Great Grains!

 Bular and Farro and Barley, oh my!
Bulgur and Farro and Barley, oh my!

There are so many wonderfully different types of grains out there to try.  Each having their own unique properties and all whole grains are an excellent choice of complex carbohydrates.  Some are excellent sources of protein as well.  Trying a new grain can sometimes be intimidating.  For me, when I walk into Whole Foods and see all of the grains in the bulk food section, I want to buy them all.  I feel healthier just looking at the endless rows of clear plastic cylinders full of grainy goodness.  But, I have been known to go crazy with those plastic bags and tiny twist ties, only to bring bags of grains home to sit in my pantry for a year, because I didn’t know what to do with them.

I was so excited to see these small, give it a try, three serving packages of grains at Trader Joe’s.  They are pre-cooked (nothing added, just the grain), they only take 10 minutes to prepare and they have the quick cooking instructions and an easy to follow recipe on the side of the package.  I think this is a great way to introduce yourself to a new grain.

Think of grains not only as a side dish, but an ingredient in a salad, soup, breakfast and even desert.  Be creative!  Think of your whole grains as a blank canvas, now create your masterpiece!

Challenge:  Try a new grain this weekend OR give an already familiar grain a new life.

Keep it Real. Keep it Simple. Make it Matter. – Andrea


Instant Cough Relief

organic throat coat
instant cough relief

There has been a cough lingering in my house for about 4 weeks now.  My daughter has managed to keep it to herself until about 3 days ago and now has shared it with my son.  Yay, sharing!

To me, night-time coughing is the worst.  It is either to early to give them another dose of cough medicine or they are sound asleep and don’t even realize they are coughing and I don’t want to be the one to wake them up to tell them they are coughing and try to get them to swallow cough syrup.  AND, if I do have to give them cough syrup, there is a waiting period for it to start working.

Well, last night at 1:20 a.m. coughing! First, not enough time had passed for a second dose, then he was sound asleep and didn’t know he was coughing.  Of course I couldn’t sleep and when I had an indication that he was awake too, I went in for the kill.  Poor kid could not stop coughing to save his life.  I remembered an article I had read a while back about hot tea relaxing the muscles in your throat to help sooth a cough so I went down to the kitchen and made him a cup.

Organic Throat Coat by Traditional Medicinals is one of my favorites for a sore throat or cough.  I put in a full teaspoon of raw organic honey and had him drink it.  I didn’t hear another peep for the rest of the night. It is a remedy that works for instant cough relief. You have the warm tea working to relax their throat and body and honey to coat their throat.  It may also buy you some time while their cough syrup kicks in.  Of course this isn’t just a night-time remedy.  I try to have my kids sip tea or warm water with honey a few times a day when they have a cough or sore throat and I have found that it works just as well or sometimes better than OTC cold medicines and I feel better about giving them natural remedies when possible.

The next time you are looking for instant cough relief try a warm cup of tea, warm water with lemon and/or honey or any warm beverage to help sooth and relax the throat muscles.  Plus, it just feels good  to hold a warm mug:)

Keep Calm and Carry On! – Andrea

Challenge #9

Wow, July flew by!  I think having the 80/20 challenge tucked away in my head may have helped me find balance some of the time.  I will admit to too many fries, slices of pizza, and ice cream cones while at the beach for a week, but I think that just having the idea of striving for balance in the forefront of my mind went a long way.  (And what’s a beach vacation without a few ice cream treats?)  A few healthy salads topped with salmon, a wonderful grilled tuna wrap for lunch (twice!), fruit for snacking at the beach, made for a very enjoyable but not too destructive vacation.

