Thursday, August 9, 2012

Summer Water

We are big water drinkers around here. I definitely love an occasional cup of coffee or tea, but I have never been a fan of what we Midwesterners call "pop", or any of the other gimicky drinks that are on the market today that magically give you energy, help you focus, make you lose weight, cure a hangover, etc. We need even more of it here in CO because we are at a higher elevation. I know I don't keep up as much as I should and my body can really tell when it hasn't had enough water.

Most of us know our bodies are comprised of 60-70% water which means we need to replenish often to keep an optimal level of hydration. Dehydration can cause dry skin, dry mouth, sleepiness, constipation, headaches, weakness, dizziness and more. In fact, we often mistake being dehydrated with feeling hungry so instead of recognizing that our body is thirsty for water, we fill it with unnecessary calories and are still left feeling like something is missing. Drinking a glass of water when your body is having a craving for food is a great way to not only get more water, but to put a curb on your cravings. 

I personally love good old fashioned water, but I realize that many people want some sort of flavoring. Well, what better way to flavor your water than with the abundance of fruit and herbs that grow in the summer? I always make flavored water when I have company over and showcase it in a big glass water dispenser (it looks just as good as it tastes...great way to add some elegance to your next party!) So after having some neighbors over the other night, the next day when my son was asking for juice for the third time (I try to limit his juice to one diluted cup a day), I thought, why don't I always have flavored water on hand? My son loves it so we can maybe even eliminate juice in the summer. I love it and might actually drink more water. And I always have an abundance of fruit in the fridge and herbs in the garden. So far I have been adding a sliced lemon, several watermelon slices and several sprigs of mint because watermelon is cheap and we can rarely finish a whole one. Plus I have mint growing like crazy. I think any fruit would do though, especially if you have a huge supply of fresh picked berries. Just smash a handful up in the bottom. Cucumbers and cantaloup would also be good along with rosemary and basil. I will definitely be playing around with some combinations. For starters, here is what we have currently been doing but don't be afraid to get creative!

1 lemon washed and sliced
2-4 slices of watermelon
3-4 stalks of mint
1 large pitcher
filtered water

Put the sliced lemon, watermelon and mint into the pitcher. Add water and refrigerate. We were going through it so fast that I was just adding more water to the pitcher whenever we poured some. I will toss the fruit and start over after two days in the fridge.

Bottoms up!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sandwich Ideas for Kids

We all know the pressure on parents to get 3 good meals into our kids everyday, and, if you are like me, I only use "kid food" (hot dogs, mac n cheese, fish sticks, chicken nuggets, pizza) as a last resort when I am unprepared and/or pmsing! (always organic versions!) So what can we feed our kids that is quick and easy, exposes them to a variety of tastes and colors, and is healthy too? I have gotten pretty creative with the sandwich and thought I would share some of our favorites. We seemed to have fallen into a cereal rut for breakfast, though I do try to sneak in healthy, homemade pancakes, homemade oatmeal, or eggs occasionally (and almost always a green smoothie!) But I really try to mix it up for lunch and dinner. Plus, sandwiches are easy to pack for picnics and school and can be a really creative way to sneak in all sorts of nutrients.

I always start with Rudy's organic honey wheat bread. Even though we eat meat occasionally, I have always been leery of lunch meat, so most of our sandwiches are vegetarian. Jamison is not a picky eater and I'm not quite sure if it is because I got really, really lucky, or because I have always offered him a variety of foods and never cooked him separate "kid food" (I even added herbs and spices to his homemade baby food) Probably just luck but my ego likes to pretend it is all me :) He is used to lots of color in his food and I hope that since that is all he has ever known, he won't change (fingers crossed!!!) So hopefully these ideas will appeal to even the pickiest of eaters!

