Chew, Chew, Chew

A few months ago, I decided I was going to participate in a 21 Day Chewing Challenge, I know it sounds kind of silly and you might be wondering- what exactly is a “chewing challenge”. I realized that it was time to take control of my health, not just in regards to what I was eating but how I was eating it. In particular, I realized I knew very little about gut health and the process by which our bodies digest what we eat and drink.

Learning how to chew my food (yes I truly had to re-teach myself how to chew) and learning how to eat at a slower and more relaxed pace was the first step on my path to achieving greater gut health. Something that really struck me was a quote from the organizer of the chewing challenge, she kept saying to us, “your stomach doesn’t have teeth”. We cannot expect our stomachs to do all the work when it comes to digestion so we have to help it, and we do that by chewing…a lot! Chewing gives our brain time to catch up with our stomach and get in sync so that we can digest our food and beverages correctly. At first I tried to chew a certain number of times regardless of what I was eating, but I quickly became impatient and got tired of counting 🙂 So I took a new approach- chewing until my food was essentially liquid or very close to liquid (yes I even chewed my smoothies and soups- which definitely took some getting used to). I had to be patient and vigilant and I did a lot of eating by myself so I could totally focus on my chewing. I made it through the 21 days and I truly did notice a remarkable difference in my energy levels and my overall stomach and gut health, and I felt full and more satisfied after eating much much less food.

Chewing is so very important, so often we inhale our food and our stomach and intestines are forced to do so much of the work! When we let our mouth do the majority of the work we are able to absorb the minerals and nutrients from our food better and we don’t overwork our stomach and intestines. When we  gobble down food we set off a problematic series of events because we are making our stomach and intestine work much harder than they should. When we swallow without chewing many other organ systems are forced to assist in the digestive process- taking them away from all their other important jobs. When this series of events take place it often results in inflammation- which we want to try and steer clear of!

So we should all just keeping chewing, and chewing and, CHEWING!!!! It takes time to retrain our brains and our mouths but it is so worth it and your stomach will be so so grateful you did. I cannot claim I am a perfect chewer but I do my best to be mindful of it at every meal. Here are a few tips of mine to help you make positive chewing changes….

  1. Make a little place card (or use a sticky note) for your spot at the table that says CHEW. I did this for about a month and it was just simple reminder that whenever I sat down I needed to focus on chewing.
  2. Eat alone at least once a day. I don’t mean for you to isolate yourself for a whole 21 days and eat all meals alone but I did find that when I ate alone it helped me focus on chewing because I wasn’t as distracted by conversation or others eating habits.
  3. Focus on chewing harder more substantial foods first and then once you’ve started to master your chewing you can move onto chewing soups, smoothies, and soft foods. It’s really bizarre to chew liquid like food so I focused on chewing harder foods first (vegetables, meats, grains) and then once I had a handle on those I moved onto munching my morning smoothies…be patient with yourself it does take time.

In addition to prioritizing chewing I made few other changes to support my overall gut health.

  1. I stopped drinking liquids with my meals as much as possible.
  2. I started each day with a cup of warm lemon water and wait 10-15 minutes before eating.
  3. I started eating more fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kombucha, and the occasional bowl of homemade yogurt).
  4. I started incorporating more anti inflammatory foods into my diet (ginger root, turmeric, dark leafy greens, chia seeds, and flax seeds)
  5. I started taking a daily probiotic pill- one of my favorites brands can be purchased here.

Happy Munching!! If you want to learn more about the 21 Day Chewing Challenge visit the website here.

 

Superheros, Superpowers, and Super foods

The other day I got a little carried away with one of my new favorite iphone apps… yes I will admit I am a big fan of snap chat. Now for those of you who are not snap chatters I urge you to join the fun. Snap chat always gives me my daily dose of giggles- which we could all use a bit of everyday. I had sent my sister a silly snap chat of myself with a batman mask over my face with the caption “Gotham needs me”. It gave me a good laugh, I didn’t think much of it and sent it off to her.

Later that day she called me to tell me how funny she thought the picture was. We began talking about superheroes and superpowers which brought us to ask each other what we feel our own superpowers are- not those that we wish we had but those we posses. Now Wikipedia tells me that a superpower is a “ popular culture terms for a fictional superhuman ability”, but that’s Wikipedia so I think we can all agree to disagree with that definition.

Our silly conversation quickly turned into something more serious. We really started thinking about what our unique powers and talents are. I joked that my superpower was being healthy and that I would fight crime and disease with coconut oil, but as silly as it sounded coming out of my mouth, in a weird sort of way it’s true. I believe my goal, life mission, and purpose on this earth is to spread knowledge about how we can all lead full, happy, and healthy lives. So yes, my superpower is being healthy and sharing that passion and knowledge with others to empower them to make the best choices for their body and their life.

