It’s been such a long winter around here…I am so glad it is officially over. Now that it’s spring, I’ve got cleaning and organization on the brain.
In my book One Simple Change, I wrote quite a bit about clearing out the clutter from your life. In this post, I’m going to excerpt some relevant content from the book; I also have a great giveaway to help you out with your pantry organization and storage needs!
I feel anxious and unhappy when my mental and physical spaces are cluttered; the existence of clutter makes it hard for me to get things done. Is the same true for you? It can feel so amazing to let go of the baggage that may be bogging down your mind (and I give some suggestions for how to do that in my book); focusing on ways you can clear the clutter from your home can do wonders for your well-being, too.
Take a look around you: Open your closets and your drawers. Are you holding onto things you don’t need? Now is a great time to let them go. You will likely feel so much better when you do.
One of the places in just about everyone’s home that can typically benefit from some clutter control is the pantry. If yours is a mess, it may be hard to know where to begin, but I suggest you get started simply by taking stock of what you’ve got. Clear a surface so you can empty out your shelves and see what you have.
Next, toss everything that’s past its prime. Most packaged and processed foods should probably go. (Though if these don’t make up much of your diet, I don’t think you should worry too much about them…I believe there is room for all types of food in a healthy diet.). I hate telling you to throw things away, so if something is compostable (or suitable for donation), please go that route.
A lot of people don’t cook much because they don’t keep many staples in their pantry. If this is going on for you, now’s the time to make a change! I want you to restock your kitchen with everything you need to create wholesome, nourishing meals for you and those you love.
My goal when I stock my pantry is to know that I can throw together a tasty meal with what I have on hand pretty much anytime. I want to be able to make any dish that pops into my head, or that I see online or in a cookbook or magazine, with a very minimal amount of shopping for additional ingredients (like fresh fruit or vegetables, dairy, or meat). The more items I have on hand, the better off I am. So I keep a lot of staples in my pantry.
I’ve got many different oils and vinegars; dried legumes, like black beans and chickpeas; different types of lentils; grains and pastas; various nuts, seeds, and dried fruits; a variety of unrefined sweeteners and sea salts; and a giant collection of herbs and spices. I’ve also got a pretty big collection of regular and gluten-free flours for baking. I buy as many of my pantry items as possible in bulk (to save money and avoid packaging), and I store everything that is suitable in glass jars with tight-fitting lids. This works very well for keeping my ingredients organized and away from pests; it also means I can keep as much of my food away from plastic (and its potentially unsafe chemicals) as possible.
I also have a lot of home-canned fruits and vegetables, which I preserve each summer. I make many jars of sauce with tomatoes from my garden, for example. Though homemade jams can end up being pretty high in sugar, I make them with local fruit and derive great pleasure from having them around. I use them in small amounts throughout the winter, and I also give them as holiday gifts.
(Text adapted with permission from my book One Simple Change: Surprisingly Easy Ways to Transform Your Life. Copyright 2013; Published by Chronicle Books.)
Do you have a lot of spring cleaning and pantry re-stocking up to do? To help you tackle the organization of your pantry, my friends at MightyNest will give one of you a set of 12 glass clip-top Kilner Jars. These are free of worrisome chemicals including BPA and phthalates. They are perfect for storing all the dry goods in your pantry, such as beans, grains, nuts, and seeds. You can also use them to store things like flours, coffee, shredded coconut, and chocolate chips. Kilner jars are dishwasher safe. The retail value of this giveaway is approximately $100 and it is open to readers in the USA only.
To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment on this post (telling me what you plan to let go of) AND follow the directions found in the widget below. Please know that when you use the widget to pledge to get real about real food storage, you’ll automatically be entered to win the giveaway and you’ll be signing up for the MightyNest for Schools Program. When you sign up for this program, 15% of any purchase you make from MightyNest in the future goes back to the school of your choice (it can be your child’s school or simply a school that is in your local area).
When I was a kid, I spent many a winter and spring break with my maternal grandparents in Arizona. Oh, how I loved those vacations.
I loved the fresh orange juice my grandpa would squeeze for us each morning, playing with my brother at the pool, and shopping with my grandparents. I also loved everything my grandma made us to eat. (My parents owned a pretty fancy restaurant so at home we ate things like confit of duck and scalloped potatoes. At my grandparents we got to eat “normal” food: like tacos and banana cream pie!)
Recently, I was thinking about how much I miss my grandparents. Missing them made me crave banana cream pie something fierce, so I decided to make one.
My grandma made her pie with a store-bought crust and vanilla pudding from a box: I thought it was the most delicious thing ever, but I opted to make mine with whole foods ingredients from scratch. (I used the recipe in Joy of Cooking because that’s where I turn for classic recipes.) My daughter helped me make it by slicing the bananas and placing them “just so”.
The verdict? It was pretty darn delicious and I will definitely be making banana cream pie again! Maybe next time I will change it up a bit, though…see the bottom of this post for some amazing-looking banana cream pie variations from fellow bloggers.
Have you ever started a book and felt an immediate sense of kinship with the author?
