Tag Archives: garden

Simple, Beautiful, Whole Foods

I don’t eat whole foods exclusively, but I definitely take advantage of their wonderful simplicity whenever I have the opportunity.

One of my favorite things about eating whole foods is the appreciation I’ve gained for natural, beautiful, single ingredients

Like these tiny little organic potatoes I purchased from a local farmer…

There was a time when I would have fiddled with these potatoes, adding ingredients until they were unrecognizable.

No more.

Now, I know that letting these babies shine on their own, roasted with just a touch of olive oil and sea salt, is what appeals to me most.

Sometimes, a single, perfect ingredient can really help take a few others to a whole new level. 

For example, the beautiful bright red tomato from our garden that, when combined with our basil, garlic and yellow pear tomatoes (along with a bit of fresh mozz) took our quickie pizza from merely “good” to “Let’s make another one!”

And once in a while, a very special magic happens, and a few of these simple ingredients that are so perfect on their own come together to create a whole foods masterpiece. (Which is exactly what happened when I checked my inbox and found this Guacamole Salad recipe from Katie at Health for the Whole Self. Thanks, Katie! I just happened to have all the ingredients on hand, although in different colors…)

In case you haven’t noticed, eating clean, natural, whole foods makes me downright giddy.

The only thing that makes me giddier (giddier?!) is the hope that I can pass on an apprecation for whole foods to my boy.

On that note, I’m off to the garden to go find some more! It’s a stellar September day, with a little sun and a little breeze, and there are lots of butternuts and beets in the garden, waiting patiently to be roasted for this little one…who, incidentally, turns 10 months old today! 

He’s far cuter than my computer, so today I’m all his.

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Do you try to incorporate “whole foods” into your everyday diet? Is there a whole ingredient (veg, fruit, grain, etc.) that, in it’s simplicity and perfection, you just LOVE?


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Filed under Green Living, Home & Garden, Parenting & Family, Recipes & Food

The Hydration Project: Eat Your Water

Not a big drinker? Me neither. That’s why I started The Hydration Project. Read about it here.

Did you know that many fruits and vegetables contain upwards of 90% water, making them a great way to add vital water to your diet and keep you properly hydrated? 

As if there weren’t already enough good reasons to eat your fruits and veggies!

It’s the water content that makes it possible for many fruits and veggies, such as salad greens, to deliver so few calories per serving. 

Consider one of my favorites: cucumbers! 

Composed primarily of water, cucumbers also have a fiber-rich skin. What’s the one thing you need when consuming more fiber? Water! See…it’s perfect! Isn’t Ma Nature’s food amazing when we don’t mess with it!

Watermelon is another good hydrator, but given that it’s called a watermelon, I’ll just leave that as  ‘nuff said.

Oranges, strawberries, cantaloupe, broccoli, bok choy, tomatoes…the list of foods that can help keep you from shriveling up like a raisin is a long one.

(I found a really helpful list of hydrating foods and the amount of water they contain on Shape Magazine’s website. Some meats are even on there…interesting….)

Raw fruits and veggies are highest in water content, but if it’s a hot meal you’re after, soups can also contribute to your daily fluid intake. Watch sodium, though. Start with either a low-sodium broth, or an easy homemade chicken or vegetable stock (a great way to use up odds and ends before they end up in the compost!) and season to taste with herbs, spices and salt controlled by you, not a manufacturer. Fill your soup full of vegetables for lots of flavor, nutrients and a burst of hydration! Your body will thank you on so many levels. 

Here’s a soup I recently made based on suggestions from many of my helpful readers! (See my original post here.) It’s an adaptation of one of my favorites: Stuffed Pepper Soup. Thanks to everyone for their healthy tweak ideas—I combined many of them and came up with a soup that, in my opinion, is way better than the original! And, with more veggies and less salt,  I’d be willing to bet it’s a good bit more hydrating, too….

ABCGP Stuffed Pepper Soup

  • 1 pound lean ground beef (or turkey or meatless crumbles)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 5 large fresh tomatoes (ours were Brandywine)
  • 3 large green bell peppers, diced (for extra flavor, roast pepper first, then dice)
  • 2 cups brown rice, cooked
  • 1 packet low-sodium beef bouillon (or your favorite soup base)
  • 1 T oregano (or season to taste with thyme, sage, or other favorite herbs)
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Brown ground beef in a skillet with onion and garlic. Drain. 

