Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Do your kids eat weird food?

The other day, my mom pulled out a can of sardines. (We are temporarily living with my parents.) My toddler wanted to know what was inside, and my mom told her all about sardines as if they were the most fascinating thing in the world. My little one then asked if she could try some. I bit my lip—because I almost blurted out, "Well, you probably won't like them."

Have you ever heard those words come from your mouth? I have—more times than I care to admit. 

With all our emphasis on trying new foods, expanding our horizons and eating whole, natural, real food, sometimes I forget and out pop negative words.

When we tell our kids they probably won't like something, we are setting them up to probably not like it. Immediately they have a negative impression of that food. And, as we all know too well (and in many facets of life), that first impression often sticks.

My husband and I have purposed to let our kids—and even encourage them to—try any food they want. The only exception would be very spicy foods. (We don't let our little ones try those because we wouldn't want to burn their mouths. If our older kids want to try something spicy, we warn them but let them give it a go.) As far as most food goes, if they are curious we let them try it, and thus we've had a few toddlers who devour olives and blue cheese, among other "weird" things. In fact one of our favorite phrases we remember of our now ten year old daughter is of her as a two year old always asking for "schmoke-cheese" after eating smoked gouda one day.

We've always tried to be positive when it comes to food. Food is delicious! Food is good for you! There are many varieties of basic foods like lettuce, tomatoes or cheese. There are many kinds of food. There are various cooking methods and ethnic styles of preparation. Keep an open mind! Try anything, try everything! You never know what you just might like.

Back to the sardines...once my curious toddler was at the table trying sardines on a cracker, my other kids' each had their own curiosity spiked. One by one, they all ended up trying the sardines, and three out of four actually liked them enough to eat one or two on crackers.

So, what if my mom had never offered the sardines? Or explained to my curious toddler what they were? Or what if I had blurted out, "Well, you probably won't like them." I'm willing to bet that their natural curiosity would have been snuffed out. If any of them had ventured on to try the sardines, they probably wouldn't have liked them.

Now I don't anticipate my kids devouring sardines for lunch tomorrow or asking for them for snacks. But I'm proud of them for trying something nutritious and new and different, and yes, a little bit weird. Why? Well...do I really want their food choices to be defined by what's considered "weird?" The latest trend? TV commercials? The cool kids at school? What's culturally "normal?"

Not necessarily. I'd much rather my kids choose foods that they love that nourish and strengthen them. And I want my kids to be confident in and own their food choices, whatever they end up being. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Creamy, Dreamy Rice Pudding - A Good-For-You Breakfast, Snack or Dessert!

I love puddings and custards! Anything creamy. Pannacotta, whipped cream, cheesecake, chocolate pudding, lemon meringue pie, gelato...you name it, I love it!

So it goes without saying that I love rice pudding too. 

But finding a rice pudding recipe that I love has taken some time...as in years. I'd try one from time to time but it was never quite right. After determinedly pouring over a bunch of recipes one day, I finally realized that most recipes are missing the eggs; and, in my opinion, it's the eggs that give a good rice pudding its rich, creamy taste and texture. Kind of like ice cream vs. gelato.

Made with eggs, milk and rice, THIS rice pudding packs a punch of protein for a breakfast treat on chilly mornings. I have to confess that I don't often make this for breakfast, because it does require about 20 minutes to prepare. (I don't always have that time in the mornings!) But I got up a bit early and made it just the other morning when the temperature had dipped oh so cold that night. There's nothing like a fresh-made bowl of warm, creamy goodness to fill empty tummies on chilly mornings! My oldest son literally licked his bowl clean after two large helpings.

This rice pudding recipe is just lightly sweetened, as I've kept the sugar content on the low side. It's plenty sweet for us, but if you are just starting your journey toward healthier eating and are used to sweeter foods, you may want to up the sucanat in the recipe initially (try a generous 1 cup) and then slowly decrease it as you adapt to less sugary treats.

One of the perks of rice pudding is that you can make it with leftover rice. Using up all your leftovers can stretch your food budget quite significantly. Throwing away food is throwing away money, and it all adds up faster than you think! That leftover rice (white or brown) that's sitting in your fridge? Bring new life to it by making rice pudding.

Creamy, Dreamy Rice Pudding

Serves 8-10

Leftover cooked rice (about 6 cups)*
6 cups milk, plus 1 cup milk
6 eggs
2/3 cup sucanat 
Generous 1/3 cup organic cornstarch (I'd encourage you to buy organic to avoid GMO corn)
1 tsp almond extract or 2 tsp vanilla extract (or both!)
1-2 tsp unrefined salt, to taste 

To a heavy bottomed large pot (like a Le Creuset dutch oven or brasier), add 6 cups of milk. Turn the heat to medium-low to start the milk warming. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, sucanat and cornstarch. Once whisked together, add the remaining cup of milk and whisk until well combined. Set aside.

