Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Fermenting pickles Finnish style

I have always loved fermented pickles and preferred them over the vinegary pickles, since I was a child. In Finland we bought them from the grocery store from big barrels. They were often labeled "Russian pickles". Still now when I visit Finland I buy often for snacking even a package of two fermented pickles from the grocery store produce section.

People often ask for my recipe of pickles. I make them Finnish style, the way I am used to eating them, so here you go!

Fermenting pickles is a little bit more trickier than making sauerkraut or fermenting some other vegetables. Let me tell you the tricks for good pickles that are not mushy!

1. Choose cucumbers that are meant for pickling. They have a hard skin. Choose cucumbers that are firm and as fresh as possible. Use whole cucumbers (smaller often are better) instead of slicing them (that works too).
2. Soak them in fresh, clean, non-chlorinated water for several hours or overnight and wash them with a brush. Remove all pieces of the cucumber flower that is left on the ends of the cucumbers to avoid mushy pickles!
3. You can pierce the skin of the cucumber with a fork to help the brine get in. If the cucumbers are very small and firm, this is not necessary.
4. Make the brine. The ratio of salt and water I use is 25 grams per 1 liter of water (I know, you will just have to figure that out! :)). Dissolve salt in the water. Use non-chlorinated water. Chlorine can kill the good bacteria.
5. Place cucumbers and spices, and a source of tannin in layers in a glass jar. I recommend using airlock jars to ensure success. For spices you can use a few whole cloves of garlic, some fresh horse radish, and fresh dill leaves, stalks and flower heads. (A spoonful of mustard seeds are nice too if not on AIP). A source of tannin can be grape leaves, oak leaves, horse radish leaves or even black tea leaves. In Finland they use often fresh black currant and raspberry leaves. I have even used blackberry leaves from my garden.
6. Leave an inch or two of space for the weight to keep the cukes under the brine and for some air space. To keep pickles under the brine, I often use carrot sticks in the opposite direction than the pickles under the weight.
7. Pour brine over the cukes and makes sure they stay under the brine, especially if not using an airlock! Then it is critical to ensure anaerobic conditions and avoid mold etc. harmful growth. Leave a little space before closing the airlock jar. Add some water to the airlock.
8. Put the jar in a dark place and ferment in room temperature for about 10 days. Do not open the jar in between. After 10 days move to the fridge. The pickles should be ready in a few weeks. You can slice one open and if there are still white spots or areas inside, it is not quite ready in my opinion.

Some people check the pH of the brine before moving the cucumbers to the cold. If the pH is less than 4.2, the brine protects the pickles from harmful bacteria growth. Below you can see two jars of pickles ready to ferment. One is with mustard seeds, the other without. Both have dill, one even the dill blossoms and for tannin to this one I added blackberry leaves. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

California hamburgers

We often eat our burgers with lettuce wraps (just like the protein style burger at In-N-Out, which by the way if you are in California and have food allergies, you can ask to be plain and "allergy burger" so they are more cautious). Sometimes we eat burgers also with just a salad or with with a side of broccoli but every now and then I make buns which makes the kids especially so happy. I make them to be honest mostly just to hear them say things like: "You make the best hamburger buns in the whole world!" The kids say these paleo (and AIP) buns are the best ever. I have had even non-paleo kids say that they are really good.

Instead of fries I often serve some kind of veggie side. Or serve the veggies as an appetizer as I learnt from my friend. I have noticed if I put the veggies as a side, the kids may leave them on the plate and just eat the burger but if I serve the veggies as an appetizer when they are at their hungriest, before giving the main course, the veggies might disappear quickly. This time the appetizer/side was steamed broccoli with lemon juice from our own lemons. The avocado in the burger adds creaminess without any sauces.

California burgers for four with a side of lemony broccoli 

1 lb ground beef
Herbamare or salt
1 tbsp tallow or other cooking fat for frying
half a lemon
olive oil
3 ripe (yellow) plantains or around 4 ripe burro bananas
1 cup arrowroot starch
1/3-1/2 cup water
1/4 cup avocado oil
1 tsp salt

1. Set your oven to 350F.
2. Prepare the batter for the buns: Peel plantains and chop them. Add everything to the blender: the plantains, 1 cup arrowroot starch, 1/3-1/2 cups water (add first the smaller amount but increase if the blender can't mix it), 1 tsp salt and 1/4 cup of avocado oil (you could replace some of this with water). Scoop eight pancake size piles of batter, for instance with the 1/3 cup measuring cup, on 1-2 parchment paper lined cookie sheets or jelly roll pans. Leave some space between as they may spread a little. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes.
3. Steam broccoli now so you can serve it as appetizers. Steam in a steamer pot until the fork just goes through, don't let them become mushy. Add a capful of olive oil, sprinkle some Herbamare on them and squeeze half a lemon on them as well.
4. Heat some tallow on medium heat in a cast iron pan (you could also grill the burgers!). Share the pound of ground meat in four pieces, form burgers, salt with Herbamare and fry from both sides until cooked.
5. Cut some avocado slices and get some lettuce from the garden (or your fridge :)) to go with the burgers.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Health from vegetables

People sometimes seem to think that Paleo diet consists mostly of meat and it is even criticized because of that. Maybe some people do paleo like that, eating mostly meat and only a little vegetables. Inspired by Dr. Terry Wahls among others (and listening to how my body feels) I try to eat lots and lots of vegetables even though when faced with food intolerances and moving towards paleo diet, I took meat back to my diet. I wanted to post a picture of my vegan paleo plate to show that paleo food can be mostly vegetables.

