Total Wellness | Feel Good Food For Your Body and the Planet

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I’m currently sitting at my desk with pen and paper. No screen in front of my face with pop up adds or tabs to switch through. No distractions; the way writing should be. I could tell you that I had some sort of enlightenment but that would be lying. My MacBook power cord has been sparking every time I plug it into the socket. So due to the apparent fire hazard and the fact that my computer is dead, I must take to this more backward method.

I haven’t done much blogging work lately I guess you could say. I’ve been off instagram, pretty much all forms of social media – it’s nice. I’ve been spending time with friends and family and doing a lot of planning for the wedding! Most of all, I’ve been focusing on exercising more, doing yoga, and transitioning to a more plant-based diet. The reason, although very compelling, is not to get in better shape for the wedding. I consider myself to be a pretty healthy person, so this would just be taking it to the next level – for my body and for the wellbeing of the planet.

I love to watch documentaries on Netflix; particularly those that have to do with the food we eat. And since I’ve seen Food Inc. about 10 times, I thought it was time to find something different. I found a couple that were good and you can find these on Netflix! Vegucation and Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. Vegucation follows three New Yorkers that decide to go Vegan and why going vegan is so important for our bodies and the planet. Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead follows a man named Joe Cross who nursed himself back to health from obesity and a debilitating autoimmune disease by juicing using only fruits and vegetables. Both are compelling and both have two common themes. They advocate for a plant based diet and they both show a lifestyle that goes totally against the grain (no pun intended) of where our food system is currently taking us.

I am absolutely floored when I hear of juicing or a plant based diet come under such scrutiny. Yet too often crazy diet fads and weight loss pills take center stage. No one is complaining about those. Okay maybe some people are, but these unnatural methods touting health benefits often comes up wanting.

Enough is enough. We’ve tried everything else, it’s time to get back to the basics. Fruits and vegetables is where it’s at – and that’s just the beginning to being on a healthy path for the rest of your life! Is meat, cheese, and dairy good for you? Sure! In moderation. The problem with that is for most people it’s the opposite. We eat more meat, cheese, and dairy and we eat fruits and vegetables in moderation. Fruits and vegetables are the real deal! Nutrition straight from the earth. You can’t get more wholistic than that!

A plant based diet isn’t what we typically think of as a diet. It’s a change of lifestyle. You are reorienting your tastebuds, expanding your palette, and changing your habits. Whether you decide to go all plant based (vegan) or mostly plant based, your body will thank you for it either way. For example, the purpose of a juice cleanse is not so you have to drink only liquids the rest of your life, it’s to give the body a boost and the motivation it really needs to get healthy and start craving the right kinds of foods.

I used to think going vegan was kind of unnecessary. Meat holds an essential building block to our health – protein. And as long as you eat locally sourced meat and not fast food it’s okay. There are a whole host of repercussions, some seen and some not seen, when we pick up that ground beef from the store. I don’t think I’m ready to go completely vegan, but I would like to gravitate toward a predominately plant based diet. It’s silly to think meat is my only source of protein when there are so many other alternatives out there.

I’m starting on a path to total wellness and I encourage you to do the same! If nothing else so you feel better and live a happy life! Have any of you tried going vegan or have done a juice cleanse? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Adele

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Embracing Seasonality Part II: Winter Kale Salad with Blood Oranges & A Pomegranate Vinaigrette + Thoughts on Winter

Winter can be a rather bleak affair. When you’re in the thick of it, it feels like there is no escape; homes dimly lit by the winter sun and cold that envelops your whole body. If I’m honest I would rather be transported to a warmer climate, maybe sitting on the beach enjoying a summer salad and some fresh seafood too. I don’t much care for winter, I simply endure it (hopefully without too much grumbling!). Seeing as I’m not sitting on a beach but in southeastern Ohio, I must embrace even the bleakest of winters.

There’s something about winter, maybe the lack of sunlight and cold temperatures, that can put our bodies and minds into a depression and dormancy. It’s important that we not let our eating habits fall victim to this. I think most of us turn to our comfort foods as a consolation for the cold. Although I don’t tend to crave many processed foods anymore, I am a sucker for raw cookie dough! I can always take the hint when afterwards my belly starts hurting. I’ve never had an upset stomach from eating fruits and vegetables.

