Monday, August 27, 2012

Zucchini Enchilada Boats

Have you heard of Punchfork?  It's like Pinterest meets Betty Crocker.  Well - WAY better than Betty (no offense!).

It's like an online recipe catalog.  Pure awesomeness.  Basically it's a photo of a great dish and when you click on it, it links to the recipe and credits who posted it.  It's totally addictive.  The recipes range from healthy to the opposite, as well as fun, complicated, or super easy.

I've been finding my favorite recipes and then pinning them into my Wanna Try Recipes repository.

I'll admit - I usually amend the recipes to make sure they fit our food requirements...but darn is it a fun way to find new ideas!   I can look for hours!

Today, I found these fun Zucchini Enchilada Boats.  An old nanny stopped by last week and brought us a 2 foot zucchini that we weren't sure what to do with (especially since the kids don't like Zucchini). I had it figured for the compost bin.  But alas - I thought I'd give this recipe a try.  OMG.  That's all I can say. The photo below is only 1/2 of the zucchini.  And Mike and I split one of them for dinner (I will dream of eating the other half for lunch tomorrow as I sleep tonight!).

As I mentioned, my kiddos don't eat zucchini (knowingly) so I put the "stuffing" into an organic whole wheat tortilla (still looking for a 'best' option of these) and Kaelyn loved it.  Andrew was fine as long as he closed his eyes and made a game of it. Once he saw what was inside he couldn't get past it.  What is WITH the kids who have issues with how food looks?  Drives me insane.

Here is my recipe.  It's pretty similar to the original.

  • 4 medium to large zuchini
  • 2 (about 8 oz total) small zucchini
  • 1 package or jar of enchilada sauce
  • 8 oz cooked shredded chicken breast 
  • 1 t crushed coriander
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup diced green purple or red pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup frozen spinach
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp enchilada sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the Topping:

  • 3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar (organic raw milk or grass fed)
  • chopped scallions and cilantro for garnish

Place chicken in oiled glass dish.  Season with salt and coriander. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.

Boil a pot of water.

Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and using a small spoon or melon baller, scoop out flesh, leaving 1/4" thick. Chop the additional smaller zucchini to use in your stuffing.

Drop the zucchini halves in boiling water and cook 2-4 minutes, depending on how thick they are; remove from water.

In a large saute pan, heat oil and add onion, garlic and bell pepper. Cook on medium-low heat for about 2-3 minutes. Add chopped zucchini, spinach, and cilantro; season with salt and pepper and cook about 4 minutes. Add the cumin, oregano, chili powder, water, and enchilada sauce and cook a few more minutes, then add in chicken; mix and cook 3 more minutes.

Place 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce on the bottom of a large (or 2 small) baking dish, and place zucchini halves cut side up. Using a spoon, fill each hollowed zucchini with 1/3 cup chicken mixture, pressing firmly. Pour the rest of the enchilada sauce on top of the stuffed zucchini boats.

Top each boat with 1 1/2 tablespoons each of shredded cheese.

Cover with foil and bake 35 minutes until cheese is melted and zucchini is cooked through.

Top with scallions and cilantro for garnish and serve with greek yogurt if desired.

The stuffing is so good you could mix it with quinoa, top a salad, eat it with chips, etc... It's very versatile. Easy to make extra and freeze for another time...or even make on Sunday night to use later in the week.

Keeping it real! Kathy

Easy Strawberry Smoothie - non-dairy

Recently I was visiting a grand "re-opening" of Healthy Creations.  They have added some yummy smoothies to their menu.

While we were at the party, they snuck a little cinnamon into their Goji Berry smoothie and it was so yummy we told them to put it on their menu!

I decided to make one of my own to share with the kids.  It's a bit of a knock off - but the cinnamon again, is the special secret!

Strawberry Smoothie
1 cup almond milk (or other dairy/non-dairy option)
1 bag frozen strawberries (Trader Joe's)
4 dates, pitted and quartered
1/2 t cinnamon

Blend till smoothilicsious!

Keeping it real! Kathy

Friday, August 10, 2012

Back to the Basics – Camping at Palomar Mountain

Mike and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary with a “adult only” trip to the Bahamas back in May.  Our anniversary is in July but we needed to have one of my sister’s come watch the kids and since they are teachers – it has to happen in May or August.  We chose the cooler month here in San Diego…. knowing we’d fry on the beach in August.

We enjoyed our time on a remote island with only 1,500 inhabitants.  We were there for only 5 nights.  It was all we dreamed of – very remote beach with fine flour soft white/pink sand.  Calm turquoise water.  You get the picture. 

