St. Patrick’s Day Green

I’m an Irish girl. Er. Irish-American. Whatever. But, still, the vast majority of my ancestors? Irish peasants. I’m fascinated and proud of the heritage.

That said, I’ve never used the traditional “Irish” holiday as an excuse to drink. It’s an awesome holiday, of course, but the people who tend to go all out (whether Irish or not, whether they know a lick of information about St. Patrick himself) make me shake my head. I still remember going to a college class on St. Patrick’s Day only to observe heads in garbage cans and bodies of passed-out people riddling the common areas. At 9AM. I’m not a prude, but… No. Words.

But, if you’re planning on hitting the pubs this year, try a different green beverage before donning those green beads.

We recently tried out this recipe for super-simple “beginner’s luck green smoothie.” Dave hadn’t jumped on the smoothie bandwagon yet, and none of us had tried a green smoothie. Of course, Hadley LOVED the thing, and Dave enjoyed his more than I expected. Our variation of the original goes like this…


Beginner’s Luck Green Smoothie
(adapted from 100 Days of Real Food’s recipe)2 cups spinach
1 cup milk (any kind)
1 cup water
1 banana, in chunks
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup pineapple chunks

Blend the spinach with the liquid until smooth. Then add the rest of the ingredients and blend until you’ve reached the consistency you prefer. (Add more liquid if you like it thinner, or use all frozen fruits or ice cubes for a thicker consistency.)

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Ours was perfectly sweet with the mix of banana, strawberries (which Hadley requested) and pineapple (although the pineapple admittedly left a few random “strands” of texture here and there), but you could drizzle in agave, honey, or a sprinkle of sugar if you need it. 

Leftovers might just help alleviate a hangover. *wink, wink*

And if you wear some green in celebration (or, um, drink green beer), here’s a little trivia for you: The green (of the Irish flag) doesn’t represent the green grasses and shamrocks of Ireland so much as it does the many Irish Catholics who died at the hands of Protestant rulers. In the 1700s and 1800s, while England and Ireland clashed, Irish persons were hanged for wearing green.

So, please. Wear it proudly.

Or drink it proudly, as the case may be.

Real Food Challenge – Week #11

For 14 weeks, the family and I are undertaking a Real Food Challenge (put forth by the awesome 100 Days of Real Food blog). I’m hoping to check in about any struggles and successes along the way each week. Our ultimate goal is to cut down on our dependence on processed foods and start using some cleaner fuels to energize our bodies. And stuff.

So, here’s how it works. I’ll get an email every Thursday for the next 14 weeks (the actual eating challenge will start on Sunday or Monday for 7 days, so there are a couple of days of grocery prep built in). Each email outlines the “rules” for that particular week. It’s up to each participant as to whether or not they’d like to try each week independently or build on top of the prior week. In other words, continuing doing the prior weeks while attempting the new weeks, if that makes sense. There’s also a very active Facebook group (I’ve actually joined an offshoot that’s super supportive and far more focused) that’s there to share, answer and support.

Review of Week #10 – This past week, the only oils we used were organic, grassfed butter, extra virgin olive oil, and coconut oil. It actually entailed keeping quite an eye on labels (it’s sneaky stuff!), but we did well with it. The week wasn’t an uber challenge. Whew. 

Week #11 Challenge – Next week’s challenge is, well, a challenge. We’ll need to “Eat at least ONE locally-grown or raised food at each meal (or at least each day). This includes, but is not limited to: fruits, vegetables, eggs, grains, nuts, meats, and sweeteners like honey,

Hmm. So, I assume this will be a challenge. I’ve been sick this week, so there’s one strike against simply getting the motivation to go shopping anywhere other than my grocery store. We’ve got obligations Saturday and Sunday, so I’m not sure at what point I’ll be able to travel the 60-minute round trip to pick up our local foods. I’ll commiserate with the hubby and get back to you with how we figured it out!

Luckily, the boss lady adjusted it to say “at least each day” (so, one a day), but I’d like to try our best to try for more.