This was my experience within the first few pages of Whole-Grain Mornings: New Breakfast Recipes to Span the Seasons. I just adore Megan Gordon‘s writing, and her recipes are so up my alley. I’ve been cooking from the book for a few months now, so it’s time I tell you about it! I’m also going to share one of the recipes that I’ve been enjoying from the book: Dried Mango and Toasted Coconut Muesli.
Whole-Grain Mornings is chock full of health-promoting, seasonally inspired recipes. Megan is a whiz with granola (she actually owns a company called Marge: it’s seriously the best granola I’ve ever tasted) and you’ll be happy to know she shares a few takes on granola in this book. But the book goes way beyond granola: Megan also shares recipes for things like nut milks, yogurt, fried rice, and numerous condiments and egg dishes. And while it is a breakfast cookbook, I don’t really think there’s a reason to limit the recipes to morning consumption only.
I have made the Smoked Salmon Crème Fraîche Tart, the Whole-Grain Pancake Mix, and the Whole-Grain Gingerbread (I photographed them all because I wasn’t quite sure which recipe I would end up posting here). They were all delicious…
…as was this Dried Mango and Toasted Coconut Muesli.
Muesli isn’t something I make very often…I usually do go for granola instead. But this muesli is briefly toasted, so it’s actually similar to granola (though with far less oil, and with very little added sweetener). I was drawn to this recipe because of the coconut and dried mango…these lend a tropical “vibe” that’s more than welcome this time of year! It’s been so snowy and cold this winter: if I can’t be on the beach, I am going to fantasize about being on the beach, and the ingredients in this muesli help a lot.
Muesli is usually soaked for a short while or overnight (in milk, nut milk, juice or another liquid). Soaking grains does have some potential benefits which Megan mentions in her book (and which I discuss in my book, as well), but soaking doesn’t work that well in this case due to the toasted nature of this muesli. As for serving it, Megan likes to eat her muesli with thinned yogurt; I prefer mine with (raw) milk.
Last month I announced that I’ve partnered with the folks from MightyNest, an online store specializing in natural, non-toxic products for the kitchen and home, on a series of giveaways: I am so excited about this partnership!
Valentine’s Day is behind us and I am betting you doled out lots of love to others this month, but have you been showing yourself kindness lately? I wrote about being kind to yourself in my book, and I am going to excerpt that chapter here in this post. You will also find a giveaway for some items that are perfect for the theme of self-care in this post :)
Many of us are unnecessarily hard on ourselves on a daily basis. We don’t treat ourselves with respect or compassion. I personally have a history of being quite unkind to myself because my “inner voice” used to engage in overwhelmingly negative banter. Do you have an inner voice that’s overly critical, too? If the answer is yes, it can be life changing when you start to train your inner monologue to be kind instead of harsh.
What does it mean to be kind to yourself, exactly? Well for starters, being kind to yourself means not judging yourself harshly for not being perfect. It also means not holding yourself to impossibly high standards. And it means putting an end to comparing yourself to others and to beating yourself up for making a mistake, or for not being good enough at something. Being kind to yourself means being your own cheerleader. When you are consistently kind to yourself, you don’t need others to validate your efforts and boost your self-confidence, because you can do those things for yourself.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Glad in conjunction with their #SAVEITSUNDAY program. With #SAVEITSUNDAY, Glad hopes to educate the public about the consequences of food waste, and I am proud they’ve asked me to be a part of the program. I am being compensated to share my #SAVEITSUNDAY experiences; all opinions are 100% my own.
I am a really big fan of fresh juice. I don’t drink it every day or anything (nor do I engage in juice fasting), but I’m always happy when I do get the juicer out to make a nourishing drink. I enjoy all sorts of fruit and vegetable combinations (depending on what I happen to have in the refrigerator): I even included a chapter on fresh juice in my book.
Carrots and beets are both root vegetables and they are both quite sturdy (meaning: they keep extremely well). It is because of this sturdiness that I wanted to highlight them this month, since my #SAVEITSUNDAY posts are all about being mindful of “loving food more to waste it less”.
Carrots and beets can last for up to a month if you store them correctly: it’s best to keep them unpeeled (remove the tops if they are part of a bunch) in the refrigerator. The folks at Glad recommend placing the unpeeled carrots and/or beets in a large plastic bag (such as a zipper quart or gallon-size bag) and squeezing as much air as possible out of the bag when sealing. They’ll then do best in the crisper drawer. (To learn more about the best ways to prepare and store your produce, please visit Glad’s Food Storage Protection Pointers.)
It’s Valentine’s Day…why not make fresh vegetable juice for yourself or someone you love? Not just today, but any day? It’s an excellent way to bump up the amount of raw foods in your diet and each glass is extremely nutrient dense. Plus, this juice has such a lovely hue thanks to the inclusion of beet.
What about all the pulp, though…the fibrous by-product of juicing? We don’t want to waste that, right? Well, The Kitchn’s got you covered with 7 ideas for its use, Vegetarian Times has 20 suggestions for using pulp, and here’s a whole Pinterest board dedicated to not wasting the pulp when you juice.