2016 CSA Series!

2016 CSA Series

CSA SERIESI’m so excited to kick off another season of participating in a CSA! This year we purchased a share from Small Family Farm out of La Farge, Wisconsin which is very close to my home town. I love being able to support local farmers, especially ones that are virtually in my back yard! And if I’m being 100% honest, their adorable and fun website won me over. Seriously how cute are those illustrated veggies on their site?!?

Now if you’re a little confused about what a CSA is, let’s start with the basics.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and is basically a partnership between you, the CSA member, and the farmer(s). CSA members pay the farmers at the beginning of a growing season for a share in that season’s harvest on the farm.  In return you receive a box of weekly (or other pre determined frequency) produce directly from the the farm that is delivered to several designated “dropsites” or sometimes you can choose to pick up at the actual farm too. It’s a great way to support local farms, eat local food, and eat healthier too!

One of my favorite things about CSA’s is the diversity of products. Sure you could have your own garden (I  totally support and encourage this and want my own next year!) but CSA’s are fun because you can get stuff that you’ve never tried before or things that you don’t grow yourself! Last time we did a CSA (see more about the 2014 season here) we got a lot of things we hadn’t tried and I’m excited for what this season will bring!

Because it’s just me and my husband, and summers are so busy with us rarely home on a weekend, we opted to purchase a Every Other Week (EOW) share from our farm. It’s the same big box of delicious goodies but instead of weekly we pick up every other week. This year in addition to a produce box, we will also be receiving a dozen organic free range eggs!

I am lucky enough to have grown up in and live in an area with a huge focus on local organic farms. I have a lot of options to choose from but there are CSA programs all over the country! There are also some great resources to help you find one near you, if you have no clue where to start. fairshare-logo

  • Fair Share CSA Coalition is a great option for my fellow Wisconsinites! They also have a ton of other great information on their site including local events, volunteer opportunities, recipes, and much more!

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  • Local Harvest has information on farms all over the country! They also include some events and farmers market info too.

I love that our farm sends out a newsletter each week to keep members up to date on the growing season, farm life, even farm events sometimes, and of course what’s in our box that week.

My goal for this series to to share what a real CSA experience is like, share new recipes and new ways to use some fun veggies and produce, and hopefully inspire you to either try a CSA or to feel more comfortable with a veggie-centric diet 🙂

Stay tuned for more delicious posts and even a hands on *get your hands dirty* visit to “our” CSA farm later this summer!

Thanks for tagging along and if you have any questions along the way, let me know!!

I’ll be picking up our first box tonight but my farm is awesome and posted a preview of what’s going to be in it this week! unnamed

Can you identify what each item is? Make sure to come back when we share what exactly was in the box and what we did with it all! 🙂

xoxo

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10 Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep

10 Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep

Tips for better sleepSleep is my favorite thing in the world. Not exaggerating.

When I was younger I “slept like the dead”. I could sleep through any noise at any time of day. When my mom would try to wake me up for school I remember trying with all my might to make her think I was still asleep. She’d tickle my feet, tried to flip me over…nothing worked; I wanted more sleep!

In high school and my first few years of college sleeping until noon was totally the norm for me on a very frequent basis. Yes I was staying up later too but I was consistently trying to get 10+ hours of sleep.

Now I steadily get 7-8 hours a night of sleep and honestly don’t really have too much trouble falling asleep and sleeping throughout the night but last year I was experiencing more trouble than normal falling to sleep and remaining asleep. It was causing me to feel exhausted and worn out all the time.  I did have a lot of stress (wedding plans, honeymoon plans, stressful work, basically life in general) so I began researching ways to get better sleep to help myself.

Sleep is so important to our human functions. I could probably write another blog post just about the benefits and importance of good sleep but you probably already know. Sleep literally affects every aspect of our lives so it’s pretty critical we get enough of it and that it’s good sleep. If you’re not getting enough or it’s not quality sleep, it could be effecting you in ways you don’t even realize.

Here are some of my top tips for better sleep.

