Fresh Peach Salsa

2014-08-27 15.48.28

Peaches are in season and I’m fortunate to have an orchard a mile down the street from my house. A few days ago I picked up a big bag of donut peach “seconds” for a great price. I’m free to get creative trying to use up the peaches before they go bad so I’ve begun my peach craze!

I love salsa, ok, I love dip, any kind of dip and salsa qualifies in my book! I had garden fresh tomatoes, cilantro and onions so I set off to work.

For the Peach Salsa you’ll need

Peaches – I didn’t count but probably used about 10 donut peaches – they’re small

Tomatoes – same deal – try about 5 large tomatoes

1/2 sweet onion – I used Vidalia, chopped

a handful of cilantro, chopped

1/2 – 1 lime or good quality lime juice

1 Tbls. apple cider vinegar (ACV)

Salt to taste

Dice tomatoes small, dice peaches small, toss all ingredients together, cover and refrigerate to let flavors blend.

Use as you would any salsa.

I scooped a few spoonfuls onto foil and roasted it on the grill to serve over steak tips and it was delicious – it would be great over grilled chicken too!

I have never canned before, but I think I will give it a try with peach salsa this year; I’ll let you know how it goes!

Roasted Peach Salsa over Steak Tips

Roasted Peach Salsa over Steak Tips

 

Sometimes it’s about the food…

2014-08-19 18.43.24Many people I talk to want to know how to make a fast meal that is healthy, many of those people don’t like to cook; that is the reason I share many of my meals here.

I recently made a meal that while it doesn’t look healthy,  it is. My son was over for dinner and although it is August, the air was cool, nice actually so I didn’t mind using the oven. I made sausage & peppers with tomatoes, onions and mushrooms. The sausage might not sound healthy but they were organic chicken sausage with Italian spices, a pretty good choice for a comforting meal.

Here’s the recipe:

Baked Italian Sausage & Peppers (the amounts can vary depending on how many people you’re serving)

4-12 links Italian chicken sausage cut in half on bias

2-4 bell peppers, red and green

1 large onion – 1/4″ slices length-wise

1-2 cups mushrooms, sliced

1-5 cloves garlic, sliced or chopped

8 tomatoes cut up into large chunks or 28-oz. can whole, peeled roma tomatoes cut up

1/2-1 cup wine

Herbs such as basil, oregano, rosemary, mint, sage, thyme, chili pepper flakes…etc.

Combine all ingredients in a large baking dish or pan with high edges. Bake at 325° for 1 1/2-2 hours. Serve over or alongside brown rice, quinoa, small pasta or as is with a crusty bread and a leafy green salad and other fresh vegetables.

 

 

 

 

A Bust for Us – Chain Restaurants

Dale and I went out to eat last night. We typically choose locally owned establishments and if they are chains, they are only chains to the area with up to 5 locations tops.
Last night we had a few errands to run and decided on the 99 Restaurant because it was close to where we were and we were hungry. Big mistake or lesson learned.
I ordered what I thought would be healthy, bruschetta chicken topped with tomatoes and asparagus…a whole 3 of them! Dale ordered chicken parmesan.
I bit into the chicken expecting well, chicken. The texture was sponge-y and watery and tasteless. I took another bite and had to investigate since the second bite was like the first. As I cut into a third piece and examined it closely, I saw layers as you would see in plywood. The chicken had perfect criss-cross grill-marks and looked like a boneless chicken breast – for the most part but ugh! it was processed, tasteless and kind of gross. Dale isn’t real particular but upon eating his meal he was not impressed either and boy were we thirsty.
On our drive home, he was driving so I decided to look up the fat, sodium etc contents of our meals on my smart phone. My thought to be healthy meal boasted 1770 mg. of sodium and 950 and Dale’s chicken parmesan meal had 6320 mg. of sodium and 2130 calories! Yikes! I almost got the chicken parmesan, glad I didn’t but we are both so sorry that we went to a chain restaurant and vowed to not do it again if we can help it.

This weekend we will consciously eating and detoxing that junk out of our systems!
We both should have gotten a salad, better yet, should have stuck with our local gems or homemade.

