The blueberries taste like blueberries…but the zucchini tastes like PIZZA!

Last weekend, I headed out to Kendall’s Blueberries to pick as many as I could! It is nearing the end of the season and I wanted to score some fresh, chemical-free, and affordable berries for the upcoming winter! This farm, a blueberry farm, located in Hastings, MI, offers $1/lb u-pick berries! So, of course, my roommates and I headed out there on a beautiful Michigan Saturday! It was a bit of a drive, just under an hour from our home, and well, it was mostly beautiful (once we got off I-94). Image

One of my roommates…he liked eating over picking…but I forgave him!ImageAnd a beautiful bush filled with the delectable fruit of the earth!ImageJust a few rules, about picking blueberries to freeze or can:

1. Take more time picking, less time prepping. Notice the little stems, well those don’t make good smoothie additions, so be mindful when picking, or your prepping takes a LOT longer.

2. You’ll learn to appreciate those blueberry pickers. This was not an easy taste. Despite eating a handful or two throughout the few hours we were there, I picked for just over 2 hours. Together, we picked about 12 pounds.

3. Processing blueberries isn’t easy either. Okay, well it is easy, but time consuming. I chose to freeze my berries…so after washing them, drying them, and spreading them out in one layer, on a baking sheet (with edges, always with edges), and waiting about 30 minutes per load to freeze…it took me 7 hours to process all of these babies!

4. Enjoy! The best part about processing the berries was eating them throughout the prepping stage. I may have ate close to a pound, but they were great!

5. Always look for local, chemical free. I’ve learned from research and first hand experience that organic isn’t always the best choice. USDA Organic certification is expensive. Supporting local, chemical-free farms is a better option. So support away!

Just a day later, my mom had me pick up her CSA share as my parents were heading out on vacation. Well, since it was a full share, I had about 12 zucchinis, 6 cloves of garlic, 10 hot peppers, 2 pints of blueberries (like I needed more, but oh, they were eaten!), 5 bundles of greens (kale, swiss chard, and collard), 6 heads of broccoli, and random other stuff I’m forgetting…well what do you do with ALL this food? Pinterest. Pinterest your heart out until you come up with enough ways to use it all before you waste any delicious produce. And what did we Pinterest – Zucchini Pizza. After reading several recipes, I decided to get going…and here’s what happened:

ImageI started with a sauté of garlic, onions, thyme, basil, and oregano in olive oil. After that became aromatic, I added in some red bell peppers and hot peppers. This would be really tasty with mushrooms and/or olives (according to my roommate, I don’t like either). ImageAnd then you add in some meat! If you eat meat, eat “organic“, grass-fed, local meat. We had a delicious sweet Italian sausage from Bear Foot Farms. I supposed you could use a meat substitute, but I don’t really believe in that (a topic for another day). ImageWhile the meat and veggies are cooking…cut your zucchini in half, scoop out the seeds, and microwave them for about 5 minutes at power level 5. So, for the past 4 years, I haven’t had a microwave…and I don’t really think you need one. However, this helped to soften the zucchini so it would cook quicker. I think steaming it could have worked too…but Pinterest said to microwave.

Oh yeah, and preheat that oven to BROIL!ImageAnd then, you start the filling process! I drizzled a little olive oil on the zucchini, then a little bit of tomato sauce…and then I stuffed them full of the meat and veggie goodness, added a little more tomato sauce, and then smothered in parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.

Toss this baking sheet into the oven, on the top rack (or bottom broiler), and keep your eye on it! You want that cheese to be perfectly browned and crispy, but not burnt.ImageMozzarella melts really well, so it is a good way to get that crispness. And who in their right mind doesn’t like crispy cheese???ImageAnd then dig in! Granted, this isn’t the most beautiful looking and easy to eat meal…but my God was it delicious! I think I’ve found a way to replace the pizza I crave. A pretty healthy alternative. And it is perfect to reheat! I wrapped up the leftover boats in tin foil, and brought them to work. Preheated the oven to 350 and let them bake until they were warm! Perfection! And everyone in the office was jealous.

I was thinking about other things you could stuff in there to make it a few times a week…here is what comes to mind:

  • Mexican style – with more hot peppers, black beens, and wild rice – top with some yummy cheese and guacamole! Now that sounds amazing!
  • Greek style – orzo pasta, feta, olives, you get where I’m going…
  • American style – grains, veggies, something plain and simple (we’re boring, get over it).
  • Whatever the hell you want style – fill it with your favorite anything! The spicier the better, as the zucchini soaks up flavor and it is perfect!

