Saturday, March 31, 2012

Teaching your kids how to live a healthy life

This post is written by Ashley Smith, a totally inspirational mother of two that has been a friend of mine since middle school! Their family raises chickens, grows their own food, and has a farm share, all things they do to help their children live healthy lives.

I never pictured myself living out in the country, raising farm animals, or growing my own food. I grew up in the suburbs in a bubble, and didn’t picture life differently until I had my own kids. I have two daughters, ages one and two.  It’s important to me that my kids have experiences that help them appreciate what they have and an understanding of how this world works together. 

Don’t get me wrong: we go to the grocery store like anyone else. We treat ourselves to our favorite foods and have lazy days, but my girls know plunking down in front of the TV with a bag of chips is an occasional thing, not our everyday routine. Most of our free time is spent exploring outside, going for walks in the woods, tending to our animals, or simply strolling through the garden. I could argue there’s nothing my oldest daughter loves more than running through rows of corn!

The girls and I participate in a farm share, which is a great experience. Much of our produce from June-October comes from a farm five miles away if it’s not straight out of our garden. Every week we go pick up our box of all kinds of fruits and veggies and I have to hold back eager children who can’t wait to tear into it.  If you don’t have the time or the space to grow your own, this is a great way to get fresh quality (usually organic) produce for a good price!
  Just last year we took on the adventure of raising our own chickens for eggs. I have to say, it has been more fun than I imagined! Even at two years old, my daughter asks every day to go feed “her” chickens. She loves collecting the eggs and putting them in her basket. Our chickens are free range, with a hen house at night for predator protection, so they are frequently chased around the yard for hugs. This spring we even raised baby chicks, and now have a total of nine hens and two roosters (oops! The boys were supposed to be girls but we love them anyway). 

We are currently getting our garden ready for this season, planting seeds and looking for worms. There’s nothing like picking a handful of fresh strawberries out of your own backyard for an afternoon snack. There are sure to be many more adventures for us in the future, and I hope that I can raise happy, healthy, well rounded children in the process.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Quote of the moment

I heard a definition once: Happiness is health and a short memory! 
I wish I'd invented it, because it is very true.

- Audrey Hepburn

Monday, March 26, 2012

Using Pinterest to store recipes

So, I am on again/off again about Pinterest. Sometimes I think it is an awesome way to store links that I want to visit again. Other times, I think it is a time-sucking distraction that makes me feel way too overwhelmed to cook or craft anything. But where I find it most useful is in storing recipes. I have two Pinterest boards, one called "recipes (to try)" and one called "recipes (delicious)." Whenever I see a recipe online, I don't have to worry about whether or not I want to add it to the long list of recipes in my bookmarks folder, or print it out. I just pin it on my "recipes (to try)" board in Pinterest. If I end up liking the recipe, I can move it over to the "recipes (delicious)" board.

Then, when I'm making my grocery list, I can go back to either of these boards and be inspired to cook these meals. It's so much less overwhelming than trying to search All Recipes for something I might like...The best part is that the board shows pictures of the meals, making me much more likely to choose one of them.

Another idea I've been meaning to try is to make a board called "recipes (for the week)," and use that board to store the recipes that I've chosen just for that week. When I get home from work, I wouldn't have to remember which meals I've bought ingredients for. I could even plan ahead, and choose a bunch of meals for the entire month! But that sounds a little too organized, even for me...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

How I convince myself to go running

So, I love running. But I usually don't love running until I'm all done running for the day. Sometimes it can be really, really hard to make myself get out the door. I thought I would share a few things I do when I feel like any excuse will prevent me from going for a run...
  1. Picturing how I feel when I return from a run. The feeling of exhaustion and accomplishment that I know I'll have when I come back is sometimes enough to get me moving.
  2. Saving up good podcasts for my run. You could do this with podcasts, music, or books on tape. Pick something that you love to listen to, and only let yourself listen to it while you work out. It'll make exercise something you look forward to.
  3. Making a checklist. I use one of the calendars from this website to write down how much I want to run during the upcoming week. After I complete the run for that day, I check it off. It's a little thing, but the satisfaction of having a full week of checks helps motivate me.
  4. Picking two days of the week where I don't worry about exercise. Yes, I know, I should get 30 minutes of exercise every day. But my job is active enough that I don't have to sit down constantly. So I give myself two days a week where I don't worry about going for a run.
It also really helps to be working towards something like a half marathon or 10K. But I don't like to always worry about a training schedule. Instead, I just want to run for the sake of running. Some days this works, but other days I need a little more motivation.

