Mason Jar Salads

You need to add this to your food prep list.

I love my mason jar salads; most weeks they are a usual part of my food prep routine. I talk about food prep a lot because I've seen what a difference it can make in a person's ability to make their health goals a reality. I don't mean what you're prepping for dinner tonight, I'm talking about what you can prep ahead of time to make your entire week full of healthy food choices.

I've always hated making salads in advance and storing them in plastic-ware (or even "traditional" glassware). You spend all this time washing and cutting up vegetables, just to find a salad with wilted lettuce and mushy cucumbers a couple days later.

Why I will NEVER go back to storing my salads in plastic-ware or traditional glassware:

  • They usually don't last more than 1-2 days before they start to loose their crunch.
  • I try to avoid plastic as much as possible (both for my health and the environment).
  • Mismatched lids and containers are a nightmare.
  • Dressing! You always have to pack it separate, I either forget it or it makes a mess somehow.

Why I will ALWAYS use mason jars for my salad prep:

  • They keep the veggies fresh for 2-5 days, seriously fresh.
  • They are glass, better for you and the environment.
  • They are all the same size with the same lids! Easy to organize and to grab in a hurry.
  • They fit well in a lunch box or cooler.
  • Dressing is already there, without making things soggy; actually making your salad even tastier.

Here's what you will need-

  • Mason jars, 4-5 if you're prepping for just yourself this week
    • You have to get the WIDE MOUTH jars, it will make it a lot easier to fill and empty
    • I use the large 32 ounce jars, but you could also use the smaller variety. The 32oz provide a large salad, the smaller ones would be better for a side salad.
  • Dressing of your choice
    • I love Tessemae's dressings because they meet my healthy fat standards (most dressings have inflammatory oils in them)
    • I also use plain extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar sometimes
  • Protein of your choice (I have cooked chicken pictured below)
    • Ideally this is a meat option, hard boiled eggs (with the shell on) can also be used but read through to see what you do differently
    • Beans would be a vegan option
  • Crunchy veggies of your choice (washed and cut-up)
    • I have broccoli, celery, red cabbage and carrots pictured below
  • Any other non-crunchy veggie (washed and cut-up)
    • I have peas pictured, cucumbers are another favorite
  • Leafy greens of your choice (washed and prepped)

STEP 1

-Place all your ingredients in separate bowls out on the counter or table.

-Make sure your mason jars are clean and dry.

-Take moment to look at the large amount of color you're getting in your diet this week!

STEP 2

-You will start by pouring the dressing in FIRST. I usually add more than I would to a fresh salad; your meat and veggies are going to soak some up! My guess is about an "inch" worth of dressing if you're looking at your jar.

-I found purple mason jars last week and am loving them!

STEP 3

-It's time to add all your goodies, the ORDER is very important.

-Meat or protein goes in first (except hard boiled eggs), followed by your crunchiest veggie. These are going to marinate in the dressing, I find that broccoli, celery and carrots work well.

-You want to make sure that they fill almost half your jar, this will prevent the dressing from leaking on to the lettuce too soon.

-After your protein and crunchy veggies you can add some "not so crunchy" items, like cucumbers, cherry tomatoes or peas.

-DO NOT SHAKE or stir your jar, you don't want the dressing getting on these other items.

-Add the leafy greens. I try to fit as much as possible in mine, usually I smash down the greens a little to do this.

-If you're using a hard boiled egg you could leave room at the top and place it on the greens, or pack it separately. You will just peel it and put it on your salad when you are ready to consume it.

-Place lids on tightly and keep in fridge until you are ready to eat!

STEP 4

-Pack in your lunch for work or enjoy at home!

-Simply pour out onto a plate and everything will fall into place. If you're in a hurry you could just shake up the jar well and eat right from it, although I recommend putting in on a plate or in a bowl.

Below are some other pictures from various food prep sessions. I use these salads to get rid of whatever veggies are in my fridge!

Cheers to food prep! Let me know what you think!


Elderberry Syrup. A winter staple.

What are some of your winter staples? Things you keep around the house in anticipation of colds, runny noses and sore throats?

One of mine is Elderberry syrup. You can easily purchase this at your local health food store, or make your own. Making your own is MUCH more beneficial and super cost effective. You will have the added benefits of medicinal spices and local honey when you make this yourself!

