Replace Those Unhealthy “Health” Foods

While I’m not real comfortable about targeted marketing, it does send a great deal of food and health info across my wire, and that’s okay by me. Today Buzzfeed wanted to alert me to a whole bunch of unhealthy “health” food.  I think this is a great thing to talk about, especially for folks who want to eat healthier but don’t necessarily have a great deal of practice or success in that department.

I want to take a minute here to bang the drum about “Big Food” again.  (For an extended banging of this drum, see my post about Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us.) This is when I remind you that companies that make food are not necessarily making food with your health in mind.  They are making food with your wallet in mind – they want it to taste good and to be full of things that your body is going to ask for again and again and again.  And if they want to call it healthy, or use other words that make it seem like it should be healthy, or put a picture of a tree on the box or a woman running through a field so you think it’s healthy, they are welcome to do so.

It is incumbent upon you as the consumer to find out whether or not those beautifully marketed packages actually contain any nutrition whatsoever.  Buzzfeed’s Dave Stopera wants to help you out. Dave’s made a list of 18 “health foods” you shouldn’t eat.  I’m gonna tell you what the Sis sisters would eat instead. Today I’ll cover the first 9. Continue reading

Fresh Nectarine Cream Pie with Walnut Crust (GF,V)

I’ve been a bit of a slouch all summer where dessert is concerned.  Truth to tell much of the time I’d prefer fresh fruit and since it’s so abundant in the summer, I say let them eat fruit.  But this past weekend we had special guests.  Fruit is still great, but I wanted to put in a little extra effort to give our guests the best of our pantry. I’d been thinking about my sister’s apple pie, but I have to tell you, I don’t do apple pie in the summer.  Just don’t. No excuses.  So I focused on the part of her pie that I was really interested in playing with. What could be better with a nutty crust than creamy goodness?  What to do, where to start? Continue reading

Roasted Onion and Fig Relish

Okay – so I fell for a sale.  Surely I am not the only one.  And I seem to always be a sucker for a buy one get 1 free sale.  Such an appealing word – free.

This time it was brown turkey figs – buy one, get 1 free.  Discount abundance is a wonderful thing unless you really have no idea what to do with the booty!  Everyone in the family tried one and they were okay, but it was clear that the abundance would not be used before they rotted, so I had to get thinking.

They are pretty.

pretty figs

Not sure where this idea came from, but I have been on a kick of roasting red onions as parts of several recipes, so I decided that red onions and figs were either destined (or doomed) to meet in my oven. Continue reading

Did She Say Chickpeas AND Chocolate?! (GF,V)

We’ve had quite a week here at Lake HolyCrap.  The twins started first grade on Monday and our search for a new furry friend reached its final, and extremely happy conclusion.  While the kids were at their second day of school, Mr. Little Sis and I responded to the call from a lovely woman who runs an animal rescue about a half an hour from us.  She thought we might be just the people for Baxter, an adult labradoodle mix.  We jumped in the car immediately and it’s been love ever since.

IMG_9838Baxter rode home with me yesterday and I had my first experience using a mobile groomer (for the dog, mind you).  I didn’t want to traumatize him by taking him somewhere else or leaving him for a couple of hours, so I found the nicest groomer who pulled into our driveway with a trailer that had everything she needed to get rid of our new friend’s matted dreadlocks and leave him much more comfortable and very, very handsome.  What’s a nervous new dog Mommy to do while a stranger is tending to her new charge in the driveway? Bake, of course. Continue reading

Brown Baggin’ It

Well, they launched.  They made it.  They walked out that door, onto the bus (with only a little hesitation on Ms. Picky Pants’ part) and they are off to first grade.   I can’t flippin’ believe it.  Just yesterday I was using a food mill to grind their kale casserole (yes, I’m serious) and now they will be sitting at desks instead of tables… Oy. Honestly, we had a fantastic summer and I will so miss spending time with my little peeps, but I would be flat out lying if I said I’m not ready for a little quiet time now and again, time to work the paid job without taking time away from them, time to plan a meal without being interrogated about it simultaneously.  There are advantages to the return to school.

