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?

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!

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

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

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

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!

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…

Why I’m turning Facebook off for three days

**When I read this post after writing it, I thought to myself that this is a not-so-pretty window into my Facebook struggle, and it doesn’t show me in the best light. I decided to share it anyway, because it is real and important. I am not alone in Facebook over-use, so maybe this will help someone else recognize where they are with social media. I feel like I need to say upfront that I love Facebook and think it has the potential to be used in a healthy way for the betterment of humans. But like anything, it can be abused.

If you are a first timer here at the Lean.Green.Kitchen, you may be thinking two things. One, what does this have to do with the kitchen? And my response is that as a part of the Lean.Green.Kitchen’s Spring Fling Challenge, we’ve gone a little broader in our scope this month to focus on two things in addition to our regular real food programming: self-care and cleaning up for summer. This post is all about the self-care. You can read about the Spring Fling here. Two, you might be wondering who I am, as this post is just a little piece of me (and certainly not the piece I’m most proud of). For that, I’d refer you to other posts (like this one and this one) where I feel like the brighter, more positive pieces of myself shine through.**


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It’s gotten to be too much. I am officially maxed out on Facebook. And it is all my own fault. My wish to know what everyone is up to, to stay on top of my favorite blogs, to share my little corner of the world is mixing with my compulsive, maybe even addictive characteristics and altering my daily life.

For a little background, I know I cannot play phone games (I tried Jewels with Buddies, SongPop, DrawSomething, Words with Friends and others I can’t remember the names) because it is like a vortex where I must be on top of the game at all times. I feel good when I’ve got my rounds all played and feel bad when I get behind. This ain’t right people. They are games. Not jobs. Not kids. Not important in any way. But I would end up with visions of their screenshots flashing in my dreams at night while I slept, sometimes even waking me up to play. True story. So now I don’t play any of them. (I haven’t played one round of Candy Crush, it appears to be instantly habit-forming.) And lately I’ve started to realize that Facebook might be my new obsessive game of choice. And it worries me, greatly. So I put together this list of the ways my Facebook time is impacting my life and it just flowed out like that little voice in the back of my mind was saying, “so glad you asked.”

Here are the reasons why I’m taking a three-day power nap from Facebook for my Spring Fling Challenge #selfcare.

  1. Physically: The repetitive motion of moving my thumb to roll through post after post on Facebook multiple times a day has resulted in me actually noticing at the end of a day that my thumb is strained and achy. I believe the Huffington Post called it “Text Claw” and it’s becoming a real thing. I can only assume the long-term effects of how much we all use our phones for social media are not going to be great. Between eye-strain and painful thumbs, I’m thinking an intervention sooner than later seems appropriate. I do not wish to be a forty-something with Text Claw, that sounds embarrassing.
  2. Emotionally: Have you heard the term FOMO? It stands for Fear Of Missing Out, and the definition states that it is: anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website. Now, I really don’t have “classic” FOMO, because my need for partying is very small. But I do identify with the fact that after reading and observing Facebook, my brain short circuits because it wants to do and try so many things. For every recipe that I try, home improvement/decorating tip I attempt, cause I deem worthy, there are tens, hundreds, maybe even thousands that I don’t get to and feel emotionally like I’m missing out.
  3. Mentally: Turns out, I can’t be in two brain spaces at once. As much as I attempt to give my kids, husband, family and friends my full attention, sometimes the pull of what’s going on at the Facebook distracts me – even if the screen’s not on. I’m working out my next post in my head, feeling badly for some far-reaching friend’s rough day, wondering if so-and-so had her baby, hoping that my Lean.Green.Kitchen page has secured a few more likes. Some times it feels so crowded in this body with all the chatter, I can’t fathom listening intently to anyone else. But do I take the requisite time and energy to quiet these thoughts? No, because I choose (it’s an unconscious habit, so I find it hard to even use a word like “choose”) instead to read inspirational quotes with awesome fonts (which I truly love) and connect with whoever happens to be plugged in right now about whatever happens to be on the feed right now. Talk about a loss of personal power.
  4. Energetically: I know this little phone has crazy energetic waves that reach out into the “interwebs” and bring me information and connection. My massage therapist finally talked me into putting the phone in airplane mode at night because she is so sure those energy waves negatively impact sleep patterns. I am concerned that we don’t know the ramifications of being so close to this radiation all.the.time. I’m not really enjoying feeling like a smart phone guinea pig.
  5. Spiritually: As a human who thrives on being grounded and centered, Facebook has moved away from being a life enhancer and into being a crutch. A way to look busy, avoid slow moments, a cheap connection trick. I turn it on first thing in the morning, literally before my feet hit the ground and the information I gather there becomes my first mood of the day. My feed is filled with lots of amazing things and amazing people so thankfully most days I see good stuff for these ten minutes. The only problem is I have a compulsion to see everything, to get through the feed all the way to where I left it the night before, so I don’t (can’t) take the time to actually read or click or engage in anything that might be fulfilling. So I feel rushed, busy and incomplete before I’ve even gotten out of bed.
  6. Straight up ridiculous: The other day I had a whole debate in my head between which I’d rather have stolen, my car keys/car or my phone. My car costs THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS and GETS ME EVERYWHERE I NEED TO GO, and yet I still thought the phone would hurt more. WAIT, WHAT??