Homemade Mayonnaise

Mayo ingredientsI was clean out of mayo and wanted to use some for a fun summer meal that typically includes mayonnaise. Instead of running to the market for one small item that potentially has sugar or worse, high fructose corn syrup(!!) in the mix I decided to make my own. I based my recipe on a video that happened to pop up in my email earlier in the day; instead of logging back in and searching for the video I made my mayo by memory and it came out pretty great for the first try.

I used the ingredients listed in the video but amounts except for the 2 egg yolks were just estimated; I used too much mustard so I added 2 more egg yolks and roughly another cup of oil ending up with a double batch which is a perfect 12 ounces.

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 egg yolks , a teaspoon or less of Dijon mustard (next time I will try my spice shelf dry mustard instead)
  • dash of salt – I used pink Himalayan salt
  • 1 cup of a mild tasting light oil, I used grape seed, you can use a light olive oil, sunflower seed oil or any light nut oil for variety
  • if you use dry mustard instead of prepared you will want to add a teaspoon or so of apple cider vinegar
  • A handheld mini-blender or a small handheld type mixer (you probably can use your stand mixer too, I will try that next time and check in if no one else does

Put the yolks, salt and mustard in a 2 cup measure and begin beating, slowly drizzle the oil in beating until it mixes well and thickens, you’ll know when to stop due to consistency.

Put into a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid and store in refrigerator.

Tip: I cooked up the 4 egg whites and added them to my 2 dogs dinners for added protein. You can refrigerate them and make an egg white omelet the following day or for dinner.

Mayo finished

 

 

Second Day Chicken – 1 chicken, 3 meals, great deal!

Cilantro-Lime Chicken

Cilantro-Lime Chicken

Last night I posted about how to easily let a chicken roast in the crock pot while you are away at work or just busy at home doing things other than worrying about cooking dinner. Today, I’ll share a few ideas on how to use the leftover chicken for equally delicious meals.My first recipe is something anyone can do and has done, Chicken Salad. If course it’s easy to chop up chicken and throw some mayonnaise in it and call it chicken salad, but I’ll share my favorite preparation of it; if you’re allergic to nuts or opposed to some of the ingredients leave them out and/or substitute them with something you do like.

Chicken Salad ~ Dawn’s Cape Cod Style

2 cups chicken shredded with a fork

1/8 – 1/4 of a small onion, diced

small handful dried cranberries, coarsely chopped

small handful walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped

1 stalk celery, diced

dash salt and ground black pepper

1 teaspoon lemon juice-or juice of half a lemon

1-3 tablespoons mayonnaise or if you prefer not to use mayo. you can mix plain Greek yogurt with 1/4 to 1/2 an avocado until creamy, it will make your chicken salad greenish but that’s fine, it will be delicious.

Gently mix all ingredients together until well blended. Serve immediately or cover and chill overnight so flavors meld.

This would be great to mix the night you roast the chicken once it’s cooled. Before you sit to eat, take 2 cups of it out of the heat and set it aside – it will be cooled by the time you finish your dinner and are ready to clean up the kitchen – which by the way is a breeze because dinner was so simple!

Serve the chicken salad atop a salad, in a sandwich or Pita pocket. This will make enough for several sandwiches/meals.

A dinner idea for the rest of the leftover chicken is a simple chicken and fresh vegetable soup using a good quality pre-made organic chicken broth and your choice of in-season vegetables cut up and simmered till tender and warmed or if the weather is too hot for soup make Cilantro-Lime Chicken with a side salad and fresh veggies and/or steamed red potatoes or brown rice. Veggies and chicken alone is truly all you need for a healthy, filling dinner.

Cilantro-Lime Chicken – cooling and simple for a warm summer evening

Use the remaining chicken from roasting night, tear it into big chunks

Sprinkle well with salt & freshly ground black pepper

1 large handful cilantro chopped – I was short on cilantro in my garden so I added fresh dill and parsley with the cialntro I had

juice of 2 limes or 2-3 Tablespoons lime juice

1/4 cup olive oil

Mix all ingredients together and gently toss, set aside while you prepare the vegetables and/or salad.

Serve on plate alongside your salad and veggies of choice.

