have been sleeping much better than I was on our previous mattress. I don't have to worry about our kids breathing in toxic chemicals from the off-gasing of plastic that occurs in other mattresses. We have enough room for everyone when the littlest sneaks into our bed in the middle of the night. The only problem is that I don't want to get out of bed!

 
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If you follow on Instagram, you've seen that our bedroom is fairly monochromatic but full of pattern and texture. It's my favorite room in the house and one I often visit because it feels so serene. To complete our new bed, I ordered some organic flannel sheets for winter (similar here) + crisp white cotton ones for spring. I went with a black bedskirt to hide the metal frame (and storage underneath!), and we already had a king size comforter (also love this one, this one and the simplicity of this one). I just added a coverlet for more texture and extra warmth and will simply fold the comforter at the food of the bed when the weather warms up again. Add a couple king size pillows for extra coziness, black and white pillow cases (similar here), and an amazing throw (similar here and here) and our bed was complete!

My bedroom has become my oasis, and I truly look forward to climbing into bed at night! 


Other source details:
Black paint: Magnolia for Ace Hardware in Prairie Smoke
Dreamcatcher: Project62 for Target
Comforter: Urban Outfitters (similar linked above) 
Throw blanket: Home Goods (similar linked above)
Macrame curtains: Living Roots Decor
Black dresser: Vintage
Hairpin leg bench: DIY 

Visions for 2018

 
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I love the fresh start of the new year, casting vision for what it will become, writing out big dreams and goals and praying circles around them, waiting with an expectant and hopeful heart for what the Lord will do. Each year I pray for a word to drive my steps, and this year I was given two... obedience + redemption. Through walking in obedience and relinquishing my desire to control, the Lord will begin to write our redemption story. Redemption from financial burdens, from a season of waiting towards a dream the Lord placed into our hearts. Because we have been obedient and will continue to walk in obedience, He will bring us redemption. It is a beautiful promise.

We have words for our family, our marriage, areas where we need growth, areas of vulnerability. We wrote down practical steps towards achieving our goals, which follows with our theme of obedience. To whom much is given, much is required. And while I'd love to sit on the couch and watch Friends after the littlest goes to bed, the Lord is calling me to more action, more work and a solid day of rest on the Sabbath. Sundays will become church, family meals, outdoor play, trips to the park, resting at home. No work, no technology, no meal prepping, just resting in our blessings and focusing on what the Lord has given us.

 
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Since our family word is presence, Friday nights are family night. Maybe we watch a movie, build a bonfire, go on a short hike or simply take a walk around the neighborhood and have dinner outside, but whatever we do it will be intentional, and we will be fully present. 

We are also focusing hard on some financial goals and using YNAB as a budgeting tool. We've used others in the past, but always go back to this one. There is a slight learning curve, but I really like the accountability of having to enter every transaction into the budgeting software! Our big dream is to have zero debt and pay cash for our next home, and we are making small changes that will result in big overall differences.

We have personal goals, financial and savings goals, marriage goals and God-sized dreams, and I cannot wait to see what unfolds in the months to come. I believe that I have a spot at the table of abundance, that I am a daughter of the Most High King, and that He wants to bless me mightily so that He might be glorified. I pray that you believe those things about yourself too.

Wishing light + love to you and yours this New Year!

 

Thai Chicken Stir Fry

 
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One of our favorite recipes is this Thai Chicken Stir Fry! It's based off of a favorite dish that includes peanuts and peanut butter, but a few simple switches make it completely paleo and Whole30 compliant! It's simple and fresh, and it's toddler approved! The dressing is so good that we will sometimes make to spice up our salads for the week or just to marinate meat. Lots of veggies, clean protein, and family friendly - that's a winner in our book! This is easy to prep in advance and reheat, and it makes a great lunch. Sometimes we make it with all spiralized veggies and only lightly sauté them before adding the chicken. This is my favorite way to make it! I

 
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DRESSING:
1 cup olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, peeled
2/3 cup coconut aminos
1/2 cup white distilled vinegar
1T honey (OMIT during a Whole30)
4T sesame oil
3 drops ginger vitality oil (or 1/2 tsp ginger paste) 
5 drops lemongrass vitality oil (or about 1tsp lemongrass paste)
10 drops lime vitality oil (or a healthy squeeze of lime juice!)
1/2 cup sunflower butter or almond butter

STIR FRY:
2lb chicken breast
5-6 cups baby kale or spinach
1 onion or red onion, sliced
4 large carrots, cut into small pieces
3 bell peppers, cut into small, pieces
1 package or about 10oz organic broccoli
A few large handfuls of spinach, or chopped bok choy
1/2 cup cashews for topping
3 large zucchini, spiraled (or a mix of zucchini, sweet potato even beets! OR rice noodles if not strict paleo/whole30)

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Make dressing: Pulse all the dressing ingredients in a food processor EXCEPT nut butter. Use about 1/4of the mixture to marinate the chicken and refrigerate for about 15-30 minutes. Add the nut butter to the dressing in the food processor; pulse, then taste and adjust as desired. Set aside. 

