Monthly Archives: November 2011

Holiday gift guide - part 1

I am not one of those people who starts celebrating Christmas in October.  In fact, I think that’s an abomination.  I am steadfastly loyal to Thanksgiving!  Seeing as how my birthday always falls near Thanksgiving, and it’s my favorite holiday of the year, I cannot just skip over it and move on to the jingle bells and all that.

But!  Thanksgiving has now passed and it is officially the Christmas season.  It’s also coming up on Hanukkah too. My point is, no matter what you celebrate ’tis the season for gift buying and in light of that I thought this week I’d offer up a little gift buying guide, First Comes Health style.  Because health is a gift that keeps on giving, am I right?
In the Kitchen – It’s no secret that I think cooking for yourself is a key to improved health.  Here are a few things that I think would make the perfect gift for someone who is a cooking novice or a culinary pro.

    • A slow cooker – This is by far the best tool to have in your kitchen if you’re just learning to cook and are uncomfortable in the kitchen.  Heck, I think it’s an ideal gift if you’re a skilled culinarian too.  There are almost a zillion (that’s an official count) slow cooker recipes out there and a delicious and healthy home cooked meal can be just a workday away.  I have not yet seen a slow cooker recipe that is more complicated than throwing a bunch of food into it, turning it on, eating the food 8 hours later.  Plus, they come in so many different sizes and shapes with a ton of features or none.  You can spend as little as $30 or up to a few hundred dollars depending on how complicated you want to get.
    • A great knife – Having quality tools to use makes food preparation so much more enjoyable.  For many years I used some second-rate knife to do all my chopping, and I was just making my life more difficult than it had to be.  Lo and behold my Dude bought me a really good Santoku knife and it was like I woke up from a nightmare. Cutting an onion was a breeze! A good quality, SHARP knife made all the difference.  Now, my personal preference is a Santoku knife, but what’s important to know when buying a knife is that the person using it has to be comfortable with it so whether it’s a chef’s knife, or a cleaver, or whatever, the user has to feel confident with it in his/her hand.  This can be an expensive gift, but worth every cent if the receiver is serious about cooking.
    • A food processor – I don’t know how people survive without having one.  I have a very basic processor that chops, but also has a slicing and grating blade too and I use it several times a week.  Most frequently, I use it to make dips or my own mayonnaise or if I have a ton of vegetables to cut up or grate, I just let the ole machine whizz it up for me. It’s fast and efficient and saves time.  Like the slow cooker, this gift can be as expensive as you want it to be.  I’ve seen processors range from $30 to over $250.  It’s my opinion that you’ll want one that is sturdy, high quality and will stand up to all the whirring you’re going to put it through, but all the fancy blades and features are unnecessary.
    • A cooking class – You can find them at your local grocery store, a kitchen supply store, through a culinary school or community college, or from a local chef.  There are classes being offered on all kinds of cooking techniques these days. Remember that kraut and kimchi class I attended?  Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.  If there is someone on your holiday list that is just learning his/her way around the kitchen a basic technique class is perfect – I’m thinking knife skills or one called “How to Turn Your Oven On”.  If your recipient  is a bit more advanced, find a class that specializes in a specific technique or cuisine like sausage making or cooking Thai food.  Prices vary for this kind of thing, so explore your options and find something that suits your budget and interest.

(photo courtesy of Crate – a fantastic Pittsburgh source for cooking classes!)