Cucumber Sandwich
2 slices bread (I cut the crusts for this one)
6 thin slices of cucumber
several spinach leaves, minced
organic cream cheese or Two minute veggie dip
sunflower seeds
salt and pepper
optional: avocado slices, sprouts, thinly sliced radishes, tomato slice

Put a good schmear of cream cheese or spread on both sides of the bread. Mix it up with veggie or flavored cream cheeses too, or even just a sprinkle of dill. Sprinkle sunflower seeds on one side of bread and minced spinach on the other and push down a little so they stick to the spread. Add thinly sliced cucumbers and any other veggie slices you want and sprinkle with salt and pepper. I like to smoosh the sandwich down so it is nice and thin and easy to eat. For my toddler, I cut into 4 squares. This is also fabulous on open faced toasted bagels (my staple lunch in college!)

Nut Butter and Fruit Sandwich
2 slices bread
nut butter spread of choice (I alternate between crunchy peanut and almond)
thinly sliced banana or apple

Spread on the nut butter, add sliced fruit, drizzle some honey and sprinkle some cinnamon. For an occasional treat, grill! We do use jelly occasionally and I found an awesome jelly called St. Dalfour that has zero sugar in it and is sweetened with grape juice. Peach flavored is our favorite!

Grilled Cheese with Spinach and Avocado
2 slices bread
sliced organic cheddar
few leaves of spinach, minced
4 thin slices avocado
I add a thin slice of tomato from the garden when they are in season

Put cheese on bread, then add avocado and spinach. Melt a little butter in pan and grill starting with cheese side down. Cover for quicker melting. I press mine flat to make it nice and thin for a toddler's mouth. Add carmelized onions and sauteed mushrooms for the adults...amazing!

Tuna Melts
1 slice bread, toasted
1 small can wild caught tuna
minced veggies (cukes, pickles, spinach and red onion)
couple spoonfuls of mayo
squeeze of mustard
salt, pepper and dill to taste
sliced organic cheese

Mix tuna, veggies, mayo, mustard, and spices. Spread onto toast, cover with cheese and broil until cheese melts. For an on the go version, serve between two slices of soft bread and a slice of provolone. I cut into fingers for easier eating.

2 slices bread, lightly toasted
2 pieces bacon
1/4 avocado mashed
thinly sliced tomato
salt and pepper

Lightly spread mayo on one piece of toast and generously spread mashed avocado on other. Crumble the bacon for easier bites and press into avocado. Layer lettuce and tomato and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Press flat.

Veggie Sandwich:
2 slices bread
sliced tomato
sliced cucumber
sliced avocado
lettuce or spinach
sliced pepperjack cheese
mayo and dijon mustard
salt and pepper
crushed potato chips

Spread mayo and mustard on bread. Layer veggies and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with crushed potato chips and serve with extra on the side. This is our staple sandwich when we our on summer vacation in Michigan!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Summer Veggie Pasta with Herbs, Bacon and Gorgonzola

It has been quite some time since my last post. We had a 3 week vacation in Michigan and I have been slow to get back to reality! It was wonderful having a break from not only the daily "to do" list, but from technology as well. Our society is overly plugged in these days and as much as I love some of the technologies available today, I noticed that I felt much more relaxed and present without the constant consumption of checking facebook statuses, thinking in blog, reading blogs, and searching, searching, searching for recipes, window treatments, shoes, a diagnosis of weird symptoms, weather conditions, paint colors, decor ideas, hiking trails...sound familiar? 

But now I am back and I am ready to recommit to my blog because I truly believe that sharing healthy recipes, important knowledge about food, and encouraging people to garden is important. In fact, I have 4 friends here in Denver that started a garden this year because of me (and since I'm pretty new here, 4 is a pretty large percentage of my friends!) It is those small influences in life that can make a big impact on the world and it makes me feel warm and fuzzy to know that my passion for cooking and gardening actually inspires others to pick up a spatula or a shovel and literally dig in! Cooking and gardening have become less important to people and I think it is because not only are we way too busy to be bothered by such trivial chores as feeding our families healthy, homemade food, but our country has no food culture. Just about every other culture in this world revolves around the growing and preparation of food and people take real pride in cooking from scratch. So hopefully, in time, we can redefine our generation as the one who took a stand against industrialized food and got back into the kitchen!!!

