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Do Something Different

2020 is a year like no other. (How’s that for an understatement?)

Except maybe 2021. We don’t know yet what 2021 will look like because nobody knows what the future holds. And since it seems nobody has ever really lived through a pandemic like this before and we don’t have a proven protocol to follow, we’re left shooting from the hip and doing our best to surf the current tidal wave.

Life sure is topsy-turvy.

Lately I hear a lot of people wondering and worrying about when things will “get back to normal.” Understandably, they want to get back to their normal social activities, travel plans, work and school schedules, etc. I am not immune to these thoughts. Holy cow do I miss traveling. It actually leaves me with a deep, physical longing in my belly when I allow myself to think about it. Same goes for not being able to dine out with friends. But at the same time, I wholeheartedly believe that waiting for life to be “normal again” and dreaming of life as it once was is counter-productive to achieving a state of well-being now.

The pandemic has brought fear and forced change into our lives. And with fear and change comes uncertainty, which is unappealing and unfriendly to the majority of people. Human beings, in general, are not designed to cope well with uncertainty. COVID-19 is giving us an opportunity to rise to the challenge.

What if, instead of spending our energy resisting reality, we fully ground ourselves in the present and  treat this timeframe as an opportunity? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What can I do differently immediately to bring more joy into my life?
  • What small thing can I do immediately to positively enhance my health?
  • What have I always wanted to learn and how soon can I get started learning this skill/topic/sport/etc.?
  • Since life is upside down anyway, what innovative new thing can I try that I wouldn’t do if life were “normal?”

This is our opportunity to show up differently in life.

So today I learned how to play a C-chord on the guitar. A single chord! I’ve wanted to learn to play the guitar for fifteen years. Finally, I played one single, stinking chord. So fun.

P.S. There are no guarantees that life will ever return to normal. So take a deep breath, open your mind, and start getting curious.

xo,

Claudine

Early Autumn Moroccan Stew by Andrea Bemis

Though I’ve raved about the cookbook Dishing up the Dirt by Andrea Beamis before, it’s so dang good it’s worth mentioning again. This gem hasn’t let me down yet, and therefore I highly recommend you add it to your kitchen library. As winter nears and cooler temperatures (along with the pandemic) drive many of us back inside, I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one who’s devoting more time to home cooking again. ‘Tis the season for more warming soups and stews, which is why this recipe caught my eye. So good. So, so good. Just what a pandemic winter calls for.

Since it’s late autumn at the time of this writing, I omitted the eggplant and used canned tomatoes instead of fresh. I also subbed wild rice for the quinoa since wild rice is local to Minnesota.

Early Autumn Moroccan Stew by Andrea Bemis

Yields: 6-8 servings

1 cup dry quinoa

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, diced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

2 medium-sized carrots, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

1 medium-sized sweet potato, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

1 medium-sized eggplant, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

2 medium-small zucchini (or summer squash) chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

2 large tomatoes, chopped, or 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes

3 1/2 cups vegetable stock (homemade or store-bought)

1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (rinsed and drained if from a can)

1/2 cup dried currants

fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

full-fat yogurt for serving (use plant-based for a vegan option)

fresh lemon juice for serving

minced parsley for serving

1/2 cup toasted almonds for serving

 

Prepare quinoa (or wild rice, if following my lead) according to package instructions.

In a stew pot, heat the oil over medium-high and saute the onion for 2-3 minutes. Add the cumin, cinnamon, coriander, cayenne, and allspice. Cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the carrots, sweet potato, eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes. Cook for an additional 3-5 minutes, stirring often. Add stock and bring the stew to a simmer. Cook on medium-low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the chickpeas and currants, and season to taste with plenty of salt and pepper. Continue to cook until the chickpeas are warmed through.

Ladle the stew over the quinoa (or other grain) and top with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkling of lemon juice, parsley, and toasted almonds.

xo,

Claudine

Trauma 101

My dear friend Maggie, a licensed marriage and family therapist, nutrition counselor, and QNRT practitioner, wrote this thorough and insightful article about trauma. She generously agreed to let me share it with all of you. Maggie has taught me a ton about trauma throughout the years – how trauma varies from person to person and how it can continue to shape our lives and subvert our best intentions well into adulthood if left unaddressed. This post is illuminating.

Trauma 101

Is Trauma Affecting Me?

By Maggie Christopher

One of my driving missions in life is to help people understand trauma so they can recognize and move past it. Believe it or not, everyone on the planet has experienced trauma to varying degrees.

