Salads in a Jar

Salads Long

Mixing Mason Jars with salad? This just sounded like something made for me and this blog. We are a big fan of both around here! I designed two different versions to try out this week, and both turned out pretty darn fantastic. Can’t complain about having lunch ready in less than 2 minutes on a busy week day. I will definitely be making these again and again.

The Salads in a Jar Rules are:

  1. Use wide-mouth quart jars for optimum size.
  2. Dressing and beans must be on the bottom.
  3. Then crunchy harder ingredients.
  4. Then softer ingredients.
  5. Then lettuce (be sure to use enough, this is a salad after all!)
  6. Top with seeds or nuts if you’d like.
  7. They appear to be able to be consumed for 3-6 days depending on how fresh the ingredients are and which ingredients you have chosen to use.

Here are my first two creations!

fiesta salad

Jar #1: Fiesta Salad (from bottom to top)

  • Non Dairy Creamy Herb Ranch (2-3T)
  • Black Beans (1/2 cup)
  • Cherry Tomatoes (a few)
  • Corn (1/4 cup)
  • Salsa (1-2T)
  • Chopped Green Onions (2T)
  • Cubed Avocado spritzed with Lime Juice (1/4 of an avocado)
  • Chopped Romaine (fill up the jar, pack it in!)
  • Pinch of Pumpkin Seeds or Sunflower Seeds

italian salad

Jar #2: Italian Salad (from bottom to top)

  • Balsamic Vinaigrette (2-3T)
  • Cannellini Beans (1/2 cup)
  • Chopped Artichoke Hearts (1/4 cup)
  • Cherry Tomatoes (a few)
  • Chopped Cucumber (1/4 cup)
  • Chopped Roasted Red Bell Pepper (2T)
  • Broccoli Sprouts (1T)
  • Thinly Chopped Basil (1T)
  • Spinach (fill up the jar, pack it in!)
  • Pinch of Pine Nuts

These are what I came up with based on what I enjoy eating in my salads. Make it your own and tailor to what you like in your salads. You can add in baked meat/tofu cubes (I added chicken to the top before serving), grains (quinoa, brown rice, etc), broccoli, carrots, etc…

Looking for a few new easy varieties of salad dressing? Here are two of my recent favorites.

Balsamic Vinaigrette: Blend 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 2t Dijon Mustard, clove of garlic, pinch of salt, a few grinds of black pepper and a dash of maple syrup. Taste and add salt until it sparkles. You can add a little water if you’d like it thinner.

Non Dairy Creamy Herb Ranch: Blend 1/2 cup cashews, 1 cup chopped celery, clove of garlic, 1/2 cup water, 2T freshly squeezed lemon juice, 2T red wine vinegar, 1/2t salt, a few grinds of black pepper, 1/2-1cup of various fresh herbs (I used chives, parsley, basil). Taste and add salt and extra lemon juice until it sparkles.

Do you prep salads ahead of time? What are your go to ingredients?

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Tuscan Stew

TUSCAN STEW lgk

I think you are really going to like this recipe. It’s perfecto for clean eaters, vegans, Paleo peeps, and all herbivores and omnivores. Delicious. Nutrient-rich. Simple. The artichokes, olives and curry mix with the fresh herbs and chard resulting in a rich, uber-flavorful hearty meal.

TUSCAN STEW

Ingredients:

  • 1 qt stock (veggie or chicken recommended)
  • 1 can artichoke hearts (drained and roughly chopped)
  • 1 medium onion (small dice)
  • 1-2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1/2 -1 can olives (drained)
  • 3 red potatoes (medium dice) — swap with about 1/2 of sweet potato (chopped) if you aren’t eating potatoes
  • 1/4 bunch chard (chopped fine, I use the food processor)
  • 1/4 cup total of fresh herbs (chopped fine, I use the food processor) — recommend some combination of oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil, sage
  • 15-20 oz canned chopped tomatoes — depending on how tomato-ey you like your soups
  • 1t salt
  • 1t curry
  • 1T EVOO
  • 1 cup shredded/cubed baked chicken (OPTIONAL)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Sauté onion and garlic in EVOO in a medium-sized pot until onions are translucent.
  2. Add in stock and the remainder of the ingredients.
  3. Simmer until the potatoes are soft if you are in a rush. Longer if you have more time (up to an hour or so.) This stew is even better as leftovers the following day, when all the flavors meld together beautifully.
  4. Taste before serving. Add a little more salt until it “sparkles.”
  5. Garnish with a touch of grated Parm cheese or a pinch of the fresh finely chopped herbs.

