Tag - Real Food

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» Review: Blake’s Turkey and Beef Pot Pies (and More)
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» Review: Dr. Mercola Probiotics
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» Review: MegaFood Vitamins, Fresh from Farm to Powder
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» Review: Santa Cruz Organic Agua Fresca
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» REVIEW: Hello Fresh and Blue Apron (Food Delivery Service)
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» Fighting the Flu
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How to Plan a Freezer Meal Swap
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Thanksgiving Recipe Round Up
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Strawberry Jamming

» Review: Blake’s Turkey and Beef Pot Pies (and More)

Our kids love pot pies. When we had the opportunity to try out Blake’s, I was excited to find out that they are the healthier alternative to frozen pot pies. When Calvin was out of town recently, it was the perfect time to give these a chance. At $3.99 each (8 oz. personal size), these little dishes are a good backup to stock in the refrigerator to keep you from calling the pizza man.

  • Blake’s Turkey and Beef Pot Pies are made from scratch in small batches, and use only the finest organic and all-natural ingredients.
  • Blake’s Heirloom Family Recipes are made by wonderful people, not machines, and feature hormone-free and antibiotic-free chicken, turkey or beef, garden vegetables, potatoes and a flaky pie crust. .
  • Blake’s Turkey Pot Pie and Beef Pot Pie are dairy free and soy free and like all of their meals they do not contain trans fats or artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.

When baking in the oven, I had the pies on top of a baking sheet as instructed. Some liquid came onto the sheet, but not much. Blake’s has a lot of flavor which is sometimes a concern when you see the words “organic” and “all-natural”. One of my main suggestions to make these pot pies better is to include the crust (one of my favorite parts) on the bottom and sides, not only the top. And the kids? Yeah, they love them.

About Blake’s Pot Pies

Blake’s started as a family farm in Concord, NH by Great Grandma Clara Blake in 1929 raising the finest free-range, all-natural turkeys and soon became a holiday standard for thousands of New England families. In 1970 Charlie Blake sold their first pot pie from the back of his ‘67 Chevy van at St. John’s Church in Concord and thus Blake’s pot pies were started. Four decades later, Charlie and his wife, Sally, were distributing pot pies throughout New England and built a new production facility at the farm. Very little had changed. They were still using Clara’s recipes, cutting vegetables by hand and making gravy from scratch. Theirs was a thrifty, mom-and- pop business operating with a simple goal: Put healthy meals on the table for as many folks as possible. Today, Blake’s meals can be found nationwide and every meal is still made from scratch in small batches just like they always have been. Blake’s has grown from just pot pies to a variety of meals include an organic line of meals and gluten free as well. Blake’s is blessed with a wonderful staff and a shared vision for positively affecting the lives of their customers through their food.

Their full line of pies and meals are available at: Target, Walmart, Whole Foods Market, Sprouts, Meijer, Publix, The Fresh Market, Kroger, Natural Grocers, Earth Fare, Fresh Thyme, Raley’s, Winco, Ralph’s, Harris Teeter, Hyvee, HEB, Jewel, Hannaford, Shaw’s, Market Basket, along with many Natural Food Stores & Coops.

Learn more online Connect with Blake’s online to see their latest products and get exclusive access to discounts and special offers!

  • blakesallnatural.com
  • facebook.com/blakesallnaturalfoods
  • twitter.com/blakesnatural
  • pinterest.com/blakesnatural
  • instagram.com/blakesnatural

 

Disclaimer: Mom’s Meet provided samples of Blake’s products. As always the opinions are my own.

» Review: Dr. Mercola Probiotics

We have been aware of the benefits of probiotics for quite some time. However, our kids aren’t always eager to take them and they often have an interesting taste, and can be difficult to mix with foods or liquids. We have pressed on, knowing that 80% of our immune system lives in our gut. A healthy gut often equals greater health overall…. so we were quite excited to partner with Moms Meet to try out Dr. Mercola’s probiotics for kids and adults.

