Lean.Green.Kitchen’s Spring Fling Challenge

  Spring Fling Challenge

Now this is going to be fun! Stay with me while I try to explain it. Beginning April 21st, the Lean.Green.Kitchen will be “hosting” our first reader challenge… The Spring Fling Challenge! We are going to use the boost of energy that comes each spring to “fling” ourselves into living our best life!

Here’s the challenge, should you choose to accept it!

Each day, for 30 days (April 21st – May 20th) you will attempt to complete the following three tasks:

1. Eat a meal of real food made by you (or your family). Better yet, enjoy the real meal sitting at a table. You can choose between breakfast, lunch or dinner and it can be as fancy or as simple as works for you. No processed food or take out food counts. You can determine your definition of processed food. Here are some Beginner Steps to Real Food if you need them. Some people use the 5 ingredient or less rule while others read labels to make sure the ingredients are acceptable to them. I’ll leave that to you to decide, but the meal must be a conscious effort to eat foods from nature, not from laboratories. #realmeal

2. Complete one mini clean-up/clean-out project that will simplify and enhance your daily life. If it is a biggish project, you are encouraged to “chunk” it up and complete it over several days. For me, I’ve been dabbling in the idea of minimalism and simplifying my surroundings, but often get to the end of the day and realize I didn’t make any efforts to move my household in line with these newly developing beliefs. I know of others who wish to do some deep spring cleaning but haven’t quite started yet. This challenge makes it happen. #cleanup

3. Enjoy a self-care moment each day. This can be as simple as going outside and standing still while mindfully breathing or it can be trying that new fitness class you keep putting off. In fact, I have tons of suggestions for this one, because I love making self-care moments and only accomplish them when I plan ahead of time. *Turning off your screens (and phone) early in the evening. *Placing cucumber slices over your eyes while resting for ten minutes on the couch. *Inviting a positive friend over for tea. *Gardening. *Taking a stroll with a loved one. *Going to bed early. *Making something crafty. *Listening to new music. I could really go on and on. But you get to make your own list of options for what sounds like self-care to you. #selfcare

Logging Your Efforts: All Lean.Green.Kitchen community members who are subscribed to my email list will receive a printable Challenge Log that you can print out and complete each day. The subscription box is at the end of this post if you’d like a Challenge Log. (It says “SUBSCRIBE TO THIS BLOG” in big letters down there, you can’t miss it!)

I believe the rewards for this challenge will be many for those who participate. But in addition, I am offering a small lovely prize for the first 100 people (in the United States) who send me their completed log at the end of the challenge. It’s always fun to receive a little reward for successfully committing to something for a month, so why not!

To make this a fun, interactive challenge, I will be posting my meals and activities each day all over social media. I’ll post on Facebook, put up pics on Instagram, and tweet on Twitter. For those of you who don’t do social media, I’ll also post in the comments section of this blog post as well. This is all well and good, but the real fun happens if you all share and inspire too! We can hold each other accountable, steal ideas, lament our failures and salivate over foodie pics together.

Here’s how we can connect on social media:

Facebook: Be sure to “like” Lean.Green.Kitchen at www.facebook.com/leangreenkitchen. With Facebook only showing about 10% of my “fans” my posts in your news feeds, you may need to come over to the Lean.Green.Kitchen FB page to see all the action. If you “like,” comment or share Lean.Green.Kitchen posts you will see more Lean.Green.Kitchen stuff in your newsfeed. That’s just how the algorithm works. :)

Twitter: Be sure to follow Lean.Green.Kitchen at @eatrealgoodfood. I will use the following hashtags and so can you: #lgkspringfling #realmeal #cleanup #selfcare

Instagram: Be sure to follow Lean.Green.Kitchen at @jennkd. I will use the following hashtags and so can you: #lgkspringfling #realmeal #cleanup #selfcare


Pre-Challenge: To get ready, between now and April 21st your Pre-Challenge is to brainstorm possible options for your #realmeal, #cleanup and #selfcare. I recommend printing out your Challenge Log and using the backs of the pages for creating lists of what you’d like to accomplished.

I wavered between calling this a Spring Fling and a Spring Revolution, but in the end I went with “fling” because it represents a short period of enjoyment. This challenge is meant to make you feel better in your body, in your daily life and in the world. Maybe we will become a REVOLUTION, but for now, FLING yourself into make this spring one to remember. Join us! Are you in?

