Weekly Tip: Find Stillness

Pickle Prep

Today as I entered my yoga studio for class, I mumbled – maybe a little too loudly – “Please do your magic today.” It was a desperate plea from my inner self to calm the heck down and stop the madness in my head. It was a request after a day of isolation – no, worse – a day of being surrounded by strangers and my children with no outlet, no buddy. It was an appeal to my higher self to work this funk out.

And it worked. Before the class had even started, in the fifteen minutes where we just lay on our mats, it started working. The moody-judy cloud in my head began to clear a little and when I thought about what my body needed, clear concise action items came forward. And by the end of class, when I was splayed out again on my mat it was clear what I needed to do.

1. I need more nourishment for breakfast and lunch. I’ve got this first world problem – kids’ swim practice from 11 – 1 each day. At 10:30am I am not thinking about lunch, but by 1:00pm we are all famished. This is an important meal that we’ve been phoning in for the past few days, and it is reflected in my cranky mood. I’ve got to do a better job of planning and eating a high quality meal for both breakfast (so I can make it until 1:00pm) and lunch. I need to not rely on snacks, because string cheese, fruit and a Lara Bar can replace a meal calorically, but doesn’t provide me enough nutrients.

2. I need to DO two scary things instead of THINKING about doing two scary things. SCARY THING ONE: I have been putting off trying out the masters swim team practice for six months now. It starts at 5:00am, so a night owl like me thinks that is insane. Also, I freak out about joining things. You can see how I haven’t quite made it yet. But I want to go so badly that it’s eating me up. Tomorrow. I’m going tomorrow. SCARY THING TWO: I want to ferment my own vegetables, and kefir, and yogurt, and mead! But I have a million excuses for not doing it, including I’ve never done anything like this before and the process seems mysterious and scary. Enough of thinking about it. Tomorrow I’m making pickles. Success or failure, at least I’ll be on the game board to learning how to do it.

3. I need to set up some play dates that are just covers for mom dates. I need my people to bear witness to the intensity of summer vacation and highs and lows of hanging out with kiddos most hours of the day. And speaking of dates, my hard-working husband and I could use one of those too.

This is where I ended up after finding stillness for just a few minutes. I came home, replenished with my favorite hydration smoothie, made a big chicken fajita salad and pulled out my swim suit and some mason jars. Feeling better already.

I am going to make a habit out of this. If you find me splayed out somewhere just know I’m looking for inner guidance for what to do next. What would your body tell you to do if you were still for a few minutes?

 

 

Five Things List: Food Edition

 

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Lately I’ve found that many people have some fascinating perceptions of what I eat. Laughing about this with a friend the other day, she said, “You love lists – you should make a list!” So here it is – my list of five things you might find interesting about my eating. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this list, is, it is, um, not all that unusual! And maybe that’s the lesson. If you put a little thought into eating real (good) foods, it’s not all that strange.

**Do I need a disclaimer that I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist and this is not a list telling you what to eat? Hopefully it is obvious that I’m sharing my food journey and all food journeys are welcome at the Lean.Green.Kitchen! Take the words that resonate with you and leave the rest.**

Number 5. I don’t eat tofu. Seems that many people think if you are a healthy eater, then you must eat tofu. I’m not really a fan texturally of the stuff and I’m scared of what I’ve learned about soy products. So I choose to avoid soy products, which basically means all processed foods are out, because soy is hidden in just about everything. And unless it’s organic, it probably includes GMO soy. Anywho, my kids love tofu, so I occasionally get them some organic sprouted tofu and let them have at it. To each their own.

Number 4. I avoid consuming vegetable oils and I eat full fat dairy. Eating fat is confusing for most Americans, and that is no surprise since we are constantly told conflicting information. After much research and a gut check, I’m honing in on my ideal cooking and baking fats.

I use: butter, tallow, coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oil. It’s a small list, with a strong influence from the work of Sally Fallon and her book Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. Her message shares how rich and full of nutrients “traditional fats” have always been and continue to be when from a quality source. All of a sudden butter from grass-fed dairy feels nourishing and fulfilling and the tallow I pulled off the top of the bone broth from my cow seems like a nutrient-rich and versatile start to many of my dishes.

My position on dairy is either 1.) skip it or 2.) consume full fat organic dairy, preferably from grass-fed cows. My dream situation would be to know the farm where my dairy comes from, but that hasn’t happened yet. When I can afford it and find it, raw dairy is my preference. I’ve read some riveting articles regarding the extreme processing milk goes through to have the fat removed, taking the majority of the nutrients with it. Additionally, I don’t want to support factory farms and I certainly don’t want to drink a product that comes from an animal pumped with man-made chemicals. Kind of defeats my goal of reducing my body’s chemical load.

