September 28, 2010

Storytelling: The Funeral of a Stranger

It's taken me a while to write this post because it involves my doing something pretty out of the ordinary - which turned into a learning experience for my oldest daughter. She was not  yet four.

On a beautiful, spring morning in March (you have to remember that March IS spring in AZ), we were on our way to go "thrifting" when we saw the overflow parking lot of a nearby church filled with several hundred motorcycles. It was an amazing sight. I turned into the parking lot so we could check them out safely and find out why they were there. We learned they were Patriot Guard members, an honor guard escorting the memorial procession of a motorcyclist who'd been killed in a brutal car accident  weeks earlier. While we were taking this all in - the call came to follow the funeral hearse. We watched quietly as the entire procession of motorcycles passed us. Then, the person in charge of the processional yelled at me and motioned for us to follow.

And, then, things got a bit out of the ordinary. Not wanting to be rude or explain, I just followed, thinking I would discretely pull out of the line within a few blocks. While I coasted in line, my daughter asked me to define "memorial". I explained that it is a special service to remember a person who has died and to tell his family he will be missed. My oldest thought about this carefully for a moment, then said, "Mom, can we go to the memorial service?"

This is how we ended up at the burial of a person I'd never met. As we drove, we talked about how he died and how his family would miss him. It really struck me how connected we all are. I'd never met this man but I knew from experience the loss his family was feeling as they said goodbye. My heart was wrenched for them and I shared their grief. Since my daughter knows my parents and brother have died, I figured she'd get some of it but I couldn't really tell how much she grasped of this subject. We followed the motorcade all the way to the Arizona National Cemetary, where the cyclist was honored with a veteran's funeral.

As we left, she said, "Mom, can we sing the Barney song?" Thinking that it was an intense event for a little girl and that she was ready to change the subject, I sang it with her. When we finished, my eyes filled with tears because she said,

"That's how I say, 'I love you' to that man who died."

I guess she got it after all.



 Sweet peas are such lovely, delicate, dear little blossoms,
and - a symbol of goodbyes, departure. Seems appropriate...

September 22, 2010

A Life Flowing with Milk and Honey

Recently, I happened to visit a friend's house after I picked up my milk and honey from some local friends. Both foods are delicious and as fresh as food can get. My friend's husband soon arrived and I had to laugh as he exclaimed, "Wow, this is just weird!" when he saw my glass jars of goat milk and how our dark, raw, medicinal quality honey was crystallized. I sometimes forget how different our shopping habits are from many of our friends despite the fact that one of my sisters refers to me as a "hippie".

We haven't always eaten such fresh, delicious food. When I first ventured out on my own as a single girl, my cabinet had plenty of canned/boxed and otherwise prepared foods. But, as I got more interested in fueling my body to do the things I was interested in - like long hikes and martial arts (I know, what a picture!) - I learned to get the most bang for my buck by investing in fresh, whole foods.

I wish I could say that I've consistently made healthy choices with my life since the time I learned to make REAL food, but like most people I have regressed from time to time. In the early years of our marriage, my husband and I ate out a lot, made white pastas and bread a staple of our diet and added quite a few pounds to our waistlines.

When we realized (each at different times in our journey) how much these choices affected our health and our ability to do things we love, we each committed to make changes in our lifestyles and food choices. We didn't try to change everything at once. Instead, we made small adjustments - like cutting out sugar, pasta and bread and adding lots of veggies. We incorporated legumes or organic meat and whole grains (like brown rice, quinoa, couscous, steel cut oats etc). We learned to eat till we weren't quite full and our attitudes about food started to change. We learned to love eating foods as close to their natural state as possible.

As we tried to find a healthy balance, we discovered we liked cooking healthy food a lot more when we had fun options. We decided that a diet high in fruits and veggies meant we needed to switch to organically grown food so we weren't eating a lot of pesticides with each bite. We discovered that farmer's markets sell locally and seasonally grown food at a reasonable price. We learned that we like knowing the people who grow our food and love supporting the local economy. Thanks to our venture into local foods, we now have great friends who provide us with delicious dark honey and milk in glass jars.

