Making Your Own Baby Food? What You Need to Know

Making your own baby food is a great idea, and it's super simple to do. There are just a few things you need to think about before you get started! Making your own baby food is a great idea, and it's super simple to do. There are just a few things you need to think about before you get started!

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All-in-one counter top steamer, blender, warmer, and defroster Steamer basket Stainless steel food mill Baby food mill with non-slip base



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The Easy Way to Cut a Pineapple

How to Cut Pineapple Cutting up a whole pineapple can be intimidating, but once you know how to do it, it's really easy! You don't even need any special pineapple corer or spiral cutter, just a knife and a cutting board. Fresh pineapple is the perfect addition to any summer party or get together. Learn how to cut one up yourself!


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How to Save Money on Healthy Food

How to Save Money on Healthy Food It's important to prioritize healthy food in your budget, but you also don't want to be spending extra money when you don't have to. Here's how you can save money on healthy food, no coupon clipping required.


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One of the best ways to save money on healthy food is to reduce your food waste. It's estimated that 40% of food goes to waste. That's a big problem, especially when there are so many people going hungry. Plus, when you waste food, it's like throwing your hard earned money in the garbage. Here are some things you can do to reduce your food waste.

  1. Meal plan. Planning your meals means that you can buy only what you need and don't end up with extra food at the end of the week. This helps eliminate science experiments in the back of the fridge and rotting produce that ends up getting tossed.
  2. Be ok with food that isn't perfect. Quite a bit of food goes to waste because of minor cosmetics issues. Embrace the fact that food is biological and is going to have it's quirks and imperfections. If there's a bad spot on your apple or tomato, cut it away and eat the rest rather than throwing the whole thing away.
  3. Use everything. The scraps and extras that you're throwing away might actually be able to provide you with an extra meal. For example, use chicken bones to make your own broth. It's easy and that broth can be used to make soup for dinner the next day. You can also save veggie scraps like carrot ends, celery ends, onion tops, and ginger peels in a bag in your freezer to add into your homemade broth. This means that you are squeezing every last bit of nutrition and every last penny out of something that would have ended up in the trash.
  4. Compost. Speaking of trash, compost whenever possible. Even if you're trying really hard, things are still going to go bad on occasion. Plus, if you're eating lots of fresh produce, you're also probably throwing away lots of cores and other little bits. Composting these items allows them to decompose naturally, rather than sitting in a plastic bag in the landfill. Plus, if you happen have a garden or house plants, your homemade compost can serve as a great free natural fertilizer for your plants.
  5. Grow your own. When you grow your own fruits and veggies, you can get the best produce in exchange for a little bit of your time and energy. Plus, you can eat things that would never make it to the grocery store or farmers' market. If a tomato splits on the vine, you can pick it and eat it right away. Something like that would end up getting tossed on a farm, because it could never make it to market without spoiling and, even if it did, no one would buy it.

Buying Half a Hog | Why I Did It + What I Got!

If you're into organic, pastured meat, buying a whole or half animal is a great option. It saves money and helps you eat the right amount of each cut. My husband and I recently bought half a hog for the two of us and we're loving having a freezer full of high quality, pastured pork. If you're interested in doing the same and are wondering how much meat you get from half a hog, I show everything laid out on our kitchen table in the video.The half hog ended up fitting in two coolers: one 48 quart and one 52 quart. [x_video type="16:9, 5:3, 5:4, 4:3, 3:2" m4v="" ogv="" poster="" hide_controls="" autoplay="" embed='' no_container="true"]

Learning About Fermented Foods

I recently took a fermentation class at a near-by local and organic grocery store and it was so much fun! We learned about making sauerkraut and kombucha and went home with our first jar of soon-to-be homemade kraut and a SCOBY for kombucha brewing. [x_video type="16:9, 5:3, 5:4, 4:3, 3:2" m4v="" ogv="" poster="" hide_controls="" autoplay="" embed='' no_container="true"]


Learn more about Farmstead Ferments and where their products are sold.

If you live in the Fredericksburg area, make sure you go visit Kickshaws!