I eat meat but not necessarily at every meal. When I am filling my plate, I fill it with often about 75% vegetables and only about 25% meat or fish. The percentages vary of course and are averages. I do not eat legumes or nuts so I need the meat for protein source but in fact I eat now more vegetables than when I was vegetarian and my meals often consisted of pasta, cheese and vegetables as a small side. I wasn't eating very healthy then. Now vegetables are the main part of the meal.

I am so proud of this meal in the photo also because nearly everything you see is from my garden. Or local (olive oil and honey in the dressing). Only the salt (Herbamare) is store bought. Other ingredients: lettuce, lemon cucumbers, carrots, chard, garlic, lemon and squashy have been grown in my container garden in our backyard. I haven't always had a green thumb so this is worth celebrating!

My favorite breakfast bowl

I have been eating this a lot recently. I created it for a breakfast bowl but it could be eaten for lunch or dinner too. It is delicious and I have even packed it to go. (Once I even ate some when I was stuck in morning traffic on my way to Beverly Hills for work...)

So all you will need is:

  1. A batch of cooked spaghetti squash which you can prepare in bigger batches ahead of time and just warm it up in the frying pan or microwave. How to prepare spaghetti squash. Add some salt, olive oil and fresh herbs to taste if you like.
  2. Some fried ground beef or bison. Add salt to taste. You could also use any other leftover meat.
  3. Sauerkraut or other fermented vegetables
  4. Sliced olives (check ingredients so they are AIP compatible if following AIP)
  5. You can also add any leftover salad or veggies or sliced avocado is delicious on it too.

Pur spaghetti squash in the bowl and top it with all the other ingredients. Enjoy!

PS. This would make an excellent camping or travel food too that you could prepare ahead of time and eat cold or find a way to warm it up. Don't heat the fermented veggies though, keep them separate. Heating would destroy beneficial bacteria.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Story Massage in Sequoia

I went a week ago to Elements Gathering in Sequoia to teach story massage. The rain interrupted the class but it was lovely nevertheless. Here we are doing a story massage train. Read about the benefits of story massage here:

Monday, April 27, 2015

Sima - Mead for May Day

Mead (sima) is an essential part of May Day celebrations in Finland. Mead and homemade donuts! That's what a good May Day is made of. We also used to go marching with labor unions and leftist political party people on May Day. It is like our Labor Day. It also is the celebration day of all students. May Day is the celebration of spring. Everyone is outside, celebrating, on the streets and in the parks, there are picnics and general happiness in the air.

Mead is fermented so it needs to be prepared a week in advance. I am usually late so I have to leave it in room temperature for longer to be able to have it ready in 4 days. That is about the time I usually have when I realize that May Day is coming up. Like now. 

My parents used to make mead before every May Day. They used sugar, brown sugar, oranges, lemons, yeast and water. Usually I prepare it in the same way they did but this year I made also a honey version without cane sugar. It must be the more traditional way to make mead anyway. The Finnish word "sima" is a synonym for the nectar bees collect to make honey (mesi). We buy lovely raw honey locally from Klausesbees

In Finland mead is fermented so little that it doesn't really have alcohol, or the amount is very small so it is served even for children. My parents made the mead in a 10 liter plastic bucket and we drank it for days, if not weeks. They boiled the water, poured it on the sugar in the bucket, added sliced lemons and oranges and a tiny piece of fresh yeast. After a day they bottled it with a teaspoon of sugar and a few raisins and put it in the fridge. Usually around after a week the raisins had plumped up and were floating on top. That is how you knew the mead was ready. You looked at the raisins. I went every day to the fridge to look if the raisins were already floating on the top. It was very festive when you finally were able to taste the ready ferments and sparkly mead that tickled your tongue. There was not much alcohol at all but a lot of sugar left so it was sweet. Sweet and tasty. I loved to eat the raisins that had been soaking in the mead for days.

Honey mead (recipe is from Finnish beekeepers' association)

4 liters or 17 cups of water (almost 4 quarts) 
2 lemons (I used Meyer lemons from our tree)
14 oz honey (450 grams) 
1/5 tsp dry yeast

  • Boil about 1/4 of the water and pour it on the honey with the rest of the water cold to achieve slightly warm water. The honey will melt in it easily and it will be around the right temperature for the yeast. Dry yeast needs the water to be 105-110 Fahrenheit for it to start doing its job. 
  • Add sliced lemons. You can use oranges instead too if you like. Some people add the juice of the citrus fruit and some peel separately. My parents sliced the fruit so that is what I usually do too. If I am feeling very fancy, I squeeze the juice out and grate the peel and add them separately. 
  • Cover the container with a napkin or cheese cloth and rubber band, or even a lid, and keep in room temperature for 24 hours. Bottle it and add a few raisins to each bottle. If you have plenty of time, put the bottles in the fridge at this point and sima should be ready in 7 days. If you need your sima to be ready sooner, leave the bottles in room temperature for three days. To avoid the bottles from exploding as the mead ferments, you may want to "burp" them once a day (just open the bottle and close it back up).
  • You know your sima is ready when the raisins float on top. Serve with homemade donuts - wait, I have to start working on a paleo version of those.

To compare I made mead with the kind of recipe I grew up with. 

Sugar Mead

2 liters water (almost two quarts or 8.5 cups)
2/3 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 lemon (or orange or half of both)
1/10 tsp dry yeast

Follow the method above. Enjoy your Finnish mead!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Relaxation exercise for children: Grounded like a tree

I am preparing for a Story Relaxation class I am leading tomorrow for children with their parents. I am going to teach a lot of different ways to use stories, your imagination, touch and guided imagery to relax, be mindful and connect with each other. This is one of the exercises I plan to use. I translated this relaxation exercise from Heike Jung's book that has Massage stories and movement games for children. It is perfect to start the Earth Day week as well! Have a lovely week and keep your feet firmly grounded on the earth!