It can be debilitating to be affected by trauma and not know what it is or how to get rid of it. Many people don’t seek the help they need because they minimize the difficult things that have happened in their lives by comparing them to others who have had it much worse. It’s important to know that – like most things in life – trauma runs on a spectrum.

There’s an outdated mental health belief that you have to be really struggling in life before you need therapy or other modalities such as QNRT. Most people think that if they are high functioning in life, the pain of their past must not be affecting them. This isn’t the case. Seeking support to untangle from your past gives you the ability to thrive in life. You have the potential to feel even better.

The Definition of Trauma

Trauma is officially defined as, “a deeply disturbing or distressing experience.” That’s a pretty benign explanation compared to what most people think, right? We’ve all had deeply disturbing or distressing experiences in our lives. If the word ‘trauma’ overwhelms you or you just don’t care for it, try thinking of trauma simply as difficult situations and experiences throughout your life.

What’s tricky about trauma is that it’s not just a memory, a thing of the past that’s long behind you. No, the pain from the difficult experience is stored in your body, so when you have a similar situation repeat itself later in life, you are left vulnerable to getting triggered and having strong reactions. We actually form a belief about ourselves and/or life when something difficult happens. The trauma of your past can easily get triggered in your life now.

How to Recognize if You’re Affected by Trauma

Many people simply write off their poor behavior or chalk up their ‘weaknesses’ to not being a good person. They feel flawed. They think it’s just part of life to be plagued by anxiety or depression. What a painful way to go through life.

We don’t show up as our best selves when we have trauma stored in our body. The latest trauma research shows that it’s stored in our brain, nervous system and other parts of the body, which means you are not going to be able to simply ‘talk’ your way out of trauma. That’s why a body-based approach to releasing trauma is imperative. In addition to QNRT, some other body-based therapies include somatic experiencing, EMDR or some forms of hypnotherapy. These modalities address more than just your mind. Using talk therapy to understand your past and how it affects you will not move the trauma out of your body. It’s helpful to make these connections, but it’s imperative to go further so you don’t keep getting triggered.

A way to know if you’re being triggered by past trauma is by gauging your reaction to something or someone: is it bigger than what the situation warrants? Let me share an example. Let’s say you’re someone who has trauma around not being included, stemming from the time your friend group purposely excluded you on the playground in third grade. Now, as an adult, you find out your family planned a spontaneous get together and (unintentionally) didn’t invite you. You may have intense feelings of anger, sadness or isolation. You may even lash out at them.

Let me also share an analogy. Imagine there is a bloody, raw wound on your knee, which symbolizes not being included by others. And in this above example, your family not inviting you to a party is like someone taking a sharp razor and scratching the surface of your wounded knee. It’s very difficult for most people to not get triggered by their trauma when it gets stirred up by life’s events. Keep in mind, people’s reactions to trauma differs. Some people start to rage and yell while others get sad and withdraw.

If a person does not have trauma around being excluded (a.k.a. there is no bloody wound on their knee) they may simply think that it must have been an oversight and someone forgot to call them. It feels more like someone took a stick and scratched their knee, which felt slightly uncomfortable (a.k.a. disappointed), but not like the intense pain caused by the bloody, raw wound there. Can you see the difference of living life without trauma?

Signs that You May Have Experienced Trauma

Many people I work with are unaware that the root cause of their challenges is past trauma. This list is based on signs of trauma I see in my clients. Can you relate to any of the items on this list?