Spring Fling Challenge

Kids Clean Up! The Shamrock Shake

Healthy Shamrock Shake Recipe

It is March and in the past that meant two things: 1. Time to celebrate my birthday and 2. Time to get my annual Shamrock Shake from Mickey Dees. Now-a-days it means: 1. Time to celebrate my son’s birthday and my birthday and 2. Time to get some ice cream to make my own healthy Shamrock Shake recipe.

What is a Shamrock Shake?

A Shamrock Shake is a minty green milkshake made famous by McDonalds and sold only during the month of St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th). It is not a healthy treat. It’s pretty disgusting. It contains 54 ingredients, most of them are chemicals from a lab and refined sugar or sugar-like products. It contains 820 calories and most horrendous to me, 115g of sugar. That is over 27 teaspoons of sugar which equals about a 1/2 a cup of sugar!!

This infographic by the Huffington Post lists out all the ingredients in an easy to view format. I highly encourage you to check it out real quick: What’s Really In That Shamrock Shake?

How can we clean this up? There are a few options here, depending on what level of splurging you are interested in and your dietary preferences. I’ve come up with three healthy Shamrock Shake recipes to meet your needs.

And the secret ingredient for that fun green color is… nutrient-rich fresh spinach. It adds color and you can’t even taste it! Boom, this Shamrock Shake just got a rocket boost to planet good-for-you.

Shake One. ShamROCK Your Socks Off Shake: This one is for those interested in a cleaner but still classic Shamrock Milkshake. It contains dairy and the ice cream contains sugar. It removes the laboratory chemicals and over half the sugar and adds our secret ingredient for that important green color! I have found Straus Organic Vanilla Bean Ice Cream to be the cleanest “real” ice cream in stores around my house. Look at the labels and find one with ingredients you believe should be in ice cream! Or you could make your own with this beautiful recipe from Ted Allen: Vanilla Ice Cream with Honey.

Healthy Shamrock Shake Recipe

Recipe: ShamROCK Your Socks Off Shake


  • 4 medium scoops of high quality organic vanilla ice cream (about two cups)
  • 1 cup of whole organic milk (you could also use cream or half and half if you’d like it really creamy)
  • 3/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract
  • 1 large handful of fresh spinach


  1. Blend it all up in a blender.
  2. Serve in two glasses. Can be topped with fresh whipped cream and a few mini chocolate chips if you are really going for it!

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 2

Shake Two. SHAMrock Non-Dairy Shake: This one’s for my dairy-free crew and uses vanilla coconut milk ice cream and almond milk as “sham” dairy. You can make your own “ice cream” with this delicious recipe from Coconut Mama: Coconut Milk Vanilla Ice Cream. It’s easy if you have an ice cream maker. Or you can buy coconut milk vanilla ice cream, but note that they usually have some added ingredients that you wouldn’t use at home (like tapioca syrup, fructan, acacia gum, sunflower lecithin, locust bean gum and guar gum). I used Julie’s Organic Non-Dairy Coconut Milk Frozen Dessert (Simply Vanilla flavored) for this recipe.

Healthy Shamrock Shake Recipe

Recipe: SHAMrock Non-Dairy Shake


  • 4 medium scoops (or about 2 cups) of vanilla flavored coconut milk non dairy ice cream
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 large handful fresh spinach


  1. Blend it all up in a blender.
  2. Serve in two glasses. May be topped with a little dark chocolate shavings or a mint leaf.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 2

Shake Three. Get Lucky Shammy Smoothie: This one’s for those of us looking for big flavor and no refined sugar. Lots of nutrients and still big green fun. Shoot, you could have this one for breakfast. In fact, I just did. :)

Healthy Shamrock Shake Recipe

Recipe: Get Lucky Shammy Smoothie


  • 8oz frozen ripe bananas (about 1 1/2 bananas)
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk (almond milk would also work)
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large handful of fresh spinach


  1. Blend it all up in a high quality blender.
  2. Serve in two glasses. Top with a mint leaf.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 2

Enjoy this beautiful month everyone! Hope you find pots of gold at the end of the rainbow and find time for a cleaned up Shamrock Shake or two.

Six Beginner Steps to Eat Real Food

This post is dedicated to the person or two a week that ask me where should they start with all this real food business. They want to get off the Standard American Diet, but don’t know where to begin. One baby step at a time, you can make major changes pretty quickly. Here are six steps to get you started.