Grounded like a tree
Relaxation exercise for children

Starting position: Stand on the floor, barefooted is best, feet hip width apart and knees slightly bent

Script (talk with a slow calm voice): Imagine you are a tree with a thick trunk. You have stood in that same spot for 200 years, that is how old you are! No storm has ever been able to take you down. Under your feet there are strong roots that grow deep in the ground. They keep you strongly grounded. Stand still for a moment and imagine how it would feel to be a big old tree.

Now you feel a light wind. Your branches and leaves move in the wind. The wind strokes softly the trunk, branches and leaves. Let your arms be the branches and fingers the leaves. Let them move slowly and softly in the wind. Stroke gently your head, arms, face and hands.

The wind becomes stronger. The whole tree waves in the wind from side to side. Then the wind changes direction and the tree moves from front to back. Move your body from left to right and then front and back.

The wind has stopped. You stand still again. The sun peeks from behind the clouds. You notice how the sun beams warm your body. Put your both hands on your face and feel the warmth of the sun. Put your hands on your belly, close your eyes and feel the warmth there as well.

Monday, March 9, 2015

How to help kids to sleep with story massage

Photo: Hello Pinecone Photography

Happy Monday!

This daylight savings is often rough for us! Getting the kids to sleep earlier isn't easy. My four year old went to school late today as he just slept and slept. Story massage can help with sleep. Research shows that kids who were massaged before bedtime slept better - they fell asleep faster and their sleep patterns improved compared to the control group who was read a bedtime story but didn't receive massage. Read more why and how to try it tonight with your kids below!

Why story massage helps sleep?

1. Nurturing touch reduces stress hormones in the body (for both the one receiving touch and the one giving it!)

2. Story massage, nurturing touch, nurturing story and your mindful presence will create a safe space for the child to fall asleep. Feeling your hand on their back helps the child feel so safe that they can close their eyes and drift to sleep. It also helps the adult to stop after a busy day.

3. The safe space can inspire the child to share anything worrying them and help them fall asleep faster after getting the load off their backs.

Ideas for bedtime story massage:

  • A story massage: This Day. Make up a story massage of the events of the day. 
  • Use any story or nursery rhyme your child is already familiar with, or one you remember from your own childhood 
  • Have children come up with their own stories and draw those on their back. 
  • Print this bedtime story massage out and use it tonight: 
Night in the forestA tactile story for children by Sirpa Kaajakari

Follow the instructions below to draw the story on your child’s back to help them sleep, feel safe and to connect with them. Always ask permission before starting. Use gentle strokes avoiding pressure on the spine and kidneys in the low back.
A big old spruce tree stood in the forest. Its roots were planted deep in the ground, its trunk was thick and sturdy and its branches were wide and green. The sap from the tree smelled so fresh. (Using the palms of your hands start from the low back and draw a tree with lots of branches on the back.)

The tree was a home for birds and squirrels. They felt safe in the old tree and ate the seeds from the cones and the bugs that crawled on the trunk. (Draw small circles with the tips of your fingers on the back.)

Foxes hid under the tree when it was raining. (Rest your hands on the low back.)

Hikers who needed to rest their tired legs sat under the tree and leaned against the strong trunk of the tree and enjoyed the peace of the forest. (Stroke with your hands on both sides of the spine starting from the low back.)

At night stars were bright and the moon lighted the forest. (Sprinkle stars all over the back with your finger tips.)

An owl sat on the branch of the old spruce tree, alert and awake when everyone else was sleeping. Keeping an eye on everything so the others could sleep peacefully. (Gently squeeze the shoulders.)

The wind gently brushed the tree branches and whispered: You are safe. (Draw whirly wind all over the back.)

One star fell from the sky but the tree caught it and the star got stuck on the top of the tree. From there it shone brightly, bringing peace and happiness to everyone in the forest. (Stroke the head and run your hands down to the upper back and rest them there.)

Information about story massage classes in Los Angeles:

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Yellow Tail + Mango Ginger Salsa

The kids loved it. They especially love always the fresh fish as it has no "fishy taste" which develops as the fish ages.
(The problem with cooking at night is always the same, the pictures don't look so great as there is no day light! Every time I swear I will save some of the food for next day and take photos and almost every time it fails as there are no leftovers... Oh well.) 

Every week my kids and I go to the farmers market around the corner and buy organic vegetables, honey, fruit and pick up our weekly Community Seafood share. Community Seafood is a local community supported fishery in Santa Barbara, California. Their goal is to support the fishing community and sustainable ways of harvesting seafood.

I signed up a few months ago and our family has enjoyed the variety of seafood. I have tasted foods I have never tasted before, and may not have otherwise tasted, and learnt to prepare them too. Some of the new acquaintances have been mussels, oysters, ridge back shrimp and lobster. Some of the fish are new to me too. I grew up eating fish but mostly salmon, herring and some sweet water fish like perch.

This week's share was yellow tail. We have had it many times before and we usually enjoy it either grilled or fried in a cast iron pan. We like our fish simple. Usually we use just salt as a seasoning and squeeze some lemon from our tree on the cooked fish. For yellow tail I have made a few times a fruity salsa from fresh fruit I have had at hand like pineapple, peach, plums or mango. This week's salsa had mangoes.

I will post my most delicious paleo/AIP fish recipe experiments in future too. Stay tuned!
It is important to start with skin side up.
Otherwise the skin may stick to the pan.

