Fresh Strawberry and Flaxseed Muffins

 

Fresh Strawberry and Flaxseed Muffins

 

Happy Hump Day.  This past weekend marked the annual planting of our summer garden.  I had never really thought much about actually growing food until my lifestyle changed about 10 years ago.  When I decided to research and understand everything I was putting into my body, it was a perfect solution to the highly processed foods available in the marketplace.  We made the initial planting endeavor many years ago and have enjoyed eating the fruits of our labor ever since.  Our boys enjoy being outside and getting their hands dirty in the soil, so a home garden has turned out to be a great way to get the kids outdoors and involved.

Fresh Strawberry and Flaxseed Berries

Strawberries are perfectly in season right now and that means all things strawberry in my house.  I love to cook and bake using seasonal local produce so I generally purchase fruits and vegetables that are in season and therefore have the most nutritional value.  Strawberries have a fairly short life cycle and because they are so tasty, we really take advantage of their abundance for the next few months.  Find a local U-pick farm and make it a family outing to get berries.

Fresh Strawberry and Flaxseed flour

This recipe was created by accident.  I used frozen cranberries in the batter the first time around and they turned out good.  But, I ran into Swamp Rabbit Café, a local grocer a few days later, and they had pints upon pints of fresh strawberries and my mind went crazy thinking how my new little recipe would be even better with those fresh berries.  I was not disappointed.  These muffins turned out moist and flavorful.  Success.  You must try them and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.  Feel free to pop leftovers in the toaster and reheat for breakfast.

Fresh Strawberry and Flaxseed finished muffins

 

Fresh Strawberry and Flaxseed Muffins

1 cup gluten-free rolled oats – ground (I use a coffee grinder)

1 cup almond meal

1 tsp aluminum-free baking powder

1 TBSP ground flaxseed

1 TBSP chia seeds

1 tsp Himalayan pink salt

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/3 cup pure maple syrup

1/4 cup coconut oil – melted

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 heaping cup fresh strawberries – chopped

Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare a muffin tin with paper liners or spray.  In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients.  In a small bowl combine all the wet ingredients.  Combine the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk until well incorporated.  Gently fold in the strawberries.  Fill muffin tin cups to about 3/4 full.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden around the edges.

Hearty Quinoa Bowl

 

quinoa bowl

I am truly blessed with wonderful female role models and friends.  When I look around and realize I am surrounded with beautiful, loving, giving, and Godly women, it makes my heart full.  We have each walked through marriage, and some of us parenthood, at different times and stages, but at the core, we are all just women trying to gracefully stand in the shoes we are privileged enough to wear.  I couldn’t be more thankful.  I welcome the similarities we share and humbly embrace the differences.  That is, after all, what grace is, right?

Most of my girlfriends have older children as we were a bit late in the game.  I love how each of my friends understand I am a full-time mom of two young boys, so if they want to visit, more often than not, they come to me.  Actually this system works out beautifully because we can sit around my family table or in our playroom with a nice warm cup of tea and focus on each other.  I try to schedule a “friend date” for myself once-a-week as it does my soul good.

My offering, in return for their coming to me, is food.  You know, all things go back to food for me!  It’s my love language.  This quinoa bowl is a staple for brunch visits.  I generally make it with a side of fruit, or even better, pancakes.  It is packed with beneficial protein  that keeps you satiated until your next meal.  Because I generally have some sort of green or vegetable with every meal, this is no exception.  The addition of kale chips gives this bowl the texture and taste it needs to feel complete.  This recipe may appear to be time consuming, but you can prepare the kale chips while the quinoa cooks and then quickly add the perfectly fried egg.  Done.

*I have decided not to take offense when my sweet husband grabs the hot sauce bottle before every meal without even tasting anything  first.  In this case, I would recommend following his lead and adding a few dashes of your favorite “hot” to this dish.

If you aren’t currently investing in time with friends, I highly recommend it.  We are good for each other.