3. Bake the marinated chicken for 15-20 minutes. While it is cooking, make your vegetable base.

4. Add some oil to a pan, then cook sliced onions for a few minutes, until translucent. Add carrots  and cook covered for about 10 minutes. Add in bell pepper + broccoli and cook until crisp tender. When the chicken is cooked through, slice it and add it to the pan with the vegetables. Add the sauce, stir well, then add the spinach or bok choy and cook for just a few minutes for the greens to slightly wilt. 

5. While the flavors are all mixing in the stir fry, spiralize your 'noodle' base.

6. Add zoodles to a bowl, top with the stir fry and garnish with a lime wedge and some cashews! 

 
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A Healthy Pregnancy 01 I Preparing

 
From when sweet little Elliot was growing in my belly!! Somehow feels like yesterday but also forever ago at the same time. Note: This is NOT a pregnancy announcement!* 

From when sweet little Elliot was growing in my belly!! Somehow feels like yesterday but also forever ago at the same time. Note: This is NOT a pregnancy announcement!* 

 

We recently decided to grow our little family (and are SO excited about it!), so I have been incredibly intentional with taking care of myself. Self care in general is an area that can be difficult to prioritize, and I think we often forget about the less sexy areas of self care like vitamins and sleep. It's much more fun to get a massage or take a long, luxurious lavender bath! I'll take either please and thank you! 

Here are a few habits that I've started over the last few months to intentionally support my body and prepare it to grow another little human! All of these are amazing habits to focus on for overall health and wellness even without the potential for pregnancy because who doesn't want a long and healthy life!                            

 
 

NUTRITION: 
- LOTS of green vegetables including kale and spinach for dietary folate, lean proteins including some fish for dietary Omega3s, some complex carbs (currently obsessed with this GF bread). We eat a plant-based, mostly paleo diet with allowances for a little GF bread, rice or quinoa and balance it with making intentional decisions with any indulgences. I'm currently leading a January Whole30 for our wellness community! For more fertility foods, check out this video on Facebook!

- Healthy fats. I've been focusing on a *minimum* of 2T of coconut oil in addition to the olive oil we use on our salads and for cooking. I add a little coconut oil into my coffee (start with 1-2 tsp if you're not used to it!), a protein smoothie when not whole30-ing (the blender makes little coconut blasts that taste like chocolate chips!), overnight oats (when not whole30-ing) or even drizzle it over some fresh fruit! SO good over pineapple and berries!

- Decaf coffee. We actually switched over to using half regular, half decaf coffee when I was pregnant with Elliot and never went back. Fully caffeinated coffee makes me jittery so this balance works best for me! 

 
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SUPPLEMENTS:
- Vitamin B with folate (NOT folic acid). This one is very important. We've all be preached to that we need folate AT conception, but most multivitamins or B supplements contain folic acid which our bodies actually cannot convert to folate. B vitamins are essential to our health and well-being, and each B vitamin performs a unique and separate function in the body. But... they aren't stored in our bodies, so they have to be replenished daily.

- Antioxidants - also super important to help support that growing DNA! Ningxia Red supplement is an organic puree of wolfberries (aka goji berries) along with plum, aronia, cherry, blueberry, and pomegranate juices and extracts, and essential oils. Delish and so amazing for support for energy levels, normal cellular function, and whole-body and normal eye health. I love to combine one packet with 1/2 a can of orange or grapefruit La Croix and add a drop of citrus essential oil. This is also something to keep on hand to help settle that first trimester stomach! I may or may not be stockpiling, ha! 

- Healthy fats! Everyone knows that fish oil is great for supporting a healthy heart, and it's incredibly important to have super clean versions of fish oil. This one is hands down my favorite. Super clean and it also has some Vitamin D! Perfect because your body can't absorb Vitamin D without fat, so combining it in fish oil is brilliant!

- I also take this prenatal gummy

 
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KICKING THE TOXINS:
- When I originally went to see my doctor before we had Elliot, she told me my estrogen levels were high and that I was 'estrogen dominant' despite ever having ANY issues in this department. Want to guess where the extra estrogen and hormone disruption was coming from??? Personal care + household items. The Think Dirty app rates products based on potential to cause cancer, cause allergies and disrupt the hormones in your body, and just about everything at the drugstore or Target is toxic. So we went totally plant-based with our cleaning supplies, personal care products + even makeup! I went through each ingredient and searched it on the EPA website to make sure it was safe! 

OTHER HABITS:
- Meditation + quiet time to rest my mind and emotions, train my thoughts towards positivity and abundance. You can read my morning routine here!
- Exercise! I'm a big fan of the Tone It Up girls and even use their nutrition plan to get some new ideas for recipes! I just tweak them to our preferences, but those girls love kale so you know I love them!! I'm also currently working through a Gymnastics Bodies stretch + strength program.
- AVA bracelet. I bought (and LOVE!) an Ava bracelet to help track my heart rate, temperature, cycle changes, sleep and stress levels. I love the amount of insight it gives, that I can add custom logs, and even download my data for my doctor! 

