Blossoms and Honey

apricot blossom 2

At our community garden, there are beautiful fruit trees that are loved and treated well and never sprayed. Nothing in our garden is.

apricot blossom 3

And there are bees that visit these beautiful fruit trees.

apricot blossom bee 3

And in August, when one of our local Farmers’ Markets FINALLY opens, you can buy their beautiful honey.

apricot blossom bee 5

The First Spring Honey is pale and lovely and minty and one of the most intensely wonderful things I’ve ever tasted.

apricot blossom 1

Now I know, I KNOW, many of you are strict vegans, and I COMPLETELY respect that, but I have a thing for these little guys and their products.

apricot blossom bee 1

There is something about participating in a very small, small circle of life that feeds us both.

apricot blossom bee 4

This year, in his own small patch of garden, my son is planting flowers.

the big kid

Not so much because he likes honey, but because to him, it is the right thing.

apricot blossom bee 2

FBAH: Slow-Cooker Lentil Soup aka my kids’ FAVORITE meal


What a way to launch the new website, eh? I’ve had a rough few weeks realizing that I must be very, very old in technical years (is that like dog years?) since I have no clue what I’m doing. Or maybe I’m technically young? All I know is life has been consumed by the fabrication of this not so fancy website. I don’t know how other people manage, but assume they hire someone much savvier in web skills.

KaleBut today is a big day. I am participating in Food Bloggers Against Hunger, a collaborative effort of more than 200 food bloggers attempting to bring awareness to the realities, and perhaps failings, of the American Food System. My head is full of things I want to say, but nothing is quite right, and so I leave you with this.

I believe not just with my intellect, but also my heart, that the Standard American Diet lies at the core of many of our greatest societal problems. The What AND the How. Do we eat as families or standing by the fridge or in our car? Do we have to play the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game to get our food to its whole and original state? Are the toxins in our food making us sick – not just the ones we put on, but the ones inherent – sugars, processed fats, animal proteins in excess? Do our children even know where food, REAL FOOD, comes from? Do bugs and dirt make them squeamish, do bees terrify them?

lentilsoup1When my kids publicly eat salad, fresh vegetables, or green smoothies with glee, I am frequently told I’m a lucky mom.

I am not a lucky mom. I work my TAIL off teaching my children.

I have spent countless hours growing, buying, and preparing wholesome food. Our most effective classrooms are our garden and our kitchen table. Smoothies are best when green. Farmers’ markets and produce co-ops are a way of life. I have taught them over and over again the most important truth about food, that our bodies are special and a MAGNIFICENT gift, and treating them poorly is wrong.

If everyone believed they were special enough to take care of, we would demand good food. Especially for our children. Everyone would, and it would make a difference.

my kids

My kids are special. So, so very special. My almost 6YO son’s favorite food is a raw red pepper. My daughter who turns three next week sneaks seaweed to the table. My baby knows the blender means food and eats everything I put on his tray, including the first food he happily ate … Lentil Soup. It is easy, totally affordable, homey, makes a TON, and I want to share it with you.

More information about Food Bloggers Against Hunger is below.


humble, brown lentil

Easy Slow Cooker Lentil Soup

Yield 4 quarts (or more)

1-2 T. olive oil (option)
2 Onions, chopped
5 Carrots, sliced
4 stalks Celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped or pressed
1-2 bay leaves
1-2 t. dried thyme leaves, or 3-4 sprigs fresh
2 c. brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
2 quarts broth equivalent:
2-3 T. vegan stock powder
1-2 T. vegetable base (I like Better than Bouillon’s)
1-2 cubes Rapunzel vegetable bouillon
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
1 bunch kale, ribs removed, chopped (substitute: spinach)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Sauté onions, carrots and celery until soft, but not browned, over medium heat using oil or water-sauté method. Add garlic and cook quickly for 30 seconds. Dump the vegetables in your slow cooker, adding your bay leaves, dried thyme, lentils, and broth. Cook on high for 3 hours. Add tomatoes and salt, add more water if needed, and continue cooking for another hour or two until lentils are soft. Twenty minutes before serving, add kale and cook until just barely tender. Adjust salt and pepper, and serve.

Serve with homemade bread and salad.

*Cooking variations:

  • Without sautéing, add everything but the kale and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Add the kale just at the end.
  • After sautéing the vegetables, add everything but the kale to the slow cooker and cook for 8-10 hours.
  • Stovetop: follow directions, but allow soup to simmer on the stove for 30-40 minutes instead of in your slow cooker, adding the kale at the last five minutes.

Use this link to send a letter to congress asking them to support anti-hunger legislation.