 It was life changing.

A couple of days into the trip we took part in an impromptu adventure including a very risky ride in a 1947 Army Jeep – no seatbelts, heck no windows or roll bar either.   It was one of those things that just happened – without thought.  And suddenly I was bumping along in this jeep on an unpaved road, inches from certain death, when I realized I was having fun (kinda like the old days!), but equally freaked out about orphaning my children.

When we came home, we realized how far away we’ve been from fun.  Unprompted, unplanned, unsafe fun.

And we started to talk about how we grew up.

No seatbelts
No carseats
No parents on bike rides into town

Don’t get me wrong.  My parents were strict.  Notoriously strict. 
But that didn’t stop us from having fun.

My dad had his own small airplane. We flew to Florida all the time.  We took a Winnebago and drove from Chicago through Colorado to Lake Powell and then took a houseboat for a week on the lake.  We rafted the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon 13 times (we got hooked!).  Heck, we hiked the Grand Canyon twice and took the mules two other times (North AND South Rim!).   We hiked Havasupai Canyon – and stayed in a Havasupai Indian’s house when we determined we couldn’t make it back out in the same day! 
I distinctly remember
-being stuck on several occasions in the middle of the desert with an overheated car and not enough water for survival. 
-falling on a cactus on a hike and getting more needles in my arm than were in the cactus in the first place.
-bouncing around in the airplane in the middle of a thunderstorm unable to find an airport and puking into a bucket.
- peeing in a large coffee can on the airplane anytime you had to pee since we always flew for 8 hours before stopping for fuel.
-looking at the stars in the desert sky while sleeping on cots – seeing who could find a satellite first, or name a proper constellation.
-making lifelong relationships with other campers.

Then I grew up.  On my own I backpacked through Europe.  Para glided and Canyoned in the Swiss Alps.  Drove across the country and across Baja Mexico(pre drug-wars, but still, those teenage militia guys were everywhere!).  I won’t even tell you the things I did while living near South Central Los Angeles for College!
And Mike – he grew up on BMX bikes, then motocross.  He rode with one buddy up and down all of Baja Mexico.  His family was a camping family.  They were in the desert practically more than they were home.

But for the last 5 years, we’ve been having kids.  For the last 5 years we’ve stuck with a routine of napping and eating and not driving too too far. 

And now we’ve had enough. 
We’re turning over a new leaf!
We've reconfirmed our values and gotten centered about what we want the rest of our life to look like.

We’re going to camp with our kids.

We’re going to take our family on adventures.

We’re going to get away from the “safe” life we’ve created.  The one where we don’t think we’ll get hurt or sick but we also don’t form close friendships with the people around us.

And last weekend, we took a daytrip to get started.

Our friends have a campsite up on Palomar Mountain. They actually lease it so they are able to keep a small structure on their plot with all of their necessities in it.  It makes for an easy trip to go back and forth anytime they want.

We ate like kings.
We played like kids.
We got dirty, stinky, and eaten by mosquitoes (okay, at least I did – 27 on one leg and 39 on the other – I have SWEAT blood!).
I didn’t take enough pictures to record it.

But we’ll be going back.

Again and again and again.

The kids can’t wait!

And I’m looking more ideas for where to go to completely let loose and stop following rules!!!

Keeping it real! Kathy

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Restaurant Review: True Food $$

Today I had a business lunch with a colleague who shares in the "whole food journey."  When we meet for lunch we always look for the newest health conscious find.  Today we hit the jackpot.
Dr. Andrew Weil has teamed up to create a restaurant that showcases foods that support an anti-inflammatory diet.  Although there are other Tru Food restaurant locations, the one in San Diego just opened last month.  They've done a great job on creating a WHOLE experience. From the herb plants on the way in the door, to the orange/vanilla infused water (to D.I.E. for - I'm still peeing b/c I drank so much of it - it tastes like a creamsicle I swear - try it at home by just adding a vanilla bean and sliced oranges to a pitcher of water.), to the farm table wait stands.  I could go on and on.

A well arranged bucket of vegetables.  Doesn't "sound" appealing but look at that bowl. It was delicious. The cucumber dip was amazing!

I've been dying to try the combination of tomatoes and watermelon. It's all the rage. I'm not a sweet/tangy combination person so I'll admit, I don't need to have this combination again. But it was very good and anyone who likes sweet and salty will absolutely love it.  I love that they had yellow and red watermelon as well as red/yellow heirloom tomatoes.  Yum.

