Lunch Box

By Pam Denholm

Lunch BoxSummer has a life of its’ own, I feel. There is no rhyme, reason, or schedule, each day is different, each week is different, and I don’t know about in your house, but in mine meal planning becomes very reactive instead of proactive. Come 4pm we do a quick head count and look in the fridge, sometimes the result is dinner, sometimes, I shamefully admit, the result is just a bowl of ice-cream. Now that school is starting, summer vacations are winding down, and we are thinking about routines again, I am left scratching my head about lunches. I can’t remember much of what I did last year. We did try to pack lunches for everybody, not just the kids, it cuts spending and keeps us eating better, but seriously, I have to relearn all the tricks and tips all over again. So, for my benefit and I’m hoping yours too, I figured I’d write a newsletter that I can refer back to year after year.

  1. Equipment – compartmentalized lunchboxes with one lid is easiest and less fussy. Thermos’s don’t form condensation. Icepacks keep things fresh. Ball jars are super handy. Fun toothpicks make happy lunches, just sayin.
  2. Staples – if you have these things in your fridge, you can drum up just about anything, so shop for them every week:  Grains – whole grain pretzels, crackers, flatbread, pita bread, rice cakes, popcorn, bread  Fresh fruit/veg – broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, berries, peppers, mango, pineapple, peas, apples, pears, kiwi, melon, celery, grapes, oranges, peaches, corn, tomatoes . . . you get the picture
  3. Protein – eggs, organic deli meats, cheese, tuna
  4. Condiments – hummus, yoghurt, apple sauce, jams, sunbutter, a good quality tomato sauce (instead of ketchup) and by the way, a nice organic pasta or pizza sauce with clean ingredients works well.
  5. Planning – how you tackle this is up to you. I find what works best for me, is to have the staples above on hand, and then plan the dinner meal. I’ve tried to plan more than one meal a day, but I find it derails too easily, too much is wasted, and I get too demotivated.   I know some of my friends who plan dinner and lunch, and are super-efficient (and I am super jealous) but whether it is me, our schedules, laziness or busyness, I can’t make it work. A two week plan (rotating) works best, revisited every three months. That way you can account for the seasons and change it up once in a while. So, in my home I plan dinner, cook extra protein when possible for lunch boxes the next day, and then supplement with the staples.
  6. Formula – if you stick to a formula, it makes things even easier. I go for: one grain, at least one fresh food, two if I can, one protein, and a condiment. For example: cheese sandwich, tomato sauce to dip, apple, some green beans. Or whole grain muffin, some cheese, some cantaloupe, yogurt with berry jam. Or left over <insert last night’s dinner here>, popcorn, cantaloupe. Or boiled egg, hummus, sliced peppers or cukes, muffins or pretzels. Or pita with hummus and shredded veggies, grapes, cheese slices. You get the idea
  7. Have a backup plan – and let it be just that, a backup plan. For emergencies. Like when you have overslept, or were out late the night before at a school event. Don’t let back up become every day, all it takes is one bad week – I’ve been there. Use the weekend to reset and start fresh.
  8. Beverages – I have glass bottles (I once bought some special glass bottles, but have since learned and have friends and family saving glass bottles with screw lids from any beverages they buy – that way I’m not heart broken when they go missing. And they will. And I send mostly water, it’s easier, healthier, and less sticky. Once or twice a week to break the monotony, I will also send a juice, but I make sure it is a good quality juice, and I can afford to since we don’t drink them every day.
  9. Nut free? OMG! – this used to send me in a panic, but really, it’s not an allergy to be taken lightly, and if it were my child with a life-threatening allergy I would love every parent to be as cautious as I had to be. None of the above included nuts on purpose, and sunbutter (made from sunflower seeds) is a terrific alternative to peanut butter.

Take Back Control of Your Sugar Intake

sneakysugar

Sugar, soooo sweet and delicious. It’s what makes people love a nice chocolate bar, vanilla frosted cupcakes, soda, a bowl of spaghetti.   Wait, what?!?! I’m all for treats but sometimes sugar can be sooooo sneaky (okay, I know it’s those clever manufacturers) that it’s in food items that seem like a healthier choice. To up your food savvy, take a look at some of your standard fare for meals and snacks to make a healthier swap.

Here are some ways to tell if a food item has unnecessary sugar:

  • If the food is not supposed to be “sweet” but has sugar on the ingredient list, ie, pasta sauce, peanut butter, bread, whole grain cereal, salad dressing, soup. Don’t be fooled either…sugar comes in many forms such as cane juice, maple syrup, agave, coconut sugar, brown rice syrup, anything ending in “ose”… to your health, it is all sugar.
  • It’s low-fat or labeled a “diet” food – they have to make it taste good somehow, so manufacturers often up the sugar.
  • A good rule of thumb is that if sugar is in the first three ingredients, and/or it has multiple types of sugar listed, keep searching.

So all you food savvy Flourishers, take back control of your sugar intake!   Pick one item from your fridge or pantry that falls in the “sneaky” category and find a healthier alternative this week, either by purchasing a healthier item, or going the simple homemade route. Here are two suggestions to get you started:

  • Pasta sauce – there are now many alternatives to choose from if you want to purchase a sauce with out any added sugar, but this is the perfect time of year to try a simple diy alternative. Sautee up some onions and garlic in oil, toss in fresh cherry tomatoes and let them get all nice and carmelized. Season with fresh basil and toss with your favorite whole wheat pasta.
  • Yogurt – if your yogurt is any color but white, time to find a new yogurt. Purchase plain yogurt and sweeten yourself with any flavored jam you like. And because you are now in control, you can start tweaking how much jam you add, working towards reducing the amount to a healthier level.

Be Well,
Terry

Inheritance

Modern eating is above all about forgetting—about what it is we are eating, about its origins in living systems. The alternative is to learn to know our food intimately, to care intensely about its quality and its role in our lives, to share it with gratitude and respect. Whenever we grow our own food, or seek it from local sources, we reconnect with the natural year, the passing of seasons, the interdependence of life in the great web. By participating in the creation of our food, from soil to table, we find our way back to food as a sacred gift.  ~Harvey Ussery

By Sue Browning

It was my Grandma Clara’s farm kitchen, amid a cloud of flour and the heady fragrance of yeast,break that I inherited my knowledge of bread making I can’t use the word learned, because that would be an inadequate description. From an early age, my education extended beyond our kitchen into the fields where oats and wheat grew, the barn where milk and butter came from, and the chicken coop where I collected brown eggs from disapproving hens who scolded me for my efforts.

On bread day I helped my grandmother gather tools and ingredients on the kitchen counter. The counter ran beneath a window that faced west across land ruffled with fields of hay and corn. Beyond the windowsill, a line of oak trees my grandparents had planted early in their marriage followed a tractor road as it curved between the garden and the machine shed. The oaks stopped at the edge of the garden, but the dirt road went on until it was swallowed by pasture. In spring, while I created white mountains on the counter with the flour sifter, we watched my grandfather plowing in the distance, the rich soil churning up behind him like black flour.

We would begin by dissolving cake yeast in warm milk in a giant stoneware bowl. Slowly, I added flour one cup at a time. After we had a gummy mixture of flour and liquid, we added salt, melted butter, more warm milk and flour, until the sticky mass could no longer be managed with a wooden spoon. Now it was ready to be turned out on the floured counter

Little by little we kneaded in the geography of my flour hills, my grandmother’s strong arms and fingers pushing and rolling the dough in a practiced pattern. Soon the unruly blob transformed into a smooth, well-mannered ball. During these times I learned flour had not always come easily dipped from the bin in the pantry. Instead, Grandma Clara earned it by cranking the arm of the hand-operated wheat grinder into which was poured kernels of red winter wheat. “Spend a day grinding bushels of wheat into flour, then you know you’ve done something,” she would tell me.

Turning our now chastened dough back into the bowl, she let me cover it with a clean dishtowel. Then my grandmother would suggest we lie down for a few minutes to “give the bread some quiet” I was well acquainted with this naptime ruse and would volunteer to watch the bread so nothing bad happened. But my grandmother insisted. “Just close your eyes for a few minutes,” she said, holding me tight so I couldn’t wiggle away. I closed my eyes, certain each time I would sneak away as soon as she fell asleep. But the warmth of my grandmother’s shoulder, the creaking of the old house and the smell of the sunshine on the quilt cast a sleepy spell over me. Later, I woke to the clatter of empty bread tines being lined up on the counter and my grandmother softly humming.

Together we divided the dough and shaped it in the loaf pans. After its second rise, just before we slipped the pans into the mouth of the cast-iron oven, we each pressed a thumbprint into a corner of the loaves. “There now, we’ve left our sign,” she would say. When the hot fragrant bread came out of the oven, I carefully inspected the corners. There, in the lovely brown crust, I could see our faint marks. They were a trace, a small reminder of our presence, a sign that we had bequeathed a bit of ourselves to the bread and whoever might enjoy it. .

Never Miss a Monday: Doodle and color your way to simple mindfulness.

doodle

Unplug. Breathe. Meditate. All very relevant advice when it comes to being in the moment, reducing anxiety, and just getting to a general place of calm. Interestingly though, when people hear this advice…they get stressed! It seems people don’t know what to do when they have nothing to do. It can feel intimidating and causes resistance to practicing mindfulness, which is unfortunate since it really is a key component to living a well life.

