Slow Mexican Chicken with Kale

Trying to get my 20 grams of protein at each meal is challenging to keep up with in the kitchen. The fall weather means it’s slow cooker weather (Yay) so I plan on using that a lot for protein sources. Today I experimented big-time and took a risk on 2 of my favorite healthy foods: Chicken and Kale. Lesson: Don’t be afraid to experiment with your own recipes…..

I put some onion and garlic cloves into some grape-seed oil in my slow cooker. Grape-seed oil is a good one to use for heated cooking. Plus it has a neutral flavor so it doesn’t add anything.

Didn’t feel like chopping garlic. Instead I smash when it’s soft and cooked.

I added two bone-in chicken breasts with the skin on. I placed them meaty side down to allow the juices to flow to the fleshiest part

Snugly tucked and upside down to soak up flavor

Here comes the experimental part. I found a half a jar of salsa in the fridge and to that I added: Fig balsamic vinegar, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, salt, a bit of honey and water. Oh and just the slightest smidge cinnamon as an afterthought.

I go through cumin pretty fast. It’s a magic spice!

I poured the whole mixture over the chicken breasts and let cook slowly on high for 3 hours.

Could’ve stopped right here but I was feeling creative

When the meat was done I pulled it off the bone, discarded the skin and placed the chicken back in the sauce.  I then added some fresh thyme, rosemary and oregano from the backyard.

I scared away a cute bunny hiding under the rosemary bush.

All of that would’ve been good enough but I temporarily lost my mind and decided to add in fresh chopped kale…..Not sure what I was thinking but I wanted my greens with my protein.

Not sure where this idea came from…..

This could’ve gone either way but it turned out AMAZINGLY delicious over brown rice. Perfect combination of flavorings and texture.

Success!!!!

Don’t be afraid to experiment with spices and foods you love. Chances are you will create something you love!

Almond Joy

I am a big fan of protein and I work diligently at incorporating it into my diet throughout the day. Because I am interested in building muscle, I aim for 20 grams at each meal. That’s not always possible so I focus on high protein snacks throughout the day.  Nuts are a great source of protein and healthy fats.  I prefer almonds as they are less greasy than other nuts.  They are convenient and easy to carry so there is no “hunger binging” after hours without eating. I keep a bag in my car or purse whenever I am going on an extensive errand running trip.  I never buy roasted almonds from the store- they are loaded with sodium, flavoring or sugars. It is much easier and more cost effective to prepare them yourself.  I buy raw almonds in bulk and then roast small batches as needed. Almonds are actually a seed of the almond tree, not a nut, and are in the same family as peaches. Ever notice how a peach pit resembles an almond?

Nuts can be hard to digest and some people experience abdominal discomfort after eating almonds. One thing to try is to soak the raw nuts overnight. This softens them, making it easier on the intestines and also removes the harmful tannic acid from the orange skin which can cause digestive problems. Once I started this process I never experienced any issues again. I also am mindful to chew them really well to ensure no sharp, jagged pieces will be in my digestive tract (ouch).

To soak almonds, place in large container and cover completely with water. Allow to sit 8-10 hours.

Drain the orange water and rinse again.

Spread on foil lined cookie sheet. This is when some people may add salt. I don’t think it’s necessary as the natural flavors really come out when roasted slowly.  No need for extra sodium in a healthy snack. I admit I once drizzled honey over some them before roasting and that was pretty good.

Place in 350 degree oven for approximately 45 minutes. Check often, these can burn easily which totally ruins the taste.

Serve in fancy 1950’s glass dish!

Read more digestible info on Almonds here

The awkward tweens

Today was a perfect day between Summer and Autumn. It was sunny and warm, yet still had the crispness of fall in the air. People were everywhere outside enjoying the day but it was hard to decide to wear shorts or long sleeves.  I ended up in my bathing suit by the pool soaking up the sun but it was too cool to go in the water. The coconut smell of suntan lotion seemed to not fit in any longer. It always makes me sad when it’s pool-closing time…..

Even the farmers market seemed to be caught between summer and fall. There were peaches (from Idaho) and local tomatoes alongside beets and winter squash. There were pumpkins and mums side by side with the last of the summer corn.  I couldn’t decide if I felt like sliced tomatoes or butternut squash soup…So I bought a little of everything.

How do you feel in transitions?  Sometimes that energy can feel frantic when we don’t know which direction to go. It’s like the teenage years of not being a child and not being an adult- so much restless energy with no clear path. Following the earth’s natural rhythms can help us through these short times of transition. The days are getting shorter and our bodies will begin to get sleepier earlier, this is part of our circadian rhythms working with nature. Rather than forcing the seasons and weather to change, or forcing ourselves to stay awake longer with artificial light, we can just sit and allow it to be what it is.  Soon enough all signs of summer will be gone and we can rest easy in the comfort of Fall.

Go with the Flow of Seasons

Today is the last day of summer as the autumn equinox begins September 22nd. There is no doubt that fall is in the air as is the energy of Change. Fall is the season of change and I am reminded of this on my hike as I watch the wildlife and plants begin to slowly take new forms and color.