Enjoy!!

IMG_9354

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UNPROCESSED SNACKS

snack time pm

You’ve heard the news… unprocessed food is IN. Processed junk is OUT! As a follow-up to my tips for not eating processed food, here are some snack ideas to make your life easier.

SNACK WARM-UP: The number one easy, quick, filling, nutrient-rich, tasty snack is…

apple sandwich pm ants on a log pm

FRUITS AND VEGGIES WITH NUTS AND SEEDS – With endless variations and different consumption mechanisms, this is what you can fall back on when everything is moving too fast. A pear with a handful of cashews… nothing could be easier. My gym owner carries around carrots. Like whole carrots. And then eats them when she’s hungry in the car. In her words, “every meal doesn’t have to be a party in her mouth.” My kids eat apple slices dipped in peanut butter most days of the week. I always have what I need to make myself ants-on-a-log (celery with almond butter and raisins). Sunflower seed butter is a great option when nut allergies are a concern. I attempt to be as seasonal as I can with my fruit and veggie purchasing. So right now we are all enjoying apples, pears and persimmons with almonds and pumpkin seeds.

SNACKS 2.0:

popcorn pm

POPCORN - Dress it up or dress it down, popcorn is a cheap crowd pleaser. It is pretty much a given that if I’m entertaining kids at my house there are empty bowls of popcorn strewn throughout the house. I use lots of coconut oil in my stove top popcorn popper and am generous with the seasonings at the end. This is my favorite popper that I’ve used and abused for YEARS: Wabash Valley Farms 25008 Whirley-Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper (Affiliate link).

tomato feta pm

TOMATO, FETA, BEAN, BASIL SALAD – Who knew this salad could be so easy and so portable? It may look more like lunch (because it could be), but it also is my most recent FAVORITE afternoon bite to get me through the afternoon slump and on to the evening. You simply chop up a tomato (I find Roma tomatoes to be the most portable), cube an ounce of feta cheese, chop up a few leaves of basil, then layer it all with a quarter cup of drained and rinsed beans. Drizzle some balsamic vinegar over the top and add a pinch of salt and pepper if that sounds good.

And check it out, you can manipulate this salad into hundreds of versions: swap the tomato for cucumber, swap the feta for goat cheese, cottage cheese, parm shavings (or omit the cheese altogether), swap the beans for whatever bean you have that you like (or omit altogether), swap out the basil for any other fresh herb like cilantro, parsley, oregano, change the balsamic to another kind of vinegar or to olive oil, or to hot sauce.

energy bites pm

ENERGY BITES - These are a kid favorite, and though the recipe calls for peanut butter, I’ve made all mine with almond butter. I also skimp on the honey a little and use the mini chocolate chips or raisins. Go to the recipe by Gimmesomeoven, you’ll be glad you did.

hummus boats pm

HUMMUS BOATS – I’ve made a lot of hummus in my day, but the moment it showed up in a “boat” my kids went crazy. It may look fancy, but it is really not. I simply use a melon baller for the cucumber and take the smallest amount out. I simply remove the stem from the mushroom. I simply cut the bell peppers a little wider than usual. Plop on the hummus (my go to recipe can be found here) and serve.

cider jellies pm

APPLE CIDER JELLIES - My son made these the other day without much help from me after I hollered the ratio of one cup liquid to one tablespoon Great Lakes gelatin. We had apple cider from our recent trip to the apple orchards near us, and just like that these snacks were invented. Bring one cup of a sweet juice to almost a boil, stir in the gelatin until dissolved. Take off the heat, pour into a mold (the more flexible the better to get them out), and place in the fridge for an hour or so until hardened.  Pop out of the molds and enjoy!

ferments pm

FERMENTED SNACKS - Probably the number one thing I’d recommend to most people working on ditching processed foods would be to make choices that improve gut health. A great place to start is to incorporate probiotic, fermented foods into your snack routine. My choices include, kefir smoothies, kombucha drinks, fermented pickles, fermented sauerkraut, and yogurt parfait. Quality matters with these snacks. You need to do the research to make sure you are making or purchasing items that truly improve gut health. Pickles with added corn syrup or vinegar are not working for you. Store bought kefir and yogurt with added sugar and “natural flavors” aren’t great options either – you must read the labels. There are great brands out there for these items, but there are MANY brands that are not so great.

