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Category: healthy eats

  1. Wednesday, May 9, 2012

    Smoothies!!!

    I think we need to do a smoothie post. Because it’s been on my mind for, well, years! I want to share a few tips, a few flavors that we love, and then open up the floor to tips and recipes from all of you!

    First, a small plug for expensive blenders. I have to say that one of the best things that ever took residence in our kitchen is our Blendtec heavy duty blender. This is an appliance that I think is completely worth saving up for. We use it all the time and it can handle anything. Our previous blender, which was just your regular run-of-the-mill blender, just didn’t cut it. We have a Blendtec, which I love for many reasons including the preset buttons for different foods. Vitamix is an option and I think there are others on the market now. Do some research and go get one! Or start saving up for one. They are awesome.

    Okay, on to technique! Do you know how to build your smoothie in the blender? After I got my Blendtec and read the instruction manual, I realized I had been putting the juice and fruit in the opposite order than I should have been! The logic my brain followed was that you should put the harder-to-blend items in first so that they get blended better…but it just jams everything up. As soon as I reversed the order of things, my smoothies improved immediately and significantly. Here is the RIGHT way to do it.

    1. Juice first. You can also use grapes as your juice base.
    2. Softer, unfrozen fruits.
    3. Harder fruits and frozen fruits. Say you’re doing frozen pineapple and frozen banana, put the frozen pineapple in first. Basically you want whatever is easiest to blend to go in first.
    4. Ice.
    Essentially you put the ‘liquidiest’ and softest stuff first then move up in order to the hardest items. Make sense?

    Now, on to flavors! Nate is the smoothie master in our house. He’s always blending up some sort of smoothie or “juicey” for the family and he’s quite the master! Here are the fruits and juices he most commonly uses:

    • Mango juice for the base. I also love papaya juice as the base. If we don’t have either of those, we’ll go with orange or grape, which are both nice. Apple is just too, well, apple-y for us. It’s still good in a pinch, but definitely our least favorite.
    • Frozen strawberries, frozen mango, frozen pineapple and frozen banana make the most frequent appearances in our smoothies! Oh, and when peaches are in season, we love frozen peaches!!
    • I love tossing coconut into the smoothie. Nate isn’t such a big fan of coconut, but it makes me (and the girls) super happy!
    • Yogurt…usually plain.
    • ICE. Lately Nate has been making “juiceys,” which basically means there’s no ice and the smoothies aren’t so slushy. They are very tasty and the girls like them, too…but I gotta say, I love a good, slushy smoothie! Bring on the ice!

    No specific recipes from us…our smoothies change pretty much every time we make them, which is part of the fun! We’ve also recently started adding SPINACH to the smoothies and that is a great trick! I know some of you have been telling me to do that for years…glad we finally jumped on board!

    Your turn! Please share your favorite fruit/juice combos, specific recipes, tips, anything smoothie related! Can’t wait to be inspired by all of you!


  2. Tuesday, May 1, 2012

    I Am a Genius Zucchini Cutter…finally.

    I have always had a love-hate relationship with zucchini as a side dish. I love it sauteed with olive oil, salt and pepper. However, I could never get it to cook just right…or at least not consistently. For some reason I always cut the zucchini into discs. They were hard to flip in the pan and I was never patient enough to make sure they were all the same thickness, yielding uneven cooking. Once in a while I’d get it right, but more often than not it was a little off.

    Then last night, as I was trying to scrounge up a bit of healthy food to go with boxed mac n’ cheese (this crazy work week is turning out to be even crazier than I anticipated), I had a lucky stroke of genius. I cut the zucchini into thirds, then turned those pieces up on their ends and cut them into sixths. Make sense? I hope so because it is AWESOME. Here’s a picture to clear up my confusing directions:

    The pieces were all the same size, so they cooked much more evenly, and the zucchini came out great! Thought I’d share this little tip as we head into the summer months when there is more zucchini than we know what to do with!

    Also, since zucchini season is on the horizon, be sure to check out the Zucchini Call for Recipes from a few years back, which is where I discovered this Chocolate Zucchini Bread recipe. Mmmmmm…..