For now, our honey is quite local (and I’m drinking LOTS of tea with honey) and I’m hoping to get my hands on a couple dozen local eggs. If I can get some local ground beef or chicken, I’ll be doin’ somethin’. Lunch will actually be tougher (unless it’s leftovers), but the bread from our local bakery might count (at least the flour is NYS milled) for sandwiches.

Needless to say, in March there aren’t a lot of vegetables available locally unless we have time (and, again, energy…ugh) to hit up our farmers’ market (also 30 minutes each way) and see what root veggies and potatoes they may have.

So, this meal plan is INCREDIBLY loose:

Real Food Challenge – Week #10

For 14 weeks, the family and I are undertaking a Real Food Challenge (put forth by the awesome 100 Days of Real Food blog). I’m hoping to check in about any struggles and successes along the way each week. Our ultimate goal is to cut down on our dependence on processed foods and start using some cleaner fuels to energize our bodies. And stuff.

So, here’s how it works. I’ll get an email every Thursday for the next 14 weeks (the actual eating challenge will start on Sunday or Monday for 7 days, so there are a couple of days of grocery prep built in). Each email outlines the “rules” for that particular week. It’s up to each participant as to whether or not they’d like to try each week independently or build on top of the prior week. In other words, continuing doing the prior weeks while attempting the new weeks, if that makes sense. There’s also a very active Facebook group (I’ve actually joined an offshoot that’s super supportive and far more focused) that’s there to share, answer and support.

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Review of Week #9: This week has been the week of “no refined sugars, only maple syrup and honey.” (Some people on our message board were getting scared about the lactose in milk, but as I see it, it’s naturally occurring…just like the fructose in fruit. We’ll let those rest.) For the most part, we’ve done well. But, I won’t lie: We inadvertently cheated a couple of times. Hadley baked some goodies with his grandma the other day, which were loaded with traditional sugar (she sent some home, but I put it in the freezer to enjoy at a later date). Dave ate some crackers that had some sneaky sugar in them. Our croutons had hidden sugar…dang it. But, mine was probably the worst. I had a kid bring me a cupcake after a very long, stressful day, and I gulped it down without even thinking about the challenge. Oops!!!

Plus, I’ve got plans this weekend that pretty much demand that I eat “out”. Pretty sure even a wrap or sandwich of some sort will include some hidden sugar (wrap your head around THAT one!); and dessert will be a must, so there goes that. I suck.

Otherwise, our meals and snacks have been either devoid of any sweeteners or made with maple syrup. I baked some of Lisa’s carrot applesauce muffins with maple syrup and learned FAST to freeze a majority and store the ones I hoped to eat within a day in the fridge. Seriously. I felt awful when I had baked them, tossed them in bags, and sat down to enjoy mine Monday afternoon for a snack…only to find bits of green forming all over the top. INSANE. So, there’s my tip of the day: all-natural = refrigerate the darn things. That said, they were super moist and I might have packaged them too soon before cooling, so it’s probably part user error.

My other trick of the week involved my coffee. I’m trying to cut back, but my energy has been low (trying to kickstart my at-home yoga sessions again!). So, when I do drink the stuff, I found that the syrup was too heavy tasting and had a definite depth from the maple. So, I tried raw honey, which I usually loathe, but it gave the perfect light sweetened taste without that “bee puke” aftertaste. Plus, it’s FULL of antioxidants (the coffee was far from boiling, so they were left intact). Win-win!!


Week #10 Challenge: Next week seems suspiciously easy, so I know it’ll be a greater challenge than I expect: No refined oils. So, the only oils we’re allowed for the week are: butter, olive oil, and coconut oil. (To be specific, the butter should be at the very least organic from pastured cows, the olive oil should be extra virgin, cold-pressed and unfiltered, and the coconut oil should be organic, unrefined and centrifuged if possible.)