  • You have an addiction: food, alcohol, phone, drugs, overworking, exercise, etc.
  • You struggle to make friends.
  • You are constantly worried what others will think.
  • You feel inadequate: in your job, parenting, marriage, or friendships, etc.
  • You have an overall feeling of being unworthy and not good enough.
  • You feel you’ve never lived up to your potential.
  • You spend too much time ruminating about your regrets in life.
  • You sabotage yourself when you start to make progress in your life.
  • It’s scary for you to be vulnerable with trusted people in your life.
  • You are anxious, depressed, or both.
  • You have done years of therapy but still feel stuck in your past.
  • It’s hard to consistently get good sleep.
  • You have health conditions that don’t make sense given how well you care for yourself. (Resources: Ted Talk and The Deepest Well by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris)
  • You hustle for your worthiness. You’re always trying to do and be enough in life to be loved.
  • You struggle to connect well with your family.
  • It’s difficult to allow yourself to be loved.
  • You’re uncomfortable accepting help, gifts or compliments from others.
  • It’s difficult for you to take consistent, good care of yourself.
  • You can’t relax and simply do nothing.
  • You are afraid to not be in a relationship.
  • You are afraid to be in a committed relationship.
  • You don’t know how to relax and just play.
  • You operate most of life from your head versus your heart.
  • It’s difficult for you to be in the present moment. You find yourself constantly thinking.
  • You are often reactive to what happens in your life.
  • You are hypervigilant and feel that ‘the other shoe’ is going to drop.
  • You are unwilling to feel all your emotions; you work hard at keeping your emotions “in check”
  • You have an ‘all or nothing’ way of operating in life.
  • You worry about money far too much.
  • You avoid feeling your emotions.
  • You have a lot of fears in your life.
  • You feel like nobody truly understands you.
  • You feel like your needs and wants are ‘too much’ for your partner to handle.
  • You have to rely on medication to adjust your mood.
  • You feel like given all the great things in your life you should be happy, but you’re not.
  • You want to be in a loving relationship, but you have fears it will never happen.
  • You often feel overwhelmed by life.
  • You feel like good things happen to others, not you.
  • You keep your life small even though you truly want more.
  • You find yourself attracting friends and relationships that cause you pain and disappointment.

I could go on and on. This is not a comprehensive list, but hopefully you get the idea. Our natural state is one in which we feel present, open hearted, peaceful and happy. Sound utopic? Well, releasing the trauma stored in your body will certainly get you much closer to these feelings. I think of all of life as a spiritual journey and releasing your trauma helps you wake up to who and what you are at your core….love.

What Types of Situations and Events Can Create Trauma?

First, it’s important to know that what creates trauma in one person may not be what creates trauma in another individual. We are all unique and some people may brush off a comment while another person may be deeply hurt by the same comment.

Here are some examples of situations and events that can create trauma:

  • An ongoing experience of parents being distracted and not present with you
  • Kids making fun of you at school
  • Transitions of any kind such as changing schools, moving to a new city/state/country
  • Getting divorced and/or parents divorcing
  • Growing up in poverty or experiencing financial insecurity
  • Being criticized
  • A parent making negative comments about you either overtly or subtly
  • Feeling like you don’t fit in with your peers
  • Not getting your emotional or physical needs met
  • Not being able to fully express your feelings in childhood or adulthood
  • Any physical, sexual or emotional abuse
  • Making a mistake and getting in trouble for it (or not)
  • Experiencing a break up
  • Losing a friend
  • Struggling in your career
  • Growing up in a restrictive religious faith
  • Witnessing violence
  • Physical pain or injury
  • Surgery
  • Losing a loved one
  • Getting fired or let go from a job
  • Being separated from someone you love
  • Getting cut from a team
  • Any type of embarrassing or shaming situation or event
  • Not dating until later in life
  • Being the oldest in your family and parents relying too much on you
  • Being told you’re ‘different’ by someone you care about
  • Having to excel in school and/or extra-curricular activities in order to get love and attention from your parents.
  • Having a parent who tries to live your life because they haven’t successfully created their own
  • Having a sibling who took up an unfair amount of your parents’ attention
  • Struggling to make friends

Again, this is not a comprehensive list, but hopefully this shifts your perspective on trauma.

Don’t We Just get over Trauma with Time?

Time will not heal trauma.

Why do we continue to be affected by past trauma when it’s in the past? One, because as I shared earlier, it’s literally stored in the body and needs to be released using a body-based therapy. And secondly, we unconsciously form a belief about ourselves and/or the world when something distressing or disturbing happens to us. We live our lives 95% based on these (often unconscious) painful, subconscious beliefs. We are walking around in life as if these painful beliefs are true.

When difficult things happen in life, we unconsciously form beliefs such as:

  • I can’t get my needs met.
  • I shouldn’t communicate what I need and want because it will only end in pain.
  • I’m unlovable.
  • I’m unworthy of love.
  • I’ll never get married.
  • I will never have enough money.
  • I don’t fit in.
  • I have to hide my authentic self in order to get love.
  • What I have to say doesn’t matter.
  • I have to accomplish enough in life in order to get love.
  • I have to exhaust myself helping others in order to get love.
  • I can’t trust others, especially those I love.
  • I have to be smart and useful in order to connect with others.

