Let’s talk sugar

Let’s talk sugar, and not the sweet angel baby “sugah” where you get cheek kisses, not that wonderfulness. The other sugar, the other one, the added sugar in processed foods that is linked to obesity, tooth decay, and heart disease. I just read this article in Time magazine from March 24, 2014 called “Sweet Sacrifice” about how new World Health Organization guidelines are trying to cut down on our sugar intake. The sugar that the, “Centers for Disease Control estimates that a full 13% of U.S. adults’ total caloric intake came from sugar in 2010.” 13% people! That is more than 1/8 of your total calories, are coming from sugar. Is that startling to other people, or just me?

The article is interesting, check it out if you have time, but the part I was interested in sharing has to do with how much added sugar is in processed foods. And then it hit me, how it was possible for people to consume so much sugar, and possibly not even realize it. Some examples from the article, oh and FYI - 4 grams = 1 teaspoon, I did the math for you:

  • 1 can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup – innocent enough, some might even call it healthy, 30 grams of sugar or 7.5 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1 Blueberry Muffin – again, some people might consider this healthy, 22 grams of sugar or 5.5 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1 Serving of Orange Chicken – 22 grams of sugar or 5.5 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1 cup Pasta Sauce – 20 grams of sugar or 5 teaspoons of sugar

Can you imagine for a second, grabbing a teaspoon and eating 7.5 teaspoons of sugar, gross right? If I made a giant pot of tomato soup, I would probably add 1 teaspoon of sugar to balance the acidity. Would you ever guess that much sugar was in something so simple, and that really doesn’t taste sweet at all? I bet you can find sugar in almost every processed item in your pantry. Go look right now, just kidding, but think about it, and check ingredients when you are buying food at the grocery store. You will be surprised, and not in a good way when it comes to the amount of sugar that is added to foods. Stick with whole foods, carrots don’t have added sugars, neither to avocado, or blueberries, or bananas, or kale, sweet potatoes, beans, nuts. I could go on…

Stay cool ya’ll!

 

Zucchini Bread

zucchiniyummy

Zucchini Yummy

If you have a garden, and planted zucchini, or just see some at the store for a good price, you should try this zucchini bread recipe. It has 3 full cups of zucchini! I changed a recipe I have on hand to use whole wheat flour, and I also cut out 1/4 cup of sugar and we didn’t even notice a difference. I’m finding that with older recipes I love, if you want to use whole wheat flour, start with half the called for amount of flour and go from there. You may be able to eventually replace all flour with whole wheat, but I suggest starting with half what the recipe calls for. Does that make sense?

I never knew I would enjoy zucchini bread so much, but is has these spices – only vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg – but it tastes so delicious. This might be my favorite of the breads I make, second favorite is pumpkin bread, then banana bread. I love them all, and you can easily pour them in muffin cups to eat immediately or freeze for lunches and/or breakfast on-the-go. Try the recipe when you get a chance and let me know what you think!

Zucchini Bread
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Delicious bread, that can easily be turned into muffins. This recipe makes 2 loaves.
Ingredients
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ¾ c. sugar
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 3 c grated zucchini (about 3 medium-sized zucchini squash)
  • ⅔ c melted unsalted butter
  • 2 t baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1½ c whole wheat flour
  • 1½ c all-purpose flour
  • ½ t nutmeg
  • 2 t cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray or butter two 5x9 inch loaf pans.
  3. In a large bowl, mix eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Stir in zucchini and then butter.
  4. Sprinkle baking soda and salt over mixture and stir well.
  5. Add flour 1 cup at a time and stir after each incorporation.
  6. Sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg over batter and mix.
  7. Divide equally between two pans, bake 36 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of bread comes out dry.
  8. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

 

How to find time to workout (when your kids are home)

racetime

Race time!

Raise your hand if your kids are home for the summer, or tracked out, or out of preschool, or just home on the weekends, and you cannot find time to workout, or do anything else for that matter. My hand is raised the highest of all, not really, but my hand is totally raised right now. I mentioned last week that my time is tight with two kids that don’t nap, aged 5.5 and 2.5. These sweet angel babies want constant attention, and I’ve got things set up so we can swim, or color, or paint, or watch movies, or do puzzles, or visit the local library, park, or hiking trail. So we are good on entertainment. Except I don’t really want to color every day, but that isn’t the point of this post. The point of this post is to answer the frequently asked question, “how the heck do you workout when you have two kids at home in the summer?”

