Friday, December 20, 2013

SUPER-IMMUNITY KOMBUCHA

Kombucha may rank as one of my favorite drinks in life. I generally have a batch going and love experimenting with a variety of different flavors and combinations. In my opinion, kombucha can easily stand in as a glass of bubbly for upcoming holiday parties and, hey!, I can toast to good health and mean it.

I created this recipe a couple months ago as preparation for the months known for boasting illness - a foe I do everything possible to avoid. If anyone close to me catches a cold I immediately pop a bottle, sipping to freedom from phlegm and misery. Along with a few preventative measures, my body is able to put up a good fight and come away victorious.

[WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT THIS COMBO?]

Elderberries

Elderberries and elder flowers are pretty much considered the universal remedy. In most temperate regions its seems you can find these bushes everywhere. We have them lining the ditches along our roads, in the woods, throughout our gardens and farms, near ponds, you name it. They are easy to grow and really easy to dry and store. Elder's most touted properties are immune-enhancing, anti-viral, and sweat inducing [fever reducing]. They can also be used to treat upper respiratory infections, inflammation, skin problems [including boils, rashes, acne], or as a nutritive food [think vitamin A, vitamin C, bioflavonoids, flavonoids, phenolic compounds, beta-carotene, iron, potassium, and phytosterols].
*Note: it is important to use dried as raw berries can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea in some people.

Ginger

Okay I admit, I add ginger to everything. It is one of my favorite all-around herbs and also claimed to be a universal remedy. Not only an antiseptic [think food poisoning and gastrointestinal infections], ginger is a wonderful digestive stimulant; increases circulatory, respiratory, and nervous system function; and has warming and cleansing properties. It is wonderful for treating colds and the flu, motion sickness, nausea or upset stomach, and in some cases morning sickness. Parasites beware. Inflammation, run. Nasty phlegm, bam! Menstrual pain, look out, ginger is coming. You can even help alleviate a headache by rubbing some ginger juice on said area and lower blood triglycerides using ginger. Seriously, this herb has it all and is a must-have in your herbal medicine cabinet.

Lavender

Lavender. The smell alone should be enough to sell you on this wonderful herb but in case it doesn't, here's a bunch of other reasons to get really familiar with this common plant. Lavender is famous for it's relaxing and uplifting qualities lending it perfect to use for tension and stress relief or insomnia. It also happens to have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiseptic properties and can be used in treating a plethora of infections, burns, and insect bites. It's used in formulas for migraines and headaches as well as indigestion and stomach spasms related to irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease. There's a component of lavender, perillyl alcohol, that has shown antileukemia and anititumor effects [specifically liver, spleen, and breast] in laboratory studies. So one might say it's a universal remedy. Sensing a theme?

Orange Peel 

Orange peel is most commonly used as a flavoring agent or fragrance. More uncommonly known, these same compounds are antiseptic in nature, decrease mucous production, reduce muscle spasms, increase digestive fluid production and blood circulation, and have anti-inflammatory effects. Not bad for a great tasting herbal addition!

[THE RECIPE]

For great instructions on how to make kombucha at home, I recommend Sally Fallon's book Nourishing TraditionsSmall Notebook also has really good instructions just slightly different from Fallon's. Note: I use organic green tea rather than black tea for a super antioxidant boost.

One batch of prepared Kombucha Tea
8 - 12 glass bottle with tight fitting lid [I like to reuse store bought kombucha bottles but any jar will do!]

1 teaspoon each per bottle:

Organic Dried Elderberries
Organic Dried Ginger, Cut or 1, 1-inch piece of fresh ginger
Organic Dried Lavender Flower

1/2 teaspoon per bottle:

Organic Dried Orange Peel

Check out Global Infusion [if you live in the area], Bulk Herb Store, or Mountain Rose Herbs for dried organic herbs.

Place measure herbs in each bottle. Fill 3/4 full with prepared kombucha tea. Tightly secure cap and place in a warm, dry, dark area [a cupboard under the sink or over the refrigerator works great]. Let sit for 3 - 5 days. After 3 - 5 days store in refrigerator for 2 weeks to let the flavors really blend. After 2 weeks have passed, enjoy!

Monday, December 16, 2013

T & J's TEMPLE OF HEALTH HERBAL TEA

My friend Jamie and I have a favorite little tea shop in our area we visit from time to time. Frequently we order their "Temple of Health" tea, touted as increasing immunity and overall vigor. I perused the ingredients list and found sure enough, the herbs listed are great for combating the colds and flu so frequently caught this time of year.

This is not only our take on the recipe but also one of our defenses against those yucky bugs. Lucky for us [and you!], it's also delicious!

Check out the "Cold & Flu Prevention and Remedies" page on this blog for more herbal ammunition along with a list of natural ways to prevent and treat general illness.

To find organic [something I cannot stress enough here] loose leaf herbs, visit a local tea supplier, co-op, or health foods store. My favorite place is Global Infusion [they also happen to have the best house chai ever and boast a typically amazing "chai of the month"]. If I'm looking for a large quantity or have a bulk order I find many of my herbs online from either Bulk Herb Store or Mountain Rose Herbs.

A note about measuring in "parts": "parts" is a general measuring term that can mean any form of measurement. The thing to remember when using parts is if you start with 1 tablespoon equating 1 part then you need to continue that measurement throughout recipe. For example, if 1 tablespoon equals 1 part then 2 parts would  be 2 tablespoons and 1/2 part would be 1/2 tablespoon. 


[THE RECIPE]
Inspired by LJ's "Temple of Health" tea blend

2 parts each:

dried ginger root, cut
cinnamon chips
lemon grass, cut
licorice root, cut

1 part each:

astragalus root, cut
echinacea root, cut
echinacea leaf, cut

splash of organic lemon oil

Place all herbs and splash of lemon oil in a large glass jar or container. Secure lid tightly and shake gently to combine. Store in an airtight glass jar in a cool, preferably dark place.

To use, place 2 - 3 teaspoons of tea mix in a metal tea strainer, tea ball, or unbleached cotton tea bag. Put in a mug suitable for hot liquids and pour 1 - 1 1/2 cups of boiling water over tea. Steep for 2 - 3 minutes for mild strength, 5 - 7 for medium strength, and 10+ minutes for bold tea [the stronger the tea the more health benefits you receive]. I like to let my tea steep to room temperature and drink warm rather than hot. I will add more water if tea is too strong.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

TWO TRUFFLES: PEPPERMINT & PUMPKIN



When I was a kid living at home not needing to worry myself with cooking, I baked. I loved making an assortment of desserts, cookies, muffins, you name it. Eventually I moved away, got a job, a ring, a couple babies, and picked up a few food allergies. My bet is you know where this is going. I hardly bake anymore and definitely not many desserts or cookies. I focus most of my energies on cooking decent meals and wholesome snacks for my family, picking up [and re-picking up] toys, keeping the house in at least less than disastrous condition, enjoying a few hobbies, and helping others find ways to embrace a healthy lifestyle. This leaves little time for much else.

And yet, here we are, the season of parties and celebration and an endless amount of treats. I'm not complaining, it just presents a bit of a pickle for a girl who doesn't do much in the "dessert" area.