Monday, March 12, 2012

How many types of tomatoes existed 100 years ago?

Something I didn't think about for most of my life was what type of tomato I was eating. I didn't know there were different varieties. I just thought a tomato was a tomato. I could tell the difference between a big tomato and a grape tomato, but that's about it. But as I started reading and learning more about healthy eating, I realized that there are tons of tomato varieties I had never seen before. Now, when I go to the farmers market or a healthy eating conference, I always hear people gushing about the particular type of heirloom tomato that they love the most. There are, in fact, 79 different types of tomato seeds that can be found in the National Seed Storage Laboratory. Different tomatoes have different flavors, shapes, and textures, and some types are better for cooking certain dishes than others. The image at the right shows some of these types.

But tomatoes aren't the only food with this much variety. There are also 28 types of cabbage, 36 types of lettuce, and 16 types of cucumbers. There are 25 types of peas, and 17 different beet varieties. Needless to say, I had no idea, and neither do most people, because grocery stores often carry just one or two varieties of these fruits and vegetables. Consumers are used to getting the same type of food everywhere they go, so a grocery store in California is expected to carry the exact same type of tomato as a store in Kansas. We are used to perfectly red tomatoes, gorgeous orange carrots, and big purple beets. But striped tomatoes, purple carrots, and orange beets exist too.

Unfortunately, these varieties are disappearing quickly. As this National Geographic image shows below, we used to have way more variety. A hundred years ago, we had almost 500 varieties of lettuce, 400 types of tomatoes, and 338 types of muskmelon. Now our seed variety has dwindled drastically.

This lack of vegetable variety doesn't just mean less colorful grocery shelves. It means that farmers have learned to grow just one type of lettuce, corn, or tomato on their farm fields. They have acres and acres of the same food, which increases the likelihood that the crop will be wiped out by a disease or insect. This practice of growing only one type of crop, called "monocropping" or "monoculture," is bad for the soil as well. But it's what farmers do, because it's what we demand at grocery stores.

Increasing the variety of seeds we grow in the U.S. is important. Different varieties of food offer different tastes and different nutrients. It's also fun to figure out how to cook with new types of foods. There are ways we can help increase the variety of seeds that farmers grow. I have been wanting to get a CSA share for years, so it will force me to try out different types of fruits and vegetables. Shop at farmers markets if possible, and buy new types of fruits and vegetables there. At the grocery store, look for more unusual varieties of the foods you usually buy. The more people demand a variety of fruits and vegetables, the more likely these varieties will stick around for the next one hundred years.

Image source: Readyplanted

Monday, March 5, 2012

Homemade granola

This granola recipe is quick to make, and so delicious. It's a filling and healthy snack as well. The recipe comes from a family of very inspirational friends that we lived near when we lived in the Hudson Valley. They lead a creative, healthy and sustainable lifestyle that I am slowly working towards each day. So thanks Emma, Eric, Mathilde and Alice for your inspiration, and for the granola recipe! Here it is:

Emma's Granola
  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ (can be raw)
  • 2 T dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 cup extra ingredients, such as pecans, sunflower seeds, walnuts, almonds, etc
  • 1 cup raisins or other dried fruit
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3 T flavorless oil, such as Canola
  • 1 T water
  • A few pinches of flavoring, such as cinnamon, vanilla, and any other spice or flavoring that you like

Mix the first five ingredients in a large bowl. Bring maple syrup, oil, and water to a simmer in a small saucepan. Add flavoring. Pour maple syrup mixture over the oat mixture and coat all oats with liquids.

Place in a large pan. Ideally the granola is in a layer less than 1 inch thick. Bake for 30 minutes at 275F, then add raisins or other dried fruit on top. Bake for 15 more minutes. If you like clumpy granola, don't stir it while it bakes.

Let cool and keep in an airtight container, up to two weeks. As Emma said, it never lasts that long in our house! It's very easy to make a double or triple batch.

Image via Free People
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