So this was the recipe that finally got me back to my computer because it was just too good not to share! I am getting more creative and better at cooking without a recipe and one of my favorite types of meals to play around with is pasta! I knew I would be using a ton of veggies and as many of them from the garden as possible. I always use at least 4-5 cloves of garlic in everything I make, but with this pasta, I felt like using even more...8 or 9 seemed about right. I also had 4 pieces of organic bacon leftover from camping and, well, I do have a love affair with bacon so that was a no brainer. I wanted to use a small amount of strong cheese for some flavor. At the store I found an organic, raw milk gorgonzola from Oregon which sounded perfect. I also remembered I had some white wine in the fridge so, why not? And the highlight of the dish is tons of fresh herbs. I went out to the garden and snipped a handful of thyme, oregano, basil, sage, rosemary and parsley. A dash of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon and viola! Personally, I thought this dish to be restaurant worthy though I might be biased :) Bon Appetite!

Summer Veggie Pasta with Herbs, Bacon and Gorgonzola
serves 6-8

16 oz pasta (I used Tinkyada Brown Rice Spirals)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter or ghee 
1 Tablespoon reserved bacon fat
8-10 cloves of garlic pressed or minced
1 zucchini cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 yellow squash cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 yellow onion sliced in crescents
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
2 ears of corn, kernals removed
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup asparagus cut into 1 inch pieces
1/3 cup white wine
2 large handfuls spinach,  chopped 
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup reserved pasta water
4 slices bacon chopped
2-4 ounces gorgonzola crumbled
1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs
juice from 1 lemon

Cook pasta according to directions. While pasta is cooking, cook bacon reserving 1 Tablespoon of fat. Crumble and set aside. Add 2 Tablespoons olive oil and 2 Tablespoons butter to the pan and heat on medium high. Add onions and cook for at least 5 minutes until they begin to brown. Add the remaining vegetables,  and saute for several minutes. Add the white wine and herbs and let simmer until the majority of the liquid has evaporated. Add drained pasta back into the pot, add in the chopped spinach immediately so it can wilt, the vegetable mixture, pasta water, bacon, gorgonzola, pinenuts, and lemon juice and toss to coat. Serve with salt and freshly grated black pepper.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Gluten Free, Vegan Teff Banana Pancakes with Spinach and Blueberries

You don't have to be Gluten Free or Vegan to enjoy these delicious pancakes that pack a seriously nutritious punch! Gluten Free baking can be a time consuming endeavor with so so results. These pancakes, on the other hand, are so quick and easy to make and satisfies the craving for something sweet and doughy without the guilt! I always freeze the leftovers for quick breakfasts and snacks for my toddler who gobbles them up.

Teff is an ancient grain originating in Ethiopia. Because the grains of teff are so small, the bulk of the grain consists of the bran and germ resulting in a highly nutrient dense grain. It is high in calcium (17 times the calcium found in whole wheat and barley!), phosphorous, iron, copper, aluminum, barium and thiamin. It also has an excellent amino acid composition and is high in protein and fiber. Teff is definitely one of my top choices for gluten free flours and can be found in the Gluten Free baking section at your grocery store or at a Health Food store.

This recipe was slightly modified from the original which I found at The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen Website, along with some great pancake tips. I've made the original several times but couldn't resist adding some fresh blueberries and spinach...yes spinach! Ever since I have started my love affair with greens, they go in everything! Hopefully my toddler will never learn to turn up his nose to food that is green because that is all this child has ever known! Once greens have been minced, they can go in just about everything without affecting the taste...only the color so starting your kids young is a whole lot easier! Who needs food coloring? I throw minced greens in grilled cheeses and quesadillas, pastas, rice, and now pancakes!

