Thursday, June 22, 2017

Ratatouille (nutrient-dense : dairy-free : grain-free)

Ratatouille (pronounced rat-uh-too-ee) is a perfect summertime side dish. French in origin, ratatouille consists of seasonal vegetables including zucchini, bell peppers, and tomatoes, simmered with olive oil and herbs.  One of my favorite things about ratatouille is that it is just as delicious when served cold as when served warm. I make up a large pot of ratatouille and then eat it as an easy, cool side dish throughout the rest of the week.

Traditionally, ratatouille contains eggplant, but since no one in my family likes eggplant, I make my ratatouille without it.

Ratatouille
Serves 4-6
  • 6 Tb extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium white onions, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped (red, orange, and/or yellow peppers work well in this dish)
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped 
  • 2 yellow summer squash, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp celtic sea salt (or less if your tomatoes are salted)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • one 18-ounce jar of Jovial diced tomatoes (or substitute fresh tomatoes)
  • 1 Tb fresh oregano, minced (or substitute 1 tsp dried oregano)
  • 2 Tb red wine vinegar (or substitute 1 Tb balsamic vinegar and 1 Tb apple cider vinegar)
  1. Put the olive oil in a 4-quart, heavy bottomed pot. Add the onions, 1 tsp salt, and bay leaf. Cook over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the bell peppers, zucchini, and squash. Keep the peppers separated from the squash since they will be added to the pot at different times.
  3. Stir the bell peppers into the pot and cook another 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, mince the garlic.
  5. Add the zucchini and summer squash to the pot, and sprinkle with the other 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Stir it all together and cook about 3 more minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, mince the oregano.
  7. Stir the garlic into the pot and cook about 2 minutes, just until the garlic is nicely fragrant.
  8. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, and oregano to the pot. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low, to maintain a simmer. 
  9. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 15-20 minutes. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if necessary.
  10. Turn off heat and serve! Fried potatoes make a nice pairing with ratatouille. Leftover ratatouille is fantastic when served cold.





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Friday, June 16, 2017

Hawaiian Chicken Long Rice (grain-free : dairy-free : gluten-free)

Chicken Long Rice is a simple, delicious Hawaiian dish. Chicken thighs are simmered in ginger-and-garlic infused chicken broth, with green onions and bean thread (cellophane) noodles added at the end. My 7-year-old son declared this to be the "best soup he's ever had," and the rest of us really enjoyed it too.

Chicken Long Rice
Recipe adapted from Foodland.com
Serves 5-7
  1. Combine the broth, water, garlic, ginger, salt, and chicken thighs in a heavy-bottomed 4-quart pot.
  2. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam.
  3. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cover the pot. Allow the chicken to cook for 35-40 minutes, until fully cooked.
  4. Meanwhile, slice the green onions, separating the green parts from the white parts. Slice the white parts about 1/4-inch wide, and the green parts about 1/2-inch wide.
  5. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside to cool.
  6. Stir the soy sauce, cayenne, and rice vinegar into the broth in the pot. Taste the broth and add more salt as needed.
  7. Add the white parts of the green onions and the noodles to the pot. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.
  8. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the bones and chewy bits. Discard most of the skin (or set it aside for the dog!). Chop the meat into bite-sized pieces.
  9. Add the chicken and onion greens to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook just long enough to re-warm the chicken. 
  10. Ladle into bowls and enjoy!

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Desk Cycle - Easy Physical Activity Booster For Desk Workers

The Desk Cycle is a small stationary bike that fits under most desks. It allows a person to easily incorporate physical activity into times that would normally be sedentary, such as reading a book, watching TV, or while working on the computer.  I received a complimentary Desk Cycle and my family has been testing it out for the last few weeks.

The Desk Cycle has turned out to be useful to all four members of our family, so I'm excited to share our experiences with it. In this post I will focus specifically on the use of the Desk Cycle by my husband and myself while working on a computer. In a separate post, I will share our experiences using the Desk Cycle while homeschooling.

Our Immediate Impressions

The Desk Cycle was well-packed and easy to assemble with the supplied tools. Given that there are so many poorly made products on the market these days, we were surprised by how well-built the desk cycle is. It is sturdy and has rubberized feet that keep it from slipping away while being used, though at higher resistance levels the bike can slide away if it's on a smooth surface. There is a simple solution included with the Desk Cycle, a Velcro strap used to secure the bike to your chair.

The Desk Cycle is amazingly quiet while in-use; we were able to use it unobtrusively while doing a variety of tasks. The Desk Cycle has an attached display unit that shows the speed and distance, along with other information. We have found the display unit to be easily read while the bike is under a desk, however, the display unit can be moved to the desktop using the supplied stand and extension cable.


Fitting the Desk Cycle Under Desks

For reference, we thought it would be useful if we included some measurements of our desks and legs. I am fairly short at 5 feet 1 inch, but my legs are a little long for my height such that petite pants are always too short for me. My inseam (from crotch to floor) is just short of 30 inches. My husband is 5 feet 10.5 inches, and his inseam is 32.5 inches.

At-Home Desk Measurements

  • Height to bottom of keyboard tray - 23.75 inches 
  • Desk height - 28.75 inches 
  • Depth of desk - 23.75 inches without keyboard tray extended; 32 inches with keyboard tray fully extended 
  • Seat height - 20 inches 
Husband's Work Desk Measurements
  • Height to bottom of keyboard tray - 26 inches (it has a support arm in the middle of the tray that extends downward, but doesn't seem to have any effect on using the Desk Cycle since it is in the middle of the tray) 
  • Desk height - 30 inches 
  • Depth of desk - > 5 feet since it is a corner desk Seat ht: 18 inches

How Does the Desk Cycle Work?