1 & 2. Be mindful of your light(s) consumption

This is a big one which is why it takes up both 1 & 2. Before any of us had any technology, our bodies knew when it was time to wake up and when it was time to go to bed from the sun (or lack thereof). This function of our body is called the circadian rhythm. This physiological process is present in all living things; Plants, animals, even bacteria! As a very basic overview light tells the body to create cortisol which helps us wake up and darkness tells us to release melatonin which helps us fall asleep. It’s fail proof and a system that has been working since the beginning of time but the problem is technology is getting us all messed up!

In a perfect world we should be getting sunlight first thing in the morning to wake us up. Who has ever had difficulty waking up on a cold and dark winter morning? Well there’s science behind it! Ideally you would be able to get 10-15 minutes of sunlight first thing in the am. Now I totally know that’s not do-able for everyone whether it is time commitment or the fact that ummm the sun doesn’t shine sometimes until you’re already at work ( 😦 ) but the good news is that you can trick your body into thinking you’re basking in the sunlight! The Wake Up Light can simulate a sunrise in your bedroom. Waking up to gradual light, like a sunrise, is hard-wired into the human brain. As light falls on a person’s eyes, a message is sent to their brain that stimulates production of cortisol, known as the energy hormone. Waking up to dawn simulation has also been proven to help keep a person’s internal body clock in sync. It helps to regulate our circadian rhythm, promoting better sleep and reducing stress levels – unlike waking up in the dark to a sudden noise like a traditional alarm clock. (source)Wake up lightSo sunlight during the day = good and happy! But sunlight during the evening and night = bad and sad!

You’re probably thinking “I’m not in the sunlight at night”…. But blue light, which is emitted from computer screens, t.v.’s, phones and even some regular light bulbs is perceived by the body as sunlight. We’ve all been there, and I admit I’m a huge culprit of this as well, but when you can’t sleep or you’re getting ready for bed, what do you do? Grab your phone for one final glance through Instagram or read a chapter off your e-reader, right? Well this is wreaking havoc on your internal functions.

Again I understand that for some people it’s not fathomable to not watch tv, look at your phone, or stay in a dark closet until bed time. There’s another hack to trick your body, enter these dead sexy blue light blocking orange hued glasses.snapchat-4044737589180572841.jpgThe second you put them on you can almost feel your eyes and brain relax. But if you have a hard time picturing wearing these bad boys all the time you can try diming your lights after sunset, diming your computer screen or even purchasing a blue light blocking screen protector.

Another note on this is that I’m a big believer of no TV’s in the bedroom. Your bed should be a place for sleep and sex, nothing else! It goes without saying that watching TV before you go to bed and or having it on “in the background” while you are trying to go to bed is really messing up your brain and your bodies sleep signals.

  1. Limit Caffeine & Alcohol consumption

Probably pretty obvious but caffeine makes you feel awake (even if you don’t think it “perks you up” it keeps your body from properly recognizing adenosine which is what makes your body determine sleepiness. Every one metabolizes caffeine at different rates but it’s important to realize your unique caffeine cut off time during the day (and stick to it!!!). Similarly, alcohol might make you feel sleepy but it actually provides a pretty crappy night of sleep, reducing your rapid eye movement (REM) sleep which never really allows your body to get into the deep sleep rhythm and leads to you being woken up more easily throughout the night.

Here you can see how long caffeine truly can stay active in your system:Caffeine Half Life

  1. Sleepy Time Tea Drink

Warm drinks can help us relax especially when it’s packed with herbs and ingredients proven to help us sleep. My go to is a chamomile tea but there are lots of un-caffeinated blends on the market. I typically add at least one add in or sometimes all of the following:

  • Gelatin and collagen peptides are not only shown to help relax you because of the high levels of glycine but also improve your quality of sleep because of the amino acids. And extra bonus they help sooth your digestive tract, and nourish your hair, skin, and nails! This is the product I use; it dissolves in both hot and cold liquids which I love.
  • Turmeric contains curcumin which has been proven to help with a whole host of health benefiting things but namely here, sleep!
  • Honey because it’s delicious but also because of the immune system support but most importantly here because it’s been shown to help improve sleep. (source) I always use local raw honey.
  1. Pink Noise