 

So tell me, what real food snacks are big in your life? I’d love to hear them!

Looking for more info on going “unprocessed?” Check out this link to the post with my tips for getting started!

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TOP 10 TIPS FOR GOING “UNPROCESSED”

apple heart

I am pumped! Over the moon! Super stoked! My workout group has set a goal to eat only unprocessed foods for twenty-one days. As you can imagine, this fills me with happiness – new people are trying out this way of living that I believe is so important for health and happiness. Additionally, October is the month of the Eating Rules’ “October Unprocessed” campaign that is in its fifth year.

Saying no to processed food is IN THE AUTUMN AIR!!

I just want to sing from the roof-tops, I’ve done this! It can be done! It’s worth doing! I have so much to share about the ups, the downs, the all arounds of this commitment. So, in true Lean.Green.Kitchen fashion, I made a list.

My top ten tips for going “unprocessed” or “NPF” (no processed foods).

Are you giving “unprocessed” a try? Start here:

  1. Make your personal “unprocessed” rules. Everybody has a different definition of unprocessed, so think through what makes sense for where you are at and what you can give to the challenge. Are you going to be able to make every single thing from scratch, or are you okay with buying products with ingredients you have in your kitchen (think marinara sauce, bread, broth, canned beans and vegetables, yogurt for examples). The Eating Rules definition is: Does it pass The Kitchen Test. Could someone with reasonable aptitude in the kitchen make the thing you are buying using ingredients that would reasonably be found in a kitchen? If yes, then proceed. And here’s a heads-up about your personal “unprocessed” rules, they will change over time. It’s a journey.
  2. Plan ahead. It just really can’t be done without a plan. Menus must be scratched on napkins (or inputted into spreadsheets if you are one of those kinds of people), shopping lists must be figured out and executed. Web-sites must be searched for new recipes. Cookbooks must be dusted off. If you are time-crunched (and who isn’t), it’s pretty imperative that you find a chunk of time somewhere in the week to prep ingredients that will make your week go smoother. Cut-up celery and carrots get dipped into a lot more made-ahead-hummus than heads of celery and bags of carrots with a can of garbanzo beans that’s just waiting to be prepared when you are hungry and rushing.
  3. Find a Farmers Market or Produce Stand that works for you. Then go. Every week. No fail. Buy lots of fruit and all your favorite veggies. Buy things you can eat raw when you want to buy a snack at a convenience store. Buy things you can cook when you need a last-minute veggie soup for dinner.
  4. Make a SNACK and TREAT LIST. Write down all the things you can think of that fit into your definition of “unprocessed” and that you would like as a snack or a treat. This list is going to be really important when you are right in the middle of breaking old habits and are feeling overwhelmed and crave-y. Everybody’s list looks different, mine is filled with nut butter/fruit combinations, smoothies, yogurt with granola and berries, veggies and hummus, cut up red bell peppers and cucumbers, stove-popped popcorn, and quick handfuls of cashews. I love blended frozen banana sorbets and fresh fruit with homemade whipped cream for treats. These things must then be available to you at a moments notice… get them on that shopping list!
  5. Make soup. Every week. A big batch. Eat it all week whenever you don’t know what to eat. It’s easy, tasty, filling, nutrient-rich and quick. Did I say easy? There are a million EASY soup recipes (there are a bunch on this site alone!) out there or you can just put whatever you like in a pot and add broth and simmer with some seasonings and viola… soup! This is your “fast food” for that day when it all just falls apart and you are contemplating driving through somewhere. Heating up your soup is MUCH faster and superior in about a million ways. This is your Plan B.
  6. Make small changes. If you are currently eating a lot of processed foods and don’t feel super proficient in the kitchen, then don’t decide to make your broth, beans, cheese, yogurt, bread, etc. from scratch. Just make sure you read every label that comes in your house and that you know and approve of everything listed. This might not be the best time to decide you need to give up dairy or cut out coffee. Those may be great NEXT steps for you once you’ve got this step down. I wouldn’t recommend deciding to count/log your calories during this time. It’s so irritating to have to write down ingredient after ingredient of all your home-made food. Give yourself a break and realize that if nutrient-rich food is what you are buying, then that’s what you are eating. Good enough.
  7. Start off the day right. Make sure you are prepared for awesome morning success. The momentum of nailing it right out of the gates can make the whole day go smoothly. Everyone is very different regarding what they are interested in for breakfast and when they feel best eating it, so you need to experiment around until you find your sweet spot. For kicks, let’s compare what I had for breakfast and what someone rushing through Starbucks had for breakfast. Today I spent ten minutes putting together the following: a matcha tea with honey and coconut cream (the creamy stuff at the top of the coconut milk can) and a one egg scramble with zucchini, spinach and avocado. My Starbucks friend had a pumpkin spice latte and a mass-produced scone. I estimate my breakfast had less than 5g of sugar. My Starbucks friend had 75g (that’s about 1/3 of a cup of sugar). We haven’t even mentioned the laboratory-made chemicals that my SB friend’s body will need to detox. Or the conditions of the cows who produced the dairy in both SB products. So which of us is better prepared with long-term energy and nutrients on board? Who’s immune system is optimized, mental/emotional energy ready, physically prepared to take on the day? Do you agree that people who start off the day with a feeling of success are more likely to make better decisions all day? Set yourself up to be one of those people.
  8. Tell everyone you know. It can’t be a secret. People will cheer you on, ask you questions, not care, find inspiration, keep you accountable. Don’t lose out on this help by being secretive. And then enjoy it every time they don’t share with you – notice that you aren’t invited to the drive-thru runs, you aren’t offered Halloween candy, no donuts are gifted to you (forcing you to say no thank you). The best situation for your success is to have a few people join you. Form a lunch club that brings lunch to share, invite a few friends to get together and prep crock-pot starters, have a few contacts in your phone that you can text when tired/confused/overwhelmed/hangry and in need of support.
  9. COOK!! To nourish yourself and your loved ones is the greatest gift you can give. It’s an art. It’s chemistry. It’s love. It’s power. Find a cookbook that you love, and use it. Scroll through a few food blogs that fit your way of life. Invite over friends and family and cook for others. Invite no one over and cook everything for yourself. Fall in love with your favorite pan. Ogle over a new wooden spoon. Get your best chef’s knife sharpened. Learn the definition of mire poix. Learn how to chiffonade basil. Grate your own cheese. Buy high quality salt and keep it in a beautiful jar.
  10. Enjoy the process! It isn’t easy, but it is so worth it. Eliminating or reducing the amount of processed food you eat can lead you down all sorts of new, healthy paths. Each little step you take leads to another.