Making changes to the way we shop, eat and live has taken us on somewhat of a unexpected journey.  Saying goodbye to mainstream, box stores has brought us closer to our community and has opened our eyes to an abundance of locally grown foods, including those grown in our own yard. It's given us a way to spend time together as a family each week and helps us to teach our kids about caring for this beautiful world and their own bodies. We have everything we need to live well and we breathe in our food and life with gratitude. In a way, we've realized that we live in a land flowing with milk and honey -  and it's a good place to be.

Dark, raw honey. We use it for medicinal purposes and it has a rich, almost smoky flavor. DELICIOUS!

September 21, 2010

Crispy nuts


Crispy nuts (meaning almonds, walnuts, pecans etc) are a big hit at our house. I discovered them through a book about traditional food preparations, called Nourishing Traditions, and they have since become a staple in our diet. But what are "Crispy Nuts"? And why not just eat nuts? I'm glad you asked!

While nuts are very healthy for us and a great source of protein and good fat, as well as being in possession of cancer preventing, heart disease preventing and other amazing properties, they can be pretty hard to digest in their natural state. In fact, some of you may think that you can't eat nuts because they make your stomach hurt or your throat itch. But what you may be experiencing is a reaction to the enzyme inhibitors that exist in nuts. The best way to deactivate those enzyme inhibitors and make those nuts more digestible is to soak the nuts in some water and a little salt and then dehydrate them.

Though I first encountered this information in Nourishing Traditions and other food journals, I can actually vouch for the difference it makes in my own ability to enjoy eating raw nuts. Prior to learning this method, my throat would itch uncomfortably when I ate walnuts and I didn't really like the taste of raw almonds, though I figured they were probably better for me than roasted nuts because they didn't have a bunch of salt or artificial flavoring all over them.

After I tried soaking both almonds and walnuts, the itchy problem completely disappeared and I also discovered I loved the taste of the soaked almonds. And, my husband, who has always hated walnuts, thinks these ones taste amazing. They have a toasty, addictive flavor. Healthier than chips and a million times tastier!

Here's the recipe I use


Crispy Almonds
1 1/2 pounds of almonds a glass container
Filtered water to cover the nuts by a few inches
1 T. SEA salt NOT table salt

1. Leave the nuts in a warm place to soak overnight or for at least 7 hours. See the above pic.
2. After soaking, just pour the water off and dump the nuts on a big cookie sheet and place in the oven at 150 degrees F for 12-24 hours.

When they're done, the inside of the nuts should look kinda toasty and they'll have a roasty, crunchy taste and texture.

 
Nourishing Traditions suggests slightly less salt for walnuts and pecans but I confess that I rarely measure for this recipe. I just toss approximately a tablespoon for all three recipes and they always taste great. Also, NT recommends storing walnuts and pecans in the fridge, though ours rarely last long enough for this to be necessary.

Dehydrators work great for this process because the oven stays free for other uses. Unfortunately, my dehydrator isn't very big and I got tired of making these in batches so, I switched to my oven. It is important to note that according to raw food gurus, you need to keep the temp under 115 F in order to keep those digestive enzymes alive. But, if you don't have a dehydrator or if your oven doesn't go below 200, you'll still be getting a healthier product than what you'd be buying in the store.

I do want to mention that if you have an actual nut allergy - like something that causes anaphylaxis - I am NOT recommending this as a remedy. But, if you find that eating nuts just bothers your stomach a little or you just don't like the flavor, this is the recipe for you!

September 17, 2010

5 for Friday! Healthy Snacks for Busy Peeps

Here are the five snacks I took on my visit to Daphne Munroe's new show, Smart Families on ABC15. They are easy, inexpensive, healthy AND delicious!