Canning at Home: Basic Equipment & Step-By-Step Guide

Canning your own food at home can be a little intimidating, but once you have the right equipment and understand the process, it isn't that hard. In this video, I'm showing you all of the basic equipment you'll need to get started and then going through the whole process with you, step-by-step. You'll find a written equipment list and canning instructions below this video. :D

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  • Large canning pot
  • Canning rack
  • Jars, rings, and lids
  • Wide mouth funnel
  • Jar lifter
  • Plastic spatula to remove air from jar
Waterbath Canning Instructions
  1. Use information and recipes from reliable sources, such as universities, your local extension office, and official canning resources. You can't can your favorite homemade salsa or pasta sauce because the acid level may not be adequate for safe canning. Make sure you are using recipes that are specifically for canning. Also, make sure that you note the appropriate processing time for your altitude.
  2. Wash your jars, rings, lids, and any other utensils you'll be using in hot soapy water.
  3. Fill your canning pot about half full with water and bring to a boil.
  4. Sterilize jars and other utensils, such as ladels, in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Empty jars and allow all sterilized equipment to air dry. Do not wipe dry!
  5. Follow the instructions for preparing your lids. Usually, they need to be held in hot water or simmering water.
  6. Fill a small pot with water and place  it on the stove to boil. You'll need this boiling water later, so get it heating up now so it will be ready when the time comes.
  7. Follow your canning recipe exactly.
  8. Check your jars for the correct head space (the space between the top of the jar and its contents) as stated in your recipe.
  9. Use a plastic spatula or similar utensil and run down the inside walls of the jar and gently push against the jar's contents to remove air from the jar. Check head space again and adjust as necessary.
  10. Dip a paper towel or clean cloth into the small pot of boiling water. Use this to wipe the rims of your jars to remove anything that may have gotten on them during processing. This re-sterilizes the area and helps to ensure a good seal.
  11. Center a lid on each jar and add the rings, turning until they are fingertip tight. The point of this ring is to keep the lid on the jar through processing, not to seal the jar. If you tighten it too tightly, air won't be able to escape the jar during processing, which can result in spoiled food or a lid that pops off during processing due to the pressure.
  12. Lower your jars into the water bath with your jar lifter. Make sure the jars are covered with 1-2 inches of water and return the pot to a boil. Start timing when the water returns to a full boil. Make sure the you use the correct time for your altitude. The water must be boiling and the lids must be covered during the entire processing time. If your water stops boiling, you'll need to bring it back to a boil and start timing from the beginning. If the water starts to look like it's getting low, use the small pot of boiling water to add extra water to the canning pot. This is important because you don't want the canning pot to stop boiling, so make sure you are adding boiling water if it's needed.
  13. Once you processing time is up, turn off the heat on the canning pot and allow the jars to sit in the pot for 10 minutes to cool.
  14. Using your jar lifter, transfer your jars to rest on a towel on your counter or table.
  15. Leave the jars untouched for 12-24 hours to allow them to seal.
  16. Before you put your finished jars away, you need to test the seal. Remove the ring and press the center of the lid with your finger. The lid should not pop up and down. Next, try to remove the lid with your finger tips. If the jar passes both of these tests, you have a good seal.
  17. Place any jars that don't process in the fridge to be eaten or reprocess immediately.

Have any more canning questions? Ask in the comments below!

4 Tips to Make Pastured Meat Affordable

Choosing pastured meats is essential to a healthy diet, but the price of pastured meats can be a little bit of a shock for people. In today's video, I'm giving you 4 tips for fitting pastured meats into your food budget. [x_video type="16:9, 5:3, 5:4, 4:3, 3:2" m4v="" ogv="" poster="" hide_controls="" autoplay="" embed='' no_container="true"]


Previous video: Why Is Pastured Meat So Expensive?

How to make stock in a slow-cooker.