Now, this isn’t very different from our norm, except that I have been buying just plain ol’ store-brand (or Cabot; VT, woot!) butter. Our CO & EVOO are fine, though. The Dorky Daddy has been teasing me for awhile about the “GMO butter” I’ve been buying, but the other stuff that our store offers is a) super expensive, b) salted and c) from an organic brand that we don’t support. I’ve swallowed my pride, looked away at the checkout line, and hooked the family up with some Horizon (ugh) butter as well as a package of Kerrygold, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. 😉

There are sneaky issues here, though. Firstly, we won’t be able to eat out AT ALL. (We haven’t in awhile, but still. Knowing that you can’t sucks.) Secondly, much like with the sugar last week, things are hidden. Our favorite organic cereal bars undoubtedly have some sort of organic vegetable oil in them. Crackers? The same. Pretty much anything we might like to munch one, it’s there.

So, my strategy for the week is to once again be proactive. I hope to make some more muffins or a homemade granola bar of some sort, maybe a french toast bake that can stretch a couple of breakfasts, and hopefully some tortillas if I have the time. Plus, even though he’s busy with rehearsals (which tosses an extra challenge into dinners), the hubby will probably be called into his stellar popcorn-making service a couple times (he’ll make a HUGE batch during the weekend that lasts us about half the week). He usually douses it with a scant amount of butter and a teensy bit of salt, which will suffice. (Side note: Totally impossible to walk by that bowl and not grab a handful here and there. I dare you. Impossible.)

It’s looking like a lot of cooking for me this week, though. Eep!

Here are my meal ideas for the week…fingers crossed!

  

Real Food Challenge – Week #9

For 14 weeks, the family and I are undertaking a Real Food Challenge (put forth by the awesome 100 Days of Real Food blog). I’m hoping to check in about any struggles and successes along the way each week. Our ultimate goal is to cut down on our dependence on processed foods and start using some cleaner fuels to energize our bodies. And stuff.

So, here’s how it works. I’ll get an email every Thursday for the next 14 weeks (the actual eating challenge will start on Sunday or Monday for 7 days, so there are a couple of days of grocery prep built in). Each email outlines the “rules” for that particular week. It’s up to each participant as to whether or not they’d like to try each week independently or build on top of the prior week. In other words, continuing doing the prior weeks while attempting the new weeks, if that makes sense. There’s also a very active Facebook group (I’ve actually joined an offshoot that’s super supportive and far more focused) that’s there to share, answer and support.


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Review of Week #8 – This past week was all about listening to internal cues to stop eating when we were full. I took this also to mean no mindless snacking (at least, not on crap ;-)). So, while it sounds simple and we did great with it, we needed a few reminders. I tend to eat a smaller lunch with some mid-morning yogurt and a healthy snack in the afternoon (depending on my schedule) from my pregnancy days, so it actually makes it easier to make it to the next meal. But, yeah, it was fine. Definitely not an issue.

We’ll see about this upcoming week, though…

Week #9 – This week will involve eating no refined or artificial sweeteners. In other words, foods and beverages can only be sweetened with a moderate amount of honey or maple syrup…which I’m not that great with. I normally use raw organic sugar in my tea or coffee (a little less than a teaspoon, which is an improvement but still significant). The consequences also mean no baking (unless using maple syrup or honey), none of my usual granola bars, etc. I’m not pleased. (And, spoiler alert, in a few weeks I won’t be allowed ANY added sugars. No syrup on pancakes, aaaarrrrgggghhhh!!! #firstworldproblems)

So, my solutions are as follows: Yes, I’m going to bake. We already have pancakes for H’s breakfasts for the week (and ours, if we like), but for that granola bar craving I tend to get, I’m trying out the 100 Days of Real Food Whole-Wheat Carrot Applesauce Muffins. Gotta say, I may need to make another dozen mid-week since Dave has already proclaimed his admiration for them. (He’s right; they’re really good.)