It ain’t easy, any one who tells you it is easy, needs a good slap. Sorry, the NC heat is getting to me and I get angry when people talk crazy talk.

Here are my list of ideas on how to get in workouts with kids around:

  1. bicycle seat

    Child Bicycle Seat

    Biking – Go for a bike ride with your kids. If your kids are old enough, they can obviously bike with you. If the kids are smaller, child bicycle seats are all over the place, you can find fancy brand new versions online or at local retailers, or check craiglist for good condition used versions. There are consignment shops in our area, like Children’s Orchard or Kid-to-Kid, where you can find cheaper versions that probably weren’t even used 10 times. Your own neighborhood is a great place to start biking. Also, if you have some time to commit, check out the American Tobacco Trail (ATT). The ATT is a great place to take kids who are biking on their own without training wheels. This walking/running/biking trail is shaded, soft and you’ll most likely see horses, snakes, bridges, tunnels, and all kinds of other cool things along the way. Biking is great exercise, and nice in the summer because you get a touch of a breeze at least.

  2. Swimming – Take your kids to the local pool. We like the City of Raleigh pools because they have lifeguards, are cheap for frequent visits, and have spraygrounds, baby pools, lap pools, and life jackets for the little ones learning to swim. If you have another friend with kids, ask to trade where she/he watches your kids while you do 30 minutes of laps, and then trade so the other person has a chance to workout. Everyone wins, and you even get a teeny break from your younguns.
  3. Hill Sprints - This sounds crazy, but my oldest is a high-energy kid, so we do ‘laps’ up and down our driveway and we both sprint up the driveway, then walk back down. The 2.5 year old gets involved most times, and even the dog, although he likes to run straight into our legs until we fall. If you run at full speed, or even walk briskly up and down your driveway, or yard, or local playground hill for 10-15 minutes, this is a great cardio workout.
  4. joggy stroller

    Joggy stroller

    Running/Walking - Trade off with a friend with kids and go for a run. A friend of mine used to come to my house, or I would go to hers, and we would take turns running on our own for 30-40 minutes at a time. It was a much-needed break from watching kids and great exercise. Running with a small child in a joggy stroller is also great exercise. Once I started pushing two in a double joggy, things got real. Make sure you are a strong runner before attempting this exercise. Walking with two kids in a joggy would be fantastic exercise.

  5. Strength Training - I highly recommend mini-workouts at the playground. My good friend and I would meet at the playground and plop our sweet babes in a sandbox and we would do strength training, including things like lunges, squats, push ups, jumping jacks, step-ups, etc. while the babes played nearby. You can always stop your routine if the babe is upset, which will very likely happen just when you hit a good workout groove.
  6. Hiking – Hiking is wonderful exercise, and a great way to get your kids outdoors and appreciating mother nature. We bring snacks, since our kids are still little, and take a break about halfway through the hike, drink some water, and then head out. Hemlock Bluffs in Cary has a wonderful, hilly hiking trail that is perfect for kids 2 and up. They have shorter routes for smaller kids. Make sure to wear bug spray and be on the lookout for critters, like snakes. Check out this trails.com website for trails near your home, just type in your city and state and hit enter.
  7. Yoga – A good friend reminded me of doing videos before the kids get up (which I can never manage), or after they go to bed. I used to, and plan to start back, do yoga videos at night. Yoga Journal has this awesome section of videos where you can sort by length of time, or sort by level of practice, etc. I used to do the 20 minute videos because 20 minutes doesn’t seem that long. Yoga is such a calming, relaxing thing that it was perfect at night to get me calmed down and ready for sleep. I know some people enjoy doing yoga in the morning to help wake up, greet the day, and get those muscles moving. Up to you, whenever you can find the time, yoga is great for your health!

Being active with your kids helps keep you healthy and in good shape, and it also teaches your kids about staying healthy, and proves to them that working out can be fun family time, too. Hope all the Foodie Mama Talks people out there are enjoying this summer, and get some good workouts in with your kids. Stay cool, ya’ll!

Disclaimer: If you click on some of the links above, they are affiliate links, they will take you to a website where you can purchase these items. I will get a commission if you click on the links and purchase these items, but your price will be the same whether you buy from me, or find the item yourself. Only purchase if you feel like it is the right thing for you. I’m not a professional and my opinion is solely my own, as you can tell from reading most of the posts on my blog. But, having said that, I would not recommend anything I wasn't personally using in my own home. 