We’ve all probably heard of white noise but what the **** is pink noise? Basically pink noise is white noise that has been filtered to be less harsh and easier on the ears. LOTS of studies have shown that exposure to pink noise helps regulate your brain waves which allows for a super restful night of sleep. HERE is a YouTube clip of pink noise, take a listen, close your eyes for a minute and tell me you don’t feel more relaxed! They even have apps that you can download that can play for a set amount of time to help you drift off to sleep. (Android, iPhone)

  1. Boost your magnesium levels

Magnesium is the 3rd most prevalent mineral in the human body (after calcium and phosphorus) and helps fuel >300 biochemical reactions in our day to day life. You may be deficient in magnesium if you experience the following: irritability/anxiety, loss of appetite, nausea, general weakness, muscle cramps, problems falling and staying asleep, to name a few (source). If you are particularly stressed or dealing with a stressful life event your body actually needs more Magnesium!

My recommended way to get more Magnesium is through your diet.  Foods rich in Magnesium include dark leafy greens such as Chard, Kale, and Spinach; Nuts & Seeds such as Pumpkin/Pepitas, Almonds, Sesame Seeds, and Cashews; Fish such as Mackerel, Tuna or Pollock; Beans & Lentils namely Kidney, Pinto, Garbanzo; Whole Grains including brown rice, Quinoa, Bulgar, and Wild Rice and some other random favorites are Avocados, Bananas, Figs, and Dark Chocolate.

You can also absorb Magnesium through your skin by rubbing magnesium oil onto your skin before bed here’s my recommended brand.Foods-High-in-Magnesium

  1. Aromatherapy

No I’m not about to send you to a link to purchase essential oils from me because you have no idea how much better your life can be with them…….. BUT I do think that essential oils can play an important role in your life and the quality of the oils does matter. It’s been proven that certain scents can have an effect on your mood and mental state. In the very least they smell good and help create a cozy atmosphere that will help calm and relax you. I have this small diffuser that I have on my bedside table. You can find more info here but some of my favorite relaxing and sleep improving oil blends for diffusing are:Essential Oils for Better Sleep

  1. Grounding

Now this one might be the “weirdest” one on the list but grounding, or earthing, is a very basic principal. Essentially the theory or idea is that our bodies are meant to touch the earth on a regular basis. Think of it as skin to skin contact with mother earth. Positive electrons in the form of free radicals build up within our bodies and when we come into contact with and touch the actual earth, it balances us out because the earth holds a negative grounding charge. Each of the cells in our bodies have electrical energy (more than ever before with wifi and mobile phones all around us!) and we basically just store high amounts of positive electrons until we can release them onto a negatively charged material or more like exchange them for negatively charged electrons..

We come into contact with the earth less than you may think. We walk around in rubber shoes on cement all day long! It’s important to take your shoes and socks off, sit in the grass, swim in the ocean, climb that tree, and touch the earth! Numerous studies prove its overall health benefits, and one of which includes better sleep.

  1. Chill out!

Chill out has two meaning here. First let go of your “to do” lists and second, lower the temperature of your sleeping environment.

If you feel overwhelmed by your day to day stressors and all the things you need to be doing, it’s common sense you won’t feel relaxed and you’re mind will be racing thinking of all your life’s “problems”. A number of studies show a positive correlation between meditation or relaxation practices and better sleep. I love listening to calming meditative music or the pink noise listed above to unwind and clear my mind.

For the temperature aspect, I don’t know about you but I love to sleep when it’s slightly cold in my room and even find that I sleep better. When I was a kid and had a bed next to a window I’d open it even in the winter to feel the cool air while I slept. Something about it is refreshing and relaxing at the same time. Now that I’m older I realize there’s science behind it!

When we go to sleep our bodies core temperature goes down (only a small amount). Our bodies have a “set point” which is the temperature our body tries to maintain, basically our internal thermostat. If we make it harder for our body to achieve the set point, such being too hot or too cold, then our body struggles to get to the sleeping “set point” (I’m totally generalizing but you can read specifics here). The ideal sleep environment temperature is between 62-72 degrees Fahrenheit, and can vary from person to person. I think my ideal is  62.

