The carefree days of summer are over and my kids have begun another school year.  They are already wining about the early mornings and getting ready…parents I know you know what I mean.  Back to school time is such an exciting time for kids, they are ready to see their friends, make new ones and meet their teachers.  Along with all the excitement comes an uphill battle for parents, packing school lunches they actually like. 


Packing lunch for my kids can be challenging to say the least.  I pack them a healthy meal with their favorite foods, and they come home with an untouched meal.  They say it is more fun to “trade” their food with their friends to get better lunches. 

I try to keep my kids as healthy as possible during the school year, a healthy body helps build a healthy mind.  I figured out my kids want lunches that are unique that no one else has.  They love when I make lunches with wraps or anything that is not just a piece of bread.  Here are a few fool proof lunches that my kids love and don’t trade with their friends. 

•    Chicken Soft Tacos- Fill two small whole wheat tortillas with shredded chicken, lettuce, and tomatoes.  Pack a separate container with mashed avocados with lemon juice, top that with a layer of shredded cheese.  My kids say they love making their own tacos at lunch. 






•    BLTA Wraps (Turkey bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado)- On a whole wheat wrap, spread mashed avocado with lemon juice, top with a few pieces of turkey bacon, lettuce, and tomatoes.  I think my kids like this because of the “special” avocado on it.



•    And for the side dish win, Frogs on a log- Instead of the beloved ants on a log with celery, peanut butter, and raisins; I make a savory version with cream cheese and olives.  Sometimes, the kids help me spice it up and add red pepper to the log




These are my secret school lunch weapons, I would love to hear what your “go to” school lunches are.   I am in need of more ideas, please share your secret school lunch recipes so all our kids will have yummy healthy lunches. :D

Healthy School Lunches

by on 8/27/2014
The carefree days of summer are over and my kids have begun another school year.  They are already wining about the early mornings and getti...



Ready for another great post on farmers markets?  It is hard not to write about it every time I make a visit.  This morning while mingling amongst a few of my farmer friends, I noticed a couple that appeared to be new to the farmer’s market “scene.”  I went over and introduced myself, it turns out this was their first market.  I shared with them about how much I love buying locally and how farmers markets are the best to do so.  After talking with them, they seemed much more at ease and ready start shopping.

After my encounter with new market goers, I thought it would be great to share a few tips on how to shop at farmers markets if you are new to it and how to experience all that makes it what it is.  So here you go!

•    Go early- I always like to be at the market right after it opens.  There is a large selection and you don’t have to worry about your coveted favorite veggies to be sold out.



•    Bring a few reusable bags to carry your yummy purchases in.  Farmers usually don’t supply their own bags.


•    Bring small amounts of cash.  A lot of famers don’t have change for large bills.  Some larger markets have ATM’s nearby and with technology some farmers even have their own credit card readers.

•    Try new things.  Sometimes the most odd looking vegetable or fruit is the best tasting.  Try new weirdly shaped, unfamiliar or interesting veggies and fruits, your taste buds will thank you!  Every once in a while I find strawberries, like this one, in quite unique shapes.  I sometimes feel bad eating them because they are just so neat.


•    Talk to your farmers!  It is not every day that you get to talk to the person who grew your big juicy tomato. The farmers are often keen to talk with you about their harvests and tell you about the land.  And if you’re lucky, they might even share some of their recipes on how to cook it!  After talking, it is easy to make good food choices and personalize exactly what is on your plate.


•    Ask questions and create a community environment.  Get to know those around you, chat about your best finds, and enjoy the experience.


I’m sure you know from all my posts I really love farmers markets, eating seasonally, and buying locally.  I believe that they are a great place to find fresh, affordable, and delicious fruits, and veggies!

Farmers markets are for everyone!  Don’t be discouraged if you are intimidated on your first visit, trust me, I was too.  I encourage everyone to try to get the most out of local farmers markets and learn to love them as much as I do!

Go Green and Staying Keen,

Julie

Since becoming vegetarian and learning about all the toxins we freely accept throughout daily life, I have tried become more conscientious about using natural and environmentally friendly products in my home.  We don’t realize that the chemicals that are used in modern cleaner build up in homes and can cause asthma, eczema, and allergies.


I have slowly progressed into becoming all natural in my home.  As a disclaimer to this post; know that become organic and chemical free does not happen overnight.  It took me quite a while to find ingredients and recipes that worked for me and were cost effective.

Finding the products were a little challenging at first, but I realized I wasn’t looking in the right stores.  When I found ones that suited my needs, I was shocked at how much more expensive they were compared to common cleaners.  They were nearly double the cost.  I became turned off at the price but I knew it was something I wanted to do so I found a few solutions.  I went to a health food store and found a much larger selection although they were still pricier than chemically filled cleaners I gave them a try. 



After a few months of home use I could definitely tell a difference.  Now, I didn’t have to hold my breath or end up coughing every time I sprayed the counter or washed the windows.  The products not only cleaned my house well, they kept me feeling healthy. 

