Foraging for Morel Mushrooms

morels

A post from Holly:

Last week, while hiking in the woods behind my daughter’s school, my husband and I happened upon 36 nice morel mushrooms.

The problem was, we were RIGHT behind my daughter’s school and it was recess time.  We feared for our daughter’s social standing, in 6thgrade, because if any one of the kids playing outside had seen us, worse yet, recognized us, it would be all over for her.

“I saw Ruby’s parents in the woods behind the playground looking down, rooting around in the trees and leaves, carrying a grapefruit knife (our morel cutting tool) and walking over & over, up & down and in circles!  I think they are crazy!  Ruby’s parents are crazy… Ruby’s parents are crazy!”

So we hid behind trees when the kids would come near and we were lucky to be seen by only one, silly-voiced girl, who only cared about our cute dogs who were with us and called out, “nice dogs”!

The results of this hilarious hike?

A bag full of fresh morels, a handful of Lily of the Valley and a lilac flower stolen from my alley on the walk home.

The morels will be cooked tonight and I can’t wait to eat them; cooked in garlic and butter and melting in my mouth.

Italian Pasta Salad Recipe

pasta salad

 

With Memorial Day ushering in the unofficial start of summer it is time once again that we are grilling out more often.  It can get boring having the same old sides with our burgers and chicken.  A super easy side to serve is an Italian Pasta Salad.  It is extremely versatile since you can add whatever vegetables you have on hand.  Some versions of the recipe also call for pepperoni if you prefer meat in it.

 

Ingredients:

3cups (8 oz.) rotini pasta, cooked, drained

2 cups broccoli florets

½ cup cubed Mozzarella Cheese

½ cup chopped red pepper

½ cup finely chopped red onion

½ cup of halved cherry tomatoes

½ cup pitted black olives

1 cup Zesty Italian salad dressing

 

Instructions: 

Run pasta under cold water to help cool the pasta. 

Toss all ingredients in a bowl except for the dressing and lightly mix.

Add salad dressing.  Note:  Most recipes call for only ½ cup of dressing but we have found that it takes a full cup since the pasta tends to soak up the dressing.

Refrigerate salad at least one hour before serving

 

Chia Seeds, Kefir and Functional Exercises

 

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve become really interested in expanding my food horizons.  There are so many foods and superfoods out there that are just waiting to be eaten.  Here are a couple of my new favorites…

 

Chia Seeds:  chia seeds

The first superfood that I mentioned in my last entry are chia seeds. Chia seeds are a gelatinous food because of the gel like substance they become when they get wet.  This helps with the digestive process and clearing out the digestive tract.  They have 27 vitamins, minerals and amino acids as well as fatty acids. They also have 42% of our daily fiber intake.  A good place to check them out and get more information is Nutiva.com.  I’m sure after you read all of this, you have to be wondering how to incorporate these magical seeds into your diet.  Well, you can pretty much mix them into anything.  I usually mix it into my kefir or yogurt but I’ve also just put a serving into water and let them set a bit and just drank them down.  You can put them in your juice or smoothies too.  They are tasteless so the sky is the limit when it comes to consuming them.

Kefir:  kefir

I’ve had a bunch of people that have read my blog say to me that they haven’t heard of many of the foods that I eat.  I’m going to go ahead and assume that Kefir is one of those.

Kefir is a fermented probiotic milk product.  Probiotics are beneficial in helping with GI functions as well as pushing the bad bacteria out of the small intestines during the digestive process. I tend to just treat it like yogurt even though it’s thinner and drinkable and mix in muesli (whole grain granola), chia seeds and hemp seeds. 

I also try to avoid a lot of sugar so I buy the plain and just add stevia or truvia to it.  Add it to your smoothies or I suppose you could mix it in your juices or simply drink it to reap the benefits of this fast absorbing food (faster than yogurt). Check out Lifeway.net for more information.

Functional Exercises:

I’d like to switch gears a bit and get into a little fitness talk because I feel like its been a while.  I hope you have been incorporating stretching in your exercise routines like I mentioned a few entries ago.  The next thing I suggest adding into your workouts if you don’t already do them are some functional exercises.  They are called functional because they are motions that are used in everyday life. It can be something as simple as walking up stairs or sitting down and getting up from a chair.  The two exercises I’m going to introduce today are both just using body weight.  To challenge yourself you can always add weight as long as you are using proper form. 

The squat incorporates all lower body muscle groups such as quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes.  When doing a squat, it’s very important to protect your knees so technique is essential.  ashley wo

Let me take a moment and preface the photos…first of all, I never, I repeat, never work out with my hair down.  I’d pass out of heat exhaustion or drown in my sweat.  I just couldn’t find my ponytail holder.  Lastly, fitness photos where people are smiling are unrealistic and look pretty silly though for this photo of showing where your feet should start would be super awkward if I just mean mugged the camera hence the cheesy smile.  So here we go, let’s squat.  Start with your feet shoulder width apart with both feet facing forward. Weight should be evenly distributed through toes to heels.

To perform the exercise, pretend you have a chair behind you…sit your butt back first as you start to bend your knees.  The weight should shift into your heels and you should be able to lift up your toes at the bottom of the exercise.  The reason for this is to make sure your knees are protected.  The rule of thumb is your knees should never cross the plane of your toes.  You can start by putting a chair behind you and lightly touching down just to get a feel for sitting back and allowing your weight to shift.  Lastly, always keep your chest up and shoulders back.  Good posture is alway key for any exercise you do.

Ashley bo1

ashleybo2

Pineapple Mango Salsa Recipe

 

mango salsa

 

Last week we received our very first box from Brewers Organics and we could not be more impressed!  Our order included the typical bananas and strawberries but it also allowed us to branch out and try new things like English Peas and Ataulfo Mangos.  Since the weather has now gotten warmer, we are all looking for meals that are lighter and more refreshing.

One of our favorite summer meals is grilled salmon with pineapple mango salsa.  Salmon always turns out great on the grill if they are made on cedar planks.  This allows the fish to cook more even and not stick to the grill itself.  All it takes is approximately 4-5 minutes per side.  The same cook time works inside as well if you prefer to use the broiler in your oven.

Below is just one of many variations of Mango Salsa you can make.  Another great feature is there is no cooking required!

Ingredients:

• 1 cup chopped peeled mango

• 1 cup diced pineapple

• ½ cup diced red pepper

• 1 plum tomato, chopped and seeded

• 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

• 2 green onions, sliced

• 2 tablespoons lime juice

• 1 tablespoon lemon juice

• 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until chilled.  Yields 2-2/3 cups

Pear & Grape Chicken Salad

chicken salad

 

This is my absolute favorite salad to make! Perfect for all seasons, I eat it as a whole meal. It is SO delicious and you can make it entirely with organic produce from Brewers Organics!

Ingredients:
1 pear diced

1 cup of halved red grapes

1 head of organic red leave lettuce, spinach or other favorite leafy green

1 cup of dried cranberries

1 lb of almond breaded chicken (optional)

 

pear-grape-chicken-salad-2007

 

Bake chicken at 350º for 25 minutes. Mix fresh ingredients and toss with your favorite balsamic dressing. I like to switch between a cranberry balsamic or raspberry! The chicken is optional, I’ve had it with pistachios as well. The grapes give a fresh juicy burst of flavor to the salad and the pear is a perfect compliment. Most of the needed ingredients are in your upcoming delivery!

Banana and Mango Smoothie or “It’s Raining Bananas and Mangos”

Banana Mango Smoothie in glasses

 

My kids have fallen in love with mangos. Each week, we eat at least 4 of this  sweet fruit. Perhaps I need to grow a mango tree. In Wisconsin? Sorry, kids! Did  you know mango trees can grow up to 60 feet tall? Not really for my small back  yard! This “king of fruit” is rich in anti-oxidants, potassium and fiber. Who can turn down requests for mango snacks?