Number 3. I don’t eat many grains, but -horrors- I eat some that are refined. Specifically I love flour tortillas and the whole wheat ones just aren’t the same. Also artisan bread is one of my favorite foods, so I get the loaf that looks, smells and feels the best, has an ingredient list with ingredients I believe should be in bread, and move on. Life is for living, and if you have a food you adore, I say make sure you have a chance to enjoy it. We don’t eat very many grains around here and when we do they are mostly whole grains. Good enough.

Number 2. I wish I could eat more like my kids. As much as my kids challenge me daily in my attempts to cram nutrient-rich food into their lives, they both have food habits that I envy.

My son loves fermented vegetables and will eat them with every meal if they are available. Do you know how good that is for you? Eating real fermented veggies (sauerkraut, pickled anything, etc) is the best way to support your gut and amp up your immune system. I sure wish I liked the taste of all those good-for-you bacteria-enhanced veggies with that salty-tarty-briny flavor. I stick with my kefir and daily probiotic supplement, but am determined to up my intake of fermented vegetables as I learn to ferment them myself this year.

My daughter intuitively knows when to stop eating. She stops when she is full even if it is her favorite food and there is a ton left on her plate. She says yes to dessert and then eats a bite or two and heads off to do something else. I can’t even grasp what that might feel like. I eat ice cream until my bowl is empty. End of story. I wonder how much ice cream I would need to eat in order for my body to say, “you know what, maybe I should stop now.”

Number 1. I try not to stress about food. This might be the thing that surprises the most people, but I plan out our meals, buy real whole foods, make the meals we eat at home using said real food, and then let the rest ride. If I don’t have processed foods in the house we don’t eat them, so that takes out that stress. And we eat enough at home so I don’t much care what we eat when we are at other people’s homes. If someone is willing to cook or bake for me and my family, I am stoked and don’t bring my food soapbox (lunchbox?) to the table. If you want to talk food with me I’m happy to, but I’m also happy to talk about a million other things.

Stress negatively impacts health, so I don’t see how freaking out about food makes my family healthier.

 

So there you have it!  A close-up on my ever evolving food life. Anything surprising or interesting on the list? What would I find interesting about what you eat? Share in the comments!

If you are interested in more specifics about what I eat, I encourage you to check out my food rules.

Clean and Easy Summer Gumbo Recipe

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This powerhouse soup is hearty and able to fill up hungry family members who have been playing and working all day in the summer sun. This easy gumbo recipe is a lighter, fresher, cleaner version of traditional gumbos, and it is shellfish free, as I made it for my dad who is highly allergic. We served it with a beautiful loaf of pugliese bread and talked about how it would hold up nicely in a bread bowl. Whether as a soup starter or a main dish, your body will thank you for the nutrients!

Recipe: Clean and Easy Summer Gumbo

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Onion (chopped small)
  • 1/2 cup Carrot (chopped small)
  • 1/2 cup Celery (chopped small)
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 1T Butter or EVOO (or a combo of both)
  • 2 Italian Chicken Sausages (sliced into 1/4 inch rounds) – I use Applegate Organics Sweet Italian (you could delete altogether for vegetarians or use Shrimp or Cubed Chicken)
  • 1/2 cup Brown Rice
  • 4 cups Chicken Stock (can easily sub with Vegetable Stock)
  • 28oz crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 1/2t dried Oregano
  • 1 1/2t dried Thyme
  • 1/2t Sea Salt
  • 1/2t Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 cups Water
  • 2 cups chopped Kale (frozen is great!)
  • 2 cups Corn (frozen is great!)
  • 2 cups sliced Okra (frozen is great!)

Instructions

  1. Cook brown rice according to package directions.
  2. While rice is cooking, in a large pot heat butter/oil over medium-high heat.
  3. Add onion, carrot, celery, garlic and cook until everything softens.
  4. Add sausage rounds and cook for another few minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add stock, tomatoes, bay leaf, oregano, thyme, sea salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.
  6. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, then add kale, corn and okra.
  7. Continue simmering until rice is finished and add rice.
  8. Add two cups of water if gumbo is too thick.
  9. Simmer for 15 minutes and check spices. Adjust as necessary.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 45 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

This recipe is heavily adapted from Clean Eating magazine (Chicken Gumbo, June 2012).

Perhaps enjoy this on a back porch with some iced tea!?

