Omnivores Rejoice!

Can we all agree this quinoa salad looks amazing?! Well, if you are looking to make this salad or many more like it you’ll probably enjoy browsing the NY Times. A friend just introduced me to the NY Times Recipes For Health section. This is a great resource for recipes, wellness tips, and various health related fare. There are search options for both food items and themes. In food items you will learn a little history, nutrition, &/or fun facts. In the themes section you can view all kinds of recipe ideas! On the side you will see a link to “Well”; a blog about wellness from a holistic perspective. It is wonderful. Have fun browsing!


A Quick Lesson in Organics & Healthy Diets

My good family friend, Monica Jagel, recently asked me to write an introduction of sorts on the importance of organic & healthy food choices for a recipe book she is in the process of compiling. Below is part of what will be featured in her book. You may just learn a thing or two from my quick lesson in organics & healthy diets!

Our country is undergoing a food movement which one may associate with terms such as organic, sustainable, local, natural, and non-GMO (genetically modified organism) to name a few. This surge in awareness toward organic & local food is critical for the health of both the planet and humans. Unfortunately, our food system currently operates backwards and organics are most often more expensive than conventional; making it a challenge for most people to afford organic food.

Certified organic food ensures the following: pesticide & herbicide free, non-GMO (genetically modified organism), non-irradiated, natural fertilizers, no added growth hormones, and antibiotic free. Organic food production benefits the environment, as it works with nature, not against as conventional does. Pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers are heavily used in conventional production meaning not only are you consuming these, but so too is the soil, air, waterways, insects, and countless wildlife that live in that area.

The meat and dairy industries are in particularly horrible condition; factory farms are contributors to the majority of meat, dairy, and eggs in our country. Conditions on these farms are anything from healthy; overcrowding, confinement, animal abuse, disease, antibiotic use, toxic runoff from too much untreated manure, etc. Given the disease laden state their animals are raised in, it is crucial to source either organically or local. Since many small farmers cannot afford to become USDA certified organic, get to know your local farmer(s) and inquire their practices. Most farmers who sell local at the farmers market, a coop, or have a CSA (community supported agriculture) are raising their animals humanely, without unnecessary growth hormones, and allowing them to roam the pastures.

A healthy diet does not necessarily mean low fat, fat free, sugar free, or carb-free. To properly nourish your body one must eat a well-rounded, whole foods based diet. A well-rounded diet includes lots of fresh greens, vegetables, and fruits alongside whole grains, beans & legumes, nuts & seeds, and thoughtfully sourced meat & dairy. Avoiding as much packaged foods as you can will guarantee most of your diet to be whole foods. Our bodies are designed to eat real food and nine times out of ten ingredients in a packaged product does not qualify as “real”, rather creations from a laboratory. An easy rule of thumb to stick to is “5 ingredients or under” and/or you should be able to recognize and pronounce all ingredients.

And as always… vote with your FORK!

Cinnamon Chia Pudding

Back in my early blogging days-ohhhhh so long ago-I wrote a post about the wonders of Chia Seeds. I’m still loving on the wonders of these little seeds that swell into tasty little balls of fun. Kind of similar to Overnight Oats, I recommend buying some chia seeds and trying this fast, yummy, and super healthy recipe:

1 cup milk of choice
4 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp honey, stevia, or sweetener of choice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 tsp cinnamon

Mix altogether in a jar and let sit for at least one hour. Making this the night before and having it for breakfast is also an option as chia seeds are packed with nutrition. Just give it all a good stir before eating.

Add some, all, or none (boring!) of the following after the seeds have soaked for added joy!::
bananas, nuts, granola, dried food, fresh berries, cocoa powder.

Sugar & it’s Not-So-Sweet Truth

Skinny Bitch, Chapter 3: “Sugar is the Devil”. Crazy Sexy Diet, Chapter 3: “ Sugar: The Legal Drug”. Entire chapters have been devoted to why we shouldn’t be consuming as much sugar as we currently are. Both books lay it out in a no-nonsense approach: if you eat too much sugar you are putting your body through hell & making yourself sick. Sick you say? Yes, sick & fat. Interested to learn more? Please, read on folks.