These are just a few examples. You may notice a common theme in these examples – love and connection. As Brene Brown says, “Love and belonging are irreducible human needs.” When someone doesn’t feel unconditionally loved and connected with others when growing up (or as an adult), a lot of trauma can build up over time.

If I asked a client prior to their QNRT reset if they had any of these beliefs, they would 9 times out of 10 answer ‘no’ because most people are unaware of their subconscious beliefs. But sadly, we live our lives based on these painful beliefs.

How Do You Release Trauma?

Engaging in a body-based therapy such as QNRT will allow you to release trauma. QNRT is defined as a body-based therapy because the protocol finds and releases the trauma stored in your body.

As a psychotherapist, I will support you with talk-level, trauma-informed therapy during your reset because important, shaping situations and events will arise. It will support your trauma recovery to be with a loving, supportive person while in these tender places. Clients find the therapy piece I add to every QNRT reset to be invaluable to their experience.

The specific trauma that is released during a QNRT reset will be chosen by your body and discovered by the QNRT protocol. There’s no need to come to a session knowing what difficult situation you’d like to address.

I actually love this benefit of QNRT because your body is brilliant and is keenly aware of which event it feels ready and safe to release. QNRT is highly effective at surfacing difficult past events that people aren’t aware affected them until they begin to verbalize the situation and notice what a shifting effect it had on their life (and beliefs). QNRT is especially helpful for people who know they want to feel better but have no idea what to talk about in therapy.

How Might I Feel Differently if I Release the Pain of my Past?

What I hear again and again from QNRT clients is that they feel less reactive, have more space in their life and feel calmer. They start to realize their value. They confidently branch out in new ways in life. They begin to care for themselves by eating, exercising and taking time for the activities they enjoy.

People come to me with walls around their heart from experiencing so much pain (a.k.a. trauma), and after doing QNRT for a period of time they smile more, share more and begin to have more meaningful connections with others. There are many unique ways that QNRT helps people find more peace.

It’s free to talk with me (Maggie) for 60 minutes and discover if QNRT feels right for you. I hope we get the chance to meet.

Red Curry Kabocha Squash Soup

I’ve been working virtually from my family’s cabin on Lake Kabetogama (near the Canadian border) for the last week or so, and in true Northern Minnesota fashion fall arrived overnight last night. We woke up to 39 degree temps and drizzle, so the first thing I thought of this morning was soup!

Last week I was enjoying grilled corn and shishito peppers, but now overnight my food dreams have drifted to squashes, pumpkins, apples, and the flavors of autumn. If the autumnal cooking bug has grabbed you too, here’s a fav recipe I highly encourage you to play with. This Red Curry Kabocha Soup never disappoints. If Kabocha squash is hard to find in your area, substitute another variety you enjoy like butternut that isn’t too stringy or watery. 

Red Curry Kabocha Soup

Yields: 8 servings

1 medium Kabocha squash

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

4 cloves garlic, peeled

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 tablespoon red curry paste, or to taste

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 lime, juiced

½ cup fresh basil, torn into pieces

2 tablespoons lemongrass, finely chopped

2 small jalapeno peppers, diced

6 cups chicken stock

14 ounces coconut milk (whole or reduced fat, whichever you prefer)

salt, to taste

Heat oven to 375º F. Slice squash in half and scoop out seeds and stringy guts. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and put face down in a roasting pan. Rub peeled garlic with a little oil and toss into pan along with ½ cup water. Cover and roast for 30-40 minutes, or until squash is tender and garlic is caramel-colored. When cool enough to handle but still warm, scoop out squash flesh and toss squash shell.

In a large soup pot, heat remaining 2 Tablespoons oil. Add onion; reduce heat to low. Cover and sweat onion until translucent, about 7-10 minutes.

Whisk together curry paste, fish sauce, lime juice, basil, and lemongrass. Add mixture to large soup pot along with roasted squash, garlic, and stock. Stir in diced peppers. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in coconut milk and heat through. Puree soup in a blender or food processor. Adjust seasonings, if necessary.

xo,

Claudine

Endangered Pleasures

Way back when, one of my favorite English professors assigned us the book: Endangered Pleasures, In Defense of Naps, Bacon, Martinis, Profanity, and Other Indulgences. I loved it, so much in fact I ended up reading it several times throughout the years (which I don’t often do given the number of books I consistently have waiting in the wings). I still remember the book fondly, despite the fact that I haven’t picked it up in ages, and I’m considering reading it yet again in light of COVID-19.