Don’t get stuck, get creative!

Chicken Salad - Dawn's Cape Cod style

Chicken Salad – Dawn’s Cape Cod style

Chicken Salad w/Avocado-Yogurt Dressing

Chicken Salad w/Avocado-Yogurt Dressing

Fast, Cheap and Easy! (and healthy)

Who doesn’t like fast, cheap and easy especially when it’s healthy?

I get many requests and confessions from people about not wanting to spend a lot of time cooking, not wanting to eat processed box food and fast food take-out meals. Are you one of them? I have many tips up my sleeve and I plan to share them with you often.

For the Crockpot lovers out there here’s a fast, cheap and easy dinner with plenty to feed a larger family or for more than one meal. I respect that everyone is busy and wants to get the rules and not the fluff so here goes; there are no rules! :)

Crockpot Roasted Chicken

1 whole chicken, one chicken cut up, or chicken breast, boneless chicken pieces – whichever you prefer

favorite herb/spice mixture – I used poultry seasoning with a low salt content

I also used 1/2 cup white wine you can use your favorite beer too or just water

Put the chicken in the pot, pour wine or beer over the top, sprinkle generously with your choice seasoning. Turn crockpot to low if cooking for 8+ hours or high for 4-5 hours.

Sides: I used leftover quinoa-wild rice mixture from the night before, I didn’t heat it, I just added olive oil, a little salt & pepper and chopped tomatoes from my garden. I also sautéed yellow summer squash and cut up string beans from the garden. You can make a salad, simmer up some quinoa in just 15 minutes; while it’s cooking you can set the table or slow down, breathe deeply and slowly to unwind and de-stress a little bit after your busy day.

The chicken will fall of the bones so carving isn’t even necessary – just be sure to pick the bones out ;)

After you eat, work for 10 minutes to de-bone all the chicken and put it into the refrigerator for another meal. Set a little aside for lunch the next day alongside some leftover salad and quinoa. Healthy dinner, healthy lunch, happy you!

Crockpot chicken 8-5-14

Outside Wellness Matters too!

Initiate Wellness inside and outside has become my catch phrase; not to sell more of anything but because wellness throughout matters. What is wellness inside and out? Inside wellness includes the foods we eat and how they affect us. Whole  foods in their natural state are healing and nutrient dense which help feed our cells. There is no one particular food that is absolutely perfect for everyone because every one of us is uniquely different and we each react to foods differently. Finding what works for you personally keeping your weight, organs and blood optimal is the place of perfection for you.

Outside wellness involves things you do that help you experience happiness, inspiration, calm, confidence, joy, peace, stress-free, care-free and clean environment and similar things which brings me to my point in this post, the environment around me (and you).

I live in a spot that is pretty, lush, wooded, hilly, quiet and damp. Everything is good except the dampness. I would never have thought a wooded rolling area would be damp but the spot I am in is and that isn’t healthy for me personally. I have had only slight breathing issues due to exercise and moldy-mildew(y) induced asthma. When I moved here almost five years ago I didn’t realize it was as damp as it is and because of the environment I live in, my asthma inhaler has become my best friend, unfortunately.

This past weekend I had an opportunity to take a few days down the Cape, where my heart truly is and has been since I was a child, with my sister-in-law. One would assume the cape is damp and mildew(y) because it’s surrounded on three sides by ocean but I didn’t have any breathing issues and boy-oh-boy was my head draining and clear. The air felt clean and fresh and my inhaler never got to see the light of day! I walked….a lot. I slept well. I felt peaceful and inspired and I felt healthy.

I returned home last night, not saying good-bye to my Cape Cod, but saying until I see you again. Surprisingly and sadly within about an hour of being home my chest got heavy and wheezing began. I was heading to bed so I chose to try sleeping without taking any inhaler because it keeps me awake and leaves my body feeling like it was plugged into an electric socket, well, what I imagine it might feel like if it were charging up like a cellphone.

Outside wellness is not just the things we do to make us happy but it involves how and where we live that make us feel truly healthy. The air we breathe and the full environment around us makes a difference in how we feel and how we react to life in general. Our environment can make us happy, inspired and healthy or it can leave us feeling lethargic, sad and depressed, sluggish, labored and toxic.

