Saturday, June 30, 2012

Chocolate Banana "Milk" Shake

I've been enjoying this delicious concoction a couple times a week lately.  The hot weather makes this a perfect afternoon snack.  The kids love them too!  And what's not to love?  Who doesn't want a little frozen chocolaty goodness?  Instead of filling up on a milkshake full of sugar, chocolate syrup, and processed fake milk you can give your kids (or yourself) a shake that is actually good for you.

This is my good friend chia.  It's not just for chia pets anymore! I like to add this to smoothies, shakes, pancakes, granola, salads, almond butter... get the picture?  You can add it to just about anything and get a nutritional boost in your meal: chia is high in fiber, protein and omega-3s.  When it gets wet it becomes a gel which can be helpful if you are doing gluten free baking or making raw deserts to help them set.  Chia should be soaked for 2 hours for maximum nutrient absorption.

Chocolate Banana "Milk" Shake

1 ripe banana
1 frozen banana
1 tbsp cacao powder
1 cup ice
¾ cup water, divided
¾ cup cashew milk
1 ½ tbsp chia seed

Combine chia seeds and 1/4 cup water in a cup and allow to soak for 2 hours if possible.  The seeds will form a gel in a couple of minutes and can be used sooner if you don't plan ahead.

Combine all other ingredients in your blender.

Add chia and blend until smooth.

I've got a high speed blender and it completely eats the chia and ice- no chunks!

Chocolaty goodness, people!

One satisfied customer.

And another!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fiesta Shrimp Quinoa

This is what happens when I get trapped inside my house for days on end.  I need fun food... and drinks.  We have blessedly been unscathed by Debby unless you count Dakota wiping out on our floor and putting a tooth into her cheek.  She's ok now but it took a lot of ice chips and hugs.  Despite having a large wound in her mouth and a lot of swelling, her appetite was unaffected.  I'm not really surprised though.
So what was she eating to feel better?  Food made more fun by calling it "fiesta."  It does make it more fun right?  You know what's also fun about this dinner?  It is packed with nutrients that make your body happy!

Have you tried quinoa?  Did you love it?  I wasn't convinced the first time I made it.  I just wasn't getting enough flavor in the recipes I was making.  I kept trying though since it is such an awesome food.  Although quinoa is used like a grain (it can be ground into flour too) it is actually a seed that is in the same family as spinach and beets.  Quinoa has some pretty sweet nutritional properties, here are just a few:

  • Fiber- In just a 1/4 cup there is 3-5g of fiber, that's up to 20% of your daily value.
  • Protein- While quinoa is no replacement for meat, it does have 8g of complete protein in one cup which is a lot more than any grain you might be serving up with dinner.
  • Flavonoids- Quinoa ranks with berries for its high content of some flavonoids.
  • Minerals- Quinoa is high in magnesium, phosphorus and manganese. 

So what does this mean?  Basically quinoa is awesome!  It has anti-inflammatory properties and promotes damage repair in your body.  This means the potential to control blood sugar, lower the risk of cancer, lower cholesterol and improve digestion.  For more information on quinoa check out this site.

Fiesta Lime Shrimp

1lb wild caught shrimp
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 ½  cup canned tomatoes
1 ½ cup vegetable broth
juice from 1 1/2 limes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup green pepper, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp herbamare
4 green onions, chopped
¼ cup cilantro, minced
¼ cup tomato, chopped

Shrimp Marinade
1 clove garlic, minced
juice from ½ lime
¼ tsp chili powder
1 tbsp cilantro
1/8 tsp herbamare

Peel and clean shrimp.

Combine marinade ingredients coat shrimp.

Allow to marinate in refrigerator until ready to cook.
Chop up all of those tasty veggies.

Set aside minced cilantro and chopped green onions

In a large pot combine tomatoes, quinoa, broth and lime juice.  I used my homemade whole tomatoes that I canned earlier this year.  If you have to use store bought, look for them in a glass jar to avoid BPA or other chemicals.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover.

In a separate pan, sauté onions in olive oil over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.

Add celery, green pepper, garlic and herbamare.
Continue cooking until veggies are desired crispness.  I cooked mine for only about 2-3 minutes because I like some crunch!

Add shrimp and continue cooking until pink.

Remove from heat and set aside until quinoa is ready.

When quinoa is cooked (15-20 minutes) add shrimp and veggies to quinoa.

Add green onions and cilantro and gently combine.

A big ol' pot of deliciousness!

Serve over some leafy greens (I used thinly sliced kale) and garnish with tomatoes.

Nothing like a little shrimp eatin' and book readin'.

Aidric was displeased with the texture of the quinoa (again) but loved the shrimp.

Make this for dinner tonight and have your own little fiesta!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mango Tomato Salsa

Tropical Storm Debby (downer) rained on my parade this weekend.  Surprisingly the kids have not gone completely nutty yet despite being stuck inside.  This is probably due to a wild and crazy shopping trip to Whole Foods on Saturday and some much needed play time at church Sunday morning.  Besides these two outings we have been cooped up in the house like it's the middle of winter in North Dakota (I would know). 

Amazingly, this is the only action shot I have of all of our shenanigans.  It was pretty much like this all weekend.  Yes, it was like this in Whole Foods too.  Perhaps you saw me... I was the mom with the little boy driving the shopping cart car like he was winning the Daytona 500 and the little girl insisting she pick out all our groceries.  Needless to say, mama is a little tired.
And since we're getting all of this tropical rain I was in the mood to whip up something tropical.  My first choice would have been a piña colada but since I didn't have the ingredients I had to settle for some mango salsa.

I got this huge mango from my aunt.  They’ve got a big tree that is full of them right now and I am a sucker for a local mango.  I try to put them in everything I can when they are in season here.  I just froze some for smoothies today and perhaps some mango ice cream (dairy free of course).  Besides having a unique and delicious flavor, mangos are good for you too.  They are very high in vitamin C so they are a great natural way to boost your immunity.  They are also a good source of vitamin A, B6, copper and potassium.

I also had to share this awesome bunch of organic mint I picked up at Whole Foods.  I get so excited when they have bunches of mint instead of the kind in the plastic package.  Unfortunately I don’t have enough shade for mint to survive at my house so I have to rely on the farmers.  This particular bunch is headed for smoothies, juice and this salsa of course!

Mango Salsa

1 mango, seed removed, peeled & chopped
1 small tomato, diced
1/3 cup green pepper
Juice from 1 lemon
1/2 cup mint, minced

Combine all ingredients and allow flavors to mingle for 15 minutes.

This was excellent on top of our fish tonight.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The New Dirty Dozen plus Produce Wash

Hooray! It's that magical time of year when we get to find out which veggies are most likely to poison us! I know that maybe you're thinking ignorance is bliss here but I promise you it's not.  Each year the EWG come out with new ratings for the 45 most common fruits and veggies.  You can find the new list here.  The worst offenders are labeled as The Dirty Dozen.

If the people who apply the pesticides need this kind of gear maybe we shouldn't be putting it on things we are going to eat.  Think about this statement from the EWG's methodology page:

"Since researchers are constantly developing new insights into how pesticides act on living organisms, no one can say that concentrations of pesticides assumed today to be safe are, in fact, harmless."

Um, really? You think? I'm gonna have to say I'm positive they are harmful.  Google "pesticides and health" and see what you come up with.  They have been linked to all kinds of health problems including cancer, damaging the nervous system, reproductive issues and birth defects to name a few.  This shouldn't really come as a surprise since they are designed to kill living things right? 

And guess what else? Our kids are even more susceptible.  Even the EPA has a page entitled "Why Children May be Especially Sensitive to Pesticides." They include the fact that little ones are still developing, they have higher exposure to the ground and environment and the fact that they eat and drink a higher percentage of their body weight compared to adults.  I'd also add that they are even more exposed to higher quantities of pesticides than any previous generation simply because pesticides are so prevalent these days.

So why is it ok to put this stuff on our foods?  It's not! That's the only answer I have.  We buy almost exclusively organic foods these days.  I do make some exceptions when it comes to fruits or veggies on the Clean 15 list as long as we don't eat them in large quantities.

I find it helpful to understand how the EWG came up with their ratings.  Maybe that's just me but I have to know the "how." The first thing you'll want to know is that the majority of the data is based off of washed or peeled fruit or veggies.  So basically they are testing samples that have already been prepared for consumption.  Sorry, you can't use the excuse that you peel your fruit before eating. Below is the list of the different ways they measured contamination.

Percent of samples tested with detectable pesticides
Percent of samples with two or more detectable pesticides
Average number of pesticides found on a single sample
Average amount (in parts per million) of all pesticides found
Maximum number of pesticides found on a single sample
Total number of pesticides found on the commodity

These categories were all rated equally when it came time to rack and stack the produce.  This may be important to you if you are more concerned with the levels of pesticides than the number per sample.  It may not be a perfect system but at least the information is getting out there.

Also new this year is a "bonus" category- and not in a good way.  Green beans, kale and collards are the lucky contestants that didn't qualify for the dirty dozen but tested positive for a group of pesticides that are especially harmful to the nervous system: organophosphates.  These pesticides cause damage the nervous system that is irreversible.  So please choose the organic options when eating these.