Brew Kid Friendly Iced Tea

Kid Friendly Iced Tea

What’s a household to do when they don’t drink soda, fruit juice or store-bought sports drinks? It’s hot, we are thirsty, and in the wise words of my nine-year-old, “water is boring!”

Brew iced tea!

My crew enjoys decaf green teas, white teas, chai teas and peppermint herbal tea – the options are endless! Have fun checking out and trying all the varieties. To sweeten the tea, I recommend using a little honey simple syrup (recipe below). You could also use a little stevia, if you are a stevia person.

Brewing Iced Tea Four Ways

Sun Brewed Tea: Fill a large glass jar (with lid) with filtered water and 2-4 tea bags of your choice depending on strength of tea desired and size of glass jar. I use 2 tea bags in a 2 quart mason jar. Leave out in a safe location that receives full sun for 2-4 hours (again depending on strength of tea desired). Sweeten and pour over ice to serve.

Stove Top Brewed Tea: Bring one quart of filtered water to boil in a saucepan. Turn off heat, add 2 tea bags of your choice and place lid on top. Allow to sit and slowly cool for 15-45 minutes, depending on strength of tea desired. Fill pitcher with ice and pour tea over it. Add cold water to fill pitcher to the top. Sweeten and pour over ice to serve.

Ice Tea Maker Brew: This is the easy man’s version of making tea. Ice tea maker directions vary by model, but all offer ample amounts of richly brewed iced tea in a very short amount of time! Sweeten and pour over ice to serve.

Iced Tisane: A tisane is an infusion of fresh herbs, fruits or roots and can be a beautiful after dinner digestive aid. It is a lighter, brighter, fresher tea. To make your own mint tisane, place several handfuls of fresh mint leaves (add lemon verbena leaves for sublime awesomeness) in the bottom of a saucepan and pour one quart of boiling water over them. Place the lid on the saucepan and let sit for five minutes. Strain and pour over ice to serve. Sweeten only if necessary.

Infused Honey Simple Syrup: Classic simple syrup is usually a ratio of 1:1 water and sugar, heated up until the sugar dissolves. I like to use honey and a ratio of 4:1. In a saucepan, heat a cup of filtered water on the stove top. Just before boiling, add in 1/4 cup of local raw honey and remove from heat. Stir honey and add whatever you’d like for your infusion (optional). My favorites are mint, very ripe peaches and lavender flowers. Place the lid on the saucepan and let sit for 30 minutes or so. Strain and store honey syrup in a mason jar in the refrigerator.

Kid Friendly Iced Tea

In photo from back to front: Spiced Rooibos Ruby Red Chai Tea, Ginger Pear White Tea (in glass and large mason jar), Mint Tisane, Mint-Peach-Honey Simple Syrup

Looking for more summer hydration ideas? Check out all the recipes on this post!

What do you drink to stay hydrated throughout the summer?

Recipe: Cherries Jubilee

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THIS is my FAVORITE dessert of.all.time.

I was going to post this recipe for the Fourth of July holiday, but I started thinking you might need time to practice it a few times and get the ingredients and practice a few more times and maybe even surprise a father or two on Sunday. So find some local cherries, make some ice cream (or buy the good stuff) and enjoy!

Recipe: Cherries Jubilee

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Heat up the butter/coconut oil in a skillet on medium heat.
  2. Add cherries and sauté for 2 minutes.
  3. Add liquor and flambé (light on fire in the pan) while swirling the cherries in the pan. The flames are really exciting and then die out as the alcohol burns off. You just stand there and swirl the pan and everything will take care of itself!
  4. Add spices and simmer for 5 minutes or until the cherry juice reduces to a syrup consistency.
  5. Pour over vanilla ice cream and top with a few mini chocolate chips.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

 

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If you need a taste taster, just let me know.

Happy Summer Celebrations!!

 

 

The Kitchen Counter Plate Challenge: Healthy Snack Ideas

Healthy Snack Ideas

Easy questions for you today: Say you have a plate of cookies on the kitchen counter, do they get eaten? If you are like me and my family, the answer is yes and quickly. Same for chocolate chips, BBQ potato chips and day old movie popcorn. (This doesn’t happen when they are in a container and hidden in a cabinet.)

Next question: Do your kids (or other loved ones) try grabbing food from the counters while you are cooking dinner? In my family we have a little lady who likes to eat all sorts of things during food prep, but as soon as it hits the table it is no longer what she likes. This includes lettuce leaves, carrot peels, diced onions, and beans. The more I slap at her hands the more she would like to bother me by eating it!

