Seasonal Foods

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

My Son the Superhero and a Yummy recipe

Hello from Sunny Orlando, Florida! Yes, we've moved again, this time to the land of all things Disney (which I love!). We had a dream, saw an opportunity and took it. We've been here for about two months now and life is finally normalizing as much as it can for our little family.  We've been pretty busy with big lifestyle changes lately, so I've been posting more on Facebook as opposed to different posts here as well. I'm trying to streamline all these accounts together so bear with me.

A few months ago our son was identified as having a neurological condition known as Sensory Processing Disorder. I had never even heard of this a few months ago and now it tends to occupy most of my  time; whether I'm learning more about it, taking care of my son, or juggling speech and Occupational therapy appointments. We're dealing with a number of what most people would consider quirks in a two year old.  With sensory processing disorder, funny things that my son does are not things he will outgrow, they are a part of who he is. A simplified explanation of kids with Sensory Processing Disorder, is that I like to think of them as superheroes. Absolutely every sensory kid is unique and different, as is how they feel things.  These kids are amazing. They literally have super senses, which could be insanely hard and frustrating for them to cope and deal with, not just daily, but minute to minute.

 In my son's case, his nerves don't feel it when he's exhausted,  things such as textures or even if he's cold or overheated. His body craves stimulation and feedback. In the SPD community of parents, he is known as a "seeker". Its kind of  like he has super strength because he just goes and goes. He also has insanely sensitive super hearing. People speaking loudly and crowded places with lots of background noises are completely overwhelming for him.  Even things that I take for granted, such as my love of food, are extremely hard for him.  Don't get me wrong, he's a great eater for a two and a half year old, but its the same things all the time because trying new foods are literally almost painful to him because he feels things so intensely. A new texture can make a favorite flavor taste disgusting to him so he spits it out.  On days when his nerves are really seeking he only eats super crunchy or super smooth things. On these trying days, I end up cooking multiple meals.  This is quite time consuming so I need something easy.

 Here is a grilled sweet potato salad does double duty in our home.  I grill a whole sweet potato for my son (so he can it eat it mashed), while I grill off slices for this yummy side dish that is ready in just a few short minutes. Its also gluten free and Vegan friendly for those of you living those kind of lifestyles or just a nice choice for a friendly potluck to share. It is a dish that is light and delicious on a hot day.  I am quickly learning that this is the norm here in Florida, so we will be eating this A LOT. Hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

By the way, this post is a new feature I'm running on my Facebook page,  (facebook.com/lifeinbalancewellness),  I'm calling Tasty Tuesdays.  Check back every week and you'll find a new recipe on Tuesdays by lunchtime.  I will also post these on my Pinterest board the following day. Let me know what you think and if you're craving a certain type of recipe. I'll do my best to help.



Grilled Sweet Potato Salad with Basil Viniagrette
Serves 4

4 Sweet Potatoes ut in 1/2" slices
1/2 cup diced red pepper
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup chopped parsely

Dressing:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup avocado oil or olive oil
1 Tbsp chiffonade basil (fancy term for sliced into super thin ribbons)
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
dash of dry yellow mustard

1) lightly coat sweet potatoes with some avocado oil ( i find spraying them with a misto works best)
2) grill potato slices until they are tender.  If you're like me, I love the smoky char taste using wood lump charcoal creates.
3) cut up the potatoes into small 1" cubes and then combine them with the bell pepper, onions and parsely.
4) whisk together dressing ingredients
5) toss the salad mixture with the dressing while the potatoes are still warm. this can be served warm or cold.

Enjoy!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

A blizzard, turning forty and yummy stew

Apologies for delays in posts here but I've been all over the place.  I never know where best to put my thoughts.  I've got a facebook page, twitter and this blog. They tend to overlap and I forget which spot I place my posts and regardless, they always end up on facebook.  With that being said I'll be publishing some back pieces that I've written over the last year that have remained in drafts. But before I get to those, lets live in the now.  I've just spent the weekend in a blizzard. Also,  I am turning forty tomorrow and I'm freaking out a bit about that.  I don't feel like what my mind thought a forty year old person should be like. I think its actually a good thing though. I like my life and I think it shows through in photos, especially when I'm with my two favorite people on the planet, my husband and my little boy.  The picture below, taken earlier this morning as we were digging ourselves out, is the perfect example of this. Other than the fact I was going on no sleep and didn't have basic makeup on, I really enjoy seeing myself happy and  beaming in this photo.

