Tidying Up For 2016

Happy New Years Eve! How was your holiday? The past week has been a glorious mix of extra sleep, movie marathons, walks in the Arizona sunshine, and delicious food. I’ll be back with more recipes next week, but I wanted to help you get the year started off right. No deprivation/starvation/body-shaming required!

I’ve never been one to set New Year’s resolutions. I like the idea of turning over a new leaf once the clock strikes midnight, but often the expectations we set for ourselves are simply unattainable. Instead, I focus on getting my home base and surrounding environment into tip-top shape so that it enables me to make good choices for the upcoming year. My mom even mentioned this habit to me after Christmas. I told her I had already taken down the Christmas tree and all the decorations, and she just started laughing. “Yep, it’s your annual clean-out time!” Seriously, though, from as early as I could remember, I spent a few hours each day leading up to the New Year organizing and decluttering my room and a lot of the other rooms in the house. I was a bit of an, um, “unique” kid. #hadnofriends

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You’re probably wondering why a dietitian is talking to you about cleaning, but it’s simply a piece of my health model. How can we make resolutions to become our best self when we’ve got a bunch of crap in the way? Your health can take center stage when you’ve taken care of what else is blocking it from view. I didn’t quite know how to explain my thoughts on organizing to the general public until I started hearing about the book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” by Marie Kondo, a Japanese cleaning consultant. I decided to finally read it and ended up finishing the entire thing (it’s a quick read) on a flight to Chicago this past summer. I was mesmerized! Finally, someone could explain the method behind the madness.

 

In the book, Marie discusses the relationship we have with all the “stuff” in our lives. What it means and why we hold on to it for dear life. Marie’s mantra is simple. “The process of assessing how you feel about the things you own, identifying those that have fulfilled their purpose, expressing your gratitude, and bidding them farewell, is really about examining your inner self, a rite of passage to a new life.” Her method includes focusing on putting what you own into categories and working through each category individually instead of the typical room-by-room approach. You live in your entire house, not in each room individually, so the way you organize should help how you flow through it.

As soon as I finished the book, I knew I needed to use this method in my own nutrition business. I talk to clients all the time about making healthier choices, but one of the most important things that could be hindering success (that we never talk about) is the home environment.

Create a home for the person you want to be

“The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.” Do you want to be an early riser with time to workout and eat something healthy? Or the kind of person who attempts to wake up early, but can’t find their sneakers and socks, and tried to make oatmeal but found it expired? It’s so incredibly lame when you attempt to make good choices only to feel sabotaged by your past self. Figure out your flow to make healthy happen for you. Store those sneakers right by the door, create an exercise drawer in your dresser, and know how much oatmeal you have because it’s not hidden by other expired containers.

Don’t complicate it

“People cannot change their habits without first changing their way of thinking.” Often we like to add a bunch of new gadgets and foods into our diet at the start of the new year in the name of “health.” January is a marketer’s dream! There’s a reason people who join the gym at the start of the New Year are called “January Joiners.” What can you do, right here and now, without spending money and adding to the clutter? Can you go for longer walks after work? When was the last time you used those weights in the basement? YouTube is a great source for free workout videos, by the way! Also, don’t waste your money on a juice cleanse or protein candy bars. There are treasures hidden in your cabinet! Things like flaxseed, cans of tuna, oats, an old blender, and winter greens in your produce drawer will work just fine.

Get rid of the excess

“Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle.” This quote is one of my favorites from the book and struck me as profound when I first read it. Embarking on a healthy lifestyle journey can be emotional and often eye-opening. Holding on to things like a smaller pair of jeans, snack foods hidden in drawers and corners in the cabinet, or even toxic people in your life can ultimately work against your goals.

Take the time this year to focus on making each environment be the best it can be, from the office, to the home, and even your mind.

xo Erinn

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Dinner Tonight: Kale & Sausage Soup

If you only have time to cook once this week (Hello week of Christmas!) try this simple and hearty Kale & Sausage Soup. I love soup and could easily eat it every day, but I tend to favor the chunkier varieties that feel like a meal. More chewing, less slurping. I often hear that kale is a bit too “earthy” and tough in texture. Au contraire, mon ami! When kale is slow cooked into a stew, the flavor mellows and the fibers in the kale soften. This soup will also give your immune system the greatest gift of all which is natural, whole food based vitamins and minerals. Just one cup of kale contains 134% of your daily Vitamin C needs. We’re using chicken sausage and a bit of red pepper flakes (it’s not spicy at all) which add just enough flavor to an otherwise mild soup. You’ll have leftovers for days and your future self will be extremely thankful that dinner is already made.

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Kale & Sausage Soup

Adapted from Food & Wine

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound chicken apple sausage links
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
2 teaspoons, chopped garlic
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 pound red potatoes, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
Pinch dried red pepper flakes
1 pound kale, leaves shredded
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

Directions:

In a large pot, heat oil over moderately low heat. Add the sausage and cook, turning, until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove the sausage from the pot, and when cool enough to handle, cut into slices. Pour off all but 1-1 1/2 tablespoons of fat from the pot.

Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent. About 5-6 minutes total.

Add the broth, water, and salt and bring the soup to a boil. Add the sausage, potatoes, and red pepper flakes and bring to medium heat. Cook, partially covered for 2 minutes. Add the kale, and cook partially covered until the potatoes are fork-tender and kale has softened. About 6-10 minutes. Add the black pepper.

Serve with crusty bread or oyster crackers, and a sprinkle of fresh parmesan.

Hope you enjoy!

 

From the Depths of the Freezer

How are you feeling this week? Have you gotten your holiday shopping done? Are you sick of people asking you that? I KNOW I AM. This year, the majority of my family has decided to forgo a big gift exchange and simply focus on spending time together and sharing little stocking stuffers instead. Jason and I have slowly decreased the amount that we give to each other for Christmas the past few years, and it’s worked out rather well. Throughout the year, we definitely buy what we need when we need it, but often the holidays can feel so overwhelming with trying to get the “perfect” gift for someone. I much prefer focusing on someone’s birthday when there’s less pressure and you can focus on one person. Does that make me a Grinch? Hopefully not…

As the holidays are upon us, whether it’s a stressful time for you or not, one of the first things to go by the wayside are our eating habits. With the amount of get togethers, parties, and end of the year deadlines, both my husband and I going in different directions. I know it’s not realistic to keep a bunch of fresh produce stocked because it’ll go bad, so I opt for the freezer instead. Perhaps it’s due to my upbringing, but my parents froze everything. Bread, leftovers, casseroles, pasta, veggies, fruit, etc. You name it, we saved it!

Let’s take a tour of what I currently have in my freezer. I did some tidying up just for you.

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The glamour! We’ve got two levels of stuff here. Our ice maker is broken so please excuse the massive bag of ice.

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Bottom left side is where I keep all of our frozen veggies. We’ve got a frozen rustic root blend (parsnips, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and beets), two bags of broccoli (my favorite), a lentil, grain, and veggie blend from Trader Joe’s, and two bags of mixed veggies. It just so happens that the majority of these are from Cascadian Farm Organics. You can definitely find other varieties at the grocery store, and you don’t need to buy organic, but these just always happen to be on sale at my local Sprouts. Fun fact, my husband grew up in the town over from the actual Cascadian Farm nestled in the beautiful Skagit Valley of Washington state. Reppin’ the PNW.

I sometimes throw a bag of veggies into the same pot when I’m boiling pasta. So that I’m not losing all the nutrients, I add them in when the pasta has about 4-5 minutes left. You can also throw a bowl in the microwave or even roast in the oven to prepare.

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For fruit, I typically buy whatever is on sale. Are you sensing a pattern? I love mixed fruit, especially this Wyman’s variety of mango, berries, and pineapple. When berries cost $10 a pack at the store during the winter, these are a great alternative. I’ll throw frozen fruit into a smoothie for a quick breakfast, add to yogurt, or eat straight out of the bag. A frozen mango is one of my favorite things.

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This bottom section stores all the random food items. I often keep frozen turkey burgers or bison burgers because they can be transformed into a quick dinner. I have some cocktail weenies for a Christmas party. That bag on top of the frozen meatballs is frozen focaccia bread my mom gave me from Costco. This rice medley from Trader Joe’s is a lifesaver and has a great blend with brown rice, red rice, and black barley. You can’t see it here, but I have some amazing, frozen cinnamon rolls from QVC (sorry Williams-Sonoma, QVC has some of my favorite food items for the holidays) and a pack of almond croissants back there as well. Again, for holiday celebrating. If I’m going to have something in the form of pastry, I like to stick to what I know is good quality and really, really satisfying.

Not pictured is the door of the freezer where I keep extra loaves of sourdough, our favorite whole-grain bread, a bag of ground flaxseed, and a box of baking soda. Speaking about flaxseed, storing it in the freezer helps delay the oils from breaking down quickly which causes the seeds to go rancid.

The beauty of frozen vegetables, fruit, and other kitchen staples is that you can use as much as you want and save the rest for later. Not only are you eliminating food waste, but did you know that frozen produce is packaged at the peak of freshness? Check out this page from FoodSafety.gov on storage times and food safety best practices.

What do you like to keep in your freezer?

What are your plans for the holidays?