My favorite Alternative to Pasta plus a recipe: Beef and Zucchini Skillet

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Beef and Zucchini SkilletI have always loved tomatoes and all things involving tomatoes, but during pregnancy it reaches a whole new level. Prior to the real food switch, spaghetti and lasagna were my  favorite foods. Luckily, I don’t have to give them up!

My absolute favorite substitute for pasta is zucchini and squash. There are many variations in how to slice the squash. One I haven’t tried, but Carrie from Deliciously Organic suggested is a tool that actually makes the squash into “noodles”. Thanks to Katie from The Wellness Mama, I have made various adaptations of her Beef and Zucchini Skillet a million times and never get tired of it.

Beef and Zucchini Skillet with Easy Homemade Pasta Sauce

Ingredients

  • 3-4 medium zucchini or yellow squash
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 pound of grass-fed ground beef, browned and cooked through
  • shredded grass-fed cheese, I use Kerrygold
  • 1 15oz can organic tomato sauce, no salt added
  • 1 tsp garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, oregano, basil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • splash of balsamic vinegar and olive oil – I think it adds a little kick, but it’s an optional touch.

Slice zucchini or chop however you like – there’s no wrong way to do this. Saute zucchini and onion until tender. I usually leave it a little al dente to get a little crisp. While zucchini and onion are cooking place tomato sauce, spices and splash of balsamic vinegar and olive oil (if using) in a pan until heated through and spices are well incorporated. Now that you have your beef, zucchini and sauce, simply layer your plate with a couple spoonfuls of each to make the best alternative to spaghetti you will ever eat.

My 19 month old daughter LOVES this and it’s the only way she will eat zucchini. We had this for lunch today and it was even more exciting since she ate out of her “neemie” (Finding Nemo) bowl.

Emma's Beef and Zucchini Skillet

We also finished off lunch with some yummy almond meal chocolate chip cookies. She even “helped” me make them this time. Total time from start to finish is under 20 minutes. Yum!

Almond Meal Cookies

Best way to Eat Liver: Beef and Liver Meatballs

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liver meatballs

So, I know what you are thinking … liver – ugh. I did too until I discovered this delicious way to get this nutritious food into my body. According to Chris Kresser, liver is “nature’s most potent superfood“. He says that “organ meats are between 10 and 100 times higher in nutrients than corresponding muscle meats” (just check out his chart comparing the micronutrient profile of carrots, apples, red meat and beef liver!). Gross factor aside, many people shy away from liver because they think it is the storage organ for toxins in the body. Although the liver does act as the body’s filter, it does not store these toxins. Instead, it actually does store important nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E, K, B12 and folic acid. Toxins are more likely to accumulate in the fatty tissue of the animal. A word of caution: pastured beef is always the best option. Check out this picture here comparing conventional, organic and pasture raised chicken liver. Scary! Go to Eat Wild and find a local pastured beef source near you.

As you may know, I am 25 weeks pregnant with my second daughter and I do eat liver once a week. If you google “liver and pregnancy” you will find hundreds of articles telling you about the dangers of eating liver while pregnant because of the risks of getting too much vitamin A. However, as you also know, I don’t accept conventional wisdom without first doing a little digging to find out the truth. According to Mark Sisson liver is one of the top 5 foods to eat when trying to conceive and when planning a healthy pregnancy:

Ounce for ounce, liver is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. It’s loaded with fat soluble vitamins like retinol (pre-formed vitamin A) that are crucial for reproductive health, and difficult to obtain elsewhere in the diet. Liver is also a great source of highly absorbable iron, which helps prevent miscarriage and maternal anemia, and B12, which is required for proper formation of red blood cells and DNA. Liver is also a good source of bioavailable protein, zinc, and folate.

