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!

Simple, quick, & perfect: Chocolate Chip Cookie

20130802-211112.jpg
Sometimes we need a little sweets, especially on a long and chilly Friday in Michigan. I’ve been using this chocolate chip cookie recipe since I was little and it is so easy!

Mix together butter/oil – you want at least half 1/2 cup butter, and then enough oil/shortening (coconut is great in this) to equal a full cup…with a cup of packed brown sugar and a 1/2 cup white sugar. Add in a bit of vanilla and almond extracts – add enough to suit your tastebuds! Almond is my favorite :)

After that gets well blended – smooth and mixed together – crack in two eggs. Then mix in 2 1/2 cups of flour (I use spelt flour) and a 1/2 tsp of baking powder. Blend together – should be firm but moist (that’s what he said, hahaha) and toss in some chocolate chips – as much or little as you want. I shoot for about 4 chips per cookie – so a full bag or a cup and a half! You could add nuts if you want!

Ohh I guess I should have had you preheat the oven to 375… Or a smidge over (hotter makes then the thin and flat style, how my family likes then). Divide cookie dough into the size of cookie you like – average is about a spoonful. Don’t grease your cookie sheet either! Pop in the oven for 8 minutes, or until golden brown edges appear.

Sometimes, if they are still a little puffy, I poke then and let the cookie sink and seal – makes them slightly brittle but so good! Take off cookie sheet and let them cool for 5 minutes… It’s hard but so worth it! Serve with a big glass of fresh, raw milk and enjoy!

Raw milk may not be legal in your state. Here in Michigan, we are able to herd share and get raw milk. So, basically, my family pays a certain amount per month (or year, or whatever you work out with the farmer) and you own this cow (or goat). Then that money goes to helping the farmer care for and milk the animal and give you your milk! This is legal in Michigan but not federally. I think I will work on a post about raw milk because, well, it’s an interesting topic!

Happy Friday!

Chicken Stock, Chilly Days, & Cleansing

Well, today is Day 17 of my spring cleanse and I’m feeling much better! Last week, I had a case of the sniffles…and congestion, and well…it sucked. I don’t get sick often, but I also feel like the cleanse may have been pushing toxins out of my body – and they came out in the form of mucus and nasal congestion. I didn’t have a cough, fever, fatigue, or anything else that usually comes along with colds/flu. So, I took care of myself and made some homemade chicken stock (I’ll show you my recipe and a few photos further into this post).

I hate to admit this, but I’m going to…I haven’t been as dedicated to a strict cleansing diet, such as my diet last year, and I have a few reasons for this. Last year, when I did the Bepure cleanse, I made a HUGE diet change, but since then, my diet has kept pretty clean so I didn’t feel like I had major changes to make. Sure, I cut out caffeine, processed foods, most added sugar, and white bread – but it wasn’t that hard for me, because I try to keep those things out of my diet anyways. Sometimes I have a white bun on a cheeseburger, but I only eat at restaurants that use organic and/or local ingredients – so we’re talking high quality whole foods – which is my diet. However, I do think that I could have done a little more – perhaps go completely vegetarian during the cleanse – but in my little kitchen, with my busy schedule, I didn’t have as much time and space to prepare, as I wish I would have. So, even though my diet didn’t change a ton (okay, I’ve had a little dark chocolate…but it was fair trade and organic) I’m still feeling great about the cleansing experience and I hope you did too!

Late last week, maybe Thursday, but maybe Friday, I talked to one of Universal Formulas’ customers about her cleansing diet. She was asking what I recommend, what I cut out, and how hard is it…so of course, I’m honest. It can be very hard to cut out things that we have been consuming for years and years. Soda, candy, white flour, and caffeine are the hardest. Not only are these so prevalent in our society, but they are also addictive. It is hard to avoid something that EVERYWHERE you go, you are surrounded by. I’ll share my personal story about this:

Saturday night, I stayed at my parents house. Now, my parents have always instilled in me the idea of holistic living, preventative health, and support local foods. You can read about that in my other blog posts…but Saturday was a different story. My parents got home late on Friday from a vacation and just planned on lounging around the house and watching the Michigan game on Saturday (Go BLUE!!!) so I decided to stay out there and hang out with them. My mom and I went to the local grocery store together and I had a hard time finding ANYTHING to eat. I settled on some sugar snap peas, a kiwi, a grapefruit, and some horseradish to go on matzoh. Nothing was available organic but I caved because I was hungry, and my mom wasn’t making anything more diet friendly. When we were checking out, my mom said she was so proud of me for not giving in to the aisles and aisles of crappy food that I could have chosen ..but I didn’t, because I feel better when I eat healthy – so healthy eating is my lifestyle…this isn’t a diet.