    • A great cookbook – This is also a great gift for the experienced and inexperienced alike.  You know my feelings on Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything (hint: I love it).  It might not be exclusively a health food book, but the emphasis on technique is fantastic.  My friends, Hayley and Bill are cookbook authors and have written an absolutely GORGEOUS cookbook that is not only healthy but about as thorough as you can get.  Looking for a menu for a special occasion?  It’s in there.  How about the difference between two different cuts of meat?  It’s in there.  There are complex recipes and ones you could do in your sleep.  Highly recommended for any skill level.
    • High quality ingredients – Check out local purveyors and get your loved one some top quality food that he/she might not otherwise buy.  Perhaps some locally roasted organic coffee, or some artisan charcuterie products. Maybe a pastured turkey or local honey.  Even a CSA share that they can enjoy throughout the growing and harvest season.  Every town has its own food artists that produce absolutely fabulous products.  Cooking with the finest ingredients makes the finest food.  Plus you’ll be supporting a local business to boot.  If you cannot find a local source, try finding a food of the month club to give as a gift.  Foodzie and other sites sell monthly gift subscriptions of artisanal products that any food lover would enjoy (although, be careful of overdoing it on the chocolates and candy!)
      Speaking of food of the month clubs, this might be a bit of a digression, but this is one of my favorite scenes from Everybody Loves Raymond.  I can’t talk, there’s too much fruit in the house!!!

Did I miss anything?  What are you essential gifts for the foodie or budding foodie on your holiday list?  What are your kitchen essentials that make cooking easier and more enjoyable?  Share your good ideas in the comments and I’ll make sure my Dude reads them before he goes out to shop for me this year!

Stay tuned for Thursday’s gift list that focuses on the active and the athletic!

Be grateful

Dear Readers,
I am so very thankful to each of you for your support and kindness.  Getting my health coaching practice off the ground has been a labor of love and I’m loving every second of it.  I am so grateful for all of your kind words, comments, emails, and support.
I truly hope you enjoy the day with those who matter most in your life.
Eat well, be well, and have a happy Thanksgiving.
With sincere gratitude,
Just a few things I’m grateful for:

Giving Thanks: A Survival Guide

I’m sure you can probably guess by now that I’m a food person and it’s a natural conclusion to draw that Thanksgiving is my very favorite holiday.  It’s not only the food, but the family, and taking pause to recognize what makes us fortunate people.  Add to that the absence of the obligation of gift buying and you’ve got the perfect holiday in my book.
I recognize, however, that for many “The Holidays” can be a stressful time.  Whether you struggle with food choices, portions, feel family stress, hate to travel, are feeling financial burden, or some combo of all of that, there can be many hazards over the course of these last few weeks of the year.  I’m going to keep it positive here and hopefully give you some hints, tricks, or things to think about to hopefully navigate these potentially choppy waters.

    • Remember the reason for the season – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus. Whatever you’re celebrating it can be helpful to keep in mind the bigger reason for the celebration.  This week, we here in the USA are whipped into a food prep frenzy in anticipation of Thursday, but don’t forget to stop and recall what is good in your life.  If the turkey doesn’t make it to the table looking Martha Stewart perfect or the house isn’t as clean as you wanted it to be, don’t worry.  The fact that you’re gathered together with those you love most is far more important. When situations get tense, it can be helpful to take a deep breath and recall why you’re celebrating.
    • Before the meal starts, resolve to make good choices – If you’re struggling with any kind of food issue or weight loss, be mindful before you even take your seat at the table.  Plan out what foods are going to help you meet your goals, and what will hinder your progress.  Stick to this. Write it down if you have to.  It’s very easy to sit down in front of the smorgasbord and go into some kind of food fugue state only to come out the other side full of three helpings of everything plus a pumpkin pie.  Eat slowly and deliberately.  Don’t deviate from your pre-meal plan.
    • Don’t let the holidays be an excuse to get out of good exercise habits – I am a routine person.  I thrive on having a schedule and I find it necessary in my life because I’m also forgetful and easily derailed.  During a non-holiday week I have my workouts scheduled into my calendar and I’ve mentally bookmarked the time to go to the gym.  It’s much more difficult do keep to your schedule during the crazy holiday season simply because there is more to accomplish and think about in a short amount of time.  Between holiday parties, family gatherings, traveling, cooking, shopping, and colluding with Santa, don’t let your workout be the first thing to fall off the schedule.
    • Find support – Because this is a stressful time of year it is more important now than ever to have someone on your team.  Whether this is a spouse, friend, coach, co-worker, or whomever, make sure you have someone who will be on your side and understands.  Meet for tea, go for a walk, chat on the phone, take a yoga class together, tell this person when you’re feeling overwhelmed and when you need support.  Feeling isolated and overwhelmed can lead to poor eating and stress-filled days and the way to avoid that might just be time with a trusted friend.
    • Know how to handle a slip-up – I’m not naive enough to think that everyone’s food choices during the holidays are going to be the healthiest, most stellar examples of clean eating.  I know that you are ALL going to be mindful and do your best, but sweet treats and giant portions do happen.  The most important thing to do if you’ve overindulged is to not beat yourself up over it.  Will one gravy soaked meal be the end of your good habits?  The answer should be a resounding NOWhat really makes a person healthy is a lifelong pattern of good choices.  One cut of pie or one meal isn’t enough to wreck progress IF (and if I could make that IF any bigger, I would!) you take that one overindulgence in stride and get back to good habits immediately.  Do not use it as an excuse to fall even farther off the wagon, but rather, accept that it happened and move on.
    • Be careful – This is my inner Italian grandmother coming out.  Travel safely, take care of yourself, take care of each other. What’s the point of trying to achieve health and wellness if you’re burning yourself in the kitchen?  Take the advice of William Shatner here in this little clip:

