Sunday, May 13, 2012

Fresh food from farmers market goodies - recipes!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of being the Guest Chef at the Maryville Farmers Market.  


My challenge was to create on-site samples of foods that can bought that day at the market.  I had my pick of amazingly fresh and local, chemical-free produce, plus locally raised meats and pastured eggs...  Dreamy!  And great fun… and I felt so lucky to have such a huge variety of good foods with which to cook.

I created two samples: 
- Quinoa with Fresh Tomatoes, Sweet Green Onions and Purple Baby Carrots with a splash of Lemon Vinaigrette (vegan and gluten-free) and... 

- Spicy Pork Sausage Bites with Toasted Walnut Spinach Pesto

The recipes are listed below…  Enjoy! 

One the best parts of my "job" -- I love it when the kids visit!

Quinoa with Fresh Tomatoes, Sweet Green Onions and Purple Baby Carrots with a splash of Lemony Vinaigrette

I wrote about quinoa a few years ago when it first became a staple of my family’s diet.  This Super Food is so incredibly easy to cook (and versatile) that we have Quinoa Night in our quarterly meal plan.  The following recipe couldn't be simpler.  Use seasonal veggies to create your own quinoa summer salad...  

As fresh as it gets...  

Quinoa for everyone!

3 cups cooked Quinoa (substitute water for veggie broth for an even tastier dish
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 sweet green onions, chopped
1 small bunch of baby carrots (about 6-8), peeled and grated

Toss all ingredients together. Serve on a leaf of crispy butter lettuce and add a splash of lemon vinaigrette.  (Forgo a fork and use the lettuce as a wrap!)

Lemony Viniagrette (inspired by Mark Bittman)
¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. warm water
1 small Vidalia onion, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Mix lemon juice and olive oil in blender and slowly add warm water.  (This will help the dressing emulsify.)
Toss in chopped onion and mix until desired consistency.
Best when served immediately but you can also chill overnight.  Bring to room temp before serving.

Spicy Pork Sausage Bites with Toasted Walnut & Spinach Pesto
I used Wildwood Farms spicy sausage for this dish, but if their sausage is unavailable in your area you can add ½ t. of chili flakes to a lb. of regular sausage for a similar taste. Use pesto for dipping sauce for your sausage bites.

Plating yummy Spicy Sausage Bites with Toasted Walnut & Spinach Pesto

1.5 lbs. Wildwood Farms spicy pork sausage
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 t. salt (I prefer Kosher)
½ t. celery salt
2 t. ground mustard
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 medium onions, minced
2 cups of bread crumbs (you can make your own with about 3-4 slices of bread of your choice, toasted well and crumbed with Cuisinart)
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Sautee onions and garlic until tender.  
Set aside to cool. 
Combine all ingredients in large bowl and mix with hands until incorporated.  (Do not over mix!)
Set aside, covered and refriderated, for about 15 minutes to allow mix to set and firm up.
Measure two teaspoons of pork mixture and roll into small balls.  
Sautee in olive oil until browned well, about 5 minutes.  (Make sure that oil is smokin’ hot before you start!)  
Remove browned bites and drain on paper towel.
Yields about 40 bites

Toasted Walnut and Spinach Pesto
Toasting walnuts is easy and quick and adds a lovely flavor to the pesto.  You can use raw walnuts for this dish but I highly recommend you take the extra step and toast 'em…   Add nuts to very hot pan (cast iron is best, no oil!) and stir until browned and toasted – about 5 minutes.

1 cup walnuts, shelled, chopped and toasted
1 cup of hard Italian cheese (such as parmesan or pecorino romano), finely grated
2 cups of spinach, washed and dried
1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves
salt and pepper to taste

Layer walnuts, spinach and garlic in Cuisinart or blender and mix until smooth.  
While blending, drizzle in olive oil until incorporated. (You may need to stop and scrape down sides with rubber spatula.) 
Add cheese and blend until desired consistency. 
Add salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Dining at Disney Challenge - The Results

The kiddos with Rafiki while at Animal Kingdom...

So, did we - a family of four, committed to eating real, wholesome food on a budget - survive at the processed land o’ plenty that’s Disney?

You betcha.

And we kept it healthy.  And it wasn’t as painful as you might think. 

We spent about $40.-50./day on food and drinks, which was by no means inexpensive, but seems to be much less than most people spend while vacationing with the Mickey and the gang. 

We employed two strategies:

We committed to this daily meal plan:
  -big breakfast - 7:30 a.m. - fuel up!
  -heavy snacks throughout the day - this is KEY
  -light lunch - 11:00
  -light dinner - 4 or 5 p.m.