Return to the warming milk and raise the temperature to medium-high, whisking the milk continuously while it heats. Heat until the milk is steaming vigorously then lower the temperature back down to medium-low. Scoop 1 cup of the hot milk out and slowly pour it into the egg mixture, whisking. (This is called tempering and helps prevent clumps of cooked egg.) Repeat with one more cup of hot milk. 

Add the rice to the hot milk and stir gently, allowing the rice to soften for a few minutes. Next, pour the egg mixture through a sieve into the hot milk, whisking. (The sieve will keep out any tiny bits of lumpy cornstarch or cooked egg.) Return the heat to medium-high and gently whisk the pudding while it heats and thickens. When the first sputter or bubble occurs, remove the pudding from the heat. As the pudding cools, it will thicken a bit more. Eat warm and soft (my favorite) or refrigerate and eat chilled.

* Don't be afraid to fudge the 6 cup number! Using up leftovers typically means we have random amounts, right? You'd be fine with as low as 4 cups and as high as 7ish cups, possibly even 8. The rice pudding will either be extra creamy or more rice-filled. Six is the "perfect" amount, but life isn't always perfect now, is it? ;)

** One more note about the leftover rice. It's best to use rice that's just a day old. As rice sits it hardens. If the rice is too old, it will be crunchy in your pudding—blech. 

For more delicious and healthy whole foods recipes like this, check out my latest cookbook Whole Foods for the Everyday Cook, featuring over 100 recipes and even more photos!

Friday, September 26, 2014

On A Hunt for Quality Food

I am currently searching my area for quality food. Since we moved several states away recently, I need to find new farmers, co-ops and farmers' markets.

Currently, we are making do at the local grocery store as I cook my favorite recipes, but I sure do miss my old co-ops, farms and local produce!

I prefer to shop as much as possible from local sources for many reasons, but here are my top 3 reasons:

1. I know from whom I'm buying my food and from where my food is coming. I can get to know the farmers who produce my food personally, ask questions about growing/raising practices, understand how they raise their food and why, and I can see for myself how their farms are run. All of this brings me far more confidence than a grocery store label of "organic" or "cage-free," which can (and do) have loopholes. The more mass produced a food is, I've found it generally loses its quality; quality is often sacrificed in order to broadly increase production.

2. Local food is truly good for the environment. Smaller farmers generally have safer, more ecologically-minded farming practices which keep our land and water cleaner and safer. Furthermore, local food is not being transported across the US, countries or continents. It's just going "around the corner." Besides the savings of gas, transportation, packing, etc...you know what that means, right? It's FRESH! The fresher your produce, the more nutrients are in it and the better it tastes.

3. I believe smaller-scale, local farmers are vital to the health of our food system. I want to support them every opportunity I can.

So what exactly am I looking for?

  • Nearby farms to source regular items like grass-fed milk and truly cage-free (or pastured) eggs.
  • Farms somewhere in my region (up to 1-2 hours away) who are raising grass-fed beef, pastured chickens and some pastured, free-foraging pork as well. I'm willing to drive a distance if necessary, as these would be bulk annual orders. I'd like to purchase 1/4 cow, as well as stock my extra freezer with multiple whole chickens, and possibly a whole or half hog depending on breed.
  • Local farmers' markets where I can purchase safely-grown local and organic produce (and perhaps also milk, beef and more). I don't yet have a garden and won't get it going until the spring.
  • Ecologically-minded pick-your-own farms, where we can stock up on produce we aren't growing.
  • A new co-op where I can purchase grains, beans and other pantry staples.
  • Possibly a CSA or a local produce delivery during these months where I don't yet have a garden. 

And, of course, the food—from wherever I get it—must fit within my budget! That's why I'm doing a lot of research and following a lot of leads. This way I can find the best quality for the best price and find foods that will work in my budget.