Enter these truffles. Easy. Quick. Minimal effort. Allergy-free. Super delicious. And a bit more virtuous.

These truffles have become my go-to dessert whenever the occasion presents itself and just never get old. The original recipe for Pumpkin Truffles comes from Daily Bites and I've adapted that recipe for the peppermint truffles listed below.

Enjoy friends and may you be so blessed this holiday season.


[RECIPE]
Makes about 10 medium or 15 small truffles

3/4 c. coconut butter
3 - 4 T. pure maple syrup [+ 1/4 c. pure maple syrup is making coating rather than using sweetened chocolate chips]
1 vanilla bean, scraped*
2 tsp. peppermint oil, divided
pinch sea salt
4 ounces of either allergen-free chocolate or unsweetened chocolate or carob, chopped
2 T. coconut oil
if using unsweetened chocolate or carob, you will need:
1/4 c. pure maple syrup

Combine coconut butter and 3 - 4 T. maple syrup in a small pot over very low heat. Stir until melted [the mixture will start out creamy and a bit liquid looking and as it melts get more pasty]. Remove from heat, pour mixture into a small glass mixing bowl, and stir in scraped vanilla bean [the pod contents not the pod*] and 1 teaspoon of the peppermint oil.

Place bowl with truffle "dough" into the freezer and let set for 10 - 20 minutes or until the mixture is a bit firmer and can be easily rolled into balls.

Form the cold mixture into small balls [should make 10 medium or 15 small balls] and place on a wax paper lined plate or baking pan. Return to freezer for an additional 10 minutes.

While the nugget part of the truffles is freezing, make the chocolate or carob coating. Over very low heat, heat chocolate or carob chips or pieces, coconut oil, and maple syrup [if using unsweetened chocolate or carob] in a small pot. Whisk constantly until just melted and remove from heat. Add 1 teaspoon of peppermint oil, stirring to combine.

Take truffle "nugget" out of the freezer and dip each ball into the chocolate to coat completely. Place them back onto the baking sheet and, once all the the truffle balls are covered in chocolate or carob, return to the freezer to solidify coating. Once firm, remove truffles from freezer and, using a spoon, carefully drizzle additional coating over the truffles. Return to freezer. You can freeze any leftover coating for the next batch or toss with a large handful of almonds to make peppermint chocolate-covered almonds or you can use almond pieces to make peppermint almond bark.

Once the coating has solidified, place truffles in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator or freezer until you are ready to serve.

You can also make coconut truffles by adding shredded coconut [enough to make a firm dough] and using coconut extract in place of peppermint.

*If you're wondering what to do with the pods [because, well vanilla beans are expensive so who wants to waste!], place scraped beans in a small airtight jar and cover with rum. Place in a dark cupboard and let stand a few weeks. Voila! Pure vanilla extract!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

SIMPLE BREAKFAST: SWEET POTATO + KALE + KIDNEY BEANS + QUINOA [AND A THANKSGIVING DAY MENU]

The few days leading up to Thanksgiving are usually hectic, the morning of a blur. The cleaning, the planning, the table setting. The prepping, chopping, cutting, basting. In past years T-day has come and I find myself scrambling to get everything done and, true to my personality, done perfectly. Obviously I succeed [sarcasm, check!].

This year however our gathering is smaller, the list a bit shorter, and my attitude surrounding the entire day a little different. I love Thanksgiving. It ranks as one of my favorite holidays to be sure and this year is no different.

The change comes in my mindset.

Instead of freaking out about things being just right I'm learning to be kinder to myself. I'm realizing a magazine-perfect setting is beautiful but doesn't really change what happens around our table, it just stresses me out. I'm finding my girls would rather help me clean [a game in their beautiful minds] if I relax, turn on some music, throw in some terrible dance moves, and let go of getting every nook sparkling. I'm working on living in the present moment taking in the blessing that comes with the preparation - a time bursting with love and anticipation yet so easy to miss in the chaos, turkey guts, and veggie scraps. As I write this I take a few glances out the window watching fat snow flakes lazily make their way to the ground. I listen as my baby coos herself to sleep and my oldest works on her letters in between setting up a card game for us to play later.

I have my lists, things to get done. But I've also planned in moments to be and enjoy and what I'm finding is everything gets done and I treasure each step along the way.

Pre-Thanksgiving meals are a perfect place to start simplifying. Through paying attention to how my body responds to food, I've found I do much better on a high protein, low sugar [natural or otherwise] breakfast. Slowly I'm putting together simple breakfasts to fit my needs. Below is an example of one of my current favorites. The quinoa + bean combination provides a complete protein while the sweet potato and kale [seasonal favorites these days!] packs the meal with essential vitamins and minerals. Fennel and cumin aid in the digestion of beans and using the whole seeds ensures these properties have stayed in tact. Nutritional yeast is high in protein and is one of the few non-meat food sources of B vitamins we have available.

May you find the time and presence to give thanks in whatever chaos you find. May you surround yourself with those you love and tell them why they mean so much to you. May Thanksgiving be a day bursting with blessing and may the times surrounding it bring moments of grace and beauty.

Happy Thanksgiving!

[THE RECIPE]
Serves 2 - 3

1 large sweet potato or 2 small: washed and cut into very small cubes [if you are using organic you don't need to peel]
1 large bunch of kale: washed, spun dry, and cut into small ribbons
1 c. kidney beans [or beans of choice]: soaked, cooked, rinsed, and drained [or drain and rinse a can of pre-cooked beans]
1 c. quinoa: soaked / sprouted, rinsed, and cooked
1 - 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 T. whole cumin seeds
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
1/2 tsp. granulated onion
1/4 tsp. freshly ground fennel seed
sea salt, to taste

Prepare all vegetables as noted above. Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet until hot but not smoking or popping. Carefully add sweet potatoes, toss to coat with oil, and then let cook for a few minutes or until the undersides are browned and crispy. Stir, add cumin seeds, and repeat until most of the sides are browned and potatoes are just soft. Add cooked kidney beans, oregano, nutritional yeast, granulated garlic, granulated onion, and ground fennel, stir, and let cook for 1 - 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium - low, add kale and gently try to stir [the kale will probably be heaping], add a 1/8 c. of water, cover and let steam for 30 - 60 seconds or until kale starts to wilt. Remove cover and stir to combine. Add cooked quinoa stirring gently until quinoa is warmed. Salt to taste.

I usually make the full recipe and then store the leftovers for the next day's breakfast.

[A SEASONAL THANKSGIVING DAY MENU]

Appetizers:

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Holiday Crackers with Cheesy Pumpkin Dip
Roasted Chickpeas
Parsnip Chips


Main Meal:

Three Winter Salads + One Dressing
Roasted Veggie-Stuffed Hubbard Squash
Mixed-Vegetable Mashed Potatoes
Quinoa-Walnut Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Spiced Pear Sauce

Dessert:

Buttercup Custard
Pumpkin Ice Cream
Upside-Down Pumpkin Pie Crisp
Pumpkin-Apple Crisp

Drinks:

Spiced Pumpkin Latte
Chamomile Latte [a little digestion aid!]




Friday, November 15, 2013

THREE WINTER SALADS + ONE DRESSING

Okay, salads are easy. I mean really easy. This makes salads perfect for the 5 o'clock "what's for dinner?!" panic and something I rely on for many of our summertime meals.