I made two batches. One with Blueberries and Spinach and one with Cinnamon and Spinach which makes for less messy snacks. Switching to real Maple Syrup is a great habit to get into since the alternative is filled with sugar and preservatives. Honey, agave, mashed bananas or berries, and almond butter also makes for great toppings.

 Teff Banana Pancakes with Blueberries or Cinnamon and Spinach

1 cup teff flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
2 Tbl ground flax seed
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 Tbl cinnamon
1 cup water or non dairy milk (I use coconut milk)
1/4 cup mashed ripe banana (1 small banana)
2 Tbl melted virgin coconut oil
1 Tbl honey, agave, or maple syrup
1 cup minced spinach
1/2 cup minced blueberries

In a small bowl mix the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients and combine with the dry ingredients. Mix in the spinach. I only add blueberries to half the batter. If you want to add them to the whole batter, you might want to add more.

Heat a skillet over medium low heat until hot. Add a little coconut or olive oil and drop pancake batter by the 1/4 to 1/2 cupful. Flip pancakes after tiny bubbles form. Cook for another minute then transfer to a plate. Add about a 1/2 tsp of oil between batches.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Two Minute Veggie Dip

My two year old is just like most kids I know...he loves to dip! Except for the occasional splurge on hummus, I'm not a big fan of what's available in the store, and some of the healthier dip recipes I have are more time consuming.  Well the other day I realized I had a few tablespoons of organic Greek yogurt left so I had an idea. I put it in a little dipping dish, added a sprinkle of dill and garlic powder, a few dashes of salt, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and incredibly simple, healthy dip that was seriously delicious! My son was eating it with a spoon! Our favorite dippers are cucumbers, snap peas, carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, jicama, red pepper and radishes. It also makes for a great sandwich spread, especially with cucumbers, spinach, sprouts, and sunflower seeds. Garden fresh tomatoes make a great addition when they are in season. 

Two Minute Veggie Dip:
Organic Greek Yogurt
Garlic Powder
Lemon Juice

Put as much Greek yogurt in a bowl as you want then add the rest to taste. It makes for a great afternoon snack or a kid friendly appetizer when entertaining. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Green Smoothie

The green smoothie seems like all the new rage, but it is about the best trend you could ever try! Hopefully though, it will last a lifetime and not just a season! I started making smoothies last spring when I did my first "Clean" cleanse, and I have been making smoothies almost every day since, even on vacation. Switching to a more whole foods based diet can be overwhelming so I always tell people to start with the smoothie. It is incredibly quick in the morning, easy to clean up and versatile. You start your day with one meal that contains more nutrients than some people get throughout the entire day (or even a week!) And, you introduce the most nutritional food group that is most lacking in our diets...greens!!! All of a sudden you go from eating no greens ever to eating several bunches a week. Pretty awesome!!! Plus it is the perfect venue to add in all those super foods you have been hearing about! Our current favorites are hemp, chia and/or flax seeds, kombucha and coconut water. 

Parents, smoothies are not for adults only! We all struggle with getting enough fruits and veggies into our little one's diets. A smoothie makes it so easy!  I started my son on smoothies when he was a little over one. I started with sweeter smoothies made with sweetened kefir, but over the course of the year, we have removed the kefir and just stick to fruits, veggies, greens and non-dairy milks or water. I have made some with strong flavors like cilantro, ginger or kombucha and he literally downs them and asks for more! He even helps me make them and at 2, he can identify almost every fruit and vegetable. Not to brag, but I am pretty proud of my little boy's budding culinary knowledge!  And it all started with making smoothies and juicing! Getting kids involved in the kitchen is a great way to get them to eat a wider variety of foods. Plus, we have come to such a horrific place regarding our food system in this country that I feel it is my duty to educate our children about food and nutrition because not only is the current system making American's sicker and sicker at a very fast pace, but the earth cannot sustain it for much longer!

