Thursday, February 4, 2016

HOW TO DO FOOD WHILE TRAVELING


Traveling with children is challenge enough. Add food allergies with food values and traveling can feel next to impossible.

However, there is a way around all this food chaos. A bit of planning ahead can save money, belly aches, and guilt. Having enough snacks on hand will also come in handy when travel plans don't go as expected and food options are few.

Fresh vegetables, fresh and dried fruit, nuts and seeds, whole food baked goods and crackers, and a couple sweet treats are easy packing fare that can sustain and satisfy even the most metabolically accelerated kids out there. Although not shown here, I also tuck away Go Macro bars and That's It! bars just in case.

Each of my kids get an insulated lunch bag of such goodies [with small ice pack] tucked inside their backpacks and are able to snack at will.

Travel on!

SOME NOTES: 

An Amazon search will prove there are a number of excellent reusable snack bags and containers out there. For air travel, we chose to forgo the reusable bags in lieu of disposable as it seems history repeats itself and these things seem to accidentally get thrown away. However, we did use reusable containers so we'd have them over the course of our trip and rinsed out the disposable bags to reuse them a few times over. 

It's also worth noting that pretzels and crackers are reserved specifically for trips or when called for as a school snack, not mainstays on our plates. Choose pre-packaged snack foods with the least amount of ingredients listed, unless those ingredients are whole foods like nuts and seeds.  

Of course there are ways to do this more seasonally [and I'd love to hear your ideas!], but we have embraced a bit of grace around this topic. We do what we can and then enjoy all of the local fare available at our destination. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

TEA FOR STOMACH DISTRESS, FLU, AND HEART BURN with chamomile, lemon balm, and licorice root


Last week I caught a stomach something that catapulted me straight into the belly of hell. A little dramatic. Maybe. Let's just say it was terrible and I'm still recovering. For me, part of the wreckage of such intense illness is extreme heart-burn. It kept me up nearly the whole of one night and brought me to tears with it's strength. Somewhere around three in the morning I was fumbling about the kitchen, looking for something, anything, to help. In a moment of blessed intervention, I remembered I had a pantry full of herbs and a bit a know-how on the topic. It's amazing how easy it can be to forget a simple, important thing like the ability and power we have to heal ourselves. Turns out chamomile, lemon balm, and licorice root can subdue even the most wicked acidic upheaval. This is a simple recipe with three ingredients worth tucking away in your medicine cabinet.

[CHAMOMILE]

Chamomile has been popularized as an anti-stress and anxiety herb as well as an antidote to colic and a way to calm children. One of it's greatest strengths lies in it's ability to calm the stomach and fight infections. The oil of this lovely little flower is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. Chamomile can be taken before and  after meals to reduce any unpleasant side effects that may be experienced.

Safety considerations: some sources maintain that chamomile should not be used for an extended period of time or if you are allergic to ragweed. That being said, chamomile is generally understood to be a very safe herb for humans of all ages.  

[LEMON BALM]

This herb is one of my favorites to grow: it comes back every year larger than before, smells amazing, and tastes delicious. Lemon balm is one of nature's best calming herbs, having an antispasmodic effect on both the stomach and nervous system. It's excellent for general exhaustion [think post-illness] and has strong antiviral properties. It's generally understood to be safe for both adults and children.

[LICORICE ROOT]

Licorice root is widely known as a respiratory tonic, used for bronchial congestion, sore throat and coughs. It works as an anti-inflammatory for the digestive tract and is sweet in taste, making it a great herb for kids. Both the endocrine and reproductive systems can benefit from this herb, specifically in the case of adrenal exhaustion.

[THE RECIPE]

Note: parts can refer to any form of measurement [teaspoon, tablespoon, etc.] however once a measurement is chosen, it should remain consistent throughout the recipe. For example, if a part is designated as teaspoon, then all of the parts within the recipe should be measured as teaspoons.

2 parts lemon balm
1 part chamomile flowers
1/2 part licorice root, cut

In a medium glass bowl, mix all ingredients. Store in a tightly sealed glass jar in a dark place at room temperature [ex. kitchen cupboard] for up to 6 months. Make your own teabags using press n' brew bags to have on hand when the need arises and store in a tightly sealed glass jar.

