First try at homemade taco seasoning is a keeper!

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Well, for the first time in my life on Sunday, I made homemade taco seasoning. Again, I ask myself why have I not been doing this all along. It is less expensive and free of unhealthy ingredients like MSG, autolyzed yeast and all of the other preservatives that are in the pre-packaged mixes. This was a fun kitchen experience and I actually had to pay close attention and write down what I was doing.

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You see, I have never been one to follow recipes and oftentimes in the kitchen I do not use a recipe, I just put things together. Usually I have pretty good results but sometimes I fail miserably. Like last week, when I added too much stevia to my homemade chocolate. The whole batch tasted terrible. But now that I am writing this blog, I have to pay attention to the details…like how much of each spice I used…I have to be honest I was nervous to make the seasoning because my husband is pretty picky and I am not sure he is sold on my whole idea to not buy packaged seasonings anymore. But when we were at the grocery store Sunday he agreed to not buy a seasoning packet and he said I could try making it.

Oh no pressure at all. First off, I opened my spice cupboard and grabbed all of the spices I thought would be good in taco seasoning. I sat all of the bottles out on the counter and grabbed a measuring spoon and then the fun began. Below is the recipe and I can tell you it was well received. In fact, Doug (knowing how I cook) said I sure hope you wrote that down so we can make it again.  Whew! What a relief. Even though I wrote down the recipe I am pretty sure I will not make it exactly the same next time. Would be good to try a bit more oregano and more cayenne for heat. If you decide to make homemade taco seasoning (or maybe you already have an awesome recipe) let me know how you adjust the recipe. I would love to hear from you!

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Homemade taco seasoning

1 tbsp. chili powder

1.5 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. black pepper

1/2 tsp. garlic salt

1/2 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/4 tsp. oregano

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper

1/4 tsp. cayenne

Mix together well. Use at least 2 tbsp. per 1 pound of meat. Add seasoning mix and 1/2 cup water to meat when it is fully cooked. Let simmer 15 minutes or so.

 

 

No noodle chicken soup

When the weather forecast was predicting a blizzard for today it put me in the mood for a healthy, warm soup. I decided this morning to make chicken soup without noodles. I was in the mood for something really healthy without the extra carbs. And I thought this would be a great way to use some of the homemade chicken broth I made recently.

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This soup was easy to put together and the flavor was really good. I enjoyed the taste of the herbs in the chicken broth. I like the richer flavor in the homemade broth and I feel good eating it knowing it is loaded with nutrients. I had a bowl for supper, put a couple bowls in the refrigerator for lunches this week and I had a couple bowls left to freeze for future meals.

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No noodle chicken soup

2 chicken breasts, cubed

6 cups of homemade chicken broth (click on this link for recipe)

1 tbsp. oil (I used avocado)

1 tsp. garlic salt

2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced

3 or 4 carrots, chopped

2 stalks of celery, chopped

1/2 onion, diced

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Cook chicken on medium heat in a pan with oil. Pour about a half cup of chicken broth into soup pot and add all vegetables and garlic salt. Saute for about 5 to 7 minutes until vegetables are tender. Add the rest of the chicken broth and cooked chicken to soup pot. Simmer for about 30 minutes on low to medium heat.

 

Homemade chicken broth: Easy to make & healthier

I was so excited a few weeks ago when I made homemade chicken broth for the first time! It was SO EASY to make and it tastes delicious. It makes me so happy to have 16 cups of broth in the freezer for use in future recipes. No more store bought cans or containers of chicken broth at the Tate house. It really is so easy to make and very inexpensive and remember you will not have MSG, yeast extract or any other icky fillers in your final product. It will be loaded with flavor and all real ingredients. This is a recipe I really just threw together. I used whatever I thought would be good. But, I did write down what I was doing so I could share it here. It tasted really good. You could seriously just throw some chicken and vegetables in this broth and it would be a delicious soup.

So finally, here is the recipe for those of you who have been asking. Let me know if you give it a try. Or who has been doing this for a long time? With how easy it is to make, I hope more of us can get back to making our own, real food. It feels so good to put the leftover chicken bones to use instead of just discarding them and bone broths are loaded with lots of great nutrients. For more information on the benefits of bone broth check out this article by Dr. Amy Meyers. She also has her own variation of a recipe in the article. There really is no science to making bone broth you can create your own anyway you choose. And also, you can make beef broth the same way. So let’s start putting bones to good use and make a healthy broth!