Let’s just clear something up. My favorite foods include donuts, ice cream and Hawaiian Shaved Ice. I am not a zen guru with a kale-focused-lovingkindness-meditation or a type A hyper-hippie with so much energy that I wake up at 6:00am on Sundays to prep my sprouted grains. I’m quirky, overwhelmed, curious and most importantly, getting real comfortable trying new things. Sometimes failing. Sometimes winning. :) Real food is for real people.

One mini step at a time, I have transformed what my family eats. I went to culinary school, I aced a nutrition class, I plowed through health/fitness and food books, magazines, blogs, and even research papers that I barely understood. All just brought up more questions.

It was only through questioning the classes, the magazine articles, the restaurant ingredients that I came up with new answers. Answers that felt right for me. Every day I get closer to what feels right, which comes with the realization that nutrition is not a one size fits all, and each of us must do the work to figure out what’s best.

I’m talking about eating to thrive, eating to live longer, stronger and more productive lives. I’m sure we all will be confronted by illness & injuries, disorders & disease, that is just part of being a human. But we can meet those challenges with a strong base of health and fitness, with sound minds ready to fight, with an appreciation for what full health feels like so we can do what it takes to regain it.

For me, my seeking keeps coming back to eating – simply – real unprocessed food. And it wouldn’t be so hard, except that our American food system has made these real foods the underdogs in the grocery stores and most restaurants, out-marketed by jazzy packaging, amazing shelf life, tantalizing flavor profiles that purposely play to our deepest desires, and lots of time cheats. These new-fangled laboratory “foods” look cheaper, easier, faster and family-approved. But it’s an Oz-like curtain, and if you pull it back you realize that the corporations producing that “food” make every decision based on profit, and not one decision based on you at your best, thriving. It’s a trick, and the only way to change it is to vote at every meal with your decisions and dollars.

The Lean.Green.Kitchen community is a safe place for people just beginning to look consciously at their food choices AND for people deeply entrenched in their conscious food philosophies, as well as for all those seekers somewhere in the middle still eating the occasional donut and shaved iced. This is my mini list for those interested in beginning to eat real food. See if any of it could be some of your first steps. It could be summarized as Stop Buying Processed Food And Make Your Own. But let’s break that down a little.

Six Beginner Steps you could take today to Eat Real Food:

Step One

1. Ditch the refined table salt and choose a salt that has beautiful trace minerals with it. This is as much about taste as nutrition, as unrefined salt just tastes better in food. It’s also a statement that you are off the refined Morton’s and making high quality changes in your eating. My favorite is Pink Himalayan Sea Salt. Celtic Grey Salt is also unrefined and minimally processed. Unrefined salt has trace minerals in there with the salt. That is nutrient-rich real food. Check out the processed food in your kitchen. Review just how much refined salt is in those products. It’s a lot and it’s junk.

2. Fill up the veggie bins with fresh, seasonal produce. Prep it all in a foodie flourish so you will be compelled to use it all week. Nutrients are hanging out in all that produce. When you can, go organic and relieve your body of the energy necessary to detoxify the pesticides on conventional produce. Dipping your toe in the organic pool? Start with going organic for the Dirty Dozen and sweat less about the Clean 15. And if you can’t go organic, then don’t. Eat lots of veggies anyway. See if you can find a local source for seasonal produce. Farmers Markets, Natural Food Stores, Farm Box Subscriptions (Community Supported Agriculture or CSA) – figure out where they are and visit them.

3. Switch to fats that will fuel your body. Fat is not an enemy. Healthy fats are essential to living long and prospering. Fat is critical for proper body functions and especially important for your brain. I, for one, would like my brain (and my kids’ brains) fully functioning. I already can barely remember which kid I named what and there are only two of them. Let’s keep these brain cells happy. Say no to industrialized vegetable oils (corn, canola, soy, etc) and margarine (which are in pretty much every processed food because they are cheap, cheap, cheap) – these fats are not in the business of building thriving bodies. Say yes to real foods like avocados, coconut oil, nuts and olive oil and real fat from animals not pumped with nasty chemicals (think organic butter, full fat dairy, ghee, lard, tallow) – all are thriving body work-horses.

4. Take a look at sugar. That processed food lurking in your kitchen is filled with hidden sugars, to make sure you buy that box of “food” again. The corporations want your money, and are not interested in supporting your awesomeness with body building nutrients. This step is to make the transition away from processed sugars into the world of real food - honey and maple syrup being my favorite sweet places to land. Dates and ripe fruit work nicely too for sweetness. A little cane sugar is pretty easily processed by a healthy body. Problem is, when your diet consists of processed foods, it is never just a little – it’s a constant.

