Mason Jar Magic

Last week, I was fortunate to teach three workshops on healthy eating tips to folks from various age groups and backgrounds.  Though the crowds were quite different, my takeaway was the same. We all know that healthy eating offers a world of benefits - from disease prevention to weight loss - but many of us struggle to get organized to make it happen.

Enter Mason Jar Magic from stage left.  The most successful part of each workshop was how to use old fashioned mason canning jars for healthy meal planning.  Here were the fan favorites from my talks.

1.  Mason jar salads are a must for busy people who don't have time to make a daily salad.  They can be made in advance and will keep in the fridge for days.  I layer veggies, beans and grains and seal with a tight cap for fresh salads ready to eat.  I like to use 24 ounce wide mouth jars for these salads because I can eat them straight from the jar when I am on the go.

2.  Mason jars are great for freezing soups and stews in single portions.  I like to use 12 ounce wide mouth jars .  Fill the jar to the 2/3 point, and freeze with the top off.  Put on the lid once the food is frozen to avoid broken jars (ahem...this blogger has had more than a few of those!).

3.  Store go to ingredients such as cooked grains, beans, dressings and homemade sauces in jars at the beginning of the week.  This will help you to eat healthy fast food all week long.

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Vote for the Green Party

Given the current political climate - I bet you thought you were about to read a post with my political opinions.  Not so fast!  The green party I am talking about is happening right now in my backyard.  My garden is currently a green paradise, and I want to share my favorite ways to use all of this green goodness with you.

Chard is what I call a gateway green.  It has a mild taste, and it is a great way to invite children or green eating newcomers to the party.  Chard is my go to green for day to day salads.  

Kale is often called the king of greens.  I couldn't agree more.  Kale can be eaten both raw or cooked.  I like to squeeze a little bit of fresh lemon juice and add a sprinkling of olive oil to a fresh bowl of chopped kale for a tasty salad.  

Bok Choy might be my favorite green of all.  It is so juicy when picked fresh.  The stem has the great benefit of crunchiness that adds texture to any dish served cooked or raw.  I especially love to use it when I make a stir fry.

Green Tops are bursting with nutrition.  When picking or buying vegetables such as beets or carrots, don't throw away the green tops!  They are packed with vitamins and add rich flavor to soup stocks.






Fake It Until You Make It

Springtime has us thinking about healthy eating...and also about baseball.  While helping out last night at my son's baseball practice, I thought of an old saying.  Fake it until you make it.  I haven't played baseball in an organized way since 4th grade, and I had not put on a glove in at least 20 years before our first practice.  But, I head out each week to the field like I know exactly what I am doing.  

How does this apply to healthy eating you might ask?  I remember feeling overwhelmed when I had to do a healthy eating overhaul a few years back.  I had never really eaten things like bok choy or kale, but I didn't wait until I had it all figured out.  I went to the market, filled up my cart and got to work.  Some dishes were delicious and other were less delicious.  I decided to fake it until I figured out how to cook with all of these new foods.

If springtime has you thinking about your healthy eating routine, here are some tips to get you on the field.

1.  Add no more than one or two new foods to your cart each time you go shopping.

2.  Try to master one recipe at a time with these new foods in mind.  

3.  Don't be discouraged if you don't like a new food at first.  Try it again in another recipe, or try another variety.  




Popeye Had the Right Idea

Long before we had food experts weighing in on what we should eat, we had cartoons to give us good advice.  I like to think that Popeye was the originator of our current focus on eating more fresh greens.  If eating spinach helped him to beat up the bad guys, surely it could also give us enough energy to survive an afternoon carpool or meeting at the office.

In my work, I see time and time again that the biggest barrier to eating more fresh greens is having them ready to eat.  With good intentions, we pick up bunches of kale and collards at the farmer's market only to forget about them until they are limp in the back of the fridge.  Now that spring is in full bloom and greens are abundant, here are my suggestions for including more green goodness in your daily routine.

1.  Pick greens that look bright and fresh at the market.  Choose greens that are local through a farmer's market or CSA when available.  Fresher greens will stay longer.

2.  Wash your greens well when you get home, and then put them through a salad spinner.  Removing excess moisture while allowing your greens to breathe is the best way to preserve them.  Store in the refrigerator for a week or more.

3.  Save odds and ends in a ziploc bag in the freezer.  Greens are great to add to soup stock, stir fry, and other recipes.