What started as a silly conversation made us both think deeply about what we have to offer this world…our version of Gotham 🙂 The world needs us now more than ever to realize our own superpowers so we can do the best we can with our one life to make a meaningful and positive impact. So what’s your superpower- don’t think too hard- believe me we all have them, many of them, and we use them everyday.

 

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I always have a plentiful supply of coconut oil…you never know when you might need some 🙂

 

I’m Going CocoNUTS!

I have always loved coconut… recently I have a new found appreciation and love for it because quite simply it is an AMAZING fruit. Coconut is very versatile and has many wonderful health benefits.

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Here are just a few of its amazing health benefits

  • Speeds up your metabolism
  • Functions as a healthy fat
  • High in fiber so it keeps you fuller for longer
  • Helps reduce sweet cravings
  • Helps improve digestion
  • Has antifungal and antibacterial properties

Here are a few ways I like to use/consume coconut

Coconut Milk: I make homemade coconut milk almost every week. I love using it in oatmeal, cereal, smoothies, and sometimes I even use it to make ice cream 🙂 My favorite way to use coconut milk is in my lattes. The best chai latte I ever had was made using my homemade coconut milk. Making coconut milk is so simple, here are three ways you can do it yourself coconut milk.

Now that fall is upon us, I have been WAY into making my own pumpkin spice lattes (derived from this recipe). Here’s how:

  • In a blender measure out 1/2 tsp of vanilla, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, 1 T of canned pumpkin, and 1 T of maple syrup
  • In a small pan combine 1.5 cups of homemade coconut milk with a chai tea bag. Heat this until warmed and then add it to the blender
  • Blend all ingredients for about 15-30 seconds, pour into a mug and sprinkle with cinnamon.

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Coconut Flakes:I keep coconut flakes in my pantry at all time! I love using it as a topping for oatmeal, yogurt, or even ice cream. I put coconut into my morning smoothies as well. Coconut flakes can be used an an alternative to rolled oats when making oatmeal. If you are gluten free or you’re tired of the same old oatmeal you can use coconut flakes. I combine a cup of coconut flakes with a cup of coconut milk and a little of maple syrup and cinnamon, cook it for 5-6 minutes and then top with fruit and nuts- totally yum!

Coconut Flour: I recently discovered coconut flour and I am in love! Coconut flour is essentially very finely ground coconut flakes ( it is easy to make yourself if you have a good blender and coconut flakes). I love using coconut flour for baking becuase it is so smooth and soft…it will leave you with a  light and fluffy end product (never dry!). I use coconut flour to make pancakes as well as muffins. Coconut flour is also a great substitute for breadcrumbs if you are gluten free or if you are trying to add a little moisture to your meatballs/meatloaf etc.

Coconut Oil: I have been using coconut oil for awhile now and I keep discovering new ways to use it. I use it in smoothies, oatmeal, baked goods, for sauteing and roasting, and as a substitute for butter. I even use it as a moisturizer for my skin and hair. It is great for oil pulling as well (we will leave that for another post, or google oil pulling yourself….awesome for people who want better breath, a healthier mouth, and whiter teeth).

Coconut Sugar: This is my newest coconut discovery. Coconut sugar is derived from the nectar of the coconut palm tree flower, this is one of the most natural and unprocessed sweeteners available. Coconut sugar tastes a bit like maple syrup and brown sugar combined, is full of potassium and magnesium (bonus!) and has a low glycemic index which means it keeps your blood sugar more stable than most refined sugars.

Coconut Water: I do not drink coconut water much but when I do, I use it in my smoothies and sometimes drink it as is (but rarely). Coconut water is a wonderful way to re-hydrate after a workout, but be careful when purchasing coconut water because many brands add sugar and flavoring. It is also important to make sure the coconut water is not made from concentrate or heated.

So yes I am going nuts for coconuts 🙂 Here are the brands I buy (it is important to be mindful of the coconut products you purchase because not all products are created equal).

Coconut milk: SoDelicious culinary coconut milk, Native Forest coconut milk, or Thai Kitchen organic coconut milk…But the BEST option is to make your own!

Coconut flakes: I generally buy coconut flakes in the bulk section of the grocery store (organic please!) or I purchase Bob’s Red Mill coconut flakes.

Coconut flour, oil and sugar: I really love Nutiva products, check out their coconut flour, oil, and sugar products here. They also carry many other wonderful coconut and non-coconut products, my personal favorites are the hemp protein power, red palm oil, and the o’ coconut candies 🙂

Coconut water: There are many coconut waters on the market please be mindful and read the labels before buying. My favorite brand of coconut water is from Harmless Harvest.

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So there you have it lots of coconut products to try and begin incorporating into your diet. I hope learn to love coconut as much as I do!