However, winter makes finding fresh local greens and the standard cucumber + tomato combination next to impossible or really, really expensive [both in transport and in purchase].

Yet I love and crave salads and have come to anticipate each season's special twist. So here are three of my favorite winter-friendly salads I make more than I care to admit.

I encourage you to drop into a winter Farmer's Market or find a local farm with a winter CSA option available, stock up on these veggies, and enjoy warm salads all winter long. I like to make these in the full batches and save for easy lunch options. All three also make fantastic sides for holiday celebrations.

[DRESSING]
This is the dressing you will use on all of the salads below.

1 part of equal parts raw cider vinegar + lemon juice [1/2 cup is a good place to start]
1 part extra virgin olive oil [1/2 cup is a good place to start]
1 - 2 T. raw local honey or maple syrup [adjust to taste]
2 - 3 tsp. gluten-free Dijon mustard [adjust to taste]
large pinch or two of sea salt

Place all ingredients in a glass jar and seal with tight fitting lid. Shake vigorously for a minute or so until all of the ingredients have been incorporated.


[WARM BEET SALAD]
Serves 2

1 large beet - washed, peeled [optional if using organic beets], cubed
1 large carrot - washed, peeled [optional if using organic beets], sliced
1 - 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
small handful [about 2 T.] cashews - slightly crushed and toasted*
2 - 3 T. dressing [recipe shown above], adjust to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the chopped beets and sliced carrots on a stone or parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss until all pieces are covered in oil. Place in preheated oven and roast for 10 - 15 minutes or until vegetables are just soft.

Remove from oven, spread onto plate or bowl and toss with a couple tablespoons of dressing. Sprinkle with toasted cashews and serve warm.


[WARM BROCCOLI + KALE + WHITE BEAN SALAD]
Adapted from Whole Living Magazine: Issue No. 73 / January-February 2013, p. 51
Serves 4 - 6 

3 c. broccoli, stalk + leaves + florets, rinsed and cut into chunks
1 large bunch of Lacinato or favorite kale variety, washed and chopped
3 c. white beans, soaked and cooked
1/2 c. chopped parsley [if available]
1/3 c. toasted sunflower seeds*
2 T. extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 - 1/3 c. dressing [recipe shown above], adjust to taste

Steam cut broccoli stalk[s], leaves, and florets until bright green and just soft but still a bit crunchy [about 3 - 5 minutes]. In a large cast iron skillet, saute kale in 1 T. of the olive oil over medium-high heat until the kale is bright green and just soft. Place broccoli in a large food processor and pulse to chop into small pieces. Place into a large glass bowl and repeat with the kale and parsley. Place with chopped broccoli, cover, and set aside. In same large cast iron skillet pour in remaining 1 T. olive oil and bring to just hot. Carefully add beans, toss and let sit a minute or so. Stir and repeat. Beans should begin to brown on edges. Remove from heat and add to bowl with broccoli, kale, and parsley. Add toasted sunflower seeds and dressing and gently toss it all together adding more dressing if necessary. Serve warm.



[WARM KASHA SALAD]
Adapted from Delicious Living Magazine: November 2013 Issue, p. 34
Serves 4 - 6

6 cups of loosely packed arugula, rinsed and spun or patted dry
1 medium to large onion, chopped
1 1/2 c. sliced celery [may be available at Farmer's Market into November] - rinsed and sliced
1 large or 2 small kohlrabi - rinsed, peeled, and chopped
2 large radishes - rinsed and chopped
1 - 2 medium-large carrots - rinsed, quartered, and sliced
1 - 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 c. hulled, gluten-free buckwheat groats or kasha [soaked for 4 - 6 hours, drained, and rinsed]
4 c. pure water
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 c. pumpkin seeds, toasted*
1/2 - 3/4 c. dressing [recipe shown above], adjust to taste
Roasted white or garbanzo beans ["Mildly Spicy" recipe], optional

In a medium sized stainless steel saucepan bring 4 c. water to boil. Add salt and soaked buckwheat groats. Cook for 7 - 10 minutes or until just soft. Drain in a fine mesh strainer, rinse briefly with cold water, place in glass serving bowl, cover and set aside. In a large cast iron skillet place oil and onion. Bring to sizzle and then reduce heat to medium low, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and just transparent. Add celery and carrots and cook for a few more minutes. Add kohlrabi and radishes and cook another few minutes or until vegetables are just soft and warm but remain crunchy. Remove from heat and add to cooked buckwheat. Sprinkle in toasted pumpkin seeds, dressing, and stir until well mixed. Place about 1 cup of arugula on 6 plates [or simply in a large serving bowl] and top with a large scoop of the warm kasha salad. Garnish with roasted white or garbanzo beans [optional] and serve warm.


*To toast nuts or seeds: If you have a toaster oven, spread nuts or seeds out on a baking sheet. Using the "Toast: 1" or lowest setting, cook until beeper goes off. If you are using a skillet: place nuts or seeds in skillet and bring heat to high. Toss continuously until nuts / seeds become slightly browned, adjusting heat as necessary. If you are using an oven: place nuts / seeds on baking sheet and place in 300 degree preheated oven. Watch carefully and remove when they are slightly browned or smell really nutty.

Monday, October 28, 2013

ROASTED VEGGIE-STUFFED HUBBARD SQUASH


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for many reasons. I love the idea of gathering around a table, motivated by no more than the celebration of gratitude, family and friends, and really, really great food. I start the T-Day planning weeks in advance out of pure excitement and anticipation [which is the main reason you're getting this post in October].

A few years ago, because I [and now my girls] forgo the standard turkey and stuffing fare, my mom came up with a more-than-suitable main course to stand in as centerpiece of the table. She wowed even the veggie-phoebes with her artistic arrangement of the harvest's finest treasures. As other's gasped with appreciation, I was taken aback by the time and care she put in to making something special for her daughter [a common occurrence throughout my life]. It has since become a much-loved Thanksgiving tradition.

Over the next few weeks, as you plan and prepare for the upcoming holiday[s], I hope you find the time and presence to name every person and thing you are grateful for with each cut or chop or assemble. May you let the anticipation be part of the giving thanks, letting it seep into each day. May your heart swell with blessing and body warm with really, really great food.

Oh, and thanks mom for taking care of your girls. This one's for you!


[THE RECIPE]
Adapted from my mom's stuffed Hubbard squash recipe debuted Thanksgiving 2010 and adamantly requested every Thanksgiving since.

Many of the vegetables listed are great storage fare and can be purchased weeks in advance [like now!]. Other's, like Brussels sprouts, get sweeter after the first freeze and, if available, can mostly likely be purchased the week of Thanksgiving. If you plan to make this for Thanksgiving day, I recommend chopping everything the day before and storing in glass containers in the refrigerator. This alleviates much of the "day-of" work and allows you to focus on other, more pressing items.

If you have the space in your oven, arrange the cooking racks so there is one close to the bottom, one in the middle and one near the top. Use the convect cooking option if available. This way you can cook everything at the same time.