Our standard smoothie is berries, banana, coconut milk, kale and hemp seeds, but with this cleanse I started changing it up and have really appreciated the variety! Plus, it just gives us even more of a variety in the nutrients we are getting which is also important. A few words about dairy: Many smoothie recipes out there call for cow's milk and yogurt. I encourage you to start your smoothie endeavor dairy free. Even if you choose to include dairy in your diet, the majority of American's consume too much dairy and this is a great opportunity to try some of the non-dairy options. Dairy is very acidic and our bones actually have to release calcium to help alkalize the effects dairy has on our bodies so the calcium we get from dairy doesn't really do us much good. Greens, on the other hand, have tons of calcium that are much more absorbable. Plus, reducing your dairy consumption is gentler on the planet and on the well-being of the poor cows that undeservingly dedicate their lives to suffer for our pleasure. Not to mention the fact that dairy is highly allergenic and causes issues like stomach discomfort, congestion, seasonal allergies, pain and fatigue

Now for the recipes. Some of these recipes are from internet sites or from the book "Clean". Some of them did not originally call for greens but I cannot make a smoothie without them so in they go! You wouldn't even know the difference! And mix up your greens! We use different varieties of kale and spinach the most, but occasionally we use chard, collards, dandelion greens, beet greens or romaine. You can also make your own nut milk by soaking 1 cup of nuts for 3 hours, blend with 3 cups water and strain through a fine mesh strainer. You can add your own vanilla or agave to taste. This will last for 2 days in fridge. If you are new to green smoothies, start with a handful of greens. As you adapt to the taste, keep adding more and more. I usually put all of my other ingredients in first, then fill the rest of the blender with greens. Feel free to leave out the agave. Bananas and dates make great sweeteners so play around with adding either one. A good blender is key. I plan to invest in a Vitamix soon, but for now I have a Ninja. I find that blending for at least a few minutes helps get a better consistency, especially when blending tougher greens like kale.

Green Tea Smoothie:
3 cups frozen grapes or peaches
2 cups spinach
1 1/2 cups strong brewed green tea, cooled (I've even used mint flavored)
1 avocado
2 t honey

Kombucha Smoothie:
1 small cucumber
2 kiwis
1 cup ginger kombucha
1-2 handfuls of greens
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 T cilantro
6 ice cubes 

Orange Smoothie:
2 cups frozen peaches
1 cup carrot juice
1 cup orange juice
1-2 handfuls of greens
2 T ground flax
1 T freshly grated or minced ginger

Almond Butter Energy Smoothie
1/4 cup almond butter
1 t ground cardamom or cinnamon
1/2 cup coconut water
1 cup almond milk or water
1 cup frozen peaches
1-2 handfuls of greens
2 T hemp seeds
1-2 tsp agave
1/2 cup ice

Chocolate Blueberry Smoothie (scrumptious dessert for breakfast!)
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 1/2 cups almond milk
1-2 handfuls of greens
2 T hemp seeds
1-2 tsp agave 
1-2tsp raw cacao powder, carob powder, or cocoa
1/2 cup ice

Tropical Green Smoothie
1 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 cup frozen mango
1-2 kiwis
1 cup almond or coconut milk
1/2 cup coconut water
1-2 handfuls of greens
1-2 t agave
1/2 cup ice

Apple/Pear Smoothie (I make this one a lot in the fall)
2 apples
2 pears
1 cup cabbage
1 T freshly grated or minced ginger
1-2 t cinnamon
1-2 handfuls of greens
1/2 cup apple juice
1 cup almond or coconut milk or water
1/4 cup pecans or almonds (optional)
1/4-1/2 cup leftover oatmeal (optional)


Friday, May 18, 2012

Week One of Cleanse

After one week of cleansing, I can feel my body starting to wake up from hibernation. Throughout the week, I noticed tons of subtle changes taking place. Here is a list of some of the things I experienced:

1. Cravings are starting to disappear which frees up my mind to think about other stuff. In fact, I am hardly thinking about food at all at this point! This has an incredible side effect of making me naturally more present.