So, if you’ve always wanted to cook liver, but have been intimidated like I was, you’ve got to try this recipe. It’s in my husband’s top 3 favorite meals I cook!
liver meatballs 2

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound pastured beef liver
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2-4 slices of coursely chopped bacon, cooked with fat reserved
  • 1/2 small onion, finely diced
  • salt & pepper, about 1/2 teaspoon of each

Place the liver in a food processor – I used a magic bullet – for a few pulses until you have broken up the liver, but not completely pureed it. {Yes, this is the part where my “oh my gosh I might be sick” face comes out. However, if you can muscle through, I promise the result it worth it!} Combine liver ground beef and cooked bacon pieces salt and pepper into 1 inch meatballs.

Pour reserved bacon fat into pan and cook the meatballs in the bacon fat until no longer pink in center. I have cooked them on the stove top and in the oven with great success. In the oven, I baked on 350 degrees and cooked for about 30 minutes, rotating halfway.

These really are the best way I have ever had liver – hope you enjoy!

A Real Food Day for our 19 Month Old

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Strawberry picking

When I started this blog, it was mainly a way to document our own real food journey and to have a personal catalog of recipes and resources to go back on. We would have said we ate Primal or Paleo-ish, hence the name Simply “Primal” Family. Recently, I have been saying instead of “primal/paleo” or even labeling it at all, that we eat Real Old Fashioned Food, which I guess is a label in itself, but you get the point. I have found that having a specific label puts you in a category where people will judge (myself included) everything you eat saying, “well that’s not paleo is it?” or “are you supposed to eat that on the primal diet?”. We aren’t on a diet, we’re just living and eating. I’m not an expert and definitely don’t have all the answers, but from the research I’ve done and the results our family has seen, eating a real unprocessed food diet high in good fats, proteins and tons of veggies is the most effective, tasty and simple way of eating.

As my daughter is starting to get more of an opinion and personality of her own, I want to teach her good habits in the way of food. I don’t want her to be overly obsessed with it, scrutinizing every bite she puts in her mouth. And I don’t want her to just eat whatever someone gives her because it comes with a toy or is neon and sugar coated. I want her to know that broccoli can taste good (which is tied with onions as her favorite vegetable right now – she asks for them by name, “brokki” and “onye”). She loves beef or “beast” as she calls it and drinks enough water that some days I think she may float away! I also want her to have fun food experiences and get to actually see where the food we eat comes from. We make weekly trips to the local farm and love excursions like the one above where we went and picked strawberries. I think she ate more than we took home, but she loved digging beneath the leaves to find the perfect red strawberry.

She is currently really into “dipping” her food, which makes me very aware of the sauces I’m using to dip my own food (aka processed dips like ketchup, barbeque sauce, etc. – good accountability!). So what does a typical real food day look like for our 19 month old daughter? Here goes …

Breakfast – She usually wakes up asking for her “dink” or water. Most days I will make up a “green juice” for her, which consists of a handful of greens with a splash of 100% juice and water, which she drinks while I’m making breakfast. I make about 6 scrambled eggs for myself, my husband and Emma with different variations of sauteed onions, greens, peppers, etc. Some days she will eat about one egg, some days less and some days she only wants egg and will eat a lot! I’ll usually have some sort of pastured, organic bacon or sausage (from Mountain Valley Farm) and she will ask for “bacon, bacon, bacon”. She also usually gets a few spoonfuls of organic whole milk yogurt (3:1 plain and vanilla) which she is loving because she’s started learning to eat it with a spoon by herself. This gets a little messy, but she loves to “dip” her eggs or bacon in there as well, haha.

Mid-morning Snack – This snack is kind of unnecessary for her since she wakes up around 7-7:30am and eats lunch around 11:15am, so most days she doesn’t have one and doesn’t seem to miss it. If she starts asking for a snack or telling me she’s “hungy” then I will give her something light like some berries or half a banana or just move lunch up 15 minutes or so. She walks around with her water everywhere she goes and is drinking water all throughout the day.

Lunch – A hot lunch would consist of leftovers from the night before (a meat and some kind of vegetables) with maybe some fruit and a cold lunch may consist of avocado, grass-fed cheese, organic deli turkey with some berries.