1 small Golden Hubbard squash [or any winter squash you prefer]
2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 tsp sea salt, divided
freshly ground pepper

Cut squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Reserve seeds to make roasted pumpkin / squash seeds. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place 1 tsp. of olive oil in each half and, using your hands, rub along bottom and sides. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp. in each squash and grind about a 1/4 tsp. of pepper in each. Flip so flesh side of the squash halves are facing down and place on a parchment paper-lined baking pan. Place in oven and bake at 375 degrees for 60 minutes.

3 potatoes [I like using one of each red, yellow, purple], peels on*, cut into small chunks
1 beet, peel on*, cut into small chunks
1 stalk Brussels sprouts, sprouts removed and washed [you can save the stalk, peel, and cut into chunks and roast or compost], cut sprouts in half
1 leek, whites and light green, thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
large handful green beans, cut into 1/2-inch pieces [choose fresh or frozen depending on what you can find locally]
1 large fennel bulb, fronds and stems removed, thinly sliced
1 - 2 carrots, peels on*, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
small handful of fresh sage, ground
1 small branch fresh rosemary leaves, stem removed and leaves ground
1 T nutritional yeast
2 tsp sea salt, divided
freshly ground pepper
2 - 3 T extra virgin olive oil

Optional veggie additions: rutabaga, shitake mushrooms, parsnips, kale, sweet potato

*If your vegetables are organic you can simply scrub the peels and leave them on.

While the squash is baking, wash and chop all of the vegetables as noted. On a stone or parchment paper-lined baking pan, toss beets and Brussels sprouts with 1 tsp. of sea salt, a little pepper, half the rosemary and sage, and 1 - 1 1/2 T. olive oil. On a different stone or parchment paper-lined baking pan, combine remaining ingredients and mix well [I use my hands].

Place in the oven with the squash and roast for about 30 minutes or until veggies are soft and the lighter vegetables are just starting to take on a golden brown color.

1/2 c. millet, rinsed and drained
3/4 c. water
1 T extra virgin olive oil

While vegetables and squash are roasting, prepare millet. Using a fine mesh strainer, rinse the millet under cold water until water runs clear [about 30 seconds]. Drain well. Warm olive oil in a medium size pot and, when just hot but not smoking, carefully flip in millet and saute, stirring frequently, for 3 - 5 minutes. The millet should begin to smell nutty. Pour in water, cover, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and cook covered until no liquid remains and millet is fully cooked.

Once all of the vegetables are roasted and millet is cooked, toss vegetables with millet in a large glass bowl [please use glass or stainless steel rather than plastic as the heat will cause the plastic to leach chemicals into the food].

Fill each of the squash halves with the veggie mix. You'll have extra mix which makes for a great breakfast the next morning!

You can top with chopped toasted walnuts and sea salt and pepper to taste.





Monday, October 21, 2013

JUICE WITH NO JUICER!

Sometimes reading books or magazines or blogs or articles just plain adds stress to eating well.

I mean, seriously. Now I need a juicer in addition to my dehydrator, food processor, blender, spice grinder, toaster oven, Crock-pot, and mixer?!

Sometimes I simply get fed up with it all, throw modern-day convenience out the window and put on my thinking cap. You know, the scrappy, frugal, brilliant one our grandparents seem to have. The hat that allows me to make something out of nothing and use what I have rather than purchasing something new because, I need it.

I'll say it right up front, this juice will take more time than it's juicer-pressed counterpart. Whenever we choose to walk away from the machine and do things by hand it generally does. But the process will also connect you to something more melodic, more fluid - something slower and more present.

[WHY GO THROUGH THE HASSLE?]

Juicing is an incredible way of getting easy-to-assimilate vitamins and minerals into your body quickly and effectively. It's said to be easier on your digestive system, not requiring the effort many fruits and vegetables would normally take. This doesn't mean forgo eating whole foods in favor of juicing everything. It means juice in conjunction with eating whole vegetables and fruit. It also offers a great option during illness or during fasting.

Not all juice is equal. Many commercial juices contain far more fruits than vegetables which can have a blood sugar spiking effect. A good rule of thumb is one fruit for every three vegetables.

Because juice tends to digest both faster than whole foods and dilute stomach acid [necessary for digestion], it's important to drink juice at least 30 minutes prior to eating or an hour or more after eating rather than with a meal.

So, take a little time to squeeze your own juice. Make a large batch and freeze some for later. Enjoy walking away from the "I need's" for a moment - from the stress, and information, and noise - and simply enjoy letting juice run through your fingers and down your arm.


[THE RECIPE - NO JUICER REQUIRED]

Leaving peels on, rinse, scrub, and quarter or cut into chunks each vegetable or fruit listed unless otherwise noted

2 - 3 small beets or 1 large one
2 carrots
3 celery sticks [optional]
2 small apples or pears or 1 large one
large bunch of kale
1/2 cucumber [optional]
1/2 lemon, juiced
one 1" piece of ginger
1 - 2 cups of water
1 nut bag or large piece of cheesecloth folded in half

Place all chopped produce in a blender and cover with water. Blend on high until mixture is smooth [1 - 2 minutes].

Place nut bag or cheesecloth in a large measuring jar or bowl. Pour mixture into bag or cloth [you may have to split mixture into two]. Gently lift up bag or cloth and twist top to secure so the mixture does not squeeze out. Slowly begin to squeeze the mixture, sort of using a milking-the-cow like motion. Continue until all of the juice has been release and all that remains is a solid ball of pulp. Remove pulp and repeat if necessary.

Pour desired juice into a glass and freeze remaining for later. It's important to drink within a day or freeze to preserve the enzymes, vitamins, and minerals released during the juicing process.

[WINTER JUICE]

For a nice early winter juice try this recipe using persimmons [you might be able to score some at your Farmer's Market]. Persimmons are awesome for reducing excessive mucus, are packed with vitamin C, and counter the effects of dry weather. This recipe is great for building the health of your blood, boosting your immunity, and helps fight those nasty colds.

2 persimmons, remove stems and seeds
2 carrots, rinse and remove end
2 medium beets, rinse and remove end
2 1-inch pieces of peeled ginger
juice of 1 lemon

Follow juicing instructions above.

Monday, October 14, 2013

PUMPKIN EVERYTHING

Confession.

This post makes me want to cry it gets me so excited.

Seriously.

Fat tears of joy.

There are many things I love but few rival my affection for pumpkin. I'm not sure how to explain it except to say, try a few of the recipes listed here and you too may get the love.

Thus, as a shout-out to my favorite orange [sometimes green, and white, and blue, and yellow] beauty, here is a conglomeration of my best-of-show pumpkin and friends, well, everything!

Enjoy!

[BREAKFAST / BAKED]

Spiced Pumpkin Waffles with Maple-Ginger Syrup
Pumpkin [Rice] Bran Muffins
Pumpkin Porridge

[DRINKS]

Spiced Pumpkin Latte
Pumpkin-Goji Smoothie
Creme De Pumpkin Shake

[SNACKS / APPETIZERS / SIDES]

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds: 3 Ways
Roasted Delicata Squash
Cheesy Pumpkin Dip

[MAIN COURSES]

Butternut Squash Soup
Pumpkin Risotto
Spaghetti [Squash] and [No Meat] Balls

[DESSERT]

Pumpkin Ice Cream
Buttercup Custard
Upside-Down Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin-Apple Crisp

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

BIODIVERSITY VS. MONSANTO

There are better writers, certainly, who could summarize what I am about to say more eloquently with a lot more wit and pizzazz. I hope they do. And I hope many ears are ready to listen and act.