Final question: Do your housemates (or you!) constantly rummage around for snacks between meals, or whine about needing something to eat? I am so tired of finishing up the dishes from a meal only to have a kid riffling through the pantry for a less than ideal snack food. It’s one of my serious hot buttons for which someday I will probably need therapy.

Out of these three family facts (and with miraculous inspiration from the husband), we conducted the Kitchen Counter Plate Challenge. And it worked! And it is so simple! I had to share, because maybe it will work for your household too. This is the ultimate Healthy Snack Idea!

The Kitchen Counter Plate Challenge:

  1. Put together a pretty plate of snack foods that you’d actually like to see your family consuming. Make it all easy grabbing size and make it really colorful and fun looking. Choose foods that can withstand to be on the counter for a while.
  2. Leave the plate on a counter that everyone walks by throughout the day between meals and see what happens. Does the plate empty as people walk by it? Experiment with the contents of the plate… what works in your house?
  3. Place the plate in the refrigerator if you head out and won’t be near the counter for a bit. (Or throw it in a big Ziploc and take in the car – kids will eat whatever is around when they are just sitting in the car with nothing to do.)

My Kitchen Counter Plate Ingredient Suggestions:

  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Bell Peppers
  • Radishes
  • Green Beans (you can blanch these in salt water to make them tastier)
  • Nuts
  • Berries
  • Cherries
  • Apricots
  • Pickled Vegetables
  • Pepperoncinis
  • Olives
  • Artichoke Hearts
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Raisins
  • Melon Balls
  • Homemade Popcorn made with Coconut Oil

This is a great challenge for kids, no doubt. We didn’t even tell the kids what we were doing, just started leaving out a veggie plate and they came by and grazed instead of riffling through the pantry. Don’t underestimate its value for the adults in your house as well. Often we are so busy and focused on a million other things that mindless eating occurs. How great is it to gently push that mindless eating into a nutrient rich experience!

Take the challenge and see if fruit and veggie consumption increase around your place!

 

 

Happy Two Month Birthday to the Lean.Green.Kitchen Blog!

Berry Popsicle

It was just two months ago that the Lean.Green.Kitchen blog was launched! The site is slowly filling up with content and recipes and insights into my foodie journey… every day it is getting closer to fulfilling my dreams of a thriving blog making a difference to those conscious about their eating.

This summer I will take the next step with the blog and begin to actively work to bring new people to the Lean.Green.Kitchen community both through the blog and the Facebook page. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool, so if you have gotten something out of the time you’ve spent on the Lean.Green.Kitchen blog, I’d love for you to share it with others you think may enjoy the experience!

In honor of the past two months, I’ve created a celebratory popsicle recipe for us to enjoy this summer!

 

Recipe: Blueberry Bananza Popsicle

Ingredients

  • 1 banana (the riper the better)
  • 2 cups frozen organic Blueberries
  • 1/2 cup organic unsweetened Kefir
  • 1 cup organic coconut water

Instructions

  1. Blend all the ingredients together until smooth.
  2. Fill popsicle molds and freeze for 4-6 hours.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Looking for popsicle molds? There are so many great ones on Amazon! Here’s a link for the two I own and like:
Norpro Ice Pop Maker         Tovolo Blue Rocket Pops, Set of 6

 

TOP 10 MOST VIEWED POSTS

Let’s reminisce a little. Here are the Top 10 Most Viewed Posts to date on the Lean.Green.Kitchen. Have you seen them all?

Number 10: Food Rules

Number 9: A Tragic Love Story with Sugar

Number 8: Crock-Pot Chicken & Eggplant Parmigiana

Number 7: Clean Up Treats

Number 6: Enjoy a Food Tour

Number 5: The Simplest Salad

Number 4: Spring Veggie Polenta Pizza

Number 3: Know the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

Number 2: Stay Hydrated

Number 1: I Bought a Cow

Thank you so much for all the support over the past two months. Now go share your favorite post, enjoy a super healthy popsicle and have a wonderful summer!

Recipe: Summer Minestrone

IMG_4971 All posts this week are inspired by Michael Pollan’s new book: Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. He includes four rather involved recipes in the book, which I’ll report back on some day after I try them. One of the overall messages of the book is that there is power and value in cooking for yourself and your family. On this, Pollan and I see eye to eye.

One of my favorite things to cook for my family are nutrient rich soups. This is a little tricky during the 90+ degree days of summer, but I’ve found that a little soup starter at the beginning of the meal is very nourishing, hydrating and eaten quickly because everyone is hungry. I plan to make a pot of soup each week throughout summer for dinner starters and my lunch. It’s also a great way to clear out the veggie bins of things that may be just past their prime.