Their menu was fun and eclectic...and seasonal.  So it'll always be changing.  They had meat as well (a bison burger no less) and pizzas (not sure how that supports an anti-inflammatory diet...but good to know what the options are).  
They use all natural sweeteners - most of the fun drinks were made with honey, as were many desserts. But I noticed some agave too.

Definitely give it a try.  It's a great meeting place - wonderful atmosphere. It makes me so happy and fills my soul when I find a restaurant that is serving whole foods that truly feed our bodies.  It made for a great day and a high-energy business lunch.

Keeping it real! Kathy

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Finding Potassium

I love researching things about health and nutrition.  It’s amazing to learn about how what we eat can help some ailment we are having.

Last week while we were in Chicagoland, I was talking with my dad about his back pain.  At night his legs get a Charlie horse type of feeling – without pain.  It sounded an awful lot like being pregnant.  I remember when I was pregnant feeling like I understood what it felt like to be old.  So much of what you experience is similar to being elderly.  Tired all the time, out of breath, achy, back pain, swelling, clumsy, onset of Alzheimer – like symptoms, etc.

I could go on about that for hours. 
Here is my dad on the left - celebrating 80 with some brother-in-law's!

Back to the elderly.  My dad is really getting no help from the doctors.  Being, well, elderly, he puts all of his trust into the docs.  It's just how he was raised.  He doesn't question what they say.  He truly looks to them for help.  It’s such a shame b/c doctors aren't equipped to help with all our ailments.  Their profession is so misunderstood.  Our mismatched expectations of our doctors takes our own burden of responsibility off of our plates.  I’m constantly working with my parents on this and it kills me that I’m not nearby to take them to their appointments and help them make sense of what the doctors know and what they need to find out for themselves.

I digress.

I decided that one thing my dad could do on his own, without harming himself, would be to try to get more potassium.  If it works for pregnancy, it’s worth a try, right?

So here goes.

Foods High in Potassium
Tomato Paste
Beet Greens (yum! Not kidding- cook them like spinach – they are so yummy)
Condensed Milk (What????)
White Beans
Baked Potato
Tomato puree

Farther down the list is Trail Mix,  Sweet Potato, boiled Spinach, French Fries, Dried Apricots, Carrot Juice….and THEN Banana. 

Isn’t that crazy?  I thought Bananas were so high in potassium.  Yet they’re like 23rd on the list. And my dad eats ½ a banana.  Not enough to replenish, my friend. Not enough.

Here’s more information on potassium
Low potassium levels (hypokalemia), can cause weakness as cellular processes are impaired.
Potassium is a mineral (electrolyte) in the body. Almost 98% of potassium is found inside the cells. Small changes in the level of potassium that is present outside the cells can have severe effects on the heart, nerves, and muscles.
Potassium is important to maintain several bodily functions:
                Muscles need potassium to contract.

                The heart muscle needs potassium to beat properly and regulate blood pressure.

The kidney is the main organ that controls the balance of potassium by removing excess potassium into the urine.
When potassium levels are low (hypokalemia), you can become weak as cellular processes are impaired.
                The normal potassium level is 3.5-5.0 mEq/L (mEq/L stand for milliequivalents per liter of blood and this is a measure used to evaluate the level). Low potassium is defined as a potassium level below 3.5 mEq/L.

Almost one out of five people hospitalized in the United States has a low potassium level.

If I have anything to do with it, it's not going to be my dad! He has tractors to ride and grandkids to hang out with!

Keeping it real! Kathy

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sunday Farmer's Market Brunch Feast and Make Your Own Taco Dinner

On Sunday mornings we go to our local Farmer's Market.  In the last 3 years, we've probably only missed a total of 6 markets (one for the birth of my son and the others while we were out of town).  We think of it as our "church" time - our own way of giving thanks for the food that nourishes us.  When we don't go, we really miss the food from the farms.

On the flip side, it's quite a time investment.  If I go alone, I can do it in 45 minutes.  But then I have to carry all the bags myself! So usually we make it a family event and the kids get to play at the playground as well.  They know the farmers by name and which stand we get each type of food from.  Kaelyn knows we have to get their early to be sure to get eggs.  I like that.  But the family outing is rarely less than 2 hours.  Then when we get home we have to put it all away and prepare the veggies for the week!!!  Needless to say - we don't do many other things on Sundays!

