food + nutrition

in the garden // mid-august

August 21, 2015

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

This past month, the garden has provided us with bounty after bounty. We’ve spent hours in the sun caring and tending. We’ve spent beautiful evenings gathering & harvesting. We eat dinner from the garden at least five days each week and many lunches, too.

On top of the bounty, there is the beauty. We’ve spent countless hours just walking around the yard and enjoying the splendor. Birds of all shapes & sizes have been around picking up the seeds that are beginning to fall from the flowers. We have a set of hummingbirds that visits multiple times each day to draw the sweetness from the blossoms. (Aren’t hummingbirds just the most magical little creatures?) The flowers are visited as long as the sun is shining by bees & butterflies.

The garden provides for us endlessly — in nutrition, in occupation, and in beauty.

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

mid-august garden // livelovesimple.com

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It’s just incredible to me to look back at some of my early posts from the spring and to see how the garden has come along. You see the progress from seedling to present at these links:

It’s humbling to witness the blossoming of our dream garden. We’ve learned a lot this year and have many changes to implement in the future. Mostly, however, it’s been a dream come true. Isn’t nature wonderful?

in the garden // late july

July 27, 2015

in the garden // livelovesimple.com

in the garden // livelovesimple.com

Late July brings bounty & beauty to our garden. These are my favorite photographs from the garden yet. I could just sit and stare at them all day. They capture the plant life out there so beautifully. What I didn’t capture is the animal life! It’s constantly buzzing back there. Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other birds (eating insects) are a constant presence. We deliberately cultivated the garden to be fauna-friendly, including plants that are especially attractive to our beautiful pollinators. Hooray for bees & butterflies!

When we returned from vacation over the weekend, there was so much deliciousness to be harvested. We are thrilled that our hopes for a bountiful season have panned out. It’s truly wonderful to eat these fresh, organic vegetables that we grew ourselves from seed!

At the moment, the flowers that are in bloom are zinnias, bee balm, black-eyed Susans, lavender, anise, hostas, and yarrow. We have some flowers that we hope will bloom soon, including one giant one that is seven-feet-tall!

The vegetables that we are currently harvesting are cherry tomatoes (red & gold), salad tomatoes, yellow zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, bell peppers, cayenne peppers, and red cabbage. We’re bringing in lots of thyme & basil for cooking and there’s spearmint for garnishing drinks. We just harvested all of our carrots. Our sugar snap peas are finished for the season. We’ve got two big bags of them in the freezer. We have a crop of fall vegetables coming in strong, too; including pumpkins, broccoli, onions, beets, kale, Brussels sprouts, and winter squash. We’ll be seeding spinach shortly, as well.

in the garden // livelovesimple.com

in the garden // livelovesimple.com

in the garden // livelovesimple.com

in the garden // livelovesimple.com

in the garden // livelovesimple.com

in the garden // livelovesimple.com

in the garden // livelovesimple.com

in the garden // livelovesimple.com

in the garden // livelovesimple.com

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in the garden // livelovesimple.com

in the garden // livelovesimple.com

in the garden // livelovesimple.com

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in the garden // livelovesimple.com

in the garden // livelovesimple.com

in the garden // livelovesimple.com

in the garden // livelovesimple.com

in the garden // livelovesimple.com

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in the garden // livelovesimple.com

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in the garden // livelovesimple.com

in the garden // livelovesimple.com

in the garden // livelovesimple.com

in the garden // livelovesimple.com

in the garden // livelovesimple.com

in the garden // livelovesimple.com

in the garden // livelovesimple.com

We are very pleased with our garden. It’s been an incredible journey from seed to harvest. It means a lot to us that Roman has had a big role in the process. He helps with all of the watering and harvesting. We love being able to expose him to the labor & miracle of growing food.