Although I loved using those products, they were costing me a little more; I went online and found a few recipes to make your own natural products.  I found a lot of information on this blog: Wellness Mama Click here.  After making a few different types and finding the ones I liked, I was saving so much more; even more than when I was still using the chemical cleaners. 
Here are a few natural products I use to clean my home

•    Lemon Juice- Cleans glass and mirrors, effective against most household bacteria (one of the strongest food-acids)
•    Coconut Oil- Wood polish
•    Apple Cider Vinegar- laundry deodorizer
•    White Vinegar- Unclog drains, removes grease, mildew, odors, some stains, keeps vegetables fresh
•    Baking Soda- Deodorizes, cleans stoves and ovens, softens water
•    Cornstarch- Cleans windows, carpets, and rugs, polishes furniture



There are so many other natural cleaners and different ways to combine them to create great natural products.  I highly suggest trying to switch over to a few natural cleaners and see the difference for yourself!

Go Green and Staying Keen,

Julie

Go Green at Home

by on 8/16/2014
Since becoming vegetarian and learning about all the toxins we freely accept throughout daily life, I have tried become more conscientious a...
I have been a vegetarian for more than 5 years now and it was the best decision I have ever made.  Becoming a vegetarian isn’t for everyone but I highly encourage you to join the movement of Meatless Monday.  One day a week skip the meat and see how you feel.




Going meatless on Monday’s was is an idea by a non-profit initiation called, Meatless Monday.  They have been spreading the meatless word for over a decade, encouraging people in more than 34 different countries to go one day a week without meat.  Meatless Monday has become such a big deal, there are even restaurants and schools that are partaking in this movement.





Skipping meat one day a week can reduce risks of chronic conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.  According to Meatless Monday’s website, “going meatless once a week can help reduce our carbon footprint and save precious resources like fossil fuels and fresh water.”  Not only is skipping meat one day a week good for your health, it helps animals, the planet, and those around you.






When going meatless, you are opening up a completely fresh cookbook.  There are so many recipes and possibilities.  I grew up eating meat and have found delicious recipes that are even better.  There are vegetarian equivalents for just about everything.  The options are endless!

If you are still questioning if you want to participate in this movement, take a moment and think about it; when it comes down to it is only one day a week, only 52 days out of 365 day year.  It is worth giving it a try and seeing the benefits of going meatless for yourself.  Why not try getting the whole family to commit too.  After a while they just might prefer meatless meals :)

If you have questions about a vegetarian lifestyle or meatless recipes do not hesitate to aks and comment.  For more information on Meatless Mondays visit their website, Facebook, twitter, or Pinterest.

Go Green and Stay Keen,

Julie

Meatless Monday

by on 8/11/2014
I have been a vegetarian for more than 5 years now and it was the best decision I have ever made.  Becoming a vegetarian isn’t for everyone ...
About a month ago, I was excited and sad to hear when my beloved chef at the restaurant had been offered an incredible opportunity to be the head chef at a very well-known restaurant in Chicago.  As sad as I was to see my personal cook book leave, I was so happy for the advancement in his career.  He is destined to do big things in Chicago.



As the manager I had to post the chef opening and begin reading resumes so we could hire a new chef and have them trained by our one and only.  We had quite a few applications come into the restaurant that looked marvelous.  Over the past couple weeks I have been interviewing candidates for this position with my dear friend and our current chef.  It is refreshing hearing all the great ideas and the ambition from new chefs.

This was my first time going through the hiring process from the other side of the table.  It was interesting listening to everyone’s back story and why they wanted to be a chef at a vegetarian restaurant.  They all had their own unique answer and reasoning.

Most of the candidates were vegetarians and were passionate about expanding cuisine standards.  But I guess there always has to be someone unlike all the rest…  One interviewee had some very bizarre questions for us.  First off, they were not vegetarian and kept asking if we missed eating meat?  If that wasn’t strange enough, they suggested we incorporate meat into some of our dishes?  At first I thought they were being funny, but after a while it became too much.

After two weeks of very interesting interviews we had to pick a new chef to fill the big shoes at the restaurant.  It was a very difficult decision, we finally decided to offer the job to a young innovative chef from Seattle, Washington.  He had previous experience working in an organic restaurant and was very passionate about our values and our menu that welcomes everyone.

He accepted the position early last week and begun training at the restaurant.  The dynamic between our new chef and our wonderful cookbook is incredible.  They complement each other so well.  He is beginning to catch on to the way the restaurant runs and has already made a few new dishes for us to try…Yummy.  I have a feeling he is going to be great!

I haven’t gotten to know him that well yet, but I hope to do so soon.  It is exciting seeing a new face in the kitchen working to fill the big shoes of my dear chef.

Good Luck in Chicago Mr. Cookbook, I can’t wait to see all the big things you are going to do! We’ll miss you and always remember GO VEGGIES! :)

Go Green and Staying Keen,

Julie

A new cook in the kitchen

by on 8/10/2014
About a month ago, I was excited and sad to hear when my beloved chef at the restaurant had been offered an incredible opportunity to be the...
 It’s an unfortunate week when your juicer and blender both decide to croak when you really want to use them.  Last week I had such an itch to make a smoothie then when I went to turn the blender on, but it was broken, so I had to settle for some water.  Then yesterday I decided to use my juicer.  Well, It was dead too! What?  After all the nonsense I was on a mission to have a smoothie, so I ran out and picked up a new blender and juicer.  And let me tell you, when I got home, that smoothie tasted incredible.