This information is anecdotal and was created for the purpose of entertainment and in no way medical advice. Please do not take this as medical advice, consult your physician if you are in need of medical attention.

Cheesy basil maters

It will be 7 months since my hip surgery and I’m still religiously doing my hip exercises once a week. Let me just say right now, I totally get why people stop doing physical therapy exercises. I know I SHOULD do the exercises, but sometimes finding/making the time is impossible. Plus, the pain is mostly gone, most of the time I can totally forget I had to have hip surgery, which makes it easier to forget to do the exercises. Bathing suit season is actually a big reminder, with friends and family asking what those two bruises are on my right leg.  Anyway, I want to keep myself accountable to these exercises to hopefully avoid a second arthroscopic hip surgery down the road, we shall see. I do like how it burns to do lunges and squats, and how strong my legs feel after using the 3.75 pound weights weekly. It doesn’t sound like much, but when you are 5′ 4″ tall doing 40 repetitions, that weight gets pretty intense, in a good way. Anyway, am I bragging or complaining? Maybe both.

Our summer has been bonkers so far, my oldest graduated preschool at the end of May and all of a sudden it is nearing the end of June. I can’t put my finger on anything we’ve actually done, but having two kids (5.5 yo and 2.5 yo) home full-time is messing up my mojo. I can’t focus, or find time to do anything except feed and entertain them. Maybe that is what I’m supposed to do.  We’ve had some fun though, boating, hanging poolside, visiting friends, and more family trips to round out the month of June.  I’ve been missing in blog land lately, and probably will be missing some more this summer, but no worries. I’ll be back, once I’m done having all this fun, and these blasted exercises.

basilmaters

Cheesy basil maters

I made a simple side with our dinner tonight, let’s call them cheesy basil maters. They were so delicious, and took 10 minutes to make. There is an abundance of basil and tomatoes out in food land right now, whether it be the farmers market, a grocery store, your local community garden, or your own backyard, you can find simple, healthy, cheap meals, if you just use what you see around you.

Cheesy basil maters
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
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Serves: 4
 
Quick summer side dish, sure to delight
Ingredients
  • Whole wheat french bread loaf, sliced into ½ inch rounds
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Fresh tomatoes, we used grape tomatoes, sliced thin
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Instructions
  1. Slice the whole wheat french bread and place it on a pan lined with aluminum foil.
  2. Spread olive oil on top of the bread, followed by a basil leaf, some sliced tomatoes, salt and pepper, then top with shredded mozzarella cheese.
  3. Toast for 3-5 minutes in the toaster oven and serve warm.

 

Hope you are getting outside some, the heat is starting to ramp up, and if you’ve spent any time in NC in the summer, you know this is just the beginning. After 37 years in NC, and one delightful GA summer, the humidity and heat just feels like summer to me. I don’t know any other way to experience summer except sweating like a pig. No need to even think about a shower until after it gets dark outside, you are just wasting precious water and time. But go outside anyway, the leaves on the trees are this awesome brilliant green color, and the birds are going crazy singing and fighting. There is all sort of critters to watch, lightening bugs to be amazed by, or mosquitos to slap. Happy Monday ya’ll!

strawberry_pickin

Striving for a whole foods lifestyle

strawberry_pickin

Strawberry Picking

Sometimes when I’m reading other blogs, I get the feeling other people have it more ‘together’ than me. Do you feel that way? Like somehow their lives are easier or better planned out than mine. I realized the other day that my blog and life might appear that way to you guys, and then I laughed. I hope ya’ll realize that I am always striving, and working, and doing all I can to eat healthy and cook healthy foods, and provide healthy options for my family. 

When I write blog posts the recipes might sound easy, but this lifestyle is not easy, and I want to make sure everyone knows that this is work. I’m continuously thinking and planning, and shopping for our meals, chopping things, cooking things, baking. But I’ve chosen this path because I believe it is worth my time, effort and energy, and worth it to hopefully give my kids a healthy future, and have my husband stick around for an extra 20 years or so, and keep myself off multiple medications in the future. The end goal is always in mind, but sometimes the day-to-day gets you down.

I had the great opportunity recently to interview a cool chick, Pam Baldwin, and learn the story of her family’s path to eating whole foods. Pam has two little girls, and works full-time at UNC-G, as the assistant coordinator for The Child and Family Research Network. She also runs an invitation business called paperclutch. I could tell from our initial emails that Pam feels that ‘less than perfect’ feeling about how her family eats. She is fighting the good fight, just like all of us, and I want to reassure you guys, and her, that as long as you are fighting for it, you are going to make a difference. Trying is really all we have. Read Pam’s story below and stay tuned for her homemade tortilla recipe. I’ve always wanted to try those! 