The title is pretty self-explanatory. Endangered Pleasures leads the reader on a tour of some of the author’s favorite simple things in life, many of which had developed a reputation for being unhealthy, unproductive, or uncouth. For these reasons – much to the author’s horror – she felt too many of her pleasures were falling out of favor and therefore becoming endangered. The reader learns how each of the endangered pleasures highlighted in the book enhances the author’s life.

2020 has turned out to be one of the strangest years ever, a year we will all surely remember and talk about for the rest of our lives. Some people’s lives have changed more dramatically than others as they find themselves working virtually for the first time, homeschooling children, and feeling too isolated from family and friends. Everyone has made sacrifices, from canceled vacations to fewer hugs with loved ones, and it’s had me considering my own simple pleasures in life, endangered or not. I’m realizing there are things I had been taking for granted, which I now fully appreciate again. There are also new pleasures I’ve discovered as a result of not being able to default to all of my usual pastimes. It’s been insightful to self-evaluate, exploring how to keep myself sane, content, and growth-focused during a time when many of life’s sweet delights are harder to access, especially things like travel and dining out at lovely farm-to-table restaurants  – activities which have always made my life richer and succeeded in lighting me up.

Here are some simple pleasures I’ve identified for myself so far:

  • Working in my gardens
  • Watching butterflies in my gardens
  • Reading
  • Hugs (LOTS of hugs)
  • Setting puzzles (NOT my hubby’s thing, but I sure have fun with it, and I’m pretty sure he’s finding delight in making fun of my new pastime)
  • Savoring a cup of tea or coffee
  • Hiking and exploring state parks
  • Daily walks with my sweetheart
  • Conversations with neighbors we run into on our daily walks
  • Shopping at farmers markets
  • Phone and FaceTime dates with friends and family
  • Backyard patio dates with friends
  • Watering and tending to my indoor plants
  • Adopting more indoor plants!
  • Researching home decorating ideas
  • Researching potential new recipes and then giving them a shot
  • Writing (for personal pleasure, letters, thank you notes, notes for no reason, etc.)
  • Fishing
  • Tidying up corners of our home, clearing out my closets
  • Chocolate
  • Listening to podcasts (also, sharing podcast recommendations with friends, then discussing together)
  • Bird watching, especially hummingbirds at the cabin
  • Getting take-out with friends, then enjoying picnics together in state parks
  • Walking down a musical memory lane, revisiting favorite CD’s throughout my life (and subsequently singing my heart out)
  • Taking advantage of all the opportunities to learn new things online
  • Knitting
  • Boning up on my French language skills through Duolingo (a free app)
  • Going to bed early and getting a really good night’s sleep
  • Sunrises and sunsets
  • Decluttering my file cabinet (yes, this is truly pleasurable for me; love that dopamine kick I get each time I recycle some paper)
  • Visiting farms that are comfortable having people visit, enjoying feeling close to the source of my food
  • Listening to thunderstorms
  • Dancing
  • Swimming
  • Campfires

Simple, simple pleasures. And this is just a start. What are some of your simple pleasures, and can you bring more of them into your life?

xo,

Claudine

Farmacology – Farm as Medicine

At the risk of sounding like I’m writing a review, I feel compelled to share a bit about a book I’m devouring these days that I believe anyone interested in studying various approaches to cultivating health would find stimulating: Farmacology: Total Health from the Ground Up by Daphne Miller, M.D..

My attraction to this book lies in how beautifully it bridges the connection between farming and health – a connection often ignored or overlooked. Personally, it perfectly links my devotion to local, farm-fresh foods with my background and passion for nutrition. From the first chapter, I was struck by the wisdom the author learns from the farmers she meets on her journey and how it mirrors my own experience gaining insights into nutrition from the farmers I’ve interviewed throughout the years, seeking to understand how they farm for health. In fact, much of what I have learned about nutrition since graduating from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition has come from farmers – not formal teachers.

The author, a practicing physician, explores what farming can teach us about nurturing ourselves and presents the idea of “farm as medicine,” a concept I’d love to see gain widespread traction. As she travels to various family farms around the country, she seeks to discover the hidden connections between how food is grown and raised and the link to our health, asking questions like, “Are there connections between soil microbes and those in our bodies?” and “Why does a dirty farm offer protection from allergies while a dirty urban apartment does not?”