But because I am both frustrated and devastated, I thought I would add my voice to the mix.

Today it was announced a Monsanto executive won the prestigious World Food Prize or “the Nobel Prize of Agriculture”. This award is “an international award recognizing the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world” [1].

Maybe this means nothing to you but I hope it will because it absolutely affects you.

In case you don’t know who Monsanto is, they’re the brains behind Round-Up, the oh-so-popular herbicide sold in every garden and food store across the country [and DDT and agent orange and PCBs and on and on]. They are also responsible for creating seeds resistant to Round-Up; the leader in fact, in producing genetically engineered seeds.

And, in order to grow their seed you must use their herbicide and vice versa. A brilliant business plan some would say.

However, because we have gotten to a mono-crop agricultural system [think corn, soy, and wheat], a demand by large farmers has been created for a seed able to withstand the herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides necessary to grow crops at the scale we do today. And, because we are a nation in quite a powerful spot, this seed and herbicide can be widely distributed to the less powerful countries now dependent on our business and seed and herbicide.

So what was once a brilliant business idea has now become a monopoly on global food crops. A monopoly taking actions to limit competition [think buy-out, small farm lawsuits, patented seed, etc.].

Something apparently illegal in the United States.

Unless, of course, you know the right people and have the correct amout of change because really, it’s all about the Benjamin’s baby.

And today this form of commerce was just given an award. A very prestigious award.

Simply put, we just rewarded monopoly – the very thing we rightly should stand against.

Why?

Because when one person or country or organization or business grows large enough to dictate what we do and do not eat, what is available and becomes unavailable, what genes get modified and what don’t – I get nervous.

Yet we support it every single day.

You. Me. Everyone. We support it with our dollars, with our influence as consumers, and with our voice [or lack thereof].

And now we support it with awards.

Biodiversity is the key to a sustainable healthy world, yet an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 plant species are threatened with extinction [2].

In the last century, 75% of agricultural biodiversity has been lost [3].

These aren’t plants with big names found in the rainforest somewhere. These are plants we rely on as food.

And by the by, the loss of biodiversity is essentially irreversible – we can’t bring diversity within our food system back once it’s been lost. And we’re losing big time.

I’m not okay with this.

I hope you’re not okay with this.

I hope it makes you mad - like red-faced, fists balled, blow steam out your ears mad.

Because it should.

And I hope it leads you to action.

I hope you use your power as a consumer to give voice to the powerless, the ignorant, the speechless and hopeless. I hope you write your congress people, and your Facebook friends, and the President. I hope you talk about it in the grocery store and at the Farmer’s Market, at church and the bank and the bar.

I hope you get mad and then you get moving because fighting for justice is powerful. More powerful than a company fighting to control the global food system and winning awards for it. Fight with your dollars and your votes and the choices you make regarding food each day.

Because there's hope. And there's beauty in groups of people coming together to fight for what's right. Not just for us but for all. We can make change happen.

May you use your voice and change the world.

[CITATION]


[RESOURCES]

Understanding biodiversity and its importance:

Monday, October 7, 2013

CREAM OF KALE SOUP WITH HOMEMADE VEGETABLE BROTH

Hang out with a kid for a few moments and you'll quickly realize something - adults can be booorrrriiing.

Don't get me wrong, I love adult conversation, tasks, relationships, and responsibility. These and other things add meaning to my life. What I've found however, is adults have a hard time simply relaxing and having fun. Not "haha, I just bought a boat and a condo and I'm so good looking the mirror can't handle it and my wallet can't contain all the bills and my life is so busy and my cell phone won't stop ringing because I'm just that important" kind of fun. 

I mean real fun.

Fun void of busyness, to-do lists, self-proclamation, self-critcism, gossip, cruelty, empty relationships, superficial adventure, alcohol, small talk, and money - essentially fun absent of needing something to get us to fun.

Enter a child.

Kids need nothing to laugh - they laugh at themselves because life is simply hilarious. They play with whatever they can get their hands on and if all else fails, with air  because hey! there's a ton of that. They let their imaginations run wild and then they run wild. Kids fart and spit and get dirty and jumble their sentences in both confusion and excitement and run around naked and sometimes pee their pants but it's all good because life is awesome and the moment is to precious to worry about what anyone else thinks. Kids aren't proper or careful or neat or disciplined. 

Kids are expert be-ers.

Of course we can't live all of life like a kid - there is purpose to our growing up. Amazing things are built on the notion of maturation. 

But I wonder what would happen if we took a bit of child with us. 

For as long as I can remember I have loved to swing. Few things bring me the joy that comes when I'm sailing in the air, feet outstretched just trying to touch the sky, pretending I actually can. Swinging allows me both freedom and control. Faith and tangibility. Gut-busting excitement and unmovable peace. It makes me want to laugh and cry and squeal and listen. It brings out the best of opposites in me each and every time. 

Swinging is my kid-space. 

It's on the swing I allow my boundaries to shrink away and embrace the person I am and the world I live in. I give myself permission to be wholly me and express my emotions is their purest, deepest way. The swing reminds me that this world is good and beautiful and enchanted and worth believing in. The swing is where God speaks to my heart and my mind and every part of me I don't understand and every part I think I do. The swing embraces me in the moment and only asks that I climb up and start to pump, promising to take care of the rest. 

Swinging lets me feel all the realness of heaven while keeping me anchored to earth. 

Living a life of wholeness and health has a lot to do with food, what and the way we eat, but has so much more to do with our experience with living. If you go a day without a genuine smile [tragedies aside], you aren't living a healthy life. If you go a day without meaningful conversation where you both listen and are heard, especially with and by someone close to you, you aren't living a healthy life. If your answer for "how are you doing?" is "so busy" every time, you aren't living a healthy life. If you go a day without experiencing or noticing the hand of the Creator in the world around you, you aren't living a healthy life. If you look back on your day and can't point to a moment of authentic joy and purpose, you aren't living a healthy life.

Health may begin with food but it must turn to life, all of life, to be real and sustainable.

So maybe start by swinging. Put aside how old you are [or think you are] and let your boundaries crash, emotions go and, if only for a second, become a kid again.

Sometimes one second is all it takes to change your life.



[THE RECIPE]

1- 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 - 2 large bunches of kale cut into small strips
1 large eggplant, roasted and peeled*
1 -2 heads of garlic, roasted**
6 c. white beans [Great Northern, white lima, or bean of choice] cooked, drained, and rinsed
8 c. vegetable stock [recipe below]
2 - 3 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
2 - 3 T. nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp. ground mustard
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
Optional Additions: 1 head of lightly steamed broccoli and / or 1 head of lightly steamed cauliflower

*To roast the eggplant: place whole eggplant on a baking sheet. Put in oven with the rack in it's uppermost/highest position and broil on high [make sure the eggplant doesn't touch the oven coil - lower rack if necessary]. Broil until skin darkens and begins to crack, 10 - 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Hold the stem end with an ovenmit and, using cooking tongs or a fork, gently pull skin away. Compost or discard the skin and set eggplant "meat" aside.