To Use:

Steep one tablespoon of herbs in 2 cups of boiling water for 15 - 30 minutes, depending on strength desired. Remove herbs and slowly sip until symptoms have decreased. Repeat as necessary.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

POST-TRAVEL VEGETABLE SOUP with ground turkey


After a week of traveling my family's immune systems are a bit exhausted. This recipe comes from that place - a desire for warm, simple nourishment.

[THE RECIPE]

Note: This recipe uses carrot and fennel tops, referring to the green leaves or "tops" of the carrots and fennel. If you don't have access to these [being it's winter], save this sauce recipe and come back to it in the summer when greens are abundant. Often, the tops of carrots and fennel are disposed of but they are usable, delicious, and make an awesome [green!] addition to soups, pasta, and roasted vegetables, especially in the winter months when fresh greens are scarce. 

1 medium - large yellow onion, peeled and chopped into small pieces
2 T. ghee or coconut oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 T. fresh ginger, minced
1 celeriac or celery root, peeled and cut into small cubes
4 c. carrots, minced using food processor or blender
2 c. celery stalks and leaves, thinly sliced
3 medium size sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
4 c. turkey bone broth
2 - 4 c. water
1 lb. ground turkey
2 tsp. sea salt [if using store bought broth, eliminate salt and add only as necessary]
freshly ground pepper 
1 10 - 12 oz. bag of cut frozen green beans
1 10 - 12 oz. bag of chopped frozen kale
4 ounce jar of carrot and fennel top sauce [see recipe below], optional
black sea salt, optional
dulse flakes, optional

For the sauce:

4 c. fennel tops or green leaves
4 c. carrot tops or green leaves
extra virgin olive oil

Place the greens in a blender and add about a half cup of olive oil. Blend on high, scraping sides or using tamper to push the greens into the oil. Add oil as necessary until a sauce or dressing like consistency has been achieved. Pour into 4-ounce ball jars, cover tightly and freeze until needed.

Prepare all vegetables by peeling and chopping as noted. Set aside.

Warm ghee or coconut oil over medium heat. Once melted, add chopped onion and toss to coat. Saute, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to soften and become transparent, 5 - 7 minutes.

Add minced garlic and ginger and saute until aromatic, about 5 minutes. Add celeriac and cook for 3 minutes. Toss in carrots, celery, and sweet potato. Cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Pour in turkey broth and water. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 20 - 30 minutes or until sweet potato is tender when poked with a fork.

While the soup is cooking, place thawed ground turkey in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper and cook until meat is thoroughly done and no pink is visible. Set aside.

Once sweet potatoes are tender, reduce heat to low. Add cooked turkey, green beans, kale, and sauce. Cook until beans are bright green and tender.

Spoon into bowls and garnish with black sea salt and dulse flakes.





Monday, January 11, 2016

VEGETARIAN BROCCOLI-POTATO SOUP with sauteed garlic, onion, and herbs



I typically like a good snow. I figure, if it's going to be cold why not be sparkling white? And I really love a good winter storm that keeps up nestled close to the fire with hot tea and coloring books. Yesterday was both and I couldn't stop thinking about a warm, creamy soup. In an effort to use some things up, which is generally where most of the recipes found here originate, I followed my taste buds directly to here: creamy potato broccoli soup in vegetarian style. No cheese, no cream, no worries.

A couple of words about the recipe. White beans are an awesome way to add a creamy texture without the cream. The beans, in combination with nutritional yeast, come out in the vicinity of cheesy. I highly recommend using bone broth here as it provides a deeper, richer flavor but vegetable broth will work just fine. If you're using store-bought broth, reduce the salt listed in the recipe to at least half and taste as you go. And please oh please don't skip on the roasted broccoli and seeds or sauteed garlic and onion. Whole new level of awesome.

If you're a winter hater I hope you find ways to enjoy it in the simplest of forms. If you're a cold weather lover, may this add to your glee. And either way, may you find the loviness in today.

[THE RECIPE]

7 T. ghee, divided
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
4 - 4 1/2 c. red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into small cubes
2 tsp. nutritional yeast [optional]
1 1/2 tsp. rosemary powder
2 tsp. sea salt or to taste
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. celery seed
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 c. white beans [great northern, butter beans, etc.], cooked and rinsed
4 c. turkey broth or broth of choice
4 c. water
1 head of broccoli, chopped into small pieces
1/2 c. pumpkin seeds
1 - 2 T. pure maple syrup

In a medium skillet, melt three tablespoons of the ghee over medium heat. Add onion and cook until onion is soft and translucent. Lower heat to medium-low and saute until onion is just beginning to brown. Remove from heat and pour cooked onion into a medium size pot. Set aside.

