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Monday

12

October 2015

0

COMMENTS

How to Make Herbal Teas

Written by , Posted in Herbs, How To

HerbsForTea-3

We see a lot of herbs come through our kitchen. Most from the weekly Abundant Harvest Organics box, a few from my garden. Many of them are the perfect compliment to soups, pastas, or pizza. Some stand on their own as the star in dishes like pesto. Last summer I tackled cold drinks using some of our favorite herbs. Now that we’re in the full swing of fall, let’s sip some tea together.

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I will admit that I’m not a big tea drinker, although I like it a lot more than I used to. In the past, I only drank tea when I was sick, giving it a negative connotation. I have now found some teas that I really enjoy, no matter how sick or healthy I’m feeling.

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One of my favorite uses for tea is as a stress reliever. Just the act of sipping a hot beverage is soothing. But, even more than that, many herbs are known to be relieve stress. Some that are more commonly known are lavender and chamomile. But, basil and lemon balm can be added to that category too.

Here are a few things that some of my favorite herbs are known for:

Lavender

A part of the mint family, lavender is said to aid with sleep and relaxation and to be anti-inflammatory.

Basil

I love it for its taste and smell. It’s a big part of some of my favorite dishes. But, basil is also known to be a digestive aid, to help with headaches, and poor circulation. It’s also said to be an antioxidant, anti-viral, antimicrobial, and a stress reliever.

Chamomile

My go-to tea when I’m not feeling well, chamomile is known to aid digestion, relieve hay fever, anxiety, inflammation, muscle spasms, insomnia, ulcers, menstrual cramps, and gastrointestinal disorder.

Lemon Balm

Another member of the mint family, lemon balm is said to soothe jittery nerves, improve mood and mental performance, relieve stress, and contain antioxidants. (It’s also used by some as a mosquito repellant.)

Rosemary

I haven’t tried rosemary in a tea, but it’s supposed to help relieve gas and colic (although too many cups/day could irritate the stomach).

Thyme

Another favorite of mine when cooking, thyme is said to help alleviate lung congestion. It’s also said to be helpful for gastrointestinal problems.

Mint

One of my favorite herbs to grow, because of how easy it is and how much I use it, mint is known to stimulate digestion, help alleviate hay fever, nausea, stomach ache, and irritable bowel syndrome, and it is also said to be an antioxidant.

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Tea Parings 

I’ve come up with a few ideas for herbs that I think might taste good together in a tea.* I’ve added a few extras, like honey and citrus, where I think they’d be especially nice.

To Soothe

basil + mint + lavender + chamomile + honey

basil + mint + lavender + chamomile + lemon balm

lavender + basil + lemongrass

lavender + orange zest + cinnamon

For the Tummy

lavender + thyme + mint

basil + chamomile + mint

mint + ginger + lemon zest

basil + ginger + thyme + lemon

mint + ginger + lemon zest

Under the Weather 

lemongrass + ginger + cayenne + honey

rosemary + lemon balm + thyme + honey + cayenne

thyme + cayenne + honey + lemon zest + lemon juice

chamomile + thyme + mint + honey + lemon juice

thyme + basil + lemon balm

Just Because

rosemary + lemon balm + mint

mint + lemon zest + honey

Tea can be made tea with fresh and dried leaves. It can be hot, cold, or somewhere in-between. Tea can be comforting, invigorating, and healing… Now I think I’ll go make myself a cup.

Happy Sipping

*If you are pregnant (or trying to conceive), nursing, have health conditions, or take medication that may be interfered with, please consult your health care professional before using. Possible health benefits of herbs are my opinions and ideas, based on the research that I’ve done, but are in no way intended to replace the advice of a qualified health care professional.
Sources:
The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, N.D., and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D., with Lara Pizzorno, M.A., L.M.T., Atria Books 2005
Reader’s Digest Foods That Harm Foods That Heal, The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. 1997
Wikipedia

Monday

28

September 2015

0

COMMENTS

Grocery Shopping

Written by , Posted in How To, Thoughts

GroceryShopping-1

I love to plan. Making lists is fun, checking things off a to do list is satisfying, and figuring out my grocery list is rewarding. Last year I worked on a series about menu planning. There are three parts: the reason, the menu, and the staples to have on hand. Now it’s time to tackle the grocery list.

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I like to have my grocery list written out in the order that I will find things in the store. I find that I miss less when I do it that way. Plus I save time in the store, as I’m not running from one side to the other, or standing in each aisle scanning the list to see if I need anything. I think I get it from my mom. I seem to remember her lists were always written out this way.

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When we were first married, our budget didn’t allow for much in the grocery department. Not a lot has changed since then, so I still plan our menu and grocery trips the same way that I always have.