**To roast garlic: preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wrap garlic clove in tinfoil and place on oven rack. Roast until clove is soft, approximately 30 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully squeeze each clove from the skin. Discard skins and set cloves aside.

In a blender combine 3 cups of the beans, salt, pepper, nutritional yeast, ground mustard, cumin, eggplant, and garlic. Blend until very smooth. Set aside.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, saute onion in olive oil until just translucent and soft.

Add broth and pureed bean mixture to pot, stir, and bring to a boil. Lower heat to maintain and simmer. Add the remaining 3 cups of beans and kale. Cook until kale is soft and bright green, about 5 minutes.

Puree some or all of the soup using a immersion or regular blender. 

Garnish with roasted kale strips, gluten-free croutons, toasted pumpkin seeds, or toppings of choice.

[VEGETABLE STOCK RECIPE]
Adapted from It's All Good by Gwenyth Paltrow

2 onions, quartered or 2 - 3 large leeks, chopped
2 large, whole carrots, quartered
2 stalks of celery with greens / leaves, quartered
8 - 10 shitake mushroom stems [reserved from past cooking]
3 whole large tomatoes, quartered
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
large handful of fennel greens
large handful of fresh parsley [stems and leaves]
large handful of fresh thyme [whole sprigs]
2 sprigs of fresh tarragon
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
3 - 4 bay leaves
1 tsp. turmeric powder
2 - 3 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 tsp. whole peppercorns
3 quarts of water

Combine all in a large pot or Dutch oven and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 45 minutes. Strain vegetables and bottle liquid. Option to can stock using a pressure canner according to manufacturer's instructions. I like to reserve the vegetables for a second round, adding more tomatoes, herbs, seasoning, and water.






Monday, September 30, 2013

PARSNIP CHIPS


Ahhh fall. If you've followed this blog through this season before you know it is without a doubt my favorite. Pumpkins and pumpkin everything, apples, squash, cool nights, warm days, spiced cider, chai, school supplies, soups......pure bliss.

This recipe stems from the root veggie parade that wraps up the growing season. Never a fan of roots in the past, with a little practice they have slipped their way up as some of my very favorite foods, parsnip chips ranking near the top.

[RIGHT ON PAR]

If you've never had a parsnip you really are in for a treat. Parsnips look like their carrot cousin but are a bit more mature, hosting a sweeter, nuttier flavor. And they come at just the right time.  The most effective way to warm the body is from the inside out, something these and other root vegetables are amazingly good at. As the air gets cooler and damper, the warming properties of parsnips help resolve these conditions in our bodies. They're a good source of calcium, vitamin A and C, and potassium and are relatively high in silicon and fiber [the insoluble kind].  

So, get these in the oven, grab a cup of tea and a really good book or the family, some friends, and a picnic basket, and take in every single ounce of this season. Play outside as much as possible. Try your hand at apple or pear sauce [it's too easy not to!], eat a salad [like twice a day because soon you'll salivate at the thought of fresh greens], and carve a pumpkin. Walk through the woods or around the block. Sit by a campfire. Light your favorite fall-scented candle. Decorate with mums and gourds and corn and hay. Most of all forget that winter is around the corner and simply enjoy what is right now - beauty everywhere.

[THE RECIPE]

3 - 4 large parsnips, scrubbed and cut into very thin slices*
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
spice blend of choice [I really like equal parts black pepper, onion powder, paprika; 1/2 parts garlic powder and turmeric; and a dash or so ground rosemary, ground thyme, ground basil]

Place cut parsnips on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Drizzle a couple tablespoons worth of olive oil over the parsnips and sprinkle a teaspoon or so of salt and a teaspoon or so of spice blend. Toss well until parsnips are thoroughly coated, adding more oil, salt, and spice as needed. Test a chip and adjust flavors accordingly.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place baking sheet in oven and bake for anywhere from 15 - 30 minutes. You'll want to watch them closely because baking time will vary depending on parsnip slice thickness.

When they are golden brown [not dark brown or black] and crispy, remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes.

Enjoy plain or with your dip!

*When I purchase organically I tend to not peel parsnips, carrots, beets, etc. and opt to scrub them really well instead. Many essential nutrients lie just beneath the peel and most peelers remove those nutrients with the peel.

Monday, September 9, 2013

SPICED PEAR SAUCE


When I think of September my first inclination is to let my thoughts go immediately to, what else, apples! Apple cider, apple sauce, apple crisp, apple pie, apple picking, apples, apples, apples!

This year however, we have pears.

I'm sure our trees are making up for last year's poor performance because this season they're loaded. The thing about gardening is we never really know what we'll get. We put in the work and hours and anxiety and care but, at the end of each day, nature must take over and we walk away with a feeling of well, it is what it is. Last year's fruit crop [or not-so-fruit crop] is fine evidence of this. If you suffered through no apples, pears, or peaches [at least organically grown, local ones] you know what I mean.

Which leads me to a confession.


I'm quite the glutton. In fact, I may just turn into a peach or pear or watermelon or maybe all three.

If you've fasted from anything before you may be able to relate. Or if you try to stick to local foods and follow seasonal eating patterns you definitely get it. Our mantra around here is: eat it while it's good and fresh and juicy and bright and delicious and eat a lot. Oh, and freeze or can everything else.

And so we're doing just that. We're eating and snacking and canning and freezing.

Which leads me to a recipe. A really, really simple recipe.

Spiced pear sauce.

A few weeks ago we picked our first pears and then a small cool snap got me thinking - apples make wonderful sauces, what about pears?

You may want to sit down for this.

Pear sauce is even better.

May you fully embrace the last days of summer - eat outside, swim, climb trees, walk in the park, swing. May you can or freeze some food [and be really proud when you do]. May you bite into a crunchy apple and juicy pear and be reminded to fully live in the present knowing what is this year may not come around next season. And may you make lots and lots of sauce.


[THE RECIPE]

Quick disclaimer: this is about as loose as recipes get. I've provided basic recipe guidelines but everything will be adjusted to your own taste preferences.

Fresh picked, organic pears
Fresh or ground dried ginger
Ground cardamom
Water
 Food mill, blender, or food processor

Prepare pears by washing [really important if you aren't using organic pears]. Halve and then quarter the pears and remove core or simply cut around the core. Place pears quarters in a large stainless steel pot and add water to within one inch of the bottom [a few cups should do the trick]. If you are using fresh ginger, peel and cut the ginger into 1/4" chunks [a couple chunks work well]. Place in the pot with the pears. Cover the pot and bring water to boil. Once the water boils, turn the heat down just a bit to a hard simmer. Cook the pears until they are really soft [anywhere from 30 - 60 minutes].


If you are using a food mill or have a glass blender you can proceed right away. If you have a plastic blender or food processor you'll want to allow the pears to cool to warm before you blend.


Place the pears in a food mill, blender, or food processor and mill to your desired consistency. Once all of the pears have been ground into sauce, add powdered ginger [if you are not using fresh add anywhere from 1/4 tsp - 1 tsp depending on the taste you desire] and a small pinch of cardamom. Start really small with the spices and add more as you go. Cinnamon is also a really nice addition but again, start small.