Of all the chores associated with the daily school grind, I have to admit that lunch preparation is not my favorite.  Apparently it’s not just me.  I’ve noticed that there is a lot of anxiety about packing lunch and what our kiddos are eating at school (well deserved in my opinion), so I thought I’d through together a little compilation of suggestions that Bigg Sis and I have shared as regards packing lunch for the littlest humans in our life, bearing in mind of course that all of these suggestions also work for the bigger ones, you just may need a bigger boat, as it were. So – ready to feed all the travelers in your life an awesomely healthful lunch?  I knew you were.  Let’s take it in stages… Continue reading

Fall Veggies and Other Garden News

We’ve been so very busy this summer that I completely missed the dates for starting seedlings for fall veggies.  Honestly, with the whole deer situation, I can’t say that I’m sad I haven’t been coaxing along the next batch of deer fodder.  However, when in my local garden center, and I do hope you have one you like, I couldn’t resist taking a stroll into the area where the fall veggies for transplant were sitting, calling to me: “Super fresh cauliflower, broccoli and lettuce, right here, delicious and affordable nutrition awaits….” with the way the weather has been, I simply couldn’t resist grabbing a few and enlisting some help getting those puppies in the ground – which was made easier by the great job Bambi has done clearing the field…  Why on earth am I doing this? Continue reading

Simple Pakistani Fare (GF,V)

A few years ago I got a cookbook. It was a life changer. I know that sounds a little melodramatic – and it is I guess, but food can change us, and the way that we look at food can change us.  Before my kids were born I started thinking about simplicity a bit, and was immediately attracted to the idea behind More-With-Less. This cookbook encouraged me to think about the role of processed food in my home, to think about my relationship with meals and food, and to slow it all down a little.

Over the years I’ve used this book to explore international cuisine from a non-restaurant perspective, international cuisine that regular people in other countries actually eat in their homes. Before we made all of our dietary changes, this was the perfect companion to simpler and yet more interesting meals. And now, I find the simple recipes in this book so very easy to adapt and the philosophy behind them is so peace creating for me that I wanted to share it with you.

IMG_9673Tonight I returned to an old favorite of ours, and made a little switcheroo so I could still eat it on a weekday. The author shares a recipe for Pakistani Kima, made with ground beef.  When I made it in the past, I used ground turkey.  Tonight, I made lentils the star of this simple curry show. Surprise! Another fabulous lentil dish.  Perhaps we really should call ourselves the Lentil Lodge… At any rate, this easy curry was fantastic and just the thing for the half of my crew fighting a nasty little end of summer bug.  Lentils, curry spices, fresh green beans, potatoes, onions and tomatoes.  Fantastic.

Pakistani Lentil Kima – adapted from More with Less by Doris Janzen Longacre

  • 3 T coconut oilIMG_9681
  • 1 c chopped onion
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 potatoes, rough cut 1 inch pieces
  • 1 T curry powder
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • dash pepper
  • dash each cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric
  • 2 1/2 c diced tomatoes
  • 2 c fresh green beans, cut in half
  • 2 c cooked lentils

Warm coconut oil in pan (I used cast iron). Saute onions on med heat until they are at least translucent.  Add garlic and stir until fragrant.  Add potatoes and stir to coat with coconut oil.  Add spices and stir to coat. Let cook for a minute or so.  Add tomatoes. Turn heat down to simmer and cover.  Cook about 15 minutes; check potatoes for doneness and simmer until nearly cooked through. Add green beans and cover.  Simmer for an additional 5 minutes (more or less to your green bean doneness preference). Add lentils and stir.  Heat until lentils are warm. Serve over rice (or whatever gran you have on hand). We garnished with a little coconut and fresh cilantro.  So easy and so delish.

IMG_9640 IMG_9677 IMG_9685

Grated Coconut and Salmonella

Looks like this one affects Canada, but I’d encourage other North American coconut users to read the details and check your packaging. Details here. I just ate some 20 minutes ago… So far so good. 😉 Not the affected brand, but please share the info and check your stuff.  Eat well, be well!