The beauty is enjoying the bounty for lunch.  As I put away the different food items, I prepare a portion for us to eat for lunch.  This weekend, Andrew made a "train" of all the different plates of food. Then he named each food.
 Grapes...avocados....strawberries...mixed fruit (raspberries, French Breakfast melon, and peaches), 3 variety of cucumbers sliced...water.

Then for dinner I arranged diced vegetables and bib lettuce for tacos.  Kaelyn loves making her own taco in the lettuce leaf. Andrew grazes on the veggies.  This night we had tomatoes, avocados, cilantro, red and yellow peppers, sliced olives (from a can!).

We then stuff them with either ground beef or garbanzo beans with taco seasoning as follows:

Taco "meat"
1 lb ground beef or 1 can organic garbanzo beans (preferably Eden Organics since the can is BPA free)
1 T chili powder
1 T ground cumin
1 T garlic powder
1 t  onion powder
1/2 t ground sea salt
1/2 c water to use as necessary to keep moist as you cook

I make this really easy and throw it all into a pan and cook it till the meat is browned or the garbanzo beans have absorbed the spices.

Sour Cream Topping
1/2 cup Greek Yogurt
1 t chili powder
1/2 lime (juiced)
1/2 t garlic powder

Mix all together and add a dollop your taco!

Keeping it real! Kathy

Move over Quaker! Better Peaches and Cream Oatmeal

I used to LOVE those easy packages of quaker oatmeal when I was in high school.  You know the box that came with the variety of flavors?  Maple Syrup, Strawberries and Cream, Peaches and Cream, etc? My favorite was Peaches and Cream. Hands down. And I was so excited when they started to make a box of only Peaches and Cream.  No more choosing. No more carefully selecting which day got which flavor so you could have your favorite only when you needed it most!

Well I was inspired by the peaches in season. Peaches are one of my favorite fruits.  My kids love them too.  So this morning, when we had slim pickings for breakfast, I decided to make my own version of Peaches and Cream Oatmeal.

It was a hit!

Peaches and Cream Oatmeal

1 cup organic old fashioned oats (really, steel cut are best but they take so much longer)
1 cup milk or non-dairy milk substitute
3/4 cup water
1/2 t vanilla
1 peach, diced small
1 T maple syrup
Additional maple syrup to taste

Combine oats and liquids (first 4 ingredients) and bring to a boil.  Continue cooking over medium heat until liquid is absorbed and oats become thick (about 5 minutes)...stir frequently to avoid burning.  Turn off heat.

Add peaches and maple syrup and stir.  Let sit for a minute so the peaches get soft.
Transfer to bowls and add maple syrup to your perfect taste.

This serves about 2-4 depending on appetite. In my case, my kids polished it all off and I only got a little taste.

On another note, after about a month of neglecting our garden, we have blight on our front yard tomatoes and our accidental pumpkin patch (a result of our lazy attempt at composting and using the dirt that obviously still had viable seeds!) died off early.  We are having an early harvest.  What cute pumpkins! I just hope they'll last till October.

Keeping it real! Kathy

Torture or reality? The Roasting of a Pig

I'll admit - I'm a little chicken to post about this experience on this site.  I had a somewhat hard time dealing with it myself.  But it's part of life - so why hide it?

We went to visit my family in Chicagoland this summer.  We had a family picnic - kind of a reunion-slash-birthday party. My dad turned 80, another uncle turned 85 and yet another is turning 70. 

Let me pause just to reiterate that we were in the midwest.

Hopefully that's all the context you'll need.

My mom has wanted to have a pig roast for years.  This was her opportunity.  It takes a lot of people to eat a whole pig.  So you need to have quite the party.

In the midwest, pig roasts are pretty common.  They are a feature of many weddings even.  

We don't eat much meat - especially from pigs. Given the common practices of feeding and treating pigs, I don't really want that stuff in my body.  Nor my children's.  But when in Rome...

As Kaelyn has grown, she's started to ask about where the food comes from.  Last year for Thanksgiving she asked about the Turkey.  I told her all about it and thought she'd never eat meat again.  But she happily ate up the turkey dinner.  Now this pig - that's another story.  She asked if it was alive before?  Why do they have to cook it dead?  It was interesting to reflect on her unexposed brain trying to make sense of it.  You can see from the photo below that she was quite horrified.

She did not partake in eating the pig.  She was quite upset about it.  She also didn't really make the connection from this roasted pig to the one in the petting zoo we visited 5 minutes after this photo. 

And she did partake in eating bacon a few days later - even though we told her it came from a pig like the one at the park.