The biggest thing I notice about winter eating is a feeling of scarcity. In the spring we get to enjoy a plethora of fruits and veggies – tomatoes, watermelon, cucumbers, strawberries, blueberries, and the list goes on. It is very easy then to come up with a delicious spring or summer salad. If you are at all concerned about seasonality you may get to winter and think, “Well, there’s nothing to eat now.” The good news is there’s still wholesome food to eat while being food conscious at the same time.

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Citrus is a saving grace in the winter months. It is packed with vitamin C, antioxidants, and the pop of color alone is enough to cure even the most pervasive winter blues. Surprisingly enough, the peak growing season for oranges in the U.S. is December to March – in California, Florida, and to a lesser extent Texas and Arizona. So this time of year you can find different varieties of oranges far cheaper and in greater supply. These include blood oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, pomegranate, etc. It’s very easy to throw these in a salad, include them in your favorite dessert, or make a juice drink out of it.

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The good news is you don’t have to be a master chef or buy expensive ingredients to eat well this winter. Just make sure your plates have plenty of color. Like this organic purple kale salad that I enlivened with some blood oranges, apples, walnuts for protein, and blue cheese for added decadence. I then topped it off with a pomegranate vinaigrette. I used fresh pomegranate juice from a pomegranate fruit because you can get them for really cheap right now! Although I have not yet perfected the vinaigrette (It turned out too runny for me. Because you’re getting more water here than with a traditional vinaigrette, I would try using balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, or honey to thicken it up), here’s a great recipe for you to look at in the mean time!

Just because the weather is bleak right now doesn’t mean your diet has to reflect that. I can tell you this salad is packed with so many antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients that cookie dough can’t hold a candle to this. It is possible to eat seasonally well this winter it just takes some thinking outside of the box and the willingness to go beyond your food comfort zone. Your body and the environment will truly thank you for it.

Embracing Seasonality & The Flavors of Winter

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Growing up, I was unaware of the complex workings of our food system. I had no idea that oranges were an unnatural thing to see in the supermarket in the dead of winter. And that tomatoes were prematurely ripened so they could look like a tomato and trucked thousands of miles to end up on our shelves. I grew up eating strawberries in the middle of winter, unaware of the consequences. How could I have known any better? After all, no one told me this. It wasn’t until my college education that I began to question the “normalcies” of our food system.

If you strive like I do to eat seasonally, then I know you can relate to the feeling of pure torture as you walk through the produce section of the store. It’s all laid out, as in a smorgasbord waiting to be devoured. I crave the flavors of spring and wonder when we’re going to get out of this winter. It’s one hard pill to swallow when you realize you can easily reach for that $5 container of blueberries (ouch!) but your conscience wouldn’t allow it.

But as I delve more into the food culture, I find myself craving winter root vegetables. Maybe it’s my body trying find peace with the natural earth… or maybe because roasted acorn squash is incredibly delicious (I’m thinking it’s the latter ;)! The truth is there is a delightful array of options available to us during our winter hibernation. Of course nothing grows in the winter, but we can eat vegetables and fruits from the fall all thanks to modern storage methods. Even limiting your grocery trip to seasonal produce can greatly reduce your carbon footprint. (<< this is a wonderful article on carbon footprints on the Economist. It even talks about carbon footprint labeling. It’s worth a read!) Even better, subscribe to a CSA and you can reap the benefits of a local farmer’s fall harvest (more on CSAs later)!

Acorn squash is my favorite root vegetable by far! With a tough skin, it’s harder to cut but the work is well worth it! All you have to do is roast it and it is perfection! Butternut is the sister squash and it’s perfect to use as a soup. Any other vegetable like carrots, leaks, onions, and potatoes will do. Winter and fall fruits would include apples, grapes, and even certain varieties of raspberries and strawberries! If you’re looking to create a delicious winter salad, try kale, collard greens, or spinach. Kale is my personal favorite. And, if you’re looking for a different take on kale you can try kale chips – delicious and nutritious.