As you might have guessed, the fruits and veggies in these snacks are organic though currently the nuts we buy are not. I'm looking for an affordable local provider for the nuts. And, cutting up your own fruits, veggies and cheese and making your own hummus or almond butter definitely saves money. It really doesn't take long and with the exception of "Ants on a log" - you can prep them the night before and they'll still be the right texture the next day. I save #4 and #5 for days I'm in a hurry. Of course, if you're really in a rush, fruit in its purest form - an uncut apple, orange, banana etc and a bag of nuts are always great!

1. Grapes, crispy walnuts and cheese sticks.

Let's talk about cheese for a minute. We don't buy much cheese and when we do, it's usually goat cheese from a local source. Because of that, we know it's fresh, preservative free and very digestible. But, if we do buy cow milk cheese, it's always organic and W-H-I-T-E. Yes, I'm a cheese snob. How many times have you seen bright orange milk? If you did see it, would you drink it? Exactly. That's what I thought. So, why are you eating that yellow stuff? It's not real cheese!!!

2. Veggies and hummus

This one is sooooo delicious and so easy to make. I just use whatever veggies I have on hand - like sweet red, yellow or green bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, zucchini (though my daughters don't like this one raw!) etc and chop them up into kid sized sticks. Then, we usually make our own hummus because it's cheaper, tastier and definitely healthier than what you'll see in the store. But if you don't want to make it, read the ingredients to find one that only has the REAL ingredients - garbanzo beans, olive oil, garlic, salt & lemon juice.

3. Ants on a log.  Translated - celery with almond butter, topped with raisins. 'nuf said.

4. Apples and dipping almond butter. Here's my recipe for almond butter. SUPER easy!

5. "Nuts and Raisins". This is what we call this treat at our house. It's a favorite and actually comprised of a little dried fruit (whatever I have in the cupboard - apricots, raisins, cranberries or dates) and crispy almonds.

There you have it. A "five for Friday" - healthy easy homemade snacks. Enjoy!

September 16, 2010

Organic Mama on ABC15's New Show, Smart Families

Here's the video from my visit to ABC's new show Smart Families. I'll be posting a list of the snacks I took to the show as well as the recipe for the homemade hummus and almond butter sometime in the next week.


video

Tips for Talking Your Kid into Eating Those Veggies!

http://www.foodconnect.org/phoenixmarket/I went to the store yesterday to purchase some almonds for our weekly snack packs and my nearly-two year old kept asking for them while we were paying our bill. The woman at the counter was amazed that my daughter wanted to eat something so healthy. I didn't explain that I soak the nuts at our house to make them tastier and more digestible (more about this in a later post). But, it reminded me again how important it is to offer our kids healthy - and DELICIOUS options to all the junk food surrounding them.

Here are three tips for getting kids interested in healthy eating.

1. Introduce healthy foods early and often. Loving any kind of food is a learned experience so we just need to be sure we're teaching our kids what kinds of food are delicious and healthy. We naturally crave sweet tastes so it's easy for us to like things that are filled with sugar, especially processed sugars like granulated white sugar and corn syrup. But, if you want your kids to love veggies and fruit, those items need to appear more than cereal bars or packaged options.
  • Start with the baby food. Mash up whatever you're eating and offer it to the baby who keeps grabbing at your dinner plate. Babies LOVE to eat what the big people eat at that phase. Add a little water if it's too thick and whirrrrrrrrr it up in the food processor! It takes moments and costs pennies.
  • Keep offering healthy options like veggies and try different recipes if necessary. Not everyone likes broccoli and dip so "steam it, mash it, stick it in a stew" if you have to.

2. Involve your kids in the process - to help them become familiar with and love healthy foods.
  • Growing easy veggies like greens
  • Visiting the farmer's market. Look for Phoenix Farmers' markets here and here.
  • Talk about "Strong food" vs. being thin or fat. Our daughter is used to this way of describing food now and asks, "Mom, is candy strong food?"   "Um...not so much."
  • Make snacks fun and colorful. Fruits and veggies come in such beautiful colors and textures, you're sure to find something they're like! 
  • Be creative - nickname the foods if it helps. We have Disney themed food at our house and call red peppers, "Ariel Peppers", green peppers "Jasmine Peppers" and broccoli - "Trees".
3. Most importantly, be a good example of healthy eating to your kids. It doesn't matter how many times you say, "Sweetie, eat it - it's good for you," if you don't eat well yourself, they won't either. Moms - be sure you sit down and eat with your kids if you're the one serving. It's really easy for us as moms to take care of everyone else and put ourselves on the back burner when it comes to eating. Share a moment relaxing and nourishing your body with that healthy food and be a mirror of what you want to see in your kids.