XO

Lindley

P.S.- I forgot to mention that a great way to use the cream of coconut milk is to whip it and serve on top of ice cream or pie, here is the recipe for homemade whipped coconut cream. There are just endless possibilities when it comes to coconuts!

Sources:

http://foodbabe.com/2015/07/16/3-ways-make-coconut-milk-without-cracking-coconut/

http://livingleanwitherin.com/pumpkin-protein-chai-tea-latte/

http://ohsheglows.com/2012/08/30/coconut-whipped-cream-a-step-by-step-photo-tutorial/

http://www.harmlessharvest.com/

http://nutiva.com/

https://www.google.com/search?q=i%27m+going+coconuts&biw=1240&bih=596&tbm=isch&source=lnms&sa=X&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAmoVChMI2KGS6IHPyAIVUehjCh2eYQzT#tbm=isch&q=coconut+tree&imgrc=gmDj2m_OzSXCUM%3A

 

 

Acronyms EVERYWHERE!

Our lives are full of acronyms. For years we were all used to hearing, what’s your DOB? Or they just stared working in the CIA. Now, with the wonderful world of texting and computers, our lives are even more acronym heavy, OMG, LOL, BRB…. the list could go on and on.

I’m on acronym overload; I mean it’s hard enough for me to keep them all straight and there are always new ones to keep up with… I mean seriously someone made BAE a thing…don’t even get me started. Really Lindley, why all this talk about acronyms on a food blog….well the other day some new acronyms started popping up in the most unexpected place…can you guess where? (Hint hint, where do we buy lots of our food) Yep, that’s right the grocery store.

Now the food companies are getting so lazy that they decided to jump on the acronym bandwagon. I feel like I need some sort of decoder when I go the grocery store to understand what all these letters listed as ingredients actually stand for. Why is shopping for food so complicated?

I think as educated consumers there are a few food related acronyms that we need to understand the meaning of. I made a rule for myself years ago to try and buy food that contain ingredients that I am familiar with. If we could all follow this simple rule the nasty, highly processed, and unhealthy food products laden with these crazy food acronyms would just sit on the shelves.

I will attempt to decode and demystify some of these food related acronyms for you… when I started digging deeper into what some of these acronyms actually stand for I was appalled, I think you will be too.

BHT: Otherwise known as: butylated hydroxytoluene. BHT is a derived from petroleum, just think about that for a second… petroleum in food, ummm yuck! BHT is used in foods as a preservative. Food companies want their products to stay fresh as long as possible and will go to great lengths to achieve this. BHT is commonly found in cereals such as Golden Grahmas, Rice Krispies, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch to name a few. It is important that we avoid this risky preservative because it is not proven safe! It is linked to cancer in animal studies and is an endocrine disrupter that interferes with hormones.

One of the most shocking things about BHT is that most foreign countries do not allow the use of BHT in food products because it does not meet food safety regulations. That means companies like General Mills and Kellogg’s do not put BHT in the cereal they sell abroad, yet they won’t remove BHT from the cereal sold in the United States. So COME ON Kellogg’s and General Mills, take this dangerous additive out of your cereal, stop poisoning millions of bowls of cereal each morning. I have signed a petition asking these companies to remove BHT from their products and I encourage you to do the same, here is the link.

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BHA: Otherwise known as butylated hydroxyanisole, is a close relative to BHT. BHA is also derived from petroleum and functions as a preservative. BHA can often be found in chips, butter, instant mashed potatoes, preserved meat, beer, baked goods, dessert mixes, and chewing gum. The International Agency for Research on Cancer and the US National Toxicology Program classify BHA as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen”.

BPA: This might be an acronym you are a bit more familiar with. BPA or bisphenol-A is not put directly into food however, it is often found in food packaging and therefore could potentially and indirectly end up in the food we eat. BPA is most commonly found in cans and soft drink containers. BPA is a hormone disruptor and has been linked to health issues such as obesity, prostate cancer, breast cancer and thyroid problems. BPA is banned in Canada and the EU yet it is still used in the US with the exception of baby bottles and infant formula packaging. More and more companies are choosing to remove BPA from their food packaging. It is much more common to see cans or water bottles stamped with a BPA free seal. Try and keep your eyes peeled for the BPA free seal and try to eat and drink from metal and glass containers as much as you can.

HFCS: I’m sure many of you know what HFCS stands for, for those of you who are not familiar with this acronym, HFCS is more commonly known as high fructose corn syrup. HFCS is widely used because it is cheap to produce. HFCS is commonly used in canned fruit, flavored yogurt, soda, condiments and baked goods. HFCS is becoming more and more prevalent because it is a cheaper alternative to sucrose (basic sugar). HFCS is an ingredient you want to stay away from because consuming high quantities of it can lead to obesity, damage to your immune system, diabetes, and also speed up the aging process. Just last week my sister put an item in our cart back on the shelf declaring that we could not buy it because one of the ingredients was HFCS…a proud sister moment for me!

