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Garden Fajita Salad

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Produce is starting to come in from the garden. This is a really fun time of year, but challenging at the same time. Running to the grocery store with a list in hand is one thing- but creating a meal from the miscellaneous vegetables that trickle and gush into the kitchen is a whole different style of cooking. Wasting produce that you literally put your own sweat into growing is  horrible. I decided to try using some of the various items to create a fajita and loved it. Bonus side effect? The meat went much much further with all the various veggies on the plate. Below is what I did. Use this for inspiration and adjust based on what’s in your house or looks yummy to you!

 


Garden Fajita Salad

Fajita:

YIAH Fajita seasoning

YIAH Picante Olive Oil

1 lemon

 1 pound beef skirt steak

2 onions – sliced

1 pound green beans – frenched (slice in half from top to bottom)

2-3 squash/zucchini – sliced into thick matchsticks

Salad:

lettuce – washed and cut

tomatoes – cut to desired size

carrots – grated

Garnish:

jalapeno peppers – sliced, saute first if they are really spicy

sour cream

cucumber slaw (recipe below)

cheese

 

 

Drizzle meat lightly with Picante Olive Oil, fajita seasoning (1 tsp) and the juice from 1/2 the lemon. Mix thoroughly and set aside to marinate.

Mix onions, green beans and squash/zucchini. Drizzle with picante olive oil, fajita seasoning (.5 – 1 tsp) and the remaining lemon juice. Toss gently and set aside to marinate.

Get your skillet nice and hot and sear the fajita meat. Set aside and cook the veggies in the same pan. Slice the meat into about 1/2 inch slices. Be sure to cut perpendicular to the grain, or you will be chewing a very long time. (Think about it – you want to create a lot of short fibers, not a few long ones.) Toss with salad ingredients and top with garnish. YUM!

 

IMG_3887Cucumber Slaw

1 cucumber grated

1 Tbs YIAH salsa dip mix seasoning

1 Tbs lemon or lime juice

Combine ingredients and let sit for at least 30 min. Season with salt as needed.

 

Say “head cheese”

Like “Julie and Julia” there is a whole list of culinary “to do’s” that I want to accomplish in my lifetime. Granted, they are a little different- but the thought makes my heart pump a little faster. Since most of them are centered around a lost skill or art, alot of them involve offal meats. In case you didn’t know – offals (pronounced, ironically enough, “awful”) are the organs and other “odd bits”. Well I can now check one off my list. I have officially made headcheese. It was slightly intimidating, and definitely a bit awkward- but overall a success!

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I’ll post a recipe in the future. I want to play with the spices first a bit. Although very meaty – my first attempt was a bit bland once chilled. Seasonings often become more mild when an item is chilled or frozen. Our favorite way to eat it was fried though! No breading necessary. Just a hot cast iron skillet, and a thick slice of cold head cheese!

Here’s some photos of what’s happening in my

kitchen…..

Cooking beef tongue has become quite frequent around here!

Salmon with an olive tapenade

Borscht

This recipe is sooo wonderful, hot or cold! It’s slightly sweet and quite refreshing. I love to top it with freshly grated or prepared horseradish. If you are not a horseradish fan- you can skip that part.

1/2 cup dried mushrooms (I used shiitake)

4 cups chicken stock

4 tbs schmaltz (chicken fat- sub butter if you don’t have schmaltz )

2 large leeks – cut into 1/2 in pieces

1  large onion – finely diced

1 large carrot – 1/4 inch dice

3 pieces of celery – 1/2 inch dice

2 turnips- about 2 pounds – 1/4 inch dice

finely chopped parsley – chopped

3 cups shredded green cabbage

3 bay leaves

7 cloves garlic – minced

salt and pepper

1 1/2 pounds beets – match-sticked

1 1/2 cups canned diced tomatoes

4 Tbs red wine vinegar

Heat the broth until a gentle boil. Add the dried mushrooms and set aside.  Let soak until soft- at least 20 minutes.

Heat the schmaltz up in a heavy pan. Add onions and leeks. Sautee until soft. Add turnips, carrots, celery, and bay leaf. Saute until soft- about 10 min.  Strain the mushrooms, reserving the broth. Chop the mushrooms and add them to the other vegetables. Add garlic, cabbage and about 1 Tbs of salt. Cook for another 10 minutes.

Add beets, and tomatoes. Add the strained stock. Simmer for another 25 minutes, until all veggies are tender. Check for salt and pepper. Stir in the vinegar.

Serve with sour cream, and horseradish. Can be served warm or cold

 

 

 

My kids loved it so much- that when i went to take a picture- a little hand snuck into the photo frame! Even though she had a bowl in front of her- she wanted to grab a little extra!

 

I love this cold soup. You have the refreshing chill of the mint- mixed with the biting heat of peppers. With a base of incredibly nutritious bone broth- it has a great depth of flavor. Hope you enjoy it too!

1 small, or 1/2 a large melon

1 large jalapeno – diced (remove seeds if you wish to reduce the heat)

1/4 tsp ginger – minced or microplaned

1/2 cup packed mint leaves

1/4 cup roughly chopped chives

4 cups chilled chicken bone broth

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup grassfed cream

Combine first 5 ingredients in a blender. Puree. Add chicken broth, and season to taste. Add cream just before serving. Stores really well in the fridge too!

Bone Broth Challenge!

One of my favorite bloggers , Ann Marie- over at cheeselave, is having a contest. A bone broth challenge! Bone broth and gelatin how a multitude of health benefits. For the most part, here in America, we don’t eat NEARLY enough bone broth. This challenge is designed to motive, energy and excite you as you start incorporating broth into your daily diet! Go check it out! Whether you decide to participate or not- you will benefit from great ideas, and creative inspiration on how to effortlessly get more broth into your diet. PLUS- you could lose some cellulite along the way……don’t know what I’m talking about? Check it out here!

 

Texas Chili

I love a good chili. For the record- real chili- has NO beans. This is my chili. It’s a favorite around here. It has a very rich deep flavor, lots of spice, but not too much heat. Enjoy with plenty of sour cream and cheese! Like all chili’s – this one really taste best the day after it’s made. We cook it up a day before we plan on eating it, then I only have to reheat.

 

 

 

3 whole dried chipotle peppers

3 pounds chuck roast, 1 in cube

½ pound bacon

2 celery stalks- diced

3 carrots- diced

1 red onion – diced

1 yellow onion – diced

2 bell peppers- diced

4-6 medium jalapeno peppers- diced

20 cloves garlic- pressed

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp cloves

½ tsp allspice

1 tsp coriander

½ tsp cayenne

1 Tbs cumin

1 tsp ground ancho

1 tsp ground new mexico chili

1 28 oz can whole tomatoes

3 cups chicken bone broth

1 cup brewed strong coffee

2 Tbs kosher salt (or to taste)

1 pint beer

2 Tbs cocoa powder

½ cup masa harina (optional)

Suggested garnishes: cheese, sour cream, avocado, diced onions, diced jalapenos, cilantro

 

 On a dry cast iron skillet heat dried chipotle chili peppers. Remove from pan and add to almost boiling water (about 2 cups). Set aside

Render bacon, crumble and set the cooked bacon pieces aside. Brown the roast cubes, adding tallow or ghee to the bacon fat if more is needed. The roast will probably need to be browned in batches. Don’t over crowd the pan or you will “steam” rather than brown your meat. Set aside browned meat.

Adding tallow or ghee as needed, sauté the onions until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add carrots and peppers and celery, sauté 10 min. Add garlic, cooking just until fragrant. Add dried spices and sauté for a moment to release fragrance.

Take the soaked, dried chiles and puree in a blender with the soaking liquid. Add to the chili. Add tomatoes, smashing them well, to the pan. Add remaining ingredients except cocoa powder and masa harina. Add cubed beef and bacon crumbles to the pan. Simmer very low for 3-5 hours until meat is tender.