5. Meat, dairy and eggs are real food. But what happens when we create horrendous conditions for the animals, pump them full of toxic chemicals and inhumanely kill them? In my opinion, they no longer meet my personal requirements as real food (as well as my moral standards for treatment of animals). So the step here is to begin researching where your meat, dairy and eggs come from and start looking for better sources. For my household this meant reducing the amount of meat we ate, so we could afford high quality sourced meat. It also means that I make our yogurt and kefir, in order to afford the quality and quantity we consume.

6. Get a crock-pot and a cookbook. Here’s where the rubber meets the road. This process starts with getting the right food in your home. But it only works if you actually eat it. Like me, you might not be a master chef right off the bat if you’ve been relying on boxed, bagged and pre-cooked meals for your adult life. It’s a process that involves… trying. That’s all. Starting with a cookbook that fits your tastes and a crock pot that can have food ready for you when you are hungry is a really wonderful place to start.

When asked what I eat, I like to share the motto of this blog, I “eat (real) good food.” When you stop buying processed food and start making your own, I promise you will feed yourself better than the food corporations. And the effort will be well worth it.

When you look at what you are thinking about eating, ask yourself, “does this build up my health or make my body work harder to process out toxins?” If “we are what we eat,” then it makes a lot of sense to choose nutrient-rich, whole foods.

There is always a next step on the real food journey. And I just keep taking the next one that catches my attention. What steps would you recommend for those just starting on THEIR real food journey? What is your next step on YOUR food journey?

Need support and recipe ideas? Join our Facebook community or check out our Pinterest boards. Together this process is much more fun!


Here are some bonus tips and resources:




Leah’s Love of Loose Leaf Tea


Leah with Loose Leaf Tea

In honor of my daughter’s seventh birthday this week, I thought I’d share this fun foodie adventure we took last week. Leah is my toughest critic around here, and the least food-adventurous of our bunch, so her love of our recent Chinese Tea Tasting at Vital Tea Leaf in Chinatown, San Francisco just makes me smile.

Loose Leaf Tea

Uncle Gee, the face of the Vital Tea Leaf company in San Francisco (and Seattle, I think) made quite an impression as he and Ming, his delightful assistant, made my family of four round after round of Chinese teas prepared traditionally while teaching us all about the joys of loose leaf tea. We went home with three of those we sampled and the following two conversations have taken place since:

  • It’s early morning and I’m asleep. Leah comes in quietly and says, “Mom, can you turn on the stove for me? I’d like to make myself a cup of Lychee Black.”
  • I’ve made my son a cup of tea before school. He has doctored it with a few drops of stevia. Leah says, “DEAN, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? You know you ruin the tea by adding sweeteners!”

So Leah has become our resident loose leaf chinese tea expert (and she makes a crazy good cup of Lychee Black). Are you a fan of the loose leaf tea? We are hooked!

Check out this great video if you’d like to see more Vital Tea Leaf propaganda and meet Uncle Gee. It’s so fun!

Happy Birthday Leapy-Lou!


Share LOVE not sugar.

share love not sugar

Be a part of the movement this Valentine’s Day (and beyond): Share LOVE not sugar.

Every six and seven-year-old first grader does not have to come home on Friday with 30 pieces of processed junky valentine candy! Let’s change this up.

Really, that little six or seven-year-old would be thrilled with… hugs, kind words, little notes, new pencils, silly jokes, temp tattoos, pet rocks, homemade play-dough, play date invitations, new songs and dances…

Every wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, mom, or dad does not need a huge box of chocolates that you grabbed to fulfill your Valentine’s duty…

If they truly love chocolate, find a beautiful piece of chocolate that is gorgeous beyond all things imaginable (they are out there, I assure you) from a little chocolatier and make it really special. Or make your own sweet healthy Valentine’s treat. Add a love note, some special time, a foot massage, a homemade meal, a special place or song, add some YOU! (And if they don’t love chocolate, skip it and think about what they would really enjoy.)

Every co-worker, friend, teacher, coach does not need heart-shaped candies, grab-a-mini-candy-bar bowl, decorated sugar cookies, dessert buffets, “just a little treat”…

They need your smile, your patience, your time, your understanding, and maybe a little extra Valentine’s gratitude in the form of a call, a text, an email, a note, a hug.

Be creative. Be thoughtful. Be inventive. Be loving. Share LOVE not sugar.