As Dr. Miller tells stories and shares insights from the farms she visits, she also introduces the reader to one of her most challenging and mysterious patients, Allie, who struggles with a laundry list of health concerns nobody can resolve: chronic bloating, allergies, weight gain, premature aging, and extreme fatigue. Allie never experienced a dramatic illness or accident; instead her symptoms started out low grade and mushroomed. By the time she found Dr. Miller, Allie had reached a point where simply getting out of bed each morning felt challenging. High-dose supplementation, energy bars, and sophisticated testing from various medical specialists hadn’t been helpful.

As Dr. Miller gleans as much knowledge as she can from each farmer she meets, she approaches Allie with a radical idea (especially for a physician): would Allie be willing to “join a farm cycle?” When Allie agrees, essentially Dr. Miller prescribes the following:

  • Choose farm-fresh food: shop at farmers markets and join a CSA to ensure consuming the freshest, most nutrient-dense food possible.
  • Eat for biodiversity: to save the plant-loving microbiota (a community of beneficial bacteria, protists, fungi, and more) in her gut from extinction, eat a diverse assortment of local grains, vegetables, and fruits.
  • Eat dirt and bugs: not literally! Simply don’t be too obsessive about cleaning farm-fresh produce, knowing that micro traces of healthy soil clinging to food carries healthy bacteria and minerals.
  • Engage in farm love: seek out opportunities to engage with a community garden or farm, which offer natural opportunities for physical activity, increase the chances for interpersonal connection, and have anti-depressant effects, according to research.

Definitely not your typical doctor’s office prescription, yet four months later Allie was feeling better than she had felt in years and her labs finally came back normal.

Dr. Miller writes, “…it is fair to say that most of us in the medical profession are just starting to grapple with what it means to take a “whole system” approach to health and healing. Agriculture, meanwhile, has been considering this question for decades. From my perspective, there are many reasons why agriculture is ahead of medicine when it comes to weblike thinking, starting with the simple fact that farming, even at its most technological, has never completely turned its back on nature.”

In closing, I would love to see us move beyond the well-accepted “food as medicine” mantra and adopt a richer “farm as medicine” philosophy. I have no doubt that farmacology has the potential to gently guide us back to a natural state of health. So, how soon can you get your petudie to a farmers market?

xo,

Claudine

Spring Greens Goodness!

Spring’s arrival marks the beginning of the long-awaited growing season in Minnesota, that abundant time of year when the freshest of fresh produce – in a rainbow of the brightest colors Mother Nature has to offer – entices us to move away from the onions, carrots, and potatoes we survived on all winter and turn our focus to flavorful herbs, tender baby lettuces, bitter greens, and other short-lived spring riches like rhubarb and foraged mushrooms.

For me, spring is synonymous with everything green: super fresh baby salad greens, microgreens, and every kind of nutrient-dense leafy green you can imagine. Traditional medicines like Traditional Chinese Medicine tells us that these are the foods our bodies need to detoxify from the extra fats and sugar we consumed during the winter months, so it shouldn’t be a surprise when we start craving fresh salads in April or May.

Additionally, it is widely accepted that eating a lot of these green foods in autumn to detoxify our bodies in preparation for the heavier foods of winter is also a good idea. When shopping at farmers markets and eating with the seasons, you’ll see that farm fresh greens are often available now in both spring and fall.

Though leafy greens have definitely gained a larger audience the last five years, they still feel mysterious to a lot of folks. The following is a super simple template our CSA farm gave us early into our membership that can be used for kale, Swiss chard, spinach, and even arugula.

 

Easy Kale

1 bunch kale

1-2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil

red pepper flakes, to taste

Thai fish sauce or balsamic vinegar, to taste

 

Wash, stem and chop the bunch of kale.

Sauté 1-2 cloves of thinly sliced garlic in the olive oil.

When the garlic begins to turn golden, toss in red pepper flakes to taste and sauté briefly.

*Add the kale and a couple splashes of Thai fish sauce (use balsamic vinegar instead, if you prefer a “sweeter” taste)

Cover and steam until tender.

(*If you don’t like the tougher texture of steamed kale, you can choose at this point to quick-boil the kale in another pot first before adding it to the pan with the fish sauce.)