  3. Wednesday, January 25, 2012

    My New Favorite Rice: Calrose Brown

    A long time ago in a galaxy far far away I mentioned how much I love Calrose rice, the delicious sticky white rice that goes so well with Chinese food. Whenever we have Asian food at home, I lament the fact that my Calrose rice is white because I really like to use brown rice whenever I can. WELLLLL…I don’t know why I didn’t look sooner, but my grocery store carries brown Calrose rice. Woo-hoo!

    I love it. There is a bit of a “brown” flavor to the rice, but I like that flavor and the rice is still nice and sticky. I don’t think I’ll ever cook white Calrose rice again. The brown stuff is healthier and tastes fabulous.

    That’s all for today. Just a small ode to my new favorite rice.


  4. Thursday, January 5, 2012

    My New Year’s Resolution: Use Less Plastic

    Eat Well. Heal the Planet.

    That’s my focus each year when I come up with my new year’s resolution. Our behavior in the kitchen and when we eat impacts the environment in really big and meaningful ways. Each year I try to find something our family can do in our food life to help impact the environment in a positive way. 2009: Eat less meat. (Wowzah, the amount of resources going into meat production is astonishing!) 2010: Eat more veggies. (Our family did this by joining a CSA, which automatically upped our plant intake, and our fruits and veggies were all grown close to home). Now it’s time to announce the 2012 resolution! Are you ready? Drumroll please…

    Use less plastic.

    Mind if I get on a soapbox for a moment? Then I’ll hop off and explain this year’s resolution. I promise the soapbox shouldn’t take too long.

    Humans are hurting Mother Earth. We are stripping her of natural resources and in return giving back garbage, and in many cases uber-toxic garbage that doesn’t just hurt the earth but our bodies as well. The way we live is simply not sustainable, no matter how much we want it to be. Even though I’m getting a little preachy, I promise I’m not getting self-righteous. I’m part of the problem. We all are. BUT…that is empowering because it means we can ALL make a difference by making small changes every day. Okay, soapbox lecture over.

    This year I’m going to focus on using less plastic, both for the benefit of Mother Earth and our family’s health. This goal was initially inspired by the documentary Bag It. Everyone should see this movie. Look for it on PBS. If you can’t find it on TV, buy a copy. Or save it to your Netflix queue. Whatever you do, be sure to put this documentary on your to-watch list!!!

    Here is what my “Use Less Plastic” goal will entail:

    • I am going to try to eliminate single-use plastic from our repertoire. Our society treats plastic like it’s disposable. It’s not. It lasts forever AND it requires a lot of resources to be produced in the first place. Start looking around. When you really take notice, it’s astonishing just how reliant we’ve become on plastic and just how cavalier we are about its disposal. Because of this, it’s actually really hard to cut out single-use plastic. I’ll be sure to share our journey as the year progresses!
    • We are going to use more reusable products in general, including containers and coverings for our food (glass and fabric wherever possible), cloth napkins, reusable grocery bags, no plastic baggies in our kids’ lunches, etc. It will be an ongoing process I am sure.
    • When we do use plastic, I am going to try really hard to find plastic that is phthalate- and BPA-free. Trust me. You don’t want that crap getting into your body and every time we come into contact with those chemicals, they are getting into our systems. I’m going to share just one tidbit from Bag It that really got me thinking. The host, Jeb, and his wife had cut plastic out of their lives. He had his BPA and phthalate levels checked then went and stayed at a friend’s apartment for TWO days, using normal, everyday, “safe” consumer products (canned food, microwaveable plastic dishes, lotions, deodorant, kids’ shampoo…all things that claim to be safe, even for babies). After the two days, Jeb had his blood retested. His phthalate levels increased about 11 times and his BPA levels went from undetectable up 110 times. That was after just two days. The good news? It’s reversible. Cut the products with those chemicals from our lives and they will leave our bodies.

    So, there you have it. That’s my goal. Use less plastic. I hope you’ll join me!


  5. Tuesday, August 30, 2011

    Easy Asian-Style Green Beans

    Last time I tried to make a nice, homemade dinner that involved some effort, I threw my sciatica into a tizzy. I could barely walk to the dinner table to eat! So, until baby boy arrives in a few short weeks, I’m trying to take it easy in the kitchen. Which is nice in one way, but at the same time I am really craving some good home cookin’ right now. I’ll have to put my mom to work when she comes to visit next month!