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RBGH: RBGH stands for recombinant bovine growth hormone. RBGH is a genetically engineered artificial growth hormone injected into dairy cows to increase milk production. The US is one of the only industrialized countries that still allow animals to receive these hormone injections. Essentially what RBGH does is increase lactation in dairy cows. The FDA approved RGBH back in 1993 without doing any research on the potential impact it might have on the cows or the milk they produce…how irresponsible! Today, the FDA still claims that RGBH is safe for both cows and humans…I beg to differ. In 1991 a report revealed that cows injected with RGBH suffered serious health problems such as deformed calves, painful bacterial infection of the udder, and an increase in mastitis. Many cows had extremely inflamed and swollen udders that led to pus and blood secretion into their milk…YIKES!

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TBHQ: Here is the last weird and yucky food acronym. TBHQ is also known as tertiary butylhydroquinone. TBHQ is a synthetic preservative derived from petroleum just like BHA and BHT. TBHQ is used in a wide variety of products such as chips, crackers, boxed baked goods, and many fast food products…and can also be found in cosmetics, varnish, lacquers, and resins. The reason why food companies are so drawn to TBHQ is that is delays the onset of rancidness and extends the storage life of food. TBHQ is a totally unnecessary product to use on food and consuming just one gram of TBHQ has been shown to cause many issues such as asthma, allergies, dermatitis, and dizziness.

So there you have it, lots of new information, acronyms, and hopefully a new shopping list based on all this new found knowledge 🙂

Sources:

http://drhyman.com/blog/2011/05/13/5-reasons-high-fructose-corn-syrup-will-kill-you/

http://foodbabe.com/cereal/

http://www.mercola.com/Downloads/bonus/danger-of-corn-syrup/report.aspx

http://www.sustainabletable.org/797/rbgh

http://www.naturalnews.com/031318_TBHQ_food_preservatives.html

The Food Babe Way: By Vani Hari

What Will Come Out Of My Kitchen in 2015

Today I am not contemplating my life and making a long list of unsustainable and unreasonable resolutions for myself but rather daydreaming about all the new foods I will prepare this year and how I will use my sparkly new kitchen gadgets to create wonderfully tasteful masterpieces. Santa hit the nail on the head this year, along with many family and friends, and my kitchen is well equipped for creating divine delicacies during 2015.

My first new gadget that I am oozing with excitement over is my new (and first) mortar and pestle. I have to be honest I have fantasized about these simple little gadgets for years. It was one of those items I knew I needed but never made it a priority to go out and buy, let me tell you I was missing out. Thanks to my dear friend Nina, I now have my very own mortar and pestle made out of beautiful pink Himalayan salt….sounds amazing right (it is!). Look at how beautiful it is!

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This little guy takes your meals up a notch. I always thought I was pretty crafty at flavoring sauces for pasta, rubs for meat, and  whipping up a good old soup. Now i’m not saying my cooking was bad prior to my acquisition of this little gadget it just wasn’t as flavorful as it could be. My mortar and pestle has become my secret weapon in the kitchen…really I’m not kidding. What was once a good steak rub is now a flavorful, melt in your mouth, crazy delicious rub that was whipped up from crushing  some fresh dried spices in my mortar and pestle…AMAZING! My guacamole has been kicked up a notch because I use my mortar and pestle to break down the cilantro and them combine it with fresh lime juice. So 2015 watch out because my flavors were on point in 2014 but with this new gadget I am going to be taking flavors to a new level. I can’t wait for pesto experiments, new spice rubs, and all sorts of flavorful concoctions.

I am also very excited about my new citrus juicer (pictured on the right). I know what you’re thinking, Lindley it’s a juicer COME ON! I am telling you if you haven’t been juicing you’re own citrus you are seriously missing out. Citrus juicers are easy to find and even easier to use, they immediately add a freshness to a dish that you won’t get from store bought citrus juice. I have two citrus juicers they look like this (the one of the left I got last Christmas)…

 

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Both are amazing little juicers that I use EVERYDAY! I love starting my day with lemon tea and throughout the day I love adding fresh citrus juices to soups, sauces, salsa, guacamole, marinades etc. Christmas morning we had mimosas with fresh orange juice…AMAZING! So do yourself a favor and get one if you don’t have one already. I can’t wait for all the new ways I will use my juicer this year.

Another thing I have a new found passion for is tortillas. Have you ever made your own tortillas? If the answer is no you have to remedy this immediately, seriously you don’t know what you are missing. I have been making my own corn and wheat tortillas this fall/winter and they put anything you’ve ever bought in the store to shame. However there is one little problem, you really can’t get a perfect circular tortilla unless you have a tortilla press. My love of tortillas is growing (really it’s a borderline obsession) and therefore I have ordered my very own tortilla press…I cannot wait for the many  tortillas that will roll out of my kitchen this year. I am already thinking about all the things I can put into these little vessels and create ultimate deliciousness!