We got snacks upon arrival for the 1) rooms (each had a mini-fridge) and 2) for strolling around the parks

The day we arrived we went to a local Super Target and stocked up:

-Bottled, filtered water - $6. (one 12-pk, med. size; one 10-pk, small size)
-Cashews – 12 oz. container - $4.99
-Peanuts – 12 oz. container - $2.59
-3 lb bag of mandarin oranges - $4.79
-organic milk – single serve – 6 @ $1./ea
-Clif bars – 5 @ .97/ea
-Kashi organic crackers - $3.19
-Organic single serve mozzarella sticks - $4.50/6
-Organic ½ and ½ (for morning coffee, which was supplied in the room with a coffee maker) - $1.75

TOTAL:  approx $40.  

Things I brought (all of this fit in my carry-on):

-One loaf of homemade, organic, pumpkin bread – pre-sliced (pretty much lasted us throughout our visit)
-One small, insulated container
-Two small freezer packs for keeping perishable snacks (like cheese)
-3 oz. organic maple syrup (I know I’m a weirdo – the thought of the kiddos pouring high fructose corn syrup on their morning pancakes was just too much too bear)
-Water bottles – one for each kid, one for the adults

See there on the left? That's maple syrup packed right in with our toiletries. No, TSA did not give us a hard time about it but a few eyebrows got raised. 

Also, another word on snacks, all eateries at the parks offer some sort of healthy side option, usually carrot sticks, grapes or apples.  We ended up stock-piling during the trip and they came in handy for between meal snacks.

Please understand that we by no means ate all-organic while on vacation but did do our best to make healthy choices and stay very budget-conscious:

Cracker Barrel – kids had pancakes (with real maple syrup – see above) with a side of fruit; adults had eggs and biscuits or toast  - approx $22.

Denny’s Diner - kids split the adult pancake breakfast with side of fruit; adults had veggie scrambles – approx $22.

Bagels (Hole in a Roll on Hwy 192) - Kids had toasted cinnamon/raisin bagels (lightly buttered – with REAL butter); adults had egg, bacon and cheese sandwiches on seeded bagels – approx $10.

Cosmic Ray’s – Tomorrowland – Turkey sandwich, strawberry yogurt for kids, small bags of grapes and mini carrots,  – about $25. for all of us

Publix – deli sandwiches, potato salad for all – about $21.

Animal Kingdom
Dino Land U.S.A. – Roasted turkey leg - $9. (When in Rome!  And, yes, it was delicious.)
Veggies wraps for kids – approx $12.

Our first night in Orlando we stumbled across a fun place called Flippers that made wonderful pesto pizzas for the kids for about $7.; salads for the adults for about $7-9./ea.  We our meals delivered to the hotel at no extra charge! We called Flippers as we were leaving the park each evening and dinner arrived at our hotel about 5 minutes after we did!  

The net/net:  Yes, it’s possible to find somewhat healthy choices, low-cost food at Disney World but you’ll need to plan ahead and be willing to be flexible. 

Organically yours,


What’s your fave tip for eating health on a budget tip while at Disney? I'd love to hear about it in the comments section...

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Dining at Disney - A 'Real Food' Challenge

I’ll be taking a blog break for the next week so we can go on a family vacation and veg (pun intended) out.  

Or will we?  

You see, we’re off to see The Mouse. Will veggies and other healthy food be readily available and easy to find? Will we need to pay an arm and a leg for it? We’re eager to find out if it’s possible to eat real, wholesome food on a tight budget while at Disney World. 

For instance, we probably won't be eating this:

But we may be eating this:

Chances are very good that we won’t find any organic fare at the parks but we’ll do our best to source out fresh, whole foods as much as possible. Our hotel has a fridge but no cooking facilities and we only plan to go to the grocery store once – snacks only.  So, we’ll be limited to park food and close-to-the hotel restaurants for our meals.  

Can we do it?  I think we can. I'm hopeful we can. Check back next week and find out.

Do you have any tips for us on our Disney World food adventure?  Please leave in the comments below...

Organically yours,


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Whatcha' Cookin' Wednesday - Zucchini Bread


I detest the notion of sneaking veggies into food. Y’know, hiding mushed up, over-cooked veggies in pasta casseroles and such in order to force those no-veggie-eatin’ kids to get some green stuff in their gullets. I’ve heard the arguments in favor of it and I don’t agree for a WIDE variety of reasons.  

Except when it comes to zucchini bread. 

Lovely, somehow-all-at-the-same-time savory-sweet, tender, yummy, healthy zucchini bread.

The recipe listed below produces a dark brown treat (see above) that my children were convinced was "full of chocolate" and a big, ol’ “fluffed up” brownie. It was gobbled in no time. They freaked out (in a good way) when I revealed that zucchini was one of the main ingredients. (NO WAY. Way!) 

This recipe was inspired by one that I spied on Skinny Ms.’s blog. I tweaked it to make the bread less sweet and give it a smoother texture. It keeps for about 5 days in the fridge and also freezes well.

Quick note: This recipe uses coconut oil but don’t let that scare you into thinking that you’re about to bake something that’ll smell like suntan lotion. Surprisingly, coconut oil neither tastes nor smells like coconut.  I use coconut oil for cooking because it creates great baked goods and is one of the healthiest oils on the planet. I also use it on my body, face and hands!  A wonderful moisturizer that costs pennies on the dollar compared to other organic, store-bought lotions... But that's another blog post...)