We love to eat this delicious fruit in its purest form: peeled and cut into  bite-sized pieces. However, this week we decided to branch out into the smoothie world. It has been a hot week so far, so we have been searching for cool drinks  and snacks. We came up with this recipe to use mango and banana with our favorite vanilla yogurt. Nutritious and delicious!

Ingredients:

1½ cups mango, peeled and cut-up

1 medium banana, sliced

1 ½ cups vanilla yogurt

½ cup milk (or more, if desired)

Banana Mango Smoothie food prep

Directions:

1. For this recipe, it is helpful to freeze the mango pieces for an hour or so to make the smoothie nice and cold! Let thaw for 10 minutes before putting it  in the blender.

2. Place all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.

3. Add a bright colored straw and drink with delight! If the smoothie is too thick to your liking, add more milk to your cup and simply stir with your straw.

Banana Mango Smoothie and Nolan

 

The verdict was “Yum Yum!“ and “Amazing!“ from my two children. Discussions of what to call this drink started very silly and then ended with “It’s Raining  Bananas and Mangos.” The children also helped with the visual presentation by  adding their toy banana and tropical Little Person to the table. (Sorry, no toy  mangos in the toy box!) The best part of this demonstration was watching them drink contentedly in silence until the final loud slurps of the straw emptying every last drop from the bottom of the glass.

The Food Diary of a Personal Trainer

 

Fitness trainer Ashley gets asked a lot by her clients what she eats.  Here she gives us a day in the life:

 

A couple days ago, I was talking to a client about nutrition and after about five minutes of healthy chatter, she asked me, “Well what do you eat every day?” I realized then that I’m asked that question quite often. Then the little light bulb went on as I had just figured out what my next blog would be about.

I try to take a realistic approach when dealing with clients and nutrition. I know I’ve said it before but I’m not a perfect eater. Some clients think it’s just easier for me to keep my diet on track because I live the life of a personal trainer. I feel like one of my jobs is to let my clients in on a little secret…that if there’s a birthday party, I have cake and ice cream and if I go to a movie, I always eat popcorn.

In the same breath, there aren’t all that many times when I make unhealthy choices and one of the many reasons I work out six days a week is so I can enjoy special occasions once in a while and not feel guilty about it. A healthy lifestyle requires consistency and discipline and just finding healthy choices that you actually like and can stick with. There are so many fad diets out there that work temporarily until it’s too hard to keep up and you quit. The best diet to go on is the one where it doesn’t feel like a diet.

Exercise is very important and there are so many health benefits that come along with it. My body has changed dramatically over the last four years because of the hard work I have put in and the amazing trainers that I work with at least three days a week.

**Side Note: Even trainers need trainers for that extra push and accountability. I wouldn’t be where I am today physically if it weren’t for their knowledge, support and motivation. With that said, my body did the most changing when my diet (that didn’t feel like a diet) was on point along with my exercise habits. It all comes down to what you’re consuming and how you’re fueling your body. From my experiences with clients, it seems to be the hardest part of the equation, resistance training + nutrition + cardio = success.

So enough babble…here’s a day in the eating life of me.

Breakfast:
12-16 oz juice containing carrots, apples and lemon
1/2 cup 100% whole grain rolled oats – I mix in a tablespoon of peanut butter (go chunky!) and a spoonful of coconut oil. I also add chia seeds sometimes. Superfood #2…I’ll get into these little guys next time.

Snack:
Handful of Walnuts or Pumpkin Seeds
Banana
12-16oz green juice containing celery, kale, spinach, lemon, apples, cucumber and one teaspoon of spirulina.

Lunch:
Spinach salad with tomato, mushroom, 1/2 avocado, asparagus
2 tablespoons of Olive Oil and Vinegar dressing

Snack:
1/2 cup Kefir – perhaps a better choice than yogurt that i’ll also talk about next entry.
1/3 whole grain Muesli

Sometimes I’ll have more green juice depending on hunger level as well as activity level that day.