I have a personal goal for myself this year that I hope I can achieve…this year will be the year I conquer pastries. I mean come on Lindley you need to step up your game. I will say my homemade cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning were on par but I need to take it to the next level…what is the next level you ask, I say it’s time for croissants. I know it will be a challenge but I am up for it. I have already been experimenting with puff pastry and I have had some success so I am going to use that momentum to push me forward as I tackle croissants. I mean come on how delicious…?

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This year also has to be the year of sauces. I have always wanted to master a chimichurri, mole, and salsa Verde (I am sensing a theme here). There is nothing quite like homemade sauces and dips. I have dabbled with the simple yet delicious guacamole, pesto, and basic salsa but really it’s time I expand my palate and my culinary expertise. I have the mortar and pestle in my arsenal so I would venture to say luck is on my side.

I can feel it, this is going to be a good year, one that is healthy and balanced, filled with lots of green leafy veggies (I just can’t express my love of kale, I have a whole cookbook devoted to kale recipes, but that’s a post for another time) smoothies, chocolate of course, fluffy pastries, tasty sauces, and of course love. Thanks for sticking with me on my blogging journey, it means so much to me.

Love, health, laughter, and delicious food (of course!) is my wish for you all in the New Year, bring on 2015!

True Beauty

I marvel at the beauty in nature each day. I find nothing more breathtaking then sunsets, fall foliage, dew collecting on grass, and a dark sky filled with stars. The other day I went to a local farm to pick up my weekly farm share and I was taken aback by the produce I picked up. I was truly in awe of its beauty. Going to my local farm each week is one of my guilty pleasures, it’s quiet, there is amazing food, and it smells like dirt, grass and clean air. There is no place I would rather be than at the farm.

Anyways, since I was so awestruck by the produce I picked up last week I just had to share these pictures. Take time to look at the true beauty of the food nature produces for us.

 

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Fun Food Fact Friday (That’s a Terrifying Tongue Twister)

It’s Friday, so I think it’s the appropriate time to share some facts…fun facts…well maybe I should reword that, interesting facts…I will let you be the judge of whether you think they are fun or not. This summer I spent lots of time cooking, gardening, digging through new and old cookbooks, and learning more and more about food. We are certainly never too old to keep learning and I love when I learn new things about food so I wanted to share them with all of you.

You Need to Know the WHOLE Truth

Gone are the days (almost) of white processed Wonder Bread and now we are into the age of wheat….ahhhh whole wheat bread. It’s glorious! I love a slice of thick, dark brown WHOLE wheat bread…notice the emphasis on whole. Many people (myself included until recently) thought buying wheat bread was much better for me than white…this is kind of accurate. Wheat is not the word the important word it’s the word whole. Unless you see the world whole in front of the word wheat, you probably have a pretty unhealthy product that doesn’t have much nutritional benefit. Most wheat is refined and has been striped of most of its nutritional value. Stick with whole wheat because it is far less refined meaning it has kept most of its nutrients. To help you find whole grains keep an eye for this seal on food products, when you see this 100% whole grain stamp you can be sure that you are buying a product with only whole grains.

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To learn more about this topic, check out Lisa Leake’s 100 Days of Real Food Cookbook, it has 100 recipes and lots of wonderful information about how to choose wholesome food.

 

Don’t Wash Meat

I don’t know why, but I always thought you were supposed to wash meat. I have no idea why I thought this, no one ever told me I must wash meat, but for some reason I always did it. Recently, I read an article telling me to do the opposite. When you think about it logically there really isn’t any need to clean chicken…what is running water over raw meat really doing? When you wash meat you actually create more of a mess and more contamination in your kitchen. When you rinse raw meat you get contamination all over your sink, faucet, soap dispenser, counter, and cooking tools because the water running over the meat is splashing all over. So the moral of the story, save yourself a step and just open your meat and cut it, marinade it, throw it in a bowl…just DON’T WASH IT! Here is an article from the USDA explaining why it isn’t the best idea to wash meat. The picture below shows you why you might want to think twice before you go wash your meat.

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Double it and Freeze it!

I love cooking in the summer because of all the fresh produce that’s available. This summer I made lots of sauces, soups, muffins, breads, and much more. One of my new favorite tips is when you are making something that is easy to freeze, you double the recipe and leave half in the fridge or to eat and then you put the other half in the freezer and save for another time. I do this a lot in the summer because then I have a freezer full of fresh summer soups, sauces, and baked goods in the fall and winter. Some of my favorite things to double and freeze are sauces (BBQ, Tomato, Romesco), any type of soup, muffins (especially muffins with fresh berries), and breads (Zucchini, Pumpkin, Banana). Doing this saves me a lot of time when I need a quick go to meal and allows me to enjoy summer flavors in the colder months.