A typical lunch for my husband and I is a huge salad with loads of veggies. Emma is not quite old enough to dig into a salad with knife and fork, so I try to make sure she gets a good helping of greens in everyday, whether that’s from “green juice” (handful of greens, splash of 100% juice and water), green smoothies or lots of broccoli and green veggies with a meal.

Afternoon Snack – Depending on what she has already had earlier in the day a typical snack can be any number of things from sliced apples and almond butter (again she loves this so she can “dip” her food) to almond meal chocolate chip cookie to frozen peas (she loves them!). I’ve written here about some good real food snack ideas for kids.

Dinner – I don’t cook separate meals for adults and kids. Emma eats whatever we are eating. Our dinners are simple; they consist of a meat and a couple vegetables. I make sure at least one of the vegetables is one I know she likes. For instance, she’s not a fan of brussel sprouts yet, so I will mix in some broccoli with it since she loves broccoli. Stir frys are great, like this one, since there are several vegetables to choose from, so I will fix her a plate and let her choose what she wants to eat.

Night time Milk – This is the only time of day she drinks anything other than water or “green juice”. She will drink about 8 ounces of whole, organic, grass-fed raw milk at night before she goes to bed.

I am fortunate in that our real food journey started about a year before Emma was born and she doesn’t know what processed food is and has been raised on real food without the wheat from the start. However, I do realize that if your children are older and you have recently switched to a real food diet, they may be used to eating the processed foods and not quite as willing to try the “adult” food. Mark Sisson from Marks Daily Apple has a great article about “How to Go Primal: For Parents” that helps prioritize your real food journey with your whole family.

And remember, no one is perfect. A bite of processed food here or there isn’t going to cause a lifetime disease in one meal. It’s about educating yourselves and your children. I like to keep it simple: Eat Real Food. Not too much. Mostly Plants. (thanks Michael Pollan ;))

What foods do your kids like?

 

Homemade Baby Diaper Rash Cream

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diaper cream

I first became interested in making my own baby products and especially diaper cream when I began reading more about the dangers of talc (which is in almost every commercial brand), especially for girls. You can read more about the dangers of talc here. In a nutshell, once I realized that talc closely resembled asbestos and many studies have shown the link between talc exposure and the development of tumors in the ovaries and lungs, I knew I didn’t want it anywhere near my daughter. In this recipe, arrowroot powder is used and acts to absorb moisture in the same way as talc without the harmful side effects.

The other key ingredients are shea butter and coconut oil and as you know, we love coconut oil in our house. We cook with it, use it in smoothies and even make other homemade body products like deodorant, body lotion and chapstick. When my daughter was an infant I stumbled upon this recipe from Passionate Homemaking for homemade diaper rash cream and have been using this ever since. I use it as an everyday preventative cream and she has only had diaper rash once and it was when we were traveling and I forgot to bring it with us – oops.

The combination of coconut oil and shea butter makes this diaper cream not only moisturizing, but adds beneficial healing properties to the skin. Coconut oil has natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, while shea butter is rich in vitamins A, E and F and acts to sooth the skin. Make sure you find a raw shea butter as many of the commercial brands add deodorizers, chemicals and other bleaches, which can not only irritate the skin but destroy the vitamins, minerals and natural healing properties. Raw shea butter is distinguished by its nutty smell.

Ingredients

  • 1/8 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup raw shea butter 
  • 3-4 tablespoons arrowroot powder (you can order it online or find it in the baking section of most grocery stores)


Combine coconut oil and shea butter in a small bowl using a large spoon, pressing it until it is mixed well (this can also count as your upper body workout for the day :)). If your shea butter is a bit grainy, you can melt it over low heat and then cool it quickly in the fridge for about 10 minutes or set outside if it’s a cool day. This will allow the grains to dissolve and leave you with a smooth texture.

Once the coconut oil and shea butter are combined well, add the arrowroot powder one tablespoon at a time until you reach your desired thickness. It will look very similar to whipped icing. You are finished! Transfer to a small container and place it conveniently next to the changing table. This can also be used with cloth diapers and according to Lindsay from Passionate Homemaking, washes out beautifully. Make a couple to put in your diaper bag for easy access while traveling.