However take caution and make sure that you aren’t experiencing cold extremities (hands and feet) as it requires your body to work harder to regulate and redistribute heat throughout your body and can interrupt the release of melatonin which plays a big part in your sleep cycle.Ideal Sleep Temperature

  1. Stretch & Yoga

This is good for your health on many levels. It’s physical activity, it helps you relax, and it can lead to a more comfortable night’s sleep. If you happen to have a job where you sit all day (join the club, it sucks) then this can be particularly useful. Now you don’t really want to work up a sweat, you’re trying to relax and wind down after all, but move through the poses slowly and methodically, and try not to zonk out in childs pose 🙂

Nicole at Pumps&Iron.com has some really great stuff on her site and I highly encourage you to check it out but in particular she has a great before bed stretching routine that I use frequently.

before-bed-stretching-routineSo there you have it! My favorite tips for a more restful and better night’s sleep. You do NOT have to do all of these but even just trying one or two and seeing if they can help you could mean a world of difference.

Are there some I missed? What are your favorite tips for better sleep? Let me know in the comments below!

xoxo

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Fermented Food Basics

Fermented Food Basics

Fermented Food Basics Blog HeaderI’m a nerd;  a self-proclaimed nerd. Anything space and the cosmos blows my mind. World history is my favorite topic and historical fiction books are my weakness.  I read science and educational articles daily. I’m constantly thinking about how the world around me works.

Over the past two years or so I have become extremely interested in a more holistic lifestyle, putting more thought and emphasis on what I’m eating and putting in my body, what I’m putting ON my body, as well as being selective and critical of ingredients in day to day household and lifestyle products.

One of the things that I’ve come to know more about and  love that plays a really important role in my overall heath (and happiness!) is fermented foods. Fermentation and fermented foods is not a difficult concept but it tends to freak people out a bit and confuse them. So fasten your seat belts because I’m about to nerd out on you and give you the 411 on just what the heck fermented foods really are.

fermentation food jars

Fermenting jars have a way for built up gases to release so the pressure doesn’t become too high within the jar.

Keep in mind, I am not an expert, some of this stuff I didn’t know until I put this post together. My intention is to simply share more about the topic, make you more comfortable with the concept and maybe have you learn a thing or two!

What Is Fermentation?

On a very basic level, fermentation is the process of the chemical breakdown of food that inhibits bad bacteria growth and supports and promotes good bacteria growth!

Bacteria?!? ewww gross.

Nope. Actually bacteria is amazing and without it, none of us would be alive!

Fermenting food introduces healthy microbes (a bunch of bacteria & yeast) into food. Without making you all run for the hills ->come back I promise this will be fun!<- Fermentation creates an anaerobic environment (no oxygen) in which bad bacteria cannot survive and good bacteria can. The good microbes feed on sugars and starches in the foods which essentially remove them from said foods, leaving you with a more nutritious version of the food with a longer shelf life! This is why before people had refrigeration, fermentation was the method everyone used to keep and store food all year round.

Some other terms commonly used for fermented foods include:

  • Cultured
  • Cured
  • Brined
water kefir fermentation

Water kefir grains aren’t really “grains” but sort of look like it!

People usually think of sauerkraut when they hear “fermented foods”, but virtually every single food group can be fermented. If you love beer and sourdough bread, that’s fermented grains. If you love cheese and yogurt, that’s fermented dairy. Love pickles? Fermented veggies. And can’t live with out jam on your toast? That would be fermented fruit 🙂 You get the idea.

Types of Fermentation

Here is something I didn’t realize until I began researching this topic, there are actually three different types of fermentation!

  1. Lactic acid fermentation also known as lacto-fermentation, happens when the natural starches and sugars in foods are converted to lactic acid by good bacteria.  The term “lacto” in lacto-fermentation, refers to the production of lactic acid, lactase and not lactose which causes problems for many peoples digestive tracts (um HI, hello, me). The acid acts as a natural preservative, inhibiting the growth of bad bacteria. Lacto-fermentation products have been proven to helps with blood circulation, prevent and ease constipation, balances digestive acids and aids in pre-digestion.
  2. Ethyl alcohol fermentation occurs when the good microorganisms convert the carbohydrates in foods into alcohol. They say (idk who they is) that alcohol used to be more nutritious and contained lots of beneficial organisms. Today I’m not so sure. They speed the process up, use high heat which destroys all microorganisms, and usually add a lot of sugar. 😦
  3. Acetic fermentation takes place when alcohol is oxidized (exposed to air) and is magically converted to acetic acid which is commonly known as vinegar.  Yep, your vinegar was likely once a cider or wine 🙂

All of that is interesting right?! But why do you/should you care? Well because it’s AWESOME for your body!
Healthy-Gut-body

The Health Benefits of Fermented Food

The health benefits of fermented foods are almost too many to name. But I’ll name some of the coolest.