If you are curious what makes a good probiotic, here is a quick checklist to look for:

  • Contain effective bacterial strains – must be strain specific*
  • Are viable and dose specific
  • Remain stable and viable for a long time
  • Have the ability to survive the stomach and reach the intestine
  • Thrive in the intestine

You can be sure to avoid false claims by double checking the label for the following:

  1. Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS-1
  2. Lactobacillus casei
  3. Lactobacillus plantarum
  4. Lactobacillus salivarius
  5. Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  6. Lactobacillus brevis
  7. Bifidobacterium lactis
  8. Bifidobacterium longum
  9. Bifidobacterium bifidum
  10. Streptococcus thermophilus

Dr. Mercola does indeed include these ingredients in a conveniently packaged and truly good tasting powder. Dr. Mercola products are also subject to third party testing and the probiotic strains demonstrated gastrointestinal acid and bile tolerances over 90%. You can read the results here.

The kids actually enjoyed mixing this up and drinking it. I also packed the adult probiotic with me on my latest trip to Africa, it was so convenient to mix with bottled water.
Additionally, it mixes very smoothly. There were no complaints when it came to taking the daily probiotic!

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Disclaimer: Mom’s Meet provided samples of Dr. Mercola’s probiotic. As always the opinions are my own.

» Review: MegaFood Vitamins, Fresh from Farm to Powder

I have a vitamin hider in my house. Her name might be Charlotte. She takes her carefully selected whole-food vitamin and smiles at me… already scheming where she will dump it. I’ve found it in a plant, in the toilet (slowly dissolving), in a bathroom drawer, in the dog’s food or even on the trampoline. We had many talks and still the vitamins find new homes that aren’t in her tummy.

Enter MegaFood Vitamins. They are full of fresh fruits and vegetables and even have turmeric for good measure. (And no extras like sugar or food-coloring!) The powder is easily digestible and just a small scoop provides them with the support they need for the day. Because we all know how difficult it can be to get enough servings of veggies into these little mouths.

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In our experience MegaFood Vitamins worked best in strawberry yogurt smoothies. We simply blended frozen organic strawberries, apples, yogurt and ice with a scoop of the vitamin powder. The kids happily drank away not realizing all the additional benefits they were receiving. We also tried the immune-system support powder and will likely stick with this during cold and flu season. Tip: blend the powders with thick liquid. We did try it in orange juice but it wasn’t a success. Blending in a smoothie is really the best choice.

If you have a vitamin-hider in your house MegaFood is a great way to ensure your child gets what they need without the hassle.

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Disclaimer: I received MegaFood vitamin powders as a Moms Meet blogger. As always, these opinions are my own.

» Review: Santa Cruz Organic Agua Fresca

We recently had the opportunity to try out Santa Cruz Organic Agua Fresca drinks. The light and refreshing drinks are vegan, gluten-free and Non-GMO Project Certified. And the ingredients are super simple,  water, organic juice/fruit purée and a bit of organic sugar.  Aqua Fresca is currently available in three yummy flavors—Pomegranate, Mango Passionfruit, and Grapefruit.

I chilled the bottles and had them waiting for two of my kiddos to try out after a long day at school. They really enjoyed the light taste and just the right amount of sweetness. We also made popsicles, and they turned out great!

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At $3.40 a bottle, and sometimes on sale at Kroger, I have a feeling we will be turning to Agua Fresca many times as the long hot Summer continues!

Check out our instagram post to win 2 bottles of Agua Fresca to try yourself!

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I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet program (greenmomsmeet.com), May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agree to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily re ect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of this product.

» REVIEW: Hello Fresh and Blue Apron (Food Delivery Service)

I love to cook. And we have a family full of adventurous eaters. (minus Elliott) This gives me a lot of freedom as I strive to serve a diverse and healthy weekly rotation of meals. We rarely eat out and we really enjoy sitting down to a meal together in our home. However, I do all the cooking in our house and I definitely hit a wall from time to time as far as creativity in meal planning. I am also mostly vegetarian, with the exception of ethically sourced fish from time to time. Typically I serve vegetarian meals a few nights each week with no complaint and modify my own meal on the nights when I cook meat for my family. I always need more inspiration for Veggie meals.

Thus the interest in food delivery services such as Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. We ordered each service using a great coupon, which I’ll provide at the end of this post, and cooked through each box hoping to discern which service had the most to offer. They both have similar recipes and pricing structures so I knew it would be a challenge to pick one over the other.