Elderberry syrup is high in vitamin C and other immune supporting nutrients. Depending on what you add to yours, it could become a nutrient powerhouse. I tend to load mine up!

I use turmeric, the yellow spice that gives curry its yellow color. This yellow root is loaded with nutrients and anti-inflammatory capabilities. I also add ginger, which is another nutrient dense root that is forgotten sometimes.

I've worked at a health food store for over 15 years and elderberry syrup has ALWAYS been a best seller. Making my own is IDEAL. I get to add the spices I mentioned above, in addition to local honey. Local honey contains local pollen properties that can also support your immune system.

I use it as a preventative at my house, but you could also just break it out when you felt you were coming down with something.


Here's what I do...

Prep time ~10 minutes

Cook time ~1 hour

Ingredients:

4 cups water

1 cup dried elderberries (Can be found in bulk at health food stores)

1 cup raw, local honey

1 teaspoon dried/fresh ginger or a little more...

1 teaspoon dried/fresh turmeric or a little more...

1 teaspoon cinnamon

  1. Bring water, elderberries and spices (ginger, turmeric, cinnamon) to a boil in a large pan. Turn heat down and simmer for ~45 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced to half of what it was.

 

2. Once the mixture has reduced (or about 45 minutes), turn heat off and let set until mixture has reached room temperature.

3. Once it has reached room temperature you can strain out the elderberries. I like to use a cheesecloth and glass bowl. I squeeze all the good stuff out of the berries and then throw them into my compost container.

4. Mix the raw, local honey into the elderberry liquid. Its important that you don't do this when the liquid is hot. Heat kills some of the good stuff in the honey!

5. After you've mixed them together you can store in the refrigerator for a several months. This will last you all winter long!


You can use daily for overall immune system support, I use 1/2-1 Tablespoon a day for adults or 1/2-1 teaspoon a day for children. Remember children under 1 year cannot have honey.

Let me know what you think!


Paleo Shake & Bake Tenders (21DSD Friendly)

You need these in your life. I love chicken tenders. I don't know why, I always have. If I'm going to eat something I know I shouldn't be eating, it's chicken tenders hands down.

Of course I'm going to find a tasty way to eat them!

These are SO easy! I want to say that they kind of remind me of "shake & bake" chicken, but considering I have no recollection of what that tastes like I can't say for sure.

 
Paleo Shake & Bake Tenders (21DSD Friendly) 

Makes: ~10 tenders

Prep: 5-10 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

What you need-

  • ~1 pound raw chicken tenders (you can cut up breasts yourself or be lazy like me and buy them pre-sliced)
  • 1.5 Cups Almond Flour/Meal (I highly recommend Now Foods Raw Almond Flour because its heartier than some of the others out there, this makes for a better tender)
  • 3 eggs
  • Seasonings, seasonings, seasonings
  • I used ~1Tb sea salt, and ~1-2 teaspoons of each of the following: pepper, cayenne, paprika, garlic granules

 

  1. Place aluminium foil over a cookie sheet. Set your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Place almond flour in a large bowl and mix in seasonings.  Im heavy with the cayenne in this because I love them a little spicy.

 

3. Whisk eggs in a separate bowl to dip your chicken.

4. One by one dip each piece of chicken in the eggs and then the almond flour mixture. Place them on the cookie sheet equal distance apart.


5. Bake for ~25 minutes (at 375F) or until chicken is cooked!

6. Throw some veggies on a plate (because whats a meal without veggies) and a dipping sauce of your choice. Enjoy!

These store okay in the fridge, but are best immediately after cooking. They never last long in my house, my husband is already finishing up the batch I made today.

Let me know what you think!

Kombucha. Why I drink it and how to make it.

omeone recently asked me if they should drink "the silt-like sh*t" in the bottom of their kombucha.

My answer was YES.

I thought I would take a moment to talk about why that funky stuff floating in your kombucha is so great for you, and where it came from.

Let's start with fermented foods.

The human race has been eating fermented foods forever. Seriously, forever.

Unfortunately as convenience foods filled our pantries, fermented foods slowly have taken up less space on our plates. In fact, a lot of people may not consume any at all. Our ancestors would consume these foods several times a day, not just for the taste but for the health benefits. It's not like we have replaced these fermented gems with something better, most of us have replaced them with a bunch of carbohydrate rich garbage (carbage) loaded with preservatives and sugar.

What are fermented foods?

Raw sauerkraut, raw pickles, kefir, yogurt (with live cultures), miso, kimchi, lots of other vegetable ferments and kombucha. More about these later.

So why should you be eating (or drinking) at least one (or more) of these foods a day?

They contain probiotics, the good bacteria that lives in your intestinal tract. These friendly bugs have been in the spotlight of research for years. We are learning more about them then we ever imagined, there are SO many! They actually outnumber your cells 10 to 1 and weigh almost as much as your brain. Here are a few highlights...

  • They are our first line of defense. When you hear that 70% of your immune system is in your gut, its because of the probiotics there. Supporting this community of good bacteria also supports your immune system.
  • They are linked to a large number number of health issues, including weight management, cardiovascular disease, inflammation, and more.  We know that having a healthy microbiome (your population of good bacteria) has a positive impact on most organ systems.
  • One of my favorite things to learn about is the impact that our gut bacteria has on our brain. Yes, your gut has a large impact on cognitive health. There is a neurologist who has an entire site about this topic, check it out HERE.

Fermented foods contain a large variety of microflora (those good guys), more than most supplements. We only know how to manufacturer or create some strains of good bacteria, the magic that happens through the natural fermentation process is going to give you a much larger variety on a regular basis.

Fermented foods also contain "predigested" nutrients that are easy for your body to use, improving digestion and nutrient absorption.

That was a quick summary of why you need ferments in your life!

Basically, supporting your digestive system through consuming fermented foods (rich in probiotics) means you're also supporting brain health, your cardiovascular system, a healthy inflammatory response and your immune system. Who doesn't want that?

Now to the fun stuff.

You can find fermented foods at a grocery store or most health food stores.

Back to the list...

RAW pickles or RAW sauerkraut- they must be refrigerated ALL the time. If you're buying them off the grocery store shelf then they have been heated (pasteurization) and have no more good bacteria for you. Unfortunately heating the probiotics kills them, so you have to be careful! Bubbies is a fantastic brand that makes raw ferments!

Kefir and/or Yogurt- must be labeled that it has "active cultures," or they may be listed. Kefir is my go to. If you don't have kefir in your life you need to get some. Yogurt typically has 2-4 strains of good bacteria, Kefir has 12. Yes 12. Make the change.

Miso is a fermented soybean product that makes some delicious soup. Boil your water and make your soup, then add the miso to the warm water (not boiling). Remember, heating up that good bacteria can kill it.

Kimchi and other raw ferments. This list could go on forever. I've seen fermented beets, carrots, ginger, etc. If you're a DIY person, start fermenting at home. Its SO cost effective and you can create some delicious things!

Kombucha- my favorite. You can buy it just about anywhere now, its in the refrigerator. If you love it and find yourself buying it on a regular basis it can get costly! Prices range $3-6 a bottle!

This is what led me to making my own, I actually enjoy the taste more than the store bought.

Here it goes. Making some bouch...Im keeping it simple.

There are a lot of ways to do this, but I have found what works for me. As always, make sure to wash your hands and prepare in a clean area.

What you need to get started-

  • 1 SCOBY (Symbiotic 'Colony' of Bacteria and Yeast) with it's "starter fluid"
    • I got mine from a friend, you can find someone who makes kombucha (walk into a health food store and ask the staff) or you can order one online. It's a one time purchase, it will keep reproducing once you get going.
  • 1 Cup Sugar (it needs to be a granulated sugar)
    • I use beet sugar from the health food store, most sugars will work. You cannot use honey, you have to have a specific SCOBY for this (Ill show you that at the end) or maple syrup. Sugar substitutes will NOT work, the fermentation process requires actual sugar.
  • ~1 Gallon of filtered/purified water (not tap water, chlorine in tap is bad news for your SCOBY)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons bulk tea or 7-10 tea bags (could be green, black, yerba mate- your choice)
  • 1 Gallon Glass container to store

What you will need 7-10 days after starting...

  • Flavors of your choice (juice, juice concentrate, frozen or fresh fruit)
  • Small jars to disperse your kombucha for flavoring and storage

Please read through ALL the steps before getting started!

STEP 1.

Bring 4-6 cups water almost to a boil in a large pot (if it boils thats okay, but technically it works best if the water hasn't been boiled to death). Remove from heat and add tea. I use bulk green tea because its super cost effective, I place in a muslin tea bag and reuse the bag when Im finished brewing.

Let steep for ~ 10 minutes.

STEP 2.

Add the sugar, stir and dissolve. Then add the remaining water. I usually end up using a little less than a gallon. This should make the sugary tea room temperature. You never want to add hot water to the SCOBY and its original fluid.

STEP 3. 

Place your SCOBY and its starter fluid (usually about 2 cups) in your fermenting vessel (your 1 gallon glass container). Then add your sweet tea. Cover with a towel and rubber band, you don't want to use a totally air tight cover. I use a coffee filter...

Step 4. 

Place in a cool, dark spot. Wait 7-10 days and "taste" to see if its ready. I place a clean spoon in and get a sample, some people use a straw. You just want to be very careful not to contaminate your booch.

When it's ready you want to get your smaller bottles ready and your flavor out! You should have them ready by the time the 7-10 day period is up.

I save some store bought kombucha bottles and also have some that I have purchased separately. The tighter the lid, the more fizz in your end product.

This is my stash of empty boocha bottles...

My favorite flavor is this grape concentrate, but I also use frozen berries a lot. You don't have to flavor, but the sugar from the flavors can create additional fermentation, creating a more "fizzy" drink. Ginger is also a great option!

STEP 5. AFTER your first fermentation process of 7-10 days. This is considered your "second ferment."

Wash your hands well and remove your SCOBY from your gallon vessel. Place it in a clean bowl. Take ~2 cups of the tea from the gallon vessel and add that to your SCOBY. This is your next starting batch! You will notice that your SCOBY will get bigger and eventfully create more baby SCOBYs. Cover the bowel with a towel and set aside.

After flavoring and dispersing my kombucha (NEXT STEP) I usually start my next batch with this SCOBY and starter liquid. If you want to wait you can cover and keep aside in a cool, dark place until you were ready to use it. Do not refrigerate it. If you were going to "share" your SCOBY because it had "babies" then you would want to separate out more starter fluid for that person to get started. This is your viscous kombucha cycle.

STEP 6. 

Place your smaller bottles on counter or in sink, a funnel works well for this part. Add your flavors, I typically use 1-3teaspoons in the smaller bottles or 1-2Tablespoons in the larger ones. If I'm using fresh/frozen fruit I just throw enough in to cover the bottom of the bottle. Add your flavor, then add your kombucha. I usually leave ~1-2 inches on the top.

STEP 7. 

Seal them all tightly and place back in your dark, cool spot for another 1-3 days. I usually leave mine for 3, I like the fizz! If you use the flip top bottles you will need to "burp" them once day. They just weren't meant to handle pressure the way the store bought kombucha bottles were. Just quickly open them and close them again to relieve a little pressure. I keep mine in a box with a towel on top just incase one were to explode.

STEP 8. 

After 1-3 days...

Taste and put in the fridge! This stops the fermentation process and makes them cold and delicious. The odd floaty things (or as my friend called it- "the silt like sh*t") are little pieces and scrapes of the original SCOBY. They are loaded with good bacteria for your gut!

Let me know how it goes! I LOVE experimenting with different flavors and combinations. Sharing your kombucha with family and friends is a great way to introduce people to fermented foods (eventually they may even want a SCOBY to make their own)!

On a different note...Ive also starting making JUN kombucha, which uses a SCOBY that prefers raw honey. It tastes a little different, not necessarily better, just different. It will only ferment with raw honey, no granulated sugar. I like the concept, raw honey has some beneficial properties, but it is more costly in the long run.

Here's a pic of my JUN supplies....

Honey + JUN SCOBY + tea

Either way I've got a crazy circle of kombucha brewing all the time and my gut LOVES it! Thanks for reading!

It's Fall! Time for Chili!

The start of fall food prep!