My personal testimony is proof that by taking little steps and making little tweaks to your lifestyle choices, in a matter of months you will be in a very different and very positive place. Truly, what I eat now versus what I ate six years ago is night and day different. I’m still taking little steps and making little tweaks. That, to me, is the power and the fun of striving for health and happiness. Onward!

 

RESOURCES:

It always helps to have lots of resources when making a change. Here are a few of my go-to places for support and information.

100 Days of Real Food Blog- Awesome story. Fun family. Fantastic blog with tons of resources.

100 Days of Real Food Cookbook (affiliate link)

The Gracious Pantry Blog – Clean eating recipes for just about everything!

Oh She Glows Blog – Beautiful vegan recipes that everyone will love.

The Oh She Glows Cookbook (affiliate link)

Against All Grain Blog – Fail-proof grain-free recipes. Great site.

Against All Grain’s Meals Made Simple Cookbook  (affiliate link)

Eating Rules Blog – Champion of the October Unprocessed Campaign

Lean.Green.Kitchen Blog – That’s right, this entire blog is dedicated to this topic! Whether it be the truth about what’s actually in “natural flavors” or how to clean up nacho cheese dip for the Halloween buffet or why I bought a cow, this site is here to share all I’ve learned along my food journey with all who are interested.

The Lean.Green.Kitchen Facebook Page – Lots of ideas, inspiration and resources.

 

Need help? Just ask! This is my FAVORITE TOPIC and I love to share with and support others making this step. Go get ‘em! In fact I’ve written my Six Beginner Steps to Real Food – maybe that’d be a good place to start!

