Summer Bucket List Challenge

Cherry Square

Summer is like a bowl of cherries. Sweet, fun and gone too soon.

I love lists. And summer break, which is days away for my kiddos and – thus by default – me. [Insert cart wheel – happy dance here.] So it should come as no surprise that I’ve created my Summer Bucket List to challenge myself to make sure the next few hot months don’t pass by as a complete blur with nothing interesting to show for them. The act of writing something down often manifests in said thing actually happening, so I encourage you all to join me in putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard). Play along and see if you can add in some enriching life experiences this summer!

Summer Bucket List Challenge: Create Your Summer Bucket List.

1. List one thing that fascinates you.

2. List one thing that scares you but would be totally awesome.

3. List one thing that would make your daily life so much better.

4. List one thing that is all about self-care.

5. List one thing that would make a difference to someone else.

 

For example: Jenn’s Summer Bucket List:

1.  Learn more about fermenting my own foods. Practice.

2.  Do yoga (even just one move) on a paddle board.

3.  Make all my own house cleaning products and deep clean the house.

4.  Read for pleasure every day.

5.  Write a real letter every week. Then send it!

 

Do you accept the challenge? Please share your Summer Bucket List in the comments!

 

Salad Spree: Cherry Chicken Curry Salad

Chicken Curry Salad

It’s our final week of May’s Salad Spree! But not to worry, I love salads and won’t be able to contain myself from posting salad recipes throughout the summer.

This week’s salad is for my chicken loving friends. It brings together the beautiful flavors of dried cherries and curry and uses gut friendly Greek yogurt instead of the commonly used mayo. I highly recommend using organic chicken (this is an excellent use for leftover meat after roasting a whole chicken.) Enjoy it on lightly toasted whole grain bread or over a bed of greens with a little olive oil and lemon juice.

Recipe: Cherry Chicken Curry Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Organic Chicken (cooked, cubed or shredded)
  • 2T Red Onion (minced)
  • 1 Green Onion (green parts chopped small)
  • 1/2 cup Dried Cherries (rough chop)
  • 2 stalks Celery (chopped small)
  • Handful of Spinach (chopped tiny)
  • 2T Parsley (chopped tiny)
  • 1/4 cup Organic Greek Yogurt
  • 1t Curry Powder
  • 1t Dijon Mustard
  • 1t Sea Salt
  • Juice of a Lemon
  • A few cranks of Black Pepper

Instructions

  1. Mix first six ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
  2. In a little bowl mix the yogurt, curry powder, Dijon mustard, and sea salt.
  3. Toss the yogurt mixture in with the chicken mixture.
  4. Squeeze the lemon juice into the mixture.
  5. Crank the black pepper over the top to taste.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Did you enjoy our Salad Spree? Which salads did you try? I’d love to hear all about it!

Quick, Easy and Healthy Sweet Treats

sweet treat

Like many of us, I love a tasty sweet treat some time after dinner and before bed (you know, like after the kids go to bed!) When I started cleaning up my food act and really evaluated how much sugar I was consuming, I knew I needed to find a plan that satisfies that little part of my stomach that my family calls our “treat spot.” No matter how full you are from dinner, the “treat spot” is always ready for dessert.

As I’ve mentioned in my Food Rules, I enjoy a refined sugar filled treat pretty much once a week. But what about the other six days a week? Here’s a list of my favorite sweet treats:

  1. Sliced fruit with fresh whipped cream. This is a wonderful way to fully appreciate the seasons of fruit. It’s exciting when something new shows up at the farmers market.  We do occasionally purchase a pineapple to pretend we are on a tropical island – everyone in the family is a huge fan.  During the winter months we use frozen berries or bake apples.  I whip a pint of organic heavy whipping cream with a dash of vanilla extract and less than a tablespoon of turbinado sugar for the whipped cream. It makes a lot of whipped cream that our family slowly uses throughout the week.
  2. Apple slices with almond butter and a few dark chocolate chips on top. This combo always hits the spot. You can get fancy and add shredded coconut on top, but I’m an old-fashioned dipper, so I just make three piles (apples, almond butter, chocolate chips) and dig in!
  3. Tea and toast. A warm cup of herbal tea with a little honey and a crunchy piece of toast with butter (made from grass-fed cows milk) makes a nourishing and fulfilling evening snack. If you have a beautiful favorite clean jam, that would make a lovely addition.
  4. Chocolate dipped strawberries. These are so easy and decadent! Place a saucepan with an inch or so of water in the bottom on the stove top and turn on heat to medium-low. Place a metal mixing bowl on top (to make a double boiler) and pour in 1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips and a tablespoon of coconut oil. Use spatula to stir around until the chocolate and oil are melted and incorporated together.  Turn off heat. Dip clean, dry strawberries into the chocolate to cover and place on parchment lined cookie sheet. Once you are finished dipping your strawberries, place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or so (until chocolate is cool and hardened).  Enjoy.
  5. Chocolate covered frozen bananas. Use the same chocolate from above and heavily drizzle over quartered bananas on a cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with chopped nuts if desired.  Place in freezer and enjoy about 30 minutes later.
  6. Homemade ice “cream.” A family favorite recipe heavily adapted from the Vitamix Whole Food Recipe book by my husband Matthew, this creamy treat makes us give thanks for the power of our Vitamix blender. It can be made in any blender, but the better the blender the creamier the ice cream.