And watch “A Place at the Table” to learn more. Trailer here.


WHAT??? Coming soon…

I’m back. (I think.)

Can I tempt you with delights to come? My sourdough waffles recipe is perfected and all ready to post! I’ve been working on a baked apple bread that is absolutely amazing. Tonight I’m having a SUPER easy vegan cookies and cream ice cream that might make you feel guilty, and have a SMASHING nut-based peppermint chip ice cream that is guilt-free (if you can believe that). I’m all ready to transform breakfasts, lunches and dinners, in addition to transforming my kitchen (I’m finally admitting we’re not moving and am making my miniscule space work).

I have a little problem with all of this. We have this troublesome router that will not let me upload pictures. So we’re ordering a new one tomorrow. Until then, all I can do is tease you.

Salad Dressing

But until I’m back on board, I must tell you that tonight we made Somer’s Morrocan Lentil Soup and a salad using her latest dressing incarnation (of course with my family’s preferred alterations). Can I admit that we stole and fought over our children’s salads when they didn’t want them? She is pretty much amazing.

Back to Basics: Baked Flautas

Sometimes, I think, I bite of more than I can chew. And I know exactly what that looks like, since my 2YO regularly has so much food shoved in her mouth that she can’t close it. Not only is it bad for digestion, it’s downright unattractive. Anyway, I digress.

“When stress levels rise, when distress appears, when tragedy strikes, too often we attempt to keep up the same frantic pace or even accelerate, thinking somehow that the more rushed our pace, the better off we will be….One of the characteristics of modern life seems to be that we are moving at an ever-increasing rate, regardless of turbulence or obstacles.”

So, I’ve done it again. This time though, it’s not at all food related. Well, not really. I’m just extra busy with my kids. It’s wonderful and I am so grateful we’ve made the choices we have, but it’s putting pressure on areas that previously had a little wiggle room. Throw in teething (two in three days – really?) and a traveling husband with funerals to attend to and soccer for my 5YO, and well, something had to give.

I think most of us intuitively understand how important the fundamentals are. It is just that we sometimes get distracted by so many things that seem more enticing.

What had to give, sadly, has been my creativity and fancifulness in the kitchen. Dinner has become more of a 50-yard dash (and I use 50 because that’s totally a kid race and I’m totally falling back on kid food) than a loping 10K. (Marathons are pre-kid, let’s be fair.)

“My dear brothers and sisters, we would do well to slow down a little, proceed at the optimum speed for our circumstances, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes, and truly see the things that matter most.”

                                                                                                                    ~”Of Things that Matter Most“, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

So we’ve been eating a lot of oatmeal at breakfast (my kids actually cheer when we do, so I don’t feel guilty), I’ve been baking this bread (I know it’s not vegan – can you still love me?) and making fresh vegetable sandwiches with garden fresh cucumbers and tomatoes and onions and carrot butter – YUM!, eating Chef AJs dressing on plain Costco greens day in and day out, putting a bunch of stuff in a slow cooker and calling it soup (and then throwing it out when it’s terrible), and shoving more and more green beans from the garden into the fridge with a prayer that I’ll eventually deal with them.

And then on a whim, I resurrected these flautas. But I made them better. And had fresh tomatillo salsa (I’m sure that post is to come…someday). And then we had them again three days later. Quite simply, they were happy, healthy, kid-friendly, and super-fast if you use canned beans. And if you cut things small, you can shove a lot of veggies into them without anybody caring. Mind you, the recipe is totally loose on how you put together your filling. I think the most important part is baking at 425 for 12-17 minutes.

Baked flautas:
Bean filling:

2-3 cans black or pinto beans, drained & rinsed OR 4-5 c. cooked beans

½ c. diced onion

½ c. water

A splash of whatever salsa you have on hand

Add to small saucepan and cook down until creamy and beans start breaking down (help them along with a bit of mashing – you’ll feel better as you do it too.

1-2 c. diced vegetables (peppers, onions, summer squash, carrots)

In another pan, quickly sauté your diced vegetables in a bit of oil or water, just so they’re tender. Then add vegetables to the bean mixture with ½ to 1 c. leftover cooked grains if you have them, and let it all cook until it’s nice and mashy.

Divvy the filling up between 8 tortillas and roll them up. Put them on a cookie sheet, brush lightly with oil, and bake at 425 for 12-17 minutes, depending on how big they are.

Enjoy with guacamole (the best!) and salsa.

And now, I’m going to bed.

I called Erika a “tart”.

And fortunately, despite her low pH, she didn’t take offense. How can I get away with such a thing?

