Midweek Mashup

MIDWEEK MASHUP

Happy Wednesday. It’s a short week! For that let’s celebrate. Surely all the kids are back in school and this week is probably hectic for many. Here’s some good information and a quick recipe to get you through to Friday.

I’ve always believed that if more people got in the kitchen and cooked meals for themselves and their families, they would be healthier overall. An acquaintance once lamented that she felt like there were so many nutrition rules that it felt impossible to feed herself and her daughter “the right way”, so she gives up and resorts to takeout. I say that the nutrition and wellness community has failed her if that’s what she (and likely so many others) feel. The truth is, a jar of decent quality pasta sauce and a box of whole wheat noodles with a bagged salad on the side is vastly healthier than a drive-thru burger and fries. So, if that’s where you are starting, that’s ok. Trust me, you will progressively become more confident in your cooking and before you know it you will have a repertoire of healthy and delicious meals that don’t feel overwhelming to make on a weeknight. I loved Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl’s take on this in her article “The Cure Is in the Kitchen” in  Experience Life’s recent issue. Take a look.

Speaking of making things easier in the kitchen, one approach that I’ve always practiced is to make extra for the freezer or fridge. When making soup, I often double the recipe and fill up Ziploc gallon bags with the excess. Lay them flat in the freezer for easy stacking. On busy nights just pull out a bag and reheat. Sides like roasted veggies are delicious warmed up or cold from the fridge all week long. In fact, I just bought another rimmed roasting sheet on Monday so I can easily make even more.  After this hectic week of back-to-school and houseguest coming on Friday,  I will also start using my weekends or Mondays to make a big batch of quinoa or other healthy salad that I can eat throughout the week for lunch. 

And finally, here’s a simple and delicious looking recipe for your next Meatless Monday or whenever you want to load up on veggies. These Vegan Thai Curry Vegetables look fantastic for a cool fall day, and the gentle spice should be well tolerated by all in your house. I would serve them over brown rice and fruit on the side and call it a day. In fact, it’s what’s for dinner tonight.

That’s it for this week. I hope you enjoyed reading. As always, please pass it along, post it to your pages, and subscribe if you did! And I would love to hear what you think in the comments.

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Midweek Mashup

MIDWEEK MASHUP

Welcome to Wednesday! You’ve made it this far, you should be proud! There’s a lot of health and wellness information coming out this week, and I’m excited to share some of it with you.

Have you ever wondered what might happen if you gave up sugar for an entire year?  Like, really gave it up.  No white sugar, no fruit juice concentrate, no maple syrup, no honey? If I’m being honest, the thought of giving up sweet stuff altogether makes me shudder. I grew up in a house in which my sugar consumption was very strictly monitored. My sister and I would ride our bikes to the corner store to buy candy bars behind our mom’s back. For years afterwards, I was a total candy and soda addict and couldn’t control myself around sugar. I finally figured out how to regulate. Now I raise my daughter differently, to have access to sweets in moderation and to teach her how to self moderate. It’s not easy though, and we sometimes get off track. A reboot sounds like a good idea from time to time. Not a year, but maybe like a week? Read this to find out how one family did it, and how they felt at the end of the year. Thanks to my friend Annie for forwarding this along to me!

I have been subscribing to HelloFresh for a few weeks now, and overall I’m pretty pleased. I love their vegetable boxes because they are more affordable and we are also trying to eat more vegetarian meals. I cringe at the waste of packing materials but we are recycling them so I feel better about that. I love that we get to try new recipes that helps me get out of my meal ruts, especially when time is short and I have less time to give it thought. Tonight I made black bean quesadillas with caramelized onions and they were so good even my 11 year old gobbled them up. Click on the link for the recipe so you can make them at home! Use whole wheat or gluten free tortillas if that’s what appeals to you.

And finally, if you’ve been thinking “Gee, I really wish there was a funny food blog I could read today” look no further than ProntoPup. His most recent post on his attempt to go vegan, only to realize that he’s really a “vaguean” (not that there’s anything wrong with that) is hilarious, honest, and will make you wish you could have dinner with him. Spoiler alert, I get to have dinner with him, and it will probably consist of tofu steak!

Have a great rest of your week, you guys.  Don’t forget to check back on Friday for a new cocktail recipe!

 

Midweek Mashup

MIDWEEK MASHUP

Happy Thursday!  I hope you are having a fantastic week.  And, if you aren’t, I hope you find a little bit of happiness here at Cultivate Wellness.

I plan on writing a longer, more thorough blog post about my recent experience being interviewed on our local NPR station, but in the meantime I wanted to post the link so you can listen for yourself.  Remember that post I wrote about the horrible swimsuit spread in Discovery Girls magazine?   It created quite a bit of discussion, including with the host of our morning news show on Minnesota Public Radio.   She decided to dedicate an entire show to the topic of body shaming in young girls, and asked to interview me.  You can listen to the entire show here.  I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts on it and keep the discussion going, so please share and comment!

