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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Oh the Hypocrisy

hypocrisy

noun,  hy·poc·ri·sy \hi-ˈpä-krə-sē also hī-\: the behavior of people who do things that they tell other people not to do :behavior that does not agree with what someone claims to believe or feel


I've been thinking about hypocrisy for awhile now. Partly due to it being an election year, partly due to the world around me, and partly due - in a more light hearted way - comments made to me by friends. You see, I operate in a "what you see is what you get" kind of way, but recognize that online, much of what I post is either staged, or something my adorable daughter has done (I may be a little biased on that last statement, but seriously, I can't get enough of what that little brain comes up with and shares with us), or is only one section of a moment. I'll post a picture of a vegan bowl we had for dinner (that was DELICIOUS by the way), but maybe not post the Pizza Hut delivery that came the next night for the daughter as we headed out to a farm-to-table restaurant where I'll Instagram a few pictures during the evening. In my defense, the Pizza Hut arrived after we had left...


Healthy dinner that turned out great (and has also been made for lunches). Link above, click "vegan bowl"


At any rate, I try not to post or share things to make anyone feel bad, least of all me. Yes, I'm "human" as one friend said when she heard about the take-out lunch Evie and I shared recently. No, I don't get everything right, and as posted here and on social media, some dinners I make are real stinkers. I blog and share those (successful) recipes and pictures to help show others that real people can eat healthy meals. Not to make anyone feel bad or less. Goodness, I'm about "the worst" as one friend likes to text to me...I'm far from perfect, but man do I get excited when I've cooked something healthy my family likes! I'm also more than happy to be the one testing a recipe before sharing it. I have the good fortune to have a family who is also willing to try out these recipes and give me (brutally) honest feedback.


Meal that didn't go well. Turns out, I can't cook ribs to save my life.


On a more serious note, my sister is going through some real health issues right now, most of which seems to be pointing to a need for a real diet overhaul (function tests are showing Celiac, among other issues, at this point). This made me REALLY sit up and take a look at what we eat. I *said* I was going to eat healthy and cut out certain things...but did I do that successfully since the beginning of the year? Or was I being a, gasp, HYPOCRITE?! I can say that for the past month, I've been a lot better, and our meal plans have reflected those choices. Of course, it certainly helps keep you honest when you also host friends and family for meals and they want to eat healthy too! 

The old blog has been on quite a hiatus. I would start posts or save pictures to share in a post, but then never finished them to be published. Maybe this is what my blog was waiting to come back to, a revamped version of itself...who knows. But know this, it is NEVER my intention to be a hypocrite. I just don't want to blog a picture of me at 10pm eating an entire bag of Kettle Brand Salt and Vinegar chips. No one wants to see that. Well, maybe you do, but my hands were too messy to take the selfie. 

Evening meal planning. Note the offending bag of chips.

So, "watch this space" as it (and I) re-reinvents what it is about, and starts sharing even more whole-food, healthy, and yummy recipes. A few meal plans might make their way back on here as well. I also promise to try to call myself out more, and in the meantime, take stock of yourself. How is your life going? Are you taking time for you? Are you eating as healthy as possible? Where could you make better choices?

Let's make a promise, I'll find, try, and blog recipes with honest opinions...and if you try them yourself, let me know how they turned out! I will also document fails, bad choices, etc. in order to be more transparent (goodness I hated that word when I was in the corporate world) for all of you. See you soon! 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Crock Pot Pork Shanks





I've already mentioned our CSA from North Mountain Pastures, but I would be remiss if I didn't at least give another shout out to "our" farm in nearby Perry County. We might not be the most on top of it when it comes to sustainable living, or always make the most responsible choices, but the decision to budget in this meat CSA has done some incredible things for us. One, we eat less meat. The portions from our 20 pound share end up being pretty reasonable. The four to five pound chickens make for a lovely Sunday Dinner, then a good amount of stock, plus lunch chicken salad, chicken soup, chicken for tetrazzini...you name it! For the beef and the pork, the amounts are much closer to what is appropriate for meals (you know, instead of eating an entire side of beef in one setting. I'm not saying I've ever done that...but I'm not saying I haven't). Two, we are giving our money to a local farm.  There used to be a lot more farms around this area.  To help support, in some small way, one of them makes my heart happy. Three, our weekly grocery shopping bills are so much lower because I'm mostly buying produce from week to week, and very little else.  I'd say the grocery cart is 70% produce, 15% dairy and eggs, the rest pantry items and things like cereal or tissues.  Finally, I feel a little better about feeding my family meat protein. Bonus, when the farm has it's December and January hiatus, I get to be creative and find some pretty awesome vegetarian and vegan recipes!