Fried Yellow Tail 

yellow tail filets
salt to taste
1-2 tbsp coconut oil or olive oil

1. Cut the fish in smaller filets if needed. Leave the skin on.
2. Wash the fish and pat them dry with a paper towel or kitchen towel.
3. Heat a couple of spoonfuls of oil in your cast iron pan.
4. When the pan is warm, lay the fish pieces on the pan skin side up.
5. Leave them for a few minutes and turn them over.
6. Sprinkle salt on the fish and cover if you like.
7. Lower the heat a bit and cook until fish meat is white and flakes.

Mango Salsa 

1 ripe mango
1-2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1-2 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed
juice from 1 lime
pinch of salt
a handful of fresh cilantro, chopped or cut small with scissors

1. Peel the mango and chop the meat in small pieces. I like to cut small slices against the pit first horizontally and then vertically to make squares and then cut along the pit to remove the pieces from the mango. Then repeat on the other side of the pit.
2. Put the mango pieces in a bowl and crush some of them with a fork to extract some of the juice.
3. Add lime juice, salt, crushed garlic and grated ginger. Let it sit for a while in the fridge before serving. If it is not spicy enough for your taste buds, add more ginger.

Use fresh ingredients for best results!

Veggie sides

I try to make sure we get plenty of vegetables every day. To help with this goal I have started to make often two veggie sides instead of one as I used to do.

With the fish and salsa I also served steamed asparagus that is in season now and sauteed purple mustard greens I got from the market as well. The asparagus I steamed just enough that it felt soft when I pierced a spear with a knife and tossed them in olive oil and sea salt.

The mustard greens I sauteed very lightly in a little bit of coconut oil and added a touch of salt. For sauteeing them I got instructions from the vendor at the market to heat the oil in the pan, add the greens, toss them in the oil, cover the pan and turn off the heat and let sit for just a little while. The greens stayed a little bit spicy in this way and were absolutely delicious!

What is your favorite way to prepare yellow tail?

Family photo time!


meet my family! My friend Erin from Hello Pinecone Photography takes our family photos once a year. It is so lovely to have so beautiful good quality photos of our family. For once we are all in one photo! It is incredible to see how my boys grow - they look different every year in these yearly photos! Here are a few of the photos from 2015. They were taken at Descanso Gardens where members are allowed one shoot per year for holiday cards or something like that.

Monday, February 23, 2015

What brings you joy?

Hello there! 

My favorite time of the year, spring, is almost here and it is time for spring cleaning! I was introduced to a genius decluttering method by a dear friend. You can read more about it here or buy the book here but basically you get rid of everything that does not bring you joy. You look at the item and ask yourself, does this bring me joy? If the answer is no, get rid of it. Simple as that! I am in the process of doing that at my home and I realized it can reach other areas of life too.

I have come to realize that to better be able to focus on my family, I am going to have to narrow down what I do, choose what brings me most joy. From now on, in my massage practice, I will specialize in prenatal massage and pediatric massage classes only. I will also define my work hours better and work mostly when my kids are at school to have more time to spend with them.

I have chosen prenatal massage as my speciality as I love to support mothers-to-be and it supports naturally my other work, the child massage classes. In this way my focus is on mothers, children and families. More information can be found from my website .

I hope you are well! Have a joyful day!


Thursday, January 1, 2015

New BREAKFAST cook book and a sample pancake recipe!

Happy New Year from Sequoia national forest! (I did schedule this post ahead of time as there is not much of internet access where we are!)

I am so proud to announce our new cook book coming out TODAY! It is a pretty incredible e-book with 85 breakfast recipes. Just breakfasts! Because breakfast seems always to be puzzling people most when they go on a grain free diet and all their old safe breakfast foods fly out the window.

One year ago I was preparing to start AIP diet to battle blood sugar swings and food intolerances. The diet I started on January 2nd has been life changing for me. I still have healing to do, but I have come a long way and have learnt what foods tweak me and which don't. I feel better. And I have learnt how to eat really healthy.

I nowadays recommend AIP almost to anyone as a diet reset, to check in how your body is doing, feel better, and especially if you have any autoimmune issues or unexplained illnesses, it is a great way to start healing and feeling better. If you do the reintroductions properly after eliminating lots of foods for 30 days (or more) you get valuable information of which foods you are sensitive to, or which foods make you feel yucky, cause insomnia, headaches or other symptoms or have your autoimmune illness flare up.

I am so excited to be part of this new cook book. It was my biggest fear when starting the diet - what to eat for breakfast? This book has 85 answers to that question. It has a variety of breakfast recipes from several different bloggers (including me!) and authors who are following the AIP diet themselves. The editor is the lovely Eileen Laird of Phoenix Helix, a popular AIP blog. You can imagine my excitement when she asked me to be part of this community cook book project.

In the AIP breakfast cook book there are recipes for skillets, pancakes, waffles, soups, patties, bowls etc. All paleo and AIP compatible recipes. The recipes are grain free, sugar free, dairy free, egg free, seed and nut free, night shade free. One great thing about the book is that it even has dietary modifications for those avoiding coconut, the ones following a low-FODMAP diet, GAPS/SCD or low-histamine diet. The low-FODMAP modification was something I was dealing with. You can read about that here.

Here is a taste of what the book is about. It is just one of many pancake recipes!