Question: What made you decide to reduce processed foods and start paying more attention to where your food comes from?

Answer: I took a class when I was working on my Masters degree called Real Food Fast Nation (or something like that) and learned about the food industry, specifically about how eating a local, whole foods diet was best for our health and the environment. My professor was awesome, this guy’s yard was 90% edible and he lived a very simple but fascinating life.

I didn’t jump in on the real food movement right away, it took our family at least another year to come on board.  Over the past few years we have been doing a real food diet in waves with some really good months, some really horrible.  After giving birth to my second child last summer, I felt the worst I had ever felt. I had just turned 30, and my hair was falling out, and my energy level was low, and I knew something had to change.  At the beginning of 2014, my husband and I decided it was time to make a lifestyle change. As of February this year, I feel we have finally made a lifestyle change, and I don’t see us going back with all of the knowledge we gained over the last few years.

I think we eat 90% real/whole food. We don’t buy packaged foods in general, but on occasion I purchase a sprouted grain pretzel or a kettle cooked potato chip, and a little dark chocolate. I try to make most things from scratch, including our bread, granola, tortillas, chocolate syrup, and popsicles, to name a few.  Also, we eat at home and I cook almost every day.  Our meat comes from a local farm in Lexington, wild game, or Whole Foods. We observe meatless Monday in our house.  We use mostly olive or coconut oil, and I try to use honey or maple syrup as sweeteners. We do make a few things with organic cane sugar, because you gotta have a little sweetness in your life.

The 10%: The one item my family cannot live without is peanut butter – seriously we should buy stock in it.  In a perfect world, I would only buy the ground peanuts but my husband put his foot down. He has to have Honey Peter Pan brand.  He has not complained about much throughout this process, so I give him that.  Also, we rarely use mayonnaise, but when we do, we buy Dukes (it is all we have known).

Question: Have you noticed any changes in your body thus far, or how you feel every day?

Answer: Since having my daughter I have lost all of my baby weight plus an extra 10 lbs. I feel so much better, I have more energy, and my hair has finally stopped falling out. Yay!

Question: Why did you decide to make your own bread, granola, tortillas and chocolate syrup? What is it about these products specifically that you feel you need to make them at home? 

Answer: It is really hard to find these items in a grocery store without added junk. Grocery store bread and tortillas are full of terrible preservatives and other non-essential ingredients, many of which I can not pronounce. I live in a small town and the chances of finding a whole food bread product is very unlikely.

Chocolate syrup is a staple in our house, my husband and daughter will not give it up, so I decided that if they must have it, I needed to find a way to make it.  If I make it myself, I have control over what goes into it, including no high fructose corn syrup, but organic cane sugar, cocoa, water, and a splash of vanilla. 

Granola is expensive if you buy it in the store, I can whip up a huge batch at very little cost in no time.  Also, most brands of granola have ingredients I don’t like. 

I love to cook and the staple items I make have been worked into my routine to the point that I don’t even think about it anymore, when we run low, I just make more.   My kids help me a lot, too, cooking/baking is something fun we can do together, oftentimes you will find me in the kitchen with a baby on one hip and my 3-year-old standing on a chair next to me.

Question: Tell me about natural beauty products you’ve discovered, and what made you pursue those.

Answer: I figured that if I am working so hard to not eat toxic food, it was probably a good idea to consider not lathering my body (the biggest organ you have) with toxins, too.

Deodorant was the first beauty product I switched. Most deodorants have aluminum in them, which is really toxic. My mom, a breast cancer survivor, was advised by a doctor to use a crystal, rather than the traditional kind of deodorant.  I don’t use a crystal but love the Nourish brand of deodorant, the lavender and mint smells awesome.  I have also tried Primal Pit Paste, this brand works really well, but it is made with baking soda so it can irritate your skin. I think this deodorant would work really well for a guys, shaving was the main culprit with the irritation, and since girls usually shave under their arms….  Also, remember that it is good to sweat, sweating is your body’s way of getting rid of toxins. Applying toxins so your body will not release toxins just seems crazy.

natural_beauty_products

Natural beauty products

Next, I tackled my face.  This was a bit of a mess at first. I think my body had to go through a detox first, then I had to figure out what really worked with my skin.  I have very oily skin in the summer, but I have finally found something that works: Dr. Bronner’s Organic Pure Castile Liquid SoapI wash my face with this morning and night.  I also wash my face with raw, organic, unfiltered honey a couple of times a week.  Honey has antibacterial properties in addition to natural antioxidants - did I mention I just turned 30? I need all the antioxidants I can get! 