Recipe: Thew’s Sherbet

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Coconut Milk
  • 1lb any frozen fruit (Strawberries and Peaches are favorites)
  • 1/4 cup Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 t Vanilla Extract

Instructions

  1. Blend to smooth.
  2. Serve soft or freeze for harder consistency.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Sweet Treats

 

What clean treats do you enjoy after dinner?

Food for Thought: Enjoy a Food Tour

LGK Logo

If someone were to custom design an activity for me, the result would be the Local Roots Food Tour of Sacramento that my family experienced this past weekend. Special time with my husband, parents, brother and sis-in-law – check. Gentle stroll with gorgeous weather through the beautiful tree-lined streets of Sacramento – check. Great stories and history (including food history) of the area – check.  Oh yes, and lots of eating stops in local restaurants (and a bakery and a coffee shop) – check, check, check!

Led by the ever charming Joelle, my party of six and eight other lovely strangers enjoyed four hours of chatting about the local food scene and even better, sampling it. Joelle took good care of us, told us all sorts of ghost stories and encouraged our love of good food. I’ll never drive by Biba’s again without a glance at the upstairs windows…

Beginning with fancy french toast at Cafe Bernardo and ending with carnitas and infused tequila at Centro, the day was an ode to the vision and dedication that the Paragary family has brought to the Sacramento dining scene over the past 30 years. This included a private tour of the wholesale bakery that provides every piece of bread, bun, pasta and dessert to the 12+ Paragary restaurants in Sacramento. Shout out to Laurel, the bakery’s head honcho and a fellow ARC hospitality management alum.  She is clearly an awesome human – I could tell in the twenty minutes we spent in her world.

In addition to the Paragary-fest, we also throughly enjoyed a presentation by Reuben at Coffee Works where we learned how to roast the green beans in their antique coffee roaster and turn them into the silky, bigger dark beans that everyone loves. We appreciated their commitment to fair trade in the coffee bean market and small batch roasting that you don’t find at that “other” coffee shop referred to in-house as “Darth Vader.” Young Reuben restores my faith in the next generation with his humor, warmth, competence and commitment to his job.

At Formoli’s Bistro we enjoyed a refreshing mizuna greens salad with strawberries and goat cheese and a lightly creamed soup with green beans and almonds – both were of the highest quality and highlighted the essence of the ingredients. Aimol Formoli, a co-owner and the head chef, is truly committed to using quality, local produce and it shows in the menu.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was the fact that an ice cream treat exists that my family didn’t know about previous to the tour! After a lovely walk through the edge of the Fabulous 40s (I think we were actually on 38th), we walked right near McKinley Park and ended up at La Bombe Ice Cream Parlor.  Using local Gunther’s Ice Cream, La Bombe creates their signature European inspired treat – Les Bombe Glacees. Picture layers of ice cream, cookie wafers and jams and syrups; these little domed creations are, well, the bomb.

This was my second food tour with Local Roots Food Tour, and both times I have been filled with gratitude for two things: 1. That I live in a town with such a rich history (including food history) and 2. That a group like the Local Roots Food Tour company exists to share it with me and others. Each time I “tour” around Sacramento – a place I have lived all my life – I learn something, make a connection, and appreciate this place all the more.

I’m adding “Experience Food Tours When Ever (and Where Ever) Possible” to my bucket list, because it is an activity custom-made for me. Have you ever experienced a food tour? Tell me all about it!

 

Links:

Local Roots Food Tours

Cafe Bernardo

Paragarys Bakery

Coffee Works

Formolis Bistro

La Bombe Ice Cream Parlor

Centro Cocina Mexicana

Salad Spree: Spring Pearl Couscous

Pearl Couscous

It’s Salad Spree Wednesday! Every Wednesday in May we are adding a salad to our summer salad arsenal.  This week’s recipe is a Spring Pearl Couscous Salad that makes a lovely side dish or a base for a light dinner if you add some protein on top. This is definitely one of those recipes where you can mix and match whatever produce you have on hand.