This makes a great gift for a new mom. Place it in a small glass jelly jar, wrap with some twine and voila – thoughtful, useful and natural gift!

Have you ever tried making your own diaper cream?

Bacon wrapped Salmon Cakes with Mashed Parsnips

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blog

After not having much in the fridge and suddenly realizing there was a can of salmon in the pantry – this dinner happened and I’m so glad it did. I got the inspiration for both from the Wellness Mama and Paleo Diet Lifestyle and did a little changing of my own.

We have been tweaking my husband’s diet a little bit to try to get rid of the Psoriasis (the arthritis is gone though!) and he’s been on the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol for a little over a week now. He will be doing some posts coming soon about this. It’s basically Paleo with a few extra steps: no dairy, no egg whites, no nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, pepper spices, potatoes, eggplant). The hardest part has been no tomatoes and no egg whites, but so far it really hasn’t been too hard to adapt into our lifestyle. This recipe does have one egg and a tsp of mustard (which is a seed and he’s not supposed to have – go figure), but other than that it’s Paleo and Autoimmune friendly! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Our 19 month old daughter wasn’t too excited about the mashed parsnips, but kept taking bites of the bacon wrapped salmon and saying “mmm”.

Bacon Wrapped Salmon Cakes (makes 4-6 small salmon cakes)

  • 1 can wild caught salmon
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 small onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard, or regular if that’s all you have
  • 1 egg
  • 5 or 6 pieces of bacon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together canned salmon and rest of ingredients except bacon. Form small patties and place on a baking sheet or pyrex dish to go in the oven. Wrap salmon cakes with bacon and place in the oven. You want to cook it until the bacon is browned and starts to get crispy. I cooked it for 20 minutes and then flipped them over for another 20 minutes and they were perfect.

Mashed Parsnips topped with Greens and Mushrooms 

  • 3 large parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk or I used coconut cream
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • couple handfuls of greens; kale, spinach, collards, etc.
  • handful of mushrooms, diced

Boil Parsnips until very tender (about 30 for me). Drain water and mash with a potato masher (or place in a blender for quick and easy mashing). Add coconut milk or cream and spices.

Saute greens and mushrooms until tender and add a couple spoonfuls on top of the mashed parsnips. Parsnips have a particular taste, which we love. My husband called it piney, which I think is about right. They have a sweet, piney taste. Paired with these salmon cakes, we were one full and happy family after dinner.

Frozen Banana and Almond Butter Sandwiches

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banana almond butter

One of my favorite snacks is a banana with almond butter. What’s better than that on a warm day? Frozen almond butter and banana sandwiches! I found the idea for these sometime last year and wonder why I never thought about this in the first place. Two of my favorite things, frozen – so simple.

There were a lot more on the tray, but my husband loves these even more than me so I had to sneak in a picture before they were all gone. Our daughter loves these too, just get ready for some messy hands. I will put her in her high chair next time to contain the mess. Lesson learned.

Here’s how to make these delicious, simple snacks with only TWO ingredients:

Bananas

Almond butter (I used Trader Joe’s Creamy and salted. Normally I buy freshly ground – either will work)

* optional: If you want to sweeten the almond butter middle a little bit, you can mash a banana and mix in with the almond butter before you make your sandwiches.  *

Simply slice the bananas into 1 inch pieces and place a little bit of almond butter and top with another banana piece. Continue until all your banana pieces are gone. Place in the freezer for a couple hours and enjoy!

What is your favorite warm weather treat? I love homemade popsicles and can’t wait to share a few of my favorites soon!

BBQ Brisket Tacos with Coleslaw

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tacos 2

Yesterday my daughter and I took a much needed and joyous trip to Trader Joe’s (I never realized how much I would miss that place until we moved an hour away from one!). Luckily, there is one on the way to my OB’s office, so not only do I look forward to seeing the little growing baby in my belly, but I get to stop by Trader Joe’s AND Target! It’s the little things, ya know? I was excited to get my non chemical and food dye laden pickles and pickle relish. Can you tell I’m pregnant? Yep, I got 2 jars of each. I can’t seem to find pickles or relish anywhere that don’t have yellow 5 or 6 or high fructose corn syrup in them.  They always seem to have the best avocados too. We go through quite a few of those in our house. I also got a little “treat” for dinner. I figured our 5 year wedding anniversary was worth celebrating with some BBQ beef brisket and homemade coleslaw tacos. Yes, it was worth it.