Once meat is tender, add cocoa powder and masa harina (if desired- it thickens the chili). Simmer on low for another hour. Garnish and enjoy!!!!

Breakfast smoothie

Smoothies are such a great, quick breakfast. My kids love them. At one point in the video, my daughter (2 years old) realized what I was doing. You’ll all the sudden hear her saying “shake, shake, shake” over and over (what you can’t see is her bouncing around in excitement….my own little tigger)

We use approximately these amounts per serving:

2 whole eggs

1-2 Tbs coconut oil

1-2 cups liquid- raw milk, coconut milk, kefir, yogurt, and cream are all awesome options

1 pinch of salt

1/2 tsp -1 tsp vanilla (not imitation)

ice or frozen fruit

The coconut oil is important because it give you great sustained energy, keeps you feeling full longer, and is full of lauric acid. We don’t use any frozen fruit in our shakes- choosing instead to let the natural sweetness come through. If you are used to your smoothies tasting like melted ice cream…… start reducing the fruit as soon as possible. Also- increase the amount of lacto-fermented foods in your diet. This will help reduce your sweet tooth. Remember- taste is a LEARNED response. Exposure is the key to adjusting your taste buds.

Born at home….

Both my children were born at home. It was an amazingly intimate experience. I wouldn’t have it any other way! My mother became a midwife when I was in my teens. I apprenticed under her for a while, and was able to experience home births, and even a handful of hospital births before I became pregnant with my own. Having seen both environments, it was a no-brainer for me. Aside from complications,  I wanted my children born at home. Complications are what hospitals are equiped for, they don’t understand how to allow a woman to birth naturally. They feel the need to “get involved”, and as a result often create complications where there were none. There is such an intense peace, and an air of awe that accompanies a home birth. I’ve had many women tell me that there’s no way they could have a baby at home (because of the lack of epidural). What they don’t realize, is the environments don’t even begin to compare. I don’t think I could have a natural childbirth experience in a hospital: a cold room, people coming in and out, telling me how I have to lay, or sit, drink or not drink, strapped to machines. The experiences are not similar at all! My mom attended both my births, as the midwife for the first, and my support structure (along with my hubby) for the second. It always saddens me when I hear mothers continuing to spread misinformation about the birthing processes. Most women in America are unaware of how beautiful and special birth can be. Just like we have lost touch with where our food comes from, we have lost touch with our bodies, and the act of birth. This lost connection has come with a price. It is not widely known, but we have 2nd highest mortality rate of all developed nations! That’s because of our doctor centered, hospital birthing system.

I read an awesome article on this very subject and I just had to share it with you. Go read it, it’s well worth your time! Huffington Post article on Childbirth in the USA

Oh- and if you are curious…..here’s my story about my second child’s birth – Petal’s Arrival

We’ve all heard the message. Drink 8- 8oz glasses of water each day. I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that this piece of advice is the most commonly repeated advice anywhere. You’ll find it mentioned in practically every news segment or article on health or weight loss, by grandmothers across the country, and on blogs all over the internet. Question is; what if that information is wrong, or at the very least misunderstood?

“There’s nothing so absurd that if you repeat it often enough, people will believe it.” –William James (1842-1910), the father of modern psychology

It turns out that the 8 x 8 (8 glasses, of 8 oz each) guideline may be based on a misunderstanding. In 1945 the Food and Nutrition Board, now part of the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine made a recommendation for daily water consumption. They suggested a fifth of a teaspoon per calorie of food consumed. This works out to be about 64 to 80 ounces. The last sentence stated that “most of this water is contained in prepared food”. Somehow, this part of the report has been lost in the communication of the guidelines. Dependant on your diet, the amount of water necessary to supplement your food varies. Most people need 3-4 cups a day, although during strenous exercise, pregnancy or in hot weather that amount goes up. In 2004 the board reviewed their earlier guidelines. The conclusion of their study was that “the vast majority of healthy people adequately meet their daily hydration needs by letting thirst be their guide.”

Dr. Valtin, a kidney specialist, is the author of two textbooks on the kidneys and water balance. He is a professor at Dartmouth Medical School. He spent nearly a year searching for evidence that supported the 8 x 8 guidelines. He couldn’t find a single scientific report supporting the recommendations.  Surveys of fluid intake on both men and women were published as peer-reviewed documents. These strongly suggest that such large amounts of additional fluids are not needed. Since then, other studies have come along supporting his conclusions. It is now being recognized that other fluids, such as coffee, tea, and even alcohol in moderate amounts, can count towards our necessary hydration requirements. Dr. Valtin’s final recommendation was to let your thirst be your guide, rather than force yourself to drink a specific amount of water.

Hydration

As I was doing research on hydration I found a fascinating correlation between weight and hydration levels. Water in the body is measured in two ways; dehydration is measured by the amount (or lack of) of water circulating along with the blood, while hydration is the amount of water being held in bodily tissue. Dehydration occurs when the concentration of blood has risen by 5 percent. Body water percentages are helpful for understanding hydration. It would be easy to think that if you want to hydrate, then you just drink more fluids. It’s not quite that simple. The body is a finely tuned balancing machine. Drinking excess water doesn’t actually increase hydration, it only decreases the blood concentration (by increasing the blood volume), and throws the electrolytes out of balance. Hydration is the body holding onto the fluid, storing it in the tissues. The bodily tissues that retain water, and are used for measuring our hydration levels, are muscle, and fat. So based on the amount of muscle and fat your body contains, you have a limit on your potential hydration levels. Turns out muscles hold more water in their fibers than fats do. A fat cell can only hold 15%- 25% water, whereas a healthy muscle cell can hold up to 72%. In light of this information, I started tracking my own body hydration percentages, and found this to be true. Over the last 2 months, as my body fat percentage has gone down, my body hydration percentages have gone up. It is difficult to be properly hydrated if you are overweight. To increase hydration you need to increase your muscle mass and decrease excess fat. Without having proper “storage tanks” guzzling water will only make you have to go to the bathroom more, and deplete your nutritional stores.

What could be the harm in drinking too much??

We often like to think of water as being the perfect “healthy” drink at best, and at worst, totally harmless. Dr Valtin, said “The fact is, there is potentially harm, even in water”. Too much water can cause water intoxication. The symptoms of water intoxication include mental confusion, seizures, and even death. Unfortunately deaths from water intoxications do occur.  In 2007 a young mother lost her life due to water intoxication. She was participating in a radio station contest “hold your wee for a wii” and drank too much water. A recent study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine highlighted the case of a runner in the London marathon who collapsed and died, after crossing the finish line, due to exercise-associated water intoxication.  Most cases involving death, are the results of a prank/contest, ecstasy use (causes the sensation of extreme thirsty), or uneducated athletes consuming excess amounts of water in an attempt to avoid dehydration. What most people don’t realize is that harm can and is done to the body long before the intoxication reaches fatal levels.

There is a popular theory going around that drinking more water is necessary to properly detox the toxins in our body. This might be true if the kidneys worked like a carbon filter, forcing water to trickle through at a slow and steady pace. There is no filter controlling the flow of water. The more you drink (esp. at one time) the faster the water flows into your kidneys. Your kidney filters, in part, using a series of capillary beds called glomeruli. The glomeruli do get damaged by wear and tear. Drowning your kidneys with large amounts of water is one of the suspected causes of this wear and tear. As far as removing toxins, one study found that at best, drinking water resulted in little to no increase in the ability to remove toxins, and at worse, the body was actually LESS able to remove toxins (as is the case with the glomeruli in the kidneys). So it’s hard on your kidneys to drink excessive amounts of water, and has little benefit, if any at all.