Pearl Couscous (also known as Israeli Couscous) is made of baked wheat and tastes a little like orzo pasta. It is different from classic couscous, including different preparation methods, so you can’t just substitute one for the other. Pearl Couscous can be found in the grain bins at most stores (including Whole Foods).

Here’s the recipe:

Recipe: Spring Pearl Couscous Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Pearl Couscous
  • 2 cup Broth (veggie or chicken)
  • 1 Spring Onion (minced)
  • 1/2 cup Spring Peas
  • 1 small to medium Zucchini (small dice)
  • 2 cloves Garlic (minced)
  • 1/2t – 1t Jalapeño pepper (minced)
  • 1/2 cup Kale (chopped tiny)
  • 1 Lemon (juiced)
  • 2T EVOO
  • 2T Parsley (chopped tiny)
  • Salt & Pepper (to taste)
  • 1/4 cup Goat Cheese (optional)

Instructions

  1. Bring the Broth to a simmer.
  2. Pour in the Pearl Couscous and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Before turning off the heat, add the Spring Onion, Spring Peas, Zucchini, Garlic, Jalapeño (amount determined by how much kicked you’d like in the dish), and Kale and stir for a minute or so to incorporate and soften.
  4. Turn off the heat and toss the mixture into a serving bowl.
  5. Stir in Lemon Juice, EVOO and Salt and Pepper. Don’t be stingy with the salt and pepper! Depending on the saltiness of the broth you may need lots or a little.
  6. Before serving, mix in the Parsley and top with the Goat Cheese.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

One more week for our Salad Spree!  I’ve got some ideas for our final salad… what would you like to see?

Weekly Tip: Use Fresh Herbs {Cilantro}

Cilantro

Any meal can be elevated with the addition of a chopped fresh herb. We have enjoyed a bunch of cilantro in our weekly farm box for the past few weeks and I was recently reminded of what a powerhouse herb it is. Cilantro is a known detoxifying herb, due to its ability to “chelate” (a fancy word for remove) heavy metals from the system (such as mercury, aluminum and lead). It is also packed with antioxidants (more concentrated than fruits and vegetables for the most part) and is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory.

All of this and it tastes great too! EXCEPT to some people who belong to the I Hate Cilantro Club.  Have you heard of this? Some people taste soap when they taste cilantro and can’t figure out why the rest of us love it. Julia Childs was a soapy cilantro person, so in my book that makes this affliction legit.  My apologies to those of you with this issue – we’ll pick another herb in the weeks to come!

For my cilantro lovers, here’s a tasty fresh salsa that includes the peaches that recently appeared at the farmers markets. It’s holding me over until the tomatoes are ready!

Salsa

Recipe: Peach Cilantro Salsa

Ingredients

  • 1 Peach (small dice)
  • 2T Cilantro (chopped tiny)
  • 1/2 Spring Onion (minced)
  • 1 squeeze of Lime (to taste)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Optional: 1T Jalapeño (minced)

Instructions

  1. Mix it all together.
  2. A little time in the refrigerator helps the flavors meld together. Good luck waiting that long!
  3. Serve over tacos, with chips and/or guacamole, on bruschetta — whatever works!

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 2

Cilantro is also wonderful blended in a pesto. Or soaked in chilled water with melon for a vitamin water. Or chopped up and used to top meats, beans, salads, humus, Mexican specialities, and Thai soups, to name a few. Cilantro also aids digestion, so chewing a stalk with a few leaves (or pouring hot water over the stalks to make a quick tea) at the end of the meal can do a body good.

So let’s hear it… how many of you are in the I Hate Cilantro Club?

Do they have a club for us Cilantro Lovers?

Food for Thought: Chill Out

Having awareness of what we eat can be highly stressful, because there are a lot of villains out there making eating real food challenging. It may be – uh – might be – umm – possible to – uh – become a wee bit obsessive on the whole thing. That obsession can’t be healthy, and isn’t healthy what we want? So it is super important that we set our selves up for success as best as we can, stay informed as best we can and then concentrate our positive energy and brain space on navigating life as best we can.

Let’s chill out together by watching this video produced by Studio C, laughing out loud, and making a pact not to sound like these two…

Salad Spree: Beet Orange Stack-Ups

Beet Orange Salad

Welcome back to the month of May’s Salad Spree!  Each week we are highlighting a new salad to add to our salad arsenal. This week’s salad is my answer to two questions I’ve heard more than once: 1. What do I do with the beets in my weekly CSA box? 2. What’s the best way to introduce my kids to beets? My answer is the Beet Orange Stack-Up. Easy, beautiful, pretty quick and full of orange sweetness to balance the earthiness of the beets.