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Homemade Chicken Broth

Bones of 1 chicken

16 cups of water

2 tbsp. Real Salt

2 tbsp. Bragg’s apple cider vinegar

Cloves of one garlic

1 bay leaf

1 tsp. celery salt

2 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. parsley

1 tsp. rosemary

1 tsp. thyme

Put all ingredients in crock pot for at least 9 hours and up to 24 hours on low. Let cool. Can be used right away or put in the freezer for future recipes.

Beef stew perfect for cold, winter day

It’s another cold, windy day here in Worthington, Minnesota, and the crazy weather outside has me thinking of beef stew. I wish I would have had this in the crock pot today. It would have been the perfect dinner.

I made this beef stew for our ladies Christmas party at church and it got such great reviews, I made it again for the Walljasper family Christmas. So finally, I am getting around to sharing the recipe on my blog. My friend Stephanie gave me the original beef stew seasoning mix recipe. The recipe below is what I did. I made just a few changes to the recipe. As I said in my homemade fajita post —it is so easy and inexpensive to make your own seasoning mixes. Not only, does it taste better, it is also much healthier because it does not have added ingredients, fillers and preservatives.

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Beef Stew Seasoning Mix

1/2 cup tapioca flour

2 tsp. oregano

1 tbsp. basil

1.5 tsp. black pepper

2 tbsp. + 1 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. cayenne

1 tbsp. celery salt

2 tbsp. + 1 tsp. onion powder

Measure all of the ingredients and mix well in a medium size mixing bowl.

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Pour into jar and cover. To use, add 2 to 3 tbsp. of seasoning per pound of meat.

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Crock Pot Beef Stew

2-3 cloves of garlic

1 onion

2 stalks of celery

3-5 potatoes

4 carrots

2-3 parsnips

1.5 cups of beef broth (can use more depending on consistency you prefer)

2-3 pounds stew meat (or a roast cubed)

1 can of petite diced tomatoes (about 1.5  cups if using fresh)

Toss the meat with the spice mix and let it set while preparing the vegetables. Put chopped vegetables in crock pot. Then add stew meat and last add the beef broth. Stir and cook on low for 8 hours or cook for 4 hours on high.

Feel free to add or change the recipe. I have made it with no tomatoes and no parsnips before. So get creative and make changes to whatever suits your taste buds.

I hope you enjoy this hearty beef stew that is perfect for a wintery day!

Amanda

New year: A time to make healthy changes

I love the month of January because getting healthier is one of the top things people are talking about. I am fortunate because in my business we see people every day who want to get healthier. But I love all of the excitement and interest people have in getting healthier come January 1. Now just so you know, I am not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions because so many times people make resolutions and quickly get discouraged and do not keep with it…But this time of year gets us talking about healthy lifestyle changes. My hope is this interest and longing for a healthier life will last not just through the month of January but all year long.

There are many people who make commitments at the start of the year to get healthier and they do just that one little step at a time. They know the importance of making changes and they take that step and decide to start somewhere. So let 2014 be the year you decide to step it up a notch when it comes to taking care of your body.

So where do we start? Here are some recommendations that can be implemented into your daily life.

  1. First off, make sure you drink enough water. I know, I know we hear this all of the time but it is a simple way to be healthier. And when I say drink water here I mean straight water. If you need to flavor it use citrus fruits but do not add artificial flavorings or sweetener to the water.  And all of those “healthy” flavored waters do not count as a daily serving of water. The harmful additives are far worse than the benefits of the water. We all know water is important but the reality is most people are dehydrated. A good suggestion is to drink at least half of your body weight in ounces each day! And if you drink soda, you should drink an extra glass of water for each soda you drink.
  2. Pick one unhealthy food or drink in your diet to cut back on or eliminate from your diet. For example if you are a soda drinker cut back on how much you drink and see if you can get to the point of not drinking any at all. If you love carbs make an effort to cut back on carbs. Do you eat too much processed food? Then cut back on your processed food intake. Remember, this is a process and as you start to change your eating habits you may feel some not so pleasant changes at first. Much of the food we eat today is highly addictive! So changing our eating habits has to be very intentional and it is hard work!
  3. The beginning of the year and at the change of each season is a great time to complete some sort of a detox. There are full body cleansing products you can purchase to help remove toxins from your body. Fourteen years ago this February, is when I completed my first whole body cleanse and started to get a handle on some of my bad habits including my 6 to 8 cans of diet soda a day and a pot of coffee. Just this simple change of not drinking pop and as much coffee helped me start to feel better almost immediately once the horrible side effects from cutting back on caffeine wore off. Even adding a greens drink to your daily regimen can help the body detoxify. Or you can complete a detox eating program like the 21 Day Sugar Detox or the Whole 30 Challenge. There are many options available. It is so important to give our digestive system a break and a cleanse of some sort can help.
  4. Start reading food labels. Be aware of what is in the food you are eating. If it has a lot of ingredients and words you cannot pronounce you probably should not be giving it to your body for fuel! Our bodies will only perform as well as the food we give it. We have the choice to fuel our bodies with whole, nutritious food or processed garbage. For me, reading labels gets me pretty fired up and discourages me from buying things I should not eat.

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5. Eat more fruits and vegetables! These wonderful, colorful foods are loaded with vitamins and nutrients and they help us feel full.

6. Find time to prepare your own meals. (And preparing a meal does not include throwing a frozen pizza in the oven to bake). We are all very busy but we cannot use being busy as an excuse to not eat well! So throw that excuse out the window and find a little time each week to cook.  Remember it is what we give our body that makes it work well. The better we eat, the better we feel and the better we can handle our busy lives. We all have different schedules so you have to find what works best for you. For me, Sundays are a good day to do food prep for the week. I like to make recipes in big batches and then freeze items to use through the week and beyond. Also, when we are preparing meals on the weeknights we make plenty so we have leftovers for lunch the next day.

7. If you are committed to becoming healthier, clean out your cupboards. Gradually use up the unhealthy foods you have hanging around your kitchen. It is much easier to eat healthy and feed your family better when there is not junky food in the house. If you have a lot of groceries stocked up this might take awhile but it is worth it. And for some of you—you might just decide to throw unhealthy items away to get rid of them quicker. Shortly after Christmas I did this. I threw away a few gluten free sugar cookies that were left from my family celebration. By this point, I was so sugared out I knew I could not keep them around.  And remember if getting your kitchen loaded with healthy foods is your goal, you have to quit buying the junk each time you go to the store.

Small, consistent changes lead to big, life-long results! You can do this!

Amanda

A taste of summer during the cold of winter

 

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Cilantro! Tonight’s dinner was inspired by a partial bunch of cilantro sitting in my refrigerator. Why is deciding what to have for supper always such a hard decision? Tonight my husband had a meeting so I knew I wanted to make supper (and tonight is the only night this week I will be home for supper) so all morning I was trying to come up with an idea. Finally, it came to me…Cilantro Lime Chicken Breasts with Mango-Avocado Salsa.

So, I just finished eating supper now and it was delicious! My husband agreed! We had to stop ourselves from eating all of the mango salsa so we could have some for leftovers! And what I love most about this meal, is it reminded me of summer…or even better being on a tropical vacation somewhere! I am definitely putting this recipe in my summer collection so we can grill the chicken breasts. That would have added even more flavor to this tasty dish! The Mango-Avocado Salsa would taste great with fish also!

Here is the recipe…

Cilantro Lime Chicken Breasts

2-4 chicken breasts

2 tbsp. avocado or olive oil

2 tbsp. fresh lime juice

1 tsp. garlic salt

Combine ingredients and spread over chicken breasts. Marinate in a covered bowl in refrigerator for at least two hours.

Then you can bake the chicken breasts at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, fry on the stove top or grill.

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Mango-Avocado Salsa

1 mango diced

1 avocado diced

½ purple onion diced

1 red pepper diced

1 jalapeno pepper diced

½ bunch cilantro chopped

1 clove of garlic minced

1 tbsp. fresh lime juice

½ tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. garlic salt

Combine ingredients and stir gently. Do not over stir. Spoon over chicken breasts and serve!

 

 

It’s time for a giveaway…

Here it is—Be Real has its first giveaway under way and it continues through 12 a.m. January 19. It is easy to be entered to win. All you have to do is like our Facebook page and if you want an extra chance to win comment on any one of the Be Real blog posts! If you have enjoyed what you have read so far at Be Real, we hope you will share it with your friends so they can follow us too!

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A special thanks to Schafer’s Health & Gifts for sponsoring our first giveaway here at Be Real. So why I am I giving away a Camelbak water bottle, coconut oil and tea? As we start off the new year and want to make healthy lifestyle changes these are a few products that can help!

The Camelbak will help you drink more water on a daily basis. We all know how important water is and it is one of the easiest things we can do to be healthier! The leakproof Camelbak bottles are great for a day at work (you don’t have to worry about spilling water on your computer) and they are great for traveling. Pretty much anytime of day you can pick up your bottle for some much needed water.

Coconut oil is one of my favorite products because it can be used for almost everything! I love it so much I actually have a jar in my bathroom and in my kitchen. I use it on my skin and face and I recently learned from who else other than my Mom that it works for deodorant too! I am happy to report I have been using it for about a month and it works great! Coconut oil is pure and it has moisturizing properties and it is a one-ingredient product. It is not loaded with icky chemicals and fillers. It is the real deal. And in the kitchen, coconut oil can be used as a cooking oil. You can fry eggs in it, put it on popcorn, put a spoonful of it in your coffee or tea to get healthy fats right away in the morning, use it in baking and if you are really brave you can just eat it by the spoonful.

For more coconut oil uses check out this list from Wellness Mama. The list truly goes on and on.

Now on to the tea, that we are giving away. I am not going to tell you I love tea like I love to drink water and use coconut oil. In fact, my goal this year is to drink more tea! I do like tea but I just don’t drink it as often as I should. So this year when I am in that afternoon lull and need a pick me up or when I need to relax and unwind I want to grab for a nice cup of tea. There are so many great health benefits from drinking antioxidant rich teas! This year, I will drink more tea. And hopefully you my followers will hold me to that.

Don’t delay, click here to get entered in our first giveaway at Be Real!

Here’s wishing you all a happy and healthy new year!

Amanda

 

Being Real in the New Year

The New Year is such an exciting time. There is much anticipation about the year ahead. It is a time we put the past year behind us and thank God for all of the blessings and all of the struggles we went through! Take some time to give thanks for the many blessings of 2013. It is also important to recognize that the hard times are all a part of God’s plan and he uses those times to strengthen us and draw us near to him. If 2013, was a year you just want to quickly forget and move on to better things I encourage you to look at what you gained from the situations you went through. How were each of those situations a part of God’s plan for your life? I remember very well the New Years where I would feel so down and depressed because I was not satisfied with my life. Each year, I prayed things would get better.

It took me a long time to figure out and I am still learning that when I put God first and trust him life changes. My attitude and outlook are so much better. Negative emotions no longer control my life. I choose to be as positive as I can each day. Instead of worrying about situations out of my control, I am learning to pray more and realize it is all a part of God’s sovereign plan. Quite honestly this could be a new year where I jump on the negative bandwagon and feel down. A great friend of mine who I had the privilege to work with for five years just moved to Hawaii! If I were still my old Negative Nelly self I would still be down about it and letting it affect my whole life. Now, don’t get me wrong I did shed plenty of tears the last few weeks she was here, but ultimately I am so excited for her and her new adventure. God always has a wonderful plan and this year it was exciting to see something I had prayed for five years —my friend to find a Godly man to marry—unfold. We also always prayed that when it was time for her to leave Schafer’s that the right person would come along — and believe it or not that has happened! Now, I know God does not always answer prayers in the way we want but there are times when he takes care of the details so perfectly. His answer to these prayers was better than I ever could have imagined.

The New Year is such an exciting time because we are reminded of our new birth in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” It is hard to think of this verse and not get super excited! Because Jesus died on the cross for us we have new life in him. We are all sinners and he loves us any way.

So what can we do in the New Year to grow closer to Christ?

Read the Bible more regularly…It sounds so easy but it is hard to put into practice. Choose a time each day that works best for you. Most days, I do my reading in the morning because otherwise it seems like the day just gets away and then I use the excuse I am too tired at night. I like to read the Bible in the morning because it sets the tone for the day ahead. For those of you who have never read the Bible or are looking for more focused plans check out www.youversion.com. This free program offers daily devotions, plans to read the Bible in a year and much more. You can download this app to your smart phone, your computer or IPAD. So you have the Bible with you wherever you go and you can even set it up to send you a daily reminder to read the Bible. I know sounds kind of crazy but it is a huge help! And the site is loaded with great devotions focused on specific issues that you might be dealing with.

Choose a Bible verse to focus on throughout the year. Pick a verse that has special meaning to you right now in this season of your life. Print out the verse and put it around in places where you see it daily. Memorize the verse so it is with you always! Below is my 2014 verse to remember.

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Get engaged! Find positive people who have the desire to know God more!

Breathe! Smile and be kind to yourself. Always remember we are all a work in progress and God will be with us every step of the way!

Wishing you many blessings in the New Year!

Amanda