To see just how toxic your beauty products are, check out the EWG Deep Skin database.  Be prepared when you read this list, it can get kind of scary. Also, if you plan to transition over to natural products, do it slowly, your body needs to detox and it will take time to find what products work for you.

Question: What do you personally do to stay healthy? I would love to hear about exercise here if you do any regularly.

Answer: I am not good at exercising, I hit the snooze button too much. When I do actually get up on time, I like yoga, nothing intense, just stretches or simply walking on the treadmill.  I also try to play with my kids daily, either jumping on a trampoline or dragging a wagon full of kids up the street. I try to make a conscious effort to add some extra movement into my day, every day.

Pam’s Tortilla Recipe

Flour tortillas
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
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Taken from http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/simple-tortillas-recipe
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (I use 1 cup white wheat, 1½ cups of white)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup chilled butter (1/2 stick)
  • ⅞ to 1 cup hot tap water
Instructions
  1. Whisk together the flour and salt.
  2. Cut the chilled butter into small chunks then cut the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter or two knives. You can even use your fingers to work the butter into the flour. You want the butter to almost disappear.
  3. Pour the warm water into the flour a little at time until you form dough.
  4. Knead briefly, just until the dough forms a ball. If the dough is very sticky, add a bit more flour.
  5. Cover with a damp towel and let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Divide the dough into 8 balls. Let them to rest, covered with a damp towel, for another 20 minutes.
  7. While the dough rests, preheat an electric skillet or an ungreased cast-iron griddle over medium high heat, about 400°F.
  8. After the dough has rested, use a tortilla press or rolling pin (or a combination of both) to flatten one piece of dough at a time into circle. The thinner the tortilla the better it will be. Place the tortilla on the griddle or skillet and cook for 30 seconds each side.
  9. Repeat with the remaining dough balls.
Notes
You can make these tortillas in advance and reheat on a skillet or wrapped in a paper towel in the microwave. These tortillas freeze well.

Thank you to Pam for sharing your whole foods story, tortilla recipe, and struggle. I think we all feel similar on our whole foods journey. It is really nice to know we aren’t alone in our struggles. Good luck to you, Pam, and to all of you fighting the good fight!

Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli

broccolimac

Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese!

I’m having one of those days, one where you pick up your daughter’s best friend for a playdate and once you reach the super, awesome sprayground park you realize you’ve locked your keys in your car. Thank goodness for husbands who know how to break into cars! And then, you accidentally bump someone’s bumper at a stop light, and even though there is no damage, they request your insurance information. And then somehow, no idea how it happened, you spill gas on your hand when you are filling your car up after the bump, and your hand smells like gas fumes the rest of the day, because you can’t get that smell out. And your kids are whiny because they are getting over a summer cold, and you are whiny because you’ve been up with coughing babies for two weeks. Yeah, that is my day today. I forsake you day! I raise you a comfort food Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli, and you can kiss my butt. A glass of red wine and this delicious concoction and my troubles melted away, like the cheesy yumminess of this dinner. Healthy – yeah, cheesy - oh yeah, delicious – definitely. This is not an everyday meal, I would be 500 pounds and not be able to visit the bathroom regularly, if you get my drift, but every now and then, when the world is NOT on your side, make this meal. Just do it!

I found this recipe in an OLD book, and modified it for my needs. The book is titled, “Mommy Made and Daddy Too! (Revised): Home Cooking for a Healthy Baby & Toddler” by Martha and David Kimmel with Suzanne Goldenson. Someone gave it to me when my oldest was born, and it is pretty awesome, although a little dated. Sounds like me!

Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
This recipe takes a little work, but it is perfect comfort food, with a little healthy veggie throw in, sure to please the little ones, and big ones, too!
Ingredients
  • 8 oz. whole wheat macaroni noodles, cooked according to package directions
  • 2-3 cups grated sharp cheddar
  • ¾ cup milk
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1½ cups broccoli flowerets, chopped tiny and steamed
  • 3 T parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cook macaroni, and heat milk on medium low in separate pot
  3. Drain macaroni and toss with cheddar cheese, add milk and stir
  4. Season with salt and pepper
  5. Add broccoli and stir, carefully
  6. Pout into 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish
  7. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese
  8. Bake for 15 minutes until bubbling
  9. Allow casserole to sit for 5-10 minutes before serving

 

*Please note that some of the links included on my blog are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links. I will only recommend products I use in my own home. Please let me know if you have any questions about any product I recommend.