Some of the health problems associated with excess consumption of white, refined sugar include: acne, weakened immunity, candida (yeast overgrowth), cavities, cancer, inflammation, strips your body of important minerals, hormonal imbalance, hypoglycemia, ADD, ADHD, enlargement of kidneys & liver, imbalance of neurotransmitters in your brain, diabetes… the list goes on! Understanding the physiology of our body is critical in seeing the big picture as to how we metabolize sugar so here is a mini crash course…

When we ingest something that has sugar in it, a few things happen. First, the liver breaks it down into glucose, the simplest form, and spits it out into the bloodstream. Simultaneously, our pancreas is pumping insulin into the blood. Insulin brings the glucose into our cells for immediate energy use. When our cells have reached maximum capacity for glucose however, insulin must take it back to the liver to be stored as glycogen (stored energy). If this glycogen does not get used up via exercise, between meals, sleep, etc. the liver too reaches capacity and converts it into… yep you guessed it. Fat. In the form of triglycerides. This fat is stored, mostly around the abdominal area, increasing your chance of heart disease and diabetes. So really when you think about sugar in this way, it doesn’t sound so sweet, right?

In Crazy Sexy Diet, author Kris Carr includes a handy list of “Sneaky Sugar” that is very helpful to know the different names sugar comes in. Some, not all, of the ones listed include:

– Brown sugar
– Corn sweetener
– Corn syrup
– Dextrose
– Fruit juice concentrate
– High-fructose corn syrup!
– Lactose
– Maltose
– Malt
– Maple sugar
– Maple syrup
– Molasses
– Raw sugar
– Turbinado
– Sucrose

With all these alias’, sugar certainly sneaks its way into SOO TOO many foods. Not only do you have the simple carbohydrates you should avoid (white flours, white rice, white pasta), but we’re also pretty doomed with the majority of foods packaged or pre-made. Added sugar is hidden in many salsas, condiments, almond/soy/rice milks, crackers, dressings, dips, flavored drinks, breads, dark chocolate… the list goes on! Pay attention to labels and ask at restaurants! I’ve become a rockstar at this… it only gets easier with time and you really come to know the brands that are not adding all the evils.

One more thing to keep in mind is that just because a sugar is labeled “vegan” or “organic” does not mean it’s any better for you. Granted, if you are going to consume anything it is always best to choose organic. However, when push comes to shove, organic sugar does not justify you eating an entire package of cookies.

So, what is my take on all this? It’s easy. I avoid all those listed above between 90-99% of the time. For now, I do enjoy beer once in awhile and I love me some dark chocolate. Unless I’m making my own I don’t have much choice so I give myself that. Allow yourself some breather room and just remember you are changing your eating habits for your WELL BEING. You’ll feel better both physically and mentally. Don’t be so hard on yourself that you go crazy. Cause that’s no fun. Aim for sanity & health! :)

Agave Nectar… Too Good to Be True

What is one of the greatest contributors to weight gain, disease, diabetes, and a handful of other health ailments: SUGAR! Sugar comes in many forms, alias’ on labels, and is a sneaky little bugger in many foods. Sugar reeks havoc in our body… and not just for those with diabetes! As humans we are driven towards sweets as our mother’s breast milk is sweet from the carbs and a general rule with foraging for food in nature: sweet = edible, bitter = toxic! However, despite our innate drive to sweets, there is always the healthier alternative…

A year ago I removed processed sugars from my diet and have never looked back. Easier than I thought given the sweet tooth I unfortunately have. The only sweeteners I have in the house are raw honey and stevia. I once believed agave – even raw agave- were a legit alternative to sugar but thankfully I became weary of this highly processed sweetener before its evils were revealed. I have come across many readings lately why agave does not deserve the praise it once had (especially for diabetics saying it doesn’t spike the blood sugar as rapidly as other sugars) but this Agave article on Food Renegade nipped it in the butt. I won’t purchase agave anymore but if it happens to be in a dish prepared while eating out or is the sweetener used in a raw prepared dessert than so be it. You gotta live a little and let’s be honest… small amounts aren’t gonna kill ya.

Stay tuned for a more in-depth post on sugar and its negative effects and how you can eliminate it from your diet. Your body WILL thank you. In the mean time read this article and remember to not always believe what a *processed* food claims to be.

Good Cooks Always Have Friends

This post is dedicated to Andrew Delveaux & Amy Horton. I LOVE these two and am so glad they ventured into my life this spring! Tuesday evening we made dinner at Andrew’s… I mean Bobby Flay’s. Good food, great company!


