Ideal vs. Real: Food Edition

Hi!

I’m looking at another “Ideal vs Real” situation that happens a lot in our house, every day in fact. Probably in yours, too. At least, I hope so. 🙂

Food.

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Delicious chicken and black bean chili over rice

You know how it is trendy and hip these days to only buy organic, locally- sourced foods that are free-range and GMO free and soy free and probably gluten free?

Well.

My blog IS called “Live Simple Natural” for a reason, so I’m not going to bash on any of those choices. I agree that food should be as chemical and preservative free and locally sourced as it can be, if at all possible. Food can be healing, or harmful, depending on the choices you make. But at the same time I have to confess; in reality I don’t always follow my ideal rules for choosing and buying food.

My Ideal:
~Organic (or grown without the use of pesticides or chemicals even though it may not be “certified organic”)

~Fresh and/or local

~Free-range (for eggs and meat)

~Grass-fed or pasture raised (for meat)

~Soy and High Fructose Corn Syrup- free

*Side note- I heard the FDA is now re-labeling HFCS as “fructose” to try and sneak it into foods still- just a head’s up. Not sure if it’s true, but I wouldn’t be surprised. They had relabeled it as “corn sugar” before that.*

~Low sugar. NOT fake substituted sugars like Splenda or Sweet n Low, but stuff that doesn’t have a lot of sugar in it to begin with.

~Also, no food colorings. (red 40 and yellow lake, I’m looking at you!)
Now, these are not bad guidelines. Obviously I want our food to be as natural and healthy as possible, because the less processed a food is, the more nutrients it has and the more healing it is for our bodies. But there are those ‘every once in a while’ times where I throw caution to the wind, for various reasons. So I’m gonna get real and confess my food crimes, ya’ll.

Real:
~We ate lunch at Arby’s over the weekend and had (gasp!) POP. (aka soda, aka coke, aka root beer)
HFCS  and caramel food coloring all up in here! And I have to admit, it was delicious. Terrible for you, but delicious. I sucked my Mug root beer down and savored every last foamy drop. I may have even let Olivia have a sip of foam. And she loved it too. She’s probably messed up forever now.

~I don’t buy organic everything. It’s too darn expensive! We try to stick to organic meat and dairy. We buy local eggs. I only buy organic fruits like peaches, berries, apples, tomatoes and veggies like lettuce and zucchini. But avocadoes, bananas and oranges, asparagus and potatoes? Conventional, unless the organic ones are on sale. Like, really on sale.

~Sometimes, if something has soy leithecin (or however you spell that) in it, and I really want to eat it (like chips or crackers or something like that) I still eat it, even though soy is one of the most genetically modified crops in the US. And also even though it messes with your estrogen levels.

~I bought vitamin C that has food coloring in it. I couldn’t find one that didn’t have any in it! Oh, the humanity!

~We eat ice cream with corn syrup solids in it. And it is super yummy.

~Sometimes we buy frozen pizza for dinner.

I figure if we eat really healthily for about 80% of the time, its okay to go all out and eat those bad foods every once in a while. Because really, if you have a diet that doesn’t have a little bit of indulgence, you’re not going to stick to it for a long time. It’s gotta be a lifestyle that you can stick with, right? I also don’t want my kids to be so deprived of a food that they over-compensate and eat way too much of it later in life. Balance is key.

So in a nutshell; I have ideals that I don’t live by. I bet you do too. But I think its better to have ideals and at least sometimes live by them than not have any at all and throw caution to the wind. There are so many levels I could go on with that thought right now…but we’ll stick with food-wise here.
So, mama (or dad or whoever) :
if you have food ideals and don’t always live up to them, it’s okay. You are human, you can’t be perfect.
(This is coming from an ex-perfectionist- I know how it is!)

Just do the best you can at that time and have grace for yourself and others.

Because food is about nourishment and family, and community and sharing life together, not calories or sugar content or GMO vs non GMO.

Focus on the whole picture, not the details. 🙂

Eating Seasonally: Summer’s Bounty and a CSA Update

Hi!
Summertime is winding down here in the Pacific Northwest; the days are starting to get shorter and the mornings and evenings have a bit of crisp chilliness to them. 
Its raining today, which is welcomed! It seems like we’ve had a pretty dry summer and its nice to see rain. I know the plants appreciate it too.
Interestingly enough, my 4 year old daughter Ellie is out playing in the kiddie pool even though its raining. She sure loves the water!