Recipe: Beet Orange Stack-Ups

Ingredients

  • 2-3 small Beets or 1-2 bigger Beets
  • 2 Oranges
  • 1T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • pinch of Salt
  • crank or two of Ground Pepper
  • 1-2T finely chopped Parsley

Instructions

  1. Prep beets by chopping off greens and tails.
  2. Bring saucepan full of water to a boil. Add beets and cook at a high simmer/low boil until you can poke a fork into the center of the beet.
  3. Meanwhile, cut two 1/2 inch rounds out of the center of each orange (4 slices total). Peel and set aside.
  4. In the blender combine the remainder of the oranges (no peel), EVOO, salt and pepper and blend to a smooth sauce.
  5. When beets are ready, peel skin off using a spoon (it should come off very easily) and slice into 1/4 inch rounds. Note: You can also dice the beets into small cubes for a more kid-friendly version.
  6. Stack-up the salad starting with the orange slice as the base, then beet slices and finishing with a few spoonfuls of the orange sauce. Note: Kids love the sauce, use more if you are introducing beets for the first time to make the salad sweeter.
  7. Top with the parsley and a last pinch of salt and pepper if desired.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Now this salad will put color on your plate! Enjoy!

This post is linked to Sunday School at Butter Believer!

Weekly Tip: Add Color to Your Plate

Color Plate

Celebrate the beautiful color of produce! Adding color to your plate results in additional nutrients, flavors and textures to brighten up and add interest to your meal.  As you work on your meal plans OR, for my spontaneous cooks, right when you are standing there plating your meals, ask yourself if there is a way to add some color.

Could you…

  • cut up some fruit for a side dish
  • sauté some greens with a little garlic for a bed for your protein
  • make a salad
  • add a few crudités on the side (carrots, celery, bell peppers)
  • finely chop up a herb to top salads, meats, grains (parsley, cilantro, basil…)
  • add mushrooms (fresh or sautéed) as a topper
  • place salsa or marinara sauce on the table for dipping
  • chop up kale super small and add it to something
  • grill up a bunch of veggies (or add a stick and call them veggie kabobs)
  • use frozen fruit instead of ice cubes in your water glasses
  • prepare a roasted vegetable plate (topped with a little shredded Parm, salt & pepper, and chopped parsley) for a starter/appetizer when everyone is at their hungriest
  • incorporate frozen veggies into rice and other grain dishes (spinach, peas, corn, carrots…)

Use your imagination and creativity and resourcefulness and amazing things can happen! Little additions every day can really add up to nutritional excellence.

What do you do to add color to your plate? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below…

Food for Thought: Weekend Revitalization Plan

LGK Logo

Next week I head out on a fun-filled four day camping adventure with my third grader’s class. It is going to be amazing, educational, and full-tilt engaging from daybreak until long after the sun has gone down. Very amusing to me, the menu for the week has been set by third graders. Let’s just say I will be eating very differently for the week. Life throws you a curve ball some times, and that’s okay. In fact, curve balls are necessary to build grit (one of my favorite characteristics). I will come home exhausted and depleted due to lack of sleep, windy/sunny weather, antics of 80 third graders, and lack of nutrients. Knowing myself as I do, I’m aware that this exhaustion and depletion are on the way. So what can I do about it? Make a list, of course! This list is intended to boss me around Friday night through Sunday – when I’m too tired to think straight, in order to minimize the “damage” and revitalize me once I return home.

Thinking about it, I realized that lots of us are exhausted and depleted for many reasons. Since creating a list like this can be overwhelming when we are in the middle of the exhaustion/depletion, I thought I’d share my simple list with the hopes that many of us might recharge and get our groove back sooner than later!

Weekend Revitalization Plan

Step One – Hydrate:  Drink a large glass (1-quart Mason Jar, anyone?) of water with lemon, Lemon-Orange “Aid,” coconut water, or a recovery smoothie each morning and afternoon upon my return.

Step Two – Rest: Do whatever it takes to sleep, uninterrupted for 8-9 hours for two nights in a row.

Step Three – Power Up: Amp up my consumption of fermented foods (Kefir and Greek yogurt are easiest for me) and take a probiotic supplement to rev up my gut and support my digestion and immune system.

Step Four – Detox: Reduce my chemical load. Enjoy big salads each day and cut out processed foods and refined sugars. Soak feet in a relaxing epsom salt bath with lemon, lavender or tea tree essential oils.

Step Five – Unwind: Get back to yoga (or any long stretching session).

Step Six – Connect: Make time to have authentic interactions with the people who ground and comfort me.

Step Seven – Decompress: Find time for quiet. De-screen. Reflect on what additional self-care is needed.

If I squeeze in a few loads of laundry and a trip to the farmers market, I should be good to go and ready to roll by Sunday night. How about you? What do you do to REVITALIZE? I’d love some new ideas for my list!