It’s Back-to-School Night: Let’s Eat Clean

photo 4If you have kids, you’ve probably been to a few Back-to-School events to kick off the scholastic year with a guide on what’s ahead. Well, why not take this week to review what we consider our best practices in the world of food shopping, cooking and eating. We’ve heard it all before, but it’s just good to bring to mind what we already know before we forge ahead into another year of over scheduled feeding frenzy. To borrow a widely-used and very intuitive headline for this exercise, let’s call it our Clean Eating Best Practices. Clean, because when it comes to food, our bodies can only be as clean as the foods we feed them! Come and cook with us!

So what exactly is “clean living” when it comes to food? Clean stands for minimally processed and as direct from nature as possible. That means whole and free of additives, colorings, flavorings, sweeteners, and hormones. As one article put it, “aim to eat as much as you can of foods with one-word ingredients, such as spinach, blueberries, almonds, salmon, and lentils”.

Here are our Clean Eating Best Practices for what’s ahead:

  1. Cook real food. Dust off your pots and pans and “join the revolution”, so to speak. Mark Bittman is the perfect spokesperson to hone in on the message that the most radical thing you can do to improve your health is to cook real food at home. Start with simple dishes and work yourself up to be the next Alice Waters in your own culinary realm!
  2. Buy the best food in the store. Stock up on fruits and vegetables (organic, when you can), including whole carrots, artichokes, bunches of spinach and whole heads of lettuce, at least one vegetable from the brassica family when you shop (arugula, cabbage, broccoli and kale), and anything that’s black, blue, red or purple to round out that rainbow.
  3. Eat your bacteria. Pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi or yoghurt (the real kind) are all packed with living bacteria that aid digestion and make nutrients more accessible. Add them to your menu as well.
  4. Cut down on meat. Do it for the planet, as it saves fossil fuels. In fact, if all Americans avoided meat 1 day a week, that would save the same amount as taking 7.6 million cars off the road. Let’s do our part.
  5. Shop at the farmers market or sign up for a CSA. There are plenty of great platforms (e.g., www.goodeggs.com, www.quinciple.com) that bring fresh produce and other great products from farmers straight to your door-step, often free of shipping charge.
  6. Keep it simple. Nothing says nutritious like a simple dish, where fresh, local and seasonal ingredients take center stage. A simple green salad, roasted beets, ratatouille and whole stone fruits all make for great additions to your dinner table.

The list could go on … plant a garden, cut back on eating out, buy staples in bulk, cook from scratch, eat left-overs and drink water. I haven’t mastered it all yet myself but getting a friendly reminder on what really matters is a great way to kick-off this season, particularly as scheduling conflicts, soccer practices and necessary playdates make a family dinner all but impossible. We know it’s hard and all we can do is add one single new habit or improvement to our day, week or month. And let’s not be too hard on ourselves. Indulging every now and then is ok, keeping in mind that a little balance goes a long way when it comes to eating clean.

We love to share with you our tips and inspirations throughout the year on how to turn these best practices into habits. Spread the good word and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, where we post frequently on what we’re cooking, reading and loving right now! And continue to cook great food! We love you even more for it. Come and cook with us!

For Nancy

IMG_5720A few years ago, when we decided to start this blog, I remember talking to my mother-in-law’s friend Nancy. She was a dedicated teacher, wonderful singer, talented gardener and also a fabulous cook. Nancy found pleasure in sharing with you the bounty of her garden, on and off the dinner table. And she was excited about our idea of inspiring readers to cook more real food, something that came to her naturally. Through all these years, she would always find a way to relate to our posts and quickly became one of our most avid commenters.

Unfortunately, Nancy passed away this past Friday after a long and intense battle with cancer. In keeping with her sheer force of will and passion for life, she extended her initial sentence of six months into more than four years. She used this time not selfishly to go through things on her bucket list. Instead, Nancy prepared her family for what was ahead. They moved into a smaller house, a more manageable garden, and she even taught her husband how to cook. A real trouper, she was.

Nancy had a twinkle in her eye, a smile on her face and she made things look easy. She went out of her way to have us all over for dinner when we visited, showering us with a wide array of home-cooked dishes that featured the wonderful produce of her garden. Everything was delicious, the roasted vegetables, the pizzas, and the pies. In fact, she was the best pie baker I know. A room would brightened up when Nancy entered. She touched so many people with her infectious enthusiasm and love of life. And as an accomplished home-cook, she has always been an inspiration for our blog. In fact, our inaugural post on butternut squash, featured a recipe of hers that we are re-posting below.

Nancy, you will be in our hearts forever.

Kathrin

Butternut Squash with Blue Cheese and Pecans

Camping Chef

IMG_4211One of the best aspects of living in a rather temperate climate is that it makes camping very easy. Ever since we moved from the Big Apple to the Bay Area, we have discovered a new love for spending the night in a tent, ideally while listening to the crashing waves nearby as we will tonight on a secluded spot along the Pacific Coast. Several beautiful camp-spots are very close by, so dashing away for a night of adventure is one of the easiest, cheapest and most treasured mini-vacations. Come and cook some camp food with us!

Let’s be clear, I am no professional camper. We have a tent that is large enough for the four of us, mats and sleeping bags, a few camp dishes and, invaluable for any hot meal on an open fire, an iron-cast pan. Most of our overnight stays were just that, one night, so I am not the best person to deliver advice on multi-day tracks across a high and mighty mountain range. Rather, a well planned dinner, dessert and breakfast, with a few delicious snacks in between and we are all set to go, in my opinion.

What I’ve learned early on is that the best way to make your camp cooking easy, is to prep ahead: vegetables are cut, fruits are washed and batter is measured. The kids have had enough experiences by now, that they strong view on what should be on the menu, moving on from the traditional sausage on a stick and potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil. And none of their choices are too elaborate, sophisticated or time-intensive.

So if you are on the look-out for some camping food ideas, here is our list of faves: roasted (pre-cooked) potatoes with summer squash, peppers, a few bits of prosciutto and an egg sunny-side up. Dig into it with the help of a crunchy slice of country bread or baguette and you are golden. If this seems too much work, you can always bake your eggs in a paper bag, which is a fantastic way to get everyone involved in making their own main dish. If you are tired of the age-old s’mores, and who ever is, you can go for a banana boat. And for the morning, forget cereal and instead bring prepared Birchermüsli in a jar for everyone so they can satiate their appetite while they wait for the hot chocolate to warm up.

These are just a few of our current favorite simple camping dishes. Don’t be afraid and give them a try and if you can’t resist, make them at home on your grill. Enjoy the summer and eat real food, even when your plan to sleep in a tent. Come and cook with us!

Refrigerated Oatmeal (or Breakfast in a Jar)
Eggs and Roasted Potatoes
Eggs in a Paper Bag
Banana Boat

From Holer to Hugo

photoWhen we stop in for a drink at a restaurant or mountain lodge in my valley, chances are that the most popular non-alcoholic drink offered to us is a “Holer”, or elderflower juice. It’s a staple home-made syrup that any of my friends make as soon as the elder flower blossoms are blooming, which is right about now. To this day, my mother, aunt, cousin, friends and friends of friends, spend a day or two this time of year, making elderflower syrup to drink throughout the year. I believe it is one of the most aromatic, delicate and almost perfect flavors in the world! Come and cook with us! Continue reading

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