The take-home message here is to be mindful of everything this time of year.  It is so easy to get caught up in the maelstrom and forget why you’re working hard, but if you stay focused on your goals, you can survive.  Share with me your tips and tricks for getting through the most stressful time of the year.  How do you handle all that comes your way during this time?

Lay your hands on me


Today is my birthday.  I’m one of those annoying people who loves everyone around me to know it’s my birthday even if you’re a total stranger.  I can’t help myself.
So, like every other day of the year, I try to keep it as healthy and as positive as possible even on my birthday.  I don’t like cake, and I’m not a big fan of pie, ice cream doesn’t mean a thing to me.  I do like cookies, and there are some really great cookies out there.  Plus it’s easy to control portions with cookies.  I’m one and done, or maybe two and done if it’s a special occasion.  My point is, my birthday isn’t a dessert bonanza for me. Instead, I like treating myself in other ways.
Yesterday I had a massage.  Now THAT is how I celebrate a birthday.
Aside from just feeling really really great, there are tons of benefits one can get from a massage.  The relaxation and focused “you” time alone is worth the cost.  But if you’re stressed, have high blood pressure, sore muscles, or are just feeling low, massage is a great natural treatment option.
My point is, there is always a healthy way to celebrate.   There are always ways to put your health first even when it’s your birthday.  And for my money, getting a massage is not only a terrific treat, but one with healthy side effects too.
How do you celebrate your birthday?  Who is into getting regular massages?  What are your experiences with the healthy benefits of massage?
p.s. I mentioned that I don’t like cake, but if I did, I would want my birthday cake to look like this:




Well, I took a very big (for me) leap yesterday.  I signed myself up for my very first half marathon.  Only 171 more days!
Ok, let me be straight here.  Running is not my thing.  I envy those who can just run and run without a second thought or pain or wheeze. I don’t know if there are naturally born runners or not, but there sure seem to be people who are very comfortable with it.  I am not one of them.
So why am I doing this?  Because I strongly believe in stepping out of one’s comfort zone and trying something new.  I think it’s valuable to set what seems like an unattainable goal and then achieve it.  I know that shaking up the status quo is part of what makes life exciting.  I am not in an exercise rut by any stretch of the imagination.  Believe me, I’m still challenged at the gym.  But this is something that I never thought I could do and I plan to prove myself wrong.
Let’s call this half marathon project “Health Coach Help Thyself”.  I am going to be taking some of my own advice and recommendations and put them into practice to accomplish something I never thought I could do. Below are some strategies for taking your own leap.