Take the necessary steps that lead you to your healthiest on the inside and on the outside!

Down to earth juicing

Earthy Beet juice blendI love smoothies but sometimes I like the smooth thinness of a juice. I have a great blender that can almost build a house, ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it is pretty helpful in many ways. My juicer on the other hand is just a cheap but equally handy piece of equipment; it does its job and makes a very nice juice.

I’m not in the habit of juicing every day but I’d like to be. I juice when I have fresh veggies and fruit on hand…I’m more of a veggie lover than a fruit lover but fruit helps break the deep earthy flavor to a slightly more naturally sweet earthiness.

Today’s juice is deliciously earthy. The recipe I concocted includes a beet-peeled, 3 ribs celery, 4″ piece of cucumber, 2 carrots, a handful of spinach, 1 green apple-cored, 2″ piece of ginger-peeled, splash of water in the end to get every last bit of juice out of the machine.

Beets help detoxify, improve heart health, anti-oxidant, and have shown to reduce tumor size among several other health benefits.

Looking to increase your veggie intake and feed your cells as well as possible? Try juicing and smoothie making, all homemade of course so that you have full control and knowledge of what you are putting into your body!

Cheers, bottoms up!

My Novice Garden

Garlic while still growing and scapes attached

I’m just a novice gardener, I’m not a farmer like several of my friends but I’m not doing too badly either. This year is my third year having a vegetable garden in this location, I did have a successful garden years ago at another home which had plenty of sun unlike my spot here.

The endless shade in my yard throughout the day is a great thing when you want to sit outside enjoying spring, summer and fall but it’s not so great for my garden as you can imagine. Considering this, growing an abundance of produce has been challenging. I can grow kale from spring through fall, I have also had good luck with string beans and certain herbs, very small bell peppers, tiny cucumbers if any and if the frogs stay away from them. Yup, I have a brook running beside my house and it seems to attract some type of pointy nosed frogs who love to eat the insides of my cucumbers leaving the skins fully intact; it’s not such a great  moment when you think you have this beautiful cucumber and as you pick it up it’s just a shell! Heartbreaking.

One thing that my good friend Clem down the street who is a farmer in every sense of the word taught me how to grow last year was garlic. I planted eleven bulbs and had a successful crop of eleven garlic scapes which I used in several different ways and garlic scape hummus was the biggest hit, especially to my cousin’s 3-year-old son, he absolutely loved it! When it was time to harvest the garlic bulbs I of course had eleven which I saved every one of to plant in the fall.

Last fall my oldest son was around so he helped me plant 83 cloves of garlic then we covered them with hay until spring. As the last bit of snow melted in April I removed the hay to find small sprouts stretching their arms up toward sunlight – once again I was elated!

A few weeks ago I snapped off all the garlic scapes, I had enough this year to share so I did and I kept some too. I will freeze whatever I don’t use this week after making more hummus and a garlic scape & herb pesto.

Today I harvested all 83 garlic bulbs and laid them on an unused child gate to dry. I’m drying them in my cellar which is light enough and has very dry air all the time. I only pulled two sets of twins this year which I will not plant next year per instructions of farmer Clem; but they will make good eating!

I thoroughly enjoy planting, growing, and cooking with garlic scapes and garlic so come fall, I’ll plant more than 83. I’m going to plant the largest of my bulbs and look for larger bulbs at the local farm stand to plant.

If you feel even slightly interested in trying to grow your own garlic I say go for it!

Just harvested today and laid on a screened gate to dry

Just harvested today and laid on a screened gate to dry

Garlic scapes & kale

Garlic scapes & kale

 

 

 

Food Addiction & How to Control It

Our body is greatly affected by what we put in it. If we treat it to processed, un-natural, chemically treated, high fat foods it will go through high processes to digest these so-called foods, we will look and feel un-natural, we will suffer symptoms of chemical overload and we will have a high fat content to our body.

What is food addiction and how do we become addicted?