Speaking of people struggling with body image issues, I read this piece, entitled Fat Dad: The Coffee and Cigarette Diet recently in Well section of The New York Times and it touched my heart.  I thought it was lovingly written.  So often we talk about women and body image, but it’s a good reminder that men struggle with this issue too.

Do you love potato salad as much as I do?  I love it in all forms: with celery, with egg, with mayo, with vinegar.  Dill, parsley, scallions, mint.  It’s *all* good in my book.  Here’s a healthy, delicious looking red, white and blue potato salad just in time for Independence Day.

Have a great rest of your week, whatever you have planned!

As always, I’d be so grateful if you shared my blog with people you think would like it, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, via email, or word of mouth (or all!).

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Last week’s Midweek Mashup

Bikini Body

Potato, Carrot and Leek Soup

 

 

 

 

Weekend Cocktails!


We’ve made it to the weekend, and for that we all deserve a big hearty “CONGRATULATIONS”! Don’t you think?

I’m going out for dinner tonight at a restaurant that is known for its cocktails and live music.  I’m excited because I love trying new cocktails.  It’s one of my favorite things to do.  And since I’m a lightweight and can only drink one (mayyyyyyybe two) I want it to be impactful and delicious.

One of my favorite go-to cocktails is the martini.  I love that there isn’t any ice to water it down if I feel like sipping slowly.  I love sweet and savory martinis all the same, depending on my mood.  And I’m not afraid of unusual or unique flavor combinations, either.

This dry vodka martini is appealing because of the addition of herbs.  It’s spring and that means it’s almost time to plant fresh herbs in the garden. If you’re lucky, like me, you remembered to harvest all the herbs last fall before first frost and put them in the freezer for use throughout the year.

This recipe is insanely easy and elegant.  I hope you enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

  1. ice
  2. ounces vodka (I love Prairie Organic)
  3. dry vermouth
  4. sprigs of fresh lavender or thyme (I think basil would also be quite nice)

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a shaker with ice, mix 3 ounces vodka and a drop of dry vermouth.
  2. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with 2 sprigs of your favorite herb.

 

Artificial Sweeteners

artificial sweetener

I wanted to check in with a quick nutritional tidbit for this week.  As you have probably read and heard thousands of times by now, artificial sweeteners aren’t good for us.  We know this because the nutritional and wellness experts have said so.  But do you really understand the *why* behind it?

There are a few key reasons, and I will quickly outline them for you here.

  1. All non-caloric sweeteners, even Stevia, require commercial processing.  Some use less toxic chemicals and some use organic processes.  But, they all go through processing.  If your goal is to eat as close to “natural” as possible, then a highly processed artificial sweetener probably doesn’t fit into your plan.
  2. All that processing and artificial ingredients tax your body’s detoxification system.  Our bodies are made to handle toxins, and our livers and kidneys are hard at work every day to get rid of substances we can’t use.  When we burden our detox systems with unnecessary substances, it means that they have to work even harder.  (Some studies have found a correlation with artificial sweeteners to kidney disease.  Correlation does not equal causation, and more research needs to be done. Still, with my family’s kidney disease genes, it’s a good enough reason for me to keep my artificial sweeteners to a minimum. For more on this topic, click here and here.)
  3. Somehow, even with the prevalence of zero-calorie artificial sweetener consumption, the U.S. population has continued to gain weight and fall prey to Type 2 Diabetes.  While researchers try to figure out the reasons why, some have started to wonder if consuming too much artificial sweeteners tampers with our gut microflora, which in turn makes us more susceptible to maladies like glucose intolerance (a precursor to diabetes).  Studies have both proven and disproven this theory, so obviously a lot more research needs to be done.  Read more about it here.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a proponent on “moderation”.  I am not perfect, nor do I try to be.  I enjoy a Diet Coke from time to time because it makes me happy.  Just the way I will eat a few gummy bears (or whatever) if I feel like it.  If I am following the 80/20 rule of nutrition, then I let the rest go.  Life, in my opinion, is to be enjoyed.  If eating a completely organic, whole foods diet is what makes you happy, then go for it!  But for me, I find having a little wiggle room works best.

*Check with your trusted physician or practitioner before you make any major dietary changes, especially if you are being treated for illness or disease.*

As always, I would love to hear what you have to say!

Weekend Cocktails! Hard Cider Sangria

cider sangria
Hard Cider Sangria

It’s Friday! That means it’s time to try a new drinks recipe.  The weather is cooling off for many parts of the world.  Here, the leaves are changing into beautiful colors and the days are cool and the nights cooler.

fall colors in our neighborhood
My neighborhood this week.