 

Magic Green Peppers

I have spent a lot of this summer in my garden. My kale, cucumber, and chard crop is through the roof and I can barely keep up. Another veggie that has been producing like crazy are my green peppers. I will be honest I’m not a big fan of green peppers…I just find them kind of boring, bitter, and I just don’t know what to do with them. Well just last week I made a wonderful discovery. I had been away for a few days and had not been into my garden, when I got home I was pleasantly surprised to see one of my green peppers was red. I was confused at first but then after talking to a woman who works at a local farm she confirmed for me that if you leave green peppers on the vine for long enough they do in fact become red. YIPEEE!! Now I just have to wait a few weeks and my huge crop of green peppers will be red!

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Make your Own Salad Dressings!

Steer clear of salad dressings at the grocery store; they are laden with sugar, salt, and refined oils. Salad dressing are so easy to make with ingredients you almost always have in your pantry. All you really need is olive oil, mustard, and vinegar, just take any combination of those three things and there you have it. Your body will thank you and I assure you it will taste a lot better than what you buy at the store. Here is one of my favorite dressings Greek Dressing and Champagne Vinaigrette . Here is an article full of wonderful information about the yucky truth about salad dressings and  provides some easy dressing recipes.

Natural Flavor…NOT GOOD

I’ve written about this before but I recently read an article and watched a 60 minutes segment that make me even more weary of natural and artificial flavor. There is a company by the name of Givaudan, whose sole focus is creating artificial flavors. They are in the business of selling flavors…just not naturally derived ones but rather chemically derived. For example, when you buy strawberry milk…the flavor is created chemically, no strawberries are in it, or when you buy the Quaker oatmeal packets with fruit…. there isn’t any fruit in it just artificial flavoring, or buttered popcorn…yep you guessed it, no butter just artificial flavoring. I’ve said it once and I will say it again, be careful of these artificial flavors which are often disguised as natural flavoring on ingredient labels…there is usually nothing natural about them. Here is a great article that goes into more detail about Givaudan and also shares the 60 Minute segment about the company. Please watch it if you have the time. I also suggest reading this piece and watching the video clip about the recent debate over Starbucks and the nasty and dangerous flavoring they are putting into many of their drinks.

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I hope you’ve learned something new. I  love finding out new things about food and like to share them with as many people as I can. If you have any fun food facts…please send them my way. Until next time…XOXO and Happy Friday!

 

Sources:

http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/

http://www.foodqualitynews.com

http://whatscookingamerica.net/chilepep.htm

http://foodbabe.com/2014/08/25/starbucks-pumpkin-spice-latte/

 

 

Tips, Tricks, and Treats

I often get asked… How do you find the time to cook for yourself and ensure it’s a healthy meal? I think it’s time I finally let you in on my secrets to save time, money, and energy each week as you shop for food and plan your meals.

First and foremost I believe that if you care about something enough you will make the time. For instance, if getting exercise each day is important to you and a priority in your life you will make the time to do it, even if it means giving up something else. That is the way I feel about cooking and the food I put in my body. Making home cooked meals that are healthful is something that is important to me, therefore I always find the time! There are a few things I do to make sure my week runs smoothly and that I stay on track at the grocery store and when I prepare meals. I hope you find my tips helpful!

Cooking for one or two is much easier than a large family. When I am home with my family I have lots of different palates to take into consideration and I need to be cognizant of food allergies. Whether I am cooking for myself, for two people, or for my whole family I always follow these steps because it makes my life so much easier.

Tip #1: MAKE A LIST!!

I cannot emphasize how important it is to make a list before you go to the store. This will save you time and money! If you know exactly what you need you can go through aisle by aisle grabbing the necessary items but if you are impulse buying or creating meals as you walk through the store, it will take much more time. If you do not have a list you will most definitely spend more money because you will either buy things you don’t need or buy something you already have at home. So please just make a list! It doesn’t take that much time and it makes your trip to the store run so smoothly because you know exactly what you need.

Tip #2: ORGANIZE YOUR GROCERY LIST

When I make my grocery list I make sure to organize it. I organize my list based on where items are in the store and I group like items together. Below I have a picture of my grocery list from this week. As you can see I group my produce together, my dairy items together, I also put items I want to pick up at the Farmers Market in their own section too!  I organize my list this way every time I go to the store and it saves me so much time!

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Tip #3: SHOP ONCE A WEEK

Shopping multiple times each week takes up more of your time and costs you more too. Take the time to make a detailed list and stick to it. My routine is to make my list on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning, then I go the Farmers Market or to pick up my CSA share, and then I head to the grocery store Occasionally I have to make more than one trip to the store if I forgot something or an item I wanted was not in stock but generally I go to the store once a week.