Here are the previous phases of our garden this year:

I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season has in store for us. Also, you have no idea how excited we are that we are going to have our own little pumpkin patch this autumn. It’s a dream come true for this Halloween-obsessed lady right here! xo

6 (Sneaky!) Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat Vegetables

July 13, 2015

6 Sneaky ways to Give Kids Vegetables // livelovesimple.com

// image sources: pasta / toast / smoothie / ice pops / pizza / fritters //

Pasta, toast, smoothies, ice pops, pizza, and fritters! It doesn’t exactly sound like the healthiest bunch of food, does it? However, one thing that all of these dishes have in common is that my toddler loves them. But, like most moms, it’s really important to me that my kid’s food is not only delicious, but also nutritious. From the time that Roman started eating solids until about 1.5 years, he was a great eater and he pretty much ate whatever we put in front of him. Sometime before he turned two, that all changed. All of a sudden we had a very picky eater on our hands. He turned his nose up at anything that resembled a vegetable. That’s when we knew we had to get creative!

Over the past few months, I’ve come up with several awesome ways to sneak vegetables into Roman’s snacks & meals. Here are six of my favorites.


1. Pasta — One thing that my kid will never say no to is pasta. It’s been his meal of choice for as long as I can remember. We’ve found lots of simple ways to make pasta more healthy. One thing I like to do is make kale pesto pasta. (Click here to check out that recipe.) Another thing I’ll do is boil vegetables — like broccoli, carrots, or beets — blend or mash them up, and add them to whatever sauce I’m serving over our pasta. Occasionally I will stir fry some veggies and add them to the mix, but my picky boy tends to find those and eat around them! So blending them into the sauce works better for us.

2. Toast — Another thing that Roman loves is a great piece of bread. (I mean who doesn’t, right?) Occasionally we’ll have a loaf of fresh rye from the bakery or a yummy loaf of sourdough. Roman loves toast and spreading on a thick layer of blended vegetables is a good way to add a lot of nutrition to the mix. If I don’t have time to mash up some veggies, I like to use Beech-Nut baby food as a spread. They recently launched their new organic line and Roman loves them all. The mango, carrot & orange is his favorite.

3. Smoothies — I’ve never seen anyone down a smoothie the way that Roman does. Honestly, it doesn’t even matter what we put in it. We give him a smoothie and a straw and it’s gone within minutes! It’s amazing. We typically use almond milk & a banana as a base and after that we add whatever we have on hand into the blender. Favorite additions are kale, apple, carrots, cashews, strawberries, blueberries, spinach, and peanut butter.

4. Ice Pops — Recently, I picked up a pair of ice pop molds in the grocery store. Whenever we have leftover smoothie from breakfast we just put it in the molds and then pop them in the freezer. It makes for the perfect, delicious, nutritious playtime or after-dinner snack.

5. Pizza — There are lots of fun ways to get creative with pizza. You can load it up with shredded or sliced veggies, cover with cheese, and bake. Or, you can add boiled, mashed vegetables into your pizza sauce. Either way, I’ve never met a kid who doesn’t love pizza! It’s a great way to sneak a bunch of nutrition into a kid-friendly meal.

6. Fritters — Fritters are one of my all-time favorites. The healthiest ones are the ones that we load up with vegetables. A few of Roman’s favorites include shredded carrots, zucchini, eggplant, or sweet potatoes. We love to make dipping sauces for our fritters, too. It’s another great place to add some more veggies. A delicious dip idea is Greek yogurt blended with kale & garlic. Yummy!


Okay, writing this post has got me all kinds of hungry. I’m off to the kitchen to whip something up. I hope I’ve inspired you to sneak more vegetables into your kids’ (and your own!) meals.

What are some of your favorite ways to be sure that your family is eating enough vegetables? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Eating Clean + Egg Salad

May 12, 2015

eating clean / eggsalad // livelovesimple.com

eating clean / eggsalad // livelovesimple.com

We’ve been on a clean eating streak around here and it feels great. I’ve written out my thoughts on food in the past, but I want to take a few minutes to reflect, especially since we’ve been doing so well and I don’t want to lose this momentum.

What do I mean by “clean eating?” The term clean eating can be used to describe a lot of things, but when I use it, I’m mainly talking about a whole foods diet — eating only (or mostly, at least 90%) whole foods, foods that haven’t been processed or diluted in any way, foods that come as they are.