Put tomatoes in food processor and puree.  Add to crock pot. Add green peppers and beef mixture. Add seasonings and water; mix. Let cook on low for 6 hours or high for 3 hours, adding precooked rice about 20 minutes before end of cooking time.

Not the prettiest photo, but a darned bangin’ soup. It’s a good thing, too, because our peppers are taking over the joint!

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Do you think of foods as being part of your daily water intake?

What’s your favorite hydrating meal/snack?

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My 100th post: Reflections and Goals

(Cue balloons and confetti… oh, and presents are OK, too!)

Hooray for my 100th post!! Woooo!

Well, we’ll just pretend this is my 100th post. It’s actually 102, but this has been a thoroughly crappy week so I blew right past it. Today, however, is a better day. :D

I started my blog in March, when my son was a few months old and I was getting back into the groove of things after my maternity leave. I was adjusting to new mommyhood, had just returned to work part-time, and was looking for a way to hold on to my interests, do a little writing and maybe meet some new like-minded friends. And, to be perfectly honest, I really just wanted to learn a little bit about how to use my computer.

I had no idea what I was in for! I can do things with my trusty Mac that I never thought I could (I’ve even had people ask ME for help!), and I’ve learned countless other things from the many blogs I’ve discovered. I’d go so far to say that blogging has affected the way I live down to the very core! Not only do I get to write about topics that interest me, but there are actual people out there –really inspirational, supportive, and amazingly talented people –who share my opinions, ideas and passions! Luckily, you all share your knowledge, too! What a gift to have found you all, especially since my life is not overflowing with people who share my views on most things.

(Plus, every so often, I even get a sample or two of something fun in the mail! Bonus!)

These days, my son is going on ten months old, reaching new milestones every day, and starting to enjoy the foodie action that goes on in my household. I’m considering going back to work full-time, for various reasons, which will alter my lifestyle to some extent. So, I thought it was about time to restate my mission here and clarify for everyone what you’ll be seeing in the coming months!

1. More Food!

Yes, food will still be here.

Old favorites…

and new!

Healthy, natural foods, gardening, and fun kitchen adventures are such big parts of my life that my blog wouldn’t be my blog without them. I’m lucky enough to have a husband that will try anything, and I’m hoping that love of exploration passes on to our son (I have a good feeling it already has…) I will be keeping my personal circumstances in mind when choosing foods, so here are some of the criteria that will guide my way…

  • We are still nursing, and hoping to add another little one to our family, so high nutrient value is very important. Low-fat and low-cal are not so important right now, but folate, calcium, protein and healthy fats sure are!
  • I am still hypertensive, so sodium is a concern. I do find that cutting out processed foods has made the biggest difference, however, so I do use a little salt in my cooking. No biggie.
  • I am still on hypothyroid medication, too. Not sure if diet or lifestyle can affect that, but I’d like to find out…
  • I’m not cutting out sugar, but I am cutting back on sugar. Being so tired and busy has caused me to turn to sugar a little more than I’d like, and given that diabetes does run in my family (and I had gestational diabetes) it’s something I’d like to conquer now. (Don’t think you won’t be seeing holiday cookies, though!)
  • Hydration, hydration, hydration! (More about this in tomorrow’s post! Don’t miss it!)
  • As always, I will continue to strive for a diet that is fresh and natural, with lots of whole foods and very little dairy. I’m thinking that gradually including my son into our family meals will provide even more incentive to stick to it…
  • Even within the restrictions of a busy schedule and tight budget, I will always choose local and organic foods when possible. That said, food also has to be interesting, fun and just plain good

2. Less Food!

That’s right. I know I just described my food mission, but I do have a life outside the kitchen and most of that part of my life revolves around this cute little one.

Just as with food, I strive for all things natural when it comes to raising my son. Most plastics are on their way out of our lives (I say that as I show you a picture of a plastic laundry basket :roll: I’m trying…), as are any other toxins we can get rid of. There are just SO many positive changes that can be made with just a little effort! The more I research and learn, there seems to be a better alternative for almost everything, from toys and diapers to household items and beauty products, and even the way we go about doing things, and I would like to share them as I find them.  