The Desk Cycle is quite simple to use. It has a knob that allows the user to easily choose among eight resistance levels. The resistance levels are actually achieved through the use of magnets, with Level 1 being fairly easy and Level 8 requiring quite a bit of effort.  The Desk Cycle fits well under most desks but can also be used while sitting on a couch or chair away from a desk.


My Husband's Experience Using the Desk Cycle at Home and Work

My husband has to be a little careful when using the Desk Cycle at our home desk, as he can bump his knees on the keyboard tray while cycling if he's not paying attention. For him, the Desk Cycle actually fits better under his desk at work than under our desk at home. At work, he is able to easily cycle without hitting his knees on his desk due to a combination of a higher keyboard tray and lower seating position.

The desk cycle is so easy to use while working that my husband has had to be careful to not use it too much, at least until his muscles become accustomed to it. He has been easily cycling about 5-8 miles per day at resistance level 2 on the Desk Cycle and is looking forward to going further once he is ready. His knees, which have always been problematic, were initially a bit sore from using the Desk Cycle, but they are getting into the groove of being able to use the Desk Cycle.

We wondered if the Desk Cycle would be a useful tool to help my husband overcome the disadvantages of his desk job. 40+ hours per week of sitting at his desk for over 11 years have given my husband chronically tight, weak lower back and hip muscles. After just a few weeks of using the Desk Cycle, my husband is able to tell that it is having a positive impact; his lower back and hips are more flexible and feel stronger. Though he has a long way to go, the short-term improvement has been surprising. Combining the Desk Cycle with some yoga stretching has even allowed him to begin doing some light strength training, which was previously hindered by his back and hips.

My Experience Using the Desk Cycle at the Computer Desk

I typically exercise 6-7 days per week with yoga, walking, hiking, gardening, and/or strength training. Nonetheless, I do sit at a desk ~15-20 hours per week. Our at-home desk, where I do most of my blogging and homeopathic consulting, works well for me with the Desk Cycle. I can easily cycle without having to rearrange anything.  

Resistance level 2 or 3 works well for me without breaking much of a sweat or messing up my typing abilities. My posture is actually much better while using the Desk Cycle, as I tend to sit up much straighter while cycling instead of slouching on my chair. Typically, if I am sitting for an extended period of time I will have some stiffness when I stand up, but I've noticed that if I cycle while I'm sitting I feel much less stiff when I stand up. 

Overall Impressions

Overall, my husband and I are very pleased with the Desk Cycle. It is a fabulous tool for helping us increase our physical activity levels and improve our physical health while at a desk. Although my husband and I have substantially different levels of physical health, the Desk Cycle has proven to be effective and enjoyable for both of us. In fact, the only real disadvantage is that testing out the Desk Cycle has made me want to have another one, so that one can remain at my husband's workplace and one can be used at home.


Affiliate Disclosure - Links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you use these links, your price remains the same, but I earn a small commission. Thanks for supporting this site!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Hawaiian BBQ Huli Huli Chicken (gluten-free : dairy-free : nutrient-dense)

The last stop on our homeschool "trip" around the USA is Hawaii. In searching around for Hawaiian recipes, I found Huli Huli chicken, which is the Hawaiian version of BBQ chicken. The BBQ sauce is actually quite similar to teriyaki sauce, but with the unlikely addition of ketchup.  I developed this Hawaiian-inspired recipe for Huli Huli Chicken last week, and my family absolutely devoured it. This is a recipe we'll definitely be coming back to again and again.

Huli Huli Chicken

Serves 4-6
  1. At least 8 hours before dinner, prepare the marinade. Combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl, stir well, and give a few minutes for all of the dry ingredients to dissolve and become incorporated. 
  2. Stir up the marinade and reserve 1 cup which will be used to make the basting sauce. 
  3. De-bone the chicken thighs. There is a simple tutorial here that shows how to remove the bones. (I save and freeze the chicken thigh bones until I have accumulated enough of them to make a pot of homemade chicken bone broth.)
  4. Cut the de-boned chicken thighs in half. This allows the chicken to have more contact with the marinade and also allows it to cook faster.
  5. Nestle the chicken into the remaining marinade, making sure the chicken is fully submerged. Cover and refrigerate for ~8 hours (and refrigerate the reserved marinade as well).
  6. About 35 minutes before dinnertime, remove the marinating chicken from the refrigerator. 
  7. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Make sure the oven rack is around the second rack of the oven from the top, not too close to the broiler but also not down in the lower half of the oven.
  8. Put the reserved cup of marinade in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer ~15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick enough to easily coat the back of a spoon.
  9. Generously grease a baker's half sheet pan with sunflower oil.
  10. Remove the chicken from the marinade and arrange it on the sheet pan, skin side down. 
  11. Once the oven is preheated, place the chicken pan in the oven and cook for 8-10 minutes.
  12. Remove the sheet pan from the oven, baste the chicken with the thickened sauce, and flip the chicken over. Baste the chicken again and place back in the oven.
  13. Set the oven on broil and allow the chicken to cook for 6-8 minutes. The broiler will nicely crisp up the chicken skin, but be sure to watch the chicken CLOSELY to make sure it does not get burned. 
  14. Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to cool a few minutes before serving. If desired, the remaining thickened sauce can be served alongside the chicken.
  15. Serve and enjoy! Nutrient-dense white rice or pineapple coconut rice (recipe coming soon!) would make a great side dish for this meal.

Do you have a favorite Hawaiian-inspired recipe?



Affiliate Disclosure - Links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you use these links, your price remains the same, but I earn a small commission. Thanks for supporting this site!

Friday, June 2, 2017