Which brings me back to my discussion with this customer…I reminded her that it isn’t about what CAN’T have, or DON’T need, it is about what you CAN have and what you DO need. Every person in this entire world NEEDS nutrients. So make cleansing about what you are adding into your diet, what you are getting more of, instead of focusing on what you can’t have – and I PROMISE that it will make life easier.

So, back to my chicken stock exploration. So I was reminded of my first error this morning – I forgot to add apple cider vinegar to the stock – which helps to leach out nutrients…so I’ll definitely be adding that next time. Here are my steps: buy a local, whole 2 1/2 lb chicken (I got Otto’s chicken at $1.49/lb from the People’s Food Coop) and cut it up – it doesn’t have to be super pretty, because, well it is getting cooked and only the meat is taken off the bone, so you aren’t actually serving the chicken on the bone or in certain cuts.

After you get it cut up, add all the chicken parts (especially the neck and feet, but mine didn’t come with the feet) into a stock pot and fill with water. I covered the chicken with water, and added about 4 cups more (okay, I didn’t measure, I just poured it in until I thought it was enough) and then I added some celery stocks and tops (the tops are the most important, so every time you get celery, keep the leaves for your next stock!), a red onion (I used red because I don’t really like onion, and thought it may help make the stock pretty), a few carrots, salt & pepper, and a sprig of parsley. I kept it pretty simple – as you can add a lot more of things, especially herbs, but for my first time, I thought simple was best. So here is what my stock pot was filled with:

IMG_6817Then, the next step is to bring the stock to a boil – which took about 35 minutes, and then skim off the foamy/frothy stuff on the topIMG_6823

…and then to turn back down to simmer for as long as you want – I did this for about 8 hours. So, quickly, let me explain what simmering is (because I just thought it meant a low heat) but it is about a gradual reduction in your burner heat, leaving a small, boiling stream in the center of the pan. So, after it is boiling, reduce the heat a little, and then a little more, and a little more, until you barely have a flame, but you still have those little boiling bubbles in the center (took me about 15 minutes of temperature adjusting to get to a simmer). So simmer away and start to notice the comforting aroma of chicken soup surround your kitchen (and my house, because my apartment is so tiny).

After you’ve let it cook however long you want, drain out the liquid into appropriate bowls/containers (glass for your fridge, good and BPA free plastic for the freezer). I actually made more than expected and had to run to the store to get more containers as my fridge is now overflowing with homemade chicken stock. I bought some Made in the USA, freezer safe, and BPA free large plastic storage containers – so I’ll be freezing a good amount, and keeping little jar full in my fridge (giving some to friends, some will be used for matzoh ball soup that I’m making after work today).

IMG_6836At the bottom of the stock pot, you’ll have all the non liquid ingredients left – so your cooked chicken, some mushy celery/carrots/onions. So, now it is time to save this chicken meat. Literally, it FALLS OFF THE BONE. And it is so juicy and tasty that I just wanted to eat it all right away. But, after discussion with my mom, I’m going to make some enchiladas and freeze them for quick meals (I’ll share when I get around to doing that) and freeze some shredded meat for anything in the future, as well as make some chicken noodle soup and freeze it. So I think my chicken meat will fill many empty stomachs in the near future, and remember this was all for $1.49/lb.

IMG_6832Which brings me to my next point…I will, NEVER again, buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Yes, they are easy to prepare but they are EXPENSIVE. Clocking in around $6.50/lb for a good quality, local chicken breast – I just can’t do it. From now on, if I want chicken, I’ll be buying the whole chicken, cutting out the breasts to use for whatever reason, or just making this stock and keep the shredded chicken for whatever I want. Also, you can roast the whole chicken, eat it, and then use the bones and extras for making a stock (fewer nutrients, but still a great way to use as much of the chicken as you can)! So, in other words, if you are afraid of using a whole chicken, just do it! It is so worth it and I’m excited to make my matzoh ball soup tonight and give some stock to friends. Also, I will never buy canned soup or boxed broth again. Here is to eating healthy, supporting local, and being economical!

Now, as I finish up the last week of cleansing, I add in the Restore formula – and rebalance my digestive system. I’ll continue without caffeine, sugar, and processed foods (and will continue with that even after the cleanse). I hadn’t done yoga in the studio last week, as I don’t think it would be a pretty sight with a runny nose (or easy to do yoga breathing, using your nose for inhales and exhales) but I’m feeling better and will be attending tonight – I can’t wait! You know something is an important part of your daily routine if you really miss it when you aren’t practicing, and oh, I miss it. Running is going well – so I’m keeping up with that and hopefully will have some updates later on about races I ran, or major milestones I hit! Currently, I’m running just over a 10 minute mile – averaging about 2.5 miles per run – so a drastic increase is up and coming, I can feel it!

Until next time – stay pure <3