Grown up lunch box gear

Food For Thought
Grown up lunch box gear

By: Leanne Ely

If you’re following a healthy lifestyle that involves you taking a lunch to the office each day, first of all, know that I’m very proud of you! And second of all, do you have the right assortment of containers and gadgets to help you elevate that brown bag lunch?

Let’s take a look at what you’re going to need to allow you to pack up any assortment of leftovers, fresh produce, and protein in your lunch.

Vacuum flask soup or food jar. You are going to need a quality vacuum flask for packing those delicious leftover soups, stews and other warm dishes from last night’s dinner. Yes, Thermos is a brand name for that familiar vacuum flask storage unit that’s been keeping lunch can soups and beverages hot for decades, but there are other brands, too. If you fill the vacuum flask with boiling water and let it heat up with its lid on until the warm food is ready to go in, it will stay warmer longer.

Glass or steel water bottle. I hope you’re not using plastic water bottles anymore. Not only is this practice terrible for the environment, but the BPA in those plastic bottles is damaging to your health. Instead, use a reusable glass or stainless steel water bottle.

Bento boxes. Colorful bento box containers aren’t just for kids! The bento trend, new to North America, originated in Japan. Traditionally, a bento was a single-portion, home-packed or takeout meal of rice, meat, fish and/or vegetables. You can find bento containers in many types of materials these days, but I like the stainless steel and colorful BPA-free plastic varieties. Bento boxes allow you to pack a variety of foods in one compartmentalized container with one tight-fitting lid that covers the entire thing. Look for bento that doesn’t leak and have fun playing with your food!

Insulated bag. Remember that you need to keep that lunch at a safe temperature. Put an ice pack in there with your lunch in an insulated bag, unless your bento box container has a space in it for a freezer pack.

Round out this collection of basics with some totable utensils—I like the fork and spoon sets that double as chopsticks—some cloth napkins and a great travel mug.

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lunch box gear

Cranberries for Thanksgiving

Tricks, Tips and a Recipe
Cranberries for Thanksgiving

By: Leanne Ely

It’s time once again for Tricks, Tips and a Recipe. Today you’ll learn a tip, a trick and you’ll get a great recipe to try it out with. Neat, huh?

Today’s focus is on: CRANBERRIES

Tis the season for cranberries! Around the holidays you can find fresh cranberries just about anywhere, so there’s no excuse for buying those nasty cans of jellied cranberry sauce!

Cranberries aren’t only beautiful, they’re also full of nutrition. Cranberries are full of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, potassium, iron, magnesium and folate. Cranberries contain antioxidants and phenols that can protect against urinary tract infections.

Now that Thanksgiving is here and fresh cranberries are so readily available, go ahead and make use of them as much as you possibly can!

Today your Trick, Tip and Recipe are going to give you some great ideas for incorporating cranberries into your Thanksgiving Dinner.

So without further adieu, here is your Trick:

Go raw with a healthy, sweet cranberry relish. If you have a food processor, toss in a cup or two of raw fresh cranberries (frozen won’t work out for you very well here) with the juice of one lemon and two or three pitted Medjool dates. Process until you get a relish-like consistency and serve alongside your turkey dinner.

Your Tip:

Make your own cranberry sauce! It’s so easy to make this popular condiment yourself that you’ll never buy it again. Start with 16 ounces of good, clean fresh cranberries (frozen will work fine here, but you’ll need a bit more cooking time). Add them to a medium-sized sauce pan over medium-high heat, along with 3/4 cup of orange juice and a couple glugs of maple syrup or honey. (Alternatively you can use 3/4 cup of white sugar or coconut sugar.) Cover the works, stirring occasionally. Important tip: do not walk away while the pot is covered! These berries are going to explode and pop, releasing their pectin and breaking down into a jam-like consistency. So stay close! When the popping starts, turn the heat way down to medium-low, and let the mixture reduce for about 5-10 minutes. After the berries have cooked, go ahead and put your potato masher to work on them. Let the sauce cool before refrigerating.