My favorite Tex-mex restaurant is again over an hour from us, so I wanted to try and recreate their “Memphis taco”. If I do say so myself, I think I came pretty darn close if not right on. I bought a beautiful grass-fed beef brisket at our local farm this week with that memphis taco on my mind. So we splurged on flour taco shells, but inside was the real food deal.

Here’s what I used:

  • Slow cooked beef brisket – 6 hours on low in crock pot – topped with homemade BBQ sauce (recipe below)
  • shredded cabbage
  • homemade mayo – I’ve referenced this before, but if you haven’t made it yet, you definitely should, it’s SO incredibly easy and delicious. 
  • fresh ground pepper
  • avocado
  • cilantro
  • fresh lime juice
  • flour tortillas OR I’ve never tried them, but have been wanting to make them, coconut tortillas

While the brisket is cooking all day, you have plenty of time to make the homemade mayo and barbeque sauce. I’m not a huge mayonnaise fan, but this one, I love. It’s easy and best of all, I know what’s in it: egg, lemon juice, ground mustard, salt, pepper, and olive oil.

mayo

This homemade mayonnaise is thick, creamy and delicious.

bbq and mayo

I store my homemade condiments in glass jars and label with the date.

Homemade BBQ Sauce

I used this basic recipe but instead of ketchup I used plain tomato sauce and added a little salt, garlic powder, more vinegar and less sugar.

  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 3/4 cup red wine vinegar 
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground mustard
  • 2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper 

Mix all ingredients together and you get the perfect mix of sweet and sour to go right along with your beef brisket. If you like yours more sweet or more vinegar tasting you can add or subtract some of each to suit your taste. That’s the best thing about homemade sauces – you just keep going and adding until you get what you like!

tacos

Enjoy!

My Real Food Pantry

carrotsrealfoodchallenge

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Here is my imperfect list of ingredients that make up our real food, wheat-free, mostly grain and sugar free lifestyle. We try to eat 100% real, natural, organic, unprocessed and whole foods in our home. This way, on those few occasions that we go out to dinner or eat at a friend’s house we can do so with good conscience and enjoy the company,  not stressing so much about the ingredients of every morsel of food we put in our body.

Oils & Fats:

Grass-Fed Butter – right now I buy Kerrygold, but would love to find a good source of raw butter or even start making my own!

Olive Oil 

Coconut Oil – I buy organic, unrefined, extra-virgin and use this in everything from cooking, smoothies, body products (deodorantlotionchapstick, diaper cream).

Organic, Grass-Fed Lard – Our local farm or US Wellness Meats 

Bacon Fat – When we cook our bacon from our local farm, I keep a glass jar that I pour the extra bacon fat into. It’s amazing how a little dab of bacon fat can make sauteed vegetables that much better!

**To read more about healthy fats: Click here

Sweeteners: 

Raw Local Honey

Organic Sugar – I don’t use sugar for anything really, other than to occasionally put in my coffee and to have for guests.

Organic Maple Syrup

Coconut Sugar – I haven’t tried it yet, but I want to switch the small bit of sugar we have in the house to coconut sugar. Here is where I will order.

** Despite what you have been told, agave nectar is not in any way good for you. Read more here.

A few of my favorite “go-to” Seasonings: 

Italian Seasoning

Sea Salt

Fresh Black Pepper

Garlic Powder

Cumin

Curry

I don’t bake much anymore as my sweet tooth is almost non-existant since switching to a real food, wheat-free diet. However, when the craving does hit, here are a few things I use:

Almond Meal or Almond Flour

Coconut Flour – Bob’s Red Mill Coconut Flour

Organic Cocoa powder – My main use for this is when I make my 2 minute hot chocolate.

