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

Weekly Tip: Make Your Own Beef Stock

photo 2

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

Weekly Tip: Make Your Own Veggie Stock

Veggie Stock Ingredients

This is week two of our three-week make your own stock series. Last week we made our own chicken stock, and this week we are making veggie stock. By the end of the series our freezers will be filled up with nutrient-rich stocks without breaking the bank on cans/boxes of the store-bought stuff. Like squirrels, we are stocking up the kitchen to get us through winter!!

Veggie stock is CHEAP! I mean really really inexpensive to make. Such a bargain that you will feel silly buying it from the store ever again after making just one batch. If my marvelous math is correct, this stock came out to less than a dollar a quart. And I used beautiful organic veggies, you know the ones everyone says will break the bank.

Veggie stock is DELICIOUS! There is just something about simple food, made with love in your own home with all your own ingredients that makes food better. This rich stock makes such a wonderful foundation for soups and sauces, it really enhances all dishes with a beautiful depth to the flavor.

Veggie stock is CHOCK FULL OF EASILY DIGESTIBLE VITAMINS AND MINERALS. It adds a nutritional base to your meals, nourishing your body while jazzing up your meals.

So let’s get started!

SIMPLE VEGGIE 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.
  • 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:

  • 2T of a Sauté Worthy Fat (Coconut Oil, Butter, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, etc)
  • 2 lbs Organic Carrots – Chopped up chunky
  • 2 Organic Onion – Peeled and chopped in quarters
  • 2 lbs Organic Celery Stalks – Chopped up chunky
  • 1 Organic Leek (optional) – Sliced in chunks
  • 6 Cloves of Garlic – Cut in half
  • 1T Sea Salt
  • 1T Whole Peppercorns
  • Sprigs of Fresh Thyme and/or Parsley
  • 1/2 Cup Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or Organic Tamari (Optional, but highly recommended – it really adds to the depth of the stock and the color)
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 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. Heat the fat in the large stock pot. Toss in the onions and lightly sauté.
  2. Put in the carrots, celery, garlic, leek, salt, and peppercorns in the pot and cover with the cold water. (Add your optional veggie bits and scraps here too.)
  3. Add in the Liquid Aminos, parsley/thyme and bay leaves. Bring to a boil on high heat.
  4. As soon as it begins to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer.
  5. Simmer for 2-3 hours.
  6. Turn the heat off and leave in the pot to cool slightly.
  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.
  9. The next day: Using a permanent marker, label your Ziplock bags: VEGGIE STOCK and the date and how much you are measuring into each bag.
  10. I recommend measuring out 1 to 1.5 quarts of veggie stock per gallon Ziplock.
  11. 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.
  12. The stock will keep in the freezer for several months.

IMG_7845

Not too challenging, right!? You can do this and your house will smell amazing as it simmers along.

My stock hadn’t even cooled before I had it working away in this beautiful Simple Squash Soup. Check out tomorrow’s blog post for the recipe, it is divine and makes a perfect starter for all your holiday gatherings.

IMG_7857

 

Rather use Chicken Stock? That’s great… link here for a recipe!

Weekly Tip: Make Your Own Chicken Stock

Stock Pot

Today is the first of three weekly tip posts regarding making your own stock. Today we’ll cover chicken, to be followed by veggie stock and finally beef stock.

Let us start with some culinary terminology to get everyone on the same page – broth and stock. Most of us hear them and use them interchangeably, which is totally fine by me. But culinary experts all have their own definitions and the differences seem to fall into one of these two camps: Camp One: Stock is made with bones (usually roasted prior to stock-making), and broth is made with meat. Camp Two: Stock is the liquid before salt and seasonings are added (think of it as a foundation for something like a soup or a sauce) and broth is seasoned and can be enjoyed as is. So pick which camp you’d like to be in and use the correct definition as make sense for your life! Around here I just call them all stock until I’ll finished them and served them to people. Then I say, “come enjoy this steaming hot bowl of brothy goodness, my little sick chickadee.” Or something like that.

Making your own stock is:

  1. Really, really, REALLY easy.
  2. Much higher quality than you can buy in the store.
  3. Much cheaper than buying it in a store.
  4. Delicious and is packed with nutrients!

I am often asked what I always have available for last-minute meals, and ziplock bags of frozen stock in my freezer would be on the top of my list. I can defrost it and have a soup ready to eat in less than an hour. I can use it to add nutrients to quinoa, rice or couscous by substituting it for the water during cooking. I can throw it in the crock pot (sometimes still frozen!!) with a bunch of stuff and come home to dinner ready five hours later. I can defrost some for my family when they are under the weather and be confident that they are taking in high quality nutrients and not a lot of man-made chemicals found in canned or boxed brothy soups.