 

 

Hunting morels in the country

morel_cluster

Cluster of morels

Back in my marketing days, I employed freelance writers to write technical engineering stories.  Somewhere along the way, I stumbled upon this fantastic writer, Kara Gray, from West Virginia that I worked with for several years for several reasons: she was a great writer, always met deadlines, and gave me exactly what I asked for, with no prodding. It’s amazing how hard it is to find good writers! Anyway, she posted some photos of her family hunting morel mushrooms on Facebook back in May this year and I had to find out more. Mushroom hunting can be an elusive beast. I read about hunting mushrooms in Michael Pollan’s book titled, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. Definitely worth the read if you have the time. Read on for tips on hunting and go hunt morels next Spring, then share them with me!

Question: What made you decide to start hunting morel mushrooms?

evasive_morel

The evasive morel

Answer: We have several friends and relatives who hunt morels, and they’ve shared a few with us in the past. We decided this year we’d see what we could find. Besides feeling victorious when we found so many, it was particularly rewarding for a unique personal reason: my uncle Danny loves them and has always hunted them, sharing his harvest with me and my parents over the years, back when I still lived at home. In March, he learned suddenly that he has at least one brain tumor and cancer in one lung. He’s undergoing treatment, and the doctors are fairly optimistic but, as you can imagine, it’s very scary. He was actually feeling well enough to go morel hunting on his own, but came up empty. So, when we found ours, we of course shared with him. He was quite tickled to receive them.

We’ve also had friends give us another edible mushroom called sheep’s head or hen of the woods and they’re very good also.

Question: Tell me the specifics of how you went about hunting these mushrooms, how did you find out about them and how you know they are safe to eat? Is there a certain time of day or time of year that is best?

Answer: It’s funny about morels – they’re sort of like venison: quite common in our area of West Virginia, (everyone’s got a freezer full of venison each winter), but a rare delicacy in upscale urban restaurants and other areas where they’re not plentiful, and I hear morels sell for around $45 a pound. One of the many bonuses of living in the country, I guess. Since we’d eaten morels before, we knew what to look for and our friends/relatives had given us a few pointers on where to look.

Morels are only in season for a very short window—the first few weeks of May—and are most commonly found after it’s been particularly rainy and damp, which we have certainly had this year. My husband actually went back to the spots we’d found them a week later and what remained was completely shriveled up.

As far as how to hunt them, we didn’t know what we were doing exactly. My husband had looked all over our farm (we own 27.5 acres) and didn’t find a single morel. So, we decided to try my dad’s place (he has 80 acres). We knew they liked damp, shady areas overgrown with plenty of leaf canopy from the trees above, and they seem to like the root system of elm trees. But, we actually hunted at my dad’s for about 2 hours before finally hitting the

pheasant backs

Pheasant back mushrooms

jackpot. We found plenty of pheasant backs (another edible mushroom), but no morels and were about to give up. Then, we finally found the sweet spot – heavily shaded and under elm trees, but the key seemed to be the location: on North/East side of the hill. Perhaps the morning-only sun plays a role? We don’t know, but when we finally found them, we found a TON. In fact, my husband and I both stumbled onto separate huge patches at once. He had the bag, and when I yelled for him to bring it, he said he couldn’t because he’d just hit the mother lode! So, I pulled up the tail of my t-shirt and made a pouch to gather as many as I could.

Question: How much can you harvest at a time? Is there a good way to harvest them, any tips to recommend?

Answer: We harvested only as much as we thought we could share/eat immediately. I’ve read that you can freeze them, but I knew I wouldn’t have time to do that, and didn’t want to waste any by taking more than I could handle and then throwing them out.

A few tips on harvesting morels:

  • Use an onion sack or other mesh bag to put them in as you hunt, as this allows the spores to go back into the ground as you walk around and re-seed the crop.
  • The entire mushroom, including the stem, is completely hollow, so it’s very delicate. They crush easily, so be gentle when you break them off at ground level.
  • Watch out for ants and spiders – they seem to love morels as shelter. We discarded any mushrooms that were majorly infested.
  • It’s best to clean and eat them right away, but we actually didn’t have time that evening, so we put them UNWASHED in the fridge. Like any mushroom, you don’t want to wash morels until just before you cook them.