I JUST happened to buy a new organic ketchup which, of course, contains sugar. SO, since I’m jonesin’ for some meatloaf (in the guise of meat muffins…something about muffins), I plan on making some sugar-free ketchup. The recipe I found is a non-cook one, which is VERY different from what I’ve read in my great grandmother’s recipe notebook, so we’ll see how it comes out. Oh, and I happened to find a pasta sauce that doesn’t have sugar, although I could’ve made my own…but, yeah. I’m not my mother, and that’s okay.

I also discovered two breads that meet my personal guidelines for this challenge. Our usual “white” bread is actually a peasant bread from a local bakery. It’s not organic, but it has very few ingredients and is completely natural. I’m also super excited to see that the Barowsky’s Organic 100% Whole Wheat Bread I buy on occasion is a honey wheat — no other sugars. Score!

Here’s my “guide” for the week:

Real Food Challenge – Week #8

For 14 weeks, the family and I are undertaking a Real Food Challenge (put forth by the awesome 100 Days of Real Food blog). I’m hoping to check in about any struggles and successes along the way each week. Our ultimate goal is to cut down on our dependence on processed foods and start using some cleaner fuels to energize our bodies. And stuff.

So, here’s how it works. I’ll get an email every Thursday for the next 14 weeks (the actual eating challenge will start on Sunday or Monday for 7 days, so there are a couple of days of grocery prep built in). Each email outlines the “rules” for that particular week. It’s up to each participant as to whether or not they’d like to try each week independently or build on top of the prior week. In other words, continuing doing the prior weeks while attempting the new weeks, if that makes sense. There’s also a very active Facebook group (I’ve actually joined an offshoot that’s super supportive and far more focused) that’s there to share, answer and support.


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Review of Week #7: This past week, our challenge was to eat only 100% whole grain foods (breads, pastas, etc.). Let’s just say I’m terribly happy that this one was during my week off! Our normal grain intake has generally been either on the organic or “5 ingredients or less” realm, so after a week of terribly dry or gritty foods, I’m looking forward to getting back to our usual way of doing things.

That said, I did a LOT of baking and planning this week. The 100% whole grain bread I had purchased went bad almost immediately (plus, it sucked), so I finally tried a hand-me-down bread machine. While it was also quite dense, I would definitely try a mix of organic all-purpose flour with whole grain in the future. Could be fun to make more! I also had success with these cheesy biscuits — yes, they tasted “wheaty”, but the cheese and garlic powder made them too delicious to care. 😉 So, I’ll be taking some of this week along with me and try to have more homemade options available…but I won’t be doing it “100%.”

Week #8 Challenge: This week will entail listening to our internal cues in order to stop eating when we’re full. It’s definitely a great thing to be mindful when we eat, so I look forward to this one! It doesn’t take more planning than any other challenge and it’s a good lesson to teach the little guy. (He will eat an entire HUGE lunch and insist that he’s still hungry…when I’m positive he probably isn’t.) 

Here are some ideas I have for this week’s meals:

    

Real Food Challenge – Week #7

Real Food Challenge – Week #6

For 14 weeks, the family and I are undertaking a Real Food Challenge (put forth by the awesome 100 Days of Real Food blog). I’m hoping to check in about any struggles and successes along the way each week. Our ultimate goal is to cut down on our dependence on processed foods and start using some cleaner fuels to energize our bodies. And stuff.

So, here’s how it works. I’ll get an email every Thursday for the next 14 weeks (the actual eating challenge will start on Sunday or Monday for 7 days, so there are a couple of days of grocery prep built in). Each email outlines the “rules” for that particular week. It’s up to each participant as to whether or not they’d like to try each week independently or build on top of the prior week. In other words, continuing doing the prior weeks while attempting the new weeks, if that makes sense. There’s also a very active Facebook group (I’ve actually joined an offshoot that’s super supportive and far more focused) that’s there to share, answer and support.

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Week #5 Review: This week’s challenge was to try two new foods. I’m pretty sure I’ve made some things with lentils before, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember what or how or how they were received, so I’m calling lentils a “new” food. I also took this week as the opportunity to sneak some kale in. I was a little off my game this week, so I didn’t get to even considering using the stuff until later in the week. Hence, I’ll be combining the two for dinner tonight. Slacker!

