Five Real Food Changes I Made in 2013

2013

As 2013 finishes up, I can’t help but reflect on the crazy real food progress I’ve made over the past 12 months. I’ve worked on so many mini changes to what I eat during this year that it has resulted in a pretty major overhaul of my family’s kitchen. Much of the journey has been documented on this blog, which I started in April after several years of researching, cooking and sharing healthy food.

It has been such a pleasure to share my experience with you. This blog has connected me with so many on your own real food journeys, and made me feel a little less alone and even less like a kooky food nutter. I know that the Lean.Green.Kitchen community is all over the map in their views and dedication to real food. We embrace anyone making conscience decisions around their food choices and support and encourage everyone to figure out their next steps and take them. And this definitely includes me.

Without further ado, here are the five biggest real food changes I made this year.

5. I stopped buying 90% of the processed food I had been purchasing. This was a major reduction, because I had already massively cut out processed food over the prior few years. It mostly entailed kids snacks, and “special treats.” I spent the year focusing on cleaning up the kids’ food, which resulted in them eating lots of popcorn and fruit for snacks and homemade treats. We realized that if it’s not in the house, we don’t eat it. A smart way to get out of (some) kid food battles – don’t have anything battle-worthy in the pantry.

4. I switched all our dairy to full fat organic sources. I even splurged a few times and bought raw whole milk. Hubster buys wine, I buy raw milk. Everyone’s got their thing. :) I stopped buying ultra pasteurized products. I sent a few emails attempting to find a raw milk local source, but haven’t had any luck yet. I’ve opened myself up to the universe to find a reasonably priced raw milk source, so fingers crossed for 2014!

3. I stopped cooking and baking with vegetable oils. I now use extra virgin olive oil for my cold oil needs and organic butter, coconut oil, tallow (from my bone broth making) and bacon drippings (from million dollar high quality bacon) for everything else. These traditional fats are not only delicious, they are nutritious and essential for brain maintenance. Our family jokes that the healthiest thing about our whole wheat toast is the beautiful butter on top of it.

2.  I sourced the majority of our meats and eggs. I bought a cow for butchering and found local sources for eggs. It was a life changing process. We eat meat and eggs from animals who lived quality lives and honor them with our energy, health and vitality. We no longer support (with our money) deplorable animal living conditions and nutrient-depleted chemical-full meat options.

1. Anyone who follows Lean.Green.Kitchen on Facebook will not be surprised by my number one real food change this year. I have become a wee bit obsessed with the process of fermentation and the amazing role that our gut health plays in our overall health. Through this transformative process I have sipped the Kombucha kool-aid and now find my house filled with homemade kefir, yogurt and Kombucha as well as probiotics, sauerkraut, bone broth, sourdough and real deal fermented pickles. After so many years of eating a diet filled with depleted dead food, it has been an exploratory adventure to become friends with yeasts and bacteria. I think the answer to many of our modern-day health issues could be remedied with attention to cultivating the good bacteria in our gut. This has been revolutionary in my real food journey, and I have so much more to learn!

So I am absolutely thrilled that 2014 is upon us as I move forward and learn and change, and learn and change, and learn and change. I’m working on my list of mini changes for the new year, and will be sharing them soon. Hope you will join me!

Have a wonderful final week of 2013. If you have made any real food changes in 2013 due (in any small part) to the influence or inspiration of this blog, I would LOVE to hear about them. It has been true joy to hear your stories along the way. My phone is full of photos of your trials, emails with questions, and celebratory “wahoos” via text or Facebook when you’ve succeeded with something new. I love it! Keep them coming.

 

 

Four Real Food DIY Gifts You Could Make This Weekend!

I’m sure advanced bloggers were popping out posts like this back in October, being all prepared and stuff. Whateves. For the rest of us mere mortals, we are just now (or pretty soon will be) thinking about holiday gifts for all those beautiful people in our lives we’d like to give something special. Here are four Real Food Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Gifts you could truly whip up this weekend and make lives better by Monday. I know, because I’ve tested them all and they could truly be done by a six-year-old (though there is vodka involved). Anywho… maybe there is something here you could crank out with love…

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1. {Vanilla Extract} What you need: 1 cup mason jars, vanilla beans (two beans per jar), cheap tasteless vodka (we used Svedka), a cute note that tells the owner not to begin using it until 8 weeks from the production date, cute ribbon. Here’s a link to the directions I followed: Honey and Birch’s DIY Gift – Vanilla Extract

lemoncello

2. {Limoncello} What you need: 1 quart mason jars, lemons from a nearby tree (friend, neighbor, farmers market, seems like they are everywhere right now – you need 10 lemons per quart), vodka (we used the rest of the Svedka), organic cane sugar, cute ribbon. Here’s the link to the directions we followed: The Kitchn’s How to Make Limoncello **Note that the infusion takes a minimum of four days, so you can do all the work for this one, but will need to finish it off early next week before you can wrap it up with the cute ribbon.

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3. {Seasonings} What you need: 1/2 cup mason jars, various spices that you can buy in bulk from restaurant supply stores like Smart and Final or if you are the planning ahead type, from the internet, little tags with ingredient list and directions, cute ribbon. Here’s a link to my taco seasoning recipe: Lean.Green.Kitchen’s Taco Seasoning Recipe (scroll down, it’s at the bottom of the page). Here’s a link to a ranch dressing: The Crafty Blog Stalker’s Ranch Dressing Recipe. Here’s a link for an Italian seasoning: Food.com’s Italian Seasoning Recipe. You are going to need to do a little math to figure out how much you need for the number of jars that you are preparing. I’m stacking two jars and wrapping in tissue paper for each giftee (with the cute ribbon).

Squash Soup

4. {Simple Squash Soup} What you need: A squash (butternut, pumpkin, acorn), celery, carrot, onion, veggie or chicken stock, thyme, salt and pepper. (Plus a quart jar and cute ribbon!) If you really want to surprise and delight someone this holiday season, show up with the gift of homemade soup during the holidays. Add in a bottle of wine and a beautiful sourdough baguette and obtain the highest elf certification ever. Here’s a link to Lean.Green.Kitchen’s Simple Squash Soup Recipe.

Go forth and create beautiful, thoughtful, useful gifts that will bring joy this holiday season to those you love! If you are creating other DIY projects this weekend, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Weekly Tip: Make Your Own Beef Stock

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Here is the big finale for our three-week make your own stock series. We have made our own chicken stock (or maybe you used turkey), veggie stock, and now this week we tackle making beef stock. This one is a few additional steps, but I assure you the rewards are worth it in the end. Let’s top off those freezers with stock for all our culinary feats this winter. Having a quality stock is the foundation of beautiful meals and a lifesaver on busy, lazy days when real food is a must.

There are three challenges to making your own beef stock that we must conquer. If you can figure these three things out, you are golden — the rest is gravy (good gravy if you use your beautiful beef stock).

1. You need to source high quality beef bones. For me that means local, grass-fed cows. These cost more for a reason. And all the reasons that count. Better for your health, for the flavor, for the environment, for the cow’s living conditions, and for your local community. So do some research, go to farmers markets, talk with other foodies, ask questions of the person behind the meat counter at the natural foods co-ops, find a butcher. Do what it takes to buy good bones and feel gratitude that they will nourish you and your family for months.

2. You need to be near your stove-top off and on, but mostly on for one to three days. You are going to be simmering this stock for days. One day is the barest of minimum, three is ideal (I never make it to three, but some day…), two works great. I turn my pot off when I go to bed and turn it back on as soon as I get up. I turn the pot off to run short errands or whatever, but mostly I’m at home going about my business while my pot is working away for two days.

3. You need a big pot. You want to get a lot of stock out of these bones that you worked so hard to find. Plus, the bones themselves take up a lot of room, so a small pot won’t have space for the water.

*** If number 2 and 3 seem impossible, you can make this in small batches in a crock pot. Using less bones, fill up the crock pot with the same stuff, fill with water and leave on low for 24 hours. You’ll have to go through the process again at some point when you run out of stock, but it may beat staying home for a weekend or getting your hands on a huge pot! ***

Why do all this?

Beef stock is a powerfully healing substance. It is filled with minerals and amino acids ready for absorption. It contains ample gelatin, ready to heal your gut and your joints. Bone broth has been shown to aid digestion and build immunity. Many real fooders consume bone broth every day as a tonic. You can read more about all that’s in there from this post from Mark’s Daily Apple.

Beef stock provides a beautiful flavor, richness, and color to soups, stews and sauces.

It is worth it! The stuff in the box/can DOES NOT COMPARE. Homemade quality stock is considered by many to be a SUPERFOOD. Boxed and canned stock, not so much. This is the easiest way to bring nutrients into everything you prepare. So let’s get started. 