 Leftover Swiss chard stems from the freezer add a great crunch to a stir fry.

Leftover Swiss chard stems from the freezer add a great crunch to a stir fry.

How to Survive a Sugarfest

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This week is the Jewish holiday of Purim…a bonafide sugarfest.  Whether it is your tradition to celebrate or not, we can all relate to the idea.  Though I am far from the sugar police, I have been asked so many questions lately about how I handle the upcoming festivities.

For a very long time after my illness, I didn’t indulge in sweets or junk food of any kind.  It was something I needed to do, but it was not sustainable in the long run.  The first time I had any sweets, we were on a family vacation, and my kids almost passed out from the shock of seeing me with ice cream.  I realized then that the example I wanted to show the kids was one of moderation not deprivation.

But, what does moderation look like?  For me, this means I generally avoid sweets and junk, but I do treat myself when something is really worth it.  You won’t catch me with a Laffy Taffy tomorrow, but a few squares of good quality dark chocolate or a carefully crafted baked good are right up my alley.  I plan to enjoy every bite. 

Superheroes, Super Kids and Super Foods

You know that old saying.  “Everything I needed to learn in life, I learned in kindergarten.”  Today, I had the honor of working with two kindergarten classes at my son’s school on my Superheroes, Super Kids and Super Foods program. 

Instead of a straightforward lesson on healthy food, we talked about why some foods have super powers just like our favorite superheroes.  As a former publicist, I realize that getting kids to eat healthy foods is all about your pitch. 

We did a hands on smoothie project making almond milk, adding kale (our super food), almond butter, and then fruit and spices.  Each child was able to participate and then enjoy a healthy treat.  As a coach and also a mom, I was excited to see every single child try the smoothie.  Talk about positive peer pressure!  Almost all of the children then asked for seconds.

To try your own super foods smoothie experiment at home, follow these three suggestions.

1.       Get your children involved.  Small steps like turning on a blender or putting in the fruit can be really exciting for them.

2.       Choose produce that is in season.  Your kids are more likely to enjoy a smoothie that is fresh.

3.       Don’t be discouraged if your children don’t like what you make the first time.  Try again.  It is all part of the process.

Hooray for Sweaty Armpits!

Most people don’t cheer when they have sweaty armpits, but I do.  As a breast cancer survivor and someone living with lymphedema as a result…using regular deodorant is a big "no no" for me.  It turns out that it should be a big "no no" for just about everyone else too.

In an age of detoxes and cleanses, it is amazing to me how often we miss one of our body’s best ways to detox.  We need to sweat.  Sweat helps us to remove waste and to cool down.  For those of us with compromised lymphatic systems, it is even more important to sweat because blocking one additional pathway (the armpits!) can cause serious problems.

In my quest to smell as good as possible, I have tried every product under the sun.  I avoid the natural deodorant aisle at the health food store because the products are pretty ineffective.  I have found great success with powders, and I specifically love Pit Powder.  I also have learned to travel with an extra t-shirt in the summer or one extra layer in the winter just in case.  Even though I might shout hooray for my detoxing sweaty armpits, the person sitting next to me on the Metro might disagree.  

Do you Come from Good Stock?

There is nothing I enjoy more in the winter than a good bowl of soup.  It is a great way to get in my veggies and soup is also very portable in a thermos when I am on the go.  None of my soups are complicated, but they taste delicious because I always use good stock.  

Like many of my kitchen adventures, I started making my own vegetable soup stock when I ran out of the boxed version and was in a pinch.  I had so many recipes for vegetable stock, but it seemed time-consuming and a bother…until I started making it on my own.  

I rarely follow a recipe, but I do make sure to follow a few simple ideas I have learned along the way.  Below are a tips on how to make your own vegetable stock.  

1.    Use vegetables you like such as carrots, celery and onions.  Don’t add anything too sweet or strong such as turnips or beets.  Fill a stock pot with water and the vegetables.
2.    Boost your stock with goodies such as dried mushrooms and/or seaweed.
3.    Add any spices in small amounts.  Your stock is meant to be a canvas for later soups. I often add a sprig of thyme, peppercorns, and a bay leaf.  
4.    I boil my stock and then let simmer for 3-4 hours.  Discard/compost all solids after cooking.
5.    Freeze in small portions to use later in soups and also as a base for grains and beans instead of water.