I often add chopped spicy sausage or chicken to this template in order to make it into more of a meal. If you use balsamic vinegar instead of fish sauce, you can also add dried fruit like currants or raisins to jazz it up. Greens can be a great vehicle for a wide range of satisfying flavors!

xo,

Claudine

Watermelon Salad Recipe

It’s the height of summer, and peak summertime meals in my household are much more about “assembly” than they are about actually cooking. In general, from June-August our food mantra is “simple and fresh.” I find great joy using ultra fresh ingredients from farmers markets and our CSA (community supported agriculture) share to assemble creative but quick salads and sides that feel in harmony with the season.

Earlier this summer my friend Sarah, owner of Food Gallery Catering, offered this watermelon salad in one of her meal kits I splurged on. It was incredibly refreshing and tasty, and it was obviously super simple to prepare, so I asked if she would be willing to share the recipe. Like most experienced chefs, she didn’t have a concrete recipe per se, but she did send the cute comment and template below. As you will see, there aren’t any quantities. Just play with amounts. If you add the lime juice and salt to taste as you go, it is impossible to screw up this treat.

 

Watermelon Salad

“Legit, this watermelon salad is the easiest thing you’ve ever made.” – Sarah Enrico :)

watermelon

jicama

juice of limes (I used 1-2 limes)

salt

jalapeno or serrano pepper

cilantro leaves

 

1. Cube watermelon into bite-size pieces.

2. Cut jicama (Sarah used a mandolin with the finest shredder blade to get a fine julienne, but I just used a box grater. She also suggested using a food processor with a shredder attachment to get the same effect.)

3. Mix.

4. Squeeze lime juice on watermelon and jicama (I ended up using the juice of 1 whole juicy lime when I made this salad. I had cubed about 1/2 of a big watermelon.)

5. Salt everything, to taste. (Sarah said, “Use a little more salt than you would think – enough salt makes the sweetness of everything else pop.” I was nervous about over-salting, so I added a little at a time and tasted as I went.)

6. Top with super thinly sliced jalapenos or serranos and cilantro leaves, to taste.

A final note: On one occasion, the jalapeno I used didn’t have any heat and I really wanted some spice, so I finished everything with a sprinkle of cayenne. It gave the desired zip I wanted and tasted absolutely delicious.

Happy summer!

xo,

Claudine

P.S. The picture of this salad shows it with mint, rather than cilantro, which is also a great substitute for those not drawn to cilantro.

Singing the Praises of Local Food

Photo credit: my talented friend, Katie Cannon (www.katiecannonphotography.com)

Anyone who really knows me knows how passionate I am about nurturing a strong local food system here in Minnesota (and everywhere!) and how I believe in the power of local foods to cure so much of what ails us. Strong local food systems equal food security. Strong local food systems support rural communities and give people interested in farming a fair shot at earning a living. Strong local food systems foster the health of people and the planet. Interested in curbing climate change? Buy local. Concerned about animal welfare within our food system? Buy directly from a small local farmer.

The reasons to support family farmers go on and on, and the evidence supporting the local movement is dang compelling. Here are a few reasons to connect with nearby farmers (and make a new friend in the process):

Why buy local?

  1. Local foods are fresher. Buying local produce cuts down travel time from farm to table. The longer fruit and veggies spend on a truck or in storage before being delivered to you, the greater the loss of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. The moment a piece of produce is picked or cut, its enzymes begin decomposing and feeding on precious nutrients. Researchers at Montclair State University revealed that the vitamin C content of broccoli was cut in half when it was shipped from out of the country compared to when it was sourced locally. A study at Penn State University found that spinach lost 47% of its folate after 8 days.

  2. Local foods are seasonal. True, it would be great to have fresh tomatoes and berries all year round, but eating seasonally means avoiding “artificial ripening” with gases or eating a bland version of a fruit or vegetable that’s been shipped thousands of miles. Eating seasonally results in the most delicious and nutrient-dense produce.

  3. Local foods are better for the environment. Some foods are shipped literally thousands of miles; that is a big carbon footprint that could be avoided by purchasing local and seasonal foods. For example, the average carrot has traveled 1,838 miles to reach your dinner table.

  4. Local foods preserve green space and farmland. Buying foods grown and raised closer to where you live helps maintain farmland and green space in your area.

  5. Local foods promote food safety. Less distance between your food’s source and your kitchen table leaves less of a chance of contamination.

  6. Local foods promote variety. Eating locally promotes diversity in one’s diet. Farmers who run CSA (community-supported agriculture) programs, sell at farmers markets, and provide food to local restaurants have the demand and the economic support for raising more types of produce and livestock.