Dinner:
Homemade Black Bean Burger
1 slice Ezekiel bread
1 tablespoon organic Ketchup
1/2 avocado

I always feel full and some days I’m hungrier than others so I just add in some other healthy foods and of course drink lots of water. Many of my clients have grown accustomed to food journaling which is super helpful to monitor where your calories are at throughout the day. I suggest that as a starting place just to see what you’re consuming…many are surprised by the amount of calories in. Then you can figure out where you can start making some changes.

Well, it’s a perfect day to grill out and use the great zucchini, potatoes and onions I got in my order this week and last. Enjoy the sun but make sure you wear sunscreen.

Snacky Tomato & Tuna Sailboats

Snacky Sailboats with police boat

Ahoy! Here is a nutritious, snacky lunch that kids will eat without complaints, especially if they like tuna fish. My kids love tuna fish! This creative lunch would be fun for a special, nautical-themed picnic where sailboat toys, rubber duckies and any number of fish toys would be most welcomed.

Ingredients:
Tomato, halved
2 cans of tuna fish
Celery, diced
Onion, diced (optional)
Cheddar cheese slices
Goldfish crackers
Dab of cream cheese (optional)

Directions:
1. The sailboat consists of a hollowed out tomato. I used almost an entire tomato because my kids love tomatoes! Green peppers, red peppers, yellow peppers or cucumbers could also be used for the vessel. The boat is filled with tuna salad. (I used two cans of drained tuna, one tablespoon of mayonnaise, and one diced celery after my kids banned the onion.)

2. The mast of the sailboat is made from a carrot stick. We LOVE using the rainbow carrots from Brewers Organics! How fun are purple carrots?? Your mast could be one of many possible carrot colors! The mast is pushed deep into the tuna salad.

3. The sail of the sailboat is created from cheese. We used cheddar cheese. since a swiss-cheese sail might be asking for sailing trouble! To adhere the sail to the mast, use a sticky substance such as cream cheese. Other possible sails could be designed with a lettuce leaf or a slice of mango or pear.

Finally, the table can be prepared to look like Lake Michigan! I used blue wrapping paper with scattered Goldfish crackers. We also welcomed my son’s special police boat to the meal. Soon, the edible boats were devoured and creative commentaries were heard about the perils of vegetable-sailing on Lake Michigan. “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” spouted from the mouths of these young sailors before they caught all the remaining fish. Fun, nutritious and enjoyable!

Snacky Sailboat alone

 

Foraging in SW Wisconsin: Ramps, Nettles & Watercress Soup

Traveling to SW Wisconsin over the weekend, we had high hopes to find morel mushrooms.  I think we were to early… However, we did find wild ramps and stinging nettles growing on hillsides in the Kickapoo Valley Reserve!  Using makeshift tools to carefully dig the ramps out of the soil without breaking off the bulb, we harvested a lot!  By carefully (wearing gloves), we harvested stinging nettles, which is an edible green once the leaves are steamed. In a beautiful stream we found watercress floating on top of the water.  It was an amazing harvest! I’m including the recipe of the soup my husband made with this fresh food!

ramps holly

Ramps, Nettle & Watercress Soup

(can substitute kale or spinach for nettle & watercress)

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons of butter

4 cups of coarsely chopped ramps (use tender portions and no roots)

4 medium-large potatoes – chopped, quartered

8 cups packed nettles and watercress (leaves and tender shoots)

1 cup milk (1% or 2%)

1/2 cup sour cream

1-4 cups of water (to preferred thickness or thinness)

salt (to taste)

freshly ground pepper (to taste)

1/2 cup finely chopped watercress

1/2 cup finely chopped ramps

Directions: 

Three separate steps that are best done simultaneously

Heat butter in soup pot over medium-low flame. Add coarsely chopped ramps, cover and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until tender, not to exceed a golden brown color. Remove ramps and set aside.

Boil 3 cups water. Add quartered potatoes, cover pot and cook at a high simmer until potatoes are very tender, about 15 minutes.

Steam the nettles in a steam basket over medium heat for about 5 minutes then add watercress.  The nettles should look fully wilted and tender prior to adding watercress.  Cook together over medium for another 5 minutes.