What if I told you there is a creative way to practice a form of mindfulness and meditation where you actively participate? Cool, right! If you’ve been in a bookstore in the last year then you’ve seen the big display of adult coloring books, probably with some Zentangle books mixed in. Adult coloring books are just that and many are really beautiful and inspiring (check out the most popular ones by an artist named Johanna Basford). Zentangle is like a purposeful way to doodle, with simple instructions on how to get started on creating different designs and patterns. Big disclaimer with both of these, no artistic talent needed.

Choose whichever form motivates you and find a time where you can sit comfortably with as many or as little supplies as you prefer. Remember that this is an activity just for you; it is a judgment-free zone where anything goes. “Mistakes” are just another creative avenue to take with your drawing. As you go about coloring and doodling, you should find yourself aimlessly going moment to moment, enjoying the ability to focus on the here and now with no worries of what’s next. As you continue to practice, I encourage you to bring along a page or two wherever you go, so that during a free moment, instead of checking Facebook/Instagram/Twitter, you’ll be creatively meditating.

Now go and color yourself happy!

Be Well,
Terry

Herbs & Spices

By Pamela Denholm

I love my garden, and have six raised beds, but I don’t grow a lot of fresh annual vegetables, like Herbs&Spicessquash, tomatoes, and eggplant – can you imagine why? Well, the truth is it all ends up going to waste because, as a business owner and mother, with dogs and cats and chickens, my garden sometimes falls lower down on the list of priorities than I would like. Somehow caring for living things that can move and make a noise takes precedence over living things that are quiet and firmly rooted. Many times over the years, I have nurtured heirloom seeds into seedlings, lovingly planted them in amended soil, watered and mulched and watched over them, just to get absolutely crazy busy for two weeks. When I finally get around to checking on the garden, I find I’ve fed beautiful fat worms all the kale they could eat, or nobody watered the tomatoes and the leaves are pale yellow. I gave up. Besides which I have unique access to all the best growers – as do our customers who have similar gardening tales to mine – so what’s the point of torturing myself with all the heartache? And then I discovered herbs. They are tougher than the fragile annuals, sage for example, will grow in a sandbox if you let it and LOVES heat. Thyme will revive beautifully after a dry spell, and I challenge you to try and kill mint or chives. And fresh herbs are expensive to buy in a store, plus there is something profoundly connected about cooking with fresh herbs you plucked out of your garden. I have to say, I get great joy too finding all the different varieties and adding them to my growing collection, which is spreading out of the raised beds and into the flower beds because, most perennial herbs have beautiful flowers too.

I do find that over the summertime I am totally spoilt for choice of herbs, but come winter time, I look at the herb and spice bottles in the store with dismay. It’s not easy to find organic herbs, and it kills me to buy something I had in abundance in my own garden just weeks earlier. So, how to preserve them? Here are a few of my best suggestions, note: the first thing you need to do regardless of your method, is harvest and wash your herbs:

  1. Drying – Make small bunches leaving leaves on stems, tie them with natural string and hang them anywhere they will have consistent flow of fresh air. In the summer time, that can be on your porch, on your screen door (somebody I know bought an old screen door which she hung on her porch, and attached the bunched herbs using paperclips – beautiful and ingenious). It can also be on a windowsill, or a shed (but not anywhere where homestead animals like chickens or goats are kept – they tend to kick up a lot of dust). You can also punch holes in brown bags and dry your herbs inside the bags. This will take about 1-3 weeks. Store in airtight container, dispose after 1 year.
  2. Dehydrating – It is best to remove leaves, especially for plants like sage, or basil, that has big leaves. For plants with teensy tiny leaves, like thyme, you can leave the stems intact. Place them on the tiered levels of a dehydrator, or in a single layer on a cookie sheet in your oven. The temperature of your oven should be about 170 degrees, it will take 4-5 hours. The flavor tends to be more concentrated, stems can be removed after dehydrating. Store in airtight container, dispose after 1 year.
  3. Make pesto – Oil, salt, garlic, parmesan, pine nuts or walnuts, your chosen herb, and a blender is all you need. Freeze the result in little baggies or ice trays. The ice trays can be emptied into a bag for portion control. These pesto’s are awesome on pasta’s and on breads and even in breads for herbed bread recipes, or on pizzas.
  4. Make your own seasoning – Use a coffee grinder rock salt, your choice of other DRIED herbs, chili if you like them, and give it a whirl. Store in airtight containers for up to one year.
  5. Flavor vinegar – put a few stalks of lavender or other fragrant herbs in a bottle of vinegar, leave it in the sun for two weeks. Change herbs after first week. This can be added to a bath to soften water and add fragrance, or as a cleaner. The essential oils of the plant are extracted into the vinegar. Store in airtight container, good for six months.
  6. Flavor oil – immerse your fresh herbs in a jar of oil. Coconut oil is the most popular, and leave for a few weeks. You can use the oil for all manner of personal hygiene products, or for cooking. Store in airtight container, freeze after 4 weeks. I love adding calendular flowers and leaving it to bake in the sun. When it cools, you have a good, healing skin salve.