 While our family was holed up, we had what I like to call Soupapalooza. I made a different soup or stew every day. Batches of soup are great to use up leftover bits (like carcasses,  bones and random leftover vegetables) and you can stock your freezer with yummy, homemade & healthy meals for when you need a lazy dinner night.

One dish that I've have had recipe requests for is my Bavarian Lentil Stew.   My husband called it "rich and meaty  with a hint of sweetness".  To me, it reminds of one of my favorite comfort foods that I enjoy in the summer, my maternal grandmother's German potato salad.  The best part of the Stew is that the meatiness comes from lentils. The only actual meat in the recipe is the bacon I rendered down at the beginning of the cooking process. The other thing I love about making a stew like this, is that it gives me the perfect excuse to break out my favorite tomato red, cast iron dutch oven. I hope you enjoy this hearty meal as much as we have and that it warms you up on a chilly night.

Ingredients
  • 4 oz. sliced bacon, roughly chopped
  • ½ c. diced onion
  • 3/4 c. diced leeks (white parts only)
  • ½ c. diced celery
  • 2 medium carrots, unpeeled & diced
  • 1 qt. chicken broth
  • 1½ c. brown lentils
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • 3 medum sized, raw, yellow potatoes, unpeeled & diced
  • 2 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 generous splashes of red table wine (make sure its one you would drink yourself, I used "19 Crimes"
Instructions

  1. Heat a dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Cook the bacon until the fat has rendered into the pot and the bacon is crispy.
  2. Add the onions, leeks, celery, and carrots to the pot. Saute five minutes, or until golden.
  3. Pour in the wine and scrape any of the brown bits on the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the lentils, thyme, bay leaves, pepper, stock and nutmeg. Cook for 30 minutes on medium, covered.
  4. Add the potatoes and cook an additional 15 until lentils and vegetables are tender.At this point decide if its thick enough for you.  I wanted mine extra thickso it could almost pass for a side dish as aopposed to a stew.  I fixed this by adding a small amount of roux. I took 1 tablespoon of butter and melted in a pan with 2 tablespoons of flour until it is dark golden to light brown in color. then stir it into yoiur soup mixture.   Stir in vinegar and sugar, then add salt to taste. Serve with warm bread and butter.
Serves Six.  Once you prep by chopping up all the veggies the actual cooking time of this rich dish is about an hour give or take a few minutes. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

New Beginnings & Finding Home through Banana Bread

I know I haven't been on my traditional blog page in months. Our family has had quite a huge period of adjustment and transformation.  In order to keep things balanced for us, I had to take a bit of an internet break.  Things have finally settled down... a bit so I'm getting back to doing what I love.

In mid February my husband received a job offer that was a complete surprise to us. it seems too good to pass up. As with any situation like this it had a catch.  We had less than 3 weeks to pack up what we needed immediately and move to Charlottesville, VA.  We have been ecstatic but also very stressed at the same time. My son had just turned one and the house was still recovering from his first birthday. All of a sudden I had to figure out what we needed to get started in a new city, pack it up by myself and take care of a toddler all at the same time.  Sometime in all the chaos we also had to keep returning to Harrisburg (about a 4 our drive) to continue packing up our home and put it on the market as soon as possible.

This is  a huge task for anyone and it was about to get harder.  We arrived in Charlottesville excited about all the new possibilities this new city offered.  After all, here is a city known not only for wonderful education like UVA, great hospitals, especially for children, lots of participation in the arts,  an area with a ton of American history and a proud tradition of locavore chefs.  (Guess what I was most excited about?!)  When we pulled up to the apartment we had found in a hurry it all went horribly wrong.  The space was not what we were told we would be living in at all.  It was a dark basement apartment with moisture issues, fleas  and a very funky smell..... not exactly where you want to live with a 1 year old.  We unfortunately didn't have anywhere to go and had to sign the lease.