You’ll also see some posts about the struggles and triumphs of parenting. I believe in the concept of attachment parenting, which I look at as a very natural and intuitive way of raising children – a return to our instincts as mothers and parents. I breastfeed,  co-sleep (part-time) and engage in many other AP practices that keep my child close and connected. Attachment Parenting International lists the 8 principles of AP:

  • Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting
  • Feed with Love and Respect
  • Respond with Sensitivity
  • Use Nurturing Touch
  • Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally
  • Provide Consistent and Loving Care
  • Practice Positive Discipline
  • Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life

Nice, eh? But I also have a career that is important to me, and I’m not ready to abandon that at this point. So, while the two might seem in direct conflict with each other, I believe I can find a balance...the right balance, and I plan to share that journey here, too. After all, API describes the long-range vision of Attachment Parenting as raising children that will “become adults with a highly developed capacity for empathy and connection. It eliminates violence as a means for raising children, and ultimately helps to prevent violence in society as a whole.” So, it’s worth it, don’t you think?

Check out API for lots more great info on attachment parenting, and feel free to comment if you have any advice or tips for me! I’d love to hear from you! 

So, I’m excited to write my next 100 posts, and to read yours! If you have any friends that might share my interests, please tell them to drop by and introduce themselves. I’ll return the favor! 

I’ll do my best to stay current, but if I happen to drop off for a day or two, it just means I’m focusing my efforts on achieving that balance thing I mentioned earlier, and I’ll be back! Once in a while, a nap, tickle fight or impromptu picnic really can be the most important thing in the world. 

Happy blogging, everyone, and thanks for reading!

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Filed under Parenting & Family, The Everyday

Everyday Eats

Squash blossoms, stuffed, and baked into the middle of a muffin?

Yup. I’m constantly impressed by the recipes I find while blogreading. There are so many talented, passionate and wildly creative people out there, and the inspiration is enough to make me feel like there aren’t enough days in a lifetime to sample all the wonderful creations that are currently on my to-make list.

I, on the other hand, am not so much of a recipe person. Yes, I spent years in the bakery business, and yes, I used lots of recipes. And occasionally, you’ll even find that I post recipes right here on my blog. After all, really good ones are fun to share. But, in the name of being fully honest and forthcoming with my readers, I rarely cook with a recipe. I’ve said it before, but I often find myself wondering if I should bother posting my simple fare. More often than not, I go to the grocery store with the best of intentions and visions of recipe greatness dancing in my head, only to have my efforts thwarted by such things as new writing projects, diaper laundry and a baby that’s been teething non-stop for almost 5 months. Many of the ingredients that were destined for greatness wind up in the compost bin, or we end up eating a random assembly of “whatever” to avoid such a wasteful situation.

Sometimes I feel like a foodie failure because my everyday meals are not so elaborate, and really don’t require that much skill to prepare. I mean, who would want to read a blog about my food, right? Other times, I feel like pretty much of a foodie rock star because my meals and snacks are fresh, whole, unprocessed and uncluttered, allowing the ingredients to shine without a lot of fuss. Which feeling is more accurate? I think I know the answer, but I’ll let you form your own opinion. ;)

So, I thought I’d share a few recent eats that seem to speak the most about where I am in my culinary life right now. I’m sure that someday, when babies are grown and my work schedule settles down, when my kitchen is more than a few square feet and I actually own a dishwasher, I’ll return to the world of ingredients lists and precise instructions, but for now, here’s me…on a plate:

My favorite breakfast? Oats. I soak them overnight in almond milk, then embellish in the morning with whatever is on hand and ripe. My favorite? Cherries, almonds and Artisana Cacao Bliss (which is aptly named, because it is pure heaven on Earth, and don’t let anybody tell you different.) Lately, I’ve also been a little obsessed with adding precooked brown rice and cardamom to my oats to make it taste like my favorite rice pudding.

A summer classic: the tomato sandwich. Even on the finest menus in the world, it’s hard to beat the taste of a fresh tomato from your backyard garden, 2 slices of grilled bread, a few basil leaves, sea salt and a smear of mayo.