Note that you can process (chop, mash, cook, etc.) foods at home and they are still considered whole foods. The processing in the term “processed foods” refers to the chemical and mechanical processing that takes place in factories where foods are mass-produced.

Clean eating means eating fruits and vegetables straight from the earth and meats straight from the sea or the farm. Most whole foods will not come from a package or a box.

Processed foods are the opposite of whole foods. When you buy processed foods, you can look at the label on the package and you will see a whole list of ingredients that you don’t recognize. These ingredients are often nasty chemicals that are used to preserve, dye, and sweeten your food. When you buy a box of cereal, for example, you may think that you’re just eating the whole grain oats which are advertised on the box. However, if you inspect the ingredients, you’ll find a long list of chemicals, preservatives, and tons of added sugar. Whereas when you eat whole foods, you always know exactly what you are eating.

Eating a whole foods diet requires a bit more work than eating a processed foods diet. You’ll have to wash, peel, and chop your fruits & vegetables, instead of just popping them out of a package and into the microwave or pot. However, it’s worth the extra effort to avoid polluting your body with those “added ingredients” that are literally making you fat and sick. Speaking of fat…

It’s no secret that health & weight are big issues in my life. (If you’re new here, here’s the story of that time that I lost seventy pounds.) For a long time, I attributed my weight loss/health to my state of mind, but upon further reflection I realize that it’s also a result of how I eat. I don’t want to get too technical, but my point is that eating whole foods will make you healthy and keep you at a healthy body weight; while eating processed foods will make you unhealthy and keep you overweight.

Most of the products that are marketed as “low fat,” “low calorie,” “diet,” and so on — will actually make you fat & sick! If they have these words written on them, then they come in a package, and they are probably processed foods, loaded with added ingredients (preservatives, chemicals, and sugar). If you want to lose weight and be healthy — you must eat whole foods. Do not eat anything that has ingredients in it that you do not understand and cannot pronounce. Those ingredients will slowly kill you.

I don’t mean to sound “preachy” — this advice is as much for me as it is for my readers. At this point in my life, I am disgusted with the standard American food system and food marketing. Now that I am a mother, I think about these things more than ever. I spent the entire first half of my life unhealthy, overweight, and depressed — all because I was eating the Standard American Diet (SAD). I will never allow my children to go through what I went through.

Health is as simple as eating whole foods. Once we have this knowledge, it’s foolish and lazy to continue eating the Standard American Diet. It may sound harsh, but it’s the truth.

If any of the information that I’ve shared here is new or confusing to you, I highly recommend checking out some documentaries on these topics. A few that have literally changed my life are: Food Inc.; Food Matters; Forks Over Knives; Fat Sick & Nearly Dead. (Most of these are available on Netflix streaming.)


If you’re still here, thank you for bearing with me through my ranting. I thought that I would share one of my recent go-to meals — egg salad. I make lots of varieties of this recipe, substituting eggs with salmon, chick peas, etc. and adding different veggies, like carrots or onions. You will notice that I do use mayonnaise — which is a packaged food. However, the mayo that I use is Just Mayo and it’s healthy and contains only recognizable ingredients. (Learn more about Just Mayo here.) All packaged foods are not evil — but a lot are, so do your research and choose foods that are healthy and safe for your family.

For this simple egg salad I used hard-boiled cage-free, organic eggs; diced celery; halved grape tomatoes; mayonnaise; and a bit of dill, salt, and pepper. It’s delicious, nutritious, and easy.

eating clean / eggsalad // livelovesimple.com

eating clean / eggsalad // livelovesimple.com

eating clean / eggsalad // livelovesimple.com

eating clean / eggsalad // livelovesimple.com

eating clean / eggsalad // livelovesimple.com

eating clean / eggsalad // livelovesimple.com

eating clean / eggsalad // livelovesimple.com

P.S. We eat unhealthy, processed foods on occasion. I’m far from perfect. My main concern is that we don’t eat them often and that we don’t keep them in the house on a regular basis.

P.P.S. