Real Food Cook-Out Menu

Garlic Herb Potato Salad - my favorite summer side dish!

I'm spending several days at my parents house while my husband is at a big long conference. I'm not doing much cooking while I'm here (what a nice break!), but yesterday my extended family got together for a cook-out, and I just HAD to share with you what we ate. It was so delicious and healthy and real!

Our Family Cook-out Menu

Grass-fed Hamburgers
Applegate Farms Organic Hot Dogs
Trader Joe's 100% Whole Wheat Buns
Garlic-Herb Potato Salad
Green Beans with Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts
Grilled Broccoli with lemon and thyme
Fruit Salad
Gluten-Free cupcakes (for the gluten-intolerant family members, but tasty enough for everyone to enjoy!)
"Bars" (a very unhealthy but totally delicious bar cookie that my family has been making for ages. I'm totally okay with compromising on this one because they are so darn good and it's a once in awhile kind of thing!)

What does your family like to eat at cook-outs? Have any easy and healthy ideas to share?

 This is part of Real Food Wednesday, Whole Foods Wednesday, and Simple Lives Thursday.


Nine Great Snacks for Toddlers - or Anyone!

It's hard to come up with easy, real food snacks for toddlers. So I thought I'd share with you some of our toddler's favorite healthy snacks. Next time you're tempted to reach for the cheerios or fruit snacks, try one of these instead!

Nine Great Snacks for Toddlers

1. Olives (he likes the garlic stuffed green ones the best)

2. Frozen Peas (frozen, right out of the bag)

3. Plain, whole milk yogurt (with fruit or homemade jam stirred in)

4. Fruit Smoothies (made with frozen fruit, yogurt and raw milk, with the immersion blender for easier clean-up)

5. Cottage Cheese

6. Apples or bananas with peanut butter

7. Raisins and cashews (or any dried fruit and any easy-to-chew nuts)

8. Avocado, sliced and salted

9. Hard boiled eggs

We have found that having easy snacks available makes a day with a two-and-a-half year old go much more smoothly! These all require little-to-no preparation, and many of them are portable (especially nuts and dried fruit, and smoothies in a sippy cup). Of course, these snacks work for anyone, not just toddlers. :)

What does your toddler like to snack on?

 This is part of Monday Mania and Fat Tuesday.


Rhubarb Water Kefir: What Squirt is Trying to Be

Trying to kick the pop habit? How about a nice cold glass of Rhubarb Water Kefir?


I'm telling you, it's way better than any pop you've ever had. My husband, who is generally wary of fermented beverages, said "This is what Squirt is trying to be!"

It's the first fermented beverage he's actually been enthusiastic about. I crave kombucha. He just wishes we had orange juice. But this stuff was a different story!

So what in the world is it?

I was inspired by a recipe featured on the Gnowfglins Seasonal Recipe Round-Up for Rhubarbade. (Thanks for the inspiration, Laurie of Common Sense Homesteading!) Her recipe says to puree some rhubarb and strain it, so you are left with what is essentially rhubarb juice. Then you add some water and the sweetener of your choice - she chose stevia for a healthy sugar-free version. She said her family liked it, even though they don't normally like rhubarb, and that it tastes a little like apples. I thought that sounded pretty good, and I had some rhubarb in the freezer from last year, so I thought I'd give it a go. But then, being the traditional foodie that I am, I thought, Hey, could I make it....fermented?

 The answer is yes. And if you already make water kefir, it's as easy as adding the rhubarb juice to a finished batch of water kefir and leaving it on the counter for another day or two to get fizzy. (I also added a splash of lemon juice. Yum.) The result is a tangy, slightly sweet, extremely refreshing beverage, perfect for this hot weather we've been having!

If you don't already make water kefir, I highly recommend it. If you're clueless, here's a quick primer on this wonderful beverage:

According to Cultures For Health (where I bought my water kefir grains):

"Kefir consists of lactic acid bacteria and yeast existing in a symbiotic relationship. The benefits are similar to those of milk kefir (aka dairy kefir) but the average person will be able to consume larger amounts of it due to it's water base."

If you are now saying "What is milk kefir?" Here is a helpful description from the same source:

"Milk kefir grains are live active cultures consisting of yeast and bacteria which exist in a symbiotic relationship. Adding the kefir grains to fresh milk yields a probiotic drink within 24 to 48 hours."

Both of these beverages, milk kefir and water kefir, are probiotic, which means they are good for the gut, AKA the digestive system. Most of us these days have comprimised digestive systems due to the Standard American Diet, antibiotics, the birth control pill, vaccines, and other environmental factors. A compromised gut can lead to allergies, nutrient deficiencies, and out-of-whack hormones, among other things. So drink (and eat) up those probiotics, people!

If you're interested in getting into water kefir, which I prefer to dairy kefir, personally (I couldn't get into the whole fizzy milk thing...), I recommend you watch this video by Katie at Kitchen Stewardship, where she shows you just how easy and fast it is! And then hop on over to Cultures for Health and take the plunge (no, they didn't give me any money to say that, but wouldn't that be nice?)! They send you very helpful instructions and are available for troubleshooting. Really, you can do this!

Here is the "recipe", if you can call it that!

Rhubarb Water Kefir

3 c. cultured water kefir
1 c. rhubarb liquid, made by pureeing and straining fresh or frozen rhubarb
a splash of lemon juice

Combine in a quart jar, and close tightly. Leave at room temperature 1-2 days until it reaches desired level of carbonation. Transfer to refrigerator. Serve over ice and toss out the pop!

Do you make water kefir? What's your favorite way to flavor it?



How to Eat Well After Baby Arrives

Esther Catherine, just a few days old, with Big Brother Caedmon

Right after having a baby is a critical time to eat well. You're recovering from perhaps the most physically demanding experience of your life, during which you lost sleep, burned a ton of calories, endured pain (or at least very intense pressure, for you hypnpbirthers out there), and PUSHED A BABY OUT OF YOUR BODY. If you've had a c-section, you're recovering from major surgery. Your body needs to heal and be replenished. Your job now is to rest, eat well, and take care of your baby.

(If you're not sure what I mean by eating well, read this: What is "Healthy"?)

If you're breastfeeding, the food you eat is nourishing your baby, too, just as much as it was during pregnancy. The composition of breast milk changes depending on what you eat, and a nourishing diet will also help ensure an adequate supply. As with all stages of parenting, you have to take care of yourself in order to take care of your child!

Ironically, the postpartum period is perhaps one of the most difficult times in life to eat well. If you don't have enough help, it's easy to rely on take-out and convenience foods when you are hungry and don't have the time or energy to cook. And if you DO have help in the form of meals delivered from kind friends, you don't have any say in the nutritional content of those meals. Here are a few tips to help.

Six Tips for Eating Well After the Birth of a Baby

1) Set up a meal registry.  Sites like Meal Baby or Take Them a Meal make it easy to keep track of who is bringing meals when. You send out invitations to people who you think might like to help, and they can sign up for specific dates right there on the site. An added benefit is that you can list preferences and food allergies without having to tell each person individually. If there are certain things your family is not willing to compromise on nutritionally, you can kindly let people know.

2) Stock your freezer.  Having a stash of casseroles, soups, and ready made meal components (like hamburger patties, meatballs, cooked and shredded chicken, soaked and cooked beans) can help out immensely in those first few weeks after baby comes. Putting directions right on the bag or container makes it possible for someone other than the new mommy to pull it out and put it in the oven. I recommend getting started stocking your freezer during your second trimester when you're feeling your best!

3) Adopt an attitude of gratefulness.  Our family has a general rule that we eat what we are served. We are blessed that we don't have any food allergies, so we have the freedom to do this. If we are eating at someone's house or at a potluck, we eat the food and enjoy it, even if it's not something we would eat at home. Gratefulness for someone's hospitality trumps our personal preferences and our desire to eat healthy food all the time. The same goes for meals delivered to our home. We eat them, and enjoy them. And then we make sure to eat real, nourishing food the rest of the time.

4) Rely on simple meals and snacks. Send your husband or your mom to the store to stock up on simple, whole foods that that others can easily prepare for you.  Here are some of my favorites:
  • fried eggs with whole grain toast (and plenty of butter)
  • oatmeal with maple syrup and butter
  • whole milk yogurt with fruit
  • fruit smoothies (you can prepare baggies of frozen fruit ahead of time)
  • cheese and crackers (I like Ak-Mak for their simple ingredient list)
  • hummus and pita (get some feta and olives and you've got a gourmet treat!)
  • ice cream (I just happened to make some dark chocolate peppermint ice cream the day before Esther was born. We certainly enjoyed that in those early days!)
  • tuna salad (Now is not the time for homemade mayo. How about Greek yogurt and olive oil instead?)
5) Have a back-up plan. If it gets to be dinner time and you're clueless, order take-out. It's okay. Try to choose a restaurant that makes food from scratch and uses local ingredients. Sure, it might not be as healthy as what you make at home, but it's okay to compromise once in awhile. Sometimes you just gotta eat.

6) Finally, keep taking your supplements.  Supplements are not a substitute for good food, but they certainly help ensure that you are getting the nutrients you need, whether your diet is great or not. Here is what I took while I was pregnant. And even though my baby is now on the other side of my uterus, I'm still taking them. When I remember, that is. :)

What tips do you have for eating well after the birth of a baby? What has been your biggest challenge in those first few weeks?

This is part of Monday Mania.


Child Temperament and Guilt - at Modern Alternative Mama

Hop on over to Modern Alternative Mama today, where I'm talking about the guilt I have felt for my son's sleep problems, and how my new baby daughter is helping me let it go.

And just for fun, here she is!

I'll be sharing more about her birth soon, I hope!


Hummus, Feta, and Radish Sandwich

I am very blessed that my husband comes home for lunch almost every weekday. Except Fridays. On Fridays, he goes out to lunch with his co-workers. I used to be sad about that. I get lonely during the day and it really feeds my spirit to have that hour with him in the middle of the day.

Recently, however, I realized that there is one benefit to having lunch without my husband: I can eat whatever I want! No, I don't mean secretly pigging out on ice cream or Hostess products. I mean I can eat leftover soup that he thought was gross, or have a big salad that he might not consider "substantial" enough. Or I can eat radishes. And lots of them.

When I was in kindergarten I checked out a book from the school library in which an old man tells a little girl, "Don't be saddish, have a radish!" We quoted that line often throughout my childhood, but it wasn't until recently that I began to truly appreciate radishes. Thinly sliced on salads and sandwiches, they really do have the ability to turn a sad mood into a happy one.

So yesterday when my hubby was eating Chinese food with the guys from work, I devoured this little creation. And it made me smile. I feel almost silly giving you these instructions on how to make a sandwich, but here they are, nonetheless. Try it!

Hummus, Feta, and Radish Sandwich


ingredients :
soaked, sprouted, or sourdough whole grain bread
grass-fed butter
hummus, preferably homemade
feta cheese
radishes, thinly sliced
homemade Greek Dressing
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

method :
Toast the bread. I made it open face but it would work as a traditional sandwich as well. Spread butter on the bread. Spread hummus on the bread. Sprinkle some crumbled feta on top of the hummus. Layer sliced radishes on top, and drizzle with the dressing. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on top. Admire your creation and gobble it up before your husband comes home to see what you're eating!

P.S. I'm not gonna lie. My hummus was store-bought, preservatives and all. But what can I say, I just had a baby!

How do you like to eat radishes? And what do you eat when you don't have to worry about your spouse or children eating it?