Easy and Healthy Pumpkin Spiced Coffee

Pumpkin Spice Coffee You know it's fall when people start going gah-gah over pumpkin spice flavored coffee drinks. Now I'm not going to say that I've never bought a fancy-pants coffee, but, for me, it's more of a special occasion than an every day ritual (for the health of my body and my wallet). Making your coffee at home will save you some cash and also give you complete control over what's going into your drink. Now there are recipes out there that use a homemade syrup or some other mix-in, but today I wanted to share another alternative that involves brewing the spices right along with your grounds. It's easy and can be whipped up quickly. Perfect for those of you who need instant gratification.


After several batches, this has been our favorite variation. As with any recipe, feel free to make adjustments to suit your individual preferences. I like to sweeten mine with maple syrup.

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Pumpkin Spice Coffee


1/2 cup coffee grounds

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

  1. Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly until all of the spices are completely dispersed throughout the grounds.
  2. Brew your coffee as normal.


How To Make Yogurt at Home

yogurtbreakfastToday I have something super exciting to share with you guys! For the past month or so I've ventured into the world of yogurt making and, let me tell you, it's amazing! Now, if you know me well, you know that I'm a big fan of making things yourself. Store-bought foods usually don't stand up in terms of flavor or what's good for your health. Despite this, yogurt making seemed a little too daunting for me. I mean, super weird people make their own yogurt right? Well I'm here to prove that wrong! Or to prove that I'm super weird. I'll let you decide. For the past couple years, as I've gotten deeper into the real/whole foods world, I've seen things about people making their own yogurt. Some used special yogurt machines and others took a "try this, it kinda works, cross your fingers" type of mentality. Neither of these appealed to me. I'm not into specialty, one-purpose equipment. It takes up space and doesn't give a great value in terms of versatility. Also, the type A and food safety side of me thought that approximate recipes for something that involves GROWING BACTERIA simply wouldn't cut it.

Since Jasen and I got married I've been cooking more than ever (another extra-hungry mouth to feed) and I've been more aware of our food budget. Somehow, the idea of yogurt making came back to the front of my mind. I mean, it had to be doable. Grocery stores are a new thing in the context of human history. Making this stuff yourself was once the normal thing to do. Plus, most store bought yogurt contains an additional ingredient, pectin, to make it thicker. Oh, and did I mention making it yourself is also cheaper? Sign me up! After some perusing on the internet, I've found a method that works well (I've made 4 or 5 batches) and doesn't make me worry about our safety. Plus, it's really not that hard at all! All you need is some milk and a little plain yogurt to start you out. Then, you can use your own yogurt as the starter for subsequent batches.

You simply pour your milk into a pot (I use a non-homogenized milk from this creamery) and get it heating up. A slow and steady heat would probably be best, but sometimes I'm impatient and put it on high. Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature. I prefer a candy thermometer that clips on the side of the pot for convenience.


A skin can form on top, especially if you're using a non-homogenized milk. Some people throw this out, but I'm not trying to waste stuff, so I just stir frequently to prevent the skin from forming in the first place. Once, your milk reaches 185 degrees Fahrenheit (this kills other bacteria that could compete with your culture), take it off the heat and let it cool to 110 degrees Fahrenheit.


Then it's simply a matter of adding your culture (aka yogurt), mixing well, and putting in your oven to do its thang. Make sure you don't add the yogurt before the milk is cooled, or you could kill the bacteria you're trying to grow. Wrap your pot in a towel and turn on the oven light. This creates enough heat in the closed oven to incubate the yogurt. I let it sit over night so it can work undisturbed.


When it comes out, it'll look like this! Mine is yellow on top because the fat in the non-homogenized milk has risen to the top.


Then I simply give it a stir and put it in some jars to be refrigerated. It's super yummy and there is something so satisfying about knowing you made it yourself!


Homemade Plain Yogurt

makes 2 quarts


1/2 gallon of milk

1 tablespoon plain yogurt

  1. Pour milk into a large pot with a thermometer attached or near by.
  2. Heat milk until it reaches 185 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring often to prevent a skin from forming.
  3. Allow milk to cool to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring often to speed up cooling and (again) prevent a skin from forming.
  4. In a glass or liquid measuring cup, add the yogurt and some of the warm milk. Mix until the yogurt is completely incorporated. Pour this mixture into the pot and mix with a spoon to distribute it throughout.
  5. Place pot in the oven uncovered, wrap in a towel, and turn on the oven light. Close the oven and allow to sit for 10-12 hours.
  6. Remove pot from oven, transfer yogurt to containers, and refrigerate.
  7. Feel awesome about how cool you are that you just made your own yogurt!