I used to see Erika daily when she lived in my neighborhood, and we’d talk on the phone more often than was normal. We supported each other (her supporting me was the more likely scenario) in all sorts of crazy adventures. I met her first at church when I was 9 months pregnant with my first kid, and in that short conversation she offered to throw me a baby shower. Who does that? So when Somer told me Erika was sick this week, I was a bit annoyed – annoyed that I couldn’t help her. And really annoyed that she had just brought me some beautiful orange flowers and some sweet orange oil to make me feel better.

On Tuesday night Somer texted me to see if she could steal my Wednesday and post, and I couldn’t help but be grateful. When I told her we were sick, dinner showed up the next morning – granted, she wouldn’t touch us, but she brought us yummy, healthy dinner and it was the first meal I’d had in three days that I could actually eat. And then she told me, “We sisters, without family nearby, we have to take care of each other.”

I get random calls, texts and emails from these lovely women just to see how I am, or to share a funky new recipe they tried and loved, or to vent about something annoying that happened in their day. We split co-op orders, watch each others kids (or get together for lunch and ignore the kids hoping they haven’t destroyed anything), and laugh when it seems the only other choice is to cry.

Sometimes I get distracted and think this whole blog experience is about food and about getting ourselves “out there” to share with the blogosphere some radical and genius creation.

But it’s not. Because really, this incarnation of GCF was started to share recipes and ideas, and support each other as we ventured into plant-based (and totally counter-culture) goodness. See, we’re not radicals, punks, legitimate hippies, or even very edgy. I mean, let’s be honest – I’m a (non-practicing) lawyer married to an engineer and LDS Bishop with three kids, a minivan and a mortgage. So what if my hair is short and sometimes I wear funky clothes? I’m still plain (real, fair trade, organic and yummy) vanilla Jane, and to enter a world without hamburgers and pot roasts was going to require cheerleaders and support.

And yet, I’ve been annoyed at what seems to be this crazy preoccupation with food. It’s everywhere. We have whole channels and millions of websites dedicated to recipes and chefs and cooking skills. In my humble opinion, I think it’s distracting us from what we really NEED from our culinary experience.

I love when Barbara Kingsolver and other writers talk about creating a food culture. About how eating is so, so much more than just calories in. It’s even more than creating a visual and delicious masterpiece to post on a blog so others can see how cool we were this week. It’s not just creating that Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving dinner complete with smiles and a squishy grandmother. It’s about community, about bringing life and love together, about healing and creation and gratitude for the bounty and blessings God gives us, and about helping each other through really, really, really hard weeks. Like this one.

Life won’t get easier, because that is what life is for, to refine us. I’m just grateful that we won’t have to do it alone and that in this little corner of the world, we’ve done something a little bit right in creating a beautiful and welcoming community that maybe, just maybe spills over a little into that great wide world.

Not gone long enough…

Last Tuesday we decided to take a last-minute, school is starting soon, if I don’t get out of the house and go somewhere I’ll go crazy family vacation.

Leaving three days later, on Friday.

To Cowboy country (read: meat everywhere).

With three kids.

(no, I did not take this picture – mine were less pretty – lots of smoke in the air and no snow)

Suffice to say, I wasn’t going to put together elaborate pre-planned and prepared meals, nor was I going to let us throw it all to the wind and eat whatever (entirely -maybe a little).

We stayed in a condo, so we had a kitchen (in my opinion, the only sane way to travel with kids and dietary concerns) and our minivan has enough space to hold a lot, especially when only packing gear for five days. So I went to my favorite store – COSTCO!

I picked up three “deli” style salads – an edamame one with carrots, roasted corn, peppers and cranberries; the Pita Pals black-eyed pea salad; and my absolute favorite – their quinoa tabbouleh with quinoa (red and white), brown rice, lentils, mung beans, and the appropriate veggie accompaniments (which I need to learn to recreate). It is so good that ZJ and I finished it off for breakfast one morning when she didn’t want to eat her waffles (she’s two, so of course this would be her favorite breakfast). Between those, hummus, bananas & peaches & grapes, a batch of granola and whole grain waffles, we totally survived and had beautiful picnics everyday along the banks of various rivers scattered throughout Yellowstone.

We ate well, but now I feel a bit of a need to detox since travel inherently includes “travel food”, including the infernal/blasted/loathsome/sinister/”I hate those!” chips – aka the Kettle BBQ chips that I was apparently incapable of putting down (also found at Costco). On the way home we listened a few hours of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and were inspired to hit the Downtown SLC Farmers’ Market on the way home to pick up some peaches, nectarines, plums, pears and tomatoes. It seemed we had everything else already growing in our garden.