I guess I’ve had a pretty good week, filled with yummy, local food. However, I did suffer from a migraine for three days and I’m finally feeling better (which is why this blog is slightly delayed). I’m getting back in to hot yoga and that makes me very happy. After work, I’m heading over to Barnes & Nobles to pick up a edible plant guide. What else, oh yes, I’m participating in a photo-shoot with weekend for a friend’s company, iWooLoo, to empower women of all shapes, sizes, and colors to love themselves and reach self-actualization. This will be interesting. I’ll be practicing posing all day tomorrow!

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What do you do if you are craving sweets? Watch this video.

Need a good way to ensure that you won’t be eating sugar later today, tomorrow, next week, next year? Here ya go! This is a little clip from an awesome UK show “Supersize vs. Superskinny”.

Last semester, I worked on a project that would help curb childhood obesity in Michigan. One of the points I brought up was skinny-fat people (especially kids) because although they appear to be “healthy” (aka, less fat) they are not healthy on the inside. Internal organs coated with fat is not healthy.

Next time you feel like eating some gummies, or a fruit roll up, or a slushy – think about this. Remember what all those ingredients really are…not REAL food.

Don’t starve your body from nutrients. Don’t overfeed your body crap. Be pure, Be healthy, & Always eat real food.

Rant: GMO, gut disease, inflammation, and the great USofA

Happy Monday! I feel like the last 48 hours are a blur and a dream…I’m officially a college graduate and beginning the next chapter of my life – a 23-year-old still trying to change the world, become the healthiest person I can be, and to appreciate all the little blessings in my life. This past weekend, I had an amazing time with my family and friends.

And when it rolls back around to Monday morning, and I check back in to reality, and I’m not feeling 100% great (lots of sugar, cheese, white bread, and less water, veggies, and fruits)…I decide that May 1st will bring about a month of hot yoga – every single day. I’m going to go for my own 30 day challenge. Starting today, as I’ll be out of town as of May 31st (more on this very soon), I’m going to go to yoga every day. I’m still going to try to keep up with running too – just don’t want to push myself too much.

Anyway – back on to the rant. At the bottom of this post, there will be a lovely video that I highly suggest watching. It is a little long (about an hour) but so worth it. It highlights a lot of aspects of GMO foods – health concerns, bad science, market prevalence  legislation, policies in other countries, influence on kids, and what we can go – so if you have a little time – watch it, share it, enjoy it, PLEASE.

Some highlights:

  • In 1992, the FDA set a precedent that GMO foods are safe and can be used in consumer goods. However, in 1998 there was a leak of internal documents that showed there was not research to back up the safety of GMO foods and scientists actually proved it was unsafe.
  • Many scientists refer to the industry conducted research as “Tobacco Science” – highlighting the ways in which Big Ag acts similar to Big Tobacco in the 1970s…blaming problems on personal responsibility instead of their harmful product
  • Michael Taylor was involved in the FDA back in the early 90s, when these precedents were set, and then worked for Monsanto, and now he’s back at the FDA and holds the Food Safety Czar job…and there are tons of examples of the revolving door between Big Business and the Feds.
  • GMO food increase in consumption is correlated with increases in digestive issues, inflammation, mental health issues, birth defects, allergies, etc.
  • Big Ag, just like Big Tobacco plays up the aspect of personal responsibility, while downplaying the role of industry in the market, not to mention manipulative labeling and advertising. We could also ask if corporations should be held personally responsible as well, considering they are individuals in the eye of personal freedoms.
  • A lot of research funding in public universities, across the nation, are traced back to Big Ag…and scientists tend to lose their jobs if they attempt to expose the downside of GMOs.
  • “We’ve all been blissfully ignorant” – a quote from a mother, during the Kids and GMOs segment
  • What can happen? As many more developed nations are banning GMO – multinational food corporations are making changes – referred to as “the tipping point of consumer rejection” because GMOs become “marketing liability” and thus are removed from the formulation and products are offered with NONGMO labeling (but not here in the USA)
  • Genetically Engineered attempts (that have been denied due to consumer rejection) – tomato, rice, potato, wheat, biopharmaceuticals (vaccines in food), alfalfa, landscaping grass, and HOPEFULLY salmon! <—- SIGN THIS PETITION

Please enjoy the movie. Share with friends, family, coworkers, school administrations, doctors, WHOEVER – just get the word out that there is proof that GMOs are hurting us. We deserve to know.