Pure Vanilla extract – I get mine at Costco. You just want to make sure it only contains 3 ingredients: vanilla beans, water, and alcohol.

Arrowroot Powder – I use this as a 1:1 ratio for corn starch and also in all of my natural beauty products.

real food

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Canned, Dry or Pantry goods:

Canned Salmon – I get Bear & Wolf Wild Alaskan Salmon from Costco. I am very skeptical about where I buy my sea food, especially with the GMO salmon happening (so gross and wrong). However, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods and a handful of other big grocers have made the decision to not carry GMO salmon in their stores – so I will be going to these stores!

Organic Oats – We eat a soaked oatmeal breakfast about once a week.

Albacore Tuna

Black Beans - I soak these in whey for 12-24 hours, then cook them on the stove for 4 hours. This removes most of the harmful phytic acid (substance found in grains and legumes that bind to minerals and don’t allow your body to absorb them).

Organic Quinoa – I get mine at Costco in a huge bag for a great deal. This is great as a quick side or as a great, wheat-free pizza dough alternative.

White Rice – for the occasional treat with Sesame Seed Chicken or Chicken Curry

Sweet Potatoes and White Potatoes – I always have at least a few of each on hand for easy sides like; sweet potato fries, hash browns, soups or frittatas.

Winter Squash – butternut, spaghetti and acorn

Tomatoes – I LOVE any and all tomatoes and go through a lot (hence, my urgency to grow a lot this summer in our first ever garden!). I’m hoping to grow enough in our garden to can some tomatoes to last the year.

Avocados – We have at least two on hand at all times. My daughter loves “tado” as a snack. My husband and I love making guacamole or adding sliced avocado to salads or on the side with our morning eggs. I usually buy a few in different stages of ripeness.

Canned Veggies – We don’t eat a lot of canned veggies, but I try to keep organic corn, kidney beans, black beans, diced tomatoes, green beans, etc for quick soups or sides.

In the Fridge & Freezer:

Pastured Organic Local Eggs – We actually leave these out on the counter, but most people don’t so I figured I would put it in the cold category. Fresh eggs contain a natural coating called “bloom” that protects the egg from bacteria, making them fine to leave on the counter for a few weeks at a time. We simply wash the eggs right before eating them.

Grass-Fed Cheese – I would love to find a source of local raw cheese or learn to make my own (that’s on the list), but for now we buy Kerrygold Dubliner brand from Costco in the 2 pound blocks. This is actually the only cheese that my daughter will eat!

Fresh Almond Butter – I get mine at Ingles and you make it fresh right there. So much better in my opinion!

Grass-Fed, Organic, Local Meat – Chicken, ground beef, stew beef, pork chops, bacon, sausage, etc. There is an assortment at any time – whatever we are feeling in the mood for.

Organic, full-fat yogurt – This is another one on the list of things to make, but as of now we buy organic, full-fat from the store.

Raw Milk – I get it from our local farm. To find raw milk in your area, visit here. We don’t really drink that much milk, but my 18th month old daughter drinks some at night and I will occasionally find the urge to have a glass (Which tastes amazing by the way. If you’ve never had local Organic Whole Raw milk, you are missing out!).

100% Pomegranate juice – I will add about 1/4 cup to a glass of water to give a little variety to my 99.9% water consumption. I also like to add a splash of this to my green tea.

Organic Spinach/Spring Mix/Romaine Lettuce – We eat a lot of salads at our house so there is always an assortment of leafy greens. If they are on sale I buy double and puree and freeze in ice cubes when it starts to go bad for later use in green smoothies.

LOTS of Vegetables – Radishes, carrots, turnips, celery, onions, kale, squash, red cabbage, etc. I really just buy whatever is in season and on sale. When I get home from the grocery store, our fridge is overflowing with veggies. I’m hoping to join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program this spring-winter though, so we will be getting local, fresh vegetables!