And your Recipe:

Orange Cranberry Sauce
Serves 12

INGREDIENTS:
4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (1 pound bag)
1cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup orange juice

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS: Rinse the cranberries (even if they are frozen) in a strainer with cool water, and remove any stems and bad or blemished berries.
In a large saucepan, over medium heat, heat the water, juice and sugar to boiling stirring occasionally. Continue boiling 5 minutes longer to assure sugar is completely melted, stirring occasionally.  Add the cranberries. Heat back to boiling over medium heat; stirring occasionally. Put a lid on the saucepan and continue boiling about 5 minutes longer, still stirring occasionally, until you hear the cranberries begin to pop. Remove the saucepan from the heat, give it a good stir and allow to cool for about 20 minutes. Pour the cranberry sauce into a bowl or container and allow to completely cool before refrigerating.

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Beloved beefy comfort foods

Food For Thought
Beloved beefy comfort foods

By: Leanne Ely

As the weather cools off a little bit, kitchens across North America (at least in the northern part of the continent!) start heating up with warm, comforting and familiar dishes.

For me, nothing quite fits the comfort food bill like beef.

Beef is full of protein, B vitamins, iron, zinc and magnesium. Beef makes our muscles strong, and keeps our hormone levels and our hearts healthy.

There is no such thing as a bad cut of beef, as far as I’m concerned. Whether it’s ground, cubed into stewing beef or cut into steaks, there’s no cut of beef that can’t be transformed into something delicious. And this time of year, it’s all about the comforting beef dishes for me.

The following are some of my favorite ways to warm up my family with beef:

Stew. Yummy beef stew is a bowl full of goodness. Making stew is a cinch. The slow cooker or dutch oven really does all the work. Start by browning your cubed beef (an optional step, but I love the extra layer of flavor browning brings to a dish), add veggies and seasonings, and cover in whatever liquid you like—I like bone broth, tomatoes and red wine. Stewing food means covering it in liquid and letting it simmer at low heat for a good long time. You can make it in the crock pot, on the stovetop or in the oven.

Soup. There are as many ways to make a pot of beef soup as there are spices in my pantry (trust me—there are dozens). Start with your beef broth (preferably your own homemade bone broth), and add ground beef, leftover roast beef, or whatever beef you want. Season it, and add your cubed veggies. Let it bubble away on the stove until you’re ready to devour.

Roasted. There’s something so comforting about a pot roast. The easiest way to prepare one is to let the crockpot do the work. Pop your roast and seasonings in there, along with your vegetables, and let it cook on low for 6–8 hours. Mmmm.

Chili. Ground beef cooked with onions, garlic, chili, cumin, salt, pepper (and whatever other spices you enjoy), beef broth, peppers, tomatoes, tomato paste, and kidney beans (if you aren’t a Paleoista — Paleoistas can enjoy a fine pot of chili by simply skipping the beans), makes a delicious meal.

Cottage pie. If you have the right combination of leftovers in your refrigerator, you can put together a wonderful cottage pie. Cottage pie is the same thing as shepherd’s pie, except shepherd’s pie features lamb and cottage pie is made with beef. Fry your beef with some onions, garlic, ketchup, worchestershire sauce, salt and pepper and whatever other seasonings you love. When that’s all cooked, put it in the bottom of a casserole dish and layer with leftover diced veggies, and top the whole works with leftover whipped potatoes—either sweet potatoes or yellow. Bake until the top is golden brown. Yum yum.

I always choose local grass-fed beef and I recommend you do the same if you have the option!

For even more ideas related to cooking up delicious, comforting dishes, look into the special promotion we have going on now until the 27th of November. We’re offering our 3-Month Basic Menu-Mailer Subscription for just $9.95! It includes a brand new Comfort Food Menu Bundle featuring casseroles, soups, stews and chili’s. Check it out!

Is YOUR comfort food

Giving the green light to red kale

Tricks, Tips and a Recipe
Giving the green light to red kale

By: Leanne Ely

It’s time once again for Tricks, Tips and a Recipe. Today you’ll learn a tip, a trick and you’ll get a great recipe to try it out with. Neat, huh?

Today’s focus is on: RED KALE

I am one of kale’s biggest cheerleaders. This probably doesn’t come as a great surprise to many of you, I’m sure!

While your classic curly kale is my old standby, this time of year I like to spice things up by adding red kale to my shopping basket.

Red kale has reddish-purple and green leaves, making it a beautiful addition to a dinner plate. The red color comes out more in colder conditions, so you’re most likely to find red kale in the cooler fall and winter months than in the spring.