(Update on Week #4: I only ended up eating one meal at a to-go joint during our funeral trip since the church and friends of the family provided a TON of home-cooked meals. Still not always the healthiest, but it was nice to only “cheat” once on the road.)

Week #6 Challenge: “Do not eat any food products that are labeled as “low-fat,” “lite,” “light,” “reduced fat,” or “nonfat.” The reason for this can be seen here.

Next week is pretty much a “just keep on doin’ what you’re doin'” sort of week because we’ve already cut out all light/low-fat/reduced fat foods from our diet. Our yogurt is whole milk (except Hadman, who has a “baby” yogurt made with whole milk; I’m not moving him up to the “next level” because there’s added sugar and they’re lower in fat, which isn’t what his lil’ body needs), as is the milk we purchase. So… *shrugs* Pretty easy.

So, that said…here’s our meal “inspiration” for the week. (I’m known to switch out one or two meals here and there as availability of energy and ingredients sees fit.)

Real Food Challenge – Week #5

Real Food Challenge – Week #4

For 14 weeks, the family and I are undertaking a Real Food Challenge (put forth by the awesome 100 Days of Real Food blog). I’m hoping to check in about any struggles and successes along the way each week. Our ultimate goal is to cut down on our dependence on processed foods and start using some cleaner fuels to energize our bodies. And stuff.

So, here’s how it works. I’ll get an email every Thursday for the next 14 weeks (the actual eating challenge will start on Sunday or Monday for 7 days, so there are a couple of days of grocery prep built in). Each email outlines the “rules” for that particular week. It’s up to each participant as to whether or not they’d like to try each week independently or build on top of the prior week. In other words, continuing doing the prior weeks while attempting the new weeks, if that makes sense. There’s also a very active Facebook group (I’ve actually joined an offshoot that’s super supportive and far more focused) that’s there to share, answer and support.
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Review of Week #3: So, this week was all about cutting back on meat consumption and eating only locally-raised meat. I loved the idea of the thing, but had to get a little creative to get our hands on some. Our favorite local market was during a different weekend, so we missed it. Instead, I sent my savior husband to a local store that happens to provide local, organic, grassfed meat. I was disappointed at the cost of pork and the fact that they had no chicken, so we grabbed two pounds of ground beef and went with it.

I’ve just gotta say that during this whole challenge, the way to succeed is MEAL PLANNING. I do it in a casual, less structured way — by creating a list of possible meals for the week rather than saying “Tuesday is taco day and it’s set in stone!” For example, we usually eat pizza on Fridays, but for some reason I was jonesin’ for it on Wednesday. So, I sauteed some onion and a handful of the beef (our first meal with meat for the week) to top the pizza with, served it with salads and TADA! Simple. Plus, keeping the list written on our fridge’s dry erase board lets me get home from school and start cooking right away rather than racking my brain for ideas.

So far, so good. We still have the weekend to go, but we’re doing fine. I had to run to the store for some supplies last night, which delayed my cooking (but I didn’t have the stuff on hand to make a slow cooker soup…double-edged sword), but it’s a first-world problem.

Week #4 Challenge: This week is going to be E-A-S-Y. The challenge is twofold: No fast food (sit-down restaurants are okay, which is AWESOME because we’ve got a date night planned) and nothing deep-fried. We don’t use things like hard taco shells (deep-fried) and if we eat fries, they are healthily baked. I’m also thinking that I’d like to try baking some chicken fingers just to see how it goes; I did it once before, but I didn’t like the mess of the method.

Soooooo, purdy easy. We have the option to either stack the challenges (so that by the end we’re doing all 14 things habitually) or try each week separately to see how it works for our families. Right now, I’m trying to maintain the 6-fruits/veggies a day challenge, having little to no sugar in my coffee/tea, and now think that I’ll try to keep more local meats in the freezer and attempt more vegetarian meals each week. It’s actually easier than I thought, although I’d like to put more thought into the balance of nutrients we’re getting. So, I’d say that we’ve got a “modified stacked” approach going on, and I like it.