This is not who I want to be. This is not intentional living. This is me working for Facebook, instead of it working for me. This is a bad habit that needs to be dealt with before it becomes something much harder to give up. I’m going #selfcare-cold-turkey and turning Facebook off for the next three days. We’ll see what comes up for me when I no longer have over-stimulation from Facebook. I’m going to put in the effort to not isolate myself from society for the three days, but find new ways (which are my old ways) to engage for a few days. From there I hope to have perspective for a long-term solution. I truly love so much about what Facebook adds to my life, so I would really like to find a healthy place to co-exist with it.

Does any of this resonate with your social media habits or those of a loved one? How do you maintain your balance on Facebook or other social media outlets? What level are you on Candy Crush ;)?

Here are a few links that make me go “hmmmm.”

How Your Cell Phone is Harming Your Health (Infographic)

For Your Children’s Sake, Put Down That Smartphone

9 Common Pursuits that Rob Us of Happiness (Number 6)

Feel Like a Wallflower? Maybe It’s Your Facebook Wall (FOMO)

Screen Free Week (It was actually last week, but you can make it whenever you need it.)

 

Salad Spree Round-Up

Woo Hoo! Spring is here and everybody is eating salad again. As I was pulling up an old salad recipe from my blog, I realized that with so many of you new to the Lean.Green.Kitchen site, you may not have seen all the salad recipes posted a year ago. So I’ve gone ahead and linked them all up into this Salad Spree Round-Up. May they give us ideas now that the days are getting warmer!

Mexican Caesar Salad Mexican Caesar Salad recipe

Spring Pearl Couscous Spring Pearl Couscous Salad recipe

Beet Orange Stack-Ups Beet Orange Salad recipe

The Simplest Salad The Simplest Salad recipe

Confetti Pasta Salad Confetti Pasta Salad recipe

Cherry Chicken Curry Salad Chicken Curry Salad recipe

Red, White and Blue Quinoa Salad Red White and Blue Quinoa Salad recipe

Fruit Salad with Lime & Mint Fruit Salad with Lime & Mint recipe Do you have a favorite??

Looking forward to posting some more salad recipes soon!

Four Steps to a #REALMEAL (plus Salmon Veggie Pasta recipe, oh my!)

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As a part of the Spring Fling Challenge, many in the Lean.Green.Kitchen community have been making an effort to enjoy one #realmeal each day. For some, this is just a part of their every day lifestyle and has been a chance to show off their daily work, while others have struggled with pulling something together each day. In today’s post I am reaching out to those struggling with my four step guide to #realmeal success. Hopefully it will provide a little structure, which always helps when people are making changes to their daily routine. And to show off the structure, we’ll use the very delicious example of a Salmon Veggie Pasta recipe. Sounds good to me!

FOUR STEPS TO A #REALMEAL

Step 1. Planning

The number one thing that has helped me put #realmeals on the table night after night has been a weekly meal plan. I wrote all about it on this post: Plan Your Meals. Each weekend I write out the days of the upcoming week and look at the calendar to see what the evenings have in store. Then I think about what I have in the refrigerator that I need to use and what fruits and veggies I’ve seen at the farmers market (or in my farm box) and with all this information I come up with meals that I can handle on each of the nights.