How do you guys feel about making your own yogurt? Have you ever tried it before? Share in the comments below!

Eating Organic On A Budget

moneypileIt's a common complaint that eating healthy and organic foods is more expensive than eating junk. While this can be true if you buy a lot of specialty or processed products, it can also be affordable to eat well if you know how to do it. With that said, I don't know why it is virtuous in our culture to spend as little on food as possible (see Extreme Couponers). Obviously if you aren't bringing in enough money to feed yourself this should be a concern, but even those who are well off get sucked into this mentality. Spending as little as possible on food and dropping thousands on a designer handbag are both admirable. What? I recently had a request from a reader to write a post with tips for those who want to eat organic, but aren't independently wealthy. I'm here to tell you that you can eat delicious, healthy food on a budget, if you put in the effort. It's all about doing what you can, prioritizing your food dollars, and giving yourself a break some times. Jasen and I definitely don't spend unlimited amounts of money on our food, but we're still able to eat well.

  1. Grow your own. No matter if you live on several acres or in an NYC apartment, you can still grow something. Potted herbs are a great place to start!
  2. Shop at your local farmers market. You can get great prices and, as you start to build relationships with the farmers, you can often get deals or freebies.
  3. Use the "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen" lists to prioritize your organic dollars. These list which foods have the most pesticide residue (most important to buy organic) and which have the least (less important to buy organic). If you have to choose, you're better off getting organic versions of the thin skinned fruits and veggies like apples and tomatoes, and buying non-organic when it comes to thick skinned foods like oranges and watermelon.
  4. Eat less meat. Organic and pastured meats can be expensive, so, rather than eating cheap meat every night, opt for organic meats 2-3 times per week.
  5. Stop buying chicken in pieces. Buy the whole chicken and cut it up yourself. Not only is this cheaper, but it gives some variety in your diet and you can use the left-over back bone to make stock.
  6. Buy foods in bulk. Often, this can be cheaper (but check to make sure it is)! When it comes to meat, buy a whole cow or hog and freeze it for the year. If you are single and/or don't have a huge freezer to store the meat, go in with some friends and split it.
  7. Don't get sucked into organic specialty products like bars, crackers, and cereal. They're quite expensive. Choose whole, real foods instead.
  8. Make as much yourself as possible. You can save lots of money by taking the time to soak and cook dried beans rather than buying canned. I've recently started making my own yogurt. Start with one change at a time and add them on gradually. As you go, what was once a big deal will become your new normal.
  9. Eat in. Eating out is super expensive and often the quality of the food isn't that great. When you do eat out, make it a special occasion and choose restaurants that specialize in something you can't make yourself and/or ones that use local and organic ingredients.
  10. Find the money. Most people spend some of their income on extra items they don't need. Now, while there isn't anything wrong with this, if you are on a limited budget, you might need to eliminate or reduce these items in order to put that money towards your food. It all comes down to what is more important to you.

A great resource if you need meal ideas is 100 Days of Real Food. After this mom and her family completed a 100 day real food challenge, they went on a 100 day real food on a budget challenge where they spent less than what they would have received on SNAP (Food Stamp) benefits. You can read all about their struggles and tips here.

Even with these tips, the bottom line is that you have to make healthy eating a priority. It does sometimes require sacrifices, but the benefits are much greater.

Do you guys have any money-saving tips when it comes to eating well? Share them in the comments below!