Here’s my meal “plan” for week #4:

Real Food Challenge – Week Two

For 14 weeks, the family and I are undertaking a Real Food Challenge (put forth by the awesome 100 Days of Real Food blog). I’m hoping to check in about any struggles and successes along the way each week. Our ultimate goal is to cut down on our dependence on processed foods and start using some cleaner fuels to energize our bodies.

So, here’s how it works. I’ll get an email every Thursday for the next 14 weeks (the actual eating challenge will start on Sunday or Monday for 7 days, so there are a couple of days of prep built in). Each email outlines the “rules” for that particular week. It’s up to each participant as to whether or not they’d like to try each week independently or build on top of the prior week. In other words, continuing doing the prior weeks while attempting the new weeks, if that makes sense. There’s also a very active Facebook group (I’ve actually joined an offshoot that’s super supportive and far more focused) that’s there to share, answer and support.

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Review of Week #1: We officially started on Monday (through this Sunday, although we’re going to attempt to keep up the increase in fruit ‘n veg), which also happened to be the first day for all of us to return to work. Thanks to some prepping over the weekend, some mornings and evenings (like making some ranch dressing for dipping and chopping veggies for snacking and tossing into meals) it was simpler than it would have been otherwise.

I loved having my meal plan, which you can see in my Week One post, jotted down on our white board, although I ended up switching out a couple of alternatives, like chicken fajitas (filled with veggies and with a sweet potato on the side) instead of a quesadilla…which isn’t really a huge change. But, yeah, I love having the structure and a quick choice for meal planning rather than that daily “what are we going to eat today?” feeling, as well as the slight flexibility of being able to switch out an equally healthy alternative. Ahhh. Yup, I’d say that’s the trick here.

The challenges this week? Well, all that prepping did take up more time, and we were generally exhausted trying to get back into a routine (and still are), but we’re handling it all just fine. Also, although Hadley’s not usually a very picky eater, he didn’t eat a few of our meals. That mixed with some teething (molar!!!) meant that I got pretty creative and had to have a conversation with myself about whether or not he HAD to have the same dinner as us every night. My answer? No. And it’s not a big deal. (I usually subscribe to the “I’m not a short order cook!” concept.)

Gonna keep working on this as we move forward, particularly finding meals that he WILL eat (along with us) that can become staples. Fingers crossed!

This week is all about beverages. Namely, limiting them to coffee, tea, water and milk (and sweetened only with a bit of honey or 100% real maple syrup). I’d like to say this is an easy one – it is, really – but Hadley’s a juice drinker. Plus, I can’t completely control what he’s given, aside from the meals I send, throughout work days. Also, I’m a sugar-user in my coffee and tea, so I’ll either be going without (not a huge deal) or trying a new method this week. {I tend to hate honey, not sure why. We’ll see how it goes.}

Oh, and since one serving of juice is allowed during the week, I’m not sweating Hadley’s intake. He’s only supposed to consume one sippy cup of it daily (and that’s watered halfway), so I’m not sweating it. I’d like to get him on to mostly water one day, anyway, and he also drinks milk, but at his age, I’m not concerned.
Otherwise, since this week is so simple, I’m going to try to build it on top of the “eat more veggies” thing. If I look at the day as “eat at least six fruits and vegetables, total” it’s not that bad. I’ve always brought an apple for lunch, so if I bring along carrots to munch or celery and hummus for an additional snack or add-on to lunch, I’ll be good. It definitely helps me to think about cleaner breakfasts than just, like, toast. 😉

Here’s my food plan for the upcoming week:

{WW = Whole Wheat}
Can’t wait to make our veggie pizza tonight! Is anyone else making some healthier choices lately? 🙂 Let me know in the comments!