There are often nights with very little time between activities and dinner, so I plan crock pot meals, breakfast for dinner and make ahead meals if necessary. I love using Pinterest for meal inspiration, and sometimes will just type ingredients right into Google if I can’t think of anything. We also like routines, so our family pretty consistently has Taco Night on Tuesdays and Pizza Night on Fridays. I try to cook chicken, salmon and beef once each week and we usually have leftovers from one of those to make into something new another night. My daughter eats very little meat, so we usually have nutrient-rich side dishes, though sometimes I just open a can of beans to fill up her plate (she loves beans!)

Step 2. Prepping

Having a meal plan is great but means nothing if you don’t follow through. The real commitment comes when you buy the food necessary for the meal plan. This is what seals the deal for me. If I have the food in the house, then we are a go. I shop at the farmers market on Sunday and the grocery store on Monday for the week. Then it is all about the prep work. This is what allows us to eat before eight-o-clock at night. Each day I am looking at the meal plan to see if there are things I can do to make the next few nights meals go faster. This often includes taking meat out of the freezer, placing not so ripe avocados into a brown bag for quicker ripening, and making dressings, marinades and sauces.

It is VERY VERY VERY helpful if you read the instructions of any new recipes you are making to get a sense of the timeline needed to put it together. There is nothing worse than coming to the end of making something only to realize the last line says, “serve over rice” and you haven’t started any rice. Not that this has ever happened to me. Twice.

I know of many people who successfully prep lots of food on the weekend, including veggie chopping, hard boiling eggs, cooking grains, and even roasting/baking meats and making casseroles. I encourage people who are struggling with meal prep to try this option. If I worked outside my home I think this would be a must do, but I have the luxury of doing daily meal prep while I’m making my lunch throughout the week. However you choose to implement it, the more you can prep, the easier getting your #realmeals to the table will be!

Step 3. Preparing

Some of us love to cook, so preparing meals is not a mental hassle, but that’s not the case for everyone. I encourage you to look at preparing your meals as an adventure or a gift depending on what gets you excited. Embrace your inner scientist and follow recipes or embrace your inner artist and follow your intuition while you cook. If you have other people around, create opportunities for them to help – make a list of mini tasks that will get the job done quicker and dish them out. If you go into an evening with the plan and the prep done, making the actual meal is very do-able. Turn on some music and work it!

Step 4. Presenting

If you have planned, prepped and prepared your #realmeal you may find yourself feeling a real sense of accomplishment, and rightfully so. I encourage you to celebrate your efforts by putting a final thought into how you are presenting the food. This starts with clearing off the dining room table and sitting at it to enjoy your meal. Making beautiful food only to go eat it on a plastic plate while watching television is depressing to me. Go enjoy some conversation or have a quiet moment if you are eating alone. Pour yourself a tall glass of water, use a napkin in your lap and enjoy your food.

In the culinary world we use the term, “plate your food” to describe the process of presentation. Think about mixing the colors, building height, adding toppers to make you and your meal guests feel like they are receiving something special. Because they are.

 

Here is a quick and easy recipe we can use as an example:

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Salmon with Spring Veggie Pasta

Planning: Create grocery list to include ingredients.

  • Frozen Wild Salmon
  • Whole Wheat Pasta Noodles
  • Parm Cheese Block
  • Spring Peas
  • Spring Onion
  • Spinach
  • Lemon
  • Butter, Olive Oil (evoo), Avocado Oil
  • Savory Seasoning Mix, Dried Dill, Garlic Powder, Salt and Pepper

Prepping:

  • Purchase ingredients.
  • Place salmon in the refrigerator to thaw.
  • Shell the peas.
  • Grate the Parm.

Preparing:

  • Season the salmon with savory seasoning blend, dill, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Drizzle with avocado oil (or evoo or butter). Broil under lo-broil for 10 minutes.
  • Boil noodles as directed.
  • Dice spring onion and sauté in large sauté pan with avocado oil, butter, or evoo. When softened, add in spinach, peas and a little dried dill and sauté some more.
  • Take sauté pan off heat and add cooked noodles. Toss with zest from the lemon, salt and pepper to taste and grated Parm cheese. Add a little pat of butter or splash of avocado oil or evoo to add flavor and make the pasta less sticky.

Presenting:

  • Place pasta into a serving dish and top with broiled salmon (chunk it up with a fork). Top with a little more Parm cheese, a squeeze of juice from the lemon and fresh dill if you are really fancy. Serve with other seasonal nutrient-rich side dishes and/or a hunk of yummy bread to help slurp it up!

 

Here’s what it looked like for lunch for leftovers:

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Is this helpful? What’s the hardest part of getting #realmeals onto your table each night?