Delivery: Both offer free delivery and arrived promptly on Saturday morning in similar boxes. Each company used plenty of ice packs and everything was fresh when I opened the boxes. However, I noticed one difference right away. The Hello Fresh meals were divided up into their own little boxes inside the big box. This made it easy to keep everything together. I simply picked up each meal box and put it in the fridge. The Blue Apron items were all mixed together in the big box. So it took a bit more effort to sort things out and put them in the fridge. Not a big deal but the convenience of having the meal items packed together made a good impression on me.

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Blue Apron

 

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Hello Fresh

Cooking: Each service includes meal cards with clear directions. I had no problem understanding or following the steps to achieve the delicious meal on the picture. My meals looked exactly like the picture every time and everything was very good. Additionally I picked up new cooking techniques and ideas for future meal planning. Blue Apron uses large individual cards, Hello Fresh gives one book that contains all the recipes. Once again I saw a small step that Hello Fresh had taken to make things a bit more organized.

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Quality: The quality and freshness of each box was great. Both companies used high quality meats that were antibiotic free, locally sourced, grass fed etc. The produce looked great and was super fresh. Hello Fresh does take it one step further. I noticed anything like beans or canned tomatoes in Hello Fresh boxes were organic or GMO-free with a BPA free liner. I did not see this in the Blue Apron box. Additionally Blue Apron packages all their own sauces and spices while Hello Fresh provides a miniature version of the sauce or spice instead of packaging those things at their facility.

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Customization Options: Each subscription is VERY flexible. We were able to pause, skip and opt out of certain weeks. From a Budget perspective the cost on each service is good for what you receive. It’s cheaper than eating a meal out and much healthier. However, it is a bit more than we would want to spend every single week. My solution was to look at the meals offered and choose two weeks out of the month to receive the service. It keeps things fresh and helps me on busy weeks. Both services make it really easy to hop on your account and pause the subscription for as long as you want. Here is one place where Blue Apron pulls ahead a little bit. They actually give you the option to choose NOT to receive meals that contain things your family doesn’t eat. For example, you can choose not to receive meals that contain fish or red meat. Hello Fresh does not give that option at this time. You are given a choice between vegetarian (which was helpful for me) and classic (meals with meat).

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Conclusion: I really enjoyed each service and feel that using it twice per month is a great way to fit it into our budget. This allows me some freedom in meal planning and some help during busy weeks. Hello Fresh is ultimately my pick. I loved the meals they sent, the organized packaging and the easy to follow recipe book. I also liked having the actual spices and sauces from the manufacturer and not receiving something that was put together at the packing facility. Hello Fresh also allows you to give $40 coupons to your friends, something that I could not find Blue Apron doing. I definitely think it’s worth a try, using the coupon. If it’s not something you enjoy it’s easy to cancel after you receive the first box with either company. They each showed great customer service and no pressure to keep the service. If you have questions about anything that I failed to mention in this recap please comment below and I’ll give my input.

If you want to try Hello Fresh yourself, check them out here and use the following coupon code to receive $40 off your first box:

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Blue Apron can be found here and I did find a retail me not coupon for $20 off your first box here.

(All opinions are from my first hand experience, I was NOT compensated in any way for this review)

 

 

» Fighting the Flu

Last year our whole family went down hard with the flu days before we were destined for Disney. Since it’s flu season, I thought I’d share some tips on how you might recover from Influenza A. For the record, we had a complete recovery in only 2 days.

1. At first sign of illness I started everyone on Boiron Oscillococcinum. This is a homeopathic treatment, but also prevention. I picked up a family pack (30 quantity) at Walgreens and we all downed a little vial every 6 hours. They are WAY cheaper on Amazon so I suggest keeping some on hand and not going broke at Walgreens or Target. I used to keep this in the medicine cabinet but it’s been almost 6 years since any of us have had the flu so I stopped stocking it. This actually makes you feel better, it’s amazing stuff.

2. We were already taking Elderberry syrup and Fermented Cod Liver oil daily so we continued to do this. I credit a large portion of our recovery to having these things in our system already. We weren’t able to prevent the flu completely but we definitely didn’t get a super bad case! I make my own elderberry but you can grab a bottle from my friend Lori’s site on Etsy, she’s a pro. Also, if you are wondering what the heck Fermented Cod Liver Oil is and why you should take it, check out the info here.

