Sunday, January 29, 2012

Menu Plan Week of January 30th

It is hard to believe that we are wrapping up January!  In just a few months it will be spring again, which is so hard to believe.  I am already receiving some seed catalogs and seeing more friends on Facebook talking about gardening again.  It's so exciting to think about!  The reality is, we still have quite a few months left to hunker down here.

Something that I have become much more aware of whole foods that are in season and out of season.  In order to purchase organic food while staying on a budget, I try my best to purchase what is in season "locally" - I use this term loosely because if you buy produce in Minnesota this year, it more than likely comes from another part of the United States.  Challenge yourself to look at produce a little more closely next time you are shopping - where is it coming from?  What is the footprint that you are leaving on the environment by purchasing that produce?  Each of us can do a little something to make a difference!

On that note, here is my menu for this week!  (Note;  I am making my Sunday dinner on Monday this week, because we have leftovers that need to be eaten!)

Monday:  Crock Pot Whole Chicken with roasted veggies and salad
Tip:  Put this together in the crock pot the night before.  Cut veggies the night before and stick them in a ziploc bag.

Tuesday:  Breakfast for dinner: Pancakes, Sausage and fresh fruit
Tip:  Prepare dry ingredients for pancakes the night before, use precooked sausage and warm up in a frying pan (we like Applegate Farms)

Wednesday:  Bean Burgers with kale chips and brussel sprouts
Tip:  I may try blending the mix the night before and chilling until ready to make the burgers.  I think this would work nicely!  These are quick and easy to make!

Thursday:  Pot Roast Sandwiches (leftovers, just defrost!) with blue corn chips, fresh veggies and dip

Friday:  Out

Saturday:  Zucchini roni pizza (this has been a favorite of ours since our college days!  Use jarred organic roasted peppers this time of year to save money); roasted broccoli and salad

Sunday:  Super Bowl!!!  Quesadilla Bar (Shrimp and Chorizo and Black Bean Sweet Potato) with tomatillo salsa, red salsa, and homemade guacamole. 
Tip:  I have a quesadilla maker - an awesome investment, as it makes the crispiest, restaurant-style quesadillas!  We love brown rice tortillas, they crisp up wonderfully, or Food For Life Sprouted Corn Tortillas.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Menu Plan Week of January 23rd

I am out of town but have a little time to plan my menu this morning!  Then I'll take my grocery list over to Lakewinds Online Shopping Service, enter my order and pick it up tomorrow.  Brilliant!  (This is a free service for orders over $75, and they do an awesome job shopping for everything that you need!) 

My menu plan:

Monday:  Spiced Roast Chicken Breast with crock pot wild rice (no almonds) and green beans
Tip:  Prep wild rice the night before

Tuesday: Spicy Moroccan Chickpeas  served over brown rice couscous

Wednesday:  Grass-fed burgers (from the freezer) with sweet potato fries and salad

Thursday:  Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables (I will not use much cheese in this - about 1/4 cup parmesan and 1/4 cup mozzarella) with salad

Friday:  Leftovers

Saturday:  Out

Sunday:  Crock Pot Whole chicken with broccoli and brown rice

Friday, January 20, 2012

My New Dehydrator!

I was lucky enough to receive a Excalibur dehydrator (5-tray) for a Christmas gift!  I never thought I'd be so excited about a dehydrator, but I am.  This is an incredibly versatile tool for raw and whole food preparation.  Dehydrated fruit, crispy nuts, energy bars, etc. can be prepared with very little "hands on" time!

I shared a wonderful recipe for homemade, allergy-free cereal with you back in November (see it here).  The one downfall to the recipe is that the buckwheat groats are very crunchy - my two year old was just old enough to handle how crunchy it is, but I probably would not have been able to serve it to him if he was any younger.

Enter my new dehydrator.  After scouring many, many blogs to soak up as much information and as many recipes as possible to use with my new dehydrator, I came across this post regarding buckwheat cereal prepared in the dehydrator.  I wondered if this would result in a more puff-like consistency for the groats, and it did!!  I also soaked and dehydrated raw sunflower seeds to add another layer of nutrition to this already wonderful cereal recipe.  (Read about why you would want to soak nuts and seeds here).

Note:  You can make this entire recipe without using a dehydrator.  See the recipe for details!

So, here is my updated version!  This recipe takes some patience but the whole process is almost all hands off.  You can use the buckwheat "puffs" on their own for breakfast, but this recipe is a fantastic nutritional powerhouse when you combine all of these ingredients together!

Updated Allergy-Free Granola/Cereal
(Thanks to Holly Larsen for the original recipe)

  • 1.5 cups soaked buckwheat groats (find these in the bulk section at your Co-op or Whole Foods)
  • 1.5 cups quinoa puffs (From Nuts Online - these are awesome, a great add-in for any granola recipe or as a cereal substitute on its own!  Be aware that the puffs are tiny - simply tiny puffed quinoa "grains")
  • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds (also found in the bulk section at your Co-op) *You can omit these and add in an additional 1 - 1.5 cups quinoa puffs!!
  • 4 tbls coconut oil
  • 1 tbls ground chia seeds mixed with 1/3 cup warm water (you can also find these in bulk!)
  • 30 drops vanilla stevia (find this in the baking aisle at Whole Foods or your Co-op - I use Sweetleaf Vanilla Creme)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch salt

Step 1:  Buckwheat Puffs and Crispy Sunflower Seeds
See this link for more information on buckwheat cereal.  Soak buckwheat groats in water overnight. Drain and rinse.  Add back to the glass bowl.jar and cover with water again.  Soak for another 8-12 hours or so.   Drain and Rinse.  Spread on parchment paper or a Paraflexx sheet in your dehydrator.

Soak sunflower seeds in water for 12-24 hours.  Drain and rinse.  Spread on parchment paper or a Paraflexx sheet in your dehydrator. 

Dehydrate both the buckwheat and the seeds at 115 degrees.  I started this process at 9:30 at night.  The buckwheat was ready by early morning - crunchy like a little puff cereal.  The seeds were ready in the early evening the next day (around 5:30) - just make sure they are dry and crunchy when you remove them!

NOTE:  If you do not have a dehydrator, follow the link I mentioned above (this link) for directions to puff the buckwheat in your oven.  You can mix roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds into the cereal at the end.  If they are salted, omit the salt in the recipe.

Step 2:  Make your cereal!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Let chia seeds soak in water and melt the coconut oil.  Add stevia to the chia seed mixture. Mix chia/stevia and coconut oil with buckwheat, sunflower seeds and quinoa puffs. Spread on parchment/Silpat lined sheet and bake 25 minutes stirring periodically. Cool completely and store in airtight container. 

You may add in dried fruit once it is cool or sprinkle it as desired right before eating. 

Serve like cereal or sprinkled on yogurt (one of my son's favorite breakfast meals).  This would be great as a snack all by itself! :)

Posted at:

Real Food, Allergy Free
Lunchbox Love Allergy Free Vintage Cookery

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Guest Post at "Real Kids Eat Spinach"!

Real Kids Eat SpinachThanks to Susan at Real Kids Eat Spinach, I had the opportunity to write a guest post and share another perspective on our journey to wellness after my son was diagnosed with food allergies.  I was so horoed to work with Susan on this - I am a HUGE fan of her blog.  Read the post here.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Menu Plan Week of January 16th

idof-3I spent the weekend visiting family and friends in Milwaukee.  I had two six hour drives to burn through on my own so I took advantage and borrowed the book on CD entitled "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollen.  I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone interested in how the Western diet has evolved during the past century and some of the staggering statistics around how the Western diet correlates to so many of our modern diseases and disorders.  Finally, Pollen gives his readers many wonderful suggestions to implement a whole food approach to eating into our lives.  Borrow the book on CD or the book itself from your library, I guarantee that you will learn so much!

With that said, here is my whole foods centered menu plan!!  (We'll be out of town next weekend, so my menu plan is a bit short this week).

Monday:  Slow Cooker Chicken and Wild Rice Soup (without the cream base this time)

Tuesday:  Spaghetti with Lemon Basil and Salmon (sub brown rice noodles)

Wednesday:  Quinoa Burgers with spinach salad and cauliflower poppers

Thursday: Black Bean Sweet Potato Quesadillas

Friday: Out of town

Saturday:  Out of town

Sunday:  Out to dinner (our standard, Chipotle) :)

Check out orgjunkie's blog (Menu Plan Monday) for more menu plan inspiration!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Wholesome (Kid-Friendly!) Snacks: Guest Post!

I am so excited to introduce Elevate Wellness' first guest blogger to all of you!  Susan at Real Kids Eat Spinach is by and far one of my favorite food bloggers!  She provides wonderful, wholesome recipes and menus that you can realistically implement into your repertoire. 

Below, she shares a little bit about her background, along with some delicious kid-friendly (and allergy-friendly) snack ideas.  I hear over and over again from all of you who have young children that snack time is the most challenging time of day....  I could not agree more!  In this post, Susan provides many suggestions to inspire you to stay on track with a healthy diet for you and your family during snack time! 

I'm so grateful for the opportunity to visit and share on Christina's blog! I am a single mother somewhat obsessed with nutrition who decided to extend that passion beyond my own kitchen (I'm sure to both of my kids' relief!)

While receiving my holistic health coach certification, I started a blog for my burgeoning business: Real Kids Eat Spinach. I am fortunate that neither of my children has of yet shown any food sensitivities or allergies. I usually cook, though, as if they do!

I personally follow a Paleo lifestyle, avoiding gluten, grains, soy and most dairy. On my site I always try to be mindful of the wide range of personalities, diets and needs out there. All of my recipes are labeled appropriately and I always try to offer substitutions and ideas for those who need to avoid nuts, eggs, and other allergens.

My main goal is to get parents and their kids eating real food. Natural sweeteners. No refined flours. Healthy fats. This can obviously be a challenge, especially when everyone is constantly on the go. I appreciate the value of convenient snack items; on my Facebook page I often suggest deals on healthier packaged items such as natural applesauce pouches and organic dried fruit.

You can't beat homemade snacks, though, for many reasons. They allow to know and control exactly what's going into the little mouths you're feeding. It can be cost effective to prepare healthy goodies, and a fun way to get your kids involved and excited about food.

It's great to maximize on the times kids seem to have an opinion or interest about making something. Having a helper makes the prep go by more quickly, and gets them very motivated to snack on their own creations! If you have a reluctant or disinterested crew, promise them samples for their hard work. I find chocolate chips and chopped apple are very good forms of payment.

If only my two were better at clean-up...

Homemade hummus is fantastic, as it can double as both an after school snack AND lunchbox standby. This version couldn't be easier or cheaper, as it omits the tahini and comes together quickly.

After once scorching an unwatched pot, I now always make my homemade applesauce in the crock pot. It's low maintenance and a great way to fill your kitchen with the best of comforting smells.

While perhaps not always portable, you can't beat a smoothie for quick, easy and customizable. I make green smoothies often, and *love* to use avocado to both thicken and boost the nutritional profile of my kids' frozen treats. Frozen banana chunks also do a great job of adding nice texture.

If you're a fan of helpful kitchen gadgets, a dehydrator and mandolin can both be useful for snack-making. The mandolin can cut perfect, thin slices of fruits and vegetables. Once dehydrated, you have your own naturally sweet chips!

I'm a baker at heart, though, so often make big batches of healthier muffins and bars. I have been known to put just about anything individually wrapped in the freezer, a good way to always have homemade options on hand.

A few of our recent favorites:
Vegan Zucchini Gingerbread Muffins (can also be made gluten-free and nut-free)
Almond Butter Krispie Squares (use sunflower seed butter to make them nut-free)
Flourless Pumpkin Brownies

Since baking is my passion I wanted to share an easy recipe that I've been tweaking, which offers a variety of customizations for your family's needs and personalities. They're a portable riff on granola, but without the grains and tons of sugar.

The granola balls shown are vegan but do contain nuts. I used maple syrup as my sweetener and an almond trifecta (flour, butter and raw almond pieces). As I've noted below, though, it is quite easy to make this recipe nut-free. I also made them more of a treat by using shredded coconut and unsweetened carob chips. These could be replaced with dried fruit or other nuts/seeds. In fact, if oats are not an issue for you they would obviously work in a granola-based recipe!

Granola Balls

½ cup raw sunflower seeds
½ cup raw pumpkin seeds
½ cup flour of choice (brown rice, almond, spelt, whole wheat)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. sea salt
1 cup raw nuts of choice, chopped (sub more seeds or oats to make nut-free)
1/2 cup total of dried nuts, unsweetened shredded coconut, carob or chocolate chips
¼ cup plus 1-2 tbs. liquid sweetener of choice (maple syrup, raw honey, raw agave)
2 tbs. nut or sunflower seed butter
splash of non-dairy milk or water (use enough to help the dough come together)
½ tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat liner.

In a food processor combine seeds, flour, cinnamon and salt. Pulse until the mixture comes together (will still be chunky).

Stir in whatever nuts, chips, etc you are using. To this mixture add the liquid ingredients. Using your greased hands or a wooden spoon, combine well.

Shape dough into tight balls about an inch across. Arrange on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

The balls will be soft but will set up once cooled. My girl likes them best warm, while her brother likes to wait for the crunch!

These can be stored in an air-tight container and also freeze well.

Thanks for reading and here's to happy, healthy snacking!

Posted at:
Traditional Food Tuesdays

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Menu Plan Week of 1/9

I hope you all had a fantastic weekend!  As some of you may have seen via my Facebook post at Just One Bite, I received an Excalibur Dehydrator for Christmas and could not be more excited about all of the possibilities!  I dried some fruit late this week (pineapple and banana) and it turned out wonderful.  What I am most excited about are all of the allergy-friendly foods I can make for my little guy that will also be delicious and nourishing for my husband and I.  I plan to make this recipe for energy bars in the next week or two - this one can be made without a dehydrator as well so check it out either way!  I will keep you updated as I try new dehydrator recipes in the coming months!

Here is my menu plan for this week:

Monday:  Pasta bake (I'll use homemade marinara from the freezer, spinach, brown rice noodles and crumbled Italian sausage with a little freshly grated Parmesan melted over it) with salad
Tip:  Make ahead and pop it in the oven when you return home!

Tuesday:  Pot Roast (grass fed beef roast... yum!) with a side of roasted broccoli
Tip:  Brown the meat the night before, dump all ingredients in the pot except for potatoes and broth (save those for the morning).  Plug the pot in and add potatoes and broth before heading out the door!)

Wednesday: Slow Cooker Vegetarian Mexican Lasagna with a salad (I will use about half the cheese that this calls for, no tomatoes and corn tortillas)
Tip:  You can prep this the night before, the tortillas will probably be a little soggy but they end up getting really soft in the crock pot anyway so shouldn't make a big difference.

Thursday:  Leftovers from Wednesday (I'll freeze Tuesday's leftovers for another meal)

Friday:  Out of town

Saturday:  Out of town

Sunday:  Grass fed beef burgers with roasted root vegetables (check out great recipes herehere and here) and salad

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Probiotic Power: Fermented Foods

As you look to kick 2012 off on the right foot, you may be thinking about improving your eating habits.  But have you thought even deeper than that?  If your gut is not in the right condition to properly digest all of the wholesome foods that you are eating, you most likely will not see the maximum benefit!  Probiotics and fermented foods are critical to the health of your gut.  They provide all of the beneficial bacteria that your gut needs to thrive.  This is especially important when you are battling illness or if you or someone in your family has allergies, asthma, or other ailments/conditions.  Almost any health condition that you may encounter can benefit from promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut through probiotics.

For a more detailed primer on fermented foods, check out Food Ranger's recent post here.
My family consumes probiotics in a variety of forms.  You may initially think of probiotics as powdered capsules that you ingest as part of a supplement regimen.  This is only one way to consume probiotics.  Fermented foods add yet another layer of "probiotic power" to your families' diet. 

For a a great primer on fermented foods, check out Food Ranger's recent post here.
As we have implemented whole food forms of probiotics (i.e. fermented foods) into our daily regimen, we have seen significant benefits including stronger immune systems (and the ability to fend off colds and flus without the use of medication) and dramatic improvements to our overall digestive health (especially for my little guy)! 

In the long term, fermented foods and probiotics can be a significant component in healing your gut, which in some cases can eliminate food sensitivities and even help children and adults overcome food allergies!

Here are a few of the fermented foods/beverages that I have implemented into my family's diet:

Tula's CocoKefir:  This is a favorite in our family!  This incredibly tasty beverage packs a major probiotic punch - my two year old started with one teaspoon of this beverage each day and has worked his way up to about 1/4 cup (a little bit with each meal).  This is a wonderful compliment to powdered probiotic supplements because it will introduce all sorts of new, good bacteria into your gut.  You can read about the incredible story behind this product here.  (The founders, Holly and Michael, are mom and dad to Tula.  They used coconut kefir as part of a dietary regimen that significantly contributed to Tula's recovery from autism.  It is worth a read!!!)  They distribute across the country, but you can find it locally at Lunds/Byerly's, Kowalskis, and most co-ops. 

Sauerkraut:  I recently had the opportunity to make the jar of homemade sauerkraut you see to the left- it was my first try and I am really happy with the results.  You can find a huge selection of recipes online.  I recently ran across this one and will be trying it next time!  For my first try, I used a veggie starter culture which felt a little "safer" to me than using only salt, but I think the results with salt would be better!  Consume 1-3 teaspoons of this with meals for improved digestion and more probiotic power.

Bubbies Pickles:  This is an even easier way to implement fermented foods into your diet!  You can find Bubbies pickles and sauerkraut at local co-ops or Whole Foods. These pickles are on the pricey side (a little under $6.00 for this large 33 oz jar) but worth every penny!  My little guy and I eat at least half of one of these pickles each at one mealtime each day (I will usually either have a half of a pickle or 2 teaspoons of sauerkraut).  These pickles are made without vinegar and are hands down the best pickles I have ever eaten! 

Water Kefir:  See more about my experience making water kefir here.  I make batches of water kefir on and off during the year.  When I am not using the cultures, I keep them in sugar water in the fridge.  You can even make water kefir soda once you have fermented the beverage, it is delicious!  We usually flavor our water kefir with frozen fruit (once fermented, add some frozen fruit and place in the fridge overnight.  Strain the next day and you will have a yummy fruit-flavored beverage).

Re-posted at:
day2day joys
Allergy-Free Vintage Cookery