Oven baked pumpkin spice pancakes
by Jaime of Gutsy by Nature

2 tablespoons gelatin
1/2 cup hot water
4 medjool dates, pits removed
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup sweet potato flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Topping: maple syrup, honey, and/or whipped coconut cream, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
2. Dissolve the gelatin in the hot water and mix well.
3. In a food processor or high speed blender, puree dates, pumpkin, coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, and the gelatin and water mixture until smooth.
4. Add sweet potato flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Puree again until all ingredients are well combined (the batter will be thick – more like a cake than a traditional pancake).
5. Make six roughly equal size pancakes on the cookie sheet – spreading them out so that each one is about 1/4 inch thick.
6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until they hold together when you gently slide a spatula under them and try to move them.
7. Serve with desired topping or eat plain.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Good Morning Breakfast Salad

Before paleo life, when I was on a standard Finnish diet I had every morning pretty much the same breakfast (like probably a lot of other Finns if they didn’t eat oat meal): A slice of dark sour rye bread with butter, a slice of cheese and sliced cucumbers or tomatoes with some herb salt (Herbamare). If someone had told me that I would one day give up that habit and eat soup or even a salad for breakfast, I would have probably laughed politely and thought: Never.

Leaving grains and dairy has changed my thoughts about breakfasts completely. Any food can be a breakfast food now. I mean I tend to lean towards bacon and breakfast patties with veggies and fruit but occasionally I eat also soups and salads. Soup is actually a common breakfast food in Japan so it just feels strange here in the West.

I have been meaning to post this recipe for a while now. We have an AIP breakfast cook book coming out on January 1st (stay tuned!) so I thought I should finally post this breakfast recipe too. It is not in the book but it is delicious and should be shared!

One day few weeks ago when I came back from my early morning Crossfit workout I craved something fresh but also warm. I used leftover romaine lettuce from the fridge and picked some lettuce and cress from the garden and made this salad. I had some leftover dairy free ranch dressing left and it paired well with the salad, see the recipe below.

Making the salad was a nice meditative activity and morning sun in the garden felt good and I watched for a while the bees pollinate my spaghetti squash flowers.

Good Morning Salad

A few strips of bacon (I buy sugar free bacon from US Wellness Meats)
Half a package of mushrooms
One mango
One avocado
a Persian cucumber

For ranch dressing, add the following ingredients together in a jar with a lid. Shake the jar to mix the dressing.

1 cup of coconut kefir
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp lemon juice
¼ tsp garlic powder
salt to taste
1 tsp fresh parsley, chopped

  1.  Fry the bacon with the mushrooms in a cast iron pan.
  2.  Tear lettuces in pieces.
  3.  Chop cucumbers, mango and avocado. Remove pits from olives and slice them.
  4.  Pile the ingredients on a plate, the warm mushrooms and bacon on top. Serve with the dressing.
Don't forget to check back in on January 1st (subscribe to posts to get the email!) when the new breakfast cook book comes out! This book rocks!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Story Massage

I would like to wish you and your family lots of peace, joy and happiness this holiday season. I hope you can find time to relax and connect with your children. Remember that you and your mindful presence is their best gift!

I wrote today a story massage. It is not the first one I have written but it is the first one I am sharing publicly so I am a little bit nervous. Please send me feed back! It is a Christmas story BUT if you don't celebrate Christmas, you can just leave out the word Christmas and it will magically turn into a non-Christmas story! It can be used like this during the rest of the year too. I wrote this story to help my little boy feel safe when he is going to sleep. He has been afraid of ghosts lately. I hope you'll enjoy it.

(Christmas) night in the forest
A tactile story for children
Written by Sirpa Kaajakari, 2014

Follow the instructions below to draw the story on your child’s back to help them sleep, feel safe and to connect with them. Always ask permission before starting. Use gentle strokes avoiding pressure on the spine and kidneys in the low back. For more information go to

A big old spruce tree stood in the forest. Its roots were planted deep in the ground, its trunk was thick and sturdy and its branches were wide and green. The sap from the tree smelled so fresh. (Using the palms of your hands start from the low back and draw a tree with lots of branches on the back.)

The tree was a home for birds and squirrels. They felt safe in the old tree and ate the seeds from the cones and the bugs that crawled on the trunk. (Draw small circles with the tips of your fingers on the back.)

Foxes hid under the tree when it was raining. (Rest your hands on the low back.)

Hikers who needed to rest their tired legs sat under the tree and leaned against the strong trunk of the tree and enjoyed the peace of the forest. (Stroke with your hands on both sides of the spine starting from the low back.)

On Christmas night (or replace with “At night”) stars were bright and the moon lighted the forest. (Sprinkle stars all over the back with your finger tips.)

An owl sat on the branch of the old spruce tree, alert and awake when everyone else was sleeping. Keeping an eye on everything so the others could sleep peacefully. (Gently squeeze the shoulders.)

The wind gently brushed the tree branches and whispered: You are safe. (Draw whirly wind all over the back.)

One star fell from the sky but the tree caught it and the star got stuck on the top of the tree. From there it shone brightly, bringing peace and happiness to everyone in the forest. (Stroke the head and run your hands down to the upper back and rest them there.)

Read more about the benefits of story massage for children here

For information about story massage and relaxation classes for children go to

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Helping children with story massage after the tsunami in 2012 in Japan (interview of Mary Atkinson)

I taught story massage today in Family Room in San Marino so it is a great day to share the interview of some true story massage veterans who have taken story massage even to Japan to help children in the aftermath of the tsunami in 2012. I am honored to present you the interview of Mary Atkinson who with her partner Sandra Hooper teach story massage in England. Read the inspiring story of these incredible women and their valuable and inspiring work

You and Sandra Hooper have been teaching story massage in the UK for many years. What is your story? How did it all start?