Recipe: Classic Hummus

I love hummus. It's great for dipping vegetables and also the secret to a killer veggie sandwich. I've tried a lot of brands in the grocery store (and I definitely have my favorites), but I've been on the search for a good homemade recipe for a while. You guys know I like to make everything myself that I can, plus homemade things usually taste better right? On my hummus search I've tried a few recipes and none were inedible, but they still never tasted quite as good as what I could buy in the store. Part of me said just suck it up! It's cheaper and better for you and it doesn't taste bad, just not great. Stop being whiny! But, when you're already doing a lot of cooking, it can be hard to find the motivation to put the time into making something that doesn't even taste that amazing. So, after some experimenting, I've come up with a recipe that, in my opinion, in the best one out there. Classic Hummus Recipe

Classic Hummus

makes approximately 2 cups


3/4 cup dried chickpeas or 15oz can (if you canned, start with step 4)

1/3 cup chickpea cooking liquid or water

4-5 tablespoons sesame tahini

2 cloves garlic

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  1. Soak dried chickpeas in water overnight.
  2. Drain chickpeas, add to a sauce pan, and cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, then simmer partially covered for 30-45 minutes, or until chickpeas are tender.
  3. Drain cooked chickpeas, reserving 1/3 cup of the cooking liquid
  4. Add chickpeas, half of reserved cooking liquid/water, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, cumin and salt  to a blender or food processor and blend. Gradually add the remaining liquid and continue blending until you reach your desired consistency (sometimes the chickpeas hold on to more water, so adding the water gradually ensures you don't end up with runny hummus). Taste for salt and adjust if needed.
  1. Stir in olive oil or drizzle it on top for serving. Enjoy!


Watch the video below to see me make this recipe and hear about some possible variations.


Have you ever struggled to recreate a favorite food or recipe? Let me know in the comments below!

Slow Cooker Stock

I'm a huge fan of making your own stock. Vegetable, chicken, or otherwise, it's a great way to save money and inject meals with extra nutrition and flavor. Up until a couple weeks ago, I always made my stock in a large pot on the stove top. I even wrote a post about it. However, I have recently been converted to a new method: making stock in the slow cooker. It's easier, and you don't have to worry about baby sitting a pot or things boiling over. crockpot

As I mentioned in my previous post on this topic, I collect veggies scraps as I cook meals and add them to a bag in the freezer until it's stock making time. Things like the ends of onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms, and asparagus all stay snuggled up in my freezer, along with fresh herbs that were about to spoil, waiting for me to use them. Just stay away from stinky veggies like broccoli or cabbage. Of course you can make your stock with fresh ingredients as well, but the frozen scrap collector version makes me feel much more savvy. I mean, you're basically getting something for nothing. What would have been compost or trash becomes food! Every time I make stock I get super excited about this fact and always tell Jasen about how cool it is. He plays along. :)

To make your stock, simply add your chicken carcass (if using) and your veggies until the slow cooker is full, then toss in a couple bay leaves and salt to taste. I usually do 1 teaspoon of salt, but, remember, you can always add salt when you cook with the stock later, so better to add too little rather than too much here. Pour in enough water to cover everything, put on the lid, and then cook on low for 8-24 hours. I like to do this right after our chicken dinner and let it go over night. It's always nice to wake up to a house that smells like soup.


Filter your stock using a fine mesh strainer or unbleached coffee filter. You can then refrigerate your stock if you'll be using  it soon, or freeze it for later. I've been freezing mine in jars for easy and plastic free storage.


Note: These jars were refrigerated. When freezing, be sure to leave plenty of room for expansion.

You can use your stock to make soup (obviously) or in any recipe that calls for it. It can also be used instead of water when cooking rice or other grains to add extra flavor.

Do you have any money-saving cooking tips? Leave them in the comments below!

Weekend Canning Experiement

This weekend, I decided to spend some of my spare time trying my hand at canning. It's a great way to preserve summer's bounty and there is something so cool about seeing a row of colorful jars. If anything, it's at least a fun food project.  I'm not a total novice when it comes to this topic. My grandmother had a cellar with shelves lined with home-canned goods and I've even played assistant to my parents as a kid. The one time that sticks out in my mind is when we spent all day canning tomatoes and, once we were done, our dog came home covered in skunk spray. Result: lots of freshly canned tomatoes in the bath tub. Despite this history, this was my first time as canner-in-charge and I pretty much had no idea what I was doing. bananapeppers

I decided to do a small batch of pickled banana peppers for my first try. We got them free from Jasen's parents and even if they didn't seal right, they would still last in the fridge for a while due to the pickling. They were a low risk endeavor.


I sliced the peppers and put them in clean, hot jars along with some spices, according to this recipe.


Then I filled the jars with hot pickling liquid, got rid of extra air, and put the lids on. These babies were ready for a hot bath!


To transfer the jars in and out of the pot, I got a little creative. Yes, those are rubber bands wrapped around my tongs. I know there are people out there cringing at this picture right now and I'm one of them. I'm not recommending this method, as it is obviously all kinds of dangerous, but it happened.


Here the jars are boiling away. My pot was just big enough to cover them so there was a little bit of boiling over.


And here are the finished jars! They look so beautiful and I'm pretty proud of myself for success on the first try. Maybe now I'll invest in the appropriate equipment. : )

What is your experience with canning? Expert or novice, let me know in the comments!

NNMC Picking Protein: Lemon-Herb Roasted Chicken

Roasting a whole chicken is a delicious way to get dinner on the table that is also economical. Plus, you can use leftovers to make new dishes like soup or, in my case, quesadillas. Don't forget to save the carcass to make some homemade stock!

Lemon-Herb Roasted Chicken

serves 4-6


4 lb. organic chicken

1 lemon, quartered

6 sprigs each of fresh sage, thyme, and rosemary

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pepper to taste

Kitchen twine


1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

2. Pat the chicken dry and place on a cutting board used for meats. Remove any organ packets that may be in the cavity. Then, stuff the cavity with lemon wedges and half of the herb sprigs.

3. Mince the remaining herbs and combine in a small bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Rub some of this mixture under the chicken's skin into the breast, leg, and thigh meat.

4. Truss the chicken to maintain a compact shape for even cooking. This video from Alton Brown gives great instructions (it's how I learned). He's using a turkey, but you get the idea.

5. Now, spread the rest of the herb/oil mixture onto the skin of the chicken, rubbing it in and ensuring even coverage.

6. Place chicken in a roasting pan on a wire rack. Distribute you favorite veggies in the bottom of the pan for roasting or add a little water or stock to prevent any drippings from burning and setting off your smoke detector. Cook for 1-1.5 hours, until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.

7. Allow the chicken to rest for 20 minutes and then slice for serving. Enjoy!

NNMC Whole Grains: Get Poppin' (with popcorn)

Believe it or not, popcorn is a whole grain. However, it gets a lot of flack because it’s usually covered with too much salt and butter. It’s a situation we see quite often, where the food itself is not unhealthy, but the preparation method or toppings take it to a bad place. As with any food, the best way to eat popcorn is to start as close to the raw ingredient as possible so you know what’s going into it. I prepare my popcorn using an air popper. If you don’t have one, they are quite affordable. Mine cost me about $20 and if you eat popcorn often, you will save money in the long run because you will only be paying for the unpopped kernels rather than all of the processing and packaging that goes into microwave varieties. Plus you only need a small amount of kernels (about 2 tablespoons) for a hefty serving. Then, you can add your own toppings like your favorite herbs and spices or grated parmesan. Here’s to healthy snacking!

Recipe: Wheat Berry-Black Bean Chili

It seems like it's been forever since I've posted on here. Sorry for the delay. The end of the semester was pretty rough for me, but, now that it's over and grades are in, I have lots of time to rest, relax, workout, and, most importantly, cook! Now, let's get to the good part: the food. This recipe is one of my favorites, especially when it's cold out. Chili can be a nutrient packed meal or a diet destroyer depending on how you make it. An emphasis on meat (usually grain-fed beef), too few vegetables, and loads of heavy toppings like sour cream and cheese can really throw off your healthy lifestyle, not to mention your digestion (you know what I'm talking about). In this recipe, beans and whole grains take a starring role along with some veggies, flavorful spices, and creamy avocado. I've adapted it from the original recipe to use dried beans instead of canned. The result is a less processed and lower sodium chili as well as fewer dollars spent at the cash register.

