Category Archives: family


Favorite Instant Pot Tools

I was a little late jumping onto the Instant Pot train, but now I really can’t remember what I did without it!  It is my absolute favorite tool in the kitchen. Pressure cooking made easy-as-pie (hmmm… I haven’t tried making a pie in my pot yet…)  The ease alone would be enough but Instant Pot takes it even further – a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, warmer and sauté pot, and that’s just the 6-in-1 model.  The 9-in-1 model also makes yogurt, cooks eggs, sterilizes AND makes cake. All this multi-tasking, no hogging my kitchen counter space – it’s a keeper. So I’ve given my Instant Pot it’s very own drawer, to store all its handy accessories.  Here are my favorites.

TEMPERED GLASS LID
A clear glass lid is perfect for when slow cooking, sautéing, keeping food warm, or even serving direct from the pot.
Instant Pot Tempered Glass Lid

STAINLESS STEEL INNER COOKING POT
Having a second inner pot makes it really easy to prepare multiple dishes. I find it especially handy when I’m meal-prepping. I can make a main dish, and then quickly pop in a new inner and make quinoa, rice a veggie and such. It’s almost as handy as having two Instant Pots.
Instant Pot Inner Cooking Pot

SEALING RINGS
The Instant Pot lid sealing ring is made of silicone. It’s really durable and will last you a long time. It can, however, hold onto food odor. I wash mine in my dishwasher after each use. I also periodically “steam-clean” it in the pot – toss a couple cut up lemons and a cup of water into the pot and cook on manual high pressure for fifteen minutes. I do have a second ring to use when I make a neutral or sweet dish and I really want to ensure no savory aromas are transferred.
Instant Pot Sealing Rings

STACKABLE INSERT PANS
Stackable insert pans are great when you have more than one dish you can cook at once – steaming, cooking veggies and rice. Or cooking two dozen hard-boiled eggs at a time. These make reheat leftovers in the Instant Pot so easy and fast, a much better choice than using a microwave.
Stackable Stainless-steel Insert Pans

STEAMER BASKET
A steam basket or rack is essential for Instant Pot cooking. I especially like one with moveable sides so it can adjust and accommodate food of all shapes and sizes. I like the extendable removable handle on this XOX model, it’s handy when lifting hot food from the pot.
OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Steamer with Handle

TRIVET-RACK-STAND
I use a taller trivet in addition to the trivet that comes with the Instant Pot, so I can cook in several layers. I’ll often cook things like sweet potatoes on the lower level and place an entrée in a pan above on the higher level. If you do this, take care that the height of the tallest item is not higher than the pot’s maximum fill line.
Trivet Rack Stand

RAMEKINS – OVEN-SAFE DISHWARE
I love my porcelain ramekins and love that they work so well in my Instant Pot. The perfect size for single serving dishes and porcelain doesn’t absorb odors or flavors.
Ramekins

HOT POT GRIPPER CLIP
Sort of like a hot pad’s much stronger studier weight-lifter cousin. Just clip the grip end onto the hot pot, or pan or basket and lift it from the Instant Pot. My friend Coleen, an Instant Pot veteran, gave me these when I first got my pot. She was absolutely right about how much I’d love them!
Hot Pot Gripper Clip

CHEESECAKE PAN
Perfect for cheesecake, tarts, quiches and more cheesecake. This pan was designed with Instant Pot cooking in mind, it has a handle for lowering into and lifting out of the pot. The only problem I have found with this pan is that it is too easy to make cheesecake. It’s very tempting to have cheesecake every week. LOL
Stainless Steel Cheesecake Pan

YOGURT MAKER CUPS
My Instant Pot doesn’t have the Yogurt function (sad face) so this yogurt maker cup set is on my wishlist for now. When it’s time to give my pot an Instant Pot sister, it will be the yogurt-making 10-in-1 model.
Yogurt Maker Cups

 

If you loved this list, be sure to check out my Favorite Kitchen Tools list. I’ve done the research so you don’t have to!

 

 

 

 

 

Affiliate Disclosure: Recommendations I share on my website may contain affiliate links. If you click through my referral link, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase. I only recommend products and services I use myself and would share with friends and family. Your purchases from these companies through my links helps me continue to bring you free information on my site.

 

 

Gift Ideas For Dad

Fathers deserve to be showered with love every bit as much as we shower our Moms. Sadly, when it comes to the official day for Dad celebrating, Father’s Day, most of the time we’re low on ideas, having used all our creativity for Moms on their official day the month before. So, Dad usually gets a funny card and maybe a new tie. Dads are troopers.

I’m here to support you and Dads everywhere. I’ve compiled a list of my favorite gifts for Dads (and any and all of the unofficially titled dad-like people in our lives). These products all meet The Ingredient Guru guidelines and are products I either own, use regularly, and/or gift on a regular basis to others. Give him a gift that he’ll really love and shower him with the hugs and appreciation that all Dads deserve.

 

HOT SAUCE
Give Dad some heat with hot sauce made from spicy, flavorful real-food ingredients. One bottle won’t be enough, Dad really needs an ultimate hot sauce sampler pack. Start with two of my favorites, Brother Bru’s Original African Hot Pepper Sauce, Very Hot and Sky Valley by Organicville Sriracha Sauce (finally a siracha sauce without potassium sorbate and sodium bisulfite)
Shop Hot Pepper and Sriracha Sauce

 

BBQ TOOLS
If Dad is the master of the grill, he should have a top-notch set of grilling tools. This is the ultimate of grillmaster tool sets, made from heavy-duty food-grade stainless steel, strong, sturdy and dishwasher-safe – just what Dad needs to up his barbecue game this summer.
Shop BBQ Tools

 

CHEF’S KNIFE
Every Dad who knows his way around a kitchen deserves a really good chef’s knife. I love my Wüsthof.  With an 8” blade and perfectly balanced, this is my absolute favorite and I use it all the time.
Shop Wüsthof Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife

 

HEALTHY SUNBLOCK
Is Dad an outdoor enthusiast? I love that. Everyone needs sunshine, but sunburn and overexposure to those UV-A and UV-B rays? Not so much. Get Dad the BEST sunscreen (imho)  3rd Rock Essentials Sunblock. Invented by my good friend, Dr. Guerry Grune, an outdoor enthusiast and research chemist, who wanted something better than the garbage ingredients found in the conventional sunscreens he used to have to put on his skin. Made from 100% food grade edible ingredients, no GMO’s, no parabens, no hormone disruptors, this is the best stuff ever.
Shop 3rd Rock Essentials Sunblock

 

SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD
Who doesn’t love seafood? Vital Choice Wild Seafood & Organics is a wonderful, nourishing gift for Dad. When giving seafood it’s important to get sustainably fished, wild caught for the best quality. My friend Randy Hartnell knows fish. Before he started Vital Choice, he spent more than 20 years fishing wild, pristine Alaskan waters for salmon, herring, and other regional species. He’s an expert, AND he’s generous – he is offering a free gift just for Father’s Day! Use the code DADGRD18 with your order and Vital Choice will tuck in their popular Organic Salmon Marinade. That’s an added $10 bonus for Dad, and you, to enjoy.
Shop Vital Choice Wild Seafood & Organics

 

BECAUSE…  BACON
Did you know that bacon is the healthiest food.? Because it’s been cured.
Eggs and Bacon walk into a bar…… and the bartender says, “Get out – we don’t serve breakfast here.”
I don’t know who became more famous, Sir Francis Bacon or his son Chris P. Bacon
Obligatory Dad jokes over….  
Socks. A regular pair of socks might fall into that ho-hum category of Dad gifting, like a tie. Luckily, these are no ordinary socks, these are bacon socks. Bacon makes anything cool, even socks. Imagine if they also smelled like bacon… that would revolutionize the sock world!
Shop Bacon Socks

 

LEATHERMAN MULTI TOOL
For a Dad who does everything why not get him the tool that does darn near everything? Collapsible, portable, extremely useful. It’s named The Wingman for good reason. Because every Dad needs a knife, pliers, screwdrivers, wire cutters, wire stripper, scissors, package opener, bottle and can opener, file, ruler, ready for anything and more tool.
Shop Leatherman Wingman Multitool

 

OLIVE OIL JARS AND OLIVE OILS
I fell for these gorgeous olive oil jars as soon as I saw them. Handmade by Doni Langlois, talented artist and owner of Artful Life Clay, each and every unique bottle is practical, functional, and beautiful to look at. Not something you’ll find in your local shop. If you don’t see the bottles on her webstore, she’ll help you out if you send her an email inquiry, Doni@ArtfulLifeClay.com

If you’re going to gift Dad an olive oil jar, he’ll appreciate it even more if he has delicious olive oil to fill it with. Sandy Oaks Olive Oil Orchard, 50 acres of olive trees nestled in on a 200-acre homestead south of San Antonio, makes olive oil with love and a Texas accent. Sandy’s Olive Oil is made from Arbequina olives, soft, meadowy and sweet, and Picual olives, brisk and robust, producing a blend with complex buttery flavor. The Orchard also sells olive trees if you really want to help keep Dad’s bottle full.
Shop Olive Oil Jars and Olive Oils

 

SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL UTENSILS
Is Dad always on the go? If so, he needs the right equipment for eating on the go. Eco-friendly To-Go Ware is made from lightweight, strong bamboo, so perfect for toting around. The carrying case is made from recycled plastic (to help keep plastic bottles out of landfills) and has a handy carabiner on the back so Dad can just clip and carry a fork, knife, spoon and chopsticks wherever he may roam. Perfect for Dad’s busy lifestyle and our precious planet. It’s unique combination of ecology, innovation & compassion.
Shop To-Go Ware

 

MINDFULNESS MATTERS
Dad’s need mindfulness too. Life is busy. Meditation can restore balance to the mind, to relationships, to the workplace, and to health. In just minutes a day. Packed with dozens of ways to incorporate mindfulness, great essays, inspiration pages, and worksheets, Beyond Meditation: Making Mindfulness Accessible for Everyone is an easy-to-read, easy-to-implement resource for all, even Dads.
Shop Beyond Meditation: Making Mindfulness Accessible for Everyone

 

Although we officially recognize the greatness of Dads on Father’s Day, remember that dad’s day is really every day. Show your appreciation, tell your dads you love them, and celebrate Father’s Day all the days of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you click through my referral link, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase. I only recommend products and services I use myself and would share with friends and family. Your support of these companies through my links helps me bring you free information on this site.

 

 

Gift Ideas For Mom

Mother’s Day is always special. Of course, I believe that’s because moms are special. They nurture us, feed us, and encourage us to grow into better people. They kiss boo-boos, drive away under-the-bed monsters, and generally help to make everything alright with the world.

It’s always been strange to me that we choose only one day to celebrate. That’s mostly because I think moms, well parents actually, should be celebrated every day. But we have this habit of celebrating all the moms, aunts, grandmas, heart-moms, and mom-like people in our lives in May. And they definitely deserve a little pampering.

Here’s a list of my top twelve great gifts for moms. These products all meet The Ingredient Guru guidelines and are products I either own, use regularly, and/or gift on a regular basis to others. (Hint, you will want to buy some for yourself. They’re just that good.) 