  • Goal setting – Setting goals is somewhat of a balancing act.  You want to put something out there that will require some challenge to meet, but not SO impossible that you could get discouraged if you can’t accomplish it.  Set yourself up to succeed!  Ask yourself if your goal is attainable in the time you’re allotting yourself.
  • Making a plan to meet your goal – Making the goal declaration is all well and good, but useless if you don’t have a clue how you’re going to accomplish it.  Ask yourself what the steps you have to follow in order to be successful.  Training plans, new eating strategies, working with a health coach (ahem!) or personal trainer are all great ways to help you get from here to goal achieved in no time.
  • Time – Whether you want to lose 30 pounds, run a half marathon, cook a new recipe a week for a year, or whatever, you have to carve the time out of your day to devote to achieving your goal.  This might mean getting up earlier than normal, devoting time to meal planning, being faithful to packing your lunch every day.  If the accomplishment is important to you, you must find the time.
  • Know what will preempt a setback – Put yourself in a situation that encourages your goal achievement.  If your want to lose weight and your weakness is ice cream, skip that aisle of the grocery and don’t buy it.   If you know that sleeping in a few extra minutes in the warm cozy bed sounds more appealing than going on a training run on a snowy morning, plan your runs for your lunch hour or in the early evening.  Manipulate your own situation to ensure your success.

Now what are you ready to do?  You don’t have to wait for 2012 to set a goal, let’s do this together.  Share your thoughts with me in the comments and we can support each other.

Recipe: Wild Mushroom and Green Bean Salad

I consider myself very fortunate to have so many people in my life who are wonderful cooks and devoted to food.  I mean, my heritage is Italian, so right there I think you can all assume my mother and grandmothers are fantastic in the kitchen (all true!).  Aside from those lovely ladies, however, I am truly lucky to have friends who just love food.  It’s not uncommon for a bunch of us to talk recipes and the best sources for pastured eggs or organic poultry while we’re warming up at the gym.  Food Nerd Alert!  Guilty as charged.
Among my little circle of friends is Diane Dennis, who is the owner, chef, and party planner for LadyFingers Private Chef and Catering Service. My first impression of Diane was this: Hardcore Bad-ass CrossFitter.  Before I even met her, I knew how seriously she took her workouts.  I was intimidated.  Then I met her one day and saw her rowing on a Concept 2 using only one arm and knew she lived up to the legend.  This lady is serious.
Last year for my birthday had the distinct pleasure of receiving a most generous gift from my dear friends of a meal for two cooked in my home by Diane.  Oh yeah.  Dude and I dined like royalty that night for sure.  And while the food was phenomenal, and the service was unparalleled, my favorite part of the whole evening wasn’t sitting in a dining room waiting to be served, but rather sitting at my kitchen table while Diane cooked and prepared everything and we talked about food and cooking for the next several hours.  From quality of ingredients to cookware to knives to technique, I was in heaven.  Food Nerd Alert #2!  I can’t help myself.
So when I launched my holistic health coaching business and decided to focus on how important it is to get in your own kitchen and COOK, I knew Diane was going to be a great asset.  She generously agreed to work with me to come up with recipes to share with my clients and you, fine readers, that are healthy, fast, unique and most importantly scrumptious.
Without further ado, allow me to share with you a recipe Diane came up with.  Be jealous because I spent an afternoon last week at her house talking about food and cooking, and most importantly, eating this salad.  I love my job.
Wild Mushroom and Green Bean Salad (serves 6)
1/2 pound French green beans (haricots verts) or regular green beans – fresh!
7 T olive oil
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 T fresh thyme (pick the wee leaves off the stems)
1 pound assorted wild mushrooms (Diane used white button, cremini, shitaki, and yellow oyster, but use what you like and what you can find at your market) cleaned with a moist paper towel and roughly chopped
1 large shallot, minced
5 oz. mixed baby greens
3 oz. goat cheese crumbled (optional if you’re avoiding dairy but delish if you’re not)

What to do:
Cook beans in a large part of boiling salted water until crisp tender, about 4 minutes.  (Diane uses Chef Thomas Keller’s Big Pot Blanching Method for this which says to use a large pot, lots of boiling water, and lots of salt.  The salt won’t necessarily season the beans, but will help keep them green.)

Drain beans and transfer them to a bowl of ice water to cool (this is called “shocking” and stops the beans from cooking and getting mushy.) Drain the beans again, pat them dry with a paper towel and set aside.  You can also do this a day ahead and cover the beans and stash them in the fridge at this point.
In a small bowl, whisk together 4 tablespoons of olive oil, vinegar, and thyme.  Season this dressing with salt and pepper to your taste.  Set aside.

Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the mushrooms and shallot, sauteing until slightly browned and all the water has cooked off, about 8 minutes.  Remove from heat and mix in 2 tablespoons of the dressing.  Season with salt and pepper if necessary.

Combine beans and baby greens in a large bowl.  Toss with remaining dressing (or as much as you want to coat the greens to your liking).  Parse out greens and beans onto salad plates and spoon the warm mushroom mixture over each portion.  Sprinkle with goat cheese if you’re using it.

Didn’t I tell you Diane was serious about her noms?  She served this with grilled chicken on the side which could have easily been tossed into the salad if that’s your thing.  Add a little glass of lemon cucumber water or maybe some white wine, if you partake, and you’ve got yourself a meal.
Who’s making this tonight for dinner?  If you need a quick print-friendly version of this recipe, click here for a nice PDF.
Buon appetito, my friends.

Weekend Wisdom

We often hear about people who have God-given talent for something.  Most of the time it’s a singer, dancer, or an Olympian of some sort.  These are the types of people who have achieved greatness in their field because they started with some other-world-like gift that set them apart from the rest.  I’m thinking of Susan Boyle, the Scottish singer who was discovered on Britain’s Got Talent a few years back.  She was unemployed and singing in her church when she auditioned.  With little vocal training at all, she surprised the world with her beautiful voice, went on to be nominated for a Grammy and have a successful singing career.  Part of the reason her story is so sensational is because she was not a formally trained singer, having just had a few voice lessons.  She was born with that voice and it just came out that lovely because of her natural talent
Stories like this are the exception.  For the rest of us, whether it’s singing or something else, we have to struggle, fight, and earn our success.
An important aspect of my health coaching is goal setting, however even more important than setting the goals is mapping out how those goals will be achieved.  Part of that process is being able to accept that precious few of us are born with spectacular talents that make reaching our goals an easy process.  Along the way there are going to be rough days, difficulties to overcome, and yes even failures to be handled.
I think it’s essential to know that before starting off on a new endeavor, whether it’s eating more healthfully or incorporating exercise into your life (or hopefully both!) there will be hardships throughout the process.  It will be difficult to give up the foods that keep you from achieving your goals, and there will be workouts that will feel impossible to complete.  There will be days when you’ll be tired and angry and want to quit. Mentally preparing for these discouraging moments can make them easier to handle when they arrive.
So, here are the fact of the situation:  You have to work hard to achieve your goals.   Starting out is the hardest part.  You will have obstacles to overcome, and challenges to be bested.  No long term success is ever achieved without hardship.  But as you stay on the course to your goals, handling the difficulties as they come your way, these challenges will become fewer and fewer.
Don’t beat yourself up if you are not the running version of Susan Boyle, or the Susan Boyle of your kitchen.  We ALL stumble, we ALL face difficulty when starting anything new.  But I promise, with effort and time and determination, a healthy lifestyle will become second nature, and sometimes even feel easy to achieve.