I challenge you to find a special way to show you care without stepping into the candy aisle of Target. And I’m not talking about spending loads of money or time either. You can keep it simple, cheap and fun, I just know you can!

Let’s fill up the comments with many, many ideas for showing our love this Valentine’s Day. Ready. Go. Share LOVE not sugar.

Here are some places to fire up that creativity:

Here are a few other posts where I’ve dished on sugar:

Happy Valentine’s Day!

healthy valentines healthy valentines healthy valentines healthy valentines healthy valentines healthy valentines

Healthy Valentine Treats

Healthy Valentine Treat

What if this year, instead of gorging on chalky little heart candies and overly processed chocolates in little packages, you truly shared your love with others and made nutrient-rich healthy valentine treats?

They are easy. They taste better. They feel special. They look fancy.

You’ll have a smile on your face while making them, and your recipients will have a smile on their face enjoying them. Win win. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Healthy Valentine Treats

Recipe: Black Cherry Chip Non Dairy Ice Cream


  • 10oz frozen bananas
  • 16oz frozen black cherries (divided)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2t vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup dark chocolate chips


  1. In quality blender, blend all ingredients EXCEPT for 4oz of frozen black cherries and chocolate chips. Blend until smooth like soft serve ice cream.
  2. Remove “ice cream” from blender into a tupperware container.
  3. Put remaining 4oz of frozen black cherries into blender and blend on low for just a few seconds until black cherries get chopped up a bit.
  4. Add chunky cherries and the chocolate chips to the “ice cream” and stir in with a spatula.
  5. Serve immediately for soft serve (delicious!!) or freeze until hard for scooping (also delicious!!). Can be garnished with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, magic shell or a few more chocolate chips. Goes especially well with brownies and port.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Number of servings: 6ish (I mean let’s be honest, two of us may have taken a whole batch down at one point. But I also made a batch and served six people reasonable servings with some to spare for later.)

Healthy Valentine Treat

Big love to the Smitten Kitchen – her delicious recipe for brownie cookies made a MARVELOUS accompaniment to this treat. We made little “ice cream” sandwiches that were delectable!


Healthy Valentine Treat

Raspberry Secrets

Simply buy beautiful dark chocolate chips and a box of raspberries. Stick a chip into each raspberry and serve! Shhhh… it’s a secret that something this good is this easy.

Healthy Valentine Treats

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

These are so easy and decadent! Place a saucepan with an inch or so of water in the bottom on the stove top and turn on heat to medium-low. Place a metal or glass mixing bowl on top (to make a double boiler) and pour in 1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips and a tablespoon of coconut oil. Use spatula to stir around until the chocolate and oil are melted and incorporated together.  Turn off heat. Dip clean, dry strawberries into the chocolate to cover and place on parchment lined cookie sheet. Once you are finished dipping your strawberries, place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or so (until chocolate is cool and hardened).  Go crazy and sprinkle shredded coconut or mini chocolate chips over them to beautify them for the big day, prior to placing them in the refrigerator.

Want more ideas? I’ve been pinning like crazy over on Pinterest as I see Valentine’s food that fits my real food lifestyle. Check out my Valentine Food board.

Also, Almond (True Joy) Bark would be a pretty beautiful treat.

Healthy Treat

And there are a few more ideas on this old blog post all about Cleaned Up Treats.

Healthy Treat

And don’t forget Kids Clean Up Magic Shell

Healthy Treat

And Kids Clean Up Chocolate Sauce!

Chocolate Syrup


Hope you and yours have a super lovey heart day!! 

The Easiest Real Food You’re Not Making… Yet! Homemade Yogurt

homemade yogurt

I’m going all-out-hippie-chick on the blog today, crew. And dragging you along with me. Homemade yogurt is your ticket to high quality, affordable organic probiotic goodness. And it is so easy!! You’ll thank me when you are scooping that first luscious, creamy bite of yogurt out of your crock pot.

Of all the “it-looks-like-a-health-food, but-it-is-not” propaganda circulating out there, it seems like most people have gotten the message on conventional yogurt. It is basically a processed dessert in a little container, whether you call it breakfast or kids afternoon snack or end of soccer game treat. Each container is filled with sugars, corn syrups, coloring agents, flavoring agents, stabilizers, and other unpleasantness.