6 Steps to Real Food

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It’s October. Let’s Enjoy Treats, Not Mindlessly Gorge on Them. We Can Do This!

pumpkin blog ready

Welcome to October. This past week I had a little a-ha moment and wanted to share, in case it resonants with you as well.

Last weekend I made a few homemade treats for my husband’s birthday. It was so fun and so easy because I used ingredients that included sugar, flour and cream. With these ingredients everything was basically guaranteed to turn out dreamily (and it did!) I made brownies, cookies and chocolate ice cream – all the birthday boy’s favorites.

Then we had a few people over and we ate them. The end.

It should be the end, right? That’s how treats work in the perfect world:

  • There is something celebratory going on.
  • A person lovingly makes a special food using pronounceable ingredients.
  • A group of people come together and enjoy the treat in accompaniment with other fun activities.
  • And then we move on in our lives back to nutrient-rich conscious eating for our health.

But this is October, so that’s not how treats will roll out for most of us.

  • We will be bombarded with little packaged candies in every house, school and work cubby,
  • Pinterest-worthy Halloween themed treats will be at every event (big or small), and
  • Pumpkin spiced sugary hot drinks will somehow be desired and easily obtained every day.

I encourage us all to make this October the month we evaluate our mindless treat eating and drinking habits.

  • If you don’t feel like your energy is as high as you’d like it,
  • if your immunity is not as strong as you would like it,
  • if your belly is not as tight as you would like it,
  • if your mood is not as peppy as you would like it…

… then you may wish to experiment with turning treats back into what they were designed to be: a special celebratory accompaniment to other fun activities made and consumed with happiness and love. If consuming a treat won’t make you feel wonderful in every way, then SKIP IT!

If you love baking, hot sweet drink consuming, and the smell of pumpkin spice, then use your powers for good and make beautiful, autumn-y, cleaned-up, nutrient-rich, real foods using ingredients that build us up and power us forward. Here are a few of my recommendations:

Pumpkin Spice Mini Muffins from the Gracious Pantry — I use whole eggs or flax “eggs.” Egg whites are so 2000.

Pumpkin Spice Granola from Sally’s Baking Addiction — I say ditch the egg whites and use two extra tablespoons of coconut oil.

Upside Down Apple Tartlets from Elana’s Pantry found on Rubies and Radishes — Just go look at these. They are beautiful!! (I haven’t made them, just drooled on my computer over them.)

Pumpkin Spice Creamer from Coconut Mama — I don’t even like coffee and this looks yummy. I’m going to add it to my Chai tea!

Healthy Halloween Treats on Pinterest — There are SO many great ideas for ways to incorporate Halloween into your food without sky-diving out of a plane into ProcessedFoodTown and/or SugarVille. If you have the time, energy and creative spirit to throw a little holiday fun into your October, then I say you do it! And this Pinterest link leads to hundreds of ideas to get you started.

candy rain This is what SugarVille and ProcessedFoodTown looks like when the candy rains down. ;)

Enjoy October everyone!

 

Interested in the Lean.Green.Kitchen’s Halloween Manifesto? You’ll find it here:

Halloween Manifesto  Halloween Manifesto

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Nectarine Ice Cream (non dairy, refined sugar free)

nectarine ice cream The first month with our new ice cream maker (affiliate link) was so much fun. I made fantastic vanilla, chocolate, and mint chocolate chip ice cream and wooed my friends and family. It was so splendidly summer, but once you have a little homemade ice cream, you then want it all the time. And there it was in the freezer calling my name each overly warm evening.

So I came up with this EASY recipe to clean up my ice cream act and celebrate the nectarines all around me without all the sugar and cream! It’s especially good with a few chocolate chips on top!

NECTARINE ICE CREAM (non dairy, refined sugar free)

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 super ripe nectarines (the one’s you can get at the farm stand for super cheap because of their ripeness), roughly chopped
  • fresh squeezed lemon juice from 1/2 of a lemon
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 13.5oz can coconut milk

Instructions:

  1. Place the chopped nectarines in a bowl or Ziploc bag and squeeze the lemon juice over them. Allow to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes or so.
  2. Puree nectarines with maple syrup and coconut milk in blender.
  3. Refrigerate puree.
  4. When chilled, pour into ice cream maker. Soft serve consistency was achieved after about 25 minutes in the ice cream maker.
  5. Enjoy at soft serve consistency or place into the freezer for harder ice cream texture.

