March 2016 - Simply Samantha

March Favorites *Vacation Edition*

9:35 AM

Phew, I am glad to be back. While getting away to the great state of Tennessee was nice, I am glad to be back in the Sunshine state.

I thought I'd switch up this month’s favorites with highlighting some of my favorites from our trip. I'll try to keep it short and brief, but if you happen to be traveling to Gatlinburg or Nashville soon, here are some of my recommendations.

Most of them are food related seeing we like to eat around when we travel :) 
March Favorites Vacation Edition
To Eat: Cherokee Grill ::
I was amazed that every place we ate at in Gatlinburg had a gluten free menu. Without hesitation or eye rolling, I was given a GF menu when asked. It was amazing.
The Cherokee Grill was our favorite place to eat. It was the priciest of all the places we ate at, but it was so worth it! They have a lot of tasty GF options and even their TN Cheesy grits were gluten free. I was beyond impressed.

To Do: Stop and Enjoy ::
Driving up and around the mountains are multiple places to pull off and look at the scenery. We stopped at the top of the mountain and took in the snow falling on the mountain across the way. It was beautiful. Pictures do not do it justice.

Also To Do :: Ripley's Aquarium ::
This is well worth the money. While it is a small aquarium it has a lot to offer. The hubs and I were amazed going through the shark tunnel. If you get the chance, go!

To Eat :: My top 3 ::
3. Local Taco. We spent a lot of time eating in East Nashville. It was the easiest to get to and parking was free (a big plus). We noticed The Local Taco while eating at the restaurant next door (see #1). It was also the last place we ate in Nashville. The food was amazing and most of the menu was GF, and marked, so it was easy to find something to eat. Their queso was to die for!
2. Mas Tacos. When researching where to go I kept seeing Mas Tacos popping up on recommendations. Also located in East Nashville, this little hole in the wall has some AMAZING taco's. All but 2 of them were gluten free! This place is also cheap too. $3 a taco. Great price and great food!
1. AMOT. The entire menu at this place was GF which impressed me at first. This is the neighbor to the Local Taco where we ate on our last night. When I saw they had gluten free fried chicken I couldn't contain my excitement. The chef has perfected this dish (even the waiter said so). I was seriously contemplating taking a box of this fried chicken home with me.
To Do :: Country Music Hall of Fame ::
Such a beautiful place. We wandered around there for almost 2 hours. So much to see and look at. Even the husband, who isn't a big fan of country music, thought it was awesome. Worth taking the time to do :)
Hope you enjoy some of my recommendations next time you are in Gatlinburg or Nashville!! 


Why You Should Be Utilizing EWG

11:59 AM

I've mentioned EWG (Enviornemental Working Group) a lot on here and good reasons of course, but I've never actually gone in detail about why I love it and how YOU can use it.

So a little history about how I first heard about EWG. I heard Heather White talk about EWG at a conference. What EWG does is.... empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. With breakthrough research and education, they drive consumer choice and civic action. 
They also take the time to rate and review daily household products to let you know how toxic they really are and what ones are better

Why You Should Be Utilizing EWG

So WHY should YOU be using their new Healthy Living app and using EWG as a resource in general? 
You'd be amazed of what products you think are natural and less toxic but really are not. One day I stood in front of my cleaning cabinet and used my phone to look up my products on EWG and many of the products I had were NOT a natural as the companies said they were.
From that day on I put every product I bought through EWG's website. 

Now before you freak out and think there isn't any toxic free products on the shelves of your local store to buy, don't worry there is. And I am going to make it easier for you and list some below.

Dish Detergent:
What you Think might be good:
Seventh Generation Liquid Dishwashing Detergent: This has a F rating on EWG. Why? It's high in Developmental and Reproductive Toxicity. I don't know about you but I don't need toxicity on my dishes.
What's Better?:
Just look to the left or right and you might see Seventh Generation Auto Dish Powder
or Pods. These have little to no toxicity and have a A rating via EWG.

Dish Soap:
What you Think Might be Good:
All Method Dish Soap: All of Method's dish soap has a D-F rating. One of the reasons is that it has potential for skin irritation/allergies/damage. Isn't that crazy!
What's Better:
Babyganics Free and Clear. I thought it was crazy this was one of the top listed on EWG with an A rating! Babyganics can be found at Target.
I use Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap
,which actually has a C rating,I found out while doing research :( However, last time EWG did research was in 2012, so I hope they have a better rating soon because I love their scents.

Multi-Purpose Cleaners:
What you think might be good:
Green Works All Purpose Cleaner. This has a big old F on EWG. High in cancer type toxicity. Just shows that just because it seems "green and eco friendly" it might not be.
Whats Better:
Whole Foods Cleaner. This is only helpful if you live near a Whole Foods but you could always make a trip to your nearest one and stock up! An A rating is worth it :)
Method All Surface Cleaner in Ginger Yuzu is also a good option! It has a B rating.
Also Heinze Distilled White Vinegar is a great option to mix with water and some essential oils to make your own cleaner!

Laundry Detergent:
What you think might be good:
Seventh Generation Liquid Free and Clear. I really don't mean to point out SG products, but I know they are located in most stores. This one has a big old D rating.
Whats Better:
Grab Green Natural 3-in-1 Laundry Detergent Pods, Fragrance Free, 60 Loads
I order mine off Amazon! These are my absolute favorite. They have a great A rating and make your clothes SUPER clean :)
Another good choice is Seventh generation pods! These are MUCH better (A rating) then the liquid, as long as it's free and clear.