Going along with my last post about buying seasonal, farmers markets are also a wonderful place to get seasonal fruits and veggies for smoothies and juices.  I have always been a fan of smoothies and juicing fresh fruits and vegetables.  Since I got my new blender and juicer yesterday, I have an urge to blend and juice everything in the house.  I guess it’s not a bad thing.

I know the concept of juice cleanses and juice diets are a bit of a “taboo” topic right now.  So I’m just clarifying, I am not a nutritionist or an expert juicer I just find the juices delicious. I don’t juice to lose weight, I make them to help maintain my healthy lifestyle and help me get all the nutrients my vegetarian body needs.  Juicing provides the body with the most optimum and easy to ingest nutrients with minimal waste from the fruit or vegetable.  And they taste really good!

I love a good green smoothie or juice in the morning to prepare me for the day or a yummy fruit smoothie for an afternoon snack.  I think it is important to understand that juicing can be fun and it doesn’t have to be a diet.  Juicing is a great way that I use to help satisfy hunger and have a yummy snack during the day. 
Here are a few of my favorite juices and smoothies.  I will probably be making all of these really soon! J


Morning Green Smoothie
Total time: 10 mins          Serves 2
Ingredients
·         2 ripe medium bananas
·         1 ripe apple or pear
·         2 cups of chopped kale leaves
·         ½ cup organic orange juice
·         1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed
·         A handful of ice cubes
Place bananas, apple (or pear), kale, orange juice, flaxseeds, and ice cubes in blender.  Pulse a few times, then puree until smooth.  Enjoy!



Power Carrot Orange Juice
Total time: 15 mins          Serves 2
Ingredients
·         1 medium orange, peeled and wedged
·         1 medium apple, wedged
·         1 medium yellow tomato, wedged
·         4 large carrots, peeled
First process the tomato, then orange, then apple, and finally the carrots through the juicer.  Pour over ice if desired, serve immediately.



Avo-Berry Smoothie
Total time: 5 mins            Serves 2
Ingredients
·         1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced
·         ¾ cup organic orange juice
·         ¾ cup strawberries
·         ½ cup raspberries
·         A handful of ice cubes
Blend the avocado, organic orange juice, strawberries, raspberries, and ice cubes until smooth.  Enjoy!



I hope you liked the recipes and decide to give them a try! Using seasonal goods from the farmers market to make juices and smoothies is a great way to get your fruit and vegetable servings if you aren’t a vegetarian.  If you are, they taste delicious and absorb very useful nutrients into body faster than just eating the fruit or vegetable. 

Go Green and Stay Keen, 

Julie
I love shopping at the farmers market for fresh fruits and vegetables.  It is the perfect place to buy seasonal fresh foods.  The seasons changing set a natural backdrop for what we should be eating.  With fall approaching…well kind of, it’s just my favorite season, I thought I would share how I try to eat seasonally and a few of my fall favorites.  Who is ready for some apple cider and scarfs?


Fall is one of my favorite seasons, the rich trending colors and the unexplainable feeling of warmth makes it my favorite season.  Although San Francisco doesn't have that much of a change from summer to fall, you can still find seasonal foods and cook with the fresh harvests of the season.

It is hard know what foods are in season if you go to a grocery store.  Pesticides, chemicals, and means of transportation allow you to find any fruit or vegetable available the throughout the year.  To truly know what is seasonal I go to the local farmers market.  It is great, you can see what the farmers are growing and harvesting.  CUESA.org is a great website to see what fruits, vegetables, and herbs are in season in the San Francisco area.  CUESA (Center of Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) is a great organization that works to cultivate sustainable food systems through the operation of the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and its educational programs.
When I go to the farmers market, whether it is for the restaurant or for my personal consumption, I take pride in knowing where my food came from and how it was grown.  I like to ask the farmer questions about the food and how they grow it.  It’s nice getting to know them a little bit before you purchase.  I find it rewarding when I understand the relationship that the food has beyond just filling our stomachs.  When I know where my ingredients came from, I can embrace the passion that went into growing them and express that passion when cooking them.

Fall makes me want to cook warm delicious food nonstop.  When I think of fall I immediately think about apples, pumpkins, and warm spices; coincidentally they are in season too.  One of my favorite desert snacks for fall are Ginger Baked apples.  It is so good, seasonal, and the whole family loves them.  I found the recipe last fall at herbazest.com .  I’m pretty sure I made them at least once a week.  Fall cooking is one of my favorites, check out my Pinterest board for all my favorite recipes.  I promise they are so good; they won’t disappoint you!



What makes eating healthy even more enjoyable is participating in seasonal harvests.  You can appreciate your food and knowing where it came from.  Going to a farmers market isn’t like going to a grocery store, it is an experience like no other.  Check out your local farmers market and share what seasonal fruits and vegetables you find!
Happy almost fall,

Go Green and Staying Keen,

Julie