After a few weeks of injuring myself in a kitchen that no one could cook in, cat acquiring fleas from the apartment and finding any excuse to get out to be around people &  fresh air,  we had had enough.  We had been spending every other weekend heading back to Harrisburg to work on packing up our home and getting it market ready.  My husband was settled at work and I'd been researching places to move to the entire time. Our son definitely was getting frustrated and all three of us started getting sick from the air quality in that awful living space (despite purifiers running 24/7.) We found somewhere we actually wanted to live that was available right away. The decision was made to break our lease (a very expensive move that I don't recommend unless truly necessary) and carry on.  I am happy to say that 3 weeks ago we made our move and today is the first day I truly can begin feeling at home.

For me, being able to cook comfort food for my family is how I begin to feel at home.  Today I am starting that process by making banana bread.  We had a ton of ripe bananas from running around so much (easy to carry in bag and purses, no refrigeration needed), so I'm making a double batch. I divided the batter in half. The first half I'm turning into mini muffins for my son. They 're convenient finger food for toddlers on the go. The second half I have added chocolate chips and walnuts to bake into a loaf of bread for my husband and I.   I have made a lot of different versions of banana bread over the years, here is my current favorite.

You will need:
1 2/3 cups flour ( I like organic whole grain white flour for this recipe)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp cardamon
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
1/2 cup coconut sugar
2 eggs (I prefer extra large organic)
1/2 cup oil ( if you don't mind a tropical infusion I love coconut oil. It also gives the bread a beautiful rich color.  Avocado oil is a great alternative to keep in your healthy fats without changing any flavors as well).
3 1/2 very ripe banana, mashed
2 Tbsp Organic Greek Yogurt
1 tsp Vanilla
2/3 cups nuts or fillers of your choosing***

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line the bottom of a loaf pan with parchment paper.  If making mini muffins, I like to use silicone molds and I spray them with coconut oil.  First sift together the baking soda, flour and spices. Set these aside in a bowl.  Then, beat the eggs and sugar in a mixer with the whisk attachment and run for about 10 minutes, until light and fluffy. Next, drizzle in the oil and add the mashed bananas, greek yogurt and vanilla. Fold in the dry ingredients and any fillers.  For the mini muffins bake about 40 minutes or if you're baking a loaf 45 minutes to an hour.  Let cool a bit and enjoy! If you have any left at the end of the day, the slices of bread and mini muffins freeze well for future grab n go snacks.

***Note: a few optional fillers other than nuts that our family enjoys are raspberries, blueberries, strawberry pieces or chocolate chips. Sometimes I make a tropical version with macadam nuts, coconut chips and crushed pineapple.  The batter is fairly versatile.





Friday, February 13, 2015

"Fight the Fear and do it Anyway"

Its the second week of February and by now many of you are truly taking stock and are ready to put a lot of those New Year's resolutions into action. You've thought about how you are going to do something and what it will take for you to start..... but what is generally stopping you from an exciting new adventure? Fear.

Starting anything new is scary.  A new beginning can be a big thing like a move but it can also be simpler acts such as starting a new healthy habit, meeting or talking to someone new, and even trying a new food.  Fear causes stress and we naturally tend to think of stress as being a bad thing.  When fear starts running our lives it can prevent us from experiencing some really awesome events and feelings.  New starts and resolutions tend to get stopped before they even start when fear of change kicks in.

Change is stressful, but that can be a good thing too.  I know, you think I'm speaking like a crazy person.... but hear me out.  Stress is defined in the dictionary as a response to a stimulus that interferes with the normal equilibrium in the body.  We constantly associate stress as a negative thing but by definition if I try a new ice cream flavor and have a positive reaction (such as being super excited about this taste explosion in my mouth), that technically is a response to stimuli that is changing the normal equilibrium in my body. I generally don't walk around giddy constantly.

So as you see, some stress can be a good thing.  Change can lead to so many wonderful possibilities. If you have a job you really hate and decide to find a new one thats a big change. It is also one that can lead to your general everyday contentment if you find your dream job that fulfills you.  if you dont embrace the chance to change you could be missing out.

I like to think of fear as a doorway. It is preventing us from seeing all the really great possibilities that are waiting on the other side of it. If we choose to challenge our  fears and open the door an entire world of imagination exists.  Our wildest dreams truly can be  our reality.