We didn’t do a garden this year,but decided instead to participate in a CSA with a local organic farm. With baby Olivia joining our family in March I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get any seeds in the ground or take good care of them. I’m so glad we made it a priority to still have fresh vegetables every week!
Its been so much fun trying new veggies and learning to eat things that I NEVER would have tried otherwise.

Here are a few new veggies that we’ve eaten:

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Hakurei salad turnips. I had never even had turnips before, let alone put them in a salad! I absolutely love these turnips! They are crisp and fresh and sweet and seriously I can just bite into them and eat them like an apple. They’re that good. If we plant veggies next year, these will be one of the must-haves.

Beets. I’ve had pickled beets before and they weren’t my fave, so I was kind of scared to try fresh beets and had no idea how to cook them. It turns out, they are good peeled and sliced in salad, they add a really nice flavor to stir-fry (although they turn everything pink!) and are also yummy roasted with other root veggies.

Asian Greens.  This includes bok choy, pak choy (they’re two completely different things- pak choy is smaller), and this other really good one that I can’t remember the name of. They add such a nice flavor to stir-fries and soups! And of course they are good in salad too. 

Rainbow Chard. I was nervous about being able to find ways to eat this one as well, because I’d tried steamed chard before and hated it. But its super yummy in stir fry (see a theme? we have stir fry at least once a week now and love it!) and also good in salad. The lovely bright colored leaves and stalks are so pretty! 

Of course we have gotten all of the “normal” veggies that are usually front and center at the grocery store- carrots, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, radishes, green beans, peas, spinach, kale, lettuce, basil, parsley, dill and many more. 
I’ve even been able to put up a few baggies of extra green beans and peas that we couldn’t eat, as well as some chard and kale for fall and winter soups. If you’re thinking of participating in Consumer Supported Agriculture, I definitely recommend it! Our CSA ends at the end of September and I’m already kind of sad that its almost over. If we can afford it I’d love to do it again next year, I really enjoy getting a nice big bag of delicious surprises every week. 

Honestly, there hasn’t been a vegetable that we’ve gotten and not liked. There are definitely favorites that we each have, but overall every single vegetable has been super fresh, flavorful and delicious.  

My grandpa has been giving us zucchini and cucumbers and potatoes and squash and corn from his garden as well, so my mom and I have been putting those up, blanching and freezing and making pickles and zucchini bread. 

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Lemon Cucumber Refrigerator Pickles

Now the apples and prunes are getting ripe and the blackberries are just finishing up- which means jam and pie and applesauce and maybe cider. Eating with the seasons has such a lovely rhythm to it. I love it!

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What do you think about eating seasonally? Have you tried it? Did you like it, or would you rather just go to the grocery store and get what you want year round? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

 

 

A Story About Substantial Salad (and a recipe)

First: baby pictures!!

Because I can. 😉

It’s been a month since Olivia’s been born- I can’t believe it!
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Time has gone so  quickly!

Here is what she looks like now:

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So Cute!! She just started smiling last week, I love it!

Okay, here is a story about salad. And how I eat it and actually don’t feel deprived.

Around a month before Olivia was born, I went to my normal midwife appointment, and I had gained 6 pounds. In two weeks. Oops.

My midwife was not happy, and she told me that I needed to stop eating carbs, period. I could have as many vegetables as I liked, and lots of protein, but to stop eating carbs. I already had told her that I stay away from sugar most of the time. (except for those times I make cookies and eat like six the day I make them…but it’s organic sugar and they are oatmeal raisin cookies…they’re “healthy” right?)

She gave me the example, if we were having spaghetti for dinner I could eat some veggies with pasta sauce, but no noodles. Dang. That’s hard core.

Our family has basically switched out complex carbs in place of meat….like beans and rice, lots of beans of different kinds- lentils, chickpeas, whole wheat pasta without meat….or sometimes with meat,  but meat is so expensive because we want to buy good quality, pastured meat that we’ve cut back on the amount we eat. So…if I stopped eating carbs, what would I eat?
I was offended at first, and upset and not sure where to begin. So I started with just not eating bread.

I make my own bread, and it is GOOD. It was hard to give up, but I had been eating around 5 pieces a day- toast two or three times a day, a sandwich for lunch, toast after dinner with cinnamon sugar for dessert. I hadn’t realized how much bread I’d been eating!
Once I cut it out of my diet, I started to feel more energetic and less…puffy. Not sure how else to explain it.