SIMPLE CHICKEN 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 much liquid after putting a whole chicken in it. 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.
  • 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:

  • Whole Uncooked Organic Chicken OR an Organic Roasted Chicken with the meat mostly removed (and enjoyed some other way).
  • 1 Big Organic Carrot – Chopped up chunky
  • 1 Organic Onion – Peeled and chopped in half
  • 2-4 Organic Celery Stalks – Chopped up chunky
  • 1 Organic Leek (optional) – Sliced in half
  • 5-10 Cloves of Garlic – Cut in half
  • 2-3t Sea Salt
  • 1T Whole Peppercorns
  • Sprigs of Fresh Thyme or Parsley
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 2-3 Gallons of Cold Water

Instructions:

  1. Put the chicken in the pot and cover with the cold water. Bring to a boil on high heat.
  2. As soon as it begins to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer.
  3. Using the ladle, skim the foaming impurities off the top of the stock and throw away.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 3-5 hours.
  5. Turn the heat off and leave in the pot to cool slightly.
  6. Take out the chicken and place in a large casserole dish to cool. Then pick all the chicken meat off the bones and store in the refrigerator for all your shredded chicken needs. (Chicken soup, chicken salad, chicken pizza, chicken enchiladas, etc.)
  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.
  9. Sometime in the next few days, discard the layer of fat that has hardened on the surface of the stock. (I like to keep a little of it in the stock for flavor, but not so much that it will be oily.)
  10. Using a permanent marker, label your Ziplock bags: CHICKEN STOCK and the date and how much you are measuring into each bag.
  11. I recommend measuring out 1 to 1.5 quarts of chicken 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.

Stock Container  This is what I store mine in to cool completely in the refrigerator. I made about seven quarts with this batch, and used a bunch right away and kept a quart in a mason jar in the refrigerator (for my sick chickadee).

Bagged Stock  You can store stock in freezer safe mason jars, but I don’t have the space or the comfort with that much glass in my freezer, so this option works better for me.

That’s all there is to it! I spend over $3.50 a quart on organic chicken stock from the store. This recipe makes 6-8 quarts ($21-28 worth) and cost me less than $15 to make. I buy my whole organic chickens from Costco, usually they cost about $12-13 each. In addition to the stock, I have several cups of shredded meat I use all week long in different quick meals.

Hope this takes some of the mystery out of chicken stock. Try it once to see if it is for you and your real food adventures! Your soup has never tasted so good, as with a beautiful foundation of nutrient-rich homemade stock.

Ready to turn this stock into some Brothy Goodness? Check out this post for the easiest soup ever that I load my family up on when we are fighting classroom plagues. It has super powers if you use your homemade stock as the base. :)

IMG_7822

Weekly Tip: Buy a Tub of Spinach

Spinach Tub

I was busy. It happens. A few weeks go by and I realize that I’ve barely had any greens. You know, the dark leafy ones that I tell myself I need to eat every day. We’ve talked about ways to hide kale in past weekly tips, here. So here is another way to get them in.. BUY A TUB OF BABY SPINACH!

Last week I bought a tub of organic baby spinach and challenged myself to eat it up by the end of the week. I have not been in the salad mood lately, so I knew that I wasn’t going to get it down by gorging on spinach salads day after day. Here’s what I did… successfully consuming one pound of spinach in six days.

  • Threw a big handful in my recovery smoothies after yoga.
  • Sliced it thin for a Taco Tuesday filling.
  • Tossed it into my morning eggs.
  • Sautéed it with some garlic and red pepper flakes and plated it under a chicken breast for dinner.
  • Chopped it up tiny and put in my crock-potting taco soup.
  • Blended three handfuls with a handful of basil, clove of garlic, a splash of olive oil and salt to make a pesto spread for a lunch wrap (plus had leftovers for lots of other things throughout the week).
  • Drained my cooked whole wheat pasta and tossed in a few handfuls of spinach to wilt before topping with a little cheese and steamed veggies.

You see where I’m going with this? If you have baby spinach staring you in the face, you can incorporate it into just about anything for a nutritional boost!

A final example… throw spinach in a homemade vanilla milkshake with a little peppermint extract and you’ve got a green tinted shamrock shake! Now that’s the way to get down your daily greens!