Kale Chips

To make this healthier alternative to potato or tortilla chips simply do the following:
-1 or 2 bunches of kale (1 head = 2 baking sheets of chips)
-olive oil
-nutritional yeast (optional)

Remove the kale from the hard ‘ribs’,rinse, and dry. Tear into bite size pieces and place in a bowl with 3-4 tbsp olive oil & a few dashes of salt. Options to add any other spices or flavor combinations. I added some nutritional yeast to half the batch.
Bake at the lowest temperature until crispy (at least an hour) or at 300 for about 20-30. Midway through remove and toss around to prevent burning. Great alone or dipped in ketchup…yum yum yum!

Raspberries in the ceramic pint dish Amy gifted me! This will get SO much use!

Quinoa Salad

Garden Salad
Sauteed Spinach & Garlic (yum!!!!!)

and DESSERT!….

No meal is complete without dessert! Thanks to Amy & her mad kitchen skills we had a raw pie. The filling was avocado, mango, banana, and coconut oil in a date & almond crust. It was insanely good…. can you tell we loved it?!?!

We had this tasty meal on Andrew’s porch with intermittent moments of silence screaming when the el rode by just a stone throws away.

I can’t wait until the next kitchen adventures with all us! I just may have to make special trips to Chicago :)

Summer at the Farm

Summer is flying flew by! Before my move TODAY, I snuck in a trip to my farm last weekend. Four days of family, good friends, great food & local WI brews, and farms… hard to beat it!

Last Friday my Mom and I picked Brian up from work and took a different route to our farm-venturing off the highway for some scenery and the Brat Stop outside Kenosha, WI. If you ever have a hankering for PBR bottle or football shaped sausages and any flavored cheese curd you could imagine … go here. For dinner we stopped in Madison at the Green Owl Café. This vegan & vegetarian friendly café had excellent food (hummus & kale chips were fantastic!) and the décor was simple, tasteful and highlighted with cute owls throughout. We arrived at the farm in time to share some beverages with our good family friends Nora & Grace Pedersen and friend Emily.

On Saturday Brian, Grace, Nora, Emily, and I loaded up the bikes and headed out to the Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail. Starting out it was nice & sunny but Mother Nature had other plans in store for us. By the time we finished we rode through two downpours that left us all soaked & VERY muddy. Needless to say, it was my favorite ride on the trail in all the years I’ve been riding it. These pictures don’t even capture how wet & dirty we were.



After we returned home and showered we tapped into some delicious Spotted Cows while grilling dinner with the ‘rents. We made a cucumber & tomato salad (thanks to my friend Kristin’s abundance of DELICIOUS tomatoes from her garden!Thanks Kris!), grilled corn, spinach salad, roasted brussel sprouts (compliments of Grace) and grilled chicken for the carnies. We finished just in time to head back up the ridge to the Pedersen’s farm and catch the sunset…

My cousin Avis drove up that evening & met us up the ridge for the last bit of light & moonrise, s’mores & ghosts stories around the fire and Scattegories.

Sunday entailed more biking, grilling, scenic drives around SW Wisco, and a guilty pleasure of Keeping Up With the Kardashians to fall asleep to. Monday a.m. I took A on her first official tour of the farm via ATV. We just had the property logged so it was looking a bit barren throughout but still remains packed with beautiful pine trees & fields of wildflowers.

We said our goodbyes to my Dad as he was busy tractorin’ around…

…and headed into Madison. Quick stop at Willy Street Coop for kombucha & I found a seed bomb dispenser! Instead of gumballs… throw in two quarters to spread some wildflower lovin’. Great idea!

We spent the afternoon in Madison doing a little thrifting on State St. & had a tasty dinner at the Sunroom Café. I tried my new fave local WI brew… Madtown Nutbrown Ale. Perfection in a pint!

Now that I am in Pittsburgh I will have to find the perfect location to throw my seed bomb… oh where oh where do I spread some Madison wildflower love in this city?


Today was full of many great things (my title is so creative, eh?). I attribute this to great homemade food, beautiful sunny skies with cooler temps, and a new tent! yay!! I can’t wait to go camping and break this newbie in.

As for my juice this morning- make that early afternoon as a late morning & very successful business meeting got in the way (awesome #1). As soon as I got home I raided the fridge and threw these goodies into the juicer:

-1 medium cucumber
-4 stalks celery
-1/2 lemon
-1 in. nubbin of ginger
-handful of romaine
-giant slice of watermelon

yield: about 20 oz.
… and in less than 5 minutes it was in my belly! Awesome #2.