What are your favorite ways to take care of yourself - throughout daily life or when preparing for motherhood?? 

Morning Routine

 
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I'm an early bird by nature. I love the quiet of the mornings, the dark skies turning pink to yellow to blue, the stillness of the world before the day begins. Starting the day alone with the Lord is vital to my mental wellbeing, but especially working from home, these fringe hours are so sacred. It truly sets the tone for my day, and not just from a productivity standpoint. I have learned that I must set my mind and emotions to a calm place so that when the frenzy of the day begins, I don't get caught up in the emotional upheaval. Anyone else been there?? In hopes for helping you start your day off with calm and yet still be productive, here is a tiny peek into my mornings.

 
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My alarm goes off around 5am, and I grab my slippers, robe and phone and head into the living room. I turn on our diffuser that I filled the night before (usually with peppermint + frankincense) and spend about 15 minutes stretching and moving a little. I mostly sit in variations of child's pose or puppy pose while praying over the day, our dreams, my goals, seeking the path of obedience.  Then I sit down at my desk with my prayer journal + a devotional (currently reading The Circle Maker and loving this book!) and pour out my heart on paper. I read the daily She Reads Truth scripture + commentary or other scripture and find a verse that speaks to me and can be a mantra for the day. The last thing I do is apply a drop of peppermint to the back of my neck, sit on the floor, face down in child's pose and meditate on a short prayer to the Lord, whatever is on my heart. "Lord give me peace as I let go of control." "Let me see as You see so I can do as you say." "Bring us abundance as we walk in obedience." 

Only after these things are done and I feel at peace spiritually + emotionally do I open my computer to work. I typically spend some time using these power sheets for goal planning and task lists, check off tasks in my passion planner* (that I wrote out the night before. Nighttime routine coming next!) and write out any other tasks for the day! I focus on the 'work' to do list during this time and my 'personal' to do list when my son is awake. 

 
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When my son wakes up around 7:30am I feel refreshed, connected to the Lord and have already accomplished some work, so I can give him my full attention. He needs connection with me first thing in the morning, and I can give him that! We make breakfast and sit down to eat all together, and it makes the morning so sweet and the day so much better! 

Chicken Taco Soup

 
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One of our quick go-to meals is chicken taco soup. It's fresh, hearty and comes together pretty quickly. Plus, it's toddler-approved! The recipe is simple and can easily be modified to be whole30 approved. There is one secret ingredient though, and it makes a  difference... lime vitality essential oil!! If you don't have an lime EO you can use some lime zest and lime juice to get a pretty similar flavor.

 
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TACO CHICKEN SOUP:
5 cups cooked chicken, shredded*
4 large carrots, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 red onion, diced (OR just use 1 yellow/red onion)
2 cups zucchini, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
4T homemade taco seasoning
Olive oil
6-8 cups bone broth (depending on how thick/thin you want the broth)
10-15 drops lime vitality essential oil
1 cup diced sweet potatoes OR 1 cup uncooked rice (the rice is NOT Whole30 compliant, so omit for Whole30 and serve over cauliflower rice - recipe below!)

Add olive oil + onions to a dutch oven or large pot and cook over medium heat until translucent. Add carrots + sweet potatoes (if using), cover and steam sauté for about 5 minutes to soften the carrots. Add zucchini, bell pepper, cooked chicken, seasoning and broth and simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir well to combine all the ingredients and add more seasoning if you choose. Add lime essential oil (or a healthy squeeze of lime juice + some zest), stir one last time and remove from heat. Alternatively, you can add a little lime oil or juice to individual bowls.

Top with homemade guacamole or sliced avocado and fresh cilantro! 


*To make with raw chicken, simply add diced chicken in with the onions and carrots and cook until no longer pink. I typically bake my chicken while I'm cutting up veggies (350 for about 25 minutes for 2lb), or I will cook it in the Instantpot during the day. 

**To make in a slow cooker or Instantpot, add all ingredients except zucchini and lime oil to the slow cooker and set on low for about an hour (2-3 if using raw chicken). Add in the zucchini for the last fifteen minutes! 

 
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CILANTRO LIME CAULIFLOWER RICE:
1 bag fresh or frozen cauliflower OR 1 small head fresh cauliflower diced  using a food processor
1T ghee or grass-fed butter (use ghee for Whole30 compliant recipe)
10 dros lime vitality essential oil OR juice from 1/2 a lime + 1tsp lime zest
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Melt ghee to a pan over medium heat, then add riced cauliflower. Sauté for about 5-10 minutes until softened but not completely cooked. Remove from heat and stir in lime oil, cilantro and a little extra ghee for good measure!