 

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Hearty Quinoa Bowl

2 cups bone broth – homemade or a high quality store bought

1 cup quinoa – rinsed

1 bunch kale – rinsed, deveined and torn into small pieces

4-5 fresh mushrooms – rinsed and sliced

1 carrot – grated

2 cloves fresh garlic – peeled and chopped

fresh eggs

olive oil to drizzle

pat of real butter

hot sauce – to taste

grated pecorino Romano cheese – to taste

pink salt and pepper –  to taste

Preheat oven to 350.  Cook quinoa, carrots and garlic in broth according to package directions.  In a bowl toss the kale pieces with a drizzle of olive oil and pink salt.  Place kale on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes or until crispy.  Turn the chips one time during cooking to ensure evenness.  While the kale and quinoa are cooking, add 1/2 the pat of butter to a sauté pan and cook the mushrooms until tender, about 5 minutes.  Remove the mushrooms and add the second 1/2 of the butter to the same pan and cook the egg the way you like it.

To a bowl add: cooked quinoa, mushrooms and kale chips.  Layer the egg on top and add a dash of hot sauce and cheese to taste.

Ginger Turmeric Lemonade

ginger turmeric lemonade 1

 

I am doing every thing I can to stay warm and toasty during these winter months.  If I could choose, I would live in a 70 degree year-round climate.  But, that isn’t realistic for me, so I do the best I can.  This lemonade is not only warming to the soul, but it’s also crazy good for the immune system.  The combination of these two spices is simply stated “wonderful”.  It’s perfect to combat the onset of a cold or the flu.   Use this tonic to help keep your family healthy during these cold and dreary winter months.

 

ginger turmeric lemonade 3

 

*I do not add honey to mine, but my kids do.  If you use raw local honey, it gives an even greater boost to the immune system.

 

ginger turmeric lemonade 2

 

Ginger Turmeric Lemonade

4 cups filtered water

3 inch piece fresh turmeric – peeled

3 inch piece fresh ginger – peeled

juice from 1 whole lemon

drizzle raw local honey (optional)*

In a pot bring the water to a rolling boil.  Add in the ginger and turmeric.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool for 2 minutes. Remove the cooked ginger and turmeric.  Add the lemon juice.  Drink warm or cold.  Refrigerate leftover lemonade.

Healthy Homemade Pickles

Healthy Homemade Pickles One

I took the kids to the beach for a few days a couple of weeks ago.  It was our first beach trip of the season.  And, my first time ever making that trip without my husband.  We went to meet family, and Tom wasn’t able to join us due to his workload.  So, at 6:00 pm on a Wednesday night the kids and I set out for our four hour trip.  I continued to glance at my GPS timer countdown.  Yes, we still had 4 hours to go!  As soon as we pulled out of our local Whole Foods parking lot (where we had dinner), the kids started asking if we were almost there.  It did cross my mind a few times to turn around and head home as fast as possible.  But, I kept going and we got into our groove.  The kids came together and chose a movie that would please them both, and I didn’t focus quite so much on the countdown timer anymore. The kids were beyond excited about this trip so I tried really hard to change my attitude and my mindset so that I could become excited too.  It worked!  I always tell them they have the ability to change their attitude at any given moment.  This was a time when I needed to practice what I preach. I love how my kids show me my true heart.  They keep me on the straight and narrow and I am so grateful for that.  Once we got there, we had a wonderful three days of eating, playing and relaxing in what I would consider to be my “happy place.”

While we were soaking in the sun on the beach, the cucumbers in our home garden decided to rapidly multiply.  I have honestly never seen a cucumber plant expand the way these beauties have.  As soon as I walked in the door, my husband looked at me very seriously and said “you need to learn how to make pickles.”  We’ve had a garden for several years now, but this is the first time we have ever had such success with cucumbers.  The vines are magnificent and they are taking over most of the garden as well as some of the yard.  So yes, It was crucial that I quickly learn how to make pickles.  As I researched many different recipes I was a bit disappointed as most of them required some amount of sugar.  I was not on board.  Finally I came across this recipe from diynatural.com and I hope I never have to purchase store bought pickles again!  The recipe is simple, the ingredients are wholesome and the results are delicious.  We adapted the recipe a bit to fit our needs, which was to make them a little spicier.   We have wonderful jalapenos in the garden, so it was a natural thought to add them to the mix.  We also opted for the highly beneficial apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar, and I couldn’t have imagined they would turn out so good.  While cucumbers are so abundantly in season, please give this recipe a try.  I hope you enjoy!