What’s your favorite way to eat spinach?

Weekly Tip: Check Your Honey and Olive Oil

honey and olive oil

Two of my kitchen’s heaviest lifters are honey and extra virgin olive oil and I strongly encourage them to become a main player in your conscience eating efforts as well. But as with all things food related, it seems lately that both of these ingredients must be selected carefully, because all honey and olive oil are not created equal.

HONEY:  In order to be considered “honey,” food safety organizations require that honey have pollen in it. This seems really reasonable, because when you get honey from bees and put it in a jar it has pollen in it. Delicious. All is well.

But here’s the sticky part (pun intended), food safety organizations can tell where a honey comes from by analyzing this pollen. Who cares? The food safety organizations do. Because if they can’t tell where it came from, they can’t deem it safe. And that is apparently why MOST companies selling honey are taking it out. Because they are buying cheap ultra-filtered unsafe honey from China (where antibiotics are often found in honey) and selling it to their US customers in cute little bear containers. This is illegal by the way, but unregulated.

VOCAB WORD OF THE DAY: Melissopalynologist – an investigator of pollen in honey.

A “premiere” melissopalynologist (is there really more than one in the world!?!) took samples of honey from grocery stores, big box stores and drug stores and found that 76% of them had no pollen in them. Whoops. That’s a big fail. This included 100% from the drugstore honey samples – no pollen, 77% from the Costcos, Sams Clubs, Targets – no pollen, 76% from the grocery stores – no pollen. And I should mention that 100% of the fast food sample packets had none, but then who is that surprising at this point?

Honey is GOOD. Creepy de-pollened secret honey from China is, well CREEPY. So do me a favor and find a farmers market and buy yourself some honey from a real person who took care of the bees and smiles and thanks you personally for your support. If you can’t do that, the study showed that 100% of the honey from natural food stores and Trader Joes had the full amount of pollen. So there’s another option for you.

MORE INFORMATION:
http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/11/tests-show-most-store-honey-isnt-honey/#.UhOs0Bb9FHg

http://www.foodrenegade.com/your-honey-isnt-honey/

EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL: The highest quality of all the olive oils, extra virgin means the oil is defect free, produced without chemical solvents and should have the taste of fresh olives. This is all a lot of work to comply with, and thus extra virgin olive oil costs a bunch more than the other grades. Turns out it is also rather unregulated and easy to slip in other oils (either lesser grades of olive oil or other oils altogether – cheap canola, sunflower, for example.)

The University of California at Davis Olive Center (did you know they have an Olive Center – how cool is that!?) conducted tests in 2010 and found… wait for it… 2/3 of the olive oils they analyzed were not what they claimed to be. Some even had nut oils mixed in, which seems horrendous given the nut allergy situation these days. One article I read implicated the Italian Mafia in this mess and stated that 80% of the oil in some bottles of extra virgin olive oil is something else. I’m not sure which of those statements is more alarming.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a beautiful fat, and the number one oil I’d recommend you use for your salad dressings, final drizzles over pastas and rustic bread dipping. So if you have access to a farmers market with an olive oil table, go find out all about their oils, enjoy a tasting and purchase your favorite. Whole Foods and the Nugget also have olive oil tastings sometimes. If you don’t have this option, check out this link by Truth in Olive Oil for more than you ever wanted to know about selecting an olive oil. Or if you find yourself becoming a little olive oil obsessed you can read Tom Mueller’s book Extra Virginity.

MORE INFORMATION:

http://www.truthinoliveoil.com/great-oil/how-to-buy-great-olive-oil

http://truthinoliveoil.com/2012/09/toms-supermarket-picks-quality-oils-good-prices

http://www.oliveoiltimes.com/extra-virgin-olive-oil

http://www.oliveoiltimes.com/olive-oil-basics/report-most-imported-extra-virgin-olive-oils-arent/4316

Sometimes eating real (good) food seems remarkably challenging. But if we just break it down into little steps, and clean things up a thing or two at a time, pretty soon our kitchen is rather transformed.  Perhaps honey and olive oil could be your little step for now.

Weekly Tip: The Snack Pack

snack pack

It happened again this weekend. The family is traveling along the freeway, heading home – less than a two-hour drive – and my daughter announces she is hungry. Of course she is. She is my grazer, never one to eat enough during a meal time to sustain her more than an hour. And suddenly we all seem hungry, because hungry is apparently catching, like a cold.