Hope this helps! The world of healthy living can be overwhelming. EWG is SUCH a great resource. I hope ya'll get a chance to check them out!

Let me know if you have any other products you want to know that are better for you! I'd love to do a beauty one soon!

*Discloser: EWG did NOT ask me to write this post. This is all my idea and just my way of supporting this great company.
Also there are affiliate links in this post

Budget Bytes

Taco Chicken Bowls

11:59 AM

File this under one of my horrible photography jobs but don't let my horrible photo taking skills detour your thoughts from this recipe.  We LOVE this recipe! It is so flavorful and easy to throw in the crock pot.
The secret to this recipe is to put it over WHITE rice (preferably organic or non-gmo white rice).
I think it complements it so well!

Well enough of my babbling, onto the recipe.

I have a lot of favorite food bloggers but Beth from Budget Bytes is my top favorite. She was my "go to" when I was cooking during our first month of marriage. Her recipes are so simple and tasty it amazes me. 
And they are usually easy to make gluten free which is also a plus ;)
Taco Chicken Bowls
1½ lbs. chicken breasts 
1 (16 oz.) jar salsa 
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained 
½ lb. (8 oz.) frozen corn 
1 Tbsp chili powder 
½ Tbsp cumin 
½ Tbsp minced garlic 
½ tsp dried oregano 
¼ tsp cayenne pepper 
¼ tsp salt 
to taste cracked pepper 
2 cups dry rice
8 oz. shredded cheddar 
Cilantro (optional)

Add everything except the rice, cheese, and (optional) cilantro to the slow cooker along with ¼ cup of water (just in case). Give everything a good stir and make sure the chicken is covered in the mixture.
Secure the lid on your slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hrs.

After 8 hours of cooking, carefully remove the lid of the slow cooker. Stir with a fork to shred the chicken. Place the chicken and your favorite toppings (including cheese ;) ) on top of rice. 
(which you can make a head of time if need be)

Happy Cooking Friends!

Alba Botanica

February Favorites

11:59 AM

I technically should have posted this last week but I MAY or may not have forgotten that I started doing this monthly favorites post ;)

February Favorites

Stock Photo Sites:
I quickly realized as I took blogging more seriously that I didn't have the time most week to shoot my own stock photos. As much as I wanted to be original with my photography sometimes that just doesn't work out. I'm still racking up a few favorites sites so if you happen to know of any good ones, I'm all ears!
Here are my two favorite so far:

I received one as a gift for Christmas after months of asking and borrowing my mothers ;) I use it almost all the time. While working, cleaning, and sleeping. Diffusing oils has great benefits! Mood elevating, warding off sickness, improves cognitive function and much more!  I made to graphics a couple weeks ago about my favorite oils to diffuse! You can check them out below!

Alba Botanica Cleanser 
I love this cleanser! It's a 3 on the EWG scale that I use to decide what products to buy (EWG is a great resource showing true toxicity of products). And its only $6 at target! Oh and it smells amazing! I highly recommend!

Lara Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bars
I can't go to the store without picking up one of these babies. They are SO tasty and gluten free! A great afternoon snack or to keep in your purse if you start getting hangry ;).  I really like that Lara's mission is to great tasty treats with the fewest ingredients.

Honorable Mentions and Recommendations
Book: Red Queen and Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard
Movie: The Intern and Spector
Netflix Binge: Fuller House (get's better after episode 3 in my opinion ;))
Social Media Tool: SnapChat 
Recipe: Lentil Tacos

Follow me on Pinterest too!

blog reviews

Suja Juice *Review*

11:55 AM

Have you ever walked down the refrigerated juice aisle of the store and get overwhelmed with all the healthy juice options?? I do.

As much as I love eating and drinking healthy it can be quiet overwhelming when I comes to finding whats good. 
Well friends, Suja Juice is what's good.
I had my first Suja about 1.5 years ago at a conference and I was hooked. They can be found just about everywhere now. I've seen them at Target, Whole Foods, Publix (for us southerners), and Walmart.
They are one of the best cold press juices I've tried on the market. Plus they don't break the bank! 
Side Note: Publix shoppers. These babies go BOGO at least once or twice a month. So STOCK UP! 
Suja Juice Review
Whats SO great about Suja?? 
They're...USDA Certified Organic, GlutenFree, Kosher, Non-GMO Project Verified, and Cold Pressured.
Cold Pressured refers to the process by which fresh food products, such as juice, are preserved using High Pressure Processing (HPP) as opposed to high heat. This process extends shelf life & helps to maintain essential vitamins, minerals & enzymes.

My two favorites are Berry Goodness and Mango Magic. 
The berry is a great sweet treat filled with tons of goodness! Its definitely my "go to" when I'm shopping and need a pick me up!  
I've even gotten sweet little kiddos hooked on it after I let them have a taste. 
So let it be known that even 3 year olds will drink it!!

They are great for on the go too! I find myself often putting one in my purse for later on in the day. 

Find where Suja Juice is sold here! 

Connect With Them! 

(Declaimer) I was given coupons in order to try and review this product as part of a Mom's Meet program. Opinions are 100% my own.