Question: What did you make with the mushrooms?

morel_haul

Morel haul

Answer: First, they have to be washed really well. Their hollow centers and wrinkly/porous texture make them a haven for dirt and bugs. I washed them thoroughly under running water, then drained them in a colander for a few minutes. Then, I made a salt water bath, which I’d heard draws out/kills any bugs that didn’t get washed off. I did a quick slosh through the salt water, then a clean water rinse and back into the colander. (I did find one tiny spider in the pan when I cooked them, which I didn’t think was too bad for something that I literally picked off of the forest floor. I just fished it out with a spoon.)

As for cooking, we did it pretty simple: I cut the bigger ones in half and sautéed them in a half-and-half mixture of butter and extra virgin olive oil with salt and fresh ground black pepper. I read that morels are actually mildly toxic to eat raw, but it doesn’t take much heat at all to cook off the toxins, so you can cook them as much or as little as you’d like. They made a LOT of liquid when I cooked them… maybe I didn’t get them rinsed/dried well enough, I’m not sure. I just dumped most of that liquid off when they were part of the way done so they weren’t just boiling in their own juices. Then, we ate them as a side dish with steak and steamed potatoes.

Question: What do you personally do to stay healthy? I would love to hear about food and exercise here. Go crazy! =)

Answer: I’m a carbohydrate addict, so I try to limit my carbohydrates and stick as much to a paleo-style diet as I can. I’m not a teetotaler though…I still eat pasta and bread, but just try to keep it at a minimum. I try to have a salad once a day. Working from home is a mixed blessing…it keeps me from eating out all the time, but I also tend to just grab whatever’s quickest, so I also try to keep some frozen meals in the freezer. I think that one of the healthiest things we do as a family, really has nothing to do with WHAT we eat, but HOW we eat: We have dinner together every night with very, very rare exception. So, rather than eating in shifts or in front of the TV, we sit together as a family, which I think contributes a lot to physical health as much as mental/emotional health. It creates a defined beginning and end to the meal, so we’re not just foraging (likely for junk) throughout the evening.

I wish I could say I exercise more… I had been doing the Couch-to-5K program, but I just couldn’t stand to do it on the “dreadmill” any more. It’s a little tough where I live—we’re in a rural area, which seems like it would make for a beautiful place to walk/run on the road, and it is. Except, we’re also in the epicenter of Marcellus gas exploration/production and there is a TON of traffic (some of it big, big trucks) on our very narrow/rural roads (no sidewalks), so that makes it a little unsafe. And the closest walking trail is about a 30 minute drive, so that’s not going to happen. But, I think I’ve found a location/window of time where I can do it safely

We’re also just generally active outdoors as a family. I have 3 horses, so that keeps me moving, we work in the garden, swim and jump in the trampoline with the girls. Plus, my husband and I are always into a project of some kind.

Thanks to Kara for sharing her story and so many tips on hunting morel mushrooms.

*Please note that some of the links included on my blog are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links. I will only recommend products I use in my own home. Please let me know if you have any questions about any product I recommend.

Three bean salad

threebean

Three bean salad

I love beans, even though “the more you eat them, the more you toot.” I don’t mind a little flatulence, it seems pretty natural to me, plus it makes my kids laugh and who doesn’t like to make little kids laugh. So there you have it, my random tired mama Wednesday thoughts.

Here is a simple recipe for Three Bean Salad that I got from my good friend, Jana. This recipe makes a lot of beans, and is perfect for summer cookouts when you need to bring an item to share, want to make sure there will be SOMETHING healthy to eat while you are there, and are pressed for time. The color of this salad is beautiful with the bright green edamame contrasting against the black beans, plus beans are super healthy for you. Try it, and let me know how it goes – toot, toot!

Three Bean Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Side Item
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
This simple, quick bean salad is perfect for sharing at cookouts.
Ingredients
  • 1 can of rinsed black beans
  • 1 can of rinsed chick peas
  • 1.5 cups of frozen edamame (soy) beans
  • 1 tbsp of red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp dijon (optional)
  • 1 tsp soy sauce (optional)
Instructions
  1. Boil edamame according to package directions and cook until done (~ 5 minutes).
  2. Rinse your canned beans and combine in a bowl.
  3. In a small bowl or jar that you can shake with the lid closed, combine the rest of the ingredients to make your vinaigrette. Shake or whisk to emulsify.
  4. Once edamame is done cooking, combine with the other beans and whisked vinaigrette.
  5. Serve immediately or chill.