And so, tonight for dinner we’re having juice. Juice with beets, oranges, carrots, apples, celery, ginger, and grapes. And, if you read the title of this post, let me tell you why we weren’t gone long enough. I say this because the fruit flies, our cute, cuddly, and ever-present pets, survived the stretch. HOW??? Matt thinks it was the garbage disposal. And they are now very, very happy to have our pile of juice dregs to feast on. Seriously, am I the only one whose kids think that living with fruit flies is normal?

A very veggie birthday – and why we are (mostly) plant-based

My birthday was great! Thanks for asking. I had two fabulous filled days with my family spent playing and searching out plant-based edibles everywhere we went. As we toured around the valley and the Wasatch Back, we looked high and low for plant-based meals (reviews coming) and found the most satisfying were also the most wholesome, and the least satisfying were the ones relying on substitutions and still using heavy amounts of sugar and white flour. And then there were places that had no idea how to cater to the weirdos asking for meals without cheese, eggs, sausage, or sour cream, but wanting to charge more for extra veggies. So, I got to thinking about why we do what we do when it seems to counter-culture and at times, very hard?

In some of my earliest conversations with my most normal plant-based friends we talked about how the reasons for being plant-based often evolved from the reasons for going plant-based. So, how did I get here?

My husband and I met at a Society for Ecological Restoration meeting, and we’ve always been the earthy-crunchy type (though not animal rights activists). We got into the locavore scene early in our marriage and have championed gardening and farmers’ markets for a good long while now. We read lots of books – Pollan, Bittman, Kingsolver, Planck, MacKinnon & Smith, etc and loved the short-lived 100 Mile series on Planet Green. Even then people thought we were nuts and we STILL ate meat and dairy (though I made my own yogurt and cheese at times), but it wasn’t until visiting Courtney and her family that we were introduced to the next step.  (It’s a slippery slope, I tell you – don’t get started or you might find yourself here!)

They made the choice for health reasons after reading Eat to Live, they both lost a bunch of weight, and she radiated energy when we saw them. (She had a baby two weeks after me – 9 lbs 5 oz, super healthy, and was riding her bike until the last week or her pregnancy.) She gave a copy and also recommended the China Study. I read Eat to Live and started applying principles, started the China Study, and dug a little deeper. We have never eaten a lot of meat, but now we ate even less, and my family was okay with that so long as food tasted good. But learning to cook plant-based sometimes felt like learning a new language, one I’m only starting to feel conversant in.

Then Matt met a guy on a plane, a guy with shoulder length hair that was diagnosed with Lymphatic Cancer three years prior and was currently cancer free. He’d read the China Study and rather than 25 feet of incisions and perpetual illness due to a lymphatic system removal, his whole family went plant-based and he’s cancer free. His friend did the same. Anecdotal, probably, but that’s okay.

Then there is the Word of Wisdom found in LDS scripture, which parallels most other religious beliefs about diet and health. My two favorite verses are these:

12 Yea, aflesh also of bbeasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used csparingly;

13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be aused, only in times of winter, or of cold, or bfamine.

It also talks about herbs and fruits in their season, and grains! And when I see “winter, or of cold, or famine”, I recognize that in 1835, when this was written, there wasn’t a fully stocked grocery store down the road that allowed them to pick up fresh vegetables and oats in February if they ran out. They would understandably have needed to eat a chicken.

And then we went out with some friends and told them about all of our findings and a month later (after she read the China Study twice while nursing her sixth baby), they challenged us to our 60-day China Study/Plant-Based/Word of Wisdom diet. They’ve teetered back and forth since then, but we’ve decided it’s worth staying with. We’re still finishing up some of our frozen treats and I am not satisfied with egg and butter substitutes, though I bake a lot less now so it doesn’t matter much. We just feel so much better when we stick to plants.

And then, I found myself thinking the other day that I was very grateful that no animals had died for my food in a long time. WEIRD! I’m not the PETA type, nor do I think animal consumption is inherently bad – just the Western approach to its production and consumption.

A plant-based diet is good for a lot of things – the mind, the heart, the body, the soul, the earth. It doesn’t much matter how we got here, but the reasons we stay are growing. It seems that every day my “testimony” of a plant-based diet grows when I see people sick, angry, tired, entitled and selfish. For me, it all comes back to the Sanskrit word I learned in yoga: Ahimsa.

So, for my 34th birthday I anticipate a year of new struggles and growth, but as I look forward to another 34 years I want them to be better than the first 34. I want to be able to tread a little more lightly, do a little less harm, and be able to give more of myself and take less of what is out there.

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To Read: What is Food? by Mark Bittman

I’m kind of a food jerk. There, I said it. I am one of those mean people that wouldn’t mind if we banned super-harmful foods (especially in schools), just as I look at people who still smoke and wonder why they still do it (especially when it’s FREEZING outside). Don’t yell at me for this, because I know this is NOT the opinion of most people, and I claim no POLITICAL affiliation based on my views (I couldn’t argue the Left/Right debate even if I tried), and this does not reflect the opinion of my cohorts.

I went for a walk around Liberty Park this morning with Pancho in the Ergo and pushing ZJ in the BOB while my 5YO was at day camp, and loved it despite the heat. But what surprised me is how many people were walking with sodas or frosty Starbucks drinks in hand. I know health is more than calories in-calories out, but if we’re exercising to help our bodies feel strong and lean, then wouldn’t we want to watch what goes into them as well, at least WHILE exercising?

I’m also a fan of insurance companies charging more for people living unhealthy lifestyles. My husband’s employer gives us a minor discount for being “healthy”, meaning we have few enough risk factors that we aren’t a likely threat to insurance premiums (though I’ll be the first to admit – having kids is not a cheap activity). I like that discount. But then again, I also like my kids to learn to bear the burden of natural consequences, like if they don’t put their things away, they may not be able to find them later or if they don’t eat their meal, they might be hungry later.

I do confess, though, that I love treats and a sugar-fast right now might send me into a fit (I am nursing a HUGE baby after all). BUT I cannot honestly remember the last time I bought a soda.

So, I just read this article by Mark Bittman, who is always fun to read. The whole article can be found here, and I’d recommend it. But here are a few of the highlights… (though as I look at them parsed out like this, they’re much less elegant and cohesive than his whole article).

“To (loosely) paraphrase Oliver Wendell Holmes, your right to harm yourself stops when I have to pay for it. And just as we all pay for the ravages of smoking, we all pay for the harmful effects of Coke, Snapple and Gatorade.”

“So perhaps we ask: What, exactly, is food? My dictionary calls it “any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth.” That doesn’t help so much unless you define nutritious. Nutritious food, it says here, “provides those substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition.””

“Added sugar, as will be obvious when we look back in 20 or 50 years, is the tobacco of the 21st century”

“We should be encouraging people to eat real food and discouraging the consumption of non-food. Pretending there’s no difference is siding with the merchants of death who would have us eat junk at the expense of food and spend half our lives earning enough money to deal with the health consequences.”

To Read: Soul Food: Spirituality and Nutrition

So much of the information that guides my choices in life comes from what I learn. So much of what I learn comes from either experience or from reading now that my “formal” education has ended (or is a least on hold for the foreseeable future). The experience portion of my education involves things like figuring out how to do things while holding a fussy baby, or weeding one-handed, or learning to control my temper when all fiery torment seems to have broken out around me with screaming and fighting amongst my children, or learning patience as I find myself in situations I never would have imagined for myself.

These are all VERY good things to learn, but sometimes they lack the cerebral nature that occupied so much of my life prior to motherhood. So, as you can imagine, I find other sources of information to supplement my experiences. I have dreams of things I will do in my future life and things I imagine I would love to do but may never have the chance for. So I read about them.

Indulge me as I share fabulous articles or stories or books with you as my “education” relates to food. I came across this one the other day, and it’s short so scan it quickly if you must but read it thoroughly if you can. She concludes with five guiding principles that totally apply to the food experiences I want to be having, and I love the cultural and spiritual background she provides that frames those principles.

Soul Food: Spirituality and Nutrition

By Lisa Turner, Huffington Post

1. Eat mindfully, being aware of the food and your body.
2. Eat for the purpose of nourishing your body; treat your body as a temple.
3. Eat only fresh, clean, light foods, avoiding foods that are processed or canned.
4. Eat only what you need, without overeating or binging on food.
5. Eat for the purpose of bettering yourself spiritually.

Easter Brainstorming!!! Need Input…

Easter is coming, right? It’s actually in 5 days and my hope was to have had a baby by then, but that’s probably not going to happen. I’ve never been big on holiday meals, but that’s because I’m not a big ham/turkey person – which is usually the basis of most holiday meals. But now we have the opportunity to have a marvelous, meat-less Easter dinner. One problem – I need ideas!

So friends, contribute! What are you making for Easter dinner this year? And don’t be shy even if you have a meat-based meal. We can always take a bunch of good sides and make a great meal with it!