You can either can [follow your canner's instructions], freeze [allow to cool before placing in freezer], or eat your sauce.





Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A SIMPLE GUIDE TO FOOD & THE CHOICES WE MAKE

I frequently get asked the question, "What should I eat?"

Of course this inquiry has many answers depending on who you are, your specific needs, and a host of other factors. But what I'm finding is this question is generally a plea in disguise. Most of the people I run into are so confused by the mass-information found thoroughout the media they are desperate for someone, someone they trust, to give them the answer.

Eat grain! No, don't eat grain! Eat meat! No, don't eat meat! Eat local rather than organic! Eat organic rather than local! Juice! Don't juice! Only eat certain foods in combination with other certain foods! Take vitamins! Don't take vitamins! Drink a lot of water! Don't drink too much water! Eat raw! Cook your foods! Drink green smoothies! No, don't drink green smoothies! Vaccinate! No, don't vaccinate! Go out! Eat in! Eat whatever the heck you want! Don't eat ANYTHING!

My head is spinning. You?

This onslaught of contradicting information can be crippling. It's such an unfortunate by-product of the info-mania we live in today and I'm thinking it has robbed [well that and the golden arches] many of us of the ability to think critically. The media and over-zealous dieticians / doctors / nutritionists [yes, they are out there] have convinced us that we need their help, their direction, their books and websites and blogs and trainings. Their clothes and blenders and cars and hair styles and personalities. Okay, a bit of an exaggeration [maybe] but I think you know what I mean.

The food system has so sweetly stepped in to rescue us from this barage. "Don't worry, I'll take care of dinner [and breakfast, and lunch, and snacks, and coffee break, and midnight snacks...]. I have the answer and it comes in a box with instructions for microwaving and scooping and crunching."

Somehow, we've bought into this and taken the plunge, shedding the intuition and mindfulness necessary to tune into our own bodies, needs, and the needs of our families on the way.

But deep down, underneath all this noise, is a small voice that urges us to do the right thing for our bodies, for our children, and for the world. It is cheering us on saying "You already have the answer! Your body is designed to know what you need!"

This is all great Tina, real inspiring. But I'm still confused. What is the "right" thing? Where do I start? Is there a diet that works? How do I know what to eat? What to feed my kids?

I get it. I'm a tactile, visual, "give me a plan" person too.

First a little secret the food industry and all those diet-crazed people don't want me to tell you.

One diet doesn't fit all. 

Really, at some level we all know this. How can one-size-fit-all when our bodies are designed so uniquely? We want to believe there is one solution, one pill, one diet, one life style. We try to convince ourselves "This will be the one that works!", so we hop from one diet to the next until, once again, we are completely let down and out some more money.

But we keep searching because, come on, there must be some diet out there that will actually make us thinner, better looking, more employable, date-able, marry-able, happier, and content. Essentially make our lives easier.

And let's be serious, most of us enjoy a little easy.

But where's the fun in that? Where's the growth and journey and excitement and challenge and accomplishment and health in easy and same-ness and boring?

I enjoy the choices I have, the way my body changes from day to day, week to week, month to month, season to season. I love that my body screamed for meat when I was pregnant and begged for beans and greens following the birth of my child. I look forward to the craving for fresh-picked food when spring comes to call and the warmth of soups when winter closes in. It begins to feel a bit sacred - like food is bigger than the next bite or meal or diet. Almost like my food choices really, really matter. And if they matter, then they have meaning. And if they have meaning, then food is special and holy and good.

And that's exciting.

So. A plan.

Well, to begin, disregard any book or advertisement or person telling you they have the answer for everyone. Smile, clear your shelves or wish them well, and run the other way.

After you've made some space for your own voice and thoughts and preferences, set the intention to learn.

Learn to cook, learn about new foods, learn new recipes, new flavors, new restaurants [yes, new restaurants], new drinks, new ways to eat and gather and decorate the table, new routines, even new people.

Clear your mind of all your preconceived ideas of the "right" thing to do and start with a blank slate. You know the answers you just haven't been given the space to think about them. Remove the shoulds and have-tos and give yourself a moment to enjoy the freedom of choice and adventure.

[SOME TIPS ON FOOD]

1) Start with what you already like and go from there. If you like Mac N' Cheese, try making it from scratch. Once you've done that, add some veggies or different flavors or try a different recipe. If you like burgers, try a turkey burger or a veggie burger or find some pasture-raised, organic beef. It doesn't matter what you start with but start somewhere.

2) Eat mostly plants. Yes plants. If you can pick it or dig it up, most likely it will fall in the fruit or vegetable category. This doesn't mean canned fruits or veggies or cakes with fruit topping or pies or take-out Chinese food. This means fresh fruits and vegetables. From a farm not a factory.

3) Make friends with a farmer or two. Farmer's Markets are in full swing and are not only the most happenin' place to be on a Saturday morning [obviously] but are also a place to find great produce, in season, at awesome prices.

4) Purchase organic if you can but don't sweat it if you can't. The important thing is to get fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. A non-organic vegetable is always better than a Big Mac. Buy local, in season produce whenever you can - it'll taste better and save you some cash.

5) Don't buy or eat products you see on TV. You don't see a lot of real farmers sporting their wares across the media. Generally it's packaged, chem-filled, franken-food annoyingly popping up every ten minutes interrupting your show.

6) Make a plan. If you plan out your meals for the week, in general you will feel less stressed about food because, hey!, you've thought ahead and have a plan!

7) Double the recipe and make friends with the freezer. I almost always make more than I need, jar the leftovers, throw on a label, and stash in the freezer. This allows me the freedom to not cook, and not rely on take-out, on those days.

8) Look at the ingredients list on any packaged foods. If there are words that take more than a second to comprehend put it back. If you have no idea what any of the words are, run.

9) Do your best to pay attention to how foods affect you. A food diary is a great way to do this but if that seems overwhelming at first, begin by noticing each time you have a headache or stomache or inflamed muscles. Ask yourself, "Is there something I ate that could have given me this headache or feeling of being bloated? Have I drank enough water today? Did I eat something out of the ordinary? Am I eating something too much or not enough of something?" The more you ask these questions, the more you will become aware of the food-health relationship in your own body.

Now the most important tip of all,



10) Enjoy your food! Don't eat food just because it's "healthy" or you think you should. This is not sustainable and one of the primary reasons most diets fail. Hunger does not equate to success and blah does not mean it must be working. The more you enjoy your food the greater respect you will have for it. The more you look forward to your meals the greater the chances you will slow down and enjoy each bite. The more fun you have making your food the more likely you are to return to the kitchen to do it again, and again, and again.

So may you find ways to take food seriously but not too seriously. May you find choices that meet your needs and the needs of your family and care for them well through those choices. May you find yourself taking a step towards healthy habits and celebrate that step without thinking about the next one.

Above all, may you find that food is fun and a gift and exciting and something to be enjoyed. Every day. Over and over again. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

"SNEAKY CAKES" [AKA ALLERGEN-FREE, VEGAN PANCAKES]

I hesitate to publish this recipe for one simple reason - my husband loves it. I consider it a big win when the hubs actually prefers my homemade to the box and I just hate to reveal to him my secrets. You know, the whole mind over matter thing.