When your body processes water, it not only removes toxins- but also uses and loses minerals. When we drink too much water, a mineral imbalance occurs. Thanks to commercials for Gatorade, most people have an idea of what electrolytes are. Although I would not recommend Gatorade as a healthy drink, they at least understand that water alone does not create the proper balance needed. The electrolytes necessary for the body are: sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate, phosphate, and sulfate. Despite the bad rap that sodium (salt) gets in the media, it’s a vital nutrient. Hyponatraemia develops when you don’t have the proper salt to water ratio. Acute hyponatraemia can result in a coma, brain herniation, and death. Potassium is another one of the minerals that is lost with excess water. This can lead to constipation. It’s actually not the water that keeps our stools soft, it is potassium. Potassium helps the body reabsorb water, and a deficit results in hard stools. Calcium is another important mineral lost through excess water. Lose too much calcium and you may end up paying the price with kidney stones. Other conditions potentially created by mineral loss are: heart disease, heart attack, angina, arrhythmia, unstable blood pressure, degenerative bone diseases, muscular disorders, fibromyalgia and fatigue.

One more downside to guzzling unnecessary amounts of water is unnecessary trips to the bathroom! True, it’s a silly complaint- but if we don’t need all that water, why waste time with all those bathroom trips? I don’t know about you, but as a mom- time is at a premium. Plus- I don’t want leave a 20 month old alone for too long- man-o-man can they think up a lot of “no no’s” to do in a short amount of time!

What about when you’re sick????

In 2004 a study was done to see whether increasing fluids (ie, past the point of thirst) when sick was beneficial, benign, or harmful. This study published in the British Medical Journal. I was very surprised to see the results of their findings. Apparently when sick, the body releases an anti-diuretic hormone. The release of this hormone is most common in lower respiratory infections (chesty colds). The body is trying to conserve all its energy and nutrients for healing. It seems like it would make sense to drink extra water, especially with mucus as a symptom.  Instead, giving extra fluids while sick might lead to hyponatraemia and fluid overload. In the data they cited, there were several deaths in children caused by this. The conclusions reached by the research team are:

 “We found data to suggest that giving increased fluids to patients with respiratory infections may cause harm. To date there are no randomized controlled trials to provide definitive evidence, and these need to be done. Until we have this evidence, we should be cautious about universally recommending increased fluids to patients, especially those with infections of the lower respiratory tract”

I would like to point out that this data is for “increased fluids”. I don’t think we need to limit fluids while sick, just reassess the common practice of “pushing fluids” Certain illnesses will require more water. For example, having a fever increases the need for hydration by about 1 cup per day. Trusting your thirst mechanism should supply your body with the fluids you need.

Common water myths:

  • Thirst = Dehydration
    • It’s on blogs, in articles, and now even in those “forward to your friends if you care” chain emails. It reads something like this “If you are thirsty than it’s too late: you are already dehydrated!” While that might be a nice scare tactic to sell more bottles of water, it’s total malarkey. Your thirst mechanism is triggered by a 2% rise in blood concentration. Dehydration does not occur until a 5% rise in blood concentration. So just being thirsty, does not mean you are dehydrated. Studies done by Barbara Rolls, a professor of nutrition sciences at Pennsylvania State University, found no evidence that people are chronically dehydrated. Apart from some drugs that cause problems with thirst regulation, she feels that most people are adequately hydrated.
  • Urine should be clear
    • No. Although urine should not be dark brown, it shouldn’t be clear either. Urine color is affected by concentration levels, vitamins, minerals, medications, and the foods we eat. A lemony yellow is perfectly acceptable for urine color. Every person is different, and the color and output amount is going to vary from person to person. If you have to wake up in the middle of the night, or go more than 5 times per day- (and aren’t pregnant!) then you are drinking too much.
  • Weight loss is improved
    • The theory goes: drink more water, feel more full, lose more weight. There are a couple of issues with this thinking. 
      1.  Having the goal of a “full stomach” results in a stretched out stomach. Eating to satiety (using fat) is a much more effective way to lose and then maintain weight.
      2.  Although you might feel full at the table: that “feeling” goes away rather quickly once you get up
      3. Drinking water with your meal dilutes your digestive enzymes. Besides making your body less effective at digestion, this can also lead to heart burn, acid reflux, and other digestive issues
    • Let’s get real here: We as a society are drinking more water than ever! Take a look around you next time you’re out somewhere and see how many people are walking around with water bottles. Are we seeing a decline in obesity levels? No, they are still increasing. So while this myth might seem like the magic weight loss pill, it’s obviously not having a positive effect on our waistlines!

