Cheers to Change + Homemade Yogurt

Happy New Year everyone! Yes, I know I am days late in wishing you my very best for the coming year, but my holiday break was pretty busy: my dad got married (yay!) and we went away to visit my husband’s family. (I also may or may not have spent a day or two in my pajamas binge-watching Drop Dead Diva but don’t tell anyone about that, ok?)

2014 has kicked off with me doing something new and completely out of my comfort zone: radio interviews to discuss my book One Simple Change: Surprisingly Easy Ways to Transform Your Life; I’ve done 6 so far. The very first one I did was LIVE and ONE HOUR LONG, with call-in participation from viewers. I was terrified beforehand and did a lot of sweating while I was on the call. The ones since then have been shorter but they are still a bit stressful for me, not going to lie.

During these radio interviews, I’ve been talking a lot about the overriding concept of my book…the idea of making one small change at a time. I’ve been talking about why it’s important to take things slow, and to become comfortable with the fact that permanent positive shifts in your health and well-being do not happen overnight. My feeling is that if I can convince one person to stop doing extreme things (such as lengthy juice cleanses, diets that eliminate carbohydrates, or exercising for hours a day) in the name of health, then I will have succeeded in what I set out to do in writing this book. Small tweaks to the way you eat, your lifestyle, and your attitude work just fine…they work better than fine, actually. Small changes can be really powerful if your goal is to have a happy, healthy life.

If you are wondering exactly what kind of information is in One Simple Change, you should know that while I do share my nutritional philosophy throughout the book, there’s much more to One Simple Change than that. I touch on many, many other things that come into play when you are approaching your health in a more natural and holistic way, such as sleep, exercise, and stress management. Some chapters are devoted to matters related to living in a more eco-conscious manner. There are also 15 nourishing recipes. My friend Kaela called it “The Self Help Book for People Who Hate Self Help Books” which made me laugh (but it’s really true).

I don’t expect everyone to love everything about the book, but I really do believe there is something for everyone in One Simple Change. I even find myself re-reading specific sections and applying them to my own life lately…this may seem ironic but I need to take my own advice sometimes!

The first printing of the book sold out but more are on the way. My publisher tells me One Simple Change should be back in stock Amazon.com and elsewhere next week, which is great. Once again, thank you to everyone who has purchased the book and let me know that you enjoyed it! Cheers to change! I plan to continue celebrating healthy, simple lifestyle changes on my blog throughout 2014 and I can’t wait to share many more posts with you.

As I mentioned above, there are 15 recipes in One Simple Change. These are recipes I chose to include because they are somehow related to the content of the book. This homemade yogurt recipe, for example, comes from the chapter titled “Cook More” but it’s also related to the chapter called “Get Some Culture”, which is about eating more cultured/lacto-fermented foods.

diy yogurt | healthy green kitchen

Yogurt made with live cultures is high in protein, calcium, and probiotics, which aid the digestive system. I’m a big fan of low-tech yogurt making; you don’t need any fancy equipment to make wholesome plain yogurt.

diy yogurt | healthy green kitchen

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Ukrainian Preserved Rose Petals (Rozha z Tsukrom)

Rose petals preserved in sugar | Healthy Green Kitchen

Ukrainian Preserved Rose Petals from www.healthygreenkitchen.com

This past Sunday, I attended my third wild edible plants class. I am so glad I signed up for this series…I really look forward to the class each month, and I always come away feeling excited and inspired.

This month, our main focus was on plants in the rose family. I had no idea Rosaceae was so diverse: it includes everything from wild and cultivated roses to raspberries and strawberries to stone fruits (including apricots, cherries, and plums). Dainty cinquefoil flowers (edible) and showy spirea shrubs (not edible, as far as I know) are also in the rose family.

wild rose from www.healthygreenkitchen.com
Wild Rose

For part of each class, we meander around my friend Halyna’s beautiful homestead while she points out and tells us about the edible plants all around us. I also gaze at her beautiful animals :)

Ram from www.healthygreenkitchen.comSheep from www.healthygreenkitchen.com

Then, we go back to Halyna’s kitchen and she shows us how to prepare the plants in a variety of ways. We sip tea replete with fresh herbs and pepper Halyna with all sorts of questions about what she’s making. Halyna’s lovely mother lives nearby and often joins us: they are both a wealth of knowledge about medicinal plants. In our kitchen session this time, we feasted on cattails slathered with butter, cooked milkweed flowers drenched in a fabulous herbal vinagrette, and elderflower fritters drizzled with rose honey. Halyna’s family is Ukrainian, so she also showed us how to make uncooked preserved rose petals that are traditionally used to fill doughnuts in the Ukraine at Christmastime.

To make this recipe, you start with 2 cups of freshly picked, tightly packed rose petals. Use the most fragrant (and definitely unsprayed) rose petals you can find. We used pink rose petals when we made this at Halyna’s house; I’ve used red ones here.