I would guess this would work with peaches and apricots as well. And you could play with add-ins too, like chocolate chips, nuts, shredded coconut, etc. Report back if you make something great!

nectarine ice cream

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Crunchy Granola Recipe (Paleo, Gluten Free, Vegan, Insanely Delicious!!)

granola recipe

Here it is… The Granola Recipe that is delicious, crunchy, nutrient-packed and so easy to make! It makes a nice big batch of super versatile goodness. Grab a handful for a snack, use it as a cereal substitute, take your parfaits up about ten notches!

Crunchy Granola

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Ground Flax Seeds
  • 1 cup Raw Pumpkin Seeds
  • 1 cup Raw Sunflower Seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups Almond Meal
  • 2 cups Shredded Unsweetened Coconut
  • 4 cups Raw Slivered Almonds
  • 1 t Cinnamon
  • 1 t Sea Salt
  • 1/2 t Baking Soda

Wet Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Coconut Oil (melted)
  • 1/2 cup Raw Honey (or Maple Syrup to make it Vegan)
  • 1 T Vanilla Extract

Add ins:

  • Raisins or Dried Cranberries

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Mix together all the Dry Ingredients in a BIG bowl.
  3. Combine the Wet Ingredients in a SMALL bowl.
  4. Stir the Wet Ingredients into the BIG bowl with the Dry Ingredients until evenly distributed.
  5. Spread the mixture onto two baking sheets as thinly and evenly as possible.
  6. Bake until toasted – from 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  7. Remove from oven and stir on the baking sheets to bring the edges to the center and the center to the edges.
  8. Place back in the oven for 15 more minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and let cool completely on the baking sheets.
  10. Crumble the granola as you remove it from the baking sheets and add in the raisins or cranberries.
  11. Store in a dry, cool place (like a 1/2 gallon glass mason jar) and enjoy!

BIG THANKS to one of my earliest friends (I think we met when we were three years old!) and a Lean.Green.Kitchen community member Melissa, who sent this recipe my way. The world needs this granola!!

Granola Recipe  Yogurt Parfait? Why, yes thank you!

Granola Recipe  Granola Cereal? Don’t mind if I do.

I would highly recommend putting together a batch of homemade yogurt to go with all this granola goodness!

homemade yogurt   The Easiest Real Food You’re Not Making… Yet!

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Gatorade is not healthy!

Gatorade Alternative

Gatorade is filled with nasty chemicals, artificial flavorings, colorings and lots of refined sugar. It is not healthy!! If you need more info to decide if drinking Gatorade or Powerade is for you, I encourage you to read these three articles before making your decision. Then come on back and make the EASY and CHEAP Gatorade alternative recipe below. It tastes so much better than the processed nastiness!

NPR – Some Athletes Reject High Tech Sports Fuel in Favor of Real Food

Food Babe – The Secret Behind Gatorade and How to Replenish Electrolytes Naturally

The Atlantic – The Controversial Science of Sports Drinks

SPORTS DRINK MADE EASY, CHEAP AND WITH REAL FOOD

Lemon-Orange “Aid”

  • Mix 2 cups coconut water, juice from a lemon and half an orange, 1T maple syrup (or honey), a pinch of salt.
  • You can make it stronger or sweeter to your preference and dilute it with extra water and ice to what works best for you.
  • I like to slice the other half of the orange into rounds and float them in the jar. The drink gets better after spending a night in the refrigerator.

For more hydration drink options, check out this post: Stay Hydrated

Hydration Smoothie Vitamin Water Gatorade Alternative

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Kids Clean Up: Taco Bell’s Pintos and Cheese

Taco Bell Beans

We are very due for a Kids Clean Up here at the Lean.Green.Kitchen. Since I’ve been working on perfecting my pinto bean recipe, I thought we could clean up one of my childhood fast food favorites: Taco Bell’s Pintos and Cheese side dish. The creamy beans, zesty sauce and flavorful cheese come together to make a filling, cheap grab-and-go snack or side. So the challenge is to duplicate this full flavored item while maintaining the thrifty quickness.