Overall, I'm glad for the opportunity to have the kids see where the meat comes from.  The turkey at Thanksgiving comes without a head or feet. This pig came in all it's pighood glory.  When I came back and told people in California, they were horrified that we would show this to children. They thought it was torture. But I actually think it's very important. It's reality.  It's another example of how far we've come from our food.  We don't see, touch, smell, or know what our food was before it was on our plate.  

When the kids are a little older, old enough to keep the memory in their brain, we plan to spend a week on a farm - where we get to know the animals and the process of killing them.  Personally, I think we should all experience the context of where our food comes from.  My mom did.  My dad did.  They both butchered their own animals when they were young kids.  And they still eat meat.  But at least they are connected to the whole purpose of being a meat eater - and they are able to make a choice with all the information at hand.  

On the flipside, here is quick, easy to watch, educational video on the downside of meat - specifically beef.

Keeping it real! Kathy

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Who doesn't love watermelons?

I've only met one person who doesn't like watermelon (my niece!) I definitely love watermelon.  This year it's taken forever to get a good one. I think we've thrown out 5-6 since May because they were so bad.  Last week was the magic week - we've had about 5 that have been super sweet (no, we don't eat that much watermelon - we always share them!).

Yesterday Mike bought two. So I decided this was the opportunity to make some watermelon popsicles. I've always wanted to try I found me some mint.  I gave it a whirl in the Vitamix blender (yes, just watermelon and chopped mint - nothing else).  It was one of the yummiest things I've ever tasted. I could have drank the whole pitcher.  But I filled up the popsicle containers and lucky me, there was extra! So I added ice and a little rum, and Mike and I enjoyed a little after-dinner fun beverage.  I think I'll be making a habit of this mixture.  So refreshing.
 Even the kids helped!
The kid's version...
The adult version...

Happy summer!

Keeping it real! Kathy

Veggie Hodgepodge

I'm really starting to get into the summer vegetable mood.  I'm trying to come up with creative and EASY ways to use as many veggies as possible - without having to plan or look at recipes.  This meal was inspired by what was in my fridge and garden.

I can't even think of a name for it. It's a hodgepodge...but it was super yummy.

I had some Tofu in my fridge that I bought a few weeks ago. I haven't been making tofu over the last couple years b/c I'm on the fence about whether it's okay for you or not. But this brand is pretty well done - Organic AND it contains natural Nigiri which I'm told is a good thing.  Anyway - I needed to use this or it was going to go bad. 


After slicing it into bite sized pieces I sauteed it with some spices and garlic.  Note the browning that I like to do - it gives it more of a texture similar to chicken.  I highly recommend this.

As the tofu was cookin' and I was nearly done with the saute...I decided to add a little salt.  This is where things got really fun.  I just bought a new grinder of Himalayan Sea Salt from Trader Joes.  I had to take the plastic wrap off and then I flipped it over to grind the salt.  Apparently the lid was not attached so it fell off and HALF of the bottle of salt spewed all over the cooktop and into the sauteed veggies.  AGH! Nothing like your meal being wrecked when you're about to put it on the table!

 See the little pink crystlals? That's salt! Imagine how salty that would be?
I was able to dig out all the veggies and clean out the pan.  I did NOT add more salt to the final dish.  It was salty but not too bad.

For a little more heft for Mike I added some Soba Noodles.  He loved it and so did Kaelyn.  Next time, I'll make it with Spinach or Chard. The kale was a little chewy. 

Kale Tofu Pasta with Mushrooms and Sherry
1 lb kale, ribbed and shredded
1/2 cup sherry 
2/3 cup water
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 t olive oil
2 c mushrooms (crimini or button), sliced
1 large tomato, diced
2 t spice mix (chives, tarragon, parsley or something similar)
1 package firm tofu, sliced
Sea salt to taste

Boil water and cook soba noodles until tender (follow package instructions).  Set aside.

Heat 1.5 t of olive oil in a pan and saute one clove of garlic.  Pan fry the tofu over medium heat to brown the sides.  Add spice mix and keep warm over low heat.

Heat 1.5 t olive oil in a pan and saute mushrooms with remaining clove of garlic.  When mushrooms begin to soften, add 1/4 cup of the sherry. Saute until the mushrooms are soft, but not too soft.  As the sherry evaporates, add the kale and water as necessary to keep moist.  Once the kale and mushrooms are softened to your preference, add the tomato, additional sherry, tofu, and salt.  Saute until all is warm and combined.

Even Kaelyn was surprised how much she liked this. There is something magical about sherry and mushrooms that makes anything good!

Keeping it real! Kathy