Until next time, eat well, be pure, love yourself & others <3

Chia seeds, back pain, & graduating

I am hurting today. Yesterday, around noon, I just got a horrible migraine and neck ache  I thought it could be from poor diet (a little too much sugar for the past week)…maybe not doing yoga (haven’t been in the studio in a week, but have been doing some at home)…or from staring at this computer screen too much? Not really sure…but I do know that I hurt, my eyes hurt…it hurts to move my eyes in any direction…so that isn’t cool. I was hoping to get a massage before I graduate tomorrow, but both massage therapists that I trust are out of town and my mom is too busy. I may just take an epsom salt bath, drink lots of water, and do some deep breathing and HOPE that it will go away later today or tomorrow morning – as I have a BUSY Saturday and want to enjoy it!

I’ve been trying to work on budgeting and this month, I have spent over $600 on food (half going out, and half on groceries)…so this week, I’ve been attempting to live modestly. My trail mix has been helping – and sales on greek yogurt made breakfast pretty cheap too. As I bought chia seeds and other bulk goodies – I made a yogurt parfait – which was sooo good. It also helps with sweet cravings (because it is sweet)…and also has inspired me to make my own yogurt (which I’ll be doing next week, so be on the look out for that post)!

IMG_6864Base is Chobani Blueberry Greek Yogurt. It was my first time having Chobani (they were on sale at the PFC for 85 cents…so I went for it)…I added some walnuts, slivered almonds, chia seeds, raisins, and granola (from my trail mix recipe in the post below) and then threw a few frozen strawberries (because I didn’t have any fresh fruit) and ate up! It was tasty and once I start making my own yogurt (my mom already does) – I’ll be eating this way more often. Yummm.

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Tomorrow is the day I finally graduate college. After 4 years at Western Michigan University, I’m happy to be a bronco graduating with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Sociology and Organizational Communication (double major), Magna Cum Laude, a member of two honors societies, and a member of a wonderful community. Kalamazoo, Michigan is home to this great university, Kalamazoo College, and KVCC – three great academic opportunities for all types of people (not to mention of Kalamazoo Center for the Healing Arts, and other trade schools). I am looking forward to my opportunities in graduate school and hope that, one day, I am able to teach at a university like WMU.

So needless to say, I’m slightly stressed out and going through some major life changes. I didn’t realize that I was this stressed about graduating – I mean, I’ve been working since I was 16…living alone for a while now, and take pretty good care of myself. But I also, for 4 years, have been writing papers, doing research, going to class, walking around on campus, and enjoying a distraction from the work day – but it is all ending right NOW. All of a sudden, it was April and it was time to complete a 35-page final program design, a final personal analysis, and a 23 minute group presentation. All this while trying to heal my body, focus on my own growth, start working full-time, and coming to terms with the years of relationship turmoil I put myself through.

As this weekend rolls around, I’m doing my best to stay stress free. Deep breathing, eating nutritious food, and laughter are the biggest stress relievers for me. I get stressed with time schedules and budgets – for I’m starting to make some major living decisions and need to budget and schedule showings, etc. On top of my desire to enjoy the beautiful mother nature – I am stuck behind a computer screen for 8 hours a day…and I need to find a way to ensure that it doesn’t drain my energy. But with all this said, I’ve got to head to my parents house for dinner with my grandparents (in town to celebrate me!) and I’m so excited to see them!

Until next time, love yourself & others <3

 

Trail Mix, Coffee, & Quality

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Well, today is Thursday, and just less than a week ago, I finished cleansing with Bepure. I had a great cleansing experience – but due to the stress of  life, I’ve been needing a little boost of caffeine this whole week. Maybe it has been the rainy weather…or the late nights…or the anticipation for graduation – but I’m needing coffee this week. Oh and the smell, is soooo lovely. Plus, I got this super sweet coffee grinder from my grandma, and well, I should use it as often as possible. I think my mom wants to kidnap it from me, as she asks me to bring it over every time I visit…so I have to use it so she doesn’t have a reason to take it from me.

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About 6 months ago, I found the BEST coffee I’ve ever had. Something about this delicate, but robust coffee, with hints of raisins, chocolate, and nuts…make it a winner in my book. Plus, it is 100% organic, fair trade, and perfect. Check it out – and ALWAYS support cooperatives when you have the ability to. So…as I hadn’t been drinking coffee, or consuming dairy, for a while now…I wanted to a cup of coffee but had no cream or milk or anything that could possibly help me out. I don’t like my coffee black – not sure why – but I’ve always done a little splash of cream or milk…with no sugar. I never liked mochas, or lattes, or flavored coffee. I did have a job as a barista for about a year, and loved it, but never tried any of my crazy flavored latte concoctions…I just knew they tasted good because of the smells. Anywhooo…I needed something…so I thought hmm. Let’s try this (shown above and below) – I took a tsp of cocoa powder (organic and fair-trade in bulk at $16.99/lb, so I use it sparingly), vanilla extract, and coconut oil…just a little bit of each (you could add more or less, depending on what flavors you like…or try some almond extract, or some chili powder?) and enjoy!!IMG_6853

 I really like this mixture – especially with the Bike Fuel blend from Just Coffee Coop so I’m back on my coffee kick…but keeping it to 1 cup a day, not every day, and only with these add ins.

As my days have been hectic for the past two weeks, and it will continue on, well…I guess forever?…I decided that I really needed to increase my healthy snack options. Yes, I do a lot of fruits and veggies – but these get pricey, go bad quickly, and aren’t the easiest thing to shove in my backpack and nibble at when I’m out and about for 12 hour days. Over the past year and a half, I’ve done a lot of research that has made me shun granola, trail mix, and “healthy” snack bars (like Kashi, Luna, or even Kind) just because of the added sugar, the mass-produced-ness, and well..the lack of love. BUT…I can make my own, and add love to them, and know each and every ingredient that goes into them.

So….I’m having issues with my camera (well…more like my lighting) and until I move out…I’ll be stuck with my horrible lighting and my lack of knowledge to remedy the situation. But regardless, I tried to capture a few images of what went into my trail mix…so always remember, you can add/subtract whatever you like – you can start with a base and throw in different things each day…whatever works. I think this would be tasty in oatmeal, yogurt, with some milk, and just plain old plain.

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As this week was Owner’s Appreciation Week at the coop, I decided to buy bulk things that are slightly pricey ($18/lb local MI dried cherries…$10/lb fair-trade, organic dark chocolate mini chips, and a locally made, wheat-free vanilla almond granola at $8.99/lb). I brought in my own jars because well, they are cute, and it saves on waste…so minus the weight of the jar, I got about a 3/4 lb of each – and after making a good amount of trail mix – I still have a LOT left…which is awesome and unexpected.

My trail mix consisted of (pretty) equal parts of the following:

  • Slivered almonds
  • Raw walnuts
  • A mixture of dried cherries, cranberries, and raisins (all organic and bought in bulk, but yes, they are sweetened)
  • Raw sunflower seeds
  • Dark chocolate mini-chips

And, I thought about added some shredded coconut, but not sure if that would be good for an on-the-go snack…but I may have to try some energy balls next week – and I’ll definitely let you know how those go!

IMG_6859So I tossed all the ingredients together, put a heaping handful into a plastic bag for later this evening (in between errands and yoga, after work)…and I’ll probably do another one for my travels tomorrow, as there is nothing worse than traveling without healthy snacking options…because you may get stuck with nasty airport food, or processed nuts on the plane…and I’d rather be safe than sorry. I think my next post will discuss how to travel healthy – as I’ve got a few tricks for that too!

Anyways…time is flying and I’m graduating in one week and two days – and I can’t wait! I’m excited for my grandparents and brother to come in to town. I’m excited for my family to meet my friends. I’m excited to eat tiramisu at my favorite restaurant in Kalamazoo. I’m excited to be an “adult” and to move towards the next chapter of my life.

Also, a quick side note, regarding adulthood – I purchased my first real works of art, from a good friend (and maybe a future-something-more) – two prints – one on metal and one on wood…so when I get my lighting figured out, I’ll take pictures of his pictures and share. I’m really happy with my purchase and feel like it is another step in the right direction…the direction of being true to myself, finding beauty in life, and supporting local.

Enjoy and be healthy <3