Sometimes, lunch is just a hodge-podge of whatever happens to be really ripe and ready. It’s not the most cohesive thing, but every time I do this is one time I am not driving through ordering my lunch from someone wearing a visor.

See…there’s a shake of oregano on the tomatoes. That shows a little effort, right? :neutral: Oh, and that Greek Gods yogurt is vanilla, cinnamon and orange flavor…good for banana dippin’!

And sometimes, to avoid total meltdown, I do resort to prepackaged foods, but I fully hawk-eye the ingredients list first. This mandarin orange salmon passed the test…

Not perfect, but not a bad lunch for one that was prepared during my boy’s 30-minute nap, during which I also had to shower and clean my entire house! (Guess how much of that actually got accomplished?)

So, there’s a little snapshot of what’s on my plate on any given day. For now, the more elaborate recipes will have to wait until Sunday afternoon, or the occasional day where the planets align and I have time to lose myself in the kitchen. I have a feeling they’ll still be there, waiting patiently for me, when I return.

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What’s on your everyday plate?

If you have a blog, do you blog about everything, including your day-to-day meals, or do you highlight the best of the best?

Don’t forget, there are still a few days left to enter my CSN giveaway! I know there’s a new kitchen appliance or two you’ve been eyeing, so what are you waiting for? ;)

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Filed under Recipes & Food, The Everyday

My Favorite Way To Do Deep Dish

I was born in Jersey, and raised on Long Island, with an Italian mom. So, yeah. I like pizza.

But as much as I like a good New York-style foldable slice, covered in thick cheese and loads of garlic and mushrooms, I like this kind even more…

The bakery I used to work in might have deemed this a focaccia, but in my world this is deep dish garden pizza heaven.

This is what we eat during the time of year when the garden is giving us more than we can handle. The ingredients vary a little each time we make it, depending on what is ripe and ready at any given moment. It also boasts the added bonus of being really easy and quick to make, which comes in super handy these days. The convenience of take-out and fast food is SO tempting, so I’m glad I have this favorite to turn to, because most of the other easy options are just plain crap.

On this particular day, the yellow pear tomatoes were abundant, the Brandywines were just reaching perfection, and the basil was beginning to get out of control. We also had some garden garlic that had dried to perfection out in the sun.

So, I picked up some store-bought pizza crust dough (gasp!) and an all-natural rotisserie chicken (the key on weeknights is “easy.”) Even though I have cut way, way back on dairy, a pizza’s gotta have cheese, so I also grabbed exactly 4 little fresh mozzarella balls (the ones that are about the size of a cherry tomato) which was more than adequate.

Rotisserie chickens usually yield enough lean, white meat for 2 pizzas (more if you’re a good picker, which I’m not), which is pretty cost-effective considering the time and energy savings of not having to cook it at home. So I cut what I needed from the chicken and tossed it with the yellow pear tomatoes, halved, and the Brandywine, cut into bite-sized chunks. I drizzled them all with olive oil and a good shake of oregano, sea salt and pepper.

This is the part where my deep dish baking stone from Pampered Chef gets to shine. That thing makes such a nice, perfectly baked pizza (and phenomenal cinnamon rolls!) and it just might be one of my favorite kitchen items.

After pushing the garlic through a press, I rubbed it on the crust, and piled my chicken and veggies on top. Then, I baked it according to the package instructions (the ones on the crust package.) About 5 minutes before it finished, I cut up the mozzarella balls with kitchen scissors, then rolled and sliced the basil, chiffonade-style, and scattered both about the top of the pizza. I like to add them at the very end because they are way too delicate to endure the entire baking time.

A few minutes later, the house was filled with the fragrance of fresh tomato, basil and garlic. Pure heaven.

What I love about this recipe is that it’s not a recipe. It’s just a simple, budget-friendly way to use what we have, enjoy what’s fresh, and give my family a meal that’s easy without sacrificing quality or taste. And when our boy is old enough, he can not only help us eat it, but he can help make it, too, with the vegetables he helped us grow. You just don’t get that sense of satisfaction out of a box. 

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Any suggestions on how I can healthy up this crust? I need an easy option, but haven’t found a good store-bought whole wheat yet.

What would you top this pizza with in your kitchen?

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Filed under Recipes & Food