  1. Fermentation increases vitamins and minerals in food. Fermentation increases B and C vitamins as well as folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, and biotin. The best part is the probiotics, enzymes and lactic acid in fermented foods allow these abundant vitamins and minerals to be more easily absorbed into the body.
  2. Fermented foods provide digestive enzymes. Fermented foods contain the enzymes that are required to break down food best. Our enzyme stores deplete as we age. The best thing we can do to slow down the depletion is to eat foods high in enzymes. Cooked food has no enzymes, raw food has a few, and fermented food has a TON.
  3. Fermentation aids in pre-digestion during the fermentation process, the microorganisms feed on sugars and starches, essentially beginning to digest and break down the food before you even eat it, which makes the actual digesting your body will do, that much easier on your system!
  4. Fermented foods are rich in probiotics which are microorganisms consumed by the body that are responsible for maintaining a healthy gut flora (your gut bacteria). A healthy gut is capable of better pulling nutrients from the food you eat, whether it’s fermented food or not.
  5. Eating fermented food helps maintain a healthy immune system because a healthy gut produces anti-biotic, anti-tumor, anti-viral, and anti-fungal substances. Also, the acids in fermented food make the gut an acidic place for pathogens so they have a harder chance of thriving there and improve your bodies ability to fight off germs and heal faster.

There’s also this awesome infographic (that I did not make) that lists some of the major benefits:

151006_fermentation2WHEW! Are you guys still awake? Hopefully you didn’t all bolt on me. I’m wrapping up. Promise.

So I mean fermenting sounds pretty awesome right? Easy to do, healthy, nutritious…so why isn’t it more common place?

People have been fermenting food for thousands of years, all over the world but in the past 100 or so years,  it has declined as a common “cooking” technique.  An obvious contributor is just the modern world and industrialized food. Pickling and preservatives took the place of fermentation. While I still love me some homemade pickled foods, they are less nutritious (than fermented) and some store bought versions with added preservatives can be plain ole bad for you.

I think there is a more recent swing in several social circles which shed light on the awesomeness that is fermented foods and show that it’s not a scary thing. You can easily make it yourself and even buy it already made!

Bimpbap Fermented Foods Recipe

The Bimipbap dish. We’ll be sharing the recipe tomorrow!

Kombucha, kefir, fresh sauerkraut, kimchi, these are all things that can probably be found in most grocery stores. You don’t need to eat or drink that much to get the benefits. In fact if you’re just starting to add fermented foods into your diet, you’ll want to take it slow. Trust me.Over the next few weeks I want to share with you some great and easy ways to incorporate fermented foods into you and your families diet. I’ll share some great fermented food brands and products that you can buy at your grocery store or order online, some great tips and techniques for making your own fermented foods and drinks AND some delicious recipes to make! Make sure you check back so you don’t miss anything ❤

Tune in TOMORROW when we share the story of one of our favorite Wisconsin local fermented food brands that we’ve teamed up with and see the amazing and super delicious bibimbap (korean rice bowl) recipe!

xoxo

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*I always feel compelled to say this. I’m not a doctor, this is not medical advice. I’m not a dietitian, this is not diet advice. I’m just a food geek sharing some interesting stuff. If you were out there taking medical advice from a food blog titled Eat Laugh Craft, I’d have to wonder about your sanity. * 

References and Readings:

The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from around the World, by Sandor Ellix Katz

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-phytates-phytic-acid

Fermenting Vegetables Demystified: The Basics of Fermenting Vegetables

Bringing Back the Lost Art (and Science) of Fermented Foods

http://fermentacap.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5&Itemid=116

Fermented Foods Pinterest