 

HERBAL TEAS and a CUTE TEAPOT
I love making my own tea blends. For delicious high-quality herbs, Mountain Rose Herbs is my number one go-to. If mom prefers a pre-blended option, they have a tasty selection of those to choose from also. And if you’re going to give mom some tea why not a beautiful teapot to go along with it? Hayneedle has a truly lovely and eclectic assortment of teapots.
Shop Mountain Rose Herbs & Hayneedle

GLASS STRAWS
Plastic is so passé. It’s chock-full of unhealthy ingredients, like BPA, and it’s really environmentally unfriendly. Re-usable glass straws are here to save the day!  Glass straws made of borosilicate are non-porous, hypoallergenic, shatter-resistant, break-resistant, and usable in cold and hot temperatures. Borosilicate? That’s Pyrex to you, me, and your grandmother’s casserole bowl. I have a set of four straws, which came with a teeny brush to keep them nice and clean. I also keep one straw with me in a travel pouch, so I have it with me when I visit my favorite green juice bar.
Shop Hummingbird Glass Straws & Organic Cotton Travel Pouch

COCONUT OIL CREATIONS
I am so in love with this stuff. It’s a really delicious and convenient way to get coconut oil, along with anti-inflammatory, immune boosting spices into your daily diet. I spoon it into tea, herbal beverages, and oatmeal. I have to keep fighting off my husband who puts it in his coffee. The flavors are deep and scrumptious, created with loads of organic spices. My current favorite flavor? Chai. Next week it may be Mocha. Really, all the flavors are so good. Mom probably needs one of each, so she can taste-test her way to finding her favorite.
Shop Coconut Oil Creations

GLASSTIC
Glasstic bottles are my favorite way to take my water along with me, everywhere. It’s a glass bottle surrounded by a tough BPA-free plastic shell. My water stays delicious, I don’t have to worry about breaking the bottle AND I help keep the earth free of throw-away plastic bottles! Great for hot or cold beverages, and there are a seemingly endless number of designs to choose from.
Shop Glasstic

MYGREENFILLS
Let’s face it when you’re a mom laundry is a way of life. You can make things easier for mom by gifting her with the last laundry bottle she will ever use. MyGreenFills’ refill program delivers eco-friendly, toxic-ingredient-free laundry wash right to mom’s front door. The refills are in powder form, so you don’t pay extra shipping for the weight of a liquid filled bottle. How smart is that? Plus, this company has an amazing mission statement and social cause. Absolutely worth standing on a soapbox and supporting.
Shop MyGreenFills

GAIAM
I really appreciate Gaiam’s (pronounced “GUY-um”) company message. They believe in nurturing, protecting and respecting the Earth and everyone and everything that exists on the planet. For now and for our future generations. They also make some of my yoga and fitness products. They have such a broad range of products good for gifts – comfy clothing, balance balls, colorful yoga mats, foam rollers, videos, even pet massagers – there’s definitely something here for every mom.
Shop Gaiam

DARK CHOCOLATE
Chocolate is a delicacy. The Mayans believed chocolate possessed healing abilities. In 1753, Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus named the cacao tree: Theobroma cacao (food of the gods).  Today, dark chocolate is considered a Super Food. Loaded with nutrients and high in antioxidants, dark chocolate is good for your heart and your brain, just for starters. Also, it’s delicious. Choose minimally-processed, dark chocolate with at least 70% pure cacao, free of emulsifying agents.  Thrive Market has an incredible selection of delicious, clean, healthful dark chocolate for every palate – from fun and flavorful to dark and dreamy. Delicious.
Shop Dark Chocolate

INSTANT POT
Because I absolutely LOVE mine. I received my Instant Pot as a gift last year. As soon as I tried it I immediately added it to my Favorite Kitchen Tools List and added Instant Pot variations to my Fast, Fun Freezer Meals recipe collection. Every kitchen should have one. Every mom should have one. Check out my Pinterest Board’s ever-growing collection of Instant Pot recipes. You can practically taste the deliciousness.
Shop Instant Pot

HIMALAYAN SALT LAMP
Looking to give mom a calm refuge in the hurry and stress of everyday life? Consider a salt lamp. Not only pretty to look at, the soft, gentle glow of a salt lamp adds negative ions to the air and lends a peaceful tranquility to the room. I have several and love their welcoming glow when I return home after a long day. A salt lamp is perfect for every room of the house. Mom’s probably going to want more than one.
Shop Himalayan Salt Lamp

REAL PLANS MEAL PLANS
This online meal planner is a plan with superpowers. If mom loves to cook but struggles with menu planning (and really, who doesn’t?) this is the gift that keeps on giving. It makes menu planning a snap no matter what your dietary plan. Just remember to take her out once in a while too.
Shop Real Plans Meal Plans

SKIN FOODIE
Oh my gosh this is the Best. Stuff. Ever. I met Skin Foodie’s creator, Amy, at a conference and have been a huge raving fan of her healthy skin products ever since. Everything is food for your skin – made with ingredients from nature, and love. Ditch those over-the-counter products full of toxins! And Skin Foodie knows moms – they even have a Mom Fixes Everything Balm!
Shop Skin Foodie

TOTEM
TOTEM has fabulous gemstone jewelry – the prettiest mala necklaces, chakra bracelets, and so much more. TOTEM Sacred Jewelry and Smudge Bar designs pieces with good vibes and lots of love. It’s the place to get mom something really special.
Shop TOTEM

BONUS
I couldn’t resist making this list a baker’s dozen, so here’s one final gift idea: a copy of Gratitude: A Mindful Pause. This journal is the perfect little gift for mom to write down her everyday experiences and the many things she’s grateful for (including you!) Paired with some beautiful pens or pencils and it’s a gift that will keep on giving.
Shop Gratitude: A Mindful Pause

 

Although we’re officially celebrating now, remember that mom’s day is really every day. Show your appreciation, tell your moms you love them, and celebrate Mother’s Day every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you click through my referral link, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase. I only recommend products and services I use myself and would share with friends and family. Your support of these companies through my links helps me bring you free information on this site.

 

 

Favorite Kitchen Tools

Good kitchen tools can help make cooking easy, delicious and fun. I’ve put together a list of a few of my favorites, the ones I find myself reaching for over and over again. Some are new discoveries and some are my dependable old friends.