As we pull into a fast food drive thru to order food that will fill our bellies, but with minimal nutrients and maximum chemical additions, I think to myself, it is time to get serious about the Snack Pack. My definition of the Snack Pack is a go-to bag of snacks that can survive outside temperatures, be banged around, and be completely ignored for days until it is celebrated for saving the day.

There are times in our lives when we are awesome about packing snacks. For example, back in the days when my kids were babies and toddlers. No one wants to be caught away from home with a hungry toddler, plus we are already carrying around a 25lb diaper bag, so in goes a bunch of tantrum-stopping (delaying?) snacks. Or on long road trips, we pack up a bag or cooler with food for the road, desperate to be able to go more than 50 miles without needing to stop. We plan ahead and save ourselves time and money.

But what about these day-to-day times when we are racing out the door to get someone somewhere by sometime and then run a few errands, and all of a sudden everyone is famished and grumpy and in need of something now. This is when we need the Snack Pack. I’ve packed mine up and placed it by my purse. Where I go, it goes!

Here are some things that pass the Snack Pack criteria:

  • Oranges
  • Apples (in the fall and winter)
  • All kinds of nuts
  • Raisins and all dried fruit
  • Lara Bars
  • Pretzels
  • Whole wheat crackers
  • Brown rice cakes
  • Individual packets of peanut butter
  • Empty water bottle(s) (to be filled up at drinking fountains everywhere!)

Obviously there would be lots more options if you were packing this up each day and had a cooler, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen, so this works as a back-up. It would have saved us $17.00 and a load of junk in our systems if we’d had this in the car on Sunday. Lesson learned.

snack pack ingredients

What do you think? Do you have a Snack Pack? What else could go in there?

 

Embrace What the Garden Gives You

Garden Produce

Or someone else’s garden or your farm box – you get the picture! This time of year the tomatoes, zucchini and peaches start showing up in office lunchrooms with a note that says “take me.” Or a neighbor leaves town and begs you to pick and take home whatever you can while they are gone. Or your CSA is filled to the brim with the season’s bounty.

And sometimes it goes to waste. Because we are busy. Or tired of it. Feeling uncreative. And it.is.just.sitting.there.on.the.counter. Staring at us (ok, me). So what should I do?

This week’s tip is to make it happen. Embrace the magnitude of produce overtaking kitchen counters, gardens, office lunchrooms… And do something – many somethings in fact!

Here are some suggestions:

  • Take inventory. What do you have, how much and how ripe?
  • Prioritize. Figure out things to do in order of ripeness.
  • Place fruits that need to be eaten quickly in a special bowl on the table or include it on your Kitchen Counter Challenge Plate.
  • Think outside the box or the time window. Think preservation.
  • Utilize your freezer. Chop up super ripe fruit and freeze for smoothies or ice cream. Puree overly ripe fruit and freeze for smoothies or baking. Chop up herbs and freeze them in an ice-cube tray.
  • Make jams, chutneys, salsas, pestos, sauces.
  • Grate squash and use it in dishes and baked goods.
  • Slice tomatoes and stone fruits and dehydrate them.
  • Make big salads.
  • Make big pots of veggie soup and freeze what you don’t eat in family serving sizes.
  • Put together amazing berry-licious desserts.
  • Search the internet by ingredient for recipes (for example: green bean recipes).
  • Ask a friend for ideas. Ask all your Facebook friends for ideas. Buy a seasonal foods cookbook. Have your kids pick a recipe.
  • Celebrate the bounty with a fancy evening meal – “Zucchini Four Ways.” Print out a Prix Fixe Menu for each place setting and use fancy linens.
  • Add eggs and make an omelet, frittata, quiche or scramble.
  • Make lots of something and share with friends, a person in need, a potluck group, the office.
  • Learn to can. Learn to ferment. Learn to juice.
  • Plan your meals around what you have.

Whatever you do, don’t despair! This is a wonderful challenge to have and one we will all be dreaming about this winter. Say “YES” to any and all offers for fresh, local, nutrient-rich produce this summer. Then remember that summer is a time for play, so use this as a chance to play with your food!

Let me know, what are you working with and what are you doing to do with it?

Join us on the Facebook page – I’ll be posting links to recipes and preservation methods to help us all out!

Weekly Tip: Find Stillness

Pickle Prep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Brew Kid Friendly Iced Tea

Kid Friendly Iced Tea

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

Brew iced tea!

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

Brewing Iced Tea Four Ways

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

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

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

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

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

Kid Friendly Iced Tea

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

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

What do you drink to stay hydrated throughout the summer?