Two “Vintners” in My Kitchen

Posted by Courtney on April 16th, 2013

My dad {who I have learned so much that I know about cooking from & who has given me the passion for food&flavor} and my husband {who works so hard for our family, so I can stay home&homeschool my kids and experiment in my kitchen on a daily basis} decided to embark on a new culinary adventure a few weeks ago… and so my kitchen was yet again a test kitchen for a new endeavor: Wine making.

Grape juice, skins, tubes, hydrometers, airlocks, a wine thief filled my kitchen. Followed by the smell of wine fermenting in a closet. Followed by racking, more fermenting, racking again, degassing, and now aging.

I love the power we have to create our own food. I encourage you to make something on your own. Choose something you like: mayonaise, vinegar, yogurt, wine, butter, jam… do some research, do some prep, and turn your kitchen into your own test kitchen. Do it with your kids or a friend or family – bond over your new creation.

It is fun; it is satisfying; it is usually cheaper. Give it a go!

And cheers to the two vintners in my kitchen!

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Field Trip: Ojai Olive

Posted by Courtney on April 13th, 2013

Last week all my kids had spring break, so I tried to do a few fun things. One day, we went on a picnic in Ojai and then to Ojai Olive with some friends. My kids {ages 5, 7, & 9} thoroughly enjoyed the setting- rocks, trees, and sun-  the tour given by a very informative and sweet French woman, and the tasting.

I love to expose my children to where their food comes from. They got to see the trees, learn why we don’t eat raw olives, learn and see how olive oil is pressed, and taste a variety of different olive oils and balsamic vinegars. If you live in the Ventura County area, this is worthwhile field trip in a very pleasant setting. {Note: there are picnic tables if you want to picnic at Ojai Olive}

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Planting a Garden

Posted by Courtney on April 11th, 2013

With all of our moving over the years, we have not had the chance to indulge in the planting of a garden. This year we built planter boxes, filled them with healthy soil, and then this Saturday we planted!

Each of our kids gets their own box. They got to fill it with seeds & seedlings. And now, they get to be in charge of watering and weeding their little square foot plot of goodness. They have been out a couple times a day to carefully water each little plant or mound of dirt.

I highly recommend giving each of your children to grow some of their own food. Even if it is that they each get a pot to plant one thing that they choose. lessons in doing so are endless.

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Food Allergies&Intolerances

Posted by Courtney on April 11th, 2013

Food allergies & intolerances. Just those words can be so overwhelming for anyone who has walked down this path. We discovered food intolerances in our middle child and myself this past year. Acid reflux, daily digestion issues, eczema.

It starts with just putting together a and b. I don’t know how long my son had issues- he thought they were normal. Until we noticed and noted the smell of throw-up coming from our sweet son, and then talked to him about it… he never mentioned his daily reflux. He matter of factly, told us he did it all the time. What?!! He threw up in his mouth multiple times a day everyday! “What do you do with it?” I ask. “Swallow it.” UGH!!! You feel guilty for not noticing. You feel sad for this sweet child that thought this was normal. You wonder when it started… and will never find out. I have had eczema as long as I remember… but this winter it got intolerably worse.

Then, what do you do? Doctors, tests, hypotheses tested, elimination diets, special diets, part of “that” crowd. Figuring out food allergies is not as easy as going to an allergist and getting a positive skin test result. My son didn’t test positive for ANY food or ANYTHING yet exhibited allergic symptoms: “allergy circles” under his eyes, congestion, acid reflux, digestion problems, etc. I have some “condition” that all skin test results look exactly the same. And so… blood tests…more time and more money… and no allergies. And a children’s gastro specialist for my son… misdiagnosis there! Naturopath- no help… An elimination diet of everything. Learning to cook for the diet. Slowly reintroducing foods. Some confusion. Maybe dairy? Maybe gluten? Our allergy doctor said doctors and tests can be wrong; if x happens every time he eats y, then don’t feed him y even if the doctor and tests say it should be fine. ha. Do what you know works!

And slowly, you figure it out and gain confidence in what you know as your child’s parent. Dairy sets it off for both of us. The littlest bit of dairy in any and all of its forms even raw. So, lots of label reading and finding out the huge presence milk has in SO many products.

And sometimes you doubt yourself and find yourself confused. And disappointment every time your child has an issue- “What did I miss?” He asks “What did I eat, mom?”