I also started eating lots of yogurt and cottage cheese, and putting oats, flaxseed and chia seeds in the yogurt to bulk it up. I know some of those are carbs, but they also have fiber in them. I also still ate our normal breakfast- steel cut oats with maple syrup and milk, and I started finding veggies that I could eat instead of carbs for dinner. One of my favorites has been sweet potatoes. They make a really good substitute for rice or beans, since they are still kinda starchy but have lots of good vitamins in them and are delicious.

Then I began having salad for lunch.

I must confess, I have never been a salad girl. You know, those girls who eat salad all the time and go to restaurants and order salad. If I’m going to a restaurant, I’m ordering real food, ya’ll. I can make salad at home and don’t have to pay $7 for it when I can get a super good burger for the same price.

But after eating this for a while…

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I think I’m becoming a salad girl.

Although I don’t think I’ll ever order a salad from a restaurant, because we don’t really go to them all that often so when we do, I kind of splurge and get something I wouldn’t make at home.

And this salad…

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This salad is more than just lettuce.

I’ve been eating it almost every day for lunch for a couple months now, and I feel like it’s my special indulgence of the day- which I get to prepare just for me; no one else. It’s so yummy and it actually keeps me full for several hours!

Here’s what is in it:

Organic lettuce or spinach or a spring mix, depending on what is cheapest at the store

Organic cherry tomatoes (non-organic tomatoes taste gross like chemicals and may be genetically  modified)

Broccoli

Cucumber

Red Cabbage

Organic raisins

Chia Seeds (protein!)

Hardboiled egg from our hens (organic, free range protein!)

Blue cheese dressing

It’s so yummy and filling! Avocado is delicious in there too, I’m just out right now. And sometimes I have a small dish of cottage cheese on the side if I’m extra hungry.

So back to the story…

I went back to the midwife two weeks later and…I’d lost 3 pounds. Lost!
Then I lost another pound the next two weeks, then didn’t gain any more weight the remaining week or so of my pregnancy.

Cutting out carbs works, man!

So that’s my weight loss plan for losing the baby weight:

Salad for lunch, very few carbs, lots of protein and healthy fats like coconut oil and olive oil. And I’m trying not to make cookies very often, but it’s hard when Ellie (my 4 year old who LOVES to bake) asks I just have trouble saying no. 🙂 I have been eating a few more carbs than I did when I was pregnant because I figure that the calories I burn when nursing will make up for my eating them.

So far it’s working; I’m about halfway there to my pre-preggo weight. Hopefully it will keep working! Even if it doesn’t for some reason, I’m hooked on the salad for lunch thing, and miss it when I have something else.

Are you a salad person? If so, try this salad, it’s so good!

 

Learning To Eat In Season

This spring, we decided to purchase a CSA for our summer/early fall vegetables from a local organic farm school.

I’m so excited! My hubby and I have wanted to do a CSA for a couple years but haven’t been able to financially make it work til this year.  We’ll get to experiment with veggies we’ve never eaten and try new recipes to accommodate them, which will be fun and interesting to see how it works out. I’m going to be planning our weekly dinner menu around the veggies we get instead of making a menu and grocery list and then going and getting the food we’d need to make the recipes. The thought of this kind of makes my head spin- it’s completely opposite of what we’ve been doing.

What is a CSA?  It is community supported agriculture- you pay a local farmer and they give you a variety of fresh veggies every week for a set time- like 20 weeks, from June to September.  You may be able to find farms that offer CSA’s in your area by visiting localharvest.org or by doing a Google search. It’s a good way to support your local farmers and get delicious, pesticide and chemical free produce!

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I’m kinda stuck.

I thought I’d try to get some practice in and start this month, buying veggies and fruits that are on sale at the grocery store and trying not to buy stuff that is out of season. It’s harder than I thought it would be. I normally love making lists and planning what we’ll eat but I’m finding myself somewhat stumped this time around, trying to evaluate if what I’m thinking of making requires ingredients that are out of season or not. Maybe I’m thinking about it too deeply.

Looking at the grocery store sales paper; I had mixed feelings of what was on sale. Some things are great- like the organic oranges and lemons, but they still come from far away places like Mexico and Florida, which isn’t local by any means. Bananas are on sale, and we’ll buy them because they are cheap ($0.49 a lb!) and delicious, even though they are not from anywhere close by. And if we don’t eat them all, I can freeze them or make banana bread. yum!