In the same skillet that onion was cooked in, add three tablespoons of ghee and minced garlic. Cook over medium-low heat until garlic is just beginning to brown. Remove from heat and add to the pot with the onion.

Place all remaining ingredients, except broccoli, in the pot with the onions and garlic. Cover and bring to boil over high heat. Once the boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until potatoes are tender when poke with fork. Add broccoli and cook for an additional 7 - 10 minutes or until broccoli is soft and bright green. Remove from heat and let cook for 10 minutes or so.

While soup is cooking preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place half of the broccoli and pumpkin seeds on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Toss with about one tablespoon of ghee, syrup, and sprinkle with salt. Rub with your hands so that it is well combined. Bake until broccoli is bright green and just starting to brown on edges and pumpkin seeds are just becoming light brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Once the potatoes and broccoli are tender, place half of the soup in a blender and blend until smooth. Add blended soup back to pot, stir to combine, and serve. You can also use an immersion blender and blend soup to a creamy chunky consistency.

Top with roasted broccoli-pumpkin seed mixture.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

COLD/FLU TEA with phlegm reducing herbs



It seems this odd winter season is taking a toll on my family's immune health. This back and forth between temperatures has us in a constant state of viral infection and phlegm. Recently I posted a recipe using astragalus, one of the best immune-boosting herbs available. But astragalus is a long-term solution, a more preventative measure than acute fix. Taken over time it can really improve your body's ability to fight infection.

That being said, we needed something now. Humidifier has been running around the clock and yet the scratch in the back of our throats was signalling us to do something and quick.

So I made this tea.

And drank a lot of it.

By a lot I mean eight cups a day.

Herbs are so useful but are a bit misunderstood. Drinking a small cup with about one teaspoon of tea, equivalent to a standard tea bag, will not stand up to the infection knocking at the door to your body. So many people try herbs and tell me, "it didn't work!" and turn to over-the-counter or prescription drugs for quick fix.

Please understand, herbs take time. Drugs may work on the front-end but eventually your body will pay the price of reduced immunity, depleted healthy gut bacteria, and a longer recovery time. Herbs, although they take a little longer to kick in, will over time aid your body in standing up to the viral or bacterial infection before it enters your body - like a shield.

Back to this tea. This tea is full of herbs that reduce phelgm in the body [which means they are drying, more about this later] and provide your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to maintain health. Because this herbal mix is drying it's important to drink a lot of water, add a little honey to the tea, lubricate your skin and inner nostrils with pure, unrefined sesame or coconut oil, and keep the humidifier going.

In addition, zinc, vitamin D3, vitamin C, and specific mushrooms; steamed vegetables and broth-based soups; a diet with less phlegm inducing foods like meat, dairy, and sugar; restful sleep and moments of quiet throughout the day; laughter and creativity; and community all help give the body the best chance at standing up to illness. A note about supplements: not all are created equal and there is a lot of snake oil out there. It's best to talk with someone about rigorously tested supplements rather than running to the store and picking up a bottle that seems to look okay.

May a sense of deep health and well-being settle over you this winter season. 

[THE RECIPE]
Adapted from Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health

Note: all the herbs listed here are used in whole, dried form not powder. Please take the time to look into the herbs and make sure they are appropriate for you. Mountain Rose Herbs is a great resource to check specific herbs for any known contraindications. 

1/2 c. fennel seed
1/2 c. rosehips
1/2 c. nettle leaf
1/2 c. peppermint leaf
1/4 c. lemongrass
1/4 c. cut ginger
1/8 c. calendula flower
1/8 c. mullein
1/8 c. red clover flowers

Combine all herbs in a large glass bowl and mix well. Fill large size press n' brew tea bags with about 2 - 3 tablespoons of herb mix. Seal shut with iron. You can also you large mine-mesh tea strainer, reusable cotton tea bag, or cheesecloth to hold herbs.

Place one large tea bag in a quart size mason jar or large teapot. Fill with boiling water and let steep until water is room temperature, still warm but not hot. Drink throughout day. In times of acute infection, drink two quart-size jars [eight cups] a day.

Serve with a couple slices of organic lemon and a teaspoon or two of raw honey.