Chili is a pretty popular dish in my house; when I make it I have to make a lot of it. We basically eat from a large batch for days; while Im prepping to cook such a large amount I always think, "we are going to be so sick of chili by the time this is gone." But we never are. In fact usually it's requested just a couple weeks later.

When there is an item that everyone likes I think of two things-

1. Is it healthy?

To meet my requirements there cannot be any added sugar (bonus for no sugar at all), artificial colors, flavorings or things I cannot pronounce. There cannot be any "unstable" or oxidized fats (see blog post on fats- search fats), or empty carbohydrates (carbs that don't have the nutrients to obtain the energy from them, also known as "carbage").  Major bonus points for the item/meal containing high quality protein, vegetables and healthy fats.

If the answer to question 1 is YES, then I move on to question 2 (see below).

If the answer to question 1 is NO, then I have to "reformulate" the menu item/meal to meet the above requirements.

2. Can I make it healthier? Usually yes. Can I make it healthier without anyone noticing or without altering the taste in a "bad" way? Mmmmm thats a different story.

This is the tricky part. Sometimes I think something taste good and my husband informs me that it may taste good to me, but probably not to the general population. My goal for this question is to make a healthy, nutrient dense, delicious dish even more nutrient dense...all while keeping its taste scores up!

I did it with the chili.

Let's just take a moment to review the "requirements" of question 1 in regards to my chili-

  • No added sugar
  • Only natural sugar from the tomatoes
  • Nothing artificial
  • No oxidized fats
  • Rich in naturally occurring healthy fat
  • No empty carbohydrates
  • Nutrient dense carbs in full force
  • High quality protein WITH vegetables all in ONE meal

Changes made to make it even better...

  • Add butternut squash. Boom.
    • More healthy carbs, phytonutrients and soluble fiber.

 

I made this knowing that we would eat it daily for a couple days, with the option to freeze some (always think about meal prep).

Hidden Butternut Chili

Prep time- 30-40 minutes

Cook time- Varies (~30 minutes, but some people let it simmer all day in a crock pot), its up to you. This time I cooked it and immediately removed from heat to cool for storage, it was just as delicious.

Serves- 5-7? (Im guessing because chili portions vary greatly)

Ingredients-

1 large butternut squash

2-3 Tablespoons coconut oil (or butter)

2 leeks

1 onion

1 large garlic clove

2-3 bell peppers

~3lbs ground turkey (I used 85/15) or protein of your choice

3 cans diced tomatoes (yes I used canned tomatoes, I need convenience sometimes)

6oz can tomato sauce (splurge and get organic, it tastes better- trust me)

2 cans beans (I used 1 can kidney and 1 can black beans)

salt & pepper

~2 ounces chili powder

*you will also need a food processor of some sort

  1. Preheat oven to 375'F
  2. Slice butternut squash lengthwise and clean seeds out. Place flat side down on a cookie sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes to until tender. While this is cooking you will continue making your chili!
  3. Slice and dice your leeks, onion and garlic clove.    Add coconut oil to a large pan (what you plan on making your chili in) and heat over med-high heat until melted. Add leeks, onion and garlic, stir until cooked almost through.      

4. Add the ground turkey along with some salt and pepper. Stir well and continue to cook on med-high heat until turkey is cooked.

5. When the turkey mixture is cooked through you are going to add the bell peppers, 2 cans of tomatoes (set the 3rd can aside), 2 cans of beans (drained) and chili pepper.

6. Check on squash. Get food processor set up.

7. Keep chili mixture over medium heat and stir once in a while.

8. Squash should be done, remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Carefully (its still super hot) take out the insides and place into the food processor, add the last can of tomatoes and the can of tomato paste. Blend until smooth.    Do not let your typically chili eaters see this step, it may detour them from trying the chili (they won't be able to tell that you added this gem).

 

9. Add squash mixture to chili mixture and stir well. Add additional salt, pepper, cayenne and/or chili powder to your taste.

DONE. You have a healthy, nutrient dense meal to serve your family and friends. 

Or you have lunch for the week!


You could transfer this to a crockpot if you were serving over the course of several hours, or serve immediately. Let cool to room temperature before refrigerating or freezing.

Enjoy! Let me know what you think!