My husband was just offered a new opportunity that will have huge changes for our entire family but limitless possibilities as well while we move to a new state...... with only  a few weeks to do it.  Am I stressed? Hell yes!  My house looks like a bomb went off from my son's first birthday party and he just started walking/ getting into everything.  I need to pack up our essentials by myself while my husband finishes up his last two weeks of work. This is one of the riskiest things we've ever done.  Stay tuned to find out how those possibilities worked out.  

Monday, September 1, 2014

Summer Nostalgia/ These aren't your grandma's pork chops

I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to say goodbye to summer yet. I've been so busy with clients, visiting family and chasing after the new crawler in our home that I feel like summer just blew past me and I've missed it.  With this in mind I spent this holiday weekend making lots of summer favorites. Friday's dinner was really more tropical in theme, but it features two of my favorite flavors on the planet: coconut and mango. I'm making Coconut crusted pork chops with fresh mango salsa.

The salsa is best if it can marinate  a few hours before serving or even overnight, so we'll start with that first.  Some of you may be unfamiliar with fresh mangoes because you've only bought them as a puree or already sliced and frozen. So step one is how to cut a mango.  A mango has a big almond shaped pit in its center that is usually about 1/2 inch thick. Instead of cutting it directly in half where you see the spot where the vine was attached, cut down on either side of it.  When you're done you will have 3 pieces: the one with the pit and the two halves.  I cut the little bit of flesh around the pit and use that too because I can't stand wasting any bit of a mango.  For each of the halves, score with a knife (cut into the flesh but don't go through the skin), lines across and down so you have the effect of a tic tac toe board. Then from the skin side push in the center which will cause the squares of flesh to pop away from the skin. From here, you can curt them off more easily (see the photo).

After your mango is diced up, toss in the juice of 1 lime, some kosher salt, chopped fresh cilantro and finely diced Jalepeno.  A note on jalepenos (especially if you wear contacts):  When cutting them up wear rubber gloves so you don't get the heat on your hands because you will never get it off before a few days. If you take out your contacts and then go to put them in the next day without having worn gloves, you will get a nasty surprise.  Also, if your guests don't like really pict food, be sure to remove all the ribs and seeds from the inside of your Jalepeno.  Here's how my salsa turned out. The little red bits are actually Jalepeno... Thats what they do when you leave them on your garden vine extra long, just like a bell pepper would do.


I used thick cut pork chops tonight for my meat but chicken breasts that are split would work very well for this recipe as well. Just cut down on your cooking time.  To bread the chops I used three shallow containers: 1) 1/4 cup flour- I used whole wheat flour with a 1/2 tsp of salt  2) 1 egg with a tablespoon of milk whisked together  3) 1/2 cup flour with 1 cup of coconut flakes also known as coconut powder if you're shopping in an Indian market.  Dredge the chops through the containers in order (flour then egg mixture and finally coconut mixture.

Now you're ready to cook them.  You can use butter to fry these up in the pan, but I prefer to use coconut oil, about 2 Tbsp.  It blends with the coconut flavor and is a little healthier for you. Brown each side of the chops so they begin to get crispy. About 5 minutes total, then transfer them to the oven. I like to place them on a rack raised over the pan so they stay nice and crispy. Cover with foil and bake about another 20 minutes. I actually do this in my convection toaster oven at about 350F so you might have to adjust your time to a bit longer for your oven.

Remove the foil for the last 5 minutes of cooking.  Then serve up with the mango salsa and enjoy! NOTE: this recipe is gluten free & pale friendly if you use coconut milk & coconut flour in place of the regular flour and milk.


Friday, May 16, 2014

Soups On!: Homemade stock.

Happy Food Revolution Day! I'm posting every hour on my Facebook page today: Facebook.com/lifeinbalancewellness.  I'm sharing recipes and cooking techniques throughout the day. As promised, first up is a basic necessity in every kitchen: Chicken stock... or for you Paleo heads out there, Chicken bone broth.