3. We continued to eat a balanced diet, lots of dark greens, oranges and broths. Lots of hot tea, lots of water.  And lots of rest. Well, rest for everyone but me. But you know how that goes.

4. At the recommendation of my friend Michelle, who is a certified health coach, we added 50,000 IUs of Vitamin D3 for adults and 25,000 IUs for the kids. This can be used as a preventative as well, but in a lower dose- 10,000 IUs/5,000 IUs. This is obviously a HIGH amount, you would need to discontinue once you are well.

5. I mentioned hot tea earlier. We specifically love the line of teas from NUMI Organic Tea. Green tea is loaded with antioxidants and they have such an extensive selection. From Jasmine Green, to Gunpowder Green, and my personal favorite Toasted Rice Green, there is so much to choose from. It’s always fun to grab a variety pack and try new teas to expand our palate.

Starting the morning with green. #numi #numiorganictea #antioxidants #greentea @numiorganictea

A photo posted by Erica Ho (@goodbye_normal) on

And that’s about it! To be real for a moment, it’s a LOT of work to keep up with all of this for 6 people. When you are using homeopathic meds and syrups you have to give them every 2, 4 or 6 hours depending on the dosage. You will constantly be rubbing something on someone or putting them in an Epsom salt bath. You’ll be boiling water for teas and heating soups. But you’ll also be taking charge of your health and caring for your family with your own two hands. Sickness can be a time to serve. We are evidence that supporting, rather than suppressing, the body’s function can many times lead to a much faster recovery.

Disclaimer: Thanks to Numi for providing us with tea to sample and review. As always, the opinions are my own.

How to Plan a Freezer Meal Swap

It’s slightly ironic that I’m sharing how to plan a freezer meal swap. I have turned down more than one offer to join. But my sweet, persistent friend Jennifer continued to throw out the idea and I finally, reluctantly agreed. After participating in my first swap I’m totally hooked and can’t wait for the next meet up.

Here are a few guidelines and tips that will help you start your very own freezer meal swap.

First off, gather some like-minded ladies. This is key to receiving and sharing meals that are healthy and nutritious. Talk about allergies or extreme, kids will gag and puke on the table dislikes. Perhaps the majority would prefer no mushroom dishes, cool, just include them separately or avoid mushroom dishes completely. Basically, discuss some ground rules, and check out Pinterest together for ideas.

Once you have established some guidelines pick a date to swap. Ask everyone to email the dish they will be making and the recipe one week before the swap. This ensures that no double recipes will be cooked and also provides room for changes if necessary.

During the week before the swap each participant will cook enough of the selected meal for each family in the group plus one to freeze for themselves. This is typically done in one afternoon. Example: This week I made Chicken Fried Rice, 8 meals total, kept one in my freezer (actually my kids ate it) and took 7 to the swap. I did this on a Saturday morning while Calvin kept the kids occupied.

Remember, freezer cooking has come a LONG way! You can make lasagna, burritos, chilli, sesame chicken, shepherds pie… the recipes are endless. There is much room for creativity and variety within the group.

On swap day plan to meet at one house. Swap day could happen once per month, or perhaps once every two months. Everyone brings their frozen dishes, socializes for a few minutes and then the fun begins. At our swap, each super-amazing mom described her dish and how to reheat it. The directions are also either printed out or written directly onto the dish. This is very important, make sure to label everything! You don’t want to end up with a freezer full of blank aluminum-wrapped mysteries.

Tips for swap day:

Bring your frozen creations in a tub or large tote. You don’t want to take a million trips to and from the car with heavy, frozen blocks of food. One tub, one trip, no problems. You will then have the empty tub or bag after unloading your meals. Load it back up with fabulous foods from your friends (I couldn’t resist the alliteration there) and you are set for another one trip return to your car.

Make sure to label everything ahead of time. Trying to label a cold frosty bag or container just won’t work. And you’ll have to write a little note with a heart on it so your friend will forgive you for giving her an unlabeled bag. (sorry Jenn!)