Summary-

Ok- so bottom line? I have come to the conclusion we need to let our healthy thirst signals be our guide. Unfortunately – our thirst mechanism isn’t always health. It’s out of whack from guzzling water so much, that our body is in “flush” mode. This is because the body senses the huge amount of liquid you’re suddenly downing and releases a diuretic hormone in an attempt to bring your fluid levels back to normal. In the short-term, this reactive offloading (your half hourly flights to the bathroom) can be over-compensatory, leaving you dehydrated.

 Here’s my suggestions. Note- these suggestions are not necessarily for someone on the Standard American Diet. The SAD has too much grains and fiber in it. Excess fiber basically “spoils” in your intestines, and requires more water to work its way through your system. Ever eat a couple of crackers without any water? Even if you are eating the SAD – rethink how much water you are drinking. Don’t feel guilty if it’s not the 8×8. After all- as we established above- there is no scientific evidence backing it up, and even some studies suggesting it’s too much. For my readers who are eating a traditional food diet, a low carb- high fat diet, or the liberation diet, let’s retrain our bodies to have accurate thirst indicators on them. My thirst indicator was out of whack, and with Kevin’s (author of the liberation diet) encouragement and guidance, this is what I did.

  • Stop drinking water……..take a deep breath. I said water, not liquids. Water depletes our system, while not really adding anything of value back in. Although I still drink an occasional glass of water, especially if I’m out, it’s not the first thing I grab anymore. Kefir, water kefir, moderate amounts of raw milk, herbal tea, small amounts of coffee (esp. with raw cream), kombucha, and even a good bone broth are all great ways to hydrate your body. Although they still require nutrients to process (like water), they are adding something back to your body at the same time.
  • Ditch the “Texas sized” glasses. Confession time- I grew up loving big glasses. In fact, once I moved out on my own, I would steal one or two of my favorites (from my mom), to keep at my house (Sorry mom!). Right now my cabinet is full of 24 oz glasses. In the past I would fill them to the brim, and then stand at the sink and chug, chug, chug away. Now that I’ve found my natural balance, I still use them, but I only fill them about 1/3 of the way full (including ice) – and sip over time.
  • Give it a week or two. Honestly, I was so used to over hydrating, that I trained my body to be prepared for that. Kevin encouraged me to drink just a small amount a day (read: normal) for a week, and not to drink 3 hours before bed. At first I found that really difficult. I had become accustomed to taking that 24 oz glass to bed and drinking it all before I went to sleep. It was mostly mental, but my mouth felt dry at night. I found sucking on an ice-cube for a min or two really helped at those times. For me, it was less than 1 week until I had “reset” my thirst mechanism. I don’t walk around feeling thirsty. My urine is a nice lemon yellow, my skin looks hydrated, and I have energy.
  • Get a tea-cup. Now I know you think I’ve lost my mind, but this really helps. Until your body is balanced, and not in flush mode- when you are thirsty, drink you choice of beverage (not water) from a tea-cup (not a coffee cup). Now I don’t mean stand there and fill it up over and over! Fill it up once, drink (not guzzle), and then walk away. Most the time you will find that your thirst is quite quenched. If not, then go back and get some more 😀

Want to read more? Here are some of the articles and resources about water I used.

http://drbenkim.com/drink-too-much-water-dangerous.htm

http://ajpregu.physiology.org/cgi/content/full/283/5/R993

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~news/releases/2002/aug/080802.html

http://jasn.asnjournals.org/cgi/content/long/19/6/1041

http://www.liberationdiet.com/

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/08/020809071640.htm

http://www.paktribune.com/pforums/posts.php?t=1491&start=1

http://espace.library.uq.edu.au/eserv/UQ:74274/UQ_PV_74274.pdf (this one is the study on drinking extra fluid while sick)

This post is part of Fight back fridays- at food renegade