Taza Chocolate

photoBy Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

Shortly after becoming a honey connoisseur, I decided to have some fun with chocolate.  It all started years ago when I started reading about the health benefits of dark chocolate and raw cacao.  Over the years I have tried a ton of organic chocolate bars, and I have to say that Taza is one of my favorites!

Whenever another “foodie” comes over I always offer some Taza chocolate and watch to see their reaction.  It has a totally different “mouth feel”.  It is a Mexican style stone ground chocolate and that pretty much sums up it’s flavor and texture.  It’s unlike any other chocolate – I absolutely love it – Salt & Pepper flavor is my absolute favorite!

Check out Taza’s story here:  http://www.tazachocolate.com/About/Company_History

And, if you are looking for a after Thanksgiving dessert, or a dessert for anytime, you have to try Taza Chocolates – and then let me know what you think!

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Thanksgiving and Relationships

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By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

So tomorrow is the big day! It’s an exciting time for a Foodie Bitch like me. Tomorrow is the first time we will be having Thanksgiving at our house for quite a few years.

In all of the excitement and the rushing to make sure the meal is prepared for everyone, I wanted to make sure I stepped back and looked at the bigger picture of Thanksgiving when planning for tomorrow. Yes, Thanksgiving has always been about enjoying a “feast” (and I am making sure I have plenty of nourishing and delicious food available), but it’s also about relationships.

If you look back to what Thanksgiving was originally supposed to be about, it was “supposed” to be about two totally different groups of people coming together to celebrate how they worked together and taught each other to survive in the New World. Now, without getting into how you feel about what actually happened, I would like to learn what I can from that historical event. Since I can’t change the past, here’s what I am choosing to focus on.

There was a group of people coming from another land over to the New World – taking a HUGE risk – leaving everything that was familiar to them to try to create a new life – a better life. That alone is amazing when you think about it! How many people today do you think would be willing to travel so long and far to a place that so little was known about? Safety and security certainly weren’t holding the early settlers back!

And now, think about those settlers in a brand new world with different food sources than what they had before. It was different land, they weren’t familiar with where the good growing places were and what you could grow and how to grow it. What worked back home may not have worked in the New World, and it’s not like if their crops or hunting didn’t go so well, that they could go down the road to the grocery store – this was life or death for them.

They needed help and they received help from the Native people. Everyone needed to work together in order to survive. People needed to offer their talents, push through their challenges, and become extremely creative and resilient. That is what I’d like to focus on.

Today, although most of us aren’t struggling to merely stay alive like the early settlers were, we are all still experiencing challenges and creating and experiencing stress almost daily. What I am proposing here is that we recognize that we are all in this together – we need each other, not only to survive, but to thrive.

So maybe over this holiday weekend, we look around at the people in our lives (and the animals!) and focus on the perfection of them – in all of their imperfections. Life is stressful enough without adding to it all of the drama we create around relationships. Let’s focus on the good in the relationships in our lives and be grateful for them.

I’m serious about this. On Thanksgiving, before you get together with everyone, think about each person that is going to be there, and think about at least one positive trait each of them has. Then, notice how you feel when you get together with them.

And rather than trying to bring others down, try lifting them up – it will feel really good – to both of you!

As I’ve said before, food isn’t the only thing we nourish ourselves with, relationships are a key “nutrient” in our diet as well. So on this Thanksgiving, let’s be grateful for not only the wonderful food we will be creating but also to the wonderful relationships in our lives.

Happy Thanksgiving, Foodie Bitches!

Homemade Chicken Soup for Your Health

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By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

Winter hit fast here in West Michigan!!!

A week ago Sunday it was 63 degrees. A couple of days later it’s a whiteout!

Mike and Frankie had gone to Florida for a few days, while Lindsey and I stayed back to take care of all the animals (6 horses, 4 cats and 2 dogs can be quite a handful this time of year). Of course, the day after they left, we got hit with a snow storm. It was actually quite beautiful, and we sent pictures to Frankie showing her what she was missing (she couldn’t wait for it to snow!).

The second day of the snow storm was pretty as well – the sun even came out for a bit. The horses frolicked around in their pastures, sticking their noses into the snow and chasing each other up and down the fence line – feeling a little full of themselves and having a good time.

But by the third day, the wind had kicked in – to the tune of 40 miles an hour. This happens often when you live as close to Lake Michigan as we do. Add the snow to the wind and temperatures in the low 20’s, and the beautiful white winter wonderland loses most of its appeal!

Lindsey’s and my outside chores – cleaning the stalls and barn and feeding the horses – now took twice as long as normal, what with frozen water buckets, a pathway to the manure dumpster that needed to be shoveled, and fence repairs made with duct tape (the fence gets more brittle with the cold weather).

I knew she (and I) were going to need some extra nutrients to stay healthy. That’s when I remembered I had a great recipe for Homemade Chicken Soup.