Rose petals from www.healthygreenkitchen.com

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Spring Tonic Soup with Wild Greens

Spring Tonic Soup from Healthy Green Kitchen

Spring Tonic Soup from Healthy Green Kitchen

Last Sunday, I went to the first in a series of classes I am taking on identifying and using edible wild plants. It was fantastic- so fun to be outside on a lovely day, refreshing my memory about some plants that I am already familiar with, but learning many new things, as well.

Do you know about Stinging Nettle?

Nettles from Healthy Green Kitchen

My friend Halyna, the teacher of my wild plants class, grows a ton of it. I am going to follow her lead and plant a big patch because while it does grow wild, I have never found any on my property (though I am going to keep looking). Nettle is an incredible plant, rich in vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Nettle is particularly high in calcium, magnesium, chromium, and chlorophyll, and herbalist Susun Weed refers to nettle leaves and stalks as an “everyday nourisher”. Nettle is a notable ally to the kidneys, the digestive system, the respiratory system, and women’s reproductive health. It’s also amazing for the skin and for the hair.

Since it’s covered in prickly hairs that sting due to the presence of formic acid (hence the name: Stinging Nettle), you should always wear protective clothing and gloves when you harvest nettle. Once dried or cooked, nettle no longer stings.

I took home a bunch of nettle from Halyna’s house and decided to cook up a spring tonic soup after tasting the amazing one she had made and served to our class. I added dandelion greens that I plucked from my yard (these are also extremely nutritious: they’re high in beta-carotene, vitamin C, calcium, and potassium), as well as some ramps I bought at the Farmer’s Market. This soup is flexible: if you don’t have access to wild greens, use kale, spinach or another green instead. And if you have access to additional wild greens, like yellow dock, feel free to toss some in.

This is a perfect introduction to wild foods if you are not familiar with them: the greens are not at all bitter when prepared this way so the whole family can enjoy this soup. Feel free to sub in carrots and a different squash (or sweet/red/white potatoes) for the turnips and kabocha squash, if you like.

I ate this soup with my favorite multi-grain bread, slathered with goat cheese and topped with wild violets. Yup, you can eat violets, too: if you’ve got lots of them popping up on your lawn, you can give this recipe for violet jelly a try.

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How (and Why) To Render Your Own Lard

How to render lard from www.healthygreenkitchen.com

I know what many of you are thinking right now. Lard? On Healthy Green Kitchen? Has Winnie gone bonkers?

Nope. I am as sane as ever, I promise. This post may seem surprising to you, but it’s really no different than any of my others. After all, when I post recipes, I always celebrate real food and healthy fats. And lard is both.

Pastured Lard from Healthy Green Kitchen

What’s that, you say? Lard is a healthy fat? Yes, it’s true. I too used to think lard was gross, and that eating it would give me a lard ass tushy. I also assumed putting it into my body would put me on the fast track to a heart attack, but I don’t think these things any more.

I am not talking about the partially hydrogenated lard you’ll find at the grocery store, though. That stuff IS NOT healthy. What I am talking about is lard rendered from the fat of from pastured pigs: pigs that have access to fresh air and sunshine, pigs that eat grass and other things pigs are supposed to eat (not pigs who spend their lives in cages eating grains). Lard from pastured pigs is high in vitamin D, and like olive oil, lard is classified as a monounsaturated fat (lard is about 40% saturated…that’s less than butter).

{I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating that there’s really nothing wrong with saturated fat from natural sources. In fact, saturated fats are very important! There’s long been a misguided notion that all saturated fat does is contribute to heart disease, but this simply isn’t the case. Saturated fats are vital to the structure of all cells in the body, they boost the immune system, and they are necessary for the absorption of minerals such as calcium. Adequate saturated fats are also necessary for optimal storage and assimilation of the unsaturated omega-3s. Meaning: omega-3 fats are even more effective when they are combined in the diet with some saturated fats.}

Lard has a high smoke point so it’s one of the best fats for high temperature cooking (such as frying). Unlike many oils (and vegetable oils, in particular), lard is considered a “stable” fat: it does not form free radicals when heated. Lard also imparts that coveted flakiness to pie crusts and turns pastries that you make with it into seriously divine treats.

Rendering your own lard from pastured pork fat is easy. You’ll need what is called “fatback” or “leaf lard” (the fat from around the kidneys) to get started. If your intention is to use your lard in pastries, then definitely go with the leaf lard because it’s creamy white and has a very neutral flavor.

I couldn’t find leaf lard so I used fatback I bought from my favorite local farmers.

How to render lard from www.healthygreenkitchen.com

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Cranberry Glogg

While researching cardamom for my post about cardamom roasted vegetables, I learned that cardamom is one of the spices that typically flavors the Scandinavian winter-time drink known as Glögg. According to Wikipedia, Glögg is the name of mulled (heated and spiced) wine in Sweden and Iceland; it goes by other similar names in Norway, Denmark, … Read more