Tip #4: PLAN OUT YOUR MEALS

Each week when I sit down to make my list I also map out my meals for the week. Below is a picture of the meals I will be having this coming week. I plan my meals on the weekend taking into account my schedule for the upcoming week. If I know I am going to be home late one night I might try to do a meal in the crock pot that I can leave cooking all day or I may make dinner the night before or the morning of so I don’t need to worry about getting home late and having to prepare dinner. On afternoons that I have more time, I generally plan for meals that have a few more steps and take a little more preparation. When you make a weekly meal plan it also helps you to stay on track and eat well. If you know you have the ingredients to make a great meal you won’t be as tempted to whip up a quick meal that isn’t as good for you or get take out food.

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Tip #5: THINK ABOUT MEATS AND VEGGIES

When I plan my meals I really try to make sure I have vegetables in every meal, whether it is a side dish or incorporated into the meal. I try to plan my meals around the veggie rather than the meat, this saves money and it ensures I get in at least one-two servings of veggies each day! I am not a vegetarian but I do primarily eat vegetarian meals. I do this for three reasons, one because it is better for my health, two because it is better for the health of the environment, and three because it saves me money. I do try to eat meat once a week, and by meat I mean (chicken, turkey, or fish) I do not each pork or beef products. I am not at all against the consumption of pork or beef I just personally do not enjoy it and therefore choose not to eat it. Remember when choosing meat, to try and buy organic meats that were raised humanly and in an environmentally safe way. All the meat I consume is purchased from local farmers because I know the animals had good lives, were treated humanely, and were fed non- GMO food. If you want to read up more about what meat to avoid here is a great article.

Tip #6: PLAN AHEAD

I know that my week gets busy quickly and because of this I really try to make one or two meals for the week in advance. If I can’t make the entire meal in advance I will prepare part of it, for instance if we are having pizza I will make the dough in advance so when I get home I can just roll it out and put on the toppings. Making a meal or two over the weekend will save you so much time during the week. If you are making a meal that freezes well (sauces, soups, eggplant parmesan, lasagna, curry…just to name a few) double the recipe, that way you can eat half and freeze half for a quick go to meal if you are in a crunch for time.

Tip #7: HAVE FUN

Cooking can be fun and enjoyable. I love experimenting with new ingredients or trying new recipes…some are a hit and some are a big miss. Take the stress out of cooking and get the family involved, having people help create a meal makes the prep time shorter and gives you a chance to visit and talk.

I hope these tips were helpful and make your grocery store trip and meal planning a bit easier. Try to enjoy it because whether you like it or not you will probably spend a good part of your life buying food and preparing food…oh and enjoying it of course. I will end with a quote from a fellow foodie named Maya Adam, “May the foods you eat be worthy of you and may they be made with love” this is our wish for you. Happy shopping, cooking, and eating!

Yes, Kids Can Use Knives

I was 9 years old when I first cut my finger using a kitchen knife. I remember the day quite vividly. I had gone to Caretaker Farm with my mom to pick up our weekly share of fruits and vegetables. We went around the fields and barn gathering our share and picking fresh herbs and flowers. We left with dirt under our fingernails, stains from nasturtiums on our hands, and the taste of fresh cherry tomatoes in our mouths. My usual routine (much to my mother’s delight i’m sure) was to put all of our produce in the sink, scrub it clean and then put it away in the refrigerator. I would often wrap the greens in paper towel and place them in plastic bags to preserve their freshness, or I would cut the leaves off the tops of beets and carrots so they would fit into the refrigerator. My mom trusted I could clean and put away the produce, she also trusted that I was capable of using various kitchen tools. I can’t really remember if anyone ever taught me how to use knives, the blender, or the stove top, but what I do remember is that I was using them at a young age and that my parents were OKAY with it.

As I finished cleaning up the produce I remember wondering what the strange purple bulbous vegetable we brought home was (I later discovered it was kohlrabi….a highly under utilized vegetable in my opinion). I really wanted to cut it open to see if it was purple inside. So I went to the knife block grabbed a big knife and began to cut the vegetable. I remember my hand slipping and seeing blood trickle down my hand. In this moment I did not scream, panic, or cry, I merely did what all chefs do. I grabbed a paper towel and wrapped up my finger and then put a band-aid around it to stop it from bleeding. I also remember telling my mom that the knife was too dull (one of the most frequent causes of cutting your finger in the kitchen). The exact details of what happened after are a bit blurry. I don’t remember my mom being upset or insisting I stop using knives. I would imagine that we discussed how I could be safer in the kitchen and the proper ways of holding and using a knife. Since that day I can count on one hand the times I have cut myself on a knife. I have respect for my kitchen and my tools, a lesson I learned at a young age. If we do not understand and respect our tools than we are unable to use them successfully. I do not fear the blender of the butcher knife but rather look at them as invaluable tools to create unique artistic and delectable creations.