So. Why should you start a freezer swap? Well, why not! Spend a couple of hours cooking and walk away with many meals that you can pull out when a day is harder than expected or you just have a lot going on. In addition, you are gathering with friends for encouragement and nourishment. Lastly, consider how loving well can be added to the swap. Ask everyone to make an extra meal at times, then take the extra meals to a family who is discouraged, ill or experiencing a time of financial hardship. What an easy way to minister as a group.

Here are some pictures from our swap. I attended the swap in a weird, half pajama outfit and no make-up so I made my beautiful friends Jennifer and Jenny pose with the food and stayed far away from the camera.

Thanksgiving Recipe Round Up

With our beloved day of Thanks fast approaching many of us are diligently searching for healthier, whole food alternatives to the traditional fare. No cans of Campbells, no French’s crispy fries (I know, I’m ruining everything here), no jello salad. How many of you just stopped reading?

I realize we have our traditions. But here are some recipes, tried and true, that might help you start some new ones.

Green Bean Casserole from Eat the Love

Sweet Potato (Butternut Squash) Casserole from Our Nourishing Roots

Mashed Potato and Cauliflower Gratin from Epicurious

Broccoli Salad from California Country Gal

Pumpkin Pie from the Simple Moms

Notice there are not any bread recipes above. Because, well, bread is hard. And if you’re making Thanksgiving changes for the first time creating an amazing homemade bread might just do you in. Like really send you over the edge and then everyone will be hungry and cranky and spiteful instead of Thankful. So let’s skip the bread or go to a bakery this year. The Thanksgiving meal is NOT for the weak in spirit.

However, if you are really awesome and ambitious check out this recipe for maple sourdough rolls from the Nourished Kitchen.

Happy Thanks and Cooking Y’all.

 

Strawberry Jamming

I love local food. I really love local pesticide-free food. Especially strawberries. This year we took the whole crew, including my visiting parents, out for some good ol’ strawberry picking fun. With my parents in tow this meant we had a one child to one adult ratio. I’m thinking that must be what Heaven is like.

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We picked 18 pounds of strawberries. We definitely enjoyed a few pounds washed and eaten straight out of the bowl. But we had enough discipline to make jam and bags of frozen strawberries with the remainder. First off here’s the method we used for freezing whole strawberries to save for juicing and smoothies. And now for the ultra-relaxed jam method:

Strawberry Freezer Jam/Strawberry Mint Freezer Jam

(I did two batches for a total of 16 c. strawberries)

Ingredients:

8 cups washed and de-stemmed strawberries, 1 cup local raw honey -yes that’s it-

Six 10 ounce jelly jars with rings and tops (Freezer safe)

Method:

Wash and Remove stems from strawberries, I use a grapefruit spoon, so easy!

imagePut Strawberries into a pot or large bowl to mash. I just used the pan.

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Once strawberries are mashed, put heat on medium high and bring to a boil. Add Honey.

imageimageimageStir, Stir and Stir frequently. Once it hits a boil lower the temp and simmer. Continue to stir periodically and watch.

Begin watching for thickness. I read lots of tips for how to do this but none really worked super well for me. My best tip is to feel the thickness with your wooden spoon when you stir. Hopefully that makes sense! I know… all the recipe followers are like “feel it? really Erica?” I’m not a good recipe writer. But I promise, you will feel the thickness change as you stir. This isn’t totally science. Your strawberries might be in a different mood than mine and take longer to thicken.

Once you’ve “felt the change” move the mixture away from the heat and let it cool a bit. Just for reference, it took my strawberry/honey mix 40 minutes to thicken the way I wanted.

When you make freezer jam without add-ins the texture will NOT be like a jelly. It will be a thick jam with little pieces of Strawberries. And it will be perfectly amazing.

Let the jam cool until you can stick your finger in it comfortably. Yes, I know, there I go with the crappy instructions again. Warm your jelly jars a little by placing them in a pan or sink of warm water.

Ladle jelly into jar and seal with lids. Leave some space at the top of the jar to allow for any expansion that might happen in the freezer. Let the jars hang out for awhile and continue to cool down. Once they have cooled stick those delightful things into the freezer for a rainy day.

imageI added mint from my garden to the second batch. The exact variety I used was chocolate mint and it turned out so yummy. I finely chopped and added the mint about 10/15 minutes before the jam had thickened to my liking.

Oh… and this guy was my helper. He made the jam just a little sweeter.

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All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal