One of my favorite foods in Laos, and all of Southeast Asia, is coconut.  You can usually buy them fresh for 50 cents to $1, put them in the fridge and enjoy them whenever you need a refreshing drink or satisfying snack.

09-21-2014 Coconuts by Melissa Crossett-4When we moved to Laos, I was thrilled to see we had our very own coconut tree!  Unfortunately, our coconut tree wasn’t very good at producing coconuts and produced only one little coconut at a time.  Even when the neighbors’ trees just a few feet away had 15-20 coconuts on them, ours still only had one.  So, we just continued buying them at the market.  We especially kept stocked up on coconuts after I got pregnant, because it was one of the few things I could tolerate and even enjoy while I had morning sickness.

09-21-2014 Coconuts by Melissa Crossett-2The more I learn about coconuts, the happier I am that I love them.  They have so many health benefits and uses.  Besides drinking the coconut water and eating the flesh, there is coconut milk, coconut oil, and coconut flour.  Even the coconut husk is good for getting a fire started.

09-21-2014 Coconuts by Melissa Crossett-1Some of the benefits of this amazing and delicious superfood, include:

  • Fight bacteria, viruses and fungi
  • Give you more energy
  • Improve blood cholesterol levels
  • Boost brain function in Alzheimer’s patients
  • Moisturize your skin and hair and act as a natural sunscreen

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  There are hundreds of benefits of the coconut.  Most of these come from the coconut oil.  Need some ideas how to use and eat more coconut oil?  Check out 101 Uses for Coconut Oil.

Do you use coconut oil?  What do you use it for?


favorite baby products

Thank you for all your kind words and congratulations!  Blogging will be a bit slower around here for a bit as we enjoy our new baby girl and settle into life with three kids.  Isla continues to be a really good baby and we all just love her to pieces.  2014-09-05 favorite baby products by Melissa Crossett-1 2014-09-05 favorite baby products by Melissa Crossett-2 2014-09-05 favorite baby products by Melissa Crossett-3

I thought I’d share a few of my favorite baby products that I’ve used with my girls.

  1. Aiden & Anais swaddling blankets – They are so soft, plenty big for swaddling, and breathable to keep your baby from sweating.  They can be used for many purposes, including a nursing cover, burp rag, sun shade, and more.
  2. CJ’s Butter – “Miracle in a tub” we use this cream for everything from heavy duty lotion to cloth diaper safe diaper cream
  3. Vtech baby monitor – We love the feature of being able to talk to our kids through the monitor!
  4. Baby carrier – I’ve used the Ergo baby carrier, the Beco Gemini, and a ring sling, all of which I love for various sizes and stages.
  5. Wristlet bag – A friend gave me this when Elise was born and I’ve used it so much!  I find it’s easier to pack this up with a few diapers/wipes and change of clothes than have a whole diaper bag.

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Aside from the above and and a few borrowed things, I’m trying a couple new products this time:

  • Honest diapers – I’m using these eco-friendly diapers while we’re here in the US, and then I’ll be switching to cloth diapers when we get back to Laos.  I got a great deal and they ship the diapers and wipes monthly to your house.
  • Undercover Mama nursing tank – I bought this for a friend and she loved it so much she bought me one.  It’s great!  I might get myself a second one.
  • Wool sleepsack – I’m planning to buy this to keep Isla warm during the winter in Laos where we don’t have heat or insulation in the house.

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That’s about all we use.  We try to keep the baby gear to a minimum as it makes life and travel much easier.
*These are my own opinions.  I’m not making any commission for sharing these products!*

What are your favorite baby products?


paleo chocolate birthday cake – a hit and a miss!

Last week was Talia’s 5th birthday, and she’s been talking about her birthday and planning her cake for at least 6 months.  She had requested a chocolate cake with strawberries on top.  So, a couple of days after arriving in Wisconsin, I looked up a recipe and set out to make her paleo chocolate birthday cake. I found this grain/gluten/dairy free recipe, which had great reviews and looked delicious.  Fortunately, I had picked up a few baking supplies from Trader Joes on our way back from the airport, but that was before I had picked out a recipe.  I grabbed things like: raw honey, coconut flour, almond flour, cocoa powder, etc..  The one ingredient I was missing once I found the recipe, was coconut palm sugar.  I figured I could pick it up at our local Asian food store.  But, that ended up being the factor that made the cake not turn out so well….

The day of Talia’s birthday, we gave her a couple gifts2014-07-31 Paleo chocolate birthday cake by Melissa CrossettMade strawberry smoothies from our freshly picked strawberries,2014-07-31 Paleo chocolate birthday cake by Melissa Crossett-2And that night, we baked her cake.  I one-and-a-halved the recipe so that it would fill the 9 inch springform pan I had borrowed.  The problem with the coconut sugar, was that we only found the solid palm sugar that looks like this:palm sugarWe grated it so that it would mix in to the batter.  But, after all was said and done, I realized we  didn’t get an accurate measurement and didn’t use near enough.  The cake was not sweet enough. Hence, the miss!  I wonder if I could have melted it down and measured it as a liquid instead.   Thankfully the frosting and ganache helped, but it still wasn’t sweet enough to be delicious.

The next day, Talia had a blast decorating the cake all by herself.2014-07-31 Paleo chocolate birthday cake by Melissa Crossett-3 2014-07-31 Paleo chocolate birthday cake by Melissa Crossett-4 2014-07-31 Paleo chocolate birthday cake by Melissa Crossett-6Since we were feeding nearly 20 people, one cake wasn’t going to be enough and I’d also run out of almond flour.  So I found this cupcake recipe and whipped these up as well.  They were so simple, quick and turned out delicious (though I do prefer the texture of combining almond and coconut flours). 2014-07-31 Paleo chocolate birthday cake by Melissa Crossett-52014-07-31 Paleo chocolate birthday cake by Melissa Crossett-7Talia and Elise, who don’t eat a lot of sweets, loved the cake (though I didn’t get any feedback from anyone else!  Haha!)  2014-07-31 Paleo chocolate birthday cake by Melissa Crossett-10 2014-07-31 Paleo chocolate birthday cake by Melissa Crossett-13 2014-07-31 Paleo chocolate birthday cake by Melissa Crossett-12 Everything else about the cake was great, the texture, the frosting, the ganache, etc..  Just make sure you find granulated coconut palm sugar if you make the recipe so that you get the right amount of sweetness!2014-07-31 Paleo chocolate birthday cake by Melissa Crossett-14More than the cake, though, the highlight of Talia’s birthday was being with all her cousins and enjoying each other!2014-07-31 Paleo chocolate birthday cake by Melissa Crossett-8Have you made a birthday cake lately?  Was it a hit or a miss?

we don't shampoo – this is why

  1. It saves us time & money
  2. It’s simple
  3. Our hair looks better!

A few years ago, I learned from my cousin about the “curly girl” method of using conditioner to wash your hair instead of shampoo.  I started trying it, and really liked it.  However, when we moved to Thailand, I no longer had access to the right conditioners or even hair gels to follow that method.

2014-07-23 no shampoo by Melissa CrossettI did a little reading and found the “no-poo” method that just uses baking soda.  I’ve been keeping my hair clean just using baking soda ever since, and have even converted Ryan in the past year.  Now he’s a huge fan as well, and has seen great results with his hair.  He’s now more often promoting it to friends than I am!

Instead of using shampoo to wash, replace that with baking soda.  We pour 1-2 T of baking soda into an empty water bottle, add a little water and shake it up until it dissolves.  Then, pour it onto your wet hair and rub it all around, like you would shampoo, except for that it won’t lather.  After that, just let it sit for a second before you rinse it out.  You can then follow with an apple cider vinegar rinse that acts like a conditioner.  I use about 1/4 cup of ACV diluted in water.  Ryan doesn’t use the ACV, but it really helps people with scalp problems.

2014-07-23 no shampoo by Melissa Crossett-2When you first start out, there is a bit of a transition period.  Eventually, your head will start producing less oil because you aren’t stripping that out daily with shampoo.  You will be able to go longer and longer between washes.  Now, I only clean my hair about once a week, sometimes less (on other days, I often just rinse with water). My scalp issues have improved, my hair is less frizzy and more curly.  Ryan, who has very straight hair, has experienced more texture and volume to his hair, way less oiliness and “fluffiness.”  He used to have to wash his hair everyday if he didn’t want to look like a greaser (his words, not mine).  And like I said, it also saves us plenty of time and money.  Ironically, we can’t get baking soda in Laos, so we pick some up when we’re in Thailand.

For styling products, I usually only use some leave-in conditioner and sometimes gel.  You do have to make sure your styling products are water soluble, or you will end up with buildup.

What kind of shampoo do you use?  Do you think you could benefit from “no-poo” like us?

*Don’t forget to enter the giveaway!  It’s still going!*

easy paleo lunch: coconut pancakes

2014-06-15 paleo coconut pancakes by Melissa Crossett-2Every now and then, we like to make pancakes as a special treat.  I googled and found this recipe and it has worked perfectly for me.  It’s both grain free and dairy free.2014-06-15 paleo coconut pancakes by Melissa CrossettWe turn it into a family affair, and everyone enjoys being involved. 2014-06-15 paleo coconut pancakes by Melissa Crossett-3 2014-06-15 paleo coconut pancakes by Melissa Crossett-4 2014-06-15 paleo coconut pancakes by Melissa Crossett-5They take a while to cook up, especially if you make a double batch like we usually do.  But it’s a simple and delicious meal. 2014-06-15 paleo coconut pancakes by Melissa Crossett-6 2014-06-15 paleo coconut pancakes by Melissa Crossett-7

We like to top our coconut pancakes with homemade applesauce, butter and honey, or real maple syrup if we can get our hands on it.