And lots of reading and researching: Why so many food allergies? Anti-biotics. Messed up gut flora. Poor food quality. Weird ingredients in food. GMOs, soy, corn, hormones.Genes.

All the while, maintaining “normal” life. Food is a huge part of life. Breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner if you don’t already know include food. Staying at home is a culinary challenge- you learn to cook differently. I am thankful for this- loved the challenge (mostly). But everything else is tricky! Going out to a restaurant. Traveling, Birthday parties. School. Family gatherings. Grand-parents. Sleepovers. All these places and events add a little bit of tenseness to any parent dealing with food allergies&intolerances. You have to be prepared with “other” food at all times. You have to prepare your child to deal with being different. You have to teach them to deal with skipping the treat unless you bring your own. You have to ask your server for ingredient lists when you want to order at a restaurant. You have to train family&friends- what is “dairy”, to read labels, to respect the diet. You become the people that are difficult to have over for dinner. “Mom, can I have this?” becomes a constant.

And then we found the GAPS HEALING diet. I am not one that accepts “no” easily. I don’t give up, and I work hard (usually). Some may consider this stubborn… I may agree. When I heard about GAPS- thanks to another food allergy dealing mother- I researched and read and decided to give it a try. GAPS = Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride (lots of info on this) and many auto-immune issues (leaky gut, food allergies, allergies, obesity…) can be treated with the GAPS diet. The goal of the diet is to heal the digestive system. You start with GAPS Intro (hard but doable and worth it) and then move to Full-GAPS (not too hard and worth it). On Full-GAPS you avoid starches, sugars (except honey), and grains. You eat lots of veggies, fruit, protein, homemade broth, traditional fats, and fermented foods. You also try to get good sleep, reduce stress & toxins, and take fermented cod liver oil. This is a temporary lifestyle and diet. You are healing yourself. This is not forever.

Two months in. We are just over two months into the GAPS diet. We completed the Intro diet in 20 days. Kudos to my amazing kids and husband. And let me tell you, I am a better cook and they are WAY better eaters now (especially my oldest who was PICKY!) Our food tastes great. We feel great. The eczema is rarely an issue. The acid reflux is rarely an issue. We have already started to introduce GAPS “legal” dairy (whey, yogurt, kefir, aged cheese) and are doing great! (Recall: None of this was tolerated before- AT ALL!)

Healing. Healing is a process (think of a cold as my son pointed out) and so is healing your gut. All symptoms are not gone on Day 1 or Week 1 or Month 1. But, I can testify that things have changed significantly in 2 months. I am amazed actually! I was hopeful… but I am amazed. I don’t know how long we will stick with GAPS- somewhere between 6 months and 2 years… I love that our food can heal. I love that God created our bodies to want to heal.

“Thank you for doing the diet, Mom.”  My 7 year old son thanked me the other night (out of the blue) when I was tucking him in. He is so glad he no longer feels bad. He is glad to no longer throw up in his mouth all the time. He doesn’t mind doing the diet AT ALL- he will tell you “I like my life like this. I don’t want to ever feel like that again.” This boy has been amazing through the ENTIRE process: tests, doctors, diets, lots of food restrictions. And this kid, who has always been teeny tiny has grown close to 2 inches, has no “allergy circles”, and looks so much healthier. My family comments on his physical change all the time. And then, he thanks me… ahhhh! He knows it is a lot of work for me and thanked me. I am blessed.

I encourage you wherever you are on the allergy/intolerance path. It can be frustrating and hard. You know best. Trust your instincts. Listen to your child. Embrace new food. Cook. Read. Ask questions. Try GAPS. 

And if you don’t deal with food allergies/intolerances: Don’t judge. Invite your allergic friends over. Ask them what they like to eat. Know it is not easy.

 

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Chamomile Orange Tea

Posted by Courtney on April 9th, 2013

I love chamomile tea. I usually purchase and enjoy Trader Joe’s Chamomile Tea… but recently I have been getting it in my CSA box. I cute little bouquet that would make an adorable centerpiece decoration! But, I decided to make fresh chamomile tea instead.

Simple: Wash the bouquet. Have a child (good for them-good for you) pick the flowers off of the bouquet and place in a quart Mason jar. Use a potato peeler to peel thin, long strips of organic orange skin- place those in the jar. Fill the jar with boiling water. Let it steep for 10 minutes and drink warm. Or let it steep until whenever you remember it and serve with honey over ice cubes for a lovely iced tea.