What We Are Cleaning Up

Taco_Bell_Pintos_n_Cheese_828763

Taco Bell Pintos and Cheese Ingredients:

Beans: Pinto Beans, Soy Oil (Trans Fat Free Shortening With TBHQ And Citric Acid To Protect Flavor), Seasoning Blend (Salt, Sugar, Spice, Beet Powder [Color], Autolyzed Yeast Extract (Contains Gluten), Sunflower Oil, Maltodextrin [Corn, Potato, Tapioca], Inactivated Yeast, Corn Flour, Natural Flavors, Trehalose, Modified Corn Starch And Less Than 2% Silicone Dioxide As A Processing Aid).

Sauce: Modified Corn Starch, Maltodextrin, Paprika, Salt, Tomato Powder, Onion Powder, Spices, Garlic Powder, Yeast Extract (Contains Gluten), Extractives Of Paprika (Color), Xanthan Gum, Malic Acid, Caramel Color,Ascorbic Acid, Citric Acid, Trehalose, Natural Flavors, And Less Than 2% Silicon Dioxide Added As A Processing Aid.

Cheese: Cultured Pasteurized Milk, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto (Color), Anti-Caking Agent.

That’s a whole lot of yuck for a dish so simple, in my humble opinion! So I cleaned it up and have been enjoying my version ever since.

Pintos and Cheese Clean-Up

Beginning with the pinto beans, the best way I’ve found to have these ready to go, is to make a big batch of them in the crockpot for use all week long. (They can also be frozen for use later, if the batch makes more than you need.) I have tweaked a recipe I found many years ago by Little House of Veggies and it produces a pinto bean very close to the texture of the Taco Bell version.

Creamy Pinto Beans Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups dried pinto beans (plus water for soaking overnight.)
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 medium onion, diced small
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3T tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1T cumin
  • 1t coriander
  • 1t chili powder
  • 1t garlic powder
  • 1t garlic salt
  • 1t salt
  • a few cranks from a pepper grinder or 1/2t ground pepper
  • 2 bay leaves

Instructions:

  1. Soak pinto beans overnight. Drain and discard soaking water.
  2. Place all ingredients in a crockpot and heat on low for ten hours.
  3. When finished, gently mash beans with potato masher to get to desired creaminess.
  4. Serve or cool to store in the refrigerator.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 8 hours

Makes approximately 6 cups of beans.

Enchilada Sauce Recipe

Next we need a mild but flavorful enchilada sauce to pour over the top of our beans. This recipe from The Gracious Pantry is easy and makes a lot! You can plan out other fun enchilada sauce uses to go through all of it. The ingredient list is: olive oil, whole wheat pastry flour, chili powder, tomato sauce, water, ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder. I made a half batch and it still made a quart of sauce! Find the recipe here: The Gracious Pantry Enchilada Sauce.

Toppers

All we need now is to put it together with some cheese! You can use your favorite cheese (I used a local firehouse jack cheese that was super zing-y!), a cheese substitute (to make it vegan) or skip the cheese altogether and go for other fun toppers. I’ve added cilantro, radish slices, blue corn chips, sour cream and green onions to mine over the past few weeks.

You can also wrap it all up in a tortilla and have a Cleaned-Up version of a Taco Bell Bean and Cheese Burrito!

Conclusion

I think we hit this one out of the park. This is something cheap and easy that I can store in my fridge all week and pull out as necessary for a snack or a base for a quick meal. It is kid approved and can be jazzed up to make me happy too.

Taco Bell Beans

Pintos and Cheese might go really nicely with this Mexican Caesar Salad. Check it out!

Mexican Caesar Salad  Mexican Caesar Salad

Another crowd favorite meal with similar flavor profile and crockpot ease is the Crockpot Taco Soup. Have you tried this one?