SIMPLE BEEF STOCK

Equipment Needed:

  • Stock Pot – The bigger the better, so you can get more stock out of all the effort. Crock Pots will work, but most won’t hold enough liquid to get the most out of your efforts. Consider investing in a large stock pot or find a foodie friend who might let you borrow one for a weekend. I love my 21 quart pot. Big but manageable.
  • Roasting Pan/Tongs
  • Cutting board/Chef’s Knife
  • Ladle
  • Cheese Cloth or Fine Strainer – I use a paint straining bag from the hardware store. I can place it into a pitcher and ladle the stock into it.
  • Large Storage Container
  • Gallon Sized Ziplock Bags
  • Permanent Marker

Ingredients:

  • 4-8lbs of beef bones (a combination of marrow, knuckle, neck and rib bones is the best option, but work with what you can get!)
  • 3 Organic Carrots – Chopped up chunky
  • 3 Organic Onions – Peeled and chopped in quarters
  • 6 Organic Celery Stalks – Chopped up chunky
  • 6 Cloves of Garlic – Cut in half
  • 1T Whole Peppercorns
  • Sprigs of Fresh Thyme and/or Parsley
  • 1/2 Cup Vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar)
  • 2-3 Gallons of Cold Water
  • Optional: Any other veggie bits or scraps you may have around. This is a great way to purge those veggie drawers!

Instructions:

  1. Place any of your bones that have meat bits on them in the roasting pan and brown at 350 degrees for about an hour. Meanwhile, place the bones without meat bits in the pot with the vinegar and pour in the water until the bones are covered. Let the pot just sit on the counter for the hour the other bones are roasting.
  2. Take the meaty bones out of the roasting pan and place them in the pot. Add vegetables and add the rest of the cold water.
  3. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Using a spoon, skim off any impurities or “foam” that has developed on the top and discard.
  4. Add peppercorns and herbs.
  5. Simmer that pot for 12-72 hours. You can add more water every once in a while if you feel it is getting too low. (Less water, more concentrated stock)
  6. I turn the stove off when I go to bed late at night for my own peace of mind (leaving the big pot on the stove top) and then turn it back on early in the morning. I also turn it off when I leave the house during the day for safety.
  7. Using your strainer and your storage container, ladle the stock into the strainer in batches, resulting in having strained stock in the storage container.
  8. Place storage container in the refrigerator to cool completely. When cooled, your stock may be thick and gelatinous. That is a GREAT sign! It means you used bones with lots of gelatin and pulled it all out of them. Sometimes mine is gelatinous and sometimes it isn’t.
  9. The next day: Once your stock is completely cooled, the fat will rise to the top and solidify. If you leave that in your stock, it will be rather greasy. I highly recommend taking it off the stock and rendering it down to clean tallow to use as a fantastic cooking fat! [Place fat in crock pot on low until it is all liquid, then strain through cheesecloth into a mason jar and store in the refrigerator. Amazing for frying up tortillas for Taco Tuesdays!]
  10. Using a permanent marker, label your Ziplock bags: BEEF STOCK and the date and how much you are measuring into each bag.
  11. I recommend measuring out 1 to 1.5 quarts of beef stock per gallon Ziplock.
  12. Be sure to check those Ziplock tops for a good seal before placing the bags flat on top of each other to store in the freezer.
  13. The stock will keep in the freezer for several months.

Notes:

  • This recipe is adapted from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. It is one of my favorite resources for my real food journey.
  • There is no salt added to this stock, so you must add it on your own when using the stock. Most recipes will assume your stock is very salty (because the box/can has a lot of extra sodium in it), so be sure to taste and adjust and probably add more salt to your dishes than you are used to if you haven’t made your own before.
  • If you don’t have much freezer space for your stock, I recommend simmering your stock on the longer side of the range and not adding additional water as it evaporates. You are basically making it more concentrated and then can add water to it once you defrost it prior to using. You might want to freeze it in smaller amounts since you won’t need as much. You can also simmer some of it down further after straining to concentrate some of it for sauces. Just be sure to label everything so you know what you have later!
  • I know of many people who, in an effort to get the most out of their beef bones, make  stock a second time using the same bones. If you have the time, energy and freezer space you should go for it!

photo 1  Finished product… over 10 quarts of beautiful stock!

tallow  Plus a little jar of beautiful tallow as a bonus!

 

So that’s a wrap with the Stock Series! Hope you use these recipes in your kitchen to warm and nourish your family this winter season. This, my friends, is the true foundation of real food. May you build real (good) food from here…

 

This post is linked to Party Wave Wednesday at HolisticSquid.com!

Read more: http://holisticsquid.com/party-wave-wednesday-121113/#ixzz2nHVO7fWs

The Real Deal Hot Cocoa

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Happy December Everyone!

I am so excited about this month. After spending the month of November minimizing and purging my home, it is time for the rewards! The uncluttered space motivates me to take things to a new creative place. Plus, I know where to find my stuff now. Mega-bonus.

One way this is manifesting is through our Advent Calendar tradition for the kiddos. In past years, we have phoned it in with a 99 cent calendar from Trader Joe’s with a little milk chocolate candy for each day.

This year I wanted to use it as a tool to connect with each other, create with each other, and give to others together. I’ve had many people ask what we are doing, so I’m sharing — please know that we are in beta-mode on all this. I’m sure by next year I will have many lessons learned.