But that’s only the stuff you’ll find in the conventional dairy section of your grocery store. If you travel over to the health food aisle or a natural foods store, you can find a whole other group of options, many of which are delicious and nutritious and made from organic cow milk that was not pumped up with terrible chemicals in horrible conditions and then flavored with man-made lab fluids. Big problem here for many of us – the good stuff is expensive. Like $8.00 for a quart expensive.

Now yogurt happens to be one of very few probiotic/fermented foods that my daughter will eat. In fact, she loves it and requests it regularly. So when I heard that it was simple to make, I knew this was my ticket to happy-daughter-gut-health-without-financial-hardship.

Then I proceeded to fail completely with my first batch. And learned the number one rule of yogurt making – know your milk. And now, by teaching you this one homemade yogurt secret, you will be able to make gorgeous yogurt for your family with success right from the beginning. You can’t use ultra-pasteurized milk. It’s dead and doesn’t work. Which probably makes complete sense to you, but I hadn’t even realized my milk was ultra-pasteurized. So a failed batch later I was researching to find my family a new milk source. Just proving that there is always a next step in your real food journey!

Recipe: Homemade Yogurt


  • 1 quart organic whole milk – pasteurized. NOT ultra-pasteurized. We are clear here, yes?
  • 1/4 cup of the highest quality purest yogurt you can get. This is the only time you are buying yogurt, because after this batch you can use the remaining 1/4 cup of your homemade yogurt to make the next batch! So go crazy and buy the beautiful whole organic plain (or Greek) yogurt. It’s a worthwhile investment!


  1. Pour the milk into your crock pot and heat on low for 2 hours. * You want the milk to hit somewhere in the 180 – 190 degree range. Use a cooking or candy thermometer to confirm your crock pot’s timing.
  2. Turn crock pot off and leave the milk in it for 3 hours (lid on). You want the milk to cool to a temperature of about 110 degrees. This is the magical yogurt temperature.
  3. When 110 degrees is reached, add 1/4 cup yogurt and whisk it around to mix. Place crock pot (with lid) in your oven (not on!!) with the oven light on for 8-12ish hours (you can go up to 24 hours if you wish to have thicker and tarter yogurt). I also wrap a towel around the crock pot to help keep the temperature stable.  photo 1 photo 2
  4. Transfer yogurt to a container and store in the refrigerator. I use old quart sized yogurt containers and just write the date made on the lid. Mine last over two weeks in the refrigerator.
  5. You can strain it through cheese cloth for a few hours if you are looking for thicker Greek style yogurt, but I’m lazy and never do. It’s a lovely consistency without straining.

After you have successfully completed your first batch, I highly recommend doubling the second batch if your family goes through yogurt the way mine does. We consume about a quart a week, so I only need to make yogurt twice a month if I double it.

My yogurt works out to about $3.50 a quart (because I buy very high quality milk – it could be made much cheaper if you have a better source for milk). Much better than the $7-8 I had been paying. We use it as sour cream on tacos, as a base for dips and dressings and as a late night treat with maple syrup, pomegranate seeds and a little granola.
It also is fantastic as the base for our Kids Clean Up! Flavored Yogurt recipe.


My gift to all the new homemade yogurt makers out there: a Pinterest Board full of recipes that include… YOGURT. Also pinned to the board is a recipe for making yogurt out of coconut milk for the lacto-free peeps. Might try that next.

homemade yogurt  Go get ‘em, yogurt makers!!

Recipe: Greens and Beans Soup

Greens and Beans Soup Recipe

Here is my contribution for all of you taking care of yourself and others during this cold and flu season, while still holding tight to new year’s resolutions and fresh starts. This nutrient-packed Greens and Beans Soup recipe is easy, inexpensive, vegetarian, nourishing and very satisfying. It is chock full of veggies, beans, herbs and spices. We like to enjoy it as the main meal with a loaf of rosemary sourdough from the farmers market (dipped in extra virgin olive oil), but it could be paired up with lots of things or even used as a starter. The leftovers are awesome for lunches all week-long. In fact I think, like most soups, it gets better on day two.