Bit by bit with Bittman


Monday night I had the distinct pleasure of hearing Mark Bittman speak.  The Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures brought him to Pittsburgh as part of the Drue Heinz lecture series.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Mark Bittman, he is an author, blogger,  frequent Today Show guest cook, activist, and food journalist for the New York Times.  He is most noted for writing a column in the Times called The Minimalist where, for 13 years, he wrote about food and recipes that were made to be used by novice cooks, but still celebrated the best his ingredients had to offer.
I thought he was going to talk about cooking, as he is quite revered for his ENORMOUS and thorough book, How to Cook Everything. (In fact, as an aside, if you happen to have an iPhone or an iPad, do yourself a favor and spend a few bucks for his How to Cook Everything app.  The foolproof step-by-step instructions on how to master nearly ANY cooking technique makes it worth it.)  Instead of talking about great ingredients or cooking, he instead talked about the importance of food activism, battling big food corporations and their influence, changing food policy, and changing public health.
All of these are naturally extremely important topics, but there was one bit of a message that really struck a chord with me.  He explained that the USA is in the midst of a health crisis.  Obesity rates are higher than they’ve ever been and climbing and that lifestyle diseases (diabetes, heart disease, etc.) are now killing more of us than communicable diseases for the first time in our history, and the only way to change these trends is to change the way we think of food and how we eat.
He explained a continuum of ways of eating that starts on one extreme with the worst of the worst foods, in the worst quantity.  Junk processed fake foods in enormous quantity for every meal.  On the opposite end of this continuum was the cleanest, healthiest, most pure, natural, all organic diet around.  We all fall somewhere along that continuum.  I’m willing to wager that most of us are not eating Cap’n Crunch and Hawaiian Punch with Ben and Jerry’s chasers all day, and I also feel comfortable saying that none of us are also angelically pure with our diets either.  We all fall somewhere between those extremes.
So, here’s the part that really got me excited:  Mark Bittman’s punchline in his lecture, my goal as a holistic health coach, your goal as someone who wants to live a long and healthful live, our goal as citizens who want a healthier populace should be to get ourselves and our families moving from Cap’n Crunch’s neighborhood towards the healthy side by making small conscious decisions to do so every single day with every single meal. 
When he delivered this point I should have stood up and applauded.  Or tried to start The Wave or something.
There can be lectures, news reports, websites, scientific findings, billboards, radio ads, and banners flying behind airplanes galore telling us to eat our greens and get more vegetables and eat humanely raised and organic meat, but until we start making small changes, one by one with each morsel of food, we’re not going to get anywhere.
We each have hundreds of opportunities each day to gradually change the course we are on.  With each meal or each snack of each day we can choose better.  So this is my charge to you today, fine readers: Choose something better, and move away from the bad extreme and more towards the healthy one.  Choose quality over quantity or impulse. Good health is made up of thousands of times where we chose to do better than we did before.  If it’s getting rid of your daily breakfast bagel and replacing it with a few scrambled eggs with vegetables, do it.  If it’s not having the cheese danish at the meeting each afternoon, do it.
And report back!  Tell me what you changed, no matter how small you may think it is.  I want to hear about it.  What’s getting you out of the Cap’n’s neighborhood and closer to the side of better health?