Healthy Homemade Pickles Four

 

Healthy Homemade Pickles Three

 

Healthy Homemade Pickles Two

 

Healthy Homemade Pickles

1 quart jar with a lid

2-3 pickling cucumbers (as many as will fit in the jar)

1 TBSP dried dill weed

2-4 cloves fresh garlic (I use 4)

3 TBSP apple cider vinegar

1 TBSP kosher salt

20 black peppercorns

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1 jalapeno pepper – cut in half lengthwise

filtered water – enough to top off jar

Cut cucumbers and add them to the jar.  Add the remaining ingredients except water.  Once everything is in the jar, fill to the top with filtered water and screw the lid on very tightly.  Shake the jar to equally distribute the spices.  Leave on your countertop for 12 hours.  Shake the jar again and turn it upside down for an additional 12 hours.  For the 2nd 12 hours, I place the jar on a cookie sheet or in a large pot in case the lid leaks.  After a total of 24 hours, taste your pickles.  Refrigerate for up to one month.  Enjoy!

Here is another great cucumber recipe:

Basic Green Smoothie

Summer Strawberry Smoothie

Summer Strawberry Smoothie
Summer Strawberry Smoothie

My kids, on their own, created this tasty smoothie.  We watch Food Network sometimes before bed to round out our day.  This always inspires them to get in the kitchen.  My 9 year old takes this kitchen stuff very seriously.  He gets into the groove and wants to prepare food well after bedtime.  Maybe that’s just a stall tactic.  Anyway, it works on me.  I usually tell myself  “he must go to bed” or I could stay in the kitchen with him all night.  I have found it to be a wonderful place to let childhood creativity and imagination run wild.

 

Summer Strawberry Smoothie 3

 

 

Summer Strawberry Smoothie 2

 

When it comes to juices and smoothies, they are actually pretty talented.  We have been blending as a family long enough that they have  become little “blender experts.”  During the summer months we have an abundant herb garden and that’s where they find most of the accent flavors for their drinks.  This particular smoothie includes the herb mint and their two basic fruits: strawberries and bananas.  More often than not, they will choose these two as their base and then expand with whatever seasonal fruit we have in the fruit bowl.  On their own they will not willingly choose to add vegetables, and that’s okay.  When I blend a smoothie for them I add their veggies and they happily drink it, but its not a requirement when they are being creative.  This is their stage, not mine.  When they make a new drink they always say to me, “if this turns out good, you should put it on the blog.”  So here we are.  I hope you enjoy this drink that was lovingly thought up and designed by my boys.  They think of you as much as I do.  Happy Blending!

 

Summer Strawberry Smoothie

1 frozen banana

1 cup frozen strawberries

3 fresh mint leaves

2 TBSP plain Greek yogurt

2 TBSP raw local honey

1/2 lime – juiced

1 cup full fat coconut milk

1/2 cup almond milk

Place all ingredients in a high speed blender.  Blend until creamy, about 1 minute.

Healthy Mac N’ Cheese

 

I am sitting here with a little one under the weather.  And, after feeding him bone broth rice and a smoothie, he is resting nicely.  I was also thinking of napping myself since neither one of us got any sleep last night, but making this blog post won out.  Yea!  I love how I continually think to myself, after a restless night, that “I will definitely nap tomorrow”, and NEVER do.  I always seem to have something that could be done rather than napping, and this day is no different.  I can hear the rather loud hum of my spinning washing machine in the background and know it will soon begin “beeping” to let me know it’s time to put down the computer and change out the clothes.  It is truly never ending when you run a loving household full of people.  I honestly don’t mind, but I wanted to ensure I got this recipe to you as it has been a big request for some time.   So, I am going to press on and ignore the rhythmic “beep” that is about to occur.

I have honestly tried this classic dish many different ways using several different vegetables, but this one got major approval from my family, so it is the keeper.  Sometimes it takes 100 tries to finally nail something down worthy of writing about and sharing.  I have looked for many years for the perfect inspiration to completely renovate one of my all-time favorites.  I do have a really good recipe using butternut squash, and will share that one with you sometime around Thanksgiving or Christmas.  Those are the times I usually make that particular dish as the gourd squashes are in season.  But, for now we are going to use cauliflower as the base for this decadent rendition.  I wanted this make-over to be much more than the standard macaroni and cheese.  I wanted more than two ingredients.  I wanted protein and spices and vegetables.  I have managed (after many failed attempts) to pack all of those requirements into this super healthy, super tasty dish.  We, often times, eat it for lunch with a side salad or fruit.  My 3 year old usually eats 2 bowls and if I must confess, so do I.  If you are worried about the cauliflower taste, don’t be.  You really wouldn’t even know it was there if I didn’t tell you.

The health benefits of cauliflower are great, and I am certain you are aware of most of them by now.  So, I want to introduce you to a somewhat unfamiliar ingredient called nutritional yeast.  “What is it” you ask?  It is deactivated yeast.  A more formal definition from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen is “nutritional yeast is made from a single-celled organism, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, which is grown on molasses, and then harvested, washed and dried with heat to “kill it” or deactivate it”.  It is a good source of vitamin B 12, folic acid and protein,  and has a bold nutty flavor.  Many vegans use it as a cheese substitute.  It is a nice addition to  this recipe as it increases the nutritional value while enhancing the bold flavor I was looking for.  Win Win!  I truly hope this becomes a future classic for your family.  Enjoy!

 

Healthy Mac N’ Cheese

1 16oz package brown rice noodles

1 small head of cauliflower – steamed

1 cup raw cashews – soaked overnight, if possible

5 TBSP warm water

2 medium cloves garlic

1 cup goat gouda cheese – shredded

1 TBSP nutritional yeast flakes

1 tsp ground black pepper

2 tsp Himalayan pink salt or sea salt

1/4 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp turmeric

4 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

1 cup almond milk

Cook noodles according to package directions.  While the noodles are cooking, steam the cauliflower for about 10 minutes, don’t overcook.  To a blender add the remaining ingredients and blend until creamy.  Drain the noodles and add the cream sauce.  Stir until well combined.

 

 

 

 

 

Calcium Rich Foods to Supplement a Dairy-free Lifestyle

 

Calcium Rich Foods to Supplement a Dairy-Free Lifestyle
Calcium Rich Foods to Supplement a Dairy-Free Lifestyle

How do you ensure you are getting enough calcium when you consume very few dairy products?  That’s a great question and one that I am asked often.  What most people don’t know is that there is a plethora of dairy-free foods that contain high amounts of calcium.  Up until about 10 years ago, I consumed large amounts of dairy products.  Unfortunately, those products did not agree with me.  Commercially produced cow milk is highly processed and is often times intolerable by most people.  So, it was one of the first things I gave up on my quest for better health.  I am not recommending everyone stop consuming cow products, I just want to educate you in other varieties of calcium rich foods that can help you reach your recommended daily requirements. Our bodies need calcium.  According to Dr. Sears, not only do we need calcium for strong bones and teeth, but it is also required for every cell in the body to function in a healthy way.  Calcium is used by nerves and muscles and it contributes to proper blood clotting.  Given all these very important functions of calcium, I make it a point to ensure I am getting enough.  I eat a well-rounded whole foods based diet.  That includes calcium rich foods that are produced from nature.  Fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes all have good amounts of calcium.  For an entire list of calcium-rich foods, click here.  Today’s post includes the calcium-rich foods that my family eats on a regular basis, but we do not limit our menu to just these ten.  It’s important to offer and try many different foods.  Add a few of these to your families meal planning and know that you are fueling their bodies with the proper nutrition.   Dairy-free Calcium Rich Foods 1.  Spinach – 1 cup – 24% DV 2.  Beet Greens – 1 cup – 16% DV 3.  Bok Choy – 1 cup – 16% DV 4.  Swiss Chard – 1 cup – 10% 5.  Kale – 1 cup – 9% DV 6.  Sesame Seeds – 1/4 cup – 35% DV 7.  Cabbage – 1 cup – 6% DV 8.  Brussels Sprouts – 1 cup – 6% DV 9.  Oranges – 1 medium – 5% DV 10.  Parsley – 1/2 cup – 4% DV   Here are a few of my recipes using these foods: Raw Kale Salad Sizzling Cabbage & White Beans Superfood Smoothie