2.Taste buds are back to appreciating truly organic, natural food. When you get your taste buds back to this point, it becomes so easy to satisfy them and still maintain your health. A chocolate blueberry smoothie  or a cheeseless, veggie pizza on a gluten free crust becomes a decadent indulgence.

3. My body is getting good at knowing when it is hungry vs. when it is thirsty or bored. It is also getting really good at knowing when it is full. I couldn't even finish several of my solid meals this week. And the day I made roasted, salted cashews for a snack, after a couple small handfuls, I was totally satisfied and didn't want anymore. Pre-cleanse I would have gobbled them all up without any awareness and barely any enjoyment!

4. I am naturally being drawn back to stretching, yoga, meditation, and exercise without really having to try. When I am in a bad diet rut, I usually lose motivation to take care of myself in other ways too. But now that I am back in control of my diet, I am effortlessly wanting to make other healthy choices too.

5. My energy levels are slowly starting to increase. Overall I have been more tired this week, but I can feel this surge of energy pulsing through my body, almost like a vibrational current. It makes me feel a little amped up and wired. It is natural to feel this way in the first week or two as your body is adapting to not only detoxing, but to having excess energy that has been freed up from the demands of digestion and responding to immune stressors. 

6. I feel calmer and less overwhelmed. I have definitely had my irritable moments, especially in the evening when my hunger and fatigue are at there worst. That is when I usually make a cup of tea and call it a night. I've been heading upstairs around 7:30 or 8:00pm to take a bath, read, and stretch before bed. Precleanse I was getting really overwhelmed with my to-do lists and it was really starting to stress me out! Now, that to-do list is still there but it is not overwhelming me! Plus, when I am not constantly stressed and overwhelmed, I'm more productive, so it is a major win-win!

7. My confidence is really starting to come back! I feel much more at peace when I am living life as my authentic self. When I make decisions that go against what I know and believe in, it creates major inner turmoil and conflict which leads to guilt and disgust. Living in harmony with our beliefs creates a much more peaceful environment that supports us and allows us to thrive!

8. The fire within has been reignited and my passion for food is back with a vengeance! All it takes is a good ole' book about our horrific food industry to enrage me back to reality!  The book I just finished called "The Unhealthy Truth" by Robyn O'Brien is a MUST read for our generation!  The deception and corruption in our country regarding the very building blocks we nourish our and our children's precious bodies with is enough to make you want to have a nervous breakdown. BUT, if we don't know it, we can't change it, we can only suffer from it!!! Now that I am a mother, you better believe I will fight for better health and a better life for my baby! The author of the book lives in Boulder, CO which is only an hour away from me so I plan to contact her to see how I can get involved. It is time to take a stand!

9. My body pain has gotten worse which has been the only negative this week. I was consuming a lot of gluten, dairy and eggs precleanse (all sensitivities for me) and sometimes it can take a week or two to get those irritants out of your system. Hopefully it will get better in the 2nd week.  I've been taking a lot of baths and stretching, and tomorrow I am scheduled for an infrared body wrap and a deep tissue massage so at least I am trying to help get it under control!

10. My nasal passages are not driving me insane! It is SO dry here in Colorado and everything suffers, but especially my nasal passages. Every breath in and out would seriously irritate the crap out of me. But, now that I am drinking about a gallon of water a day, that annoyance has pretty much disappeared, with the added annoyance of spending half my day in the bathroom. Hooray!

11. Lastly, I lost 4 lbs! I had gradually gained about 5 lbs since the holidays so it was nice to say goodbye fairly quickly to those extra little bulges!

So as you can see, a lot of transformation is starting to take place in just one week! Cannot wait to see what the next two unfold!!!

Be Empowered. Be Authentic. Be at Peace. Be.