So, dear spouse of mine, if you are reading this I respectfully ask that you close out of this window and walk away. It's better for us both if you just don't know.

As for the rest of you, my hope is that this recipe changes your life in the best possible way. It is about as "whatever is in the house, make it your own, anything goes" as it comes. My guess is ninety percent of you have some combination of these ingredients in the house at all times. This is why I've dubbed it my "that kind of day" go-to meal. I'm able to hide a veggie or two [or four] into it, throw some fruit on the side [breaking all food combination rules but it's just been that kind of day I really am having a hard time caring - you know what I mean, you've been there] and, bam!, a nutritious meal. 

So, give yourself a break if it's been a long day. Turn on some music, squeeze some fresh juice, whip up a smoothie, snag some kombucha, or a glass of your favorite wine and enjoy a minute or two to just be. Take a deep breath, smile [no seriously, smile - it really works!], and know that in a few minutes you'll be sinking your teeth into an awesome bite of pancake goodness. 


[THE RECIPE]

Special Note: I've noted quite a few different variations. Grab whatever is in your cupboards, pantry and refrigerator and make it your own! I typically double this recipe - breakfast for tomorrow? Check. 

Dry Ingredients:

1/2 c. millet, quinoa, rice, lentil, or bean flour [or any combination of these]
3/4 c. buckwheat, sorghum, or oat flour [or any combination of these]
4 T. ground flax or chia seeds [I like 2 T. of each]
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. any other spice [nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, fennel, all spice, orange or lemon zest, etc.]
1/2 tsp. sea salt

Wet Ingredients:

1 T. honey, maple syrup, or date paste
3/4 c. fruit or vegetable puree [any fruit sauce; any fruit or vegetable or combination of both blended: apples, bananas, pears, plums, berries, zucchini, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, etc.]
1 1/2 c. water + 1/4 c. flaxseeds [or any nut or seed milk - if you choose a different milk than flax, add a few extra tablespoons of flax or chia seeds to the mix]
2 T. lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
2 T. molasses [optional]

Add-In Ingredients:

large handful of chopped fruit, berries, nuts or seeds [optional

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Place all wet ingredients in a blender on high until mixture is smooth and well blended. Slowly pour the wet mixture into the dry, mixing constantly. When everything has been fully incorporated, gently fold into the batter any add-in ingredients. 

Let sit for a few minutes.

While batter sits, preheat oven to 200 degrees [F] and grab a glass baking dish. If you are using an electric skillet [one of the few times I do], heat the skillet to 315 - 325 degrees [you'll adjust the temperature as you go]. 

Pour 1/3 c. of the batter onto the warmed skillet. Batter should form a nice round but if not, gently spread it out with the back of a spoon or the measuring cup. Repeat 3 or 4 times, depending on the size of the pan. 

Cover skillet and cook for about 5 minutes or until the face of the pancakes begin to look cooked. Remove skillet cover and flip the pancakes. Return cover and cook for an addition 3 - 5 minutes or until both sides of the pancakes are browned. 

Place cooked pancakes in glass baking dish and warm in preheated oven. Repeat with remaining batter. 

Once all of the pancakes are cooked and have had a few minutes in the oven, remove and serve immediately with ghee, real maple syrup [local if possible], and any toppings on choice.

Enjoy!



Saturday, July 6, 2013

PLANTAIN & SAUTEED GREENS WITH TOMATO-SPIKED MILLET

[PLANTAIN: seed, root, leaf]

If there is one "weed" herb you need to make yourself comfortable with, even befriend, it's this one. Plantain is like the kale of the herb world. It can just about heal everything and is as nutritious as they come. Have a cut? Plantain. Have a burn? Plantain. Acne - plantain. Dry skin - plantain. Rash - plantain. Bite or sting - plantain. Bruise - plantain. Constipated - plantain. Need to detox? Plantain. Are you getting the picture?

Like dandelion, plantain can be found just about everywhere [except maybe the beach...]. Yards, park, pond side, roadside, hillside, concrete cracks, pasture, patios, gardens, city sidewalks, you name it. You've probably seen it a number of times, maybe even cussed it out on occasion. Although it is related to spinach [it's not only edible and amazingly nutritious but free!], it tends to masquerade as weed, keeping company with thistles, crabgrass, ragweed, and horse nettle. Really plantain should be elevated to "patron saint of the garden" status, or at least bestowed the title of "super herb". On hot days this herbs works wonderfully to cool the body from the inside out which is the most effective to eliminate heat. Essentially it's the perfect "emergency food".


Energy:  bland, a bit bitter, cool
Use:  Internal and External
For Infants / Children:  Yes
Precautions:  No know reactions or side effects

Key Nutrients:  iron, vitamins A, C and K, B vitamins, fatty acids, protein

Medicinal Uses:  detoxification and purification [is even used as a remedy for blood poisoning], liver stimulation [aids in poor digestion and nutrient assimilation], helps disperse too much heat in the body. It helps heal urinary tract infections, hepatitis, stings, bites, and wounds, skin issues [acne, rashes, dry skin, etc.]; cuts, scrapes and bruises.

Common Culinary Uses: salads, boiled and / or sauteed in ghee or oil, tossed with vinegar, pastas, pesto; hide in, I mean "add to", smoothies and juices ; seed pods can be used in soups, stew, stir-fries, and sauteed in ghee or oil.

[THE RECIPE: SAUTEED GREENS]

1 - 2 T. ghee, coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil [I highly recommend the ghee]
2 - 4 garlic scapes, chopped
1/2 c. freshly cut plantain leaves, rinsed and torn
1/2 c. freshly cut dandelion leaves, rinsed and torn
4 c. greens [ex. kale, chard, collards, mustard greens, arugula, and / or spinach]
large handful of herbs [ex. oregano, chives, parsley, and / or cilantro]
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
splash of fresh squeezed lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, or vinegar of choice [optional]

Heat the ghee or oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat until melted. Gently add garlic scapes and toss for 1 - 2 minutes. Add dandelion, plantain, and other greens to skillet. Continue to stir until greens have wilted and turned bright green. Turn off heat and season with salt, pepper, and vinegar [if using]. Toss with Tomato-Spiked Millet [recipe follows], quinoa, or Cauliflower "Rice" [I like to cook this in coconut oil].


[THE RECIPE: TOMATO-SPIKED MILLET]

1 1/2 c. millet, rinsed and drained
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 quart size jar of stewed tomatoes with juice [or roughly 3 - 4 cups of tomato puree], blended
large handful of fresh parsley and dill or herbs of choice, minced

Place millet in a fine mesh strainer and rinse until water runs clear. Drain and set aside. Pour oil into medium pot and warm over medium heat. Add onions and saute until translucent but not browned [about 5 - 7 minutes]. Add millet and toss frequently to roast for about 3 - 5 minutes [be careful not to burn the millet]. Gently pour in blended tomatoes, stir, and cover. Watch carefully and when liquid starts to bubble turn heat to low, cover, and let cook until all liquid has evaporated. When the millet is fully cooked, add parsley and stir.

Special Note: Remember, whenever you are introducing your body to something new, educate yourself on what you are eating / using [especially if you have health issues / concerns]. Many of the herbs found here will be safe for most but each of us has a different composition and will respond to foods and herbs in our own unique way.