I went to kraut school


This past Sunday Dude and I attended an event that was sponsored by Pittsburgh’s chapter of Slow Food, sauerkraut and kimchi making.  I get so geeked out for stuff like this!  It was the perfect combination of cooking technique, history, and nutrition.  I firmly believe that getting educated about food, how it’s made, producing it yourself, and knowing what it can do for your body is a fundamental way to want to improve your health.  This class certainly fit the bill, plus there was a tasting and I love to eat.
The class was broken up in to three sections.  Out of order, we had a little history on sauerkraut making from Betsy Hollweck of Steel City Teas.  Betsy and her husband spend half their time here in Pittsburgh (her hometown) and the other half in Munich, Germany (his hometown) where they own a booth at the Vikualienmarkt, a large outdoor farmers’ market.  We heard much about making whole-head sauerkraut (that is, not shredding the cabbage but rather leaving it an intact head) and the difference between Bavarian style sauerkraut and more traditional style (Bavarian is sweeter because apples are typically added the kraut when it cooks).
We also got an actual kraut making demonstration (well, at least a demo of the initial steps) from the chef de cuisine of one of my very very favorite restaurants, Legume Bistro.  This was a breakdown of exactly how to make your own sauerkraut, step by step.  It’s as easy as shredding the cabbage, salting it at a ratio of 3 tablespoons of kosher salt to every 5 pounds of cabbage, pounding the heck out of it until you’ve produced enough briny water to cover the cabbage, and letting it sit, COVERED, for a few weeks in a cool place.  I found a few sites that explain the process very thoroughly to help you out if you’re interested in doing it yourself.  Click here and here for instructions.
The final segment of the class was run by Naomi Auth, and the best way I can describe Naomi is that she ferments for a living. She gave an excellent demonstration on kimchi making and talked about making kombucha, which is a fermented tea beverage.  She pickles, ferments and preserves all kinds of things and sells her goods to restaurants in the Pittsburgh area. (You haven’t heard the the last from Naomi. Hopefully she’s going to be reappearing here again soon!)
After the lecture portion of the class was over, we had a tasting.  Kimchi, three kinds of sauerkraut, homemade applesauce, Naomi’s kombucha.  It was a fantastic spread and a great opportunity for us to chat with the presenters and other guests.  Many thanks to Slow Food Pittsburgh who organized a terrific event.
So why should you care about sauerkraut and kimchi and kombucha?  Because fermented foods are very good for you when eaten raw.  These and other fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, some pickles, etc. contain live bacteria.  We’re kind of brainwashed to think of bacteria as bad, but this is definitely a good bacteria as it is the kind that aids in digestion, balances your gut flora, helps you absorb your food more efficiently, and….ahem….helps making a number 2 a more efficient and pleasant process, if you know what I’m saying and I think you do.  The raw part is important because when you heat these foods (like letting sauerkraut cook away in a slow cooker for a few hours) you kill off the beautiful bacteria that make your belly smile.  You want those little buggers to be alive when you eat them.
My suggestion?  Add a little probiotic boost to your life by trying some raw kraut or other fermented food to your life.  Farmhouse Culture and Bubbies makes great raw kraut ready to be eaten right out of the jar.  Give a little kombucha a try.  Who has a favorite kefir flavor?  Who has even tried it?  What did you think?
Ok, so who is going to make their own kraut or kimchi?  Who is up for the (non)challenge?  I might be asking Santa for a crock for Christmas this year.

A plan: It's what's for dinner


It’s Saturday! For me that means an extra hard workout, running errands, spending time with my husband and kitty, having fun, loafing, laundry, and naps.  But even more important than those things – even naps, if you can believe that – is that it’s an opportunity to get ready for the upcoming week.  By this I mean meal planning.
I have a little routine that I run through in my mind each weekend when it’s time to meal plan.  I want to share my steps with you and in upcoming posts, I’ll break down some of the more involved steps and we’ll dissect the finer details to help you with strategy.  These five are generalized and will probably need to be personalized for you and your household, but I think they’re a good place to start.
1. Check my calendar – Are there any days in the upcoming week when we are busy and can’t prepare a meal?  Will someone be out of town, home early, home late, etc.?  I figure out how many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners I’ll need to plan for based on what is happening in a given week.
2. Figure out if I’m under a time crunch – Since I am the primary cook in my house (although my husband, Dude, cooks breakfast every morning! He’s a gem!) I need to know how elaborate I can get with each dish.  Some weeks I can afford to get creative, some weeks I have to plan for quick meals.
3. Choose what I want to make – This might be as easy as picking from old standbys or getting inspired and trying a new recipe from a trusted website or favorite cookbook.
4. Make a grocery list – Nothing complicated here; I figure out what ingredients I need, what I already have, and draw up a list.
5. Go to the store – Duh.
This quick set of five steps seems deceptively simple, and like I said above you might have to tweak and change in order to accommodate your life.  Also, things get complicated when you factor in things like budgeting, seasonal foods, availability of things you need or want for the week, surprise interruptions in your schedule, kids’ schedules, you hate to cook, etc.  Use these as guidelines to get you going on the right path and we will get detailed about these specific variables and more.
Set yourself up for success by knowing what your next meal is going to be, and having all the materials to make it already in your kitchen before the week even gets started.
Download and print this basic meal planning grid to help get you started with meal planning!
So, what are going to eat this week?

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