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I’ve just had a glorious week at the Chautauqua Institution in NY with my family and my parents.  This year I really detached from everything – which is largely why you’e not heard much from me.  I needed a break and while I was taking that break I learned SO much.  Personal growth aside, I had a fabulous week learning more about gardening.

I got to take a class on garden design with one of my mothers (I am lucky enough to have two) and while I am not much for aesthetic gardening,  have to say that it just may be time to turn over a new leaf (yes, I know it was too easy – grown away – har har – somebody stop me).  I spent a week learning a lot about perennial gardening from the nicest collection of gardeners.  For once I was the spring chicken in the room, and I have to say I was delighted to be so.  These folks got me so charged up I began having wild and ambitious ideas about changes to make to our little piece of the suburbs – even changes that can’t be eaten.

Whilst spending all this time smelling the roses, or the butterfly bushes I prefer, I also did some long overdue reading pertinent to food gardening.  I am just too practical to go all floral – and besides, I’ll need snacks while I’m pruning (or whatever it is I’ll have to do if I go through with all these flower based plans…. I brought my copy of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture with me on my trip and devoured a good half of it.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the book, it’s about permaculture for the backyard.  Hunh?

Permaculture is, and this is my own terrible definition, growing plants in a way that most closely recreates the interactions between living things in the natural environment.  The bad thing about permaculture? You have to learn a lot and the plants that many suggest are not as readily available as the ones most yard gardeners are accustomed to using.  The GREAT thing about permaculture? If you get it right, you don’t have to do NEARLY as much WORK.  The plants feed each other, attract appropriate pests, the soil stays healthy and angel choirs sing 24/7.  Okay, that last bit was over the top, but seriously if this works as they say, and there’s a growing number of people who say that it does, I am in, at least a little. Let the research on perennial vegetables and fruit and nut trees begin!

My borrowed blister beetle photo.

Now that I am home with all this information, I have to face my current situation. I spent the morning saving the lawn and the shrubs from the weeds. I tore out two long dead shrubs with visions of flowering things in my head.  My boy and I spent the afternoon reclaiming the veggie patch from weeds.  WOW what a week (okay more than a week) of rain and reasonable temps did for the weeds. We harvested while we weeded and ended up bringing in quite a haul given what it looked like when we started.  Still no tomatoes, but plenty of blister beetles.

IMG_9649The good news is that their presence in the garden likely means we’ll have a few less grasshoppers at some point (the larvae eat the grasshopper eggs), but they are damaging to veggie crops, so I went straight for the big gun (well, the biggest one I will use on food crops) and applied Captain Jacks Dead Bug Brew. Thank you for eating the grasshoppers; no, you can’t stay. And you harlequin beetles over there on the kale, you’re going too.  Sorry. No, really, I’m a little sorry.  Yeah, I’m weird.

My aesthetic lanscape also took a hit in the bug damage department.  A few of the shrubs that line our front walk seem to have been consumed by some sort of tent caterpillar.  They were healthy when we left and now…. Truth to tell, I don’t like these shrubs anyway – who plants pricker bushes on the front walk? Welcome, don’t touch, owwwwwwww.


Healthy Shrub

Healthy Shrub


Nearly Dead Shrub

IMG_9664I gave these a dose of Captain Jack’s as well, just in case any of the little buggers were still in there and are getting ready to move on to things I DO care about.  Now I have an excuse to pull those dead ones and replace them. YAY! I’ll add these to the list I made of plants that are dead, dying, or misplaced that I get to pull up and add to the deer barrier bramble behind the fence (the latest in a long line of deer disuasion devices while we look for a new canine friend). What I really need to do is find a way to bottle some of this enthusiasm for use in the spring. In the meantime, I’ll be tearing things out, reading about perennial edibles and lookables, and building new beds with Amazon boxes, leaves, and soil. How does your garden grow?