For today's recipe, I am sharing my version of this recipe found and pinned on my board for CSA recipes.  I'm not kidding. I made a board just for CSA recipes because we've received cuts of meat I've never even heard of before, and certainly haven't prepared in the past!  The first time I made this recipe, I followed it exactly...and grumbled the entire time that the whole point of the crockpot was to save you work. The set up had me full on browning, sweating, and deglazing. The end result was good, but I was still bitter.  The second go was more of a "throw everything in!! NOW!" before I rushed out the door to work, and let me tell you, it was every bit as yummy.  I honestly couldn't tell any difference, and neither could my family.  Therefore, I will present it below "my" way.  The link is above to give credit and for you to be able to check out both ways!

Crock Pot Pork Shanks
adapted from meatified August 2013 Slow Cooker Pork Shanks

2-4 Pork Shanks (we usually get about 2-3 when they show up in the CSA)
3-4 good sized carrots, diced (you'll see below I just sort of chopped them roughly, that worked too)
3 stalks celery, diced
2 onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large container of baby bella sliced mushrooms, cleaned
3 springs of thyme, leaves removed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup chicken stock
15 ounces chopped tomatoes (I used canned, with juices)
Zest of one lemon, juice from half

Place carrots, onions, garlic, and celery in the bottom of your crockpot. Cover pork shanks with a generous amount of kosher salt and crushed black pepper.  Arrange pork shanks on top of carrot mixture, place mushrooms to cover pork shanks. Sprinkle with thyme leaves, oregano, and salt.  Pour over chicken stock and tomatoes.  Cook on low 7-8 hours or high for 4 hours.  When done, remove pork shanks, keep warm.  Ladle about half of the veggies and fluid from the crockpot into a high powered blender.  Add the lemon zest and juice, blend until smooth.  Add salt and pepper as needed.  Pour your vegetable gravy back into the crockpot, remove meat from bones and stir pork back into the mix.  Serve over polenta, mashed potatoes, rice, noodles, zoodles, etc. and enjoy!





Monday, February 29, 2016

Molé and Musings (on Resolutions...so far)

How is everyone doing this last (extra) day of February 2016? Where are we with resolutions/ideas/promises? I can happily report that the meal planning and whole foods eating is still going pretty well around here. However, I must admit that February wasn't pretty from an exercise standpoint. I ran 10 less miles in February than I did in January. I'm choosing to celebrate instead of admonishing. Because, even though I did 10 less miles, I did them more than one minute faster per mile pace! I went from a 13:46/min mile to 12:34! Go me!  

Runkeeper helps keep me honest.



I have discovered that, at least for me, celebrating whatever you can find to celebrate keeps me on track WAY better than being upset over the parts where you fall down. Besides, those 9.8 miles were 9.8 more miles than I ran the whole of August-December 2015. Those 9.8 miles were 9.8 miles of strength building I can use to make March better.Those 9.8 miles were 9.8 miles of putting myself to the test and coming up strong! I worked really hard in January, I think maybe pushed a bit more than I was exactly ready. February was recovery. That's my story and I'm good with it!