Fruit – Organic apples, oranges, grapes and berries are a few of our favorites. Again, I buy whatever is in season.

Fresh Herbs – Basil, Rosemary, Parsley, Cilantro

Frozen Peas/corn/okra – These are the staples of my frozen veggies. My daughter loves “pees” and eats them as her snack. Corn and Okra are great to throw into a quick soup or quinoa side.

Organic Frozen Berries – I use these in smoothies, yogurt

What would you add to this list? What’s in your pantry?

Healthy Sesame Seed Chicken

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sesame seed chicken

The other night I was craving sesame seed chicken for some reason (well probably because I’m 4 months pregnant and cravings are hitting me all the time). I didn’t want take-out because we all know that bloated, gross feeling after eating chinese take out. I decided to make my own. I used this recipe with a little wheat-free tweaking and came up with a delicious, easy and nutritious alternative to the MSG and sugar laden sesame seed chicken.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of chicken thighs OR 4 chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces OR I used a pack of 5 organic chicken drumsticks since they were only $3!
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot powder OR talc-free corn starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives (optional)

Combine arrowroot powder, salt and pepper in a large bowl, add chicken and stir well to coat. Once chicken is thoroughly coated add coconut oil to a non-stick pan on medium heat and cook chicken until done throughout (roughly 5 minutes per side).

Transfer cooked chicken to a plate. Mix soy sauce and sugar in saucepan, if using, over low heat. Once sugar, if using, is mixed well into the soy sauce add sesame oil, sesame seeds, chicken and chives, if using. Mix together and serve immediately.

This dish goes well with green beans topped with toasted almonds.

Simply steam green beans over a couple inches boiling water. Melt one tablespoon of butter and add 2-3 chopped garlic cloves to cook about 3 minutes. Pour butter mixture and garlic, 1/2 of a lemon (juiced), salt, and pepper over the green beans. Top with toasted almonds. Now, you have a healthy, delicious meal you feel good about feeding your family!

First signs of Spring means Garden time!

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garden plot

Here in the South, we are starting to see the first signs of Spring. Although we had snow a week ago, the following week was sunshine and then snow again, spring is fast approaching. All of that to say, we finally took the first steps to get our garden going! A few weeks ago, my husband cleared out a spot of land on the side of our yard that gets full sun for most of the day. The picture above is our daughter playing in the future garden plot. The area is very large, but we are going with a 10 x 25 foot garden this year. Honestly, we will probably only use half of it at most, but I’d rather start creating good soil on more space than we need than not have enough.

We are using a raised row no-till method that I’ve been following from the blog Old World Garden Farm. I found them after searching for an easy to follow, low cost gardening method. I need a step-by-step guide since I am very new to the gardening world, and they provide that! The advantage of the raised row method is that you don’t waste any space, water or compost. They recommend raised row beds 18″ wide and 10-12″ high in the center with a gradual taper off the side. There is plenty of walking space in between the rows as to not step on and weaken the root structure of the plants.

The first step in any garden is making sure you have good soil. So, their no-till method simply calls for a 3-5″ layer of chopped leaves or straw, cover with a thick black tarp and let sit over the winter or shorter depending on the time of year and how fast it decomposes. We have LOTS of leaves around us since we live in the woods, so we went with that option. They recommend chopping the leaves for faster decomposition time, but we don’t have a lawn mower (since we have no grass, just woods and pinestraw – kinda nice!) so ours weren’t chopped. I will let you know how long it takes to decompose, but I’m thinking probably more on the 2 month side.

leaves for garden

Once the leaves are down on your designated area, simply place a tarp on top of the leaves and secure with large rocks, bricks or in our case heavy wood pieces. We ended up turning the long pieces of wood sideways, but as long as the tarp won’t fly up it’s fine. This method eliminates all the grass underneath and allows for a fresh start to your garden.

tarp for gardenWe will give you an update on the garden plot after a month or two and let you know how things are looking. Next update to be on the lookout for is our composting efforts!

Are you planting a garden this Spring or Summer? Are you new to gardening or a long time pro? What’s in your garden?

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