Seasonal eating doesn’t have to be difficult but it does take some willpower. It becomes easier after a while and you might even find yourself starting to crave these foods! When we eat in balance with the seasons, we lessen our environmental impact. And yes in kind of a hokey way, we’re more in balance with the earth’s natural patterns. It makes us healthier, happier individuals.

Roasted Acorn Squash

– preheat oven to 350

– cut the squash into small pieces and arrange on a baking sheet

– drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper

– bake for 30-40 minutes, or until soft

Kale Chips

– preheat oven to 300

– arrange chip-size pieces of kale on a baking sheet (removing any stems)

– drizzle with olive oil and salt

– bake for 30 minutes or until crispy

A Recipe | Crockpot Deer Chili

For the past couple of years we have had what seems like an endless store of deer meat. My Fiancé got a deer a few years back and although I’ve tried to use it up any way I can, we still have a lot left over. This is a wonderful predicament to be in because it means I don’t have to buy meat from the grocery store. There is a veil between us and how our food is prepared and once that veil was lifted from my eyes, I was disgusted. Meat is by far one of the worst of the food industry – wreaking havoc on human health and the environment. If I can find a way around the system, I’m all for it.

Hunting for meat is wholesome and natural. It’s what people had to do in order to survive the winter. Now we don’t have to work for our food anymore. It is practically handed to us in the form of fast food and factory farms that make food production a science. I wish I could say I live a truly minimal lifestyle, only living off the land. But deer meat is one item I can say is nice to have loads of in the freezer at my disposal. If the apocalypse happened, we would be set (with meat anyway).

Deer meat is kind of a mixed bag for most people. Some like it, some don’t, and some are afraid to try it. I’m sure deer meat is the least of our worries with all the other exotic meats out there. Nevertheless, I want to ease your fears and show you a great way to use it – in chili. If you cook deer meat in something like chili or in a sauce it loses its gaminess and tastes (in my opinion) just like ground beef. You won’t be able to tell the difference. I created a basic crockpot chili recipe that is hearty and flavorful. It’s a good base to start with so if you like a little kick (which I don’t) you can certainly add more spices and even some hot sauce!

It’s nice if you have a handsome fiancé like I do to go out and catch you a deer! But what if you don’t have that? What are your options? Find a local farm or store where they carry local meat. If you live in Lancaster Ohio, Bay Food Market is a family owned business that processes meat themselves that they get from local farms in the area (be on the lookout for a story on them in the near future). To find a farm in your area, check out Eat Wild. As a last resort if you must buy meat from the grocery store, buy organic and free range meat. But since these organic companies are so big, you can’t be one hundred percent sure they are following all the guidelines. Loop holes, unfortunately, are common in the organic food system. The best situation is when you can visit the farm to see how your food is being prepared. You develop a relationship with the farmer. There’s nothing better for our health and for the environment than true pastoralism.

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Recipe | Crockpot Deer Chili

Ingredients:

2 pounds of ground deer meat (or meat of your choice)

1 medium sweet onion

2 cups diced green peppers

2 cans organic diced tomatoes

1 can organic black beans

1 can organic kidney beans

1 can organic tomato paste

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. chili powder

2 tbsp. hot sauce (I use Frank’s Red Hot)

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Add the meat, onion, green pepper, and salt and pepper to a large skillet and begin to brown the meat. Meanwhile, put the remaining ingredients in the crockpot. Add to that the browned ground meat and stir to combine. Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. Enjoy!

Farm Fresh Eggs | Why Local is Better

If you know anything about me, you know that I love to cook. It wasn’t always that way though. My priorities have shifted over the years. I am newly engaged and soon I will have a family of mouths to feed. In all my recipe developing and food photography that I do so meticulously, I realized I had left out a critical component – one that was part and parcel to earning my degree. I became consciously aware that I was using ingredients in my cooking that were not local or seasonal. If there’s any environmental issue I am most passionate about, it’s the local food movement and sustainable agriculture. Somehow we’ve become so disconnected with our food, and we don’t know how to get back. The reality is wholesome and sustainable food is out there, you just need to know where to look. I want to show the average american how they can live off the land – whether they do it themselves through gardening or raising chickens, or whether they are supporting local farmers by subscribing to a CSA (community supported agriculture) or going to a farmers market.