Here is how I am finding these sources:

  • Using the internet and sites like Local Harvest and Eat Local Grown to find farms and co-ops in my region.
  • Networking via my new friends. I'm asking people that I meet what farms are in the area and other related questions. I've also asked these questions on a local facebook group I've joined. (By the way, that was also a great way to get advice on local doctors and dentists!) And I've just kept my ears open—for instance, just yesterday we were at a floor store choosing flooring for the house we are building, and the sales lady mentioned in the course of conversation that she lives next door to a farmer who sells fabulous local produce (her words). I immediately asked her for his name and address. 
  • Contacting farms via email, phone calls and visits (if they're close by), so that I can ask questions, check prices, meet the farmers and see the animals and how they are raised.
  • Visiting the area farmers' markets. I'm able to purchase food as well as meet farmers who sell there. I can ask questions and ask about bulk orders. If they can't meet my needs, farmers know farmers and so they often can pass on the names of other farmers who may have what I'm looking for.
Are you currently searching for quality food in your local area? Do you have any tips or resources to share with us today?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Using my new resources

I hope some of you were able to take advantage of the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle. I am thoroughly enjoying my new resources. This bundle was definitely one way to make your money stretch—a super sale on numerous resources to help you learn and grow.

When I first got my bundle and started reading through all the resources I'd just received, it was a little overwhelming. There is A LOT in there! I'm sure some of you may have felt the same, so today I wanted to share a bit on how I am using those resources effectively.

As I skimmed through the list of resources, I quickly noted the ones that jumped out to me right away. These were primarily resources for meal prep/managing time in the kitchen and cookbooks. I also have been wanting to get back into daily yoga and/or pilates, so the free 4-month yoga membership also was a starting place for me.  

I need some fresh ideas for better managing my time in the kitchen. I am definitely a free-spirit by nature and love to cook by inspiration. Often I'll have one meal planned, but when I go to prepare dinner, I am suddenly inspired to cook something entirely different. While that works just fine some of the time, other times it means I end up spending much more time in the kitchen than I really should have. What I've been hoping to do is add some strategic kitchen prep time in my week—so that most dinners are streamlined—but still leave some room for one or two fun, inspired meals.

I do not like to cook the same meal twice. I know, it's weird. But I have no notebook of our family's favorite recipes. We use different recipes and we eat different meals all the time—and we truly love most of them. Pinning us down to a few favorites is really hard! It's just who we are and how we run. It used to frustrate me, but I've learned that it doesn't matter and to not worry about it. Over time I have developed some simple, basic standards that I repeat—like one quick dinner for us is potatoes & eggs, another is pasta in a light cream sauce with whatever veggies I have on hand, and every summer we eat our favorite fig salad. But my husband and I just love to try new recipes. Thus I'm always skimming through cookbooks and am always looking for new, interesting recipes. Now there were a lot of cookbooks in the bundle, so I simply chose the first few that looked interesting to me, and I'm saving the rest for later.

So, basically, from that whole bundle, I've narrowed it down to just a few resources that I'm currently looking at and utilizing. And that's okay! That bundle isn't going anywhere. It's mine. And if I'm frantically trying to read and use everything just for the sake of using it, I'm not going to learn from or enjoy much of it at all.

I'm using the resources that are meeting my current needs. In a few months, I will hopefully have better kitchen strategies in place and will likely be diving into the essential oils course from Vintage Remedies, my next goal. Over this year, I'll work my way through the bundle, based on what will serve and benefit me and my family. I may not get through everything, but with what I've mentioned, I've definitely already gained more than that $30 price tag.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lucky You!

* Update: This sale is now over. 

So you have lucked out! Yes, you. The one who was sitting on the fence yesterday and decided NOT to purchase the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle. Yes, the bundle I've been posting and posting about, not just because I'm an affiliate, but because I'm super excited about what $30 can get you and where it can take you in your journey toward greater health and natural living!
Because of the overwhelming demand for this well-stocked healthy living package, the site crashed yesterday. For 3 hours. In the middle of a deluge of purchases. (Maybe you were one of those people who was trying to buy the bundle and couldn't.)

Since the site was down for a few hours, not only did they revamp it, but the powers that be decided late last night to extend the sale for just a few more hours today. So, you—yes, YOU, the one who almost bought the collection yesterday but didn't—have one last chance to buy it. You've got until 12 noon PST today to purchase it.

Lucky you!

Wait a minute! You didn't click over to buy? 
You're still reading. I haven't convinced you yet, have I?

Well, let me tell you I'm lovin' this healthy living collection...and benefiting from it...and I'm so glad I have it!
-I just started 4 free months of online yoga classes.
-I've got a new sourdough culture to experiment with sitting in my fridge.
-I've got eCookbooks lined up for use as I plan our meals every two weeks.
-I'm experimenting with some freezer cooking because it's gonna save me time in the kitchen.
-I'm starting a self-paced essential oils course so I can learn better how to use them medicinally for my family.

And that's only the beginning. 