Here's what you'll need:
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup honey
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini (Use the smallest grater setting to get really fine/small pieces)
½ cup Greek Yogurt, plain (low-fat or no-fat – both work great)
1.5 cups Whole Wheat bread flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon

(Tip: For a bread with an added kick, consider adding 1 cup of unsweetened, dried cranberries.  Or, if you want to boost the Omega-3 quotient, add a cup of walnuts.)
Here's how you make it:

-Preheat oven to 325 degrees

-In a large bowl, cream together coconut oil and honey. (I use a hand mixer since room–temp coconut oil can be a bear to mix by hand.)

-Add egg, yogurt, vanilla and cinnamon. Mix on low until combined.

-Stir in grated zucchini by hand.

-In a small bowl, whisk together soda, salt, and flour.

-Add flour mixture to batter and stir just until combined. (DO NOT over-stir.)

-Spray a loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.

-Pour batter into loaf pan and jiggle until level.

-Bake 50-55 minutes or until a fork inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

-Allow to cool 15 minutes in pan before removing and cooling completely on a wire rack.

Cut into slices. ENJOY!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Face and Body - Cleaning and Moisturizing

Nope, these aren't ingredients for a salad dressing....
It's the way I take care of my skin.

For my family, living Affordably Organic isn't ONLY defined by eating real, whole foods on a budget. We do our best to take a holistic approach to the organic, wholesome lifestyle. We like to use natural products on our face, hair and body that are inexpensive, easy to use and good for us.

For instance, our skin care regimen... I’m often asked at my classes and seminars what products we choose, make and use to clean and moisturize our face, body and hands.   Here’s a quick round-up of our skin care products:



You’ll probably be surprised to know that I clean my face with oil. Yep, you read that right. I started using the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM) after reading about it on Simple Mom.  All you need are hot water, oil (like olive oil, sunflower oil, etc.), castor oil, and a washcloth. Seems crazy, right? It worksIn short, oils are essential to your skin so why strip them away with soap? 

By using the right oils, you can cleanse your pores of dirt and bacteria naturally, gently and effectively, while replacing the dirty oil with beneficial ones extracted from natural botanicals, vegetables and fruit that heal, protect and nourish your skin.

Also, this method is incredibly cheap. Just pennies on the dollar compared to other organic, wholesome products that you'll find at natural markets like Earthfare or Whole Foods... In fact, you might already have these ingredients already in your pantry. Why reinvent the wheel?

I haven’t improved on Simple Mom’s OCM so please visit her site for the best instructions.  Here's another great resource: This facial cleaning method is incredibly easy and fast…. And your skin will thank you for it.

After the OCM, you probably won’t need much moisturizer (if any) but when I do I use refined, organic coconut oil. I just use a small dab -- it goes a long way. Seriously, I use an amount that's smaller than the size of a pea. I rub it between my palms to warm it up, then simply press my palms over my face. (No rubbing needed.) I store the coconut oil in a small jar and keep it on my bathroom counter. (The refined, organic coconut oil I use is a solid and does not require refrigeration but it does need to be kept out of sunlight.) 

We keep it simple with castile soap like Dr. Bronner's, which you can find on the cheap at just about any grocery or retail market. In their nearly 6-years of life, our kiddos have never used traditional soap. We found it too caustic and strong for their tender skin. Instead we use unscented, organic shampoo as a body wash and/or bubble bath.

We like Rainbow’s Baby Oh Baby unscented organic herbal shampoo. It’s about $8./bottle but goes a long way -- a 16 oz bottle will last us about 6-7 months at 7-8 showers a week between two kiddos. You can buy it at Whole Foods Market.

Again, coconut oil. Everywhere -- limbs, elbows, hands, feet, etc. It’s a tad greasy at first but takes just a minute to sink in and feel wonderful. When I need some serious help with dry, gardener hands and cracked soles, I use Alba Un-petroleum Multi-Purpose Jelly. It's a paraben-free, vegetarian salve that will remind you of Vaseline but instead of being made from industrial petroleum it contains all-natural oils and waxes. I slather on my feet at night, then put on socks. I use a Ped-Egg in my morning shower (pumice works too) to scrub off dead skin. Hands down, this works better to soften my heels better than any expensive pedicure, foot razor-type treatment.  Also, I occasionally treat myself to Trader Joe's Lavender Hand & Body Lotion, which is paraben-free and contains organic ingredients. It's about $5./12 oz. Trader Joe's insiders will tell you this lotion is made by Avalon Organics, but sold by TJ's at 1/2 price. Yay private labeling! This lotion has a very low (safe) rating on Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep cosmetic data base so I don't worry about using it on my skin. 

What's your wholesome skin care regimen?  Share it in the comments section...

Organically yours,