When the weather shifts in the fall, I start ordering drinks with a bit more substance.  The vodka tonics and rosé wines from summer don’t feel satisfying anymore.

In the last couple of years I’ve really started enjoying hard cider.  And while I’m not a fan of typical sangria, I think this hard cider sangria recipe looks fantastic. While it calls for red, yellow and green apples, I wouldn’t worry too much about using all three unless you are having company and really want to impress.  Put whatever you have in there, which for us is usually a fuji.  Don’t have a navel orange?  Use a couple clementines instead.

We are having people over for chili and treats on Halloween (click the link for a recent chili recipe I posted).  This will be the perfect drink to serve.

cider sangria 2

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup quartered and thinly sliced unpeeled green, yellow and red apples (or whatever color you have on hand)
  • 1 navel orange—quartered and thinly sliced crosswise (you can also use clementines)
  • 1 cup apple juice, chilled
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup apple brandy (I like Apple Jack)
  • One 22-ounce bottle hard apple cider, chilled (Angry Orchard is my current favorite)
  • Ice

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a pitcher, combine the apples with the orange, apple juice, lemon juice and brandy. Just before serving, add the hard cider. Serve in tall glasses over ice.
  2. Drink (duh).

Enjoy!  I’d love to hear what you think!

White Beans, French Style

white beans french style

It’s been a busy day so far! I just finished my next module for my Nutrition Consultant program which focused on digestion and the digestive organs.  I created two handouts focusing on liver health (eat your fiber, fruits and veggies, and be careful of the medications you take!). I ate a quick lunch of leftovers from the recipe I’m about to give you, as well as a Dr. Praegers Kale Veggie Burger.  I’d say my morning has been pretty productive.  Just don’t pay attention to my poor yellow lab Sammy, who has been literally giving me puppy dog eyes as she sits at the door waiting for a walk.  I’ll get to it, I promise.

Sammy smiling
How can you say ‘no” to this girl when she wants a walk?

On to the white beans! I chose this recipe because it had simple ingredients that I love (garlic, beans, shallots, red wine, thyme) and I figured not only could I serve it to my family as a dinner side dish, but I could also have it for lunch.  Usually my dinner side dishes consist of roasted veggies, brown rice, stuff like that.  I prefer to use my energy on the main dish (i.e.: I’m lazy).  But this recipe looked so easy I decided to try it. As much as I want to despise Gwyneth Paltrow, with her smugness and natural makeup-free beauty and her ability to wear the most ridiculous hats and still look cool, I just can’t hate her recipes.  Not yet, anyway. The beans were yummy and filling.  Full of protein and fiber. And I decided I should use shallots a lot more.  I love the way they take the place of onion while being a little more subtle. NOTE: I doubled the recipe to have leftovers.

WHITE BEANS, FRENCH STYLE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (add more if you love garlic)
  • Leaves from 4 sprigs of thyme (I used about 1 tsp dried instead)
  • 1 large shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • A 14 oz. can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar

METHOD

Slice the garlic and shallots thinly.

shallots and garlic chopped
Sliced shallots and garlic. Don’t dice them. You want the shallots to remain intact a bit.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pan or skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and let cook for a few minutes or until a light golden brown.  Stir occasionally.  Add the thyme and shallot, and cook for a minute or two.

shallots and garlic sauteeing
The smell of shallots or onions and garlic sautéing is one of the best smells I can imagine!

Add the beans and cook, stirring once or twice, for about 5 minutes. Add the salt and pepper to taste, along with the vinegar, and cook for another 5 minutes.

white beans french style
It’s such a pretty photo I put it in twice!

If you reheat the beans, expect them to dry out a bit.  You can add some chicken stock or water to rehydrate.  My husband was a huge fan of these and gave me an actual thumbs up.  The kiddo, who will try anything once but has some texture aversions, didn’t finish hers.

ENJOY!

NEW RECIPE! Chicken & White Bean Chili

chicken chili

I continued to test the recipes from Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook It’s All Good this week, landing on the Chicken & White Bean Chili recipe because it seemed simple, approachable, and really tasty.  I make a lot of soups and chilis once the weather starts to cool down.  I usually double the recipe and put some in the freezer (lay flat in a freezer baggie) for a night when I’m too busy or lazy to cook.

Whenever I make a soup or chili recipe, I tend to double the vegetables called for.  It’s such an easy way to get more vitamins, antioxidants and fiber into yours and your family’s tummies.  

