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

IMG_3881.JPG

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

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.

winter citrus display

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.

winter pomegranate salad

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

winter lunch

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.

rustic chili

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!

Christmas Cookies & Christmas in Arkansas

It’s that time of year again. Can I just be honest and say I’m really glad Christmas is almost over? Come on, tell me you’re not with me on this. We do all this preparation for one day and it’s over like that. I love spending time with family and friends and I even love giving gifts to show that I care. I like going to Church and being reminded all over again that a relationship with Christ happens everyday – not just on Christmas. What I don’t like is the commercialism, and the drive to impress with dinners and decorations. If you know me at all, you know that I would love nothing more than to be snowed in in a cabin for the duration of the holiday madness.

IMG_3437
My great grandmother, Norene Garms, painted this of their farmhouse in Arkansas

This Christmas I tried to revive a wonderful holiday memory. About every other year, my family would spend Christmas with my great grandmother and great grandfather (or grand daddy as we called him) at their farmhouse in Arkansas. The drive was enough to make a small child go insane with anticipation, but once we got to that winding dirt road, I knew we were on the home stretch. All at once the hills opened up and we started our way down the lane to their house. All around were hills and pastures where cattle roamed. The house seemed to sit on the cusp of wilderness. It was a self-sustaining gem and an idyllic setting in the winter months.

When I was young, Christmas in Arkansas was just another time to receive presents and play with my cousins in the snow. Of course my great grandparents have since passed on and the house is no longer in the family. Looking back, I wish I would have been old enough to appreciate the relaxation and the beauty that was all around.

But I do have some fond and cozy memories of the place even at a young age. Specifically I remember my great grandmother’s peanut brittle. She always had it sitting out in a tin for everyone to enjoy. I didn’t like nuts at the time (I still don’t really) so I would eat around the peanuts. But I loved the taste, the sweetness, and how the candy just seemed to melt in your mouth.

So this year, I tried to relive those days and make peanut brittle. Unfortunately, it did not work out. But actually it tasted great. I just didn’t have a candy thermometer so it never hardened up. It just stayed kinda gooey. So I will provide you with the recipe in case any of you have any last minute baking to do and want to try your hand at peanut brittle.

The cookie that did work out this year was one I’ve done in the past, but with a little different twist. It’s a Nutella cookie with almond meal. I usually use flour but I had some almond meal left and I decided to use it. Almond meal is healthier than flour and it gives the cookies a more nutty taste. There is no need to add any sugar to this since the Nutella is already sweetened (unless you want to). Better yet, there are only a few ingredients, it’s simple to make, and takes no time at all.

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

IMG_3434

My peanut brittle debacle is just one example of the fact that I’m human. I don’t have my life all put together and I don’t want anyone to think that because it’s not real. I make mistakes. I’m sure even my spunky great grandmother, who I once saw clean a fish, made mistakes. I’m just a girl trying to get back to simpler times – like Christmas in Arkansas. My advice would be to forget about perfection and focus on your family and friends; or if you are in an idyllic setting like I was, appreciate the beauty around you.

I will be taking a short break from my blog until after the new year so I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thank you all for your continued reading and support! See you next year!

Adele

Recipe | Almond Nutella Cookies with White Chocolate Chips

Ingredients:

1 cup Nutella

1 egg

1 tsp baking powder

2 cups almond meal (or 1 cup flour)

about 1 cup white chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

Combine the Nutella, egg, and baking powder until creamy and mixed through. Next add your almond meal until it forms a dough. Mix in the white chocolate chips. Scoop out onto a spoon and drop onto a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

Recipe | Peanut Brittle by Norene Garms

You will need a heavy pan large enough to let the syrup boil freely and a heavy cookie sheet. My grandmother used a clean pair of gardening gloves to stretch the candy out on the cookie sheet while it is still hot so if you don’t use them be careful.  If you use a spatula to spread the syrup out, butter it first or else the candy will stick to it.  The candy needs to be spread out rather thin – if you leave it too thick, it won’t break very easily and will be hard to eat.

 Combine in the heavy pan

·         2 c. sugar,

·         1 c. white corn syrup

·         Pinch of salt

 Bring to a boil and cook until the syrup comes to the soft crack stage or 285 – 291⁰ on candy thermometer.

 ·         Add 1 to 2 cups raw Spanish peanuts

 Bring back to a boil and cook until the syrup is amber color.  The peanuts will pop a little.

 Remove from heat and add

·         1 TBS. butter

·         1 tsp. baking soda

·         1 tsp. vanilla. 

(The mixture will foam so be ready to stir)  Stir quickly. In my grandmothers words, “Stir fast and good”.

 Pour into a well-buttered cookie sheet.  Pull and spread out the candy as it cools.  When completely cooled break into pieces.