You’ll discover that red kale is faster cooking than other kale varieties, and it’s generally more tender as well.

Like all types of kale, red kale is extremely nutrient dense. Red kale is very high in fiber, beta-carotene and vitamins K and C.

I enjoy eating red kale steamed, raw in salads, sautéed in bacon and baked into chips.

Now that you’re craving kale, it’s time for your Trick:

Massaging kale is an excellent way to enjoy it in its raw form. Rinse your red kale well to remove any dirt and or insects. Rip the leaves from the stalks into a salad bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and the juice of half a lemon. Sprinkle with coarse salt and spend a good five minutes with your hands in there, massaging the mixture onto each and every leaf. This process actually wilts the kale and gives it a great texture for a raw salad.

Your Tip:

Kale is on the Dirty Dozen list, meaning that non-organic kale can be coated in pesticides. It’s worth the extra price tag to opt for organic when it comes to all kale, including the red varieties.

And your Recipe:

Crock Chicken and Red Kale Soup
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 large stalks celery, chopped
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast meat, cubed
1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cubed
3/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 (14.5-oz.) cans diced tomatoes
3 cups low sodium chicken broth, or use homemade
1 pound red kale, chopped, large ribs removed

Instructions:
Melt the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and celery; cook until slightly soft. Add chicken cubes and brown on all sides (but don’t worry about cooking them through). Transfer mixture to a crock cooker then add squash, caraway seeds, salt, pepper, tomatoes and broth. Cover and cook on MEDIUM-HIGH for 3 hours. Add kale and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 30 minutes to 1 hour or until chicken cubes are fork-tender.

Red Kale, Crock Chicken and Red Kale Soup, kale,

Let’s go local!

Food For Thought
Let’s go local!

By: Leanne Ely

There’s something happening in cities and towns throughout North America right now that’s been a long time coming. More and more consumers are shopping for local food sources and demanding that their local grocery stores stock local options for meat, produce and dairy.

The local food movement is alive and well, and so it should be!

Local food sources are more nutritious because they’ve been harvested more recently, giving us more minerals and vitamins at the time of consumption. (The nutrition of a food is depleted the longer it sits between being harvested and eaten.)

Buying local foods is better for the environment because the less time your food spends in transit, the less carbon emissions you’re responsible for. Buying direct from farmers also requires less packaging of produce, as veggies and fruits are often sold au natural rather than in plastic.

And the economic impact of buying local has a very positive effect on the community you live in. You’re putting more money directly in the pockets of farmers when you seek out local sources of food.

So, how do you go about finding local food sources?

If you live in a climate where fresh produce is available year-round, you will have an easier time and a wider variety of foods to source locally than those living in a part of the world that goes into a deep freeze in the winter months.

Here are a few ways to source the best local foods your community has to offer:

Farmers’ Market. The absolute best source of local foods is your closest farmers’ market. If you’re fortunate enough to have a farmers’ market in your town, make it a point to shop there as part of your weekly (or daily) routine. Get to know the farmers who bring you the food you put on your table. Ask them questions about how the foods are grown, what they feed their animals and where their seeds come from.

CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Farmers everywhere are literally bringing their hard work to people’s doors through CSA programs. When you sign up for a CSA, you’ll receive a box of your local farmers’ freshest produce each and every week, or you pick it up from the farm gate. Google CSA programs in your community, or ask around the farmers’ market and you should be able to find one to join. These programs guarantee farmers a steady source of income, while guaranteeing consumers a weekly box of the freshest foods available.

Ask your neighbors. If you can’t find a CSA to join and you don’t have a farmers’ market close by, ask around your neighborhood to find out where the producers are. Most farmers are happy to work directly with consumers! Even if you live in an area that doesn’t produce crops in the winter months, you should be able to find a local source for items like meat, poultry, eggs and honey.

When all else fails, talk to the manager at your grocery store and ask them to stock their produce section with local items. Ask them to bring in local honey, eggs and meat. Keep the heat on them until you start seeing those local items on the shelves!

Eating local foods keeps your hard-earned grocery budget working in your very own community.

Going local benefits everyone!

Do you have any advice about how to source local foods?

local food, farmers markets, CSA,