Wednesday, January 6, 2016

BOREDOM AND VANILLA CARDAMOM TIGERNUT GUMMIES with astragalus, nettle, maca, and elderflower



As a mom, most days I can handle repeating my day over and over again. Wake to yelling "Mama, I'm hungry!", brush teeth, scramble to get breakfast on the table before the hangry takes over, dishes, laundry, cleaning, picking up, the gamut of menial tasks.

But some days, especially after a series of such days, my valiance wains and I feel the force of undercurrent emotions and questions that travel with me throughout my day. I'm tired of and bored with being a maid, a cook, a personal attendant, a teacher, an officer, public defender and judge. Is this it? Is repeating the day really what I'm made for? Is there holy in this? Refinement in this? Of course the answer is yes. There is immense beauty and challenge in growing and tending a soul, or a few. God can meet us anywhere, especially in the muck and honesty of life. 

However.

Today I listened to a podcast and the speaker asked "is there a more noble task than being a mom and bringing up new life in this world?" I started to cry. Here's the thing - we all need to be reminded that what we do is so much more than what it looks like. There are those days when holy is a sweet memory, faded by spilled water and tears. The days when we're so bored we sit willing the puzzle to show us there is more to this life. Please tell me this isn't it!

Here's what we do when we're bored - we immediately try to escape it. Methods are plenty. We self medicate through distractions and busy and movies and media. We dive into anger and restlessness, depression and bed. And in a last-ditch effort some of us turn to food or drugs or alcohol, adultery or pornography. We all have our something or somethings - many levels to our boredom escape route.

I used to [ummmm...okay still do] escape by quickly moving onto the next thing or busying myself with tasks that make me feel like I've accomplished something, anything. If I'm checking things off the list, I can't be bored right? I can feel important right?

I am a mom, one who stays at home and let me tell you, it can get boring. Parenting is walking in the same direction for a long, long time type of thing. It's full of routine and rhythm and consistency - all things kids need and crave. For my kids it's the safety net that allows them to tiptoe away from the nest and explore one new bug, one skinned knee at a time.

There are days this routine and rhythm that keeps them comforted and confident can send me into mild psychosis. What keeps them grounded triggers me into a spinning mess, ready to jump in the UPS truck and on the road to anywhere.

But here's the thing. Boredom can be a powerful tool. A swift kick to get moving. It can also be a fantastic teacher. A mirror reflecting the deep, untouched area of our beings that need to be brought to the light and examined.

Why does busy make us feel important?

Why is slow so scary?

Why is more, more, more so addictive?

As I've asked myself these questions, I've uncovered old hurts and stories I've been told or have been telling myself. Areas of my being that need freedom and healing.

The more I sink into the stillness and rhythm of a slower pace of life, the more I find contentment and a beauty I never saw before. As if I was invited on stage to actively participate on an intimate level in this thing we call life. As I practice gratitude and compassion I find the one person who needs this most is me.

And the slow isn't so scary any more. The days not so long. The work not so menial.

The warm dish water becomes an opportunity to feel the heat on my hands and say thank you for clean water. It reminds me I care very much that everyone has this opportunity and it moves me to act. I drags me from my world and into connection with the greater world around me.

The smell of clean laundry reminds me how lucky we are to have the choice of wearing more than one outfit and a machine to do much of the heavy lifting. I challenges me to look at my closet, my spending, my wants and prioritize them in a more generous way.

Cooking connects me on the deepest level to the ones I love, to the ones who have gone before me, to the ground beneath my feet, and to the farmers who work tirelessly to put food on my table. It gives me a chance to stir and chop and breathe deeply the essence of life.

Writing and reading and painting and practicing yoga anchor me in the person I am and the things I love - the things I want to share with the world around me.

Walking barefoot in the grass, planting seeds, sledding down the snow covered hill outside our door, breathing in the crisp clean air all remind me that this world is precious and we only have one and it is so, so beautiful. Worth protecting and enjoying and caring for with wisdom and integrity and selflessness.

All of sudden I'm not just a mom. These moments, humble and small, catapult me to move, to care, to create.

They take me from mundane to holy.  

It's not easy and I miss out on it many of days. But I'm practicing and over time I'm noticing changes, subtle and sweet, that are leading me directly into a walk with the divine. I'm learning this can happen even if our responsibilities don't shift. The only thing that needs changing is our awareness. And that lies solely in the palm of our hands. The choice is ours. But it's worth it. Whatever it takes, it's worth it.