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I bought little envelopes and holiday tape and the kids and I decorated the envelopes, you know, to build suspense. :) Then I brainstormed a million ideas and stared at our calendar for a very long time and plugged in the ideas I think we can pull off. I sealed the envelopes very loosely with the tape so I can do some last-minute switch-a-roos if I need to as the days get closer. Then I did the smartest thing of all! I typed each day’s activity into the calendar on my phone so I can be prepared for what is coming next. I know, brilliant and a bit out of character for me.

December 1st was a big success. The note said, “Dear Ones, Happy December! Tonight we will drink hot cocoa together and make paper snowflakes to decorate our front window.” Because it was the end of the kids’ Thanksgiving vacation, we took the time to make homemade marshmallows to go on top. (SO EASY AND REWARDING, NOT TO BE MISSED – Marshmallow Link!!) After dinner we got right to it, the kids were VERY eager. It was a lovely evening, and our front window looks quite festive today. The husband even pulled off a Darth Vader snowflake, receiving ample praise from the littles.

Here’s the recipe for the hot cocoa we enjoyed. It is a tweak on a recipe from The Gracious Pantry. I highly, highly recommend making your own cocoa – it is so far superior to the chemical ladened packets from the store and the questionable ingredient list in Starbucks.

Recipe: Real Deal Hot Cocoa

Ingredients

  • 4 cups milk (any unsweetened kind will work, I use organic whole milk)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 3 T high quality unsweetened powdered cocoa

Instructions

  1. Put it all in a saucepan and heat it up over medium heat while whisking away until serving temperature.
  2. Pour into cups and serve (preferably with homemade marshmallows!!!)

Preparation time: 1 minute(s)

Cooking time: 5 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

photo 2  My marshmallow helper.

photo 1  Dusted them with cocoa powder!

photo 4  Crazy snowflake cutting action.

photo  Window is looking good! (We don’t get snow here, so this is our winter wonderland.)

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For those interested in ideas, here is what one might find in the envelopes over the next 24 days…

Hello Dear Ones. Welcome to December! Tonight we will drink hot cocoa and cut out snowflakes to decorate the front window.

Hello Dear Ones. Let’s make a paper chain to countdown to the big day!

Hello Dear Ones. Today we will make rosemary wreaths for your bedroom doors!

Hello Dear Ones. Hidden in the back room is a present for your housemates. Enjoy! [Mom Note: The housemates are our cats and the kids really want to train them, so they will get some cats treats and a dangling stick toy.]

Hello Dear Ones. Treat Time!! [Mom Note: These are strategically placed on nights the grown-ups have events and we need an Advent break!]

Hello Dear Ones. Let’s pull out the Legos and make Christmas themed stuff together!

Hello Dear Ones. It’s tree time! Let’s get one and decorate this house up!!

Hello Dear Ones. This evening we are going to eat pizza and cuddle up on the couch to watch the new Sound of Music movie together!

Hello Dear Ones. Christmas Book Time!! Boy picks the book and girl picks the spot for our reading snuggle.

Hello Dear Ones. Here is $10. It’s not for you. You’ve got to make someone else’s life better with it. Let’s talk about what we could do with it and then do it!

Hello Dear Ones. Let’s stay up late and watch Sing Off together!

Hello Dear Ones. It’s Origami night!! Let’s make Christmas craziness!!

Hello Dear Ones. Let’s make cookies together and wrap some up to give to others!

Hello Dear Ones. Today we are going on an adventure. It’s exciting and fun and awesome. Hope you are ready!!

Hello Dear Ones. Date Day with a parent. Might be a good opportunity to work on a gift for your bro/sis!!

Hello Dear Ones. Christmas Book Time!! Girl picks the book and boy picks the spot for our reading snuggle.

Hello Dear Ones. Let’s watch YouTube and make some crazy Christmas Rainbow Loom Charms together!

Hello Dear Ones. Tonight is going to be crazy rad! We are going to look at lights. And there’s a twist, but it is a surprise!!

Hello Dear Ones. Treat Time!! And we get to wrap up a gift for your teachers together.

Hello Dear Ones. It’s Christmas Movie Night! Put on your PJs and enjoy some popcorn!

Hello Dear Ones. Crazy fun family night… Love you guys so much!!

 

It’s not perfect, but it is a wonderful start and suits us and our style real nicely. I even have a few envelopes that are empty so we can inject some spontaneity into the whole thing which is really our style. Like everything else on the Lean.Green.Kitchen site… I recommend taking the parts that interest you and leave the rest!

May you make the most of the final month of 2013.

 

This post is linked to Party Wave Wednesday at HolisticSquid.com!

Read more: http://holisticsquid.com/party-wave-wednesday-120413/#ixzz2mWYES12i