Recipe: Summer Minestrone

Ingredients

  • 2T Olive Oil, Butter or Tallow
  • 1 Onion
  • 2 chopped Carrots
  • 2 chopped Celery Stalks
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 1/2 finely chopped Kale or Chard
  • 1 small chopped Potato
  • 1 chopped Summer Squash
  • 1 chopped Bell Pepper
  • 15-20oz diced Tomatoes
  • 1 fresh sprig Rosemary
  • 1 fresh sprig Oregano
  • 1 can drained, rinsed Kidney or Cannellini Beans
  • 1 cup dry Pasta, I used Orecchiette (optional)
  • 1qt organic Beef, Chicken or Veggie Broth
  • 2T chopped Italian Parsley
  • Splash of Red Wine Vinegar (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Shredded Parm for topper

Instructions

  1. In large pot, heat the oil over medium heat.
  2. Saute the onion, carrot, celery, garlic with a little salt until the onion is translucent.
  3. Add potato, bell pepper, and summer squash for two minutes.
  4. Add kale, tomatoes, rosemary sprig and oregano sprig.
  5. Add broth and bring to a simmer.
  6. Add pasta and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  7. Remove rosemary and oregano sprigs.
  8. Add beans and Italian parsley.
  9. Add salt, pepper and a splash of red wine vinegar to taste.
  10. Top with shredded Parm and serve (not too hot if it is 90+ degrees out!)

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

Michael Pollan quotes I Yin, a Chinese chef from 239 B.C. – “The transformation which occurs in the cauldron is quintessential and wondrous, subtle and delicate. The mouth cannot express it in words.”

Love that. Enjoy your cauldrons everyone!

Weekly Tip: Evaluate Your Primary vs Secondary Eating

COOKED

It’s Michael Pollan’s COOKED week here at the Lean.Green.Kitchen. All posts this week will be inspired by something I pulled out of this book.  Hopefully we can celebrate at the end of the week that I have actually finished the book!

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I’m knee-deep in Michael Pollan’s book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation and really enjoying it.  One new concept I read fascinated me and made me evaluate my own habits. I wanted to share it with all of you. It’s a human behavior called “secondary eating” and is defined as eating or drinking while doing something else.

A USDA study published in 2011 showed that Americans now spend on average 78 minutes a day engaging in secondary eating, including while watching television, while engaging in paid work and while traveling in a car. This is interesting, but not that shocking, right? Eating dessert in front of the tube, lunch at the desk or snacks in the car is pretty common. I was, however, shocked to learn that this number of minutes is now more than “primary eating.” Primary eating defined as the meal times when we sit down with the goal of eating a meal.

Pollan says, “Since 1977, we’ve [Americans] added roughly half a meal’s worth of food to our daily intake, most of it in the form of secondary eating.” And food eaten during times of secondary eating is rarely nutrient rich and health building.

So this week’s tip is to put a little consciousness into how much time you spend eating and identify if it is primary or secondary eating. By increasing your primary eating and decreasing your secondary eating you bring more awareness to the act of consuming food, allowing you to assess if/when your body has eaten what it needs. You also most likely will reduce the amount of snacks, “convenience” food, and late night treats that are being consumed without you really even paying much attention.

If you are in the mood for a delicious chocolate chip cookie, for example, then by all means find (make!!) the best tasting cookie and sit down and enjoy every crumb. Then go about your business. Where is the value in inhaling ten cookies while watching TV and not really even processing that you’ve eaten them?

I know from experience that there are a million reasons to have lunch at your desk while at work. But perhaps we should really evaluate if making lunch secondary is truly necessary most of the time and if it really serves you best to cram down a few bites while not stopping your day. Only you know the answer to this, but make sure that you’ve put thought into the pros and cons of eating like this long-term.

Snacks in the car can save the day – especially with little ones and especially well thought out snacks that support your health goals. They can also sabotage meals (and eating plans) if haphazard and chosen under hunger stress. Every food corporation out there would like you to eat their snack in your car. And they have added salt, sugar and fat to help their processed food product taste best. They have also colored it with food dyes, packaged it and put it everywhere that is easy to get to when you are out of time. If you are consistently secondary eating in the car, you can make your entire day better just by planning ahead and choosing snacks that support your body and health goals.

So evaluate your primary and secondary eating and decide it there are any changes you could make to improve your health and your life. Then tell me all about it!