Mix potatoes, ramps, and greens (nettles and watercress) and place in a blender or food processor.  You can place them in a pot and use an immersion blender instead.  Add sour cream and milk.  Blend them until smooth.  This can be done in two batches to accommodate space in the blender if necessary.

Add the mixture to the pot and stir in water until the mixture reaches the desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat soup to a temperature that nearly reaches a boil (but does not boil).  Decrease heat and simmer over low for five minutes.  Add finely chopped 1/2 cup ramps and 1/2 cup watercress.

Stretching and Juicing

 

In this post, fitness blogger Ashley shows us some basic stretches and shares a juice recipe.  She also gives some interesting nutritional info on kale and spirulina. 

So I realize I’m only 27…young, able bodied, healthy etc etc…but there are some days where I am starting to feel the 20 years of sports taking a toll on me. My knees crack and crunch when I bend down, my back hurts after certain lifting days and the range of motion in my shoulders just isn’t what it used to be. I’m not writing this to have a mini pity party for myself, I actually had quite a wonderful day…my awesome nephew had his four year old birthday party and I celebrated Mother’s day with my mom and step dad. No pity parties allowed after a day spent with family.

I only write about these aches and pains because they brought me to the realization that I am in need of a change in my routine. It’s so easy to get stuck doing the same exercises on the same day every week without fail so I’ve decided to start focusing on my flexibility. It is one of those things that I know is so good for me but if I run out of time or energy, I typically skip it.

The main muscle groups I’ve been trying to increase flexibility in are my hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes and quads. All of these areas contribute to my on and off low back pain so I’m trying to lengthen and strengthen. I’ve also been taking yoga at least once a week which encourages lower impact exercises to help with balance and flexibility. If you currently don’t take the time to work on your flexibility, I highly suggest joining the stretch party and just start by spending five minutes post workout just cooling down and working on it. The more consistent you are with it, the faster the results and more than likely, the better you’ll feel. Here are two simple stretches you can start with:

 IMGP2990

Runner Stretch is a great for hamstrings. Stretch that opposite arm over to reach for your toes to feel a nice pull in those lats as well.

IMGP2992

This is a great stretch for hip flexors. If you can’t grab your foot, that’s okay, stay within your body’s range of motion. Once you’re in the correct position, try to sit up nice and straight for an even deeper stretch.

Back in the kitchen, I’ve been trying out some new food recipes as well as juice recipes. I’ve been using my juicer now for about three week now and I’ve really enjoyed it…though it takes a little bit of time to prepare, the nutrients I get out of each glass is well worth it. I actually enjoy healthy foods. I mean of course I was probably attracted to them at first because I know they are good for me but I actually really do like the taste. For me, fruits are a lot easier to consume so juicing helps me take in more veggies. Besides the color of the veggie juices, they are actually quite tasty.

Another plant based protein I’ve started incorporating in my juices is spirulina. It is actually a blue-green algae that is 65 to 71 percent complete protein (beef is 22 percent) with all essential amino acids in perfect balance. It also contains vitamin B12 which usually is only found in animal products. This superfood has helped me control cravings and has also helped balance out the decrease in meat protein in my diet. The label suggests one teaspoon a day and it’s pretty flavorless. All you have to get past is the bright green color and the fact that it’s algae.

So here’s a good juice recipe to add one teaspoon of spirulina to:

1 cucumber

1 celery stalk

1 peeled lemon

6 kale leaves

*side note: Kale is a superfood…thanks Brewers Organics for adding this to the menu. It has the highest vegetable source of vitamin K and may help the risk of developing certain cancers. It’s a source of calcium, chlorophyll, calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C. Kale is low calorie and also a good source of minerals, copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. It promotes eye and skin health as well. (thank you rebootwithjoe.com for all your fun veggie facts)

2 handfuls of spinach

2 apples

*you can also add a peeled orange or some carrots to sweeten it up a little.

While you’re enjoying your nutritious green drink, I’m off to figure out what to make with the world’s largest zucchini I got in my order this week.