  7. Local foods support your local economy. Money spent locally stays local. Purchasing locally builds your local economy instead of handing over the earnings to a corporation in another city, state, or country. Also, since the food itself moves through fewer hands, more of the money you spend will end up in the pockets of those raising and growing those foods.

  8. Local foods create community. Ever find yourself spending much of your time at the farmers market chatting and socializing in addition to purchasing your produce? Getting to know your farmer, cheese purveyor, fishmonger, butcher, workers at your local co-op, etc., creates a sense of community, which is important for everybody.

Adapted from articles from the University of Minnesota and the University of Washington.

 

Local Food Resources in Minnesota

For CSA (community supported agriculture) farms:

www.minnesotagrown.com

 

For a list of farmers selling direct to consumers (especially during COVID-19): 

www.minnesotacooks.org

 

To find restaurants working with local farmers around Minnesota and serving quality foods, check out the farm-to-table directory at Minnesota Cooks:

www.minnesotacooks.org

 

To visit two of my favorite Twin Cities farmers markets:

www.stpaulfarmersmarket.com

www.millcityfarmersmarket.org

 

For a wonderful, satisfying, local food experience in Northeast Minneapolis:

www.foodbuilding.com

 

For Animal Protein:

www.pettitpastures.com (grass fed beef)

www.ykeracres.com (pastured pork & grassfed beef)

www.redtablemeatco.com (salumi)

www.ferndalemarketonline.com (turkey)

www.ironshoefarm.com (pork, beef, chicken, and more)

www.lowryhillmeats.com (butcher shop)

Drunken Beans

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, I couldn’t resist sharing a recipe template for drunken beans – frijoles borrachos – that we’ve been eating up (literally) like nobody’s business at our house.

A dear friend mentioned she’d just added them to her cooking list, inspiring me to rotate them into our own meal plan for the week. For those of you who’ve never tried drunken beans, they’re basically just beans simmered in dark beer with onion, bacon, and a handful of seasonings, which results in a super flavorful and satisfying meal or side dish.  Virtually all of the alcohol from the beer boils out during cooking, so you don’t have to worry about anyone getting tipsy from eating them.

Though I’m no expert, I think drunken beans are usually made with pinto or black beans, but I picked up some dried local heirlooms at the farmers market last week called Good Mother Stallard, and they turned out deliciosos. Good Mother Stallards look like a speckled pinto and are slightly larger than your average pinto. I picked them for no other reason than they are beautiful, grown locally, and I felt drawn to them. I’m certainly not a drunken bean expert, but I don’t see why you couldn’t use red beans or another specialty bean you enjoy. I’ve heard Peruvian or Mexican yellow beans are another good choice.

During this strange time we’re living in, when COVID-19 is shutting down major meat processing plants and panic buyers are even causing some of our small farmers to sell out, many people are considering the benefits of eating more plant-based dishes, which is usually not a bad idea. The average American needs more plant-based meals in his or her diet. Beans are filling and therefore make an excellent substitution for meat. They’re also nutritious and contain protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, antioxidants, and important vitamins and minerals, such as folate, manganese, potassium, iron, phosphorous, copper and magnesium. Beans are also considered helpful for lowering LDL cholesterol, the type we don’t want climbing too high.

Though this template calls for bacon, you could easily leave it out. I hope you give them a whirl!

Drunken Beans

  • 1 lb dried beans like pinto or Good Mother Stallard, rinsed and preferably drained overnight
  • 4 pieces (uncooked) bacon, diced (optional)
  • 1 small white or yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1-2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and diced (a poblano would also be delicious)
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle dark, gluten-free beer (or any dark beer, if you’re not sensitive to gluten)
  • 1 tablespoon brown coconut sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 -1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Soak beans overnight or for eight hours. Drain and then place in a large sauce pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer until tender, 45-60 minutes. When tender, drain remaining water and set aside.

Cook bacon in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until crispy, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and transfer to a separate plate. Set aside.

Reserve 1-2 tablespoons of bacon grease in the sauté pan and discard the extra. Add onion and pepper, and sauté for 5 minutes or until onion is soft and translucent. Add garlic, and sauté an additional 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add beer, beans, brown sugar, oregano, chili powder, salt, and cumin, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and continue simmering uncovered for about 15 minutes.

To serve, stir in the bacon and lime juice and top with fresh cilantro. Delicious served with a side of chicken or alongside your favorite tacos or burritos!