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I believe children must be taught how to properly use kitchen tools. I also respect that the thinking about a child using a large knife can be terrifying to a parent. However, what I find more terrifying is that by denying children the opportunity to learn how to use kitchen tools, we are denying them the ability to learn about an essential life skill. Cooking is a lost art. I know far too many people who haven’t a clue what to buy in the grocery store or how to navigate a kitchen. Author Sarah Elton makes a case for teaching kids how to cook in her book, Starting from Scratch: What You Should Know about Food and Cooking, she argues that, “it’s dangerous not to teach kids to cook- it’s a basic survival skill”. BINGO. Did you read that correctly…basic survival skill. We eat three times a day, every day of our lives. How can we even begin to argue that learning to cook is not important.

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The Children’s Food Trust, a British Organization, recently conducted a study and found children who cook before the age of eight are fifty percent more likely to prepare homemade meals when they are older (Johnson). Cooking is a life long skill. Cooking also teaches people to make healthier food choices because they are deciding what foods to put in their body. Countless studies have shown that children who are involved in the preparation of food are much more likely to try new and unfamiliar foods. Children are also more willing to try “healthier foods” if they have been part of preparing the meal.

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So what is the point of this lengthy post….let kids use knives, it’s okay if a kid cuts their finger, kids should be more exposed to cooking and preparing food. Yes to all of those. Children build confidence when they feel they have mastered a skill; give them the chance to master one of the most important skills. Let your kids use kitchen tools, taste new foods, come to the grocery store, create recipes, grow a plant, and find connection…a connection to their food.

Sources:

Blades of Gory: Teaching Kids to Slice and Dice

Picky NO More

When I think back to childhood I cannot really remember if I was a picky eater. I don’t think my mom would have categorized me as a picky eater but certainly not an adventurous one either…hmmm now I’m curious, I think I will have to ask her. What I do know is that as I’ve grown older my taste buds are more eager to try new foods and explore the food paths less traveled. I love trying new foods and flavor combinations, to me it’s a game and one that I love to play.

Picky eaters can be tough and sometimes just down right frustrating. Never fear though, Sally Sampson wrote a fantastic article with some great tips for dealing with these picky little people. I love how Sally defines a picky eater as someone who limits what he or she is willing to eat. Picky eaters come in all shapes, sizes, and degrees of finickiness (What a word). Sally Sampson provides 12 tips or tools to help picky eaters, I will touch on a few briefly so please read the article she wrote too!

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One of my favorite tips is to only bring home foods that you want your kids to eat. If they see junk food around the house or they see you eating chocolate and chips that is what they will ask for. Lead by example and create a healthy food environment in your home. The best way to create a healthy food environment in your home is to shop with your kids, let them touch the foods, speak with farmers at the market, and allow them to be part of making the meals and choosing the ingredients. The more involved kids are in choosing and preparing food the more willing they will be to eat it. Another important aspect of creating a healthy food environment is to talk with your kids about where food comes from and how it grows. The more you understand about your food the more you will value it and want to eat it…and that’s the ultimate goal!

Parents go back and forth about whether to force their child to try a new food or whether to just let them come around and try it when they want to. Sally emphasizes the importance of not forcing a child to eat anything, this will create an even stronger aversion to it and give the food negative attention. Instead, try being a good role model and use positive peer pressure saying things like, wow this roasted broccoli is so yummy everyone should try a bite. If you continue to be a positive role model, your kids will come around. It make take a few times but they will eventually. Using this approach is much more powerful than nudging kids or forcing them to try one bite before they leave the table. You never want negative attention associated with food or meal time.

One of the best tips Sally gives, which I suggest to parents all the time is to make meal time fun! Experiment with food and have fun preparing it. The last thing you want to do is have meal time be stressful for you or your kids. Getting kids to try new foods can be a game. See how many new veggies you can try as a family or have a scavenger hunt at the farmers market to find new foods to try. Some great resource for making mealtime fun are below.

Vegetable Tasting Extravaganza

MyPlate Scavenger Hunt

Vegetable Dip Experiment

I will end with this, don’t dumb down your children’s palates. While they may be going through a picky phase don’t continue to feed them the same things over and over because it’s all they are willing to try. I see so many kids with bland,processed, and quite frankly boring lunches. Push the boundaries a bit, kids are eager and resilient, they enjoy trying new things (food included) even if it does not always seem that way, and believe me if they don’t like something they will let you know. Challenge their taste buds a little and see what happens, I think most of the time everyone will be pleasantly surprised.

Resources:

The Picky Eater Plan