 

CHEF’S KNIFE
Everyone needs a good chef’s knife. With an 8” blade and perfectly balanced, this is my favorite and I use it all the time. When I was displaced by Hurricane Harvey for a few months the one thing I missed the most was my knife.
Wüsthof Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife

FLEX EDGE BEATER
I love my mixer and all of the attachments that come with it. Especially this scraper mixer blade This is an amazing mixer because it makes short work of beating, mixing, and blending. I even use it to mix my meatloaf.
KitchenAid Flex Edge Beater

IMMERSION BLENDER
This is the handiest dandiest tool in my kitchen. Perfect for making mayonnaise, blending soups and sauces, making applesauce, I also use it for making a bulletproof style boosted tea.
All-Clad Stainless Steel Immersion Blender

CUISINART
My mother bought me one years ago and I remember thinking “What the heck am I going to do with it?” Now I don’t know how I’d live without it. I use it to chop everything, including making chopped salads in the summer.
Cuisinart 14-Cup Food Processor

JULIENNE BLADE
Perfect for making julienned vegetables and especially for ‘zoodling’ zucchini, butternut squash. I’ve even used it to julienne apples for a shredded apple dessert.
OXO Good Grips Julienne Peeler

ECO-FRIENDLY FOOD STORAGE
I’m a big supporter of the movement to reduce plastic, especially one-time use plastic. I do my best to use eco-friendly products. In my kitchen, I’ve moved away from plastic wrap to Bee’s Wrap for food storage. Made of organic cotton, naturally antibacterial sustainably harvested beeswax, and organic jojoba oil that help keep food fresh. Each cloth is washable, reusable and compostable. Even their product packaging is sustainable, made from 100% recycled paper and biodegradable cellulose.
Bee’s Wrap 3-Piece Sustainable Reusable Food Storage

VITAMIX
I Iove my Vitamix. It was an investment for sure, but there’s good reason that foodies, home chefs and restaurant kitchens around the world are loyal to Vitamix. Mine gets used almost every day. Sure, it’s perfect for making smoothies, but it’s also great for blending NiceCream (“ice cream” made from frozen banana), homemade almond milk, coconut whipped cream, soup, and more.
Vitamix 7500

INSTANT POT
I’ve had my Instant Pot for less than a year now, and I really can’t remember what I did without it! It is my absolute favorite tool in the kitchen. Pressure cooking made easy-as-pie (hmmm… pie. I haven’t tried making a pie in my pot yet…)  The ease alone would be enough but Instant Pot takes it even further – a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, warmer and sauté pot, and that’s just the 6-in-1 model.  The 7-in-1  also makes yogurt, and the 9-in-1  cooks eggs, sterilizes, makes yogurt AND cake. All this multi-tasking, no hogging my kitchen counter space – it’s a keeper. So I’ve given my Instant Pot it’s very own drawer, to store all its handy accessories.  I have so many favorites I’ve made a favorites list for Instant Pot Tools too. You can read that list here.
Instant Pot

LE CREUSET PAN
I adore my Le Creuset pan. It’s cast iron and enameled. From eggs for breakfast to sautéing veggies for dinner, this pan practically lives on my stovetop because we use it so much.
Le Creuset Signature Iron Handle Skillet, 9-Inch

MANDOLIN SLICER
Fabulous for slicing things at any time of year it’s great for salads, frying, canning, and makes quick work of different cuts for a wide variety of foods
Mueller Austria V-Pro 5 Blade Adjustable Mandolin

SHAMELESS PLUG
If you’re giving gifts for the kitchen this holiday season why not share a copy of my book The Pantry Principle: how to read the label and understand what’s really in your food? This is a fabulous resource to help you learn more about your food, so you can make healthy choices. Available in Kindle or paperback, it’s an essential guide for anyone who eats, in other words, it’s an essential guide for everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

Affiliate Disclosure: Recommendations I share on my website may contain affiliate links. If you click through my referral link, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase. I only recommend products and services I use myself and would share with friends and family. Your purchases from these companies through my links helps me continue to bring you free information on my site.

 

 

Real Food In A Small Space

Screenshot 2016-02-01 10.53.05

In a recent conversation with my dear friend and colleague Misty we covered a wide range of topics.  From eating for wellness and our careers as holistic nutrition professionals to dreams of a more connected-to-our-food life and making real food in a small kitchen. We had a delightful conversation and she shared some really wonderful thoughts and memories.  I asked her if she’d be willing to share some of that with you.  I’m really pleased to share her article with you. 

As a young girl I grew up on a small farm in the country.  Once I married and had children, I was faced with the decision to leave my farm life completely and sell my horse.

I was busy with small children and while having a farm was the life I knew, it seemed a distance memory of a future dream that I would not attain as a young wife and Mother. I live in Northern California and the property values are great.   This dream just didn’t seem possible until my husband and I agreed that if planned simply, this dream can in fact become our reality.

My husband and I had become increasingly nervous about living down river from what is known to most as “Wine Country.” While there are several organic vineyards in the area, most were large commercial wine grapes that surrounded us and our lovely little river. Our water came from this river and the thought of what chemicals were likely entering this water supply during wet weather run-off was frightening. Growing up on a farm, I was used to having our own well and never had I depended on a public water source.

Just 3 years ago while the housing market was still in flux, we began looking for our piece of the farm pie. We didn’t have the money for a developed farm or even a piece of property with a home on it. We are resourceful, hard-working people and decided that we would just build our home.  We decided to begin looking outside of our increasingly expensive county and found a 40 acre parcel at a price point we could afford. It seemed too good to be true and I knew the breaking point on the cancellation of this escrow would come out of my water test. Imagine my excitement when my water test not only came out clean without over growth of bacteria’s but to my surprise, 100 mg of magnesium per liter of water!