Taco Soup  Crockpot Taco Soup

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Musings from my Facebook break

Facebook Break

In an effort to regain my balance with technology, I turned Facebook off for the past three days. You can read all about why I did it in the post: Why I’m Turning Facebook Off for Three Days. During this time, I kept a journal of what was coming up for me. Here are some excerpts:

  • This morning I woke up wanting to talk to you. I felt disconnected, but from who? I couldn’t actually come up with a name.
  • Today I wanted to share my amazement that Tori Amos is 50. I wanted to say, “Yay, Lean.Green.Kitchen is a sponsor for a local event tonight and I put on jewelry!” I wanted to see what everyone was up to this weekend. I wanted to find an old recipe that I posted on the FB page a few weeks ago. I wanted to share that I cut my finger doing something so stupid. But I didn’t. Instead I completed many tasks that I’ve been meaning to get to (for months!) undistracted. I stayed engaged throughout the work, with no pop-ups on my screen alerting me to FB.
  • I must let go of the desire to see it all and know it all. My friends are much too dynamic, interesting and complex for me to know all about them in any moment of time. It is unreasonable and damaging to me and them to make that a goal.
  • Facebook is a way to be connected. For those of us who spend hours alone or with others we wouldn’t choose to be with, it offers a safe place to share, support and “see” loved ones. We are able to bear witness to each other in struggle, celebrations and the mundane. We can feel close when we are far. This has value. It becomes an issue however, when we are in situations where we are surrounded (physically) with those we love and we lose connection with them because of our attention to screens.
  • On my personal page, I love connecting with so many people I care about. I also love sharing my little world. I know it brings my family joy to see my kids growing up in real time.
  • Professionally, the Lean.Green.Kitchen page provides me a place to share my real food journey with others who are interested. I have always flourished in likeminded teams with shared goals, and the FB page is a friendly place for sharing ideas and inspiration. From day one it has been a safe place for me to open up about my passion for conscious eating for my family. Facebook connects me in a way that Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram can’t.
  • Today in the car with my husband, instead of talking about whatever I was seeing in my Facebook newsfeed, we chatted about what was important to us and had a very sweet conversation about our kids and their future. It was not a conversation that ever would have flowed from a Facebook feed.
  • My personal norm became a need to respond quickly to things. I set that as an expectation and now I need to reset it. This is not reasonable and it causes me unnecessary stress. If someone connects with me through FB, I will get to it in a timely manner, not an immediate manner.
  • Today I reached out to a few people individually and had some fun interactions. I made a future lunch date with a long distance friend and read a book I’ve been real excited about for months.
  • I was laser-focused on the computer and made a list of several things I’ve been meaning to do. I was able to get in and accomplish them in a timely fashion. I didn’t have the feeling that time had been wasted. I didn’t have to come back later to complete tasks, because I hadn’t been distracted from anything. Winning!
  • My morning began quicker. I was not distracted by 400 friends while getting myself and the kids ready for the day. I didn’t multi-task and instead began the day in bed with a mini “peace-is-within-me” meditation. It took one minute and I hopped out of bed, versus the 10, 12, maybe 15 minutes it usually takes me to compulsively scroll FB before I let myself get up.
  • I check my email a few times a day, but that gets boring pretty quickly.
  • Before bed I watched Modern Family with Matthew, something I normally might have done with the laptop open to Facebook for additional stimulation. It was really nice to just chill and watch the show without being bombarded by the world around me. I went to bed without a “final check” of Facebook, and wrote a few notes, read a few pages and fell asleep feeling very centered.
  • I reach for my phone constantly throughout the day, and then just set it back down. There is nothing triggering me without the Facebook app.
  • In (my favorite movie of all time) The Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya whispers, “I want my father back, you son of a bitch” as he kills the man who senselessly murdered his father. In this one sentence you hear all of his pain and longing. Today, on my final of three days without Facebook, I find myself looking at my turned off phone and whispering, “I want my minutes back, you son of a bitch,” with the same intensity. It was crazy how many times I touched my phone and then remembered, there’s nothing to do here.

 

So now the real test begins. My Facebook absence made two things very clear: I enjoy the connections I make on Facebook. I over-use Facebook as a distraction and it leads to imbalance in my life.

I must develop new norms for my Facebook use, beginning with a structure that I can use to keep me in check until I develop new habits. This will be a process – here are some things I am trying:

  1. No Facebook in my bedroom.
  2. Reinstall the Facebook app on my smart phone and keep it in a folder on the last page of apps, making it hidden and harder to access.
  3. Separate time chunks for Lean.Green.Kitchen page management and personal page check-ins.
  4. Conscious attention towards not worrying about seeing “everything.”
  5. Facebook Free Day each week.

We’ll see where this leads…

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