The alterations I made to this recipe were:

  1. Add a can of kidney beans to the can of white beans called for.
  2. Use chicken thighs instead of breasts (I find them less dry and more flavorful).
  3. Use a teaspoon of Better Than Bouillon (the vegetable flavor). The recipe calls for the normal chili spices plus salt and pepper.  I found when I tasted the chili it was a bit bland.  Better Than Bouillon is a favorite of mine.  I usually by the organic version and love that I don’t have to keep cans of chicken stock around in my pantry.  It stays good forever and, unlike a half-used container of chicken stock, won’t make you feel guilty every time you see it in the fridge.
  4. Add some of the chicken juice from cooking into the pot with the simmering beans and vegetables. It adds nutrients from the chicken, some depth to the mouth feel (I really hate that term, can we come up with something else collectively?  Comment below with any suggestions!) and adds some yummy chicken flavor.

INGREDIENTS:

1.5 lbs of whatever chicken parts you want (I used thighs, and doubled the amount so I would have leftover roasted chicken to use later in the week)

3 Tablespoons olive oil

Salt (I prefer sea salt but any will do)

Black pepper

2 small yellow onions, diced (about 2 cups)

1 red bell pepper, seeds and stem discarded, diced (about 1 cup)

3 garlic cloves, minced (add more if you love garlic)

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon paprika (the recipe calls for smoked paprika, but either variety is fine)

1 28 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes with their juice

1 14 oz can cannellini or navy beans, rinsed and drained (I added a second can of kidney beans)

Whatever toppings sound good to you (sour cream, cheese, cilantro, diced onion, etc)

METHOD:

  1. Rub chicken with about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Roast for about 25 minutes at 425 degrees, until just cooked through.
  2. When meat is cooked and cooled a bit, shred the meet with two forks
  3. Measure the spices and combine in a small bowl to add during the next step.
chili spices
Chili powder, smoked paprika, and cumin
  1. Meanwhile, heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a stock pot on medium and sauté the onions, bell pepper, garlic, cumin, chili powder, paprika and a large pinch of salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until veggies are softened, about 10 minutes.
chili vegetables
Garlic, red bell pepper and onion waiting for to be sautéed.
  1. Add tomatoes and another pinch of salt and turn up the heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for about 30 minutes.  Break up tomatoes with a spoon.
  2. Add beans and chicken to the pot (use bouillon now if you wish).  Add about 1/3 cup water or more depending on how thick you want your soup.
  3. Simmer another 15 or 20 minutes before tasting to determine the spices or salt and pepper you want to add.
  4. Serve with toppings

My husband said the chili was “good, but not like oh my God I absolutely love this chili!”.  He thought it needed a bit more chili powder and cumin to make it a true chili flavor and tasted more like a stew than a chili.  My 10 year old daughter told me she likes my ground beef chili more.  That being said, I really thought it was a solid recipe that I would go back to again if I wanted a variation from my ground beef chili that I usually make.

Enjoy!  I can’t wait to hear what you think!

NEW RECIPE! Spicy Chipotle Salmon

Salmon finished chipotle

We all know how good salmon is for us, especially when it’s wild caught off of the coast of Alaska. It’s full of essential Omega 3 fatty acids (the good kind of fat that keeps your brain and heart working well).  It’s high in protein, too.  I make salmon at least once a week and I love trying new recipes to keep it fresh and interesting.

I decided to try this recipe posted by my friend Pronto Pup. He is a much funnier (and profane) blogger than I ever hope to be but he’s also a great cook.  It’s fun to read his cooking blog for new ideas.  He’s got kids around the same age as my daughter, so I get good insights into what recipes might be “child friendly”. My daughter is a pretty adventurous eater but anything spicy still can be hard for her to eat. He observed that this salmon recipe was a bit too spicy for his kiddos so I toned down the crushed red pepper in my version and my daughter really enjoyed it.  I think she prefers my lemon pepper garlic version but she still ate a good amount of this.

The original version is posted here (thanks Little Spice Jar!).

I did one thing slightly different than directed, which was to brush about half of the chipotle sauce onto the salmon before cooking and then reduce the sauce even further on the stovetop to use as a glaze after the salmon was finished.  The glaze was too strong for my daughter but my husband and I really liked it.  It had a full lime/honey/chipotle flavor and added some extra moisture to the fillet.

Butter sauce for salmon
Here’s the sauce as I’m incorporating the butter. It’s really rich and yummy.

The preparation for the salmon is so easy, and cooking it was pretty foolproof.

Salmon waiting to be baked
The salmon prepared with chipotle butter sauce and lime zest. Just wrap it up in the foil and bake in the oven. I love that I didn’t have to clean a roasting dish afterwards.

I usually make a roasted veggie on the side but since I was making dessert (check back for the recipe and review on that!) I felt pressed for time and did corn on the cob and frozen green beans instead.

I will absolutely make this dish again and can’t wait to try tweaking the flavors a bit next time just for the fun of it.