Other things, like apples; are getting more expensive at the grocery store as the supply is beginning to dwindle. And honestly, apples at this time of year are not always that good- they can be mealy or over ripe and taste weird. But I love my peanut butter and apple slices and am sad that I have to wait until next fall to eat them again. Since I live in Washington, apples are always around…they just shoot WAY up in price, especially for organic ones. And paying $4 a pound is not my favorite thing to do, so we’ll probably cut back on the apples and peanut butter snacks and substitute something that is less expensive.

Broccoli is on sale, and we’ll get some of it for salads and as a side, and I like to have carrots and potatoes on hand for impromptu days of rain, which calls for chicken soup. But other than that, I’m having trouble.

So…could you help me out?

There are tons of greens that are in season right now- kale, spinach, lettuce, chard, Asian greens like bok choy. I’ll have to learn how to cook the chard/bok choy. I have no idea how to prepare them! So….if you know how to eat them and make them delicious, could you help me out and post a link or a recipe ? I’d SUPER appreciate it!

Also, I’d love to know your favorite spring vegetable and how you eat it, to give me some ideas. 🙂 Thanks!

Shellin’ The Beans

This spring we planted Black Beans from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and a couple weeks ago they were finally ready to harvest. I decided to plant the “Cherokee Trail of Tears” variety, mostly because of the cool story behind it.

When the Cherokee people were forced to leave their homes and march on the Trail of Tears to the reservations in 1889, they brought the seeds for this variety of bean with them from Tennessee to Oklahoma. Since we lived in Tennessee until last year, I though it would be fun to plant these beans. They did really well- the purple pods are so pretty! When they were beginning to dry out we picked them and hung them to dry over our kitchen window for about a week. I was afraid it would start to get rainy and they would mold if we left them on the plants in the garden. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about, since we’ve had lots of sunny weather up until a few days ago. But in Washington, you never know.

Once the beans were dried out, it was time for shelling. The kids and I took the bean vines out on the porch and got to work!

We had fun chasing the beans as some of them exploded and beans went all over the place.

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We ended up shelling around a pound of beans- definitely not enough to keep us from starving if we were living completely off the land, but for a first crop of about 8-10 plants, not too bad. I am going to save all of the beans for planting again next year and hopefully we’ll get enough to eat and save for seeds the year after that.

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The beans are super shiny and pretty- way more good looking than the dull black beans you get in the store. I’m excited about the prospect of eating them next year. It will be worth the wait, I think.

Have you ever planted heirloom beans? How did they do for you?

Crock Pot Applesauce- an easy recipe

It’s the beginning of apple season and one of the best ways to use the lesser quality apples (Transparents, Crab apples) is to make them into applesauce.

My great-uncle and aunt have Transparent apple trees and they got a ton of them this year and graciously gave a few boxes away to my mom and I.

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Transparent apples tend to be kind of mealy and are not very good to eat just off the tree, so they are the perfect candidate to be made into applesauce.

Since I work most afternoon/evenings, I don’t have time to cook applesauce over the stove and then can it, (although I would LOVE to) so I’ve taken to just making applesauce in the crock pot and then freezing it.

It’s SUPER easy.

Basically, you take your apples, peel, core and slice them.

Throw them in the crockpot.

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Put on the lid, turn it on high for about 2 hours or on low for 4-ish hours, until your apples are soft and mushy.

I don’t puree it or anything, just let it cook til it’s soft and stir it up really well, and it gets pretty smooth on it’s own.

Then I let it cool, and put it in mason jars (with an inch or two of headroom) or gallon ziploc freezer bags and stick it in the freezer.

And that’s it!

So easy and delicious. You don’t need to add any sugar or anything for Transparent apples, although I might add some kind of sweetener for Crab apples as they tend to be a little more tart. I’m going to use my applesauce for making Mom’s Multi-Grain Bread, or just for a “dessert” in the winter. It almost tastes like apple pie, it is so yummy.

What is your favorite way to make applesauce?

Do you can it or freeze it?? I’d love to hear from you!

Poached Eggs on Toast

When it comes to breakfast; up until recently I’ve been a toast, granola, or steel cut oats with blueberries and maple syrup kinda girl.

Then my sister introduced me to poached eggs on toast and I have to say, I’m in love.

Enjoying delicious homemade bread toasted to perfection with a farm fresh egg poached just the right length of time- it’s great! Yum!