Now, back to the eating. Meal planning has become an integral part of my week and life. My little book sits on the recipe holder on my counter, with the week's menu on the left page for all to see, that week's grocery list on the right, full of check marks from last Friday's shopping trip. I flip a page forward and make notes on the grocery list for the next week as necessary. Calendar notes precede each night's meal (Voices of the Valley for Mama on Mondays,Children's Choir for Evie on Wednesday, occasional work meeting or meal noted for Daddy). Each note causes a slight change in the meal, less food needed, or a quick meal is necessary that night. Or, in the case of this coming Thursday, which is our Brownie meeting night, I've already precooked the meatballs and they're awaiting a sauce and reheat. Dinner for Thursday will now be on the table in 15-20 minutes as opposed to the 60 it originally would have taken me. Have I mentioned how much meal planning has saved my life? Okay, that might a bit drastic, but seriously. We eat healthier, no more last minute out-to-dinner or hastily thrown together unhealthy meal. Our lunches are packed, saving us money and keeping us healthy. I have managed to cut, on average, $50-$100 from the grocery bill each week by carefully planning and taking note of what is already in the pantry. All bonuses.Only downside? No more bags of chips to rip open at 10pm and devour. Wait. I guess that's an upside. Depends on how you look at that one I suppose...


For this post's recipe, I'm only going to share half of the recipe from that night's meal. It was Butternut Squash and Black Bean Enchiladas with a Quick Molé. The molé was wonderful. The enchilada filling? Not so much. I'm not sure if it was textural (we do like butternut squash around here usually), if it was the sweet squash against the sweet sauce, or a combination of both. Regardless, if we do this again, we'll do it with a corn, black bean, tomato, and cheese mix. Did I mention though that the sauce was DELICIOUS?! Seriously though, if dinner includes melted chocolate, how could you go wrong?




Quick Molé

adapted from Sylvia Fountaine's Feasting at Home Blog November 2015

15 ounce can tomato sauce
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
½ onion, cut into quarters
½ Cup water
1 tablespoon tamari
2 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, plus 1 Tablespoon adobo sauce
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
½ tsp kosher salt
-----
3-4 Tablespoons sesame tahini paste (or peanut butter)
2 ounces dark chocolate chips

Place first nine ingredients (from tomato sauce to kosher salt) into blender, and process until smooth. Pour into small sauce pan and heat thoroughly over medium high heat, do not boil. After about ten minutes, remove from heat, stir in tahini paste and chocolate chips. Stir until chocolate is melted, pour over chicken, enchiladas, rice, etc.!

Enjoy!







Sunday, January 17, 2016

Curried butternut squash and brown rice




In a continued effort to pack healthy, veggie or, better yet, vegan lunches, I give you curried butternut squash with brown rice and chickpeas. Thank you to Pinterest and Naturally Ella blog for the idea! I had a butternut squash laying around as a gift from our neighbor's CSA. We always have brown rice in the pantry, and I've been buying chickpeas to make hummus on a regular basis. Canned tomatoes are usually to be found around here too...so, this was also a budget friendly recipe on top of being (at least sounding) delicious. The recipe made enough for four lunches, so next time I might double it...one butternut squash probably gives you enough for two, maybe three of these recipes.  



I know I've said this before, but, just like my Mother says, if I say I'm not hungry, just start sautéing onions in a fat, and I'll change my mind. The onions and garlic in the olive oil smelled sooooo good right away!  


Drop in the butternut squash for a bit, let it start to soften.


After adding in the rice and curry, the smell in the kitchen was amazing. Toasting your spices before adding liquid intensifies and emboldens their flavor.


The tomatoes and their juices along with the chick peas begins the process of cooking the rice, but there isn't enough fluid in just the tomatoes, so...


Adding in the vegetable stock, with some salt, finishes off the active cooking. Just throw the lid on, and wait until the rice is done!


Curried Butternut Squash with Brown Rice and Chickpeas

Ingredients 
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 1/2 cups butternut squash (1/2 inch dice)
1 1/2 tbsp curry powder (we used 1 tbsp regular curry, 1/2 tbsp hot curry)
1/2 cup brown rice
1 can (15oz) diced tomatoes, with juices
1/2 cup rinsed and drained chick peas
Pinch or more of kosher salt, to taste
1 1/2 cup vegetable broth


Start with olive oil in your sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Once heated, add in the onion and garlic.  Cook for two-three minutes, until the onion becomes translucent.  Add the butternut squash, cook for another two-three minutes.  Add in the brown rice, and the curry powder, toast for a few minutes.  Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, and a few pinches of kosher salt.  Stir well, cook until heated through.  Pour in vegetable broth, stir well, bring to a boil.  Lower heat, cover, and cook until rice is done, about 45 minutes. Enjoy!  I plan on bringing a little dollop of greek yogurt to add to mine for my lunch, let me know what you do with yours! 