As a nutrition professional, I am keenly aware of the importance of fresh air, clean food and a solid water supply. While we knew it would take some time to build our home, the sacrifices would be huge but we swallowed our pride and decided to purchase a large 5th wheel travel trailer to use as our temporary home.

Imagine standing at the top of the mountain with views for miles and miles with the vision of your little piece of heaven.   It was a glorious thought and an exciting feeling.

My husband and I have had our share of life’s ups and downs as young parents so we’re fairly hearty and solid as a couple. The thought of living in a trailer temporarily didn’t frighten me and in fact, it was a sacrifice I was willing to make for 40 acres with a prolific spring. Yes, my very own water supply and it’s a natural spring containing the minerals we needed and missed after years of consuming water from a public supply. My parents thought I was crazy. My commute isn’t an easy one and in fact, there are 2 miles of dirt road just to get to my driveway. I know they thought I had lost my mind but I know what I have, for I feel like the richest Woman on earth!

I moved into our little trailer slowly and eventually gave up my newer custom built 1800 square foot home. My biggest fear was telling my Dad because he helped build it and I felt like I was giving up a piece of him. It’s crazy I know but the time, diligence and love that he put into it meant the world to me but I really needed more. More room, more sun, more freedom and the ability to walk away from “the grid”. Yes, we are sustainable which means I have no public power, water or sewer so we’re on our own. Currently we run off of solar panels and a gas powered generator so imagine my disappointment when I realized my slow cooker would become a distant memory.

We’ve worked out many kinks and I’ve figured out how to successfully make my bone broth with an Instant Pot pressure cooker for now. I look forward to the outside kitchen we plan to build with a brick oven and fire burning stove so that I can have my slow cooked broth, but simmered traditionally.

My girlfriends laugh because I have successfully brewed Kombucha and Kefir, fermented vegetables and even made sprouts in my tiny little kitchen.  I have an area right behind my sink that is approximately 2 square feet and when the entirety of your home is about 300 square feet, this is quite a lot of space to give up to the ferments and fruit flies. Don’t forget, I also use the Instant Pot so processing the broth in my smaller than usual sink is also a bit of a chore but I now have a system and I don’t have to give up my favorites due to a bit of inconvenience in space.

This all seemed so overwhelming in my previous huge kitchen but what I realized is, we have drifted as a society from the independence of home grown and fresh preparation of our foods. What we sacrifice in return is knowledge of ingredients, lack of education for our younger generations and ultimately, our health. We seem to be involved in a rat race that chases wealth first and health last. It is my wish that we stop and consider what we put into our bodies, what decisions we can make to take a few more minutes each week to gain independence from the chemicals in both our food and water. What small changes can you make to ensure your family has access to the cleanest food and spring water possible? As you read above, it’s not as difficult, nor is it a distant dream if you consider micro gardening, preservation of that food and obtaining water on a smaller scale.

If you have small spaces, rather than flowers, consider planting seasonal food in planters. Easy choices include greens, herbs & spices, strawberries and tomatoes. You can easily dry herbs and spices as well as sun dried tomatoes on a window screen, freeze your strawberries or just pick and eat. Once you have your little herb garden, and step out to grab your “pinch” while cooking, you’ll wonder why you never maintained this fun, dependable practice in the past.

If you have a larger space but can’t find the time, share your space with a friend, relative or neighbor who might really love the idea of helping you plant and maintain the garden for an equal share of the harvest.

I mention above the idea that our water supply might not be the healthiest choice so consider a whole house filter, a heavy duty filter such as a Big Berkey, purchasing spring water or even better, locating a spring by visiting http://www.findaspring.com/. In my study of minerals, it has come to my attention that with the incorporation of public water systems, our mineral intake has decreased a great deal. When nature provides for us, it’s usually in perfect harmony. Not so much when Man is involved with this process. From water to the soil, these changes are increasing our need for supplementation so if you have access, it is wise to consider obtaining spring water. If not, you can purchase a multi-mineral supplement and add it to your water to replace what has been lost.

No matter your sourcing, if you can etch out a bit of sustainability in your little world, I promise you the reward is worth the effort. This is especially important if you have children. We now live in a world where our children have no idea how to prepare meals and intimately know how to use a microwave.

As a child, I have great memories of picking blackberries, gardening and subsequent baking and preserving with my now deceased Grandmother. I plan to give my grandchildren those same warm memories.

I’m off to source non GMO seeds for the family garden we are planning for the first time in the 3 years we’ve been on Snow Mountain.

 

If you’d like to know more, Misty can be found online at Healthy Transitions.

Word Of The Year — Balance

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Last year with the encouragement of my friend Sue Painter I  chose a word to focus on for the upcoming year.  It was the word inspire.  And last year was definitely a year of inspiration, change, and huge personal growth.

I enjoyed the process so much that I decided to do it again.  Oddly enough it’s not that easy to pick a word.  When you stop to consider that this word is a guiding focus for the year ahead, to think about how to condense all of your goals and hopes into one single word, it can be a bit overwhelming.

After much careful consideration I’ve chosen the word balance.  The dictionary defines it as:

bal·ance
ˈbaləns/Submit
noun
1.  an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.
synonyms: stability, equilibrium, steadiness, footing

stability of one’s mind or feelings.
“the way to some kind of peace and personal balance”

SAILING
the ability of a boat to stay on course without adjustment of the rudder
2.  a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.
synonyms: fairness, justice, impartiality, evenhandedness, egalitarianism, equal opportunity

ART
harmony of design and proportion, the relative volume of various sources of sound.

3.  an apparatus for weighing, especially one with a central pivot, beam, and a pair of scales
synonyms: scale(s), weighing machine

the zodiacal sign or constellation Libra

4.  a counteracting weight or force
synonyms: counterbalance, counterweight, stabilizer, compensation

the regulating device in a mechanical clock or watch.