Food addiction is basically compulsive overeating. There are many reasons for this kind of behavior. Some compulsively overeat for comfort, out of loneliness, depression, as a control issue (as in it’s the only thing they have control over, but then it gets out of control and so begins a cycle), some binge out of boredom, or not being satiated with healthy food choices, for many it’s for emotional reasons. Overall, the kind of food you consume can lead you to being addicted to it. Whatever the reason, it can be stopped!

First, let’s look at the addicting foods.

Caffeine – Caffeine is a drug. Caffeine is defined as a drug because it stimulates the central nervous system, causing increased alertness. Caffeine gives most people a temporary energy boost and elevates mood. It’s found in coffee, tea, soda and chocolate.

Sugar – Sugar is an additive and in its many forms can lead to many diseases, the most well-known being Type 2 Diabetes.

Salt – Salt is added in large amounts to processed foods. This makes that particular food addicting.

Fat – Fatty foods such as meats dairy and sweets are addicting because they stimulate the “pleasure centers” of the brain causing the compulsion to repeat the experience. We can also develop a tolerance to the pleasure the food gave and need more of it.

Casein – Casein is a protein found in cow’s milk and is therefore in cheese and other dairy products. Casein breaks down during digestion into casomorphins, which are opiates that make the eater “feel good” after eating. They create cravings and cause withdrawal when given up. Casein is more concentrated in cheese than milk.

Artificial Sweeteners – Most of what you hear about artificial sweeteners comes from the companies themselves. Unfortunately, you don’t hear the downside of these chemical additives. You most likely use these so-called sweeteners either to lose weight or to satisfy your sugar craving. But artificial sweeteners do neither; they don’t help you lose weight and they actually make your cravings worse causing you to have ‘one more’. They’re also dangerous to your health because they are chemicals that you should not be putting into your body as your body has a difficult time getting rid of them. Studies have proven artificial sweeteners are linked to potential cancer risks, negative effects on the liver, kidneys and other organs, gastrointestinal problems, developmental problems in children and fetuses, headaches and they stimulate cravings. Artificial sweeteners may also lessen the body’s ability to regulate glucose levels. Studies have also shown that people who consume artificial sweeteners eat more calories than those who don’t.

Chemicals in our food – This includes MSG, food dyes/colorings, as well as preservatives. Over 12,000 chemicals are used in the production of our food; many are used intentionally as “direct additives” but some are “indirect’ contaminants or used accidentally. The food industry uses roughly 3,000 different additives in various packaged, processed and preserved food. They include preservatives, emulsifiers, natural and artificial colorings and flavorings. Two common chemicals we create are Trans-fats and hydrogenated fats.

So, how can you eat-to-lose, and win?

1- Eliminate junk food from your diet. This includes artificially sweetened foods, processed dry or frozen foods (with the exception of plain, frozen vegetables or fruits); foods labeled low-fat or fat-free as these usually have added sugar (with the exception of low-fat dairy products where the fat is simply removed). Junk and processed foods have little to no nutritional value.

2 – Eat lots of produce. A fruit or vegetable should be added to every meal and eaten as snacks between meals. They provide abundant amounts of nutrients without a lot of calories which make them a perfect food for supporting weight loss.

3 – Eat lean protein. Protein helps your body maintain muscle mass and helps you stay full. Don’t stick to meats only. There are many great sources of protein including fish, eggs, beans, nuts, and dairy products such as Greek yogurt and cheese.

4- Eat fiber with every meal. Fiber helps you feel full and stay full. It’s also beneficial to the digestive tract. It can be found in a wide variety of foods including most vegetables such as sweet potatoes, broccoli, kale, spinach, eggplant and whole grains breads, pastas, brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, millet, barley, bulgur wheat and more.

5- Get moving. Get outside. Walk, bike, run, play catch, Frisbee, hike, anything. Just get some exercise every day. It will burn fat and relax your mind, body and lift your spirits.

Our ancestors ate whole grain breads; we eat white bread, stripped of all its nutrients.  Native Americans ate corn: we eat corn syrup which has no nutritional value.

By omitting processed and junk foods as previously mentioned, and replacing them with whole foods in correct portion sizes and with at least a little bit of physical activity daily you will lose weight and win your body back.