Our lunches for the beginning of the week!




Saturday, January 9, 2016

Pumpkin "Cookies"


If you go back through this blog, you will see the evolution that is our family's work on healthier eating.  Sometimes we're better than others, sometimes it takes a reminder to get back on track. One arrived over Christmas via the 100 Days of Real Food Cookbook, as previously mentioned in another recent post.  We do a pretty good job, but it definitely made me take another hard look.

For example, I pack a lunch almost every day for my little one.  She doesn't care for most of what the cafeteria at school serves, she's never been a typical "kid" eater.  Doesn't like hot dogs, doesn't like pizza, not a huge fan of macaroni and cheese.  She IS typical in that when she finds a combination she likes, she wants to stick with it... i.e. eat the same thing everyday.  Therefore, I packed pretty much the same lunch everyday last year: peanut butter and nutella sandwich on whole wheat, cucumber slices, applesauce or other fruit, yogurt pack, 2 oreos, and a chocolate milk box.  My argument was it was "mostly" healthy, and the oreos were a fun treat.  It was not lost on me however that they were the one thing that caused me to shop in the middle of the grocery store, as opposed to produce, organic section, fish counter, and butcher (before we switched to the CSA).

SO, after Christmas and New Year's came and went, and I read my new cookbook, I made my daughter cry.  Let me explain.  I spent the entire day of January 2nd cleaning out my refrigerator and pantry.  It was awful and humbling.  Here I thought we had really done a great job of healthy choices and less wasteful purchasing, but I was wrong.  There were expired items, bottles of sauces that had expired in 2013 (which must have been the last year I did such a cleaning), and all manner of processed crap, er, stuff.  Included in the pile marked: "not expired or dented, to be donated" was an unopened case of Oreos.  They had been purchased as to be ready for 2016 lunch boxes.  I looked at the unopened pack and asked Evie if they could be donated and she give up this processed treat in her lunch during the week.  She is not unfamiliar with the Food Pantry, we've participated in drives for them before.  She bowed her little head and started to say it was okay...and burst into tears. Cue motherly guilt and feeling like a food monster. I gave her a big hug and praised her, and then immediately offered the alternative: her favorite pumpkin cookies.  She brightened right up!  This cookie recipe came to us via our friend Jen, or Aunt Jen as Evie calls her.  When Evie was discharged from a hospital stay, Jen arrived at our home with three homemade (and delicious) ready-to-heat meals for us along with a plate of iced pumpkin cookies.  Those cookies were the first thing my daughter was able to eat by mouth for the first time in almost three weeks.  To say they're somewhat of a favorite around here is an understatement.

Okay. So, we found our Oreo alternative.  Now I had to make it match our new food rule.  No white sugar = honey.  No white flour = whole wheat flour.  Everything else in this cookie is completely okay as long as I skip the glaze.  Therefore, I recognize that this is basically pumpkin bread in cookie shape.  And I'm okay with that.  I baked up my first batch and they disappeared, my daughter and husband begging for "just one more, please?"  I intend to try these sometime with real maple syrup, I'm guessing it would bring it back to a more sweet, cookie like flavor.  For now though, I'm happy with our adaptation!



Pumpkin "Cookies"


1 stick of butter, softened
3/4 cup raw honey
1 14oz can pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°

In a medium bowl, combine flour, spices, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

In the mixer, beat butter and honey until incorporated. Add the pumpkin puree, egg, and vanilla, beat until smooth.   Slowly add in flour mixture, beat until fully incorporated.

Place dollops (about 2 tablespoons worth) of batter on cookie sheets, bake for 15 minutes (start checking them at 12 minutes).