5.  a predominating weight or amount; the majority.

6.  a figure representing the difference between credits and debits in an account; the amount of money held in an account.
the difference between an amount due and an amount paid
synonyms: remainder, outstanding amount, rest, residue, difference, remaining part, an amount left over
verb

verb: balance; 3rd person present: balances; past tense: balanced; past participle: balanced; gerund or present participle: balancing

1.  keep or put (something) in a steady position so that it does not fall
synonyms: steady, stabilize, poise, level

remain in a steady position without falling

2.  offset or compare the value of (one thing) with another
synonyms: weigh, weigh up, compare, evaluate, consider, assess, appraise, judge

As a word nerd I love the fact that it’s both a noun and a verb.  But even more, I like what it stands for and how my focus in the year ahead, my intention, is to seek balance, find balance, be balanced, and to provide balance for others.  As part of how I practice I assist people with their health goals, that brings them into balance with their bodies.  As a holistic health practitioner I support them in looking at all aspects of their current state of being, that brings them into balance in many different areas of their life, a “way to some kind of peace and personal balance.”  That really resonates with me; I hope to be the rudder that helps others find the balance they need.

On a more personal note is the idea of balancing so that “different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.”  As I focus on the year ahead I need to be mindful of balancing my own healing journey with my food sensitivities, my personal commitments, my clients, time with friends, spiritual growth, focus on family, and personal development.  That balancing act is never easy, but I believe it’s worth focusing on.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, peaceful year ahead!

image:   ImageChef

Sugar For Pregnancy

We consume far too much sugar in this country. Manufacturers shove enormous amounts of it into a wide variety of foods making the amount that the average American eats shockingly high. According to information found at the Department of Health and Human Services, 200 years ago Americans ate an average of 2 pounds of sugar per year. Now, thanks to modern food production methods, combined with cheap and easy access to sugar, the average American eats 3 pounds per week! That’s the equivalent of about 6 cups of sugar or approximately 1,500 calories worth (it varies depending on the type of sugar). The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day for women (9 teaspoons for men).  Six teaspoons times seven days brings the total suggested consumption to 42 teaspoons or less than 1 cup of added sugar per week, an enormous difference.

The effects of excess sugar consumption are well known, weight gain, diabetes, cavities, gum disease, suppression of the immune system and a number of other issues. Obviously it makes sense to try to avoid excess sugars as much as possible.

One area where it especially makes sense to reduce sugars is for those who are pregnant. Excess sugar consumption by the expectant mother not only affects her health, but also that of her unborn child. Unfortunately this does not stop manufacturers from using excessive amounts of sugar in products aimed specifically at pregnant women.

I was shopping with a friend at a maternity store last week. As we waited at the checkout I noticed a few “impulse buy” products near the registers. Being the Food Ingredient Guru that I am I could not resist the impulse to pick them up, flip them over, and #ReadTheLabel. Here are the results of two of the items I saw:

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Marketed specifically as candies for pregnant woman, this has 12 grams of sugar per 3 pieces.  And the ingredients are not a healthy choice:  dried cane syrup, corn syrup, citric acid, natural flavors, and natural colors.  Breaking this down we have two kinds of sugar, one of which, the corn syrup, is most likely to be genetically modified.  We also have citric acid which is often made from corn and therefore probably genetically modified.  Natural flavor is often code for monosodium glutamate.  I’m not sure in this instance as they talk about essential oils, but it’s an ingredient that I feel would be best avoided.

The other product was a pregnancy “boost” bar with 8 grams of protein.  It’s important to remember that many protein bars are just glorified, grown-up candy bars.  They’re often not a healthy choice due to the high levels of sugar.  This bar is no exception.

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I find this one especially frustrating because the packaging specifically calls out health claims such as “bone health for mom and baby”, “supports baby’s healthy brain function”, and :enhanced immune function”.  However 13 grams of sugar per bar are not going to be supportive for the immune system.

The ingredients in this product are as follows:

Brown rice syrup, oats, milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, milk, chocolate liquor, dextrose, soy lecithin, vanilla), soy crisp (soy protein, tapioca starch, salt), toffee (evaporated cane juice, butter [cream, salt], crisp rice [rice flour, sugar, malt extract, salt]), brown rice crisp (brown rice flour, rice flour, distilled monoglycerides), soy nuts (soybeans, sugar, natural flavors, sunflower oil, salt), soynuts, almonds, vegetable glycerin, cocoa butter, cocoa powder, pear juice concentrate, non-fat dry milk, natural flavor.

Fortified with: calcium carbonate, magnesium citrate, cholecalciferol (vit D3), potassium iodine (iodine), choline bitartrate, ascorbic acid (vit C), zinc oxide.

The company does claim to use non-gmo soy however

  • The dextrose is from corn and probably genetically modified.
  • Sugar appears five times on the label.
  • The listed dairy products are not organic and therefore are likely to have added hormones, antibiotics, and potential pesticide residue and/or genetically modified on the feed given to the cows.
  •  The soy crisp, rice crisp, and brown rice crisp are all exploded grains and as simple carbohydrates are quickly broken down impacting the blood sugar.
  • Malt extract and natural flavor are potential sources of MSG.

All of these combine to make this an unhealthy option.  Consider instead having a real food snack such as an apple (if you’re looking for something sweet), or a clean source of protein such as a handful of raw nuts or an organic whole milk yogurt with some fresh berries.

Remember that whatever the claim on the front of the package it’s always important to Read The Label.

I Love Latkes!

latkes

It’s that time of year again.  Hanukkah!  The festival of lights.  And part of the holiday celebration calls for eating foods fried in oil to celebrate the miracle of the oil the burned for eight days.  Latkes, or potato pancakes, are a favorite.  Everyone loves them and everyone has their own recipe.