Greens and Beans Soup Recipe


  • approximately 1-1.5 quart stock (your choice – veggie, chicken, or beef)
  • approximately 15-20oz of chopped tomatoes
  • 2-15oz cans of beans, drained and rinsed (mix it up, I like using kidney and cannelloni beans)
  • 2 cups chopped kale (chopped very small)
  • 1 cup chopped chard (chopped very small)
  • 4 carrots (chopped into small rounds)
  • 4 celery stalks (chopped into small crescents)
  • 1 small head of broccoli (chopped small)
  • 3 small potatoes (medium dice)
  • 1 medium onion (small dice)
  • 4 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1/2 jalapeño (minced)
  • 1T butter or EVOO
  • 1T dried thyme
  • 1T dried oregano
  • 2T fresh parsley or basil (chopped fine)
  • 2t sea salt (more to taste)
  • 1t pepper (more to taste)
  • 2T red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar (more to taste)
  • Parm cheese (grated) – optional topper


  1. Saute onion, garlic, jalapeño in olive oil or butter to soften.
  2. Add carrots and celery and sauté until onions become translucent.
  3. Add in all other ingredients except vinegar and bring to a simmer.
  4. Simmer for 30-45 minutes until potatoes and carrots are soft.
  5. Splash with vinegar and begin tasting. Using extra salt, pepper and vinegar (the amounts needed depend on what kind of stock you are using and your taste preference) taste and adjust until the soup tastes delicious and the flavors pop!
  6. Serve with a little grated Parm cheese on top or fresh herbs minced fine.

Notes: You can mix up the greens and use collards, spinach, beet tops, bok choy in any ratio. You can use dried beans, you just need to prepare them ahead of time, because the tomatoes in the soup will slow down the softening process during cooking. You can use extra jalapeño if you’d like the soup to be spicier. The amount used in this recipe adds flavor, but not much heat. You can play with the vegetables included in the soup as well. Use what you have that sounds good, such as zucchini, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and cauliflower.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 45 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8


Looking for other soup recipes? Check these out:
IMG_7863  Simple Squash Soup

IMG_7820  Easy Peasy Chicken Soup

IMG_7784  Crock Pot Taco Soup

IMG_5159  Summer Gumbo

IMG_4971  Minestrone

Chicken Eggplant Parm  Crock Pot Chicken and Eggplant Parmigiana

Clean Up! Elderberry Syrup Immunity Booster


Happy January 2014! Today we are going to dive into our first Kids Clean Up of the year, but let’s define “Kids” as anyone between the ages of 2 and 110 – kind of a broad definition, so hang with me. And I love to start these kind of posts out by declaring “I’m not a doctor! I don’t even play one on t.v.” As though you couldn’t tell. I’m just a blogger sharing some info I’ve researched and a recipe made of real food that I think you might like to try. Do what’s right for you! Talk to your health experts, whoever they may be! This is just a little information in case you haven’t heard of Elderberry Syrup before…

With cold and flu season really ripping through the cold land, taking down the big and the little with coughs and aches and worse, I have suggested to no less than 10 people this week to look into the benefits of adding Elderberry Syrup to their daily regimen to keep immunity levels boosted. They are wonderful conversations because I’ve got great answers to all their questions. Kids love the taste! A serving of a teaspoon to a tablespoon (depending on how big you are and how your immunity is holding up) a day contains big calcium, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B6, betacarotene, potassium, iron, antioxidants, anthocyanins! It’s antiviral! And anti-inflammatory! It’s a beautiful color! Delish on pancakes!

On a serious note, for those of us attempting to avoid the H1N1 flu virus moving through the Sacramento region, this statement I found at Mercola.com sealed the deal that my family would be consuming Elderberry Syrup each day:

Antiviral components of elderberry fruit extract were tested and found to effectively inhibit Human Influenza A (H1N1 virus) in vitro, possibly by blocking the ability of the virus to infect host cells. The extract was so effective, that researchers compared it with the prescription medications Amantadine and Oseltamivir (Tamiflu).2


So off to the natural foods store, right?? Well yeah, but bring your credit card. This stuff is expensive!! And I want four people to consume it twice a day?? Oh boy. Only one thing to do… let’s clean this up and make our own!

Here’s what we are “cleaning up” – Black Elderberry Syrup. Seems funny to be cleaning it up, since I would recommend this product and have used it successfully before. But even “good” products can be made “great!”

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Ingredients: Black elderberry, acerola fruit, sugar cane, water, natural flavor from lemon juice.


The recipe I used to make my own can be found in this completely EASY (six-minute) tutorial video put together by Mountain Rose Herbs. You owe it to yourself to watch this video and see the ease of this process. It’s called simmer stuff in water. Then stir in honey. That’s all.

I followed their ingredient list (elderberries, honey, cinnamon, cloves, fresh ginger) with the following changes:

  • I used 2/3 cup of dried elderberries, instead of 1/2 cup.
  • I used 1t of ground cinnamon instead of the cinnamon stick.
  • I used beautiful local raw honey from my favorite honey guy at the farmers market to add in all the extra benefits of local pollen and more antioxidants.