Never Miss a Monday: Schedule an Empowerment Day each week.

Empowrment“I could never [give up sugar/meditate/take a spin class/[fill-in-the-blank]!” When it comes to your wellness, think of how you would fill-in-the-blank to this statement, maybe you even said something like this today or this week. The more we hear our own negative talk, the more we become entrenched with the idea. But really, it’s all about choice. You could “give up sugar/meditate/take a spin class/[fill-in-the-blank]” but you are choosing not to, due to a variety of reasons.

Just as you choose not to do something, wouldn’t it be great to just turn the tables, shed the excuses and for one day give yourself the authority to do what you “never” thought you were capable of accomplishing. Pick any day of the week that works for you and empower yourself to do just that. Find that “fill-in-the-blank” you’ve been hearing yourself say over and over again:

• “I could never be vegetarian.” That’s fine, but for one day could you go meatless, what’s the worst that could happen, you eat toooo many vegetables??
• “I could never give up soda.” Liberate yourself from that negativity and choose health for the day. Drink water/soda water, flavor it with fruit, but just don’t drink soda.
• “I could never meditate.” Find 10 mins on that one day to sit down in a comfortable chair, close your eyes, and just be mindful of staying calm, breathing. That’s it, you just started meditating.

Schedule your Empowerment Day each week and it’s up to you if you choose to focus on the same “fill-in-the-blank” each week until you’ve got the hang of it, or if you want to switch it up and jump to the next challenge. Either way, draw on those feelings of reward and accomplishment from past Empowerment Days to stay inspired…and empowered!

Be Well,
Terry

Beeswax Cloth Food Wraps

Beeswax is 100% natural, non-toxic, and has multiple clean uses. You can rub it on drawers that stick to make them work more smoothly, it makes a wonderful furniture polish, you can use it in personal hygiene products – the list goes on. And what’s more, it smells like flowers (funny that!). Beeswax is also a water repellant, and when melted over cotton to make food storage wraps, makes cotton ‘unbreathable’ which helps keep moisture at appropriate levels for food storage. These food wraps are easy to make, and can single-handedly replace the convenient plastic wrap in your kitchen (just about – beeswax wraps are not good for storing meat), AND they are reusable – just wipe them down with a damp cloth between uses. After a time, when the wax starts to age and crack, you can just resurface it in the oven for a few minutes and start all over again! It is excellent for wrapping around cheese, or molding to shape over a bowl (yes, it’s pliable), or using to wrap your sandwich. You can also get your Martha Stewart on and sew them into pouches (monogrammed if you please) with a button and string to close and use them for kid’s school lunches. But I just use them in their plain, un-monogrammed version. No buttons. Want to know more?

Here’s what you need:

beeswax, grated (or pellets), you use about 1 oz. of beeswax per wrap

100% cotton fabric, cut to appropriate size (12×12 in. or 8×8 in. are good to start)

old cookie sheet (that will be used for this purpose only, forever after)

paintbrush (that will be used for this purpose only, forever after)

chop stick for stirring the wax as it melts

cheese grater (used exclusively for beeswax and only this purpose, forever after)

a make-shift clothesline and clothes pins

oven

Directions:

Preheat oven to 185F. (Higher will burn the wax. I know from experience…)

Place pre cut fabric on cookie sheet.

Sprinkle evenly and lightly with grated beeswax. You don’t need a lot!

Place in preheated oven. Watch carefully! This should take 5 minutes or less.

As soon as the beeswax is just melted, remove from oven.

Spread wax evenly with paintbrush to cover over any spots that are not yet coated.

Hang on makeshift clothes line with clothes pegs, to dry. Once cooled, you can use it!

wax wraps

 

 

 

Notes:

If your wax starts to harden before you have evenly spread it, simply reheat it in the oven and try again.

If you have a lot of wax left on the cookie sheet, place another piece of fabric on empty cookie sheet and it will absorb the extra wax.

All of the supplies except the beeswax can be purchased cheaply at thrift stores and can be used again for other DIY projects involving beeswax. Purchase the beeswax through Mountain Rose Herbs, a trusted company carrying all sorts of ingredients for body products.

Wash in cool water with a mild soap. I use liquid castile soap.

Each wrap will last several months or more depending on usage.