Sandra and I first met in 2005 when I was researching information for my book Healing Touch for Children. Sandra is an experienced Massage in Schools Instructor and I was a student on her course. We both shared a real passion for the power of Story Massage and felt an instant bond. We worked together on several other projects together. Then in 2012, I was invited to work with the children who had been affected by the devastating tsunami in Japan. Story Massage seemed the best way to introduce the healing power of touch to these traumatised children. I approached Sandra and other health professionals to write a story massage especially for the children. 
The story proved so popular and beneficial that Sandra and I wanted to share the benefits, and the joy, of Story Massage with as many children and adults as possible, all around the world. We now run accredited training courses, and we have written a book, eBook and produced a DVD. Our books and DVD are called Once Upon a Touch… Story Massage for Children.

How many people have you trained?

We have only been running our courses for a year but we have trained around 250 people already. Our diaries are filling up for next year too with courses around the UK including in-house training days in schools and hospices. We have invitations to teach in Denmark, USA and France. It seems to be gathering its own momentum as people realise the amazing benefits and possibilities of such a simple and positive activity. 

Where do the people you trained use story massage - at home, schools, other facilities?
We have been so humbled by the range of areas where Story Massage is making a real difference. People attend our courses and then use Story Massage in their place of work using their own expertise and experience. People use it at home with their own children and grandchildren, and it can be helpful for bonding when children are adopted and fostered. It is used in schools and in special schools, and with adults and children with learning difficulties or physical disabilities. It has also proved really beneficial in hospice settings with children facing the end of their life where Story Massage brings comfort not only to the children themselves but also their families. Disadvantaged teenagers find that sharing positive touch in a safe atmosphere can be helpful for raising self-esteem, and it has been part of Brownie activities, Harvest Festival in churches, baby massage classes and even within physiotherapy sessions. Every course we run seems to bring new possibilities and avenues to explore. At the end of November, I am travelling further afield and will take Story Massage to a children’s home in Nepal.

What kind of feedback have you gotten from your students after they have started using story massage in their work or homes?

The feedback has been so positive, sometimes it is hard to believe that something so very simple and enjoyable can bring such profound benefits. People are always so pleased that they have an activity that they can use immediately after the day course. We often get comments from parents and grandparents saying that their child loved the story massage and wanted more and more…! Health professionals are delighted to have an activity that does not require any preparation, funding or sterilization. Teachers find that Story Massage has a calming impact in the classroom, and can easily be used as a creative activity within the school curriculum.

Could you share one positive experience (I am sure you have many!) with story massage that has touched you?

Am I allowed to describe two!

Firstly, there is a charity called The Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline which offers children from the Chernobyl Disaster area some respite, good food and healthcare for four weeks every year. One of the problems is the language barrier, and also initial ‘bonding’ with their host families in the UK. For the past three years we have introduced a Welcome to the UK Story Massage on their first day to help break down the barriers through positive touch. It has always proved successful and provided a lot of fun and laughter. However, last year we were so pleased to discover that the children had been sharing massage not only within their host family homes, but also in a supermarket! (see photo). The children took the story massage back to their own families – and so the power of touch keeps spreading.
Secondly, we took story massage to a school assembly of 330 children aged 10 -11 years, and the outcome was really heartwarming. As background information, as I mentioned before, I was part of a project that took Story Massage to the tsunami area of Japan. This was instigated by a wonderful Japanese charity called Cocoro (which means mind in Japanese) and founded by Takiko Ando, a Japanese aromatherapist who wanted to bring comfort and healing to the victims through positive touch.

The mental health of the survivors is still a real cause for concern and the charity continues its vital work in the area. One of the most important ways of supporting the local people is by sending letters or photographs to show they are still remembered by people all around the world.

Part of my role as Cocoro UK representative is to co-ordinate these awareness-raising activities. We were invited to run a school assembly and introduce The Smiling Flowers Story Massage to the children. It was just so amazing to watch 330 children, boys and girls, all massaging each other (see photo). The teachers commented that they rarely saw the children so well behaved, focused and gentle with each other! Then, totally unprompted, they wrote beautiful hand-written letters to the children in Japan. The letters were translated to Japanese and delivered by the charity to the schools and kindergartens. It was chain of compassion, connection and caring that was sparked by the power of touch through Story Massage.

Because of my own work with story massage, I am curious about your method! In your method you teach a set of strokes to use with stories. Do you find it is easier for people to have this tool pack of strokes than to improvise?
Definitely. We organized several ideas workshops with a range of professionals and parents to devise the most effective way of sharing Story Massage with people who have no massage background. We introduce ten basic strokes that can be used to cover a range of different actions and objects within a story massage. One stroke is called The Circle, for example, and this could depict the sun, a cake, the world or children dancing in a circle…. the list goes on. We teach and share these ten strokes and spend time discussing the various objects and actions before people begin to adapt stories or create their own.

For many people, the creative process can be quite daunting and these ten strokes offer a starting point to help build confidence. Each stroke has its own symbol, and this becomes an international language. You can see video clips of our ten basic strokes on our website.

Which is your favorite story? Could you share it with my readers?
Personally, my favourite story is The Smiling Flowers because this marked the start of our Story Massage project. We had no idea where it would lead when we first wrote it. The Smiling Flowers Story Massage is available to download from our website when you subscribe to our free e-newsletter.

What are the most important benefits of story massage in your opinion?
Story massage offers a simple, fun and interactive way of sharing the benefits of positive touch with children of all ages and abilities. The benefits will vary depending on the situation, whether at home, in the classroom or other location, and also the responses and particular needs of the individual child, but may include:
  • The relaxation of mind and body, easing tension and the cumulative effects of stress. 
  • The promotion of ‘feel­good’ hormones including oxytocin, which helps to boost general well­being. 
  • The opportunity for children to have dedicated ‘calming time’. 
  • Learning the essential life skill of conscious relaxation through first­hand experience of recharging and refreshing mind and body. 
  • Improved alertness and concentration. 
  • Reduction of aggressive and hyperactive behaviour. 
  • An increased sensitivity by children of how their own actions and emotions can influence those of others. 
  • Increased self­confidence, self­awareness and self­esteem. 
  • An alternative and engaging way of encouraging children to develop a wider vocabulary. 
  • The opportunity for children to engage in experiences that provide a context for the use of emotional language. 
  • Individual attention that enhances a child’s awareness of being valued, and brings a sense of self­worth. 
  • The opportunity for families and friends to share time together – having fun, connecting and developing the imagination. 
Thank you for sharing your story. I enjoyed reading it and learning how much valuable work you have done so far and I am sure there is more to come!

Read also: Why story massage is great for kids

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Why story massage is great for kids

Photo: Hello Pinecone Photography

I can't believe I haven't written anything on my blog about the biggest thing in my life right now (apart from our food adventure of course)! Remember how last spring I went and got certified in pediatric massage by Tina Allen from Liddle Kidz Foundation? (I wrote a travel paleo/AIP food post about my trip, you can read it here.)

My budding pediatric massage therapist career evolved quickly and spontaneously into teaching story massage. What is story massage, you ask. Very simply, in story massage you tell a story and "draw" it with your hand on someone else's, often a child's back. It is a great way to combine storytelling and nurturing touch with being present with your child. The kids love it!

There are many benefits of story massage but here are few:

  • Massage releases the so called "feel good hormones" and lowers stress hormones and helps relax, sleep, focus, grow, learn and stay healthy and happy. (This is all research based by the way, so you don't have to take my word for it!)
  • Oxytocin, the love hormone, is released, and it enhances bonding between the parent and the child. 
  • The mindful presence and positive touch give the child a message of being valuable and important and can increase their self esteem.
  • The mindful presence of the parent will fill the child's tank with love and security and can thus even prevent conflicts.
  • In the event of a conflict, story massage can provide a way to reconnect.
  • Stories can help to prepare the child for life changes, transitions or new situations.
  • Story massage can be a tool to process feelings. The story and your mindful presence and safe space can also inspire the child to share their thoughts or worries with you.
  • In Europe where story massage is used in schools and day cares, caretakers report story massage being a great tool to prevent conflicts and even bullying. Peer massage is used there too.
  • Asking permission to massage will teach the child that they have the right to say "no" if someone wants to touch them. It also models them about boundaries with their interactions with others - they should ask others before touching their bodies.
  • Pediatric massage teaches about healthy touch and also to ask for healthy touch.
  • Storytelling enhances imagination, listening skills, vocabulary and helps with reading. Massage helps to stay still to listen to the story (and vice versa!) and can be used to learn specific knowledge too - like drawing the numbers or letters on the back or just using descriptive strokes for an educational story made up from the topic the child wants to learn about will help them remember.

For more information about story massage and pediatric massage, check out my website.

Read my story how I ended up in story massage also from the website of this UK based wonderful story massage company.

More about story massage soon!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Brussel Sprout Lover's Pan of Happiness

Did you know that in my native language, Finnish, brussel sprouts are called "rose cabbages"? I love that name! They do look like little cute baby cabbage heads. Anyway, this recipe is so good. You will love it, I promise! You will want to have this for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I do at least. If you ever meet someone who says they don't like brussel sprouts, offer them a taste of this dish! You might just convert them. Have I sold this recipe to you yet?

I loooove brussel sprouts in all forms so who am I to say though, but I have heard a lot of sighs of happiness from people eating this food. This is the best brussel sprouts recipe I know of.  What is your favorite way of preparing brussel sprouts? Please share in comments!

I usually buy sugar free and additive free delicious bacon from US Wellness Meats, for this day's version I had to use alternate bacon as they have been out, the bacon is so good. I am a part of their affiliate program so if you buy yours through my link above you support my blog! Thank you!

Delicious Sauteed Brussel Sprouts 

1/2 lb bacon 
a couple of pounds of brussels sprouts
1/2 lbs of mushrooms (optional)
1 big clove of garlic
1/3 cup of broth (I make my own delicious and healthy broth, learn how you can, too!)
1/3 cup coconut milk
2 tbsp creamed coconut
salt to taste

1. Prepare the brussels sprouts. Wash them, cut the hard bottom part off, remove any too wilted outer leaves and cut the sprouts in half.
2. Wash mushrooms and cut them in half. Very small ones you can keep whole.
3. Cut bacon in small pieces.
4. Brown the bacon pieces in a large skillet on medium heat. Add garlic and stir.
5. Add brussels sprouts and mushrooms and toss them in the bacon fat for a couple of minutes.
6. Add broth, coconut milk and creamed coconut and simmer on low until the brussels sprouts are as soft as you like them. Mix every now and then to prevent anything from burning. Add more liquid if it all evaporates to prevent the dish from burning.
7. Enjoy alone or with friends!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Passion fruit coconut milk ice cream (dairy free)

I love living in Southern California. Here it happens every so often (or is it just me?!) that a friend or a neighbor give you veggies or fruit from their garden or tree because they just have too much for their own use. Yesterday I got eight pieces of passion fruit. From a friend's tree! I made an ice cream of it to serve them and another family tonight. It tuned out very very yummy. Here is the recipe.