As I’m planning our menu I will make a list of the things that we have on hand. You know, rice, pasta, beans, veggies etc. I will combine those with what’s coming in the weekly Abundant Harvest Organics box. As the days get filled up with things to eat, I will see what’s missing from our pantry, and add it to the grocery list. As the list fills up, I will keep an eye on the week’s grocery budget. We usually have some staples (like milk, cheese, and eggs) that take priority. They’re the things that I can’t make or grow myself. After that, I’ll take things off or add them based on what’s left in the budget. Some weeks are smaller than others, and I get to be creative with what we eat.

Grocery-Lists

Like I mentioned earlier, I like to organize my list based on the layout of the store I will be shopping at. Some stores are organized a little more by category than others, so I’ve got two list options for you.

You can use these lists (just download and save the photos), or you can download one of the many grocery list apps onto your smartphone. I don’t have one to recommend, sorry, I’m a pencil and paper kinda gal. I know, it’s old fashioned, but I prefer it.

GroceryShopping-2

I find that keeping the grocery budget balanced with the overall budget is the key for keeping from overspending. And the key to keeping the grocery list in check is to plan the menu ahead of time. This is my idea of a fun way to spend an hour or two… for real!

Happy Eating!

Hand lettering on the grocery list done by Tim Oberg.

Monday

14

September 2015

0

COMMENTS

How to Compost Reuse and Recycle

Written by , Posted in How To, Thoughts

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This summer I wrote about conserving water in the kitchen. Now, let’s take that conversation one step further, and let’s talk about composting, reusing, and recycling.

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Composting

We live in the city, but I have a small garden, so I have a composter in the yard. It’s a ball with a lid on either end that can be rolled around the yard to turn it. It looks like the Death Star (it gets some weird looks from people walking by). My parents have always composted, Tim’s parents do too, so it’s something that’s ingrained in me. It’s not something that I know a lot about, so I’m learning as I go. But, so far it’s been a great addition to my garden.

My rules for composting are as follows:

All fruit and veggie scraps go in, even those that aren’t organic. While I don’t want pesticides in the garden, I still feel like it’s better to have those scraps in the compost than in a plastic bag in a landfill. That’s just me. I’m not super picky. So we add egg and nut shells, fruit pits, and seeds.

Cardboard goes in if it hasn’t been printed on. Usually this is egg cartons and toilet paper rolls, torn into small pieces. I skip the cereal boxes, because I’m not sure about the shiny printed on side.

The butcher paper from the weekly box of produce from Abundant Harvest Organics gets torn into small pieces and added(usually the dog will help with this chore – you can see a video of him “helping” here).

Paper towels and tissues, as long as their not super gross.

Compostable packaging (some companies have made things like chip bags, forks, plates, cups etc out of biodegradable vegetable products).

Things that we don’t add: Animal products (meat, dairy – mostly because we don’t want to attract animals and because of the smell), large quantities of oil or leftovers. Leftovers will just depend on their makeup and amount. I think that a little bit once in a while isn’t too bad.

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Reusing

When I was a kid, I was the one whose sandwich was in the washed milk bag (I grew up in Canada – milk comes in sealed plastic bags). At the time, sooo embarrassing, amiright?! But now, I totally get it. Twist-tie plus milk bag is a perfectly acceptable sandwich holder. Since I don’t live in Canada anymore, we wash and reuse any ziptop bags instead of milk bags (unless they’re way grody).

I often save peanut butter jars, salsa jars, and sometimes even a wine bottle or two. The jars are washed and saved to store things like leftovers, homemade veggie stock, and homemade yogurt. We wash the wine bottles, and Tim has scraped the labels off them, and we keep them filled with water in the fridge (and we have a few more empties on hand in the cupboard for when we host dinner parties). These jars (especially super cute mason jars) can be washed and used if you’re short on drinking glasses. They can also be used to store fresh herbs and flowers. Once you’ve scraped the label off (a razor blade works great for this), a bit of burlap could be wrapped around a jar, or a ribbon or some string could make a nice bow, and they’d make a nice centerpiece for your dinner party table.

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Recycling

There’s a lot that can be recycled rather than thrown in the trash. Cans, glass bottles, plastic, and even some types of styrofoam (although some is now corn-based and can be composted). Many grocery stores will take your plastic bags and recycle them (they shouldn’t be added to curb-side recycling as they can get caught in the sorting equipment at the recycling center). Depending on your location there may be different regulations, so check into them so you know what’s acceptable and what’s not.

Another option is to collect containers for cash. It takes a while to collect enough to make any serious money. But, when every little bit counts, it can make a difference. My very first job, if you can call it that, was a “company” that my friend and I started. We’d pull our wagon around our neighborhood and ask the neighbors if we could have their cash refund applicable recyclables. Then we’d take them to the recycling center and get money for them. I don’t think the business lasted long, but the idea was a solid one. There are people who collect recyclables for charitable organizations too. You save ’em up and bring them on a designated day and they’ll do the rest.

We can all do more to lower the amount of waste that we’re producing. Recycling, reusing, and composting are three great ways to start. Even if you start small, it can lead to big changes. Our commitment to wasting less has led me to be more mindful about what I buy. I try to avoid products with excessive packaging, I prefer glass over plastic, and I bring reusable bags to the grocery store. There’s always going to be more that I can do, but it’s a great place to start.

Thursday

27

August 2015

0

COMMENTS

How to Make Delicious Packable Lunches

Written by , Posted in How To, Lunch, Thoughts

Lunches-2

Oh lunch. The oft neglected middle meal. How often do we eat in a hurry at our desks, eat a squished vending machine sandwich, or forget to eat altogether? Admittedly, I don’t forget to eat all that often. I’m usually thinking about the next meal while I’m eating the current one. It’s just the way I operate. But, if I have nothing planned or prepared, I will eat chips and salsa, or cold leftovers standing at the kitchen island… anything to ward off the hunger pangs.

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I try to have our meals planned a week ahead of time. Not just dinners, but breakfasts and lunches too. Helps my days to run much smoother when things are planned ahead of time. Food is defrosted when I need it, groceries are added to the list, and there’s food to take to work or eat at home for lunch.

Lunches-1

Whether I’m making a lunch for Tim to take to work, or something to be eaten at home, I like to include something filling – a main of sorts, along with some raw fruits and veggies. Today’s lunch was Taco Salad, using some of what we have on hand: lettuce, tomato, cucumber, black beans (spiced up with some chili powder and salt), shredded cheese, corn chips, Greek yogurt, and salsa. To go along with that was some cut up cantaloupe and watermelon, and a whole plum.

Here are some other ideas for lunches that can be packed and enjoyed no matter what you’ve got going on at lunchtime.

Hot Lunches for the Work Week

BeefBeanEnchiladas-11

Monday 

Rice and Bean Burritos or leftover Beef and Bean Enchiladas with Greek yogurt and salsa

Carrot sticks

Fruit – whole or in chunks as a salad (stone fruit, apple, pear, persimmon, pomegranate, melon, figs)

Tuesday 

Spicy Summer Squash and Tomato Soup

BLT

Fruit – whole or in chunks as a salad

or Chicken Noodle Soup

Roasted Veggie Sandwich (leftover roasted veggies, like eggplant, summer squash, onions, peppers – with mustard or mayo – or both, on a baguette, with fresh tomatoes and olives)

Fruit – whole or in chunks as a salad

or Kohlrabi Stew

Ham and Cheese Sandwich

Fruit – whole or in chunks as a salad

Wednesday 

Succotash

Tuna Melt (bring the prepared tuna in a separate container, top bread with tuna and cheese, place on a pan in the toaster oven and cook until hot and melty)

Vegan Fruit Crisp

Thursday 

Fish Wellingtons

Creamy Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Fruit – whole or in chunks as a salad

Friday 

Mediterranean Veggies and Rice

Salted Chocolate and Roasted Fig Pudding

Cold Lunches for the Work Week

MassagedKaleTunaSalad-6

Monday 

Artichoke Heart Dip with raw veggies for dipping (carrots, celery, radishes, artichoke leaves, snap peas, green beans, fava beans, bell peppers, fennel, mushrooms)

Chunks of bread or crackers with cheese

Nuts and seeds

Hard boiled eggs

Fruit – whole or in chunks as a salad

Tuesday 

Eggplant and Summer Squash Tacos

Melon and Feta Salad

Wednesday 

Bean and Veggie Mélange atop rice/quinoa/bulgur wheat, leftover crispy or baked potatoes (cold or reheated), or toasted bread (rub a bit of raw garlic on it, add a sprinkle of salt, and a drizzle of olive oil before you top with the mélange)

Whole Wheat Parsnip Cookies

Thursday

Massaged Kale and Tuna Salad

Apricot and Black Pepper Galette

Friday 

Taco Salad (use leftover Bean and Veggie Mélange to top lettuce, add some cheese, corn chips, chopped tomatoes, Greek yogurt, and salsa)

Vegan Fruit Crisp

These lunches don’t have to be limited to the grownups. Summer is drawing to a close, so school lunches will need to be packed. The kiddos might enjoy a break from PB&J (although let’s be honest, I still love a good PB&J sandwich for any meal). Depending on the level of pickiness, you may want to tweak them a bit. I don’t know if the little ones will enjoy a Massaged Kale and Tuna Salad… although they may surprise you. 😉 You can take the general idea and make it your own. Maybe even come up with a fun saying for each day, so they’ll look forward to their lunch (like Taco Tuesday – come up with a four week rotation for different types of tacos). You could let them help pack their lunches too. They might take pride in being able to help put it together the night before, making them look forward to eating it at noon.

However, wherever, and whenever you enjoy your lunch…

Happy Eating!

Thursday

13

August 2015

0

COMMENTS

How to Go Vegan

Written by , Posted in How To, Thoughts, Vegan

We’ve addressed meat a few times in my Kitchen Basics posts. In Eating Well on a Budget and Eating Vegetarian I talked about how we enjoy meat, but it’s expensive. Our grocery budget is tight, so we don’t eat a lot of it. We’re fine with that. We get plenty of protein from other sources. But, as we’ve been going along on this journey, I’ve realized how often we’re not just eating vegetarian, but vegan. And I’m seeing how organically it happens.

VeganTofuFriedQuinoa-6

If I were to tell Tim that we were going to eat exclusively vegan or vegetarian, there would be a revolt (ok, from both of us). We love cheese and milk and eggs. But, we will happily and regularly eat vegan food and won’t feel like anything is missing. Take this Vegan Tofu Fried Quinoa for example. The tofu is scrambled and mimics the eggs in a typical fried rice dish. The quinoa replaces rice for a bit more protein. There are tons of veggies. Et voîla, a fabulous meal, sans animal products. Easy.

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These days it really is simple. There’s so much more awareness about dietary restrictions, resulting in a wide array of alternatives to animal products. I know that there are soy cheeses, but tofu can also be used, like in the Eggplant and Summer Squash Tacos that I made the other week. Instead of feta, extra firm tofu can be crumbled. Same thing goes for one of my new favorite ways to enjoy cantaloupe in this Melon and Feta Salad. On the other end of the tofu spectrum, silken tofu can be used in place of yogurt in dips, for topping tacos and burritos, and as a side for Stone Fruit Chips.

Here are some other substitutions that we enjoy:

Olive Oil, Canola Oil, or Coconut Oil in Place of Butter or Bacon Grease

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We’ve always got olive oil on hand, which is usually what I use for sautéeing or drizzling on a salad. But, when it comes to baking it’s a science. So, if the recipe calls for cold butter, room temperature oil will give you a different result. But, for example, coconut oil has a higher melting point than olive oil does, so it can be a good substitution. There are also vegan butter substitutes that can be found at your local market if you want to take some of the guesswork out of substituting.

Maple Syrup Instead of Honey

This one’s easy, since they’re both a liquid at room temperature. For my taste, 1/4 C of honey can be replaced with 1/4 C of maple syrup, like it is in this Vegan Fruit Crisp.

Coconut, Almond, Soy, or Hemp Milk instead of Cow’s Milk

We have friends who are dairy-free, so I’ve experimented a bit with baking with alternative milks. So far I’ve just tried coconut and almond milk and have had good results. I’ve used them in soups and have had them in smoothies too, and all have been fabulous.

Flax Seeds instead of Eggs

I read on the Joy the Baker website that you can use 1 T of ground flaxseed mixed with 3 T water to replace one large egg. Let it sit for 30 minutes, or until it’s thickened. Add a pinch of baking powder to the recipe just before adding the flaxseed and water mixture. I’ve done this once when baking, although I can’t remember what I used it in. I do remember that it turned out great. I’ve also suggested it as an option for making a vegan version of my Whole Wheat Parsnip Cookies.

All Vegan Dinner Meal Plan

Here are some of my favorite vegan meals. Some are vegan as they are, some require a bit of tweaking (see the recipes for details).

Monday

SummerSquashSoup-5

Spicy Summer Squash and Tomato Soup

MintPesto-5

Sautéed Snap Peas and Summer Squash with Mint Pesto and Brown Rice

VeganFruitCrisp-7

Vegan Fruit Crisp

Tuesday

CrispyTofuBlackBeanPureeMicrogreens-6

Crispy Tofu with Black Bean Purée and Microgreens

Succotash-5 

Succotash with Cornbread

SaltedChocolateRoastedFigPudding-11

Salted Chocolate and Roasted Fig Pudding

Wednesday

EggplantTacos-6

Eggplant and Summer Squash Tacos

MelonFetaSalad-4

Melon Salad

ParsnipCookies-5

Whole Wheat Parsnip Cookies

Thursday

SavoryStoneFruit-6

Roasted Stone Fruit with Bulgur and Fennel

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Fresh Herb and Dried Tomato Bruschetta

Green Salad with Cherry Tomatoes Almonds and Figs with a Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette

Friday

SpringRolls-8

Spring Rolls with Spicy Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce

BeanVeggieSaladDip-7

Pan Seared Tofu topped with Bean and Veggie Melange

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Vegan Tofu Fried Quinoa

VegetarianFlavorBible-2

A great resource for paring vegetarian and vegan foods is The Vegetarian Flavor Bible.

Happy Eating!