Food as self care

It snowed again today. I hate January in Minnesota. If you’re coming here for the SuperBowl in a few weeks, pack your warm stuff!!

The only good thing about weather like this is that it keeps us inside together and gives us time to read, watch movies/tv and just be together.

It was a day off of school for the boys, and they enjoyed the leftovers from yesterday’s football game (Go Vikes!): Halftime chili and cheesy cornbread. I was surprised to learn that most of the teenage boys who came over to watch the game hadn’t ever had chili “Cincinnati style”, which is served over pasta. Anything that can be served over pasta is in our house!!

I did not partake, but instead made an açaí bowl with fruit and desiccated coconut. It looks awful but is utterly fantastic. I’d had this unique superfruit full of antioxidants in Kauai and was thrilled to find a smoothie ready frozen package. Individual servings make it fast and easy.

For dinner I made grain bowls with quinoa and black beans over mixed greens with whatever vegs I could find. I roasted green beans (20 minutes at 400 degrees), and this is absolutely my new favorite prep for what can be a tasteless veg in winter.

That got me thinking about how much we enjoy trying new foods and techniques, and that our habits have changed pretty dramatically in 15 years (since Avery was born). We used to care mostly about cheap and familiar.

With more time and more adventurous spirits, every week is different now. Food (and food prep for me) has become a form of self care. I truly enjoy learning and exploring, and slowing down after a busy day to pull a meal together.

I’m really feeling so much healthier these days–more energy especially–and think a lot of it is the vegan diet (particularly getting rid of dairy). It’s easy to stick with something that makes you feel better!!

Ps We’re planning our winter getaway, which involved updating my passport. I am thrilled to be getting rid of this photo (12 years ago)!! 40 something is way better than 30.

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“Beef” stew (vegan)

The boys are generally being good sports about this vegan thing we’ve been trying. They’ve both figured out coping mechanisms. Avery has been getting supplements at lunch from his friends who take pity on him, and Alec just drives himself to buy something when he wants it.

I was honestly pretty excited tonight to try one of our favorite recipes, made vegan–Sunday Night beef stew by Pioneer Woman. It’s a winter staple. It’s hearty and easy, classic flavors.

It turned out great…the smell of a simmering pot filled the house all afternoon with anticipation and when the boys sat down there was honestly excitement. (I serve it over a giant portion of mashed potatoes and a good old bowl of carbs is always good bait for a teenage boy.)

So when we dug in, the reactions were nearly simultaneous: “This isn’t meat, is it?”

No. And then even I was laughing because there’s no way soy chunks improve by simmering. Quickly the nickname “feeb” stew caught on (beef backwards and perhaps a nod to feeble).

Lesson learned. I really liked this meatless beef tips product when we used it in broccoli stir fry last week, but I think it was greatly helped both by quick sauté and a spicy sauce. Cooking it for several hours made the texture akin to the “meatballs” in Spaghettios and the flavor was definitely not umami.

Everything else in the recipe turned out great–substituting olive oil for butter and vegetable stock for beef. I amped up the Worcestershire and added bay leaves to give the sauce more depth. That part of the recipe was a success. The carrots/turnips were great as usual too. Even the boys said so.

I’m going to keep tinkering with the right meat substitute, perhaps a tempeh or mushroom. The key to this vegan thing I think is to play with a food’s strengths, not to try to make something into what it’s clearly not. I’ve got some trust building to do for the feeb stew, can’t fool these hungry boys. 😉

Winter smoothie prep packs

It’s winter in Minnesota and the fresh local fruit options are sparse. It’s also hockey and swim season, meaning time is precious and calories in high demand.

What can I make ahead that’s fast and healthy? I pulled some miscellaneous greens and celery from the fridge, canned and frozen fruit. garbanzos, and various nutritional adds like oatmeal, desiccated coconut, flax and chia seeds, fresh mint, ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric.

Then I threw some combinations together into sandwich bags and tossed into the freezer so the boys could grab as needed, add liquid and a banana. Ironically we had all of the weird stuff but no bananas? Boys.

If you run into the same issue with an ingredient just know that everything except liquid freezes well and gives it a nice chill, but if you don’t happen to have celery you can always add it when you blend.

Smoothie recipes are loose and easy to experiment to find what you like. This is definitely more art than science in my book, meaning the amounts and exact fruit are really up to you. Here are some of the combos we like:

Tropical: mandarin oranges, pineapple, peaches, pears, 1/2 banana, desiccated coconut. Use whatever combo of fruit you like about 1 cup total plus 3 tbsp of the coconut (usually found in the bulk section, and you don’t generally want to use the sweetened stuff). Add 1 cup+ of almond, coconut milk or whatever milk you drink until you reach your preferred consistency.

Berry blast (fiber): 1 cup spinach, 1/2 total of blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and 2 tbsp or so dried oatmeal, 1 tsp dried cinnamon, 1/2 banana. Add 1c+ milk. The oatmeal makes this very filling.

Toxin Cleanse: 1 cup chopped kale, 1/2c pineapple, 1 stalk chopped celery, 1 tsp ginger (I use the fresh ginger in the tube found near the fresh herbs). Add 1c+ water or coconut water if you’ve got it, which has awesome electrolytes. This smoothie is a great way to flush toxins, if you have overindulged or have an upset tummy.

Balance: 1c spinach, 1/4c garbanzo beans, 3 large strawberries, 1 tbsp fresh mint, 1 tbsp flax seeds, dash of cinnamon, 1/2 banana. Add 1c+ milk of choice. The boys don’t like this one, but it’s one of my favorites when I’m feeling run down as it brings me back into balance with all of the great protein and iron in it. Flax seeds add fiber and help absorb the other nutrients too.

A note about blending: Depending on how compact the bags are, you’ll have something close to a solid chunk. You’ll want to break it up a bit (smash it a couple times on the counter) before blending or your blender may make an angry noise 😉

We found that filling a standard size sandwich bag about half full was a good size.

Everything in balance 


We’re heading into a Minnesota winter, which always makes me want to hunker down…and eat. Combined with the tendency to overindulge at the holidays, and exercise less (no outdoor pool 😔), it’s easy to put on a few pounds.

Instead of trying to “will” my way through it, I’m resolving to take a new approach to embracing and accepting winter. When it comes to health habits, I am working “adventures” into our lives—trying new foods and restaurants, varying my exercises (I did starfishes this week at the gym!). Gotta do something to keep it interesting!

So 2 cool food discoveries this week:

  • Bulletproof coffee. Read more about this fad, which celebs like Jimmy Fallon and Gwenyth Paltrow swear by. It’s creamy, rich and nutty—with grassfed butter and coconut oil blended into it. I was flying high afterwards and see why people use it for a meal replacement (at 250 calories per serving it’s definitely an indulgence). The healthy fats are good for your brain and I definitely felt full afterwards. (FYI, Here in MN the restaurant Agra Culture sells it if you don’t want to track down the somewhat unusual ingredients).
  • Pomegranates. I have bought just the juice previously, had pom-flavored chocolate, cranberries etc, but I had never bought a fresh one until Fresh Thyme opened up near us this week and I was curious. Cutting it open, I quickly became fascinated with these little jewels and felt like a little monkey digging them out. It was truly fun. Tossed them on salads for some beauty and crunch. The boys were glad this superfood didn’t involve kale.

A reminder that food is fun, especially when you slow down to really experience its sensory aspects and keep an open mind. That, and Everything in balance. I’m justifying the coffee with pomegranates and starfishes. 🌟