5 reasons we don’t wear shoes in our home + Sophie Uliano’s Lemon Chia Seed Muffin Recipe

5 reasons we don't wear shoes in our home
5 reasons we don’t wear shoes in our home

 

This can be a touchy subject.  I am a Southern girl and hospitality is high on my list.  I would never want to offend or invoke feelings of discomfort to those I invite into my home.  But, when I can, I educate our house guests as to why I am politely asking them to remove their shoes at the door.  I have not always felt this way, but after many hours of research, I concluded that wearing shoes in the house is extremely bad for your health.  I have narrowed my research down to what I feel are 5 good reasons to promote dropping your shoes at the door.

1.  Bacteria on the bottoms of shoes  A large portion of the bacteria found on your shoes is from stepping on fecal matter.  It originates from public restroom floors or contact with animal fecal material from being outdoors.  The most common occurrence from this type of bacteria is  E. coli bacteria which can cause sickness including diarrhea and other illnesses according to the CDC.  This can be especially problematic for those who have young children that crawl and play along the floors.   This bacteria can be easily transmitted to tile and carpet.  Cleaning your floors and vacuuming your carpet will greatly cut down on the amount of bacteria in your home.

2.  Toxins on shoes – Shoes pick up all kinds of toxins in the course of a day.  Anywhere you walk, you are likely grabbing a toxin.  From the dry cleaners to the gas station, and everywhere in between, there are toxins.  Environmental pollution from spilled gasoline at the pump to walking through grass that has recently been sprayed.  All of it then comes right into your home.  This is probably the most important reason I initially began removing my shoes at the door.  These pollutants are extremely harmful to our systems and can potentially cause serious side effects.

3.  Dirty – I have two young boys.  Dirt is a constant.  If they wore their shoes in the house, I would be cleaning the floors all day long!  I believe this one is pretty self-explanatory.  No shoes=no dirt.

4.  General Health – I am a firm believer in the notion that not wearing shoes in the house makes for overall healthier people.  Given that we have discussed the fact that large amounts of bacteria and toxins travel on shoes, it makes sense to me that a home without shoes is healthier than a home with shoes.  I believe the instances of allergic reactions and respiratory issues as well as general sickness is much lower.

5.  Comfort – Whether you work outside the home or are a stay-home mommy, when you finish your workday, the first thing you want to do is take off your shoes and relax.  Make your home a haven of comfort.  Put a few pairs of comfy slippers by the door that you can slip into as soon as you walk inside.  You may even want to offer a pair to your guests if you feel they are uncomfortable removing their shoes.  Remember, hospitality for guests is still crucial.

 

Now for the good stuff.  One of the very first books I bought when I decided to follow a clean eating lifestyle was Sophie Uliano’s The Gorgeously Green Diet – How to Live Lean and Green.  I have prepared countless numbers of her recipes and they are all fabulous.  Her website www.SophieUliano.com is full of helpful ideas and perfect ways to eat and live a gorgeously green lifestyle.  She posted this Lemon Chia Seed muffin recipe on twitter last summer and my family fell in love with them.  I made a batch this week and she kindly gave me permission to share the recipe with you.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Sophie Uliano's Lemon Chia Seed Muffins
Sophie Uliano’s Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

Sophie Uliano’s Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

1/3 cup coconut oil

1 cup coconut palm sugar

2 eggs, beaten

2 cups sprouted spelt flour (just use Spelt if you can’t find the sprouted version)

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

grated zest of 1 lemon

1 TBSP vanilla extract

1/2 cup rice milk (I used almond milk)

2 TBSP chia seeds

Makes 6-8 medium muffins.  Preheat oven to 350.  Beat the sugar and oil in the food processor until creamy.  While the processor is still running, slowly add the eggs.  Finally, add the flour, baking powder, salt, lemon zest, vanilla extract and milk.  Process well.  Finally add the chia seeds and pulse just to mix them in.  Line a muffin tin with liners and fill each liner with the batter.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Serve immediately, or gently warm again before serving.