Wheat Berry-Black Bean Chili

adapted from


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 large bell pepper, chopped (whatever color you like, organic if possible)

5 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups dried black beans

2 14-oz cans diced tomatoes (choose brands with BPA free linings such as Muir Glen or jarred varieties)

1-2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced (freeze left-overs)

2 cups water or vegetable stock

1 cup wheat berries

Juice of 1 lime

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 avocado, diced


1. The night before, rinse dried black beans and cover with water. Allow beans to soak overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, drain beans and place in a pot covered with 2-inches of fresh water. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam that develops. Then, reduce heat to simmer, cover beans, and cook for 1 - 1.5 hours, or until beans are tender.

2. To cook wheat berries, rinse and then place in pot with 3 cups of water. Bring water to a boil,reduce heat to simmer, and cover. Cook for 1 hour, or until tender, and then drain away excess liquid.

3. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper. Cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.

4. Add beans, tomatoes, chipotle and water/broth. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to simmer, and cover. Cook for 25 minutes.

5. Stir in cooked wheat berries and heat through. Stir in lime juice. Serve with garnish of cilantro and avocado.

This chili is great as left-overs too, maybe even better, because all of the flavors and spices meld together. If you can't find canned chipotle in adobo, no need to fret. I've made it without many of times and it is still delicious.

What's your favorite food on a cold day?

Recipe: Love Pumpkin Spice Lattes? Make Your Own Pumpkin Spice Syrup!

I always know that fall has arrived when people start obsessing over the Pumpkin Spice Lattes at Starbucks. Overheard conversations, Facebook statuses, and Tweets all tell me one thing: people seriously love those suckers! Now, while I can definitely appreciate the allure of fancy coffee drinks, their sky-high price and often times questionable ingredients are kind of a bummer. So, I've come up with a recipe for pumpkin spice syrup you can make at home. It'll be significantly cheaper and all of the ingredients are wholesome as well as delicious.

A lot of recipes I've seen use very little pumpkin (sometimes only 2 tablespoons) and about 1.5 cups of white sugar. In my version, I've bumped up the pumpkin content significantly and opted for a lot less maple syrup in place of the sugar. The result is more puree like than syrupy but it's still sweet and yummy. I've also found that the end product is great for spreading on whole wheat pancakes or toast (think apple butter).

Pumpkin Spice Syrup

makes about 1.5 cups


1/2 cup homemade pumpkin puree

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (make sure you get the real stuff)

1 cup water

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves


1. Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until reduced.

2. Use immediately or refrigerate or freeze leftovers.

Also, if you're interested, this is how I make my Pumpkin Spice Coffee. I don't have an espresso maker, so I just use a regular cup of joe.

Pumpkin Spice Coffee

makes 1-2 servings


1.5 cups coffee

1/2 cup pastured milk

3 tablespoons pumpkin spice syrup (or to taste)

Fresh whipped cream (optional)


1. Heat milk and pumpkin spice syrup in microwave or on the stove top.

2. Add heated milk mixture and coffee to a blender. Blend until mixed and foam forms on top.

3. Enjoy! Add a dollop of whipped cream if you want to be indulgent. However, this is a cool whip free zone. The real thing tastes much better and is much better for you. The chemicals and hydrogenated oils in cool whip are terrible, no matter how few calories they have. No fake "food" here.

What are your favorite coffee shop drinks?

Homemade Sushi: It's Easier Than You Think!

Like many others, I'm a fan of sushi. This exotic fare can be a nutritional superstar if you choose brown rice over white,

load up on the veggies, and steer clear of the fried options. Also, the nori (seaweed sheets) used to make sushi is something that most of us westerners don't eat regularly and is full of nutrients including vitamins A and C, potassium, iodine, and iron. However, I never thought about trying to make it myself, until now. I'm always telling people to get in the kitchen and try something new, but I must admit, I was a little unsure about how this would turn out. Inspired by a post on 100 Days of Real Food (possibly my favorite food blog), I decided to move out of my comfort zone, get a little adventurous, and make my own.

Guess what? It was so easy! Not to mention lots of fun. My roommates were pretty impressed too. I think my technique could probably use a little improvement, but no matter how they look, your rolls are still gonna taste delicious! Plus, this is a much more economical way to get your sushi fix.