An Afternoon Gathering | Coffee and Cranberry Orange Scones

Yesterday I had the pleasure of gathering with a close friend over coffee and scones – an occurrence that is all too rare these days. Nevertheless, it is always a joy seeing this one. Neither time nor distance has managed to sully this friendship. We talked, we laughed, we took time to catch up, and we watched Anchorman 2 (yes, this was a very classy gathering). When all this is over, this thing called life, I know my savior will ask me what I did with my precious time here. If all I can show for it is styled tables and well cooked meals, I am in trouble at best. Relationships are what matter most at the end of the day; because He first loved us. Open up your home, give your time, and do whatever you do best. Whether that’s cooking a meal, brewing some coffee, or otherwise.

coffee and scones

Processed with VSCOcam with a8 preset

I’ve never been a huge fan of scones, honestly. And I still only like them in moderation (any pastry in moderation, really). My only exposure to scones was at Starbucks where I’m pretty sure they are so hard you can crack a rock with it. No, homemade scones are much different! They come out all warm and fluffy on the inside but still crunchy on the outside. The combination of cranberry and orange is truly a winter treat with some turbinado sugar generously sprinkled on top (or brown sugar if you don’t have turbinado sugar). I wanted something as cozy as coffee and scones to go with cozy conversations and laughter. I think this one fit the bill.

scones prep

Processed with VSCOcam with a8 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a8 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a8 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a8 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

 

Recipe | Cranberry Orange Scones

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

5 tbsp cold butter, cubed

1 cup heavy cream

3 tbsp honey

1 tbsp orange zest

3/4 cup dried or fresh cranberries

1 tbsp coarse sugar like turbinado sugar or brown sugar for sprinkling.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.

For fresh cranberries, soften them up by placing them in a saucepan of water until it is near the boiling point. Quite a few of them will pop open but that is okay. They should mostly stay intact though.

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Cut butter into cubes and work into flour mixture with a pastry blender or use your fingers. The butter should be broken down to where only small pieces are visible. It should resemble a coarse meal.

In a separate bowl, combine the heavy cream, orange zest, and honey; making sure the honey is completely incorporated into the cream. Pour your heavy cream mixture and cranberries into the flour mixture, folding a few times until it forms a dough (if you are using fresh cranberries, be careful you don’t break many of them).

Knead your dough on a floured surface 2 or 3 times (the key to light and fluffy scones is to not knead them too much). Roll out the dough until it is about an inch thick. I used a pizza cutter to cut my dough into triangles (don’t worry if they aren’t the perfect shape. When they puff up in the oven, that will take care of the imperfections).

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until light golden brown. Serve fresh with coffee or tea. Enjoy!

 

*Recipe taken from Inspired Taste

A Recipe | Black Bean Burger with Cilantro and Cumin on a Toasted Brioche Bun

Growing up, my family didn’t do much cooking. My mom mostly made recipes handed down from my grandmother; tried and true classics like homemade pizza, chicken pot pie, lasagna, and apple crunch (don’t get me wrong, there is something to be said about the hand-me-down foolproof recipes – but more on that later!). All of these dishes air on the less healthy side of the food spectrum. When my dad started cleaning up his act, running marathons and doing Iron Mans (which are just really long triathlons), well needless to say, he cleaned up his diet too. Though I don’t like to admit it, my affinity for healthy eating is due in large part to him.

For this reason, I’m very fortunate to be drawn to healthy grains and proteins, fruits, and seasonal vegetables. There’s so much I love about the Christmas season, but why did we make it a time to pig out on cookies and cakes?! I love me some sweets as much as the next person, but this girl needs a break. So if you need me, you’ll find me south of the border (The U.S. border for those of you reading from afar).

I don’t really know why, but I have been craving a black bean burger lately. Maybe it’s because of all the sugary, seasonal eats. Or maybe I’m wanting to escape to a warmer climate where I can sip cocktails on the beach. Either way, I’ll follow my taste buds. There’s a local restaurant that serves up a killer black bean burger! I get it almost every time we go in. It is drizzled with some kind of sauce and topped with melted cheese. Add to that a simple side salad and a nice IPA to finish it off! This is my own recreation of that dish, a nostalgia of warm, summer days, and all things south of the border!

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a9 preset

Black bean burgers are delicious, nutritious, and very easy to make. When I thought about how I wanted my burger to taste, I knew I wanted a classic black bean burger with a little bit of kick. I didn’t want it to overpower the burger, but to complement it in a pleasing way. Cumin is essential to a black bean burger. Just trust me on this one. Whatever else you throw in there, make sure cumin is in there too. Cumin has kind of an earthy taste that lends itself very well to the black beans. I think anything else would have been too spicy.

And then there’s the cilantro. Oh I love me some cilantro. Perfect in any Mexican dish like guacamole or a Mexican quinoa dish I make which I will share later! Too much cilantro and it’s overpowering but just right and it’s a wonderful kick to add to any dish. That’s the role cilantro plays in this black bean burger.

To complete this south of the border inspired burger, place on a toasted brioche bun (any type of bun will do but the brioche seemed like a heartier option) and melt some swiss cheese or cheese of your choice. I added a simple side salad with kale and thinly sliced radishes. Not pictured: Rockmill’s Witbier Ale brewed with spices. I don’t think it technically goes but it was a gift from a friend and anything from Rockmill is good any time of the year. Besides, we aren’t as picky as those winos ; ).

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Recipe |  Black Bean Burger with Cumin and Cilantro

Makes 2 burgers

Ingredients:

1 can black beans

1 egg

1/2 cup plain bread crumbs

1/2 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. cilantro

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Mash up the black beans with a fork or potato masher. You want most of the beans to be mashed with a few whole beans throughout. Add in the bread crumbs, egg, cumin, cilantro, and salt and pepper and stir to combine. Form into a patty (note: these patties do not expand like a hamburger, so make it the size you want it) and place on a skillet – I used my cast iron skillet with a little cooking spray. Cook on medium heat until both sides are browned. Place your cheese on top and cover to melt; 1-2 minutes. If you want to toast your bread, rub some butter on both the top and bottom of your bread and place in the warm cast iron skillet (making sure it doesn’t burn) to get a toasty brown color.

Serve with a simple salad and a cold beer! Enjoy!