We had it at dinner (chamomile = relax = dinnertime = close to bedtime for the kiddos). It was delicious; everyone loved it!

I just planted chamomile seeds in pots on my patio. Decoration. Beverage. I’m excited to see how they grow.

{Note: I followed the same directions and made a VERY SLIGHTLY weaker version using the stems, leaves.}

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Kids&Veggies- NPR story + tips

Posted by Courtney on March 16th, 2013

Good read: NPR story- Selling Kids on Veggies When Rules Like Clean Your Plate Fail

 

 

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Turkey&Veg Over Spinach

Posted by Courtney on March 14th, 2013

This is very fresh. Very veggie. Very good.

Saute any of the following in coconut oil: zucchini slices, grape tomatoes, onion, crushed garlic, chopped turkey cutlets or tenders (organic, free-range), a handful of fresh herbs. Saute until cooked.

Prepare each plate with a good helping of washed spinach. Place a scoop of the Turkey&Veg mix on top (the spinach will wilt from this). It is great like this OR you can dress it with a balsamic vinaigrette and/or sprinkle on some Parmesan or goat cheese.

Serve warm.

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Breakfast: Baked Apples & Baked Eggs

Posted by Courtney on March 14th, 2013

Breakfast

Oh my goodness! This breakfast leaves you thinking about it for days… and it is so easy. Baked apples stuffed with honey, coconut oil, cinnamon, raisins, and almond meal. Sautéed greens with tomatoes, bacon, onion, fresh herbs, and eggs.

A quick “how-to”:

{FYI this breakfast can be added to or taken away from based on what you have on hand or want to make it}

Baked Apples

1. Take the cores out of however many apples you want to make. Stuff the holes with a mixture of: coconut oil, honey, cinnamon, raisins, and almond meal. Bake for 45 minutes or so at 350.

2. Serve alone or with yogurt or milk (cow, coconut, or almond) and granola or nutola.

Baked Eggs

1. In a cast-iron or oven-proof pan: saute a bunch of greens (whatever you have or want: spinach, kale, swiss chard, collards)and 1/2 an onion or a shallot or a leak or nothing in coconut oil or bacon grease (leftover from previously cooking bacon) or non-hydrogenated lard or butter… When they are tender- add in any or all: grape tomatoes, chopped bacon, crushed garlic (2-3 cloves- this really isn’t optional), bell peppers, chile peppers. Saute for a few more minutes. Smooth out your bed of veggies to fill the pan. Crack eggs on top- as many as you all want to eat. Season with fresh or dried herbs (whatever sounds good to you) and salt and pepper.

2. Place in the oven at 350 for 4-7 minutes. You want the whites just set (not clear or runny). If you let them go past that they will get rubbery.

3. Take out and serve.

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Sometimes You Just Go with Illogical

Posted by Courtney on March 11th, 2013

We recently went to visit my brothers and their families five hours away for the weekend. For a weekend that is a good amount of driving (not that I am afraid of driving long long distances for anyone that knows me). We had a great visit. On our last day, “we” decided to drive a couple hours out of our way and go play in the snow. I thought it would be fun, and it may be our only snow experience this winter… So… off we went (away from home and an early arrival).

We had a blast! We got to go sledding. We built a snowman. We had a hilarious & intense snowball fight with all the kids, my brother… It was belly hurt laughing fun. I’m pretty sure I won the snowball fight too. We rounded out the trip with a great dinner in Sonora. And back on the road at 7pm for a far from early arrival home just after 1am. The kids were great and beat- went right to sleep. The drive was easy & traffic-less. And I was exhausted…

So was the out of the way, lots of extra driving,  late night worth it? Yes!

I highly recommend all roads that lead to more laughter, more adventure, and great memories. Step out of your comfort zone, out of the logical (at times), and travel the road less traveled a bit more often. You won’t forget it at the very least.

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Stock-up on Deals!

Posted by Courtney on March 9th, 2013

When you see a good deal on something that you will eat quickly, stores well, can be frozen, or canned. Stock-up!! I saw apples, huge, melon-size organic Fujis, for $0.99 per pound. I stocked up. I keep them at the bottom of my pantry and they last for a good month or so, if you have extra refrigerator space they will last for months.

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