I only make them once a year (although they’re great anytime).  Mostly because we don’t tend to eat a lot of fried foods in our house.  Every year my husband asks me not to make latkes because they’re so greasy.  And every year, as we’re eating them, he says, “I’m so glad you made latkes, they taste so good!”  

They do taste good.  I actually think they taste better because we only get them once a year.  If we ate them all the time it wouldn’t be that special.  Or that healthy.  They’re a treat and we enjoy them fully.  And at the end of the day that’s a part of what really matters when it comes to our food.  Yes, we want to make healthy choices, yes we need to get rid of the chemicals and additives in our food, but yes, we also need to celebrate with special foods.  And in my book latkes falls into that category.

This year I got together with a bunch of friends at the Jewish Women’s Circle and we made latkes together.  Four different kinds!  That kitchen smelled a-m-a-z-i-n-g when we were done —  potatoes,  potatoes with carrots,  potatoes with zucchini, and sweet potatoes.  I have learned from past experience that you can’t mix regular potatoes with sweet potatoes because they cook at different rates.  It’s also important to note that when you add things into the potatoes it changes the cooking time and sometimes requires you to turn down the heat a bit so you don’t burn the latkes.

You can make them however you like, I’ve seen recipes that call for green apple to be shredded into the mix, I’ve heard of putting jalapenos in there, herbs, other root vegetables, it’s all a matter of personal preference.  In our family we tend to be traditionalists and prefer the plain potato latkes served with organic sour cream and unsweetened apple sauce.  Here’s my favorite latke recipe.  And may there always be light in your home and your life.

Mira's Favorite Latkes
Print
Ingredients
  1. 3 pounds of russet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled and shredded
  2. 1 large vidalia onion peeled and shredded
  3. 1 large egg
  4. 1/4 C. gluten free flour
  5. sea salt to taste
  6. grapeseed oil (enough for frying)
Instructions
  1. Mix ingredients together
  2. Heat oil in a pan
  3. Drop mixture by very large tablespoons into pan
  4. After 2-3 minutes flip to other side and cook another 2 minutes
  5. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels
Notes
  1. I use grapeseed oil for frying as it has a higher smoke point. Normally I might use coconut oil but in this particular instance I do not care for the flavor when mixed with the latkes. For those of you who have The Pantry Principle, the chart of oil smoke points is on pages 72-73.
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/
photo: ultramagicalbonbon 

 

On My Mind Monday 03.11.13

on my mind -- what's in the news
It’s never the same two weeks in a row. A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, and holistic health. Here’s what’s on my mind.

Aspartame in Milk – Those of you who follow along on my Facebook page have already heard about this issues and how upset I am. Bad enough that they want to use aspartame in milk. The horror of this newest petition to the FDA is that the organizations involved want the FDA to remove the requirement to label the presence of aspartame in the dairy products. It does currently appear in a number of dairy items but it’s presence must be disclosed. If the request is successful it potentially could mean that you might be consuming dairy with this health-harming product in it. Not a good thing. If you’re as upset as I am, the FDA is seeking public comment and you can tell them how you feel.

Did Your Grandmother’s Smoking Habit Give You Asthma? – This is epigenetics at work. Genetic switches turned on and off by exposures. Although far from definitive it appears that there is a strong possibility that a grandmother who smoked cigarettes can have a genetic impact on her grandchildren even if her own children did not smoke. Hopefully this news will help more people decide to quit smoking.

Pink Slime Mfr Seeking $1.2 BILLION – Apparently if consumers find out what’s really in their food and decide not to eat it rather than accepting that the new paradigm is for the manufacturers to sue those who reported on the issue. Not the person or organization who came up with the term “pink slime” (that would be a scientist at the USDA btw) but the news media because they have deeper pockets. How about instead of trying to feed people food that was made from left-over bits and ammonia they just used real food? Hmmmm…now there’s a thought for you.

What’s Mira reading: I just finished the final revisions on The Pantry Principle and am eagerly awaiting the print proof copy. I think I’ll take a break from reading for a week or so as I’ve read/proofed/edited my own book to the exclusion of almost anything else for weeks.

Video of the Week: Not sure what to think about this, apparently a new(ish) food fraud scandal in China is selling concrete filled walnut shells. The story was originally reported a year ago but has just now surfaced in food news.