    What this “taking it easy” business means is that, even though I have menus planned each week, there are plenty of nights where I’m plum worn out and things don’t go as planned. Last night was no exception. But we were all starving, so I grabbed the Costco orange chicken out of the freezer along with the Trader Joe’s dumplings and got “cooking.” Since rice, chicken and dumplings don’t have any vegetables, I grabbed a bag of green beans that we received from our CSA last week and decided to sauté those up.

    Nate is a big fan of green beans, so I’m always hoping I cook them well since I know they are one of his favorites. Last night he kept saying how good they were, so I decided they were blog post-worthy! And they were really easy. Which, for me, was the best part!

    Easy Asian-Style Green Beans
     
    From Jane Maynard, This Week for Dinner
    Author:
    Recipe type: Side Dish, Vegetables
    Ingredients
    • - A bunch of fresh green beans
    • - Olive oil
    • - Salt and Pepper
    • - Soy Sauce
    • - White Sugar
    Instructions
    1. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet that has a lid. Add the green beans and sauté over medium heat until they brown on the sides a bit. Reduce heat to medium-low and put the lid on the pan. Let cook a few minutes until they are as tender as you want them to be, stirring occasionally.
    2. Remove the lid, splash evenly with soy sauce, sprinkle with salt and pepper and about 1-3 teaspoons of sugar (just to cover the beans evenly). Stir and serve!

     


  6. Tuesday, August 16, 2011

    First CSA Mystery Solved…They’re Cucumbers!

    So, last week when I opened up my CSA bag, I found these little guys.

    And when I say little, I mean little. Maybe 4 inches long or so.

    Instead of doing my own research, I just went straight to Facebook and Twitter. Because you people are smart. I posted the above photo and of course immediately had bazillions of responses from people.

    And the consensus was…lemon cucumbers. And while I’m obviously no expert, I think you’re all right (or at least close to right!).

    Cate loves cucumbers. They’re her favorite veggie, hands down. So it was lots of fun cutting into these with her.

    I must admit, they didn’t taste that different from the regular cucumbers. The texture was a bit more tender and juicy, but bottom line, they taste like cucumbers. But they were delicious and it sure was fun to try something new! Another 10 points for joining a CSA

    While we’re here…if you have any good cucumber recipes to share, please do!


  7. Tuesday, August 9, 2011

    Yellow Watermelon!

    I am loving summer produce this year. I think I love it every year, but this is the first year I’ve really paid attention to what’s in season throughout the summer and what grows in the area where I live. The result? We’ve been eating more produce for sure and the produce we have eaten has been more delicious than usual.

    Last week I spotted these California-grown yellow watermelons at the store. I knew my girls would think that was downright amazing, so I grabbed one. Taste-wise it wasn’t any better than red, but I was right…the girls could not stop talking about the color. Listening to their little conversations and comments about the yellow watermelon made for one of those really fun mom moments.

    And once we had it all cut up and in the bowl, it was so pretty and vibrant looking. Would be great for a party!

    By the way…remember how I was bemoaning tasteless watermelons a while ago? I felt like for years all we got were lightly colored, tasteless watermelons. I’m happy to repot that this summer I keep picking delicious watermelons! I think part of it is I waited until they were actually in season before I started buying them. I also have been looking for watermelons that have a big yellow spot and lots of blemishes. I don’t know if that has really had anything to do with my success. Honestly, it’s probably just been luck!


  8. Friday, July 22, 2011

    Tomato Talk

    The first time I planted tomatoes, the plants died. I’m 99.9999% sure the soil in our garden plot was diseased, so I don’t blame myself entirely. But it still felt like a big failure.

    This year I decided to give tomato growing another go. I had several friends tell me they had great success growing tomato plants in pots, so I decided that would be our approach this time. And, so far, so good. No diseased soil. My plants are staked and growing upward. I’ve fertilized every 7-10 days. I’ve taken care of the suckers. And we’ve actually gotten some tomatoes this year (they sure were yummy in the watermelon salad). Woo-hoo!

    But then…then…last week, I went to my friend Natalee’s house for dinner and saw THIS on her back porch.

    Just to give some perspective, this is my pot of tomatoes compared to Natalee’s.

    Left: My ‘Charlie Brown Christmas’ tomato plant. Well-loved, but seriously more of a novelty at this point. Right: Natalee’s organic behemoth of a tomato plant.