Still not convinced? May I ask YOU a question?

What help do you need to move forward in your journey toward healthier living? 

I bet there's a book or course for that in this bundle. In fact, I dare you. Go look and see. Seriously, go ahead. You can view all the eBooks here. And you can view the eCourses here.

I mean, really. You spend 30 bucks. You get WAY more books, courses and resources than you could ever find anywhere for $30. I talk so much about being frugal on this blog and taking advantage of good deals when you come across them. This is one heck of a good deal! 

Oh! And there's a MONEY BACK GUARANTEE. So, you see? You really have nothing to lose.

You only stand to gain.

Come along for the ride and join the healthy living party!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Meal planning and grocery shopping

* Update: This sale is now over. 

I know meal planning and grocery shopping is something you're concerned about. You want to cook the healthiest meals that you can...and that still taste good, right? Ha ha! (Healthy food CAN taste good!) And I know that trying to make the most of your money at the grocery store is important too. Food can be so expensive!!

And I'm sure some of you feel like you're failing right now. (You probably aren't truly failing, but even if you are failing, please don't be discouraged. You're likely not doing as bad as you think, and you probably are doing AWESOME in other areas of your life!)

I've spent years attempting to balance all of this, and many days I've felt like a failure too.

Make sure I stick to my food budget. Check.
Try to find the best deals so I can buy high quality whole foods. Check.
Search for YUMMY recipes my whole family loves that are also HEALTHY but also don't use too many expensive ingredients. Check. Oops. Oops.
Find time efficient ways to cook three times a day. Check.
Attempt to keep track of and efficiently use all my fresh produce and meat in the freezer and dry goods in the pantry. Oops. Oops.

There may be affiliate links in this post.

I'd be lying if I told you I've perfectly balanced this and have figured it all out. I've definitely grown in these areas and manage them far better than I did ten years ago. But there are still times where one area gets out of balance. I've run out of time to cook dinner (or spent too much time cooking). I've overspent at the grocery store, farmer's market or co-op. I've pulled veggies out of the fridge only to discover they're spoiled. I've also made some disappointing meals that were just ...well, honestly, they were pretty gross!

I'd also be lying if I told you that I've figured this all out by myself. My goodness, no! I've read blogs and books and looked at all kinds of resources, and tried all sorts of systems. I've followed some advice and had it not work for me at all, so I've pitched it. I've tried systems that worked for me for a season, but then a change in life brought the need for a new system.

I've pulled tidbits of wisdom from here and there and woven them together to create the systems that work for me today. 

Some of my best ideas have come from others' best ideas. Something they said triggered a new thought for me which lead to a workable strategy or new technique.

We all need fresh inspiration from time to time! A new system of planning meals. A new method of prepping dinners for the week. A new healthy recipe—sometimes simple, sometimes innovative, sometimes easy to prepare, sometimes allergy-free...and sometimes those amazing hard-to-find recipes that are actually all of the above!

In the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle, inspiration abounds! Here are the titles of eBooks dedicated solely to meal prep and planning:

Not only that, but there are also 31 cookbooks included. Talk about some fresh inspiration!

If you plan meals every two weeks, and open one new eCookbook each time, then it will take you over a year to work your way through all the cookbooks in this bundle.

That's over a year's worth of FRESH menu planning inspiration! Gone are the "I don't know what to cook for dinner" days.

While I'm not going to list them all here (you can read the full list here), I would like to hi-light several of the cookbooks included in this bundle.

And I can't forget those of you with allergies, food sensitivities, or those exploring alternative diets. Below is just a sampling of the allergy-free/alternative diet cookbooks included in this bundle. 

Take a look at the authors, take a look at all the books, take a look at the online courses. I really think you will benefit from this bundle. I already have! I've been checking out cookbooks and marking recipes. I'm exercising, enjoying my free 4-month subscription to online yoga classes. I'm excited about taking the FREE (normally $95) essential oils online class so that I can learn how to better care for my family safely and naturally.

THIS IS THE LAST DAY for you to take advantage of this incredible offer. At 95% off and only $29.97, what are you waiting for?

Sunday, September 14, 2014


So here are the winners, yay! :)

Julie, commenter #6 - you won the free Ultimate Healthy Living bundle!

Jill Remer, commenter #10 - you won the free conference!

Mrs Conroy, commenter #26 - you won the $5 off coupon for purchasing the Ultimate Healthy Living bundle!

Please email me to verify you've seen this, and I will be in touch with you sometime today with your prizes.

Congratulations to all 3 of you, and I hope you benefit from what you've won!