May you find a rhythm that allows you to pause and find gratitude in the very simplest of things. May you experience truly living rather than rushing and going and doing and producing. May boredom cause you to pause and examine and move or stand still. May you have eyes to see what already is and the patience to enjoy it. 

[IN CASE YOU'RE INTERESTED]

Astragalus has become a bit of a rock star in recent health circles however it has deep roots in Chinese medicine and has been used for many years medicinally to build immune strength, energizing and nourishing the entire body. It has quite an impressive list of qualities and uses and is worth familiarizing yourself with.

Nettle is also used traditionally in Chinese medicine, noted as a "long life" herb and a terrific whole body tonic. Many consider it a vitamin/mineral factory.

Both the flower and berries of the Elder plant are popular cold remedies and immune boosters in European countries and are gaining traction here in the states.



[THE RECIPE]

9 c. water, divided
1 c. tigernuts
1 handful of dried astragalus slices
2 T. dried nettle root
2 T. whole dried cardamom pods
2 T. dried elderflower
1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped
3 - 4 T. raw honey, local if possible
2 T. maple syrup
1 T. maca powder
1/4 tsp. cardamom powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 c. unflavored, grass-fed gelatin [for extra firm consistency, less if softer consistency is desired]

Prepare a 9 x 13 glass baking pan by greasing bottom and sides with coconut oil. Set aside.

In blender, place 5 cups of water and tigernuts. Blend on high until very smooth. Place cheesecloth or mine mesh nut milk bag over large jar or glass measuring cup. Pour blended milk into the cloth or bag about 3/4 of the way full. Twist top of bag and begin to squeeze milk out. Add the remaining milk and squeeze until all of the milk has been released. Save pulp for crackers, baking or smoothies. Set milk aside.



In a medium size pot place 4 cups of water, astragalus, nettle root, cardamom pods, and a pinch of salt. Bring water to boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer uncovered until about a cup of liquid remains [approximately 30 minutes]. Turn heat off, add elderflower, cover and let steep for an additional 20 minutes. Pour liquid through fine mesh strainer and discard herbs.

Slice vanilla bean along the edge, going deep enough to cut open but not all the way through.

Return herb tea to pot and add milk, vanilla bean, honey, syrup, cardamom powder, and sea salt. Warm over medium low heat until just hot to touch. Be careful not to boil!

Place warmed liquid in blender, add maca, and blend on high. Reduce speed to low and slowly pour in gelatin. Increase speed as consistency of liquid thickens.

Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and refrigerate until just firm. Cut the gummies into desired size and shape. Return to refrigerator and cool until gummies are very firm.

Store for a week or two in refrigerator and enjoy!

SPICED PEAR CHUTNEY with ginger, cardamom, and ghee




This is one of my favorite, really basic recipes for the late autumn and winter season. It's sweet, warm, and filled with aromatic spices that heat the body from the inside out.

[THE RECIPE]

8 ripe or very ripe pears, peeled and cut into small cubes
1/4 c. ghee
1 - 3 T. coconut sugar or maple syrup, depending on sweetness desired
1/4 - 1/2 c. water
1 heaping tablespoon minced fresh ginger or 1 tsp. dried ginger
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract or the seeds of 1 vanilla bean
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom seed
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
large pinch or two of Ceylon cinnamon
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
pinch of freshly ground cloves
8 whole medjool dates, pitted and thinly sliced

Peel pears with knife or vegetable peeler. Cut into small, 1-inch chunks and set aside.

In a medium-large pot* over low heat, combine ghee and coconut sugar or syrup. Once the ghee has melted and sugar has been mixed in, add cubed pears, water, ginger, cardamom, and sea salt. Stir to combine. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until pears have become very soft but still hold their shape [approximately 30 minutes]. Check for flavor at about the 15 minute mark and adjust as needed [more spices, more water, more sweetener]. Add dates when there is 10 minutes left of cooking time remaining.

Remove from heat and let cool about 10 minutes or until chutney is warm but not hot. Serve warm. Top with additional dates slices and fresh, minced or very thinly sliced ginger.

*You could also make this in a Crock-pot. Mix together all ingredients in Crock-pot, cover and cook for 2 - 3 hours on high or until pears are very soft but hold their shape.