In my rolls, I used brown rice, cucumber, carrots, avocado, and shrimp. I also sprinkled some sesame seeds on the rice. I opted to have the rice on the outside of my rolls. I did try one with it on the inside, but I found that this made it a lot harder to roll up and keep closed because the rice took up extra space inside the roll. If you're using shrimp, another great tip is to straighten them out on skewers when you cook them to make them easier to cut into matchsticks. For dipping, you can use soy sauce or tamari. Tamari is similar to soy sauce, but is 100% soy while soy sauce is soy and wheat. This makes tamari a great option for people who are gluten free due to an intolerance or Celiac's disease. No matter which you choose, make sure to pick a low sodium version and organic if you can find it (soy is often a GMO crop).

For the instructions I used, click here.

Try it out and let me know how it goes! I'd love to hear about your successes as well as any problems or questions. Also, get creative! Don't let yourself get stuck in the mindset the traditional sushi offerings. Have a favorite dish? Try to see if you can recreate it in the form of a sushi roll.

Are you a sushi fan too? Have you ever tried to make it at home?

The Rundown on Yogurt and a Recipe!

Yogurt could definitely be called one my diet staples (I usually eat it once or even twice a day). Why the obsession? It's delicious and easy to serve up in bowl for breakfast or throw in my lunch box for snack. However, there are benefits to eating yogurt other than its taste and convenience.

Probably the most touted component of yogurt is its calcium, which is important in maintaining healthy bones and teeth. A second highlight  is it's protein content which can help keep you feeling fuller longer and aid in post-workout recovery. Yogurt is also full of probiotics (check the label for live active cultures such as L. acidophilus, among others) which help to promote the healthy bacteria that reside in our gut and play an important role in the digestion of foods well as the production of vitamin K.

With all of those benefits, you may be thinking that you'd like to add more yogurt to your diet, but it is important to remember that not all yogurts are created equal. When choosing your yogurt there are a few things that you want to avoid.

1. Artificial sweeteners

Aspartame (Equal), saccharin (Sweet 'N Low), and sucralose (Splenda) are all common artificial sweeteners and, in my opinion and the opinion of many others, should be avoided. They fall into a class called "non-nutritive sweeteners," meaning they provide no nutrition. You don't want to spend your money on "food" that isn't really food to begin with.

2. Artifical Dyes

The artificial coloring in foods is believed by many to contribute to ADD/ADHD in children and could have other harmful effects we don't even know about. Even if you think it's just a bunch of hype, the point is that they are totally unnecessary. Fresh fruit is a much healthier and tastier way to color your yogurt.

3. Artificial flavors

If you love the taste of flavored yogurt, buy products that are flavored naturally (always read the ingredients) or, even better, flavor it yourself! Then you have total control over what you're eating. If you're eating strawberry yogurt, doesn't it make sense that it would be flavored with strawberries?

In addition to all this, I recommend that you choose organic yogurt, and dairy products in general, whenever possible. Non-organic dairy cows are pumped with hormones to drastically and artificially increase milk production and then given large doses of antibiotics to fight bacterial infections that may result from being over milked. Both hormones and antibiotics can then be found in the dairy products that these cows produce. A dose of antibiotics in your probiotic yogurt sounds pretty counter intuitive to me.

I love to buy plain yogurt in 32 ounce containers and then flavor it myself. It's much cheaper this way and also healthier as I can control the quality of the ingredients I add. Below is my recipe for my favorite way to eat yogurt. It's OK if you lick the bowl, I do it all the time. Enjoy!

Cinnamon Yogurt


3/4-1 cup plain regular or Greek-style yogurt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I like a LOT of cinnamon so you may want to start with less and then add to taste)

1 teaspoon of honey or maple syrup (optional, I like mine without it)


1. Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl with a spoon.

2. Eat! I like to add berries or cherries to flavor my yogurt or chop fresh apples and add those to the mix for breakfast. For snack I use it as a fruit dip for pears, grapefruit, and peaches (Greek yogurt is better for dip because it is thicker, but plain works too). Get creative and have fun!