    Both of our planters only have two tomato plants planted. And they get the same exact sun exposure. And yet, it’s downright stunning how different our plants are. I asked Natalee what in the world she did. She and I are at about the same level of tomato growing expertise, so her bounteous plants give me hope that one day I will be able to to grow decent tomatoes.

    • She used an EarthBox garden kit. Natalee swears by this system. It basically allows you to water your plants perfectly and you can grow all kinds of vegetables in them. Natalee bought her EarthBox planters at one of our local nurseries, but you can also buy them online, and you can use them year after year.
    • She used a soil that the local nursery recommended highly for growing tomatoes. Apparently that soil has a little pixie dust mixed in because seriously, look at those plants!

    That is ALL she did differently than me. The pot was a little different and the soil was tailored for tomato growing. When I first saw the plants, she hadn’t even fertilized them yet, if you can believe it! She’s still planning to fertilize, of course, but, yeah, whatever. Her tomato plants are still knocking my socks off.

    Maybe next year I’ll actually get tomato-growing all figured out!

    Calling all green thumbs! If you actually know what you are doing with tomato plants, please share your tips!


  9. Thursday, July 21, 2011

    Watermelon Salad with Tomato and Cucumber

    Last Friday night I did something I haven’t done in a while…I actually picked up a magazine (in this case Martha Stewart Living) and read it cover to cover. And I’ve decided I should do that more often because I was inspired to make a fabulous dinner on Sunday night. Of course, by the end of preparing all the food my sciatic nerve was literally screaming at me and I hobbled around the rest of the night (yes, I’m officially a hobbling pregnant woman…no more heels for me, boo-hoo!), but our dinner was worth the pain.

    One of Sunday night’s creations was a Watermelon Salad with Tomato and Cucumber. There was a recipe for this salad featured in the magazine that involved making a fancy basil oil. I’m sure it’s wonderful, but I simplified things a bit in my preparation. I loved the salad – super easy to prepare and the oh-so-summery flavors all blended so nicely together. I wasn’t entirely sure what the girls would think. They love watermelon, and this savory twist on a favorite fruit seemed a bit risky. But I’ll tell you what…every person in the family happily gobbled down the salad! It was a great success! Will definitely be adding this salad to the rotation, at least during the summer when all of these lovely ingredients are fresh and in season!

    Watermelon Salad with Tomato and Cucumber
     
    Adapted from a recipe in the August 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living
    Author:
    Cuisine: Side Dish
    Ingredients
    • Half a watermelon, cubed (I know, so exact”¦my watermelon was medium in size)
    • 2-3 handfuls of small tomatoes, or 2-3 larger tomatoes sliced into wedges (I used a bunch of baby tomatoes we have growing on the back porch)
    • One cucumber, chopped into bite sized pieces
    • Olive oil (about 1-2 tablespoons)
    • Salt and Pepper
    • Fresh Basil, about 5-10 leaves chopped
    • Original recipe calls for 4 oz crumbled goat cheese – I left this out because we were having another cheese-based side dish, but also I just wanted straight up produce in the salad. Commenter Jennifer below mentioned using Ricotta Salata instead of goat cheese and that is what I'm going to use from now on!
    Instructions
    1. Combine the watermelon, tomatoes and cucumber in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, just enough to cover the fruit and veggies. Sprinkle with the chopped basil, about ½ tsp salt and pepper to taste. Toss to coat evenly and serve!


  10. Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Fresh Garlic…and LOTS of it!

    Last week when it was time to put my order in for this week’s CSA bag, garlic made its first appearance on the list of available produce. I have been waiting for this moment. I love fresh garlic. But I HATE buying garlic bulbs at the market that end up being old…you know, you cut into a clove and it’s already sprouted green inside. Which happens probably 90% of the time. It seriously makes me bonkers.

    Of course I added garlic to my order as quick as I could. And I picked up my CSA bag yesterday. AND this is what I found:

    SO MUCH GARLIC. I am super excited about it, don’t get me wrong…but what am I going to do with all this garlic?

    I think this giant bag of garlic is just screaming for a Call for Recipes, don’t you? And this Call for Recipes is also a Call for Tips…as in, if you have good tips for storing garlic or ways to use it up that doesn’t necessarily involve a recipe, please share! And, as always, we love it when you share recipes, too!

    I’ll start us off Roasted Garlic Bulbs. Heaven.

    So, put your garlic thinking caps on and let’s get this party started.