 If you didn't start early - it's never too late. If your kids are used to sweets, start with the sweeter healthy snacks like dried fruit and work backward from there.

Healthy eating is the best form of medicine. Here's to an apple a day!

September 15, 2010

Delicious Gluten-Free Apple Spice Muffins

This is a great gluten-free muffin recipe that I originally discovered on Kimi Harris’s blog, The Nourishing Gourmet after trying numerous recipes with these ingredients and failing miserably (like - 5 times!). I apologize in advance for not sharing a pic today but as soon as I finished the muffins, my test kitchen audience devoured them! I'll try to make another batch this weekend and post a pic. A note on the ingredients...
  • the recipe utilizes coconut flour - a gluten-free, fiber filled and low glycemic option to wheat flour. For the uninitiated, the glycemic index refers to how quickly a particular food triggers a rise in blood glucose levels. Increased fiber = slower release. 
  • coconut flour is a little pricey at 6.99/bag but the recipe only uses 1/2 cup for 9 muffins. And, if you’re missing baked goods while eating a gluten-free or low glycemic diet, the extra bucks may feel worth it.
  • This recipe is filled with GREAT Fat - coconut oil and good protein in the form of 3 eggs.
I made a few changes to Kimi's recipe, including adding vanilla, decreasing the cloves and apples and adding apple cider vinegar and zucchini.

Now, before we start baking, a quick tutorial about muffins.
1. A great secret to all good baking is to be sure your ingredients are all about the same temperature before you combine them. You don’t want hot honey and oil hitting cold eggs or you’re going to have a sugary omelet on your hands! ICK!
2. Kimi mentioned in her recipe not to exceed the recommended amount of fruit. Otherwise, these muffins will be wet. I can attest to this from personal experience.
3. Most of all - do not, I repeat, do NOT over-mix muffins. You simply want to combine the ingredients and make sure they don't have big clumps of dry flour. Be gentle.


Spiced Apple Muffins Makes 9 Muffins
Wet ingredients
1/3 cup of coconut oil
1/4 cup of honey
3 large eggs – break into a bowl right away so they’ll be close to room temp for mixing
1 t. apple cider vinegar
1 t. vanilla (optional)

Dry ingredients
1/2 cup of coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon*
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
a pinch of ground cloves (optional)
* if you don't have all the spices, sub 1 1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice

The good stuff!
1/2 c shredded apples
¼ c shredded zucchini
½ c. chopped walnuts or pecans for topping
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2. Prep the muffin tins with baking cups or by oiling and flouring the tins.
3. In a medium saucepan, melt, thoroughly whisk together & set aside to cool. It looks like gooey syrup.
  • Coconut oil
  • honey
4. Sift together the dry ingredients. Coconut flour can be a little lumpy so sifting will save you from over-mixing the muffins when combining the wet and dry ingredients. Measure your ingredients straight into the sifter.
  • coconut flour
  • baking soda
  • sea salt
  • cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
5. In a separate bowl, gently whisk wet ingredients together till just mixed.
  •  Eggs 
  •  Honey and coconut oil 
  • Vinegar 

6. Add dry ingredients to wet and combine with a few swift strokes (12 maximum!)
7. Pour into muffin tins and sprinkle with some chopped nuts.
8. Bake for 20 minutes or until the tops are lightly browned and spring back to the touch.

September 14, 2010

Not Your Mother's Leftovers

We started Saturday a little slow since we stayed up late dining with friends and we never did get moving very quickly. We just hung out together, enjoying the laziness of the day. But several hours after our rather light breakfast, it became clear that little tummies were growling and in need of attention. Rather than starting a new meal, I began pulling out what was already in the fridge.