photo: Alvimann

Mom-advocate

Social change happens slowly. Sometimes it’s difficult because the organizational mountain that is entrenched does not want to be moved.  With the second season of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution well underway we are once again seeing the challenges that many parents face trying to get better choices for their children at school.  As this video from the last meeting for the National School Lunch Program shows, manufacturers and lobbyists are extremely prevalent (although not always very visible) in making school food decisions.  These standards are only revised once every five years; with this highly politicized structure, our children are the ones who suffer the consequences.
A friend of mine, P.W., shared her recent frustrations with her school district, the mixed messages kids are getting, and the challenges of helping adolescents to better understand nutrition and health so that they can make better choices.
In order to protect privacy names and identifying information have been removed. These letters were edited for clarity. 
P.W. wrote to her school district:
Our daughter saw “Super Size Me”  today in health class at school and it really made an impression on her. Talk about NOT practicing what you teach! Good nutrition is so highly tied to academic success and yet my daughter’s options for a school lunch are absolutely dreadful. Our daughter has access to multiple fried foods with a Gatorade every day. Your lunch program conditions them to a high fat, high calorie junk food diet. The lack of nutrition causes them to crave more, as well as affecting their overall development. I do not understand why the schools are able to teach the 
horrors of a junk food diet and then NOT offer them a sensible lunch that will provide the nourishment they need. It grieves me to think that this may be the only decent meal some of these kids have each day and it is junk!
This is something that has bothered my husband and I since our children were in grade
school. To see this hypocrisy is more than I can take.
I am certain that you must know what a good nutritional diet really looks like. I can only assume that there are other factors that are causing the schools to fail our children this way. What do I need to do to help you fix this problem?
[In order to protect the words and privacy of the Health Teacher I am summarizing their responses]
The teacher wrote to my friend explaining that there has not been a fryer in the school kitchen for 10 years, that all hot food is either steamed or baked. The school does have a conveyor oven that gives a crisp texture without frying.
The school is not allowed to serve any product over 23 grams of fat and follow strict portion sizes.
The nutritional plan has changed to allow for higher fiber, lower sugar, lower fat foods.
Cucumber slices and green bell peppers are offered during the week, fresh fruit is available on each school line every day and beverage choices available daily are water, 100% fruit juice and low fat milk.
The teacher remarks that there is a challenge in providing healthy menu choices that the kids will want to eat within their budget.
P.W. was invited to research the nutritional information of the food online at the school’s website. The Health Teacher also suggested that the child should be educated at home about portion sizes and healthier choices.
P.W. responded:
It is encouraging that our daughter is learning about better nutrition,
 recognizes the value of fresh produce and is making an effort to make better
 choices. I appreciate her having access to fresh fruits and vegetables 
at school. It is also somewhat comforting that you are limiting the amount 
of fat and using a cooking process that avoids frying. However when I researched 
the menus and nutritional information on the Parent Access site, the hot
meals are all basically junk food and do not have much variety.
I sympathize 
with your challenge of balancing a budget with high product and labor costs,
 but I believe that we should offer a better and more varied menu and it can
 be done without breaking the budget. My concern is that the junk food
 offered daily, even though it is a “healthier” variety of junk food, clearly
 needs to be a small percentage of our diet and yet it is the majority of 
what is offered. Although you are making an effort to serve lower
 fat/higher fiber items, they still have the appearance, taste and texture of
 high fat. I don’t see that they have much access to a home-style hot meal 
that isn’t highly processed or available on a daily basis.
From the menu, it
 doesn’t appear that much is made from scratch, much less from local products 
and it largely looks to be heat and eat. Preservatives and chemicals are just
 as much an issue as the empty calories of fast food.  From what I hear,
 much of the fruit offered is not fresh either, which translates into a much 
lower nutritional product. I also don’t understand why our kids are only 
offered 1% and skim milk, when whole milk would be a better choice for most. 
Adding a full fat live yogurt to the menu would be a great addition, as well 
as seasonal melons, berries, grapes, and citrus. 



The other issue I have is that my daughter is on 4th lunch. This means that by
 the time she gets to have lunch, the cafeteria is out of certain things, 
others are over cooked or burned, or the lines are so long that time 
prohibits her from even eating some days. This cannot be considered acceptable.



In this age group, peer pressure and the school 
experience trumps whatever is being taught at home. It is a huge challenge 
for us to feed our kids well at home when their taste buds become conditioned to a fast food diet when attending school. Years ago, I had the
 privilege of being in a school kitchen that prepared food and distributed it 
to all the area schools. This district must be large enough to be able to support 
such a venture and be able to better utilize seasonal and local products, as well as to create a fresh high quality meal for our kids and staff. You have an 
enormous responsibility to our kids and I respect your challenges and 
appreciate your response, but I can’t say that it provides me the assurances
 I was looking for and hope that a new approach is being considered.


P.W. Wrote me privately and shared:


Another thing that really upsets me is that when I was in school, there was a wash basin for the kids to wash their hands when entering the cafeteria. None of the schools here have that and supposedly, the teachers are taking the kids by the bathroom to wash up before lunch, but I don’t believe it. They have staph and other contagious diseases running rampant all the time and good hygiene is essential. There should be a state law that requires hand washing before meals in schools.
My take on all of this:
I frequently find myself very frustrated by school districts serving fatty, sugary, nutritionally deficient foods and then claiming that it is the parent’s responsibility to teach their children to eat better and make better choices.  Many families that I know do teach their children these things and do provide much better choices at home.  However in the school environment there are not too many children who are going to choose from the highly limited often not-really-that-healthy option over french fries and pizza.  I believe the school has ice cream and cookies and fast food options because those are the more profitable items.

I know several children who are vegetarians and have heard disturbing stories of the distasteful looking or even empty salad bars that the cafeteria staff refused to replace or refill leaving that child with no viable option.

Earlier in the year I had the opportunity to speak with my local Great Harvest Bread company.  They had received an opportunity to bring whole grain bread, preservative free sandwiches into the school system.  However after a short period of time their contract was reduced to four schools and cut back in the number of days that they were allowed to provide.  They believe part of the reason for this reduction was because the school wanted to bring in Chick-Fil-A more times per day as that was a more profitable option for the school district.  Great Harvest was not allowed to send notes home to parents letting them know that this healthier sandwich option was available.

I believe it is an unfortunate truism that most children, even those who have received more nutritional education at home, will opt for high fat, high sugar foods because they are enticing.  By having an overabundance of these products the school virtually guarantees that they can feed children the least nutritious, cheapest foods and make large profits.

In defense of the school system I do agree that they have a difficult job trying to feed as many children as they need to with the minimal federal dollars allowed.  However this should not be an excuse to allow Pizza Hut, McDonalds and Chick-Fil-A lines in a school cafeteria.

I believe another part of the problem is that school districts simply do not want parents to be involved in the decision making or to have input into the nutrition served at the cafeteria.  School lunches have become a profit center, if not for the school then at least for the food service corporations.  Moves such as this one in Chicago disallowing lunches to be brought from home make me highly suspicious of the intent.  I believe, unfortunately, that many schools are marketing to a captive audience and can therefore preach one thing and do another.

I applaud P.W. and many others like her all around the country who are rallying on behalf of the kids.  Change is happening all across the country.  From the Edible Schoolyard to the Renegade Lunch Lady, Two Angry MomsBetter School Food, Local Food Dude and more, we need to push for the children to have decent nutrition and take back our cafeterias.