I got this recipe from a friend of mine that lives on a farm in Northern Michigan. I remember visiting her one cold Fall afternoon, and she pulled some chicken stock out of the freezer. It was amazing – I had never tasted chicken soup so good.  She even used some of the stock the next day for some homemade egg drop soup which was equally as good.

I searched my files and folders for her recipe, and began to make her version of Homemade Chicken Soup. It’s really quite simple. It just requires some planning ahead, as it needs to simmer for quite a while.

One of the reasons that I was so excited to make this soup was that with all of the research I’ve been doing about food, I learned that soup made with the whole chicken has a ton of nutrients; and, when you add a couple of tablespoons of vinegar, it helps pull those nutrients into the stock. I didn’t realize that the very first time I made it, which was a couple of years ago. I wasn’t a big vinegar fan, so I left that out of the recipe.

This time, I made sure I didn’t skip that step!

The soup turned out great, and it was exactly what Lindsey and I needed to get us through the next few days of snow! It was so good that we made another batch today. There really is a lot of truth to the idea of making homemade chicken soup when you are sick – and for when you are healthy as well!

Bundle up and stay warm this winter and take care of yourself with healthy immune-boosting foods, like chicken soup!

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Ingredients:

4 quarts cold, filtered water

1 whole organic chicken

2 Tbsp. vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)

1 large onion, chopped

4 large carrots, cut into big chunks

4 stalks celery, chopped

1 bunch parsley

Instructions:

Place everything in the water except the parsley and let set for 1 hour, with no heat.

After sitting, bring the ingredients to a boil, remove any film that comes to the top.

Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 6 to 12 hours.

10 minutes before finishing, add the parsley.

Season with salt and pepper.

Put the stock through a strainer to remove all the chicken and vegetables.

Add back to the stock any chicken meat and vegetables you want in your soup, stir, and serve.

John Douillard Speaks on Ayurveda – I Was Blown Away!

By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

I’m a week behind in listening to the lectures from Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN). Fortunately, last week was a shorter week in terms of assignments, so it’s making it easier to catch up.

But, boy, did the first lecture of Week 9, really catch my attention!

It was John Douillard, DC.  Admittedly, I had never heard of him until I watched the video of his lecture at IIN. The topic for Week 9 is Ayurvedic Philosophy or Traditions. This is something that has intrigued me for a while, but it just seemed to be too much of a “foreign language” for me to tackle.

But, Ayurveda keeps popping up – in conversations I’m having with people, in yoga class, and in the research and other reading I am doing. It even popped up in the restaurant in Santa Barbara I mentioned on Monday (Alchemy Cafe).  So I am so grateful for the focus on Ayurveda for Week 9 of lectures. It is giving me the foundation to further explore this amazing philosophy – not only as it relates to food, but also as it relates to our emotions, personalities, and life as a whole.

The clip above is from the beginning of his lecture at IIN, and what he said in that 3 minutes just blew me away! I’ve always known that we have certain thought and behavioral patterns that we’ve developed over the years – many of them not beneficial to us, and I’ve had exposure to some amazing teachers that have offered tools to overcome those limiting beliefs.

But the way Douillard speaks about them in this short clip, and how he expands on this in the rest of his lecture, really resonated with me.

He goes into a lot about digestion and how so many of us are unable to eat wheat and dairy, and how our systems should be able to handle them  (even though we probably wouldn’t eat them much if we could). He talks about the emotional reasons behind this “epidemic” as I call it – stress. Stress, in Ayurvedic terms, affects the body in the intestinal tract. He gets into how this works and how it’s all connected, which I found fascinating!

He also talked about how we are a society that has been drugged with sugar and how we are addicted to the hormone dopamine.  We are constantly needing to be stimulated to get that “high” from dopamine, but then we experience a drop in dopamine levels after we do or eat whatever it is we crave.  So our body seeks more dopamine to feel better – it looks for things to satisfy this stimulation, be it shopping, food, or some other stimulating behavior.

I have heard of dopamine, but had never heard it discussed in such a way that made so much sense to me.

In case you’re interested, one way to get off your dopamine high is to have more awareness of where you are stimulated – where do you get your dopamine? The other, is to increase your intake of vegetables (a discussion more in-depth than this blog allows me to go into). Pay attention to what you’re eating, and eat less sugar and more vegetables. Also, drink more water, especially 15 to 20 minutes before your meal!

When you start to come off your dopamine addiction, you develop more composure and walk with a more calmness that allows you to experience your true self. When you are on that “drug,” you can’t experience this. When you move closer to your true self, you can then let go of the stories you created when you were younger to protect yourself, and major transformations begin to happen in your life.

Check out John Douillard’s website for more articles and videos and resources if you are interested or curious about Ayurveda.

And try this cookbook if you are interested in incorporating an Ayurvedic way of eating.

Have an amazing weekend, all! Namaste :)