Hi everyone! I am so excited to be able to share some of my favorite tips and recipes with you. My goal is to help busy people learn to nourish themselves and their families with clean, nutritious and delicious food that is easy to prepare. If you have a crazy schedule like most people these days, you are probably like me and love using the slow cooker, especially when it starts getting colder outside. It makes it so much easier to manage dinner on nights that kids have practices and games. Knowing that we are coming home to a healthy home cooked meal waiting for us, is an amazing feeling. I especially love making soups and stews because they are so easy, so versatile and the leftovers are awesome for lunches later in the week.
I am a very adventurous eater and I love to make some crazy (according to my kids) dishes like tempeh reubens or farro risotto at my house sometimes. I am lucky to have a family that will try almost anything I make and they usually like it. But, to keep my peeps really happy, I also make lots of kid, teenager and man friendly basics like pizza, spaghetti, tacos and burgers. I just make a healthier version. I want my kids to understand that it is not a burger itself that is bad, it is the quality of the ingredients that are in it at restaurants and grocery stores that is bad. Here are a few of my favorite tips on how to choose your ingredients to make your favorite recipes healthier and save money at the same time.
MEAT…At my house, we have significantly cut back on the amount of meat that we consume. I only buy organic and/or local meat and grass fed beef. It is a little more expensive so we just eat smaller portions and we eat it less often to offset the cost. We have meatless nights several times a week and I use less meat and more vegetables in recipes. I may use 1 chicken breast in a stir fry that feeds four. Or I will cook one steak and thinly slice it to serve 4. I usually avoid eating meat at restaurants because most of the time it is from factory farms. I don’t believe that factory farmed meat is healthy and I don’t want to support the mistreatment of animals. Factory farms are also contributing greatly to pollution of our soil, air and water. I love buying my meat at a local farmers’ market where I can meet the farmer and I know the animals were healthy, had access to the outdoors and were treated well.
DAIRY…I only buy organic dairy to avoid added artificial growth hormones. I buy grass fed dairy if it is available. Cows are meant to eat grass and when they are fed grains, they can get very sick which is part of the reason that they have to be administered so many antibiotics. Grass fed milk and cheese are becoming easier to find in my area. Just like with meat, we consume much less dairy than we used to. The benefits of dairy are controversial so we choose to cut back.
FRUITS and VEGETABLES… I refer to the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen Lists to know when it is most important to buy organic. This is very helpful to know if you are on a budget or certain organic items are not available in your store. For example, I never buy conventional strawberries but conventional avocados are fine.
AVOIDING BPA…I like to buy tomatoes in glass jars or cartons to avoid BPA. My favorite brands are Pomi and Jovial. For beans, I buy Eden Organic brand because they use BPA free cans. I also like to buy dried beans and cook them myself when I can. This is a huge money saver. I store the cooked beans in glass jars in the freezer so they are ready when I need them for a recipe. I do occasionally buy cans for something like chipotle peppers. I have not found them any other way and I just love the taste. I only use them on occasion. BPA is a hormone disruptor and there are possible links to some serious illnesses such as heart disease, breast cancer and diabetes. I also recommend avoiding plastic water bottles and plastic storage containers as much as possible. If you do use plastic, never put it in the microwave or dishwasher as heat leaches chemicals out of the plastic even more.
DON’T THROW ANYTHING AWAY…Because organic foods can be more expensive, I try not to ever waste any food. I save almost everything and either use it in another dish, freeze it, throw it into soup or make broth with it. See my tip below for how to save the rest of a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. If you haven’t tried cooking with them yet, they are are awesome – spicy and smoky!
DO THE BEST YOU CAN…Remember, it is not all or nothing. It is perfectly fine to make small changes gradually. Every little bit of progress is beneficial. I do not do all of these things all of the time either, but I feel better knowing that my family is exposed to less pesticides, BPA, hormones and antibiotics.
This is a simple slow cooker soup that is super easy to throw together and my family loves it! If you use some of my tips when shopping, you can feel really good about the quality of the ingredients. Hope you enjoy it!
Mexican Chicken and Black Bean Soup in the Slow Cooker
1 pound boneless skinless chicken* breasts or thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
1 large onion, diced
1 red pepper*, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth* (32 oz. carton)
approximately 30 oz. diced tomatoes from a carton or jar if possible
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce from a can, finely chopped (optional)
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained (or about 3 cups cooked beans from 1 cup dried)
2 teaspoons cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
dash of cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
pepper, to taste
1 bay leaf
2 cups frozen corn*
Optional toppings: sour cream*, cilantro, diced avocado, shredded cheddar*, tortilla chips*
1. Put all ingredients except toppings in slow cooker and cook on high 5-6 hours or on low 8-9 hours.
2. Remove bay leaf and add toppings of your choice. Serve with organic tortilla chips on the side or crushed on top.
*I recommend using as many organic ingredients as possible but these are the ones that I think are most important.
-After you use one chipotle pepper out of the can, chop or puree the rest of the can and put into ice cube trays and freeze. After they freeze, pop them into a glass container or ziploc bag and store them in the freezer. Next time you make a soup or chili, just throw one in for smokiness and some heat!