3 cups coconut milk
6 passion fruit pulp, peels and seeds removed
1 peach (optional)
1 tsp vanilla 
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp raw honey

Mix in a blender and use your ice cream maker to magically turn it into some yummy ice cream!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Packing a healthy real food school lunch is super simple.

*** UPDATE: I don't know why the Blogger keeps sending this post to the subscribers of this blog! I will look into it! :) Sorry about extra emails. ***

Grilled chicken, olives, pomegranate and rutabaga sticks.
No-one brings lunch to school in Finland. The lunch is provided by the public school (most children attend public school) for free - well, not free, but paid by everyone's taxes. I grew up eating warm home cooked meal type school lunches in Finnish school cafeteria: Fish soup, ground beef soup, cabbage casserole, meat sauce and potatoes, meat balls and mashed potatoes, liver casserole, spinach pancakes and blood pancakes with lingonberry preserves (yes, you read that right). You can find a lot of those recipes from my other blog Rootlicious.

Here in the US I pack my children's school lunches and snacks (I still don't get it why they would need a snack in between breakfast they've had right before school at home and school lunch, it is just a few hours and the snack just spoils the appetite for lunch in my humble opinion). I pack them mostly paleo foods and the lunch consists of a protein (meat, mushrooms or nuts or seeds), a serving of vegetables and a serving of fruit or berries. Leftovers from last night's dinner are great. For snack I add one serving of veggies, fruit or nuts.

I use a bento box type lunch box with compartments to separate the different foods. My favorites are Planet Box and Lunch Bots. They are durable stainless steel lunch boxes with compartments and they are free from plastic (which I am afraid can contain chemicals that leach in to the food). I pack the stainless steel box in an insulated lunch bag.

Cucumber slices, spinach plantain pancakes,
water melon and blackberries in a Lunch Bots.
Packing a paleo school lunch is super simple. Even your children can do it themselves and save you a lot of work. They actually can find it fun to pack their own lunch starting from chopping vegetables or fruit. Even my three year old can chop most veggies and fruit with a knife. I like to give them sharp knives instead of dull ones (in fear of them hurting themselves) because the dull knives slip easier and can hurt them too. It feels good to use a proper knife and with supervision even very small children can totally do it. I also often leave vegetables or fruit whole, they don't always need to be chopped. An apple or banana are in perfect packages as they are!

Pick one from each category below and put them in a bento box. You can of course use two or more different kinds of fruit or berries or vegetables at once.

Spinach pancakes with apple sauce and
prosciutto wrapped grilled mushrooms

Category 1: Protein
I prefer to buy organic, grass fed and sustainable and without additives.

  • Ground beef patty in lettuce wrap (fried the same morning)
  • Mushrooms wrapped in prosciutto or bacon grilled in toaster oven that morning
  • Nut butter with veggies or fruit
  • Nuts or seeds
  • Cooked/canned fish
  • Larabar
  • Epic bar
  • Cooked chicken strips (alone or with a Paleo wrap and guacamole, ground beef is nice with the wrap and guacamole too)
  • A grilled chicken drumstick
  • Lunch meat, liverwurst or fried bacon (some healthy options can be found from US Wellness Meats)
  • Cooked shrimp
  • Paleo fish sticks (click for a recipe - the same recipe can be used to make paleo chicken nuggets)
  • A boiled egg would be perfect if we didn't avoid eggs due to allergies.
  • Paleo meat balls
  • Peas
  • Green beans

TIP: Use tooth picks to pin liverwurst, lunch meat or sausage pieces together with cucumber slices

Category 2: Vegetables
I like to use seasonal veggies.

  • Spinach pancakes with apple sauce
  • Baby carrots or carrot sticks
  • Persian cucumbers (whole), or cucumber sticks or slices (a quick ranch dip can be made with coconut kefir, garlic, Herbamare, lemon, parsley)
  • Raw rutabaga or turnip sticks
  • Radishes
  • Steamed broccoli
  • Raw cauliflower florets
  • Sea weed
  • Guacamole (or is avocado technically a fruit?)
  • Olives
  • Salad
  • Pickles
  • Sauerkraut
  • Other fermented veggies

Category 3: Fruit/treat/dessert (or snack)
I like to use seasonal fruit and berries.

  • Blueberries/raspberries/blackberries/strawberries
  • A whole apple/peach/plum
  • Orange slices
  • Pieces of melon
  • A plantain pancake with Sunbutter (we use this one) or nut butter or homemade paleo "nutella" (add raw cacao powder to a nutbutter or use a recipe like this)
  • Strawberries with paleo "Nutella"
  • Apple sauce
  • Fermented apple sauce
  • Fruit salad with seasonal fruit
  • Grapes
  • Paleo muffins (Google for tons of recipes!)
  • Coconut balls (kids love to make these themselves)
  • Chocolate pudding from avocados

Remember to add an ice pack if you have packed meat. Don't forget water. We use stainless steel water bottles (we use this kind except always with a regular cap, sports caps and sippy cup caps worry me for mouth development issues). We pack a cloth napkin too. The kids can help sew those from leftover fabrics, or choose their own fabrics from the store. My son made a few spider napkins and they are his favorite. It is a nice touch to add a little love note, a joke or a fun fact for the kids who are learning to read. I make mine in our secret language, Finnish.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

I am on Paleo Diet Magazine!

My paleo camping food blog post was featured in the new Paleo Diet magazine!

You can check out the mag with me in it for free with coupon code PaleoMagVIP. The magazine is awesome!

Here is the link for iTunes.

Here is a video on how to use the code:

Or see the pic below for the three step process. If you need help with it, let me know!