So, for our last challenge of the month I thought we would focus on veggies.  We’ve been talking fruit a lot around here lately but veggies really pack the biggest nutritional punch there is.  The farmer’s markets, roadside stands, and grocery stores are abundant with local vegetables right now.  Instead of grabbing your usual, take a moment to really look around.  What looks a little intimidating?   Is there anything you have never prepared at home before?  Well, now is the time!   Grab that baby and throw it (gently) in the shopping bag!   If you have no idea what to do with it, take it home and google away.  You will be amazed at the ideas right at your fingertips.   There will be super simple recipes and ones that require oodles of ingredients.  Pick one that sounds good and give it a try.  You may find that you have a new favorite, you may find that you have a new least favorite, the point is to try something NEW, get out of your comfort zone!  For some extra fun, involve your kids.   Let them pick out something they’d like to try, then have them help in the research and preparing.  It’s mind-boggling what your kids will eat if they have had something to do with the creating!

We hope you have enjoyed this month of challenges.   If we could all make little changes (like drinking more water), big changes (like giving up soda), and fun changes (like kissing our partners more often!), we’d all be better for it.  Hopefully, you have seen for yourself what a difference a few good choices can make.  After all, healthier and happier is what it’s all about!

Challenge #8

TGIF!  Looking forward to our last weekend before school starts for my kids on a year-round schedule.  We’ve had 4 weeks of fun and I know they will want to blow it out this weekend with lots of pool time, ice cream, and probably a trip to a favorite pizza or Mexican restaurant.  When I know “crazy” is coming, it helps to stock my fridge with quick, healthy options to grab on the way to the pool or for a fast lunch.  I like to make a salad that will last all weekend and be sure to have plenty of fruit on hand.

The challenge for the weekend is two-fold.  First, take a few minutes to prepare or shop for some easy, healthy options.  I love this cold chickpea salad recipe.  I have to run out this morning for more tomatoes but I promise to make it today and post a picture.  It is super easy and you can be creative and add whatever other chopped veggie you’d like.  The second part of the challenge is to look ahead to your weekend and see where you can carve out at least 30 minutes of time for yourself.  If you can find an hour, even better.  Sneak off to the hammock, coffee shop, closest park. Take a book or take nothing at all.  Just be. Breathe. Observe. Enjoy!

Cold Chickpea Cucumber Salad


2 pints grape tomatoes, sliced in half (of course, any variety will work!)

2  15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1  large cucumber, peeled, quartered and sliced

1 cup snipped fresh cilantro (or 3 cubes frozen Trader Joes cilantro, microwave for a few seconds, mix with a drizzle of olive oil and add to bowl)

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

juice of 1/2 lemon

6 T olive oil 

4 T red wine vinegar

 2 tsp coarse kosher salt

1 clove garlic, minced

Toss everything together and chill for at least an hour.  I like this salad even better the second day when all the flavors have really mingled.

Be back later with a photo!



Challenge #7

Hope you had a happy and healthy weekend!  Slow going around here this morning after a week at the beach and all of the unpacking and decompressing that entails.

For all of you soda drinkers out there, the challenge this week may feel like, well, a challenge!  Try to replace every soda with a seltzer water.  There are so many varieties out there to choose from these days.  You can also try adding a few tablespoons of your favorite juice to a plain or flavored seltzer to give it some extra zing.  My favorite combo is a glass of Trader Joe’s lime seltzer with a splash of Pom juice.  The new Hint seltzer waters are also good.  Be sure to read the labels; some of the seltzers can have added sugar!


Challenge #6

Happy Friday!  Let’s all make an effort to be extra active this weekend. Let’s play outside for at least an hour with the kids, take a hike, show off your kick ball skills!   Sometimes the heat of the summer finds us dragging through the day and escaping to the air conditioning; totally understandable when the thermometer is creeping past 100 degrees!  But getting outside, even if only for an hour, and doing something to make you sweat it out a bit is a good thing!  Drink extra water during and after your activity, and then post-shower you can go back to your chilly A/C:)

Don’t forget to keep trying to add fruit to your day.  Grab a piece of fruit on your way out the door to run errands and you’ll have something to snack on when the Target salted pretzels and Starbucks Frappuccinos are shouting out to you.  Force yourself to have that first bite before making a decision on the junky stuff and chances are good that you will decide you don’t need it.  If it sounds like I know what I am talking about, well, you are darn right I do.  This is a tried-and-true method used by yours truly:)

Enjoy your weekend!