Hopefully I haven't scared you off yet.  I can tell you I was totally freaked out when I first saw this list a couple years ago.  But even seeing these results wasn't enough for me to quit buying conventional blueberries cold turkey (they're rated #11 this year). It took a while for me to transition and that's ok. Sometimes a paradigm shift takes a while.  Here are some steps you can take in the right direction.

  • Don't buy conventional fruits and veggies listed in the Dirty Dozen.  These are the most contaminated produce and should be avoided at all costs.
  • Buy non-organic product from local farmers who don't use pesticides.  Check out your local farms and ask questions.  There are many farms that may not be organically certified but they don't spray pesticides.
  • Buy and eat more of the cheaper organic foods.  Maximize your food budget by choosing the cheaper organic options.  This means eating local and in season foods.
  • If you can't find it organically, just don't eat it.  Sometimes this can be hard but be open to substituting.  Just choose another fruit or veggie instead.
  • Soak and rinse everything!  It's important to do this with both conventional and organic produce.  More on this below.
  • Grow your own produce.  The best way to be sure you know what's on your food is to grow it yourself.  While everyone doesn't have room for a giant garden, even someone in an apartment can grow some small veggies or herbs.

The EWG also reviewed baby food this year and found pesticides.  You can check out their summary here.  If you buy conventional baby food you should check it out.

So you say you'd like to wash those pesticides off now? Great, I've got you covered.  Soaking your fruits and veggies is actually much more effective than just rinsing.  So if you can, fill up your sink and let them sit.  Soak your conventional produce separately from your organic goods.  Yes, you need to wash your organic goodies too. Even though it wasn't sprayed with those nasty conventional pesticides it can still be contaminated by all kinds of germs, chemicals from air pollution or fumes from transport, and the "natural" pesticides approved for organic farming.

Produce Wash

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp baking soda

Ingredients can either be added to a sink full of water to soak produce or used in a spray bottle diluted with water.
Note: please use organic ingredients to make your veggie wash.  Cleaning your produce with pesticides kind of defeats the purpose.

I'd also like to throw out there that eating fruits and vegetables is very important.  No one should limit their consumption of these because of the pesticide risks.  What we should do is make smart choices with which produce we do eat.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Make your own Flavored Water

I'll get to the water in a minute.  Something very important happened last week.  My little man turned 2!

We celebrated his actual birthday on Thursday with these muffins but planned a party for Saturday with our family and a couple friends.  It seems like I am surrounded by parents who plan elaborate birthday parties for 30 toddlers plus their parents.  That's not how we role.  My two year old is not going to enjoy himself any more surrounded by 29 other kids he barely knows.  In fact he would probably freak out- and so would I.  We are so blessed to live close to a lot of my family.  My parents, aunts and uncles, and brother and sister-in-law are all an active part of the kids lives. Because of this we like to have everyone get together for the kids birthdays.  We don't have bounce houses, petting zoos or clowns.  But we did have a piñata.

Did you know they make pinatas these days with pull strings so that all the kids can help open it?  I keep forgetting and accidentally bought one (again). We don't believe in pulling the strings- we like to beat the thing out of the tree.

Aidric's little birthday shindig was supposed to go down at the beach. Unfortunately the forecast called for more torrential rain so we had to move our beach party to my brother and sister-in-law's house (they are saints). 

I planned some tasty beach-friendly food for our bruch party. And what better to drink in sweltering weather at the beach? How about some refreshing fruity water.  We don't do bottled juice or soda at our house but I saw this on pinterest and thought it would be an awesome alternative for guests. 

Since we didn't head to the beach I didn't make these for the party.  I did make them once I got home though.  They are great to help you up your water intake or as a treat for the kids.  I can't tell you how much Dakota and Aidric wanted to drink this immediately! Nothing like a little fruit to motivate the kids to drink their water.

Flavored water is beyond easy to make.  Some fruit, herbs and water and you are good to go. The flavor possibilities are only limited by your access to fresh fruits and herbs!  I kept these flavors simple this time around but I'll be getting creative this summer and enjoying a refreshing change of pace from plain water!

Make your own Flavored Water

Wash fruit thoroughly and slice as thinly as possible.

Add desired fruit and herbs (1/2-1 cup) to a jar and cover with filtered water.

Refrigerate overnight or for a couple hours and serve.

These were so refreshing!

My flavors:
Strawberry Basil

Citrus- orange, lemon, lime

Cucumber Sage

Nectarine Mint

 I plan on keeping a jar in my fridge all summer long!