Plus, I kinda feel English when I eat it. Because in my mind, this is what British people eat for breakfast. I have no idea if that’s actually true. (Any English people want to set me straight? ) 😉

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The trick is to drop the egg into boiling water and push down the toast in the toaster immediately afterwards. Then when the toast pops up, your egg is done!  (as long as you like your toast semi- golden/bordering on dark)

I’ve always had a phobia of slimy egg whites. I mean, they’re just…ew. Not appetizing at all.

But when you use this method, the egg gets cooked just enough that it’s not slimy and the yolk is still nice and soft and runny.

Chop the egg up so the yolk runs all over the generously buttered toast.

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Serve with a cup of tea or coffee and you’ve got a fantastic breakfast!

The Garden, She is Planted. Mostly.

So, I bet from the title of my post you can guess what I’m going to write about.

Yup.

Our garden is finally in the works- most of the seeds are in the ground and a few are poking their brave little heads above the soil to open their leaves to the world.

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This is a Cherokee Trail Of Tears Black Bean.

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I think this is a Calima Bush Bean. I think.

I am so pumped!

I really hope everything doesn’t die.

Sorry, that was bad English.

I really hope that most of the seeds survive- we’ve already lost all but two broccoli plants ( out of 6) and a couple of my tomato plants are about to bite the dust.
Thankfully, I have more seeds I can plant and replace the ones that died.
I also have a few crops that I’m going to wait until late summer to plant, like another round of broccoli, some parsnips, and turnips and then in the fall I’ll do another round of lettuce and spinach and cabbage.
Here is my garden plan: it’s super high-tech. See?

Who needs a fancy computer plan if you have paper and a pen?

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That’s the only way I know what is planted where; I didn’t take the time to label everything in the garden. Maybe I will after the plants all sprout, we’ll see. There are some pretty cute ideas on Pinterest.

For those of you who can’t read my crazy drawing, here is what we planted:

Alaska Peas, Sugar Snap Peas, Zucchini, Sweet Postatoes, Soup Beans, Marigolds, Arkansas Traveller Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Calima Bush Beans, Zinnias, Red Potatoes, some other potatoes that were given to us, Black Beans, Amish Paste Tomatoes, Ox Blood Beets, Cherry Tomatoes, Oak Leaf Lettuce, Rocky Top Lettuce Mix, Spinach, Chives, Broccoli, Cilantro, Leeks, Chiogga Beets, Atomic Red Carrots, Half Long Guernsey Carrots, Radishes, Cabbage and Garlic.

Whew! I also have a bunch of herbs that are growing in containers, like Basil, Chamomile, Thyme, Oregano and some others that I still need to plant like Horehound, Borage and Yarrow.

I’m not sure where I’m going to plant those yet.

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For now, I’m just out there in the garden every day, pulling up grass roots and pesky weeds, anxiously scanning the dirt to see if any new seeds have popped up, and squealing when I find them. It’s the simple things in life. 🙂

Rhubarb! (And a recipe)

Rhubarb is one of those things I don’t really think about eating until I see it and think, “Hey, I should cook something out of that.”

On my parent’s property there are several small patches of rhubarb that spring up every year.  I think the plants have been there quite a long time since this land was my great-grandparent’s way back in the day and they are near where the old barn used to be. Perennial vegetables are so cool!

I’ve been waiting for a while for the rhubarb to get big enough to pick, this week it was finally time to snap off the first few crimson stalks and cut them up to make a strawberry rhubarb crisp.

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The kids helped pick and prepare the rhubarb- they love cutting up veggies for me.

I love that they love to help!

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To the bowl of cut rhubarb we added some sugar, lemon juice and sliced strawberries along with some chia seeds for extra protein and mixed it up and poured it into a greased baking pan. Next we mixed a cup each of flour, rolled oats, some butter and a bit of brown sugar til it was crumbly and sprinkled it on top of the fruit. We baked it for about 25 minutes and it was so good! The rhubarb was super juicy and still tart and had a tiny bit of firmness to it (so if you like it softer, cook the crisp a bit longer) and the topping was delicious.

I used this recipe from Ina Garten as a guide and followed it loosely- mostly I just used the measurements and added and subtracted a few ingredients.
The crisp turned out so yummy I forgot to snap a picture before it was gobbled up, but you’ll have to take my word for it that it was actually as pretty to look at as it was good to eat. 🙂

Once strawberries are in season and cheaper than they are now, we’ll be making strawberry rhubarb jam. I can’t wait!

What dishes do you use rhubarb in? I’d love some new ideas!