There is much energy in nature as all things busily prepare for a long resting season. Late bloomng flowers send out one last burst of brightness and animals eat heartily to begin to store up fat for the winter months ahead.

Later this fall things will slow down more as trees drop their leaves and plants die back while their root systems dig deeper into the earth.  Fall has always been a time of change for me. Whether it’s job changes or moving, I always start to feel the shift of things in my life this time of year.  When we follow the natural rhythms of nature, our efforts are in alignment with the natural flow of the earth and things go easier.

 

It’s a good time of year to ask the following:  What can we let go of in order to rest easy and be at peace for the upcoming winter?  What things, relationships or beliefs have we accumulated over time that we are now ready to release?

What do we need to stock up on and nourish ourselves during the winter months?  What can we do to begin to feel grounded?  What will allow us to rest comfortably within ourselves as the outside world slows down?

I celebrate this season of change, transformation and release.

Neighborhood Farmers Market

I’m lucky enough to live in an area that has a small local weekly farmers market within dog-walking distance of my house. Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day so we headed out to the park where it is held. Besides fresh seasonal produce there was a local juice company (I sampled the green juice with lime, kale, apple), salsa maker (sampled the mild), baker, grass-fed beef, and goat cheese (sampled, sampled, sampled).

I was happy to see these baby cherry tomatoes on stems along side the romas and heirlooms.

The beautiful purple okra looked fake it was so perfect! It reminds me of Chihuly glass art.

This beekeeper had candles, raw honey and beeswax squares for sale.

I met some raw food “cooks” (is there such a thing?) who gave samples of  cilantro raw crackers and cashew hummus. They told me all of their food is made with seeds and nuts and whatever produce is in season, including dessert items.

This little stand won ‘Best in show’ in my opinion. They had zinnias, radishes and fresh herbs on display. The radishes were so big I thought they were beets.

The market is going on until November and I cannot wait to see what Autumn will bring to the tables. More to come later in the fall……

Incredibly Lazy Roasted Brussel Sprouts

I love brussel sprouts. I love them like some people love M&M’s. I like to pop them in my mouth whole when they are little and bite-sized. I like to look at them and admire the intricacy of their layered leaves tucked around them so tightly like folded wings. I love the sweet and sour cabbage taste and the smoky flavor when roasted.  I love them despite the looks of shock, disgust and disdain when I say I love brussel sprouts. But I’m lazy about preparing them.

I cook my baby brussels whole. I don’t chop off the stems and peel the outer leaves or criss-cross the bottom. That’s alot of detail work that I don’t care to do. I don’t mind eating the soft little stem but if you are so inclined,  please feel free to chop away at the 2nd cutest vegetable next to Okra.  I think cooking (especially “Healthy” cooking) has been made so complicated and intimidating that for some people it’s easier to just pop a frozen pizza in the oven. But wait! I am here to advocate for lazy healthy cooking! Food is meant to be eaten and enjoyed- not prepared to death.

Rinse brussel sprouts and spread on foil lined baking sheet.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with dricd garlic

Bake at 390 for approximately 20 minutes. Turn off oven and let them roast. Check often.

Remove when edges brown. Squeeze 1/4 fresh lemon on top.

See, that wasn’t hard was it? Healthy cooking can be simple.

The Simple Rules of Juicing

1. Don’t be afraid to try something new

2. Keep it SIMPLE, don’t over-think the process

3. It’s OK if you mess up, you can try again!

4. If you have a blender and veggies, you can do this

I admit I am somewhat intimidated by “juicing” and “juicers” and “juice diets”….Not the juice itself but the whole process of juicing. The juicers are so advanced and completely out of my budget. The list of ingredients can be confusing when you hear about grasses, herbs, liquids, add-ins, etc.  There is SO much information out there about juicing and health that it can be overwhelming. I was talking to a classmate about this and she said she uses her kitchen blender and simple greens, carrots and other readily available fruits and vegetables. It sounded so easy and accessible. She suggested coconut water as the liquid and I already LOVE coconut water so I thought I’d try it today before yoga.

I have an older Waring blender that has made more smoothies than I can remember and soups of all kinds over many winters. I wasn’t sure how it would handle raw veggies. I used baby carrots, sliced apples (the tart jonathon ones), fresh baby spinach, coconut water and a squeeze of fresh lime.

I piled it all in and put in some plain water for extra liquid. I crossed my fingers and turned it on high. It swirled around and everything blended together perfectly! It was a success!!!! And incredibly delicious! It of course was not as liquified as a professional juicer would have made it but I kind of liked the texture of it, it had substance. The lime gave it a good citrus twist.

Next time I will add some fresh ginger, parsley and maybe different types of apples. It doesn’t have to be that complicated. Healthy eating can be as simple as using the tools already in your kitchen and the willingness to try something new…..

What do you like to juice? I’d love some suggestions….

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