Its a rainy and chilly spring morning here in PA so I think of soup on damp days like this. Not to mention, the baby has been ill a few days and now I'm feeling a tad queasy. Some homemade chicken soup is just what I need. The base for every chicken soup and a lot of other things is stock.  I just can't justify paying a few bucks at the store for something I can make at home with things I have in my pantry and freezer all the time.  Not to mention, who wants all the added salt and preservatives in their food? Not me.

A lot of people don't roast their own chickens fro dinner anymore. Its pretty easy to do but most don't have time so they pick up one of those rotisserie style ones for about $5 a the grocery store.  I bring this up because you will need your own roasted chicken or one of the rotisserie ones for these recipes.   I keep things easy by any time I do roast a chicken or a turkey I take the leftover carcass, pop it in a ziploc bag and toss it in the freezer. This same bag is a good place to pop the neck that comes in the package too (that most people never use.)

So, take the carcass from your freezer or the leftover one from your rotisserie chicken and begin letting it thaw. Next take your favorite stock pot and add  your mirepoix to the bottom: thats equal parts diced carrots, celery and onion for those who don't use culinary speak.   (I used 4 carrots, 4 ribs of celery and 1 large onion here.) I like to use my dutch oven when dealing with a smaller carcass. Sweat the mirepoix with a little bit of olive oil for a few minutes and then place the chicken carcass on top.  Pour in cold water until the carcass is submerged. Fill a sachet, muslin bag or tea ball with a few peppercorns, a garlic clove, 2 bay leaves and  some parsley stems. Drop this in the pot as well.


Cook on high heat until you begin to see bubbles break through the surface of the liquid. Turn heat down to medium low so that stock maintains low, gentle simmer. Skim the scum from the stock with a spoon or fine mesh strainer every 10 to 15 minutes for the first hour of cooking and twice each hour for the next 2 hours. Add hot water as needed to keep bones and vegetables submerged. Simmer uncovered for 6 to 8 hours.

Strain stock through a fine mesh strainer into another large stockpot or heatproof container discarding the solids. Cool immediately in large cooler of ice or a sink full of ice water to below 40 degrees. Place in refrigerator overnight. Remove solidified fat from surface of liquid and store in container with lid in refrigerator for 2 to 3 days or in freezer for up to 3 months. Prior to use, bring to boil for 2 minutes. Use as a base for soups and sauces.




Gluten free update & some meatballs

Note: This Post was writen back in October 2012. It never made it up until now due to computer issues.

Sorry for the long delay between posts, been having some computer issues so I'm posting some that I actually wrote over the last several weeks and haven't uploaded yet. Hope you find them useful!

 My kitchen remodel finally is done and its amazing the difference a functional layout can make. My husband and I noticed I've been cooking nonstop since it was installed. This gluten free diet is so much easier being able to finally cook again. I've had a few yummy successes this past week.

First up I sautéed some andouille sausage in some olive oil & garlic. Then I added broccollini, zucchini, shrimp and tossed in some cannellini beans. This was definitely a winner. The smokiness of the sausage flavored everything else. The dish was nice and filling too. It didn't need any kind of side dish or starch accompaniment either.

My mom came to town and I made a paleo recipe of pork with apples slow cooked in the crockpot. Quite yummy!



The next night I was feeling lazy but still did not want to order takeout so I made meatballs. Growing up, I loved helping my mom make meatballs, especially when she'd quote that tv commercial in a funny accent and exclaim "that's a spicy meatball". The spiciest always came from loads of garlic in the meatball mix. I decided I wanted the garlic but I also had to de-gluten her recipe And wanted to make them a bit healthier. They turned out really yummy & I created a new recipe. Score!

Here's what I did:
I mixed 1package of ground turkey, tossed in a half package of thawed frozen spinach, 2 very large cloves of garlic minced, 1 egg and a generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. I also tossed in about a cup of gluten free panko bread crumbs. Next I sautéed the meatballs in some olive oil with about 2 more cloves of garlic mixed in.  As soon as the meatballs are browned on the outside I place them In a stoneware baker. I pour some of my slow roasted tomato sauce over the top and let it bake for about 30 minutes. Then enjoy!

I'm noticing the more cooking I do and the longer I go without gluten, the easier these new dietary changes are becoming.  Hopefully those of you pursuing gluten free diets will have as many successes as I have had these last two weeks.  Happy eating!