Here’s the recipe if you want to try it:

(makes around 20)


  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • coconut oil or butter for frying


  1. Preheat griddle over medium-low heat. In a small bowl beat eggs until frothy, about two minutes. Mix in milk, vanilla, and honey.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl combine coconut flour, baking soda, and sea salt and whisk together. Stir 3/4 of wet mixture into dry until coconut flour is incorporated. Allow to sit for 3-5 minutes.
  3. At this stage your batter should be thick, almost like brownie batter. If it is still fairly thick and dry add the rest of the wet mixture.
  4. Grease pan with butter or coconut oil. Ladle a few tablespoons of batter into pan for each pancake. Spread out slightly with the back of a spoon. The pancakes should be 2-3 inches in diameter and fairly thick. Cook for a few minutes on each side, until the tops dry out slightly and the bottoms start to brown. Flip and cook an additional 2-3 minutes.
  5. Serve hot with butter, coconut oil, honey, syrup, or fruit.

You can read a bit more about my experience with Paleo eating here.

Have you made any good recipes lately?

home prenatal care

2014-06-09 prenatal care by Melissa CrossettI’m now in my 3rd trimester and have only had two prenatal appointments so far.  Now, I’m not advocating for avoiding regular check ups with your doctor or midwife.  But living way out here, I’m pretty far from quality medical care, so came up with a simple plan for at home prenatal care.

1. A healthy diet based on vegetables, eggs, meat, fruit, fermented foods, etc… Avoiding sugar, most grains and factory oils.

2. Regular activity – biking, walking, squats, etc..2014-06-09 prenatal care by Melissa Crossett-2

3. Quality supplements2014-06-09 prenatal care by Melissa Crossett-3

4. Basic monitoring of blood pressure, baby’s movements, and urine tests

All this can be done from home with the right tools and supplements.  The one thing I couldn’t check was the baby’s heartbeat as I don’t have a fetoscope.  But, she’s very active, so I am aware of her movements and would take notice if that changed.

How did I do following my plan?  Pretty good, though I could’ve done much better in the “regular activity” department.  I do ride my bike daily, but not usually for very long.  Walking doesn’t happen too often lately as it’s been so hot!  I’m looking forward to doing some of that when we’re back in the US and the land of nice sidewalks and strollers, too!  I also ate a lot more rice than normal and not as much bone broth as I would’ve liked.

You can read more at these sites about the foods and supplements I try to take for optimal prenatal health.

Everything seems to be going well, but I am looking forward to being back in the land of good medical help near my midwife for the last 8 weeks of my pregnancy!

what's for dinner? food from Northern Laos

Last week, I mentioned I had been learning to cook some Lao dishes the Lao way: outside over a fire. Here are some pictures of what we made.  Before getting started, we went to the market to gather the necessary tools and equipment.  (these are definitely not the technical terms!)2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa Crossett-19Even though some of this could be done on a gas stove, my friend insisted it would taste better if made over a fire.
2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa CrossettOur first meal we made was grilled fish with stir fried greens.

2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa Crossett-3 2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa Crossett-4 2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa Crossett-5 2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa Crossett-2Afterwards, my friend showed me how you can plant the stems of the greens to grow your own.2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa Crossett-17Next, we made a couple of jeows, which are “dips” to be eaten with sticky rice and/or steamed veggies.

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The first was a roasted eggplant jeow.2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa Crossett-8 2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa Crossett-9 2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa Crossett-12 2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa Crossett-11 2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa Crossett-10

The second was a spicy tomato jeow, which I learned is considered the “regular” jeow.

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This one was so delicious and addictive.  I saved the leftovers and ate it on a variety of dishes.

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And,  finally after over 4 years of living in southeast Asia, I learned how to make sticky rice.  I also got to practice my fire-making skills.  I could use a bit of work in that department, but I did manage to get a fire going.2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa Crossett-15

And lastly, we made a basic chicken/veggie stir fry.

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The most interesting ingredient in the stir fry was vines growing on my fence!  I didn’t even know they were food.2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa Crossett-2-2

Everything we made turned out delicious, and cooking it over a fire definitely adds a dimension of flavor.  However, I’ll probably stick to cooking my food indoors on a gas stove when I’m on my own.  I love that most traditional Lao food is all very healthy and paleo, although I know some Paleos do avoid rice as well.

What did you make for dinner this week?