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The first and easiest change I made was buying local eggs. It took me a while to find a steady provider, but once I did, I have never gone back to store bought eggs. The owners of the flower shop I work at raise chickens and they sell them at 2.50 a dozen. The eggs are brown and they vary in size. In contrast, the eggs you buy from the store are white and they are uniform in size. We are given this notion that these are farm fresh eggs, that white and uniform is a sign of purity, and with packaging that reminds us of the agrarian days. The reality is chickens that are so confined during their short lives that their bones and muscles deteriorate, effectively disabling them.

In contrast, I can visit these free roaming chickens who are providing me with eggs. I can walk out and feed them, give them water, etc. And then I can have my omelet or scrambled eggs and feel good about it. The yolk is much more yellow and rich in color – and it tastes better too! In the documentary Farmageddon, Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms talks about how this connection to our food should be romantic. And there is a certain romance to it when we can go to the farm, talk to the farmer, and see the animals that are to be consumed. It’s beautiful.

The choice is yours whether you want to go farm fresh or not. For me, even though 2.50 a dozen is more than what I would pay at the grocery store, I like that my dollars are going towards a local farmer or someone who simply raises chickens. And, I like that my dollars aren’t going towards factory farms and multinational companies. Local Harvest is a great website where you can find farms near you or subscribe to a CSA. I would also try asking around in your community to see who sells eggs in your area.

What are your experiences buying local? Do you have a local favorite? Comment below!

A Life Update | 2015

Christmas is over and the lights are being taken down, the tree disassembled, and all my hanging wreaths get the greens pulled out and the frames put in storage, waiting patiently for next year. As I wait for the Christmas sugar rush to subside and emerge out of my food coma, I am amazed at how quickly time passes. You have to buy presents, decorate, bake cookies, and in what seems like the blink of an eye, it’s all over. Even so, I hope your holidays were filled with laughter and love and that you gathered with the ones closest to you.

I struggled as I thought about how I was going to begin the new year with blogging. I had all this inspiration from fall, Thanksgiving, and Christmas that there seemed nothing comparable. I don’t even do new years resolutions (why do we set goals only once a year? We should be doing that all the time). And then something much more pressing came up. I got ENGAGED!!! My fiancé, who said he would never propose on Christmas day, did it on the impulse of the moment. It was perfect and unexpected (notice my nail polish chipping, but I don’t care)!

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So now I have this large and looming WEDDING in front of me that I need to plan. I’m so excited and nervous! For those of you who know my style, I’m going for outdoors and simple. I want it to be perfectly “us,” but like most other things in life, perfect is hard to come by. So it is what it is. We’ll be married and that’s all that matters! I would like to share the journey of planning with you, as much as I can.

As I look ahead to 2015, I’ve decided to take my blog in a little bit different direction. I have a desire to use my degree in Environmental Studies. Not because I feel I have to, but because I want this blog to help people. You will still see an overall theme of slow living and simplicity but with a new twist.

I am particularly passionate about food sustainability and knowing where our food is coming from. Healthy eating emerges from this, but it’s more about our rights to clean and safe food. If you would like to read more of my thoughts on this matter, you can go to one of my previous posts.

Slow living still plays a part in this because we want to slow down enough that we can say with assurance where this food came from. We need to make an effort to be more connected to our environment and the delicate balance of the food chain. Whether I am in the kitchen, tending to the garden, or at the supermarket, I want to show you how you can make sustainable choices in your everyday life. It’s easy and hard all at the same time; but it can be done. I also want to arm you with knowledge, being that knowledge is power. Then, you can come to your own conclusion based on the facts.

I am so excited for what 2015 has in store! I’m not a fan of resolutions but change is enough to liven things up! What about you? What things are you looking forward to in this new year?