I made two cups (16 ounces) in less than an hour. I used 2/3 cup of dried berries from the (approximately) 3.5 cups in the pound size bag. ($19.75 for a pound from Amazon). The ginger, cinnamon and cloves I had from other things, but we’ll say they cost $0.50 for those tiny amounts. The honey was more expensive than usual because my farmers market honey guy only had the small containers left, instead of the bulk jars at a much better deal. But I was desperate and at the market at the end of the day, so my bad. $12 for a pint (–no judging–) and I used half of it. Advanced math here, my batch cost $10 and some change for sixteen ounces. (And could be done even cheaper with a more reasonable priced local honey).

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At $7.33 per ounce at Whole Foods, that much would have cost me $117 regular or $82 on sale. Now that’s a clean up!!

Doesn’t take much to get this going! Here’s an affiliate link to grab those dried elderberries from Amazon: Elder Berries Whole Organic – 1 lb,(Frontier)

If you are not eating honey at this time and are still interested in the benefits of elderberries, this link to the Nourishing Herbalist is a beautiful recipe for a winter immunity tincture that highlights elderberry. It’s another (much cheaper) option.

Let me know if you give syrup a try. Be well!!

Five Real Food Changes for 2014

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Last week I reflected on all the real food mini changes I made in 2013 that resulted in a major overall of my kitchen. The changes were slow and steady to avoid becoming overwhelmed (which is the surest way to stop me in my tracks). You can read all about it in my post, Five Real Food Changes I Made in 2013.

This is the post I’ve been excited to write, because I love new years and fresh starts and resolutions. I love that I write lists of things I’d like to do and start all of them with gusto, knowing only a few of them may stick. I ran a marathon once because of a new year’s resolution, completed a triathlon, got out of debt, ordered my first farm box, got a cat, decided it was time for a baby, went to culinary school… you see where I’m going with this. If I can use this resolution-y magic in the late December air for my personal good, where’s the harm? Notice I didn’t mention all the things on past resolution lists that I never achieved. That’s because I don’t even remember them. It, apparently, wasn’t meant to be!

My new year’s resolutions are many, so here are the five real food changes that made the list.

  1. Clean up the condiments. The refrigerator reflects all the work we’ve done to clean up our food and kick processed food out. Except when your eye shifts to the door shelves. The condiments have changed brands, gone organic even in many cases, but still are filled with too much sugar and preservatives. I made BBQ sauce for Christmas Eve dinner and it was easy and delicious, so what’s holding me back? Mayo will be the hardest, because it really can’t be made in advance. But it is the most important to me, because I cannot find a version that is made without canola or soybean oil.
  2. Eat less wheat. Choose sprouted and fermented wheat whenever possible. Even though our family doesn’t seem to have a gluten intolerance, I can’t find any reason for continuing to eat wheat as a main staple in our diet. It is hard on digestion and supports inflammation. This change is the mini step to eliminating wheat and maybe even most grains. Just beginning my research into all of this.
  3. Increase daily vegetable consumption. We are a fruit first household, and I’m surely the driving force behind this. It helps me not miss sugar so much. But reflecting back, we need to increase our vegetable intake.  The kids (and I) will happily eat veggies if they are ready to eat on a snack tray. So we need to make that a new habit. Sneak them in and keep it easy, that’s the plan. In addition, I’m going to make salads for myself for lunch ahead of time. If I could grab a salad ready to go out of the fridge, I’d be thrilled.
  4. Find a local raw milk source. This one has been challenging me for a long time. I’m really hoping 2014 is the year we find a raw milk connection that works for us. If this happens I want to make my own cheese. Now we are really shooting for the stars!!
  5. Perhaps my strangest goal for the year is to stop using harsh chemicals on my skin. I’m hoping to use my real food knowledge and pantry to overhaul my bathroom cabinet. From hair care to facial care, dental care to make-up, I’ve got lots to work on with this one. In 2013 I started making my own deodorant and began using coconut oil for lotion to support my internal detox. It opened my eyes to how many chemicals I use externally every day. Here’s to externally detoxing in 2014!

Do you have any mini real food changes on your resolution list this year? I hope you make Lean.Green.Kitchen a part of it! Happy New Year everyone. I wish for health and happiness for all of us.

Green Juice Shots all around… Cheers!