My mom and I ventured to REI and purchased a new tent. When I left Maui in March I left my tent with a fellow WWOOFer who arrived a week prior sans tent. It was a win-win. He scored a free roof over his head and I now scored a free, brand new tent (thanks millions to mom & pops). Awesome #3.

Decided I was really hungry few hours later and snacked on homemade tahini I made yesterday. Was NOT expecting it to be as delicious as it was! While packing yesterday I took a break to make the tahini I had prepped Monday… what I thought had turned into a culinary disaster was in fact a success. As it was a “disaster” at the time, there is no real recipe. I slaved in the kitchen for over an hour to try and develop the correct consistency, which I never achieved, but here is roughly how homemade tahini ‘paste’ is made:

Soak raw, unhulled sesame seeds for 8-12 hours. Drain in a mesh colander and spread evenly on a baking pan. Place in oven on the lowest temperature to allow seeds to dry but not toast. Or if you have a dehydrator- use instead! Toast if you’d like at the end to give them some extra flavor but it is not necessary. After a few hours, the seeds should be dry. Add them to a Vita-Mix or your food processor and grind away! Add some olive oil after a few minutes and con’t to grind. I owe my mishap to a disfunctioning Vita-Mix. I kept adding things: lemon juice, water, pepper, more oil, more seeds, more lemon, more water, you get the idea. Still not right. Transferred to food processor. Better, but not perfect. After an hour I was tired and so over tahini. I stopped. I threw what I had made in old jars (starting with 2 C raw seeds came 1 1/2 jars of paste). Today I snacked on this tahini spread wrapped in Dino Kale leaves and VOILA…. awesome #4.

Tonight for dinner I was about to walk out the door to grab something at Whole Foods and thought silly me…. I have a fridge of veggies! I whipped up some pesto to add to a corn and edamame salad and finished off the salad from Sunday night.

My Pesto was great- full of flavor and creamy. The Vita-Mix pulled through on this one. All ingredients are rough estimates and I eye balled the whole thing. If it’s too thick add more lemon &/or oil, and if it is too thin add more basil/parsley/arugula. In the blender goes:

-fresh basil (2 C??)
-1/4 C olive oil
-1/4 C raw, soaked walnuts
-juice of 1/2 lemon
-dash pepper
-dash of nutritional yeast

I mixed two large spoonfuls of this into a bowl of corn, edamame, and fresh chopped parsley. Yep, you guessed it… awesome #5.

And the best of all?? Enjoying it on the deck in cool temperatures with a gorgeous sunset!!! awesome #6.

Awesome #7-10 was speaking with my dear friend Max who currently lives in Argentina. I am so grateful for his friendship and cannot imagine life without him. After all, a life without good friends wouldn’t be nearly as awesome :)

Marinated Broccoli, Garden Salad & Dijon Cider Dressing

Today I was craving a fresh, simple salad. Now that I moved back to my parent’s house until my move to PITTSBURGH (yippppee) next week, I am reunited with all the fresh herbs and poor excuse for veggies on the porch! But a few tomatoes are better than none, right???

In my salad went:

From Whole Foods:
-Red Leaf Lettuce
-Red & Yellow Pepper

Locally Sourced:
-Carrots (Nichols Farm & Orchard)
-Radishes (Nichols)

From my backyard:
-Dino Kale
-Tomatoes… these were incredible!

I’ve been craving tahini dressing (recently I enjoyed two really excellent ones from Heartland Cafe and another place that is slipping my mind right now. Unfortunately I need to soak my sesame seeds at least 12 hours before I make my homemade tahini so I chose the next best: dijon cider. I adapted this simple recipe from Natalia Rose. Toss the following ingredients into a blender for a few seconds for a very refreshing, light dressing.

yield: reused hot sauce jar

While I was preparing this salad I was really hungry so I snacked on some marinated broccoli. It a great combination of flavors but I don’t have an exact recipe as I just threw the following in a bowl with chopped broccoli stalk and florets:

-about 3 tbsp flax oil
-few dashes of tamari
-about 1-2 tbsp curry powder
-about 1/4 tsp garam masala

This was enough for a medium size head of broccoli. Adjust to your likings as always! Allow the broccoli to marinate for a least 4 hours or overnight so the broccoli softens and soaks in the flavors.