I sauteed a little fresh kale, thinly sliced, in a few tablespoons of very hot olive oil and tossed in some sea salt. 


Then, I added grilled corn from the last night and 3 roughly chopped garlic cloves. I always use fresh garlic for greens. There's no substitute for the flavor - plus it's great for your immune system!


Next some couscous and roasted red pepper (diced). It started to smell very good!


Finally, I found a a one dish meal my dear love made for us Thursday night. It had several varieties of squash and some red quinoa.

Here's what the final dish looked like. Pretty good for leftovers!

September 13, 2010

A TV appearance by Organic Mama!

Hi there all! It's been a long, hot summer and I took a nice break. But I'm back and ready to talk about life - motherhood, gardening, REAL food etc.

The first exciting announcement I want to share today is that thanks to my friend Carla Sandine (at Danka Marketing) I'll be visiting ABC15's new show, Smart Families, tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 pm. Be sure to tune in for some healthy Organic Mama tips. :)

September 11, 2010

A Day of Remembrance

 Photo by Brian Kunnari
 
My father was born in 1929 and started his second family (the one I was born into) when he was in his forties - so he always had a little further look back into the events of the last 100 years than the dads of my friends. He was not an "I walked 10 miles through snow to get to school" kind of guy but rather a person interested in all of life and particularly the stories of people. Through him, I was introduced to the cars, movie stars and quite of bit of history related to WWII, cowboys (his father was one), early days in Arizona and other major historic events. His influence is probably why I chose to study history in college.

One of the events he used to talk about with a rather hushed tone was the death of President John F. Kennedy. Dad was a Republican by registry but a passionate American by birth. He always said he remembered exactly where he was and what he was doing when he heard about the death of President Kennedy. Everything and everyone just stopped and stayed glued to their television screens when the news broke. Little did I imagine that anything in my lifetime would be so awe inspiring and horrific as to make the same impression on me.

Nine years ago today, as I drove to work I realized that I'd neglected to turn my radio dial the previous night. Consequently, I discovered I was listening to Howard Stern, who I despised. He was ranting and yelling and saying "We should bomb them all!". I changed the station to news and pieced together the events of the morning. When I arrived at work, it was with a heavy heart. I found myself weeping throughout the day as my team attempted to continue working while taking breaks to view the latest news on our television.


Photo by Brian Kunnari

I will never forget the grief and loss I felt as I thought of those people who'd gone to work that morning thinking they'd be home that night and their loved ones who never saw them again. I will never forget those who boarded a plane and showed incredible courage as they determined that if they were going to die, they would go down fighting - and save lives doing it. I will never forget the outpouring of support we received from all over the world - and which I personally felt all day as I spoke to our international customers. I will never forget the way we who lived here exhibited the unique nature of the American spirit - independent yet united in our love of freedom and willingness to help neighbors in need.

I, like my dad, now have a day clearly etched in my memory as a day we all stood still to grieve a collective loss. While I long to wish it away, I also remember that we then showed the best of what we have to offer as Americans. I am grateful to be part of the living memory and will always honor this day and those who were lost to us.

September 3, 2010

Summertime break!

It's been a while since I posted. For some reason, when summer arrived this year, I found myself in a place where regular blogging became impossible or maybe just too exhausting. We started our summer with a lovely trip to Colorado and helping some friends out with their hobby farm. But, then, things got crazy when my husband spent two weeks playing music at two different youth camps. When he returned home, he spent another week in the studio. For those unfamiliar with music life, this means he worked his day job, then went straight to the studio till 1 or 2 in the morning. I don't know how he kept up that schedule because just being home with two girls, 24/7 for three weeks straight exhausted me!

So, it's no surprise I didn't blog much at the beginning of the summer. As it progressed though, I got engrossed in the fun of swimming pools, hiking and playing with friends and family and making some significant personal changes (more on that later!). Today, I just wanted to say that I'm still here and I'll be back to writing regularly and sharing some new adventures soon!
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