I don’t want to be busy

Everywhere I go, every person I talk to is busy, busy, busy, busy. Running kids to practices, driving back and forth to preschool or school, packing lunches, teleconferencing, cutting down trees, cleaning the house, food shopping, running errands, trying to work out, going here and there and everywhere. Oh, plus birthday parties, holiday weekends, work, sleep, work more. I’ve decided I don’t want to be busy anymore. I want to opt out of busy! You can count me out, stupid busy. I do sincerely try to never glorify being busy, because who is proud of being busy, it is for the birds! Unfortunately these kiddos need to be fed, and have some learning, and play a little bit, and explore the world, so busy we will be.

Sadly, I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had time to post much lately on Foodie Mama Talks. I really do miss blabbering on about my life with you guys. Sometimes I’m not sure anyone is listening, but I miss it all the same. Such a nice release to tell the world all about my day, or whatever fun thing I discovered, or researched, or healthy whole food recipe I tried. Or weep about a terrible day when you find out you need hip surgery and won’t be able to drive for four weeks and still have all that busy-ness nonsense to deal with. Oh, FYI, my rogue hip is getting stronger and stronger and stronger. It hurts less and less each month that passes. I’m diligently doing my strengthening every week, plus swimming, running and biking, so I’m feeling so much more like myself, I can hardly stand it. WATCH OUT WORLD!

Anyway, I want you all to know I’m still thinking about you guys, and planning a summer blog series to help out with the confusion that happens at the farmer’s market when you are standing there, looking at this adorable farmer in overalls, and you have no idea what to do with the beautiful produce they have laid out for you.  Stay tuned for more to come through the summer months, as well as recipes, and blabbering. What fun!

Where to eat and stay at Carolina Beach

surfhouse

The Surf House

The hubs and I celebrate 9 years of marriage this week. It is so weird to think about being married that long. If our marriage was a child, it would be going into third grade this year. Comparing our marriage to a third grader makes sense actually, we still have so much to learn about each other, but nevermind, not sure where I was going with that.

We had a blast this weekend celebrating our anniversary. We dropped the kids at my sister’s house and headed down to Carolina Beach for the weekend. I did my research and found this vintage Bed and Breakfast across the street from the beach called Beacon Inn. It is not fancy, or new but what it is, is a great, clean bed and breakfast with wood paneling and all kinds of interesting stories to tell. Google it, definitely worth looking in to. I wrote a review on Google+ you should check out if you have time.

The breakfast they served each morning was to die for. The first morning we had country sausage with a cinnamon french toast drizzled in sliced almonds, maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. The combination was divine. I almost took a picture of it but I’m not yet a hipster. I hope to be one someday soon. The second day they made us zucchini quiche with cheesey cornbread and ham, plus fresh orange juice and local coffee that was ground that morning – YUM!. They had much fancier names for the dishes, obviously, but that is all I could remember.

redkale

Red Kale

While there, the host recommended we try out this place called The Veggie Wagon, a local market, for fresh fruits/vegetables and local meat and eggs, all kinds of cooking staples, plus some delicious local NC beers and wines. We rented bikes at Pleasure Island Rentals (make sure and pick up some baskets and a bike lock, they come with the rental fee) and biked to the Veggie Wagon. The shop is adorable, they even let us taste test some NC beers. The food and drinks we purchased fit in our bike baskets so we biked them back to the beach. It was a great day on the beach, made much better by our local meal, and nice to support local businesses while visiting.

The second night we tried out this local seafood joint, also highly recommended, The Surf House. They market themselves as farm to table and boat to fork – check out chalkboard image above. The restaurant did not disappoint. And Bob Garner, that famous UNC-TV foodie critic was there eating all the same food we ate. Now Mr. Bob Garner is famous because his noggin made it into one of my Foodie Mama photos – right? Am I right? hehe

freshveggies

Fresh Veggies

The third night of our stay we brought the kids back down to the Inn to stay with us in a cottage they rent out back behind the main Inn house. We stopped back by the Veggie Wagon and picked up food for dinner – fresh wild caught tuna, tomatoes and onions and noodles, potatoes, and kale. It was so good, plus it was local and fresh!

A wonderful weekend overall, and such a treat to live like the locals and support their businesses. If you do make it to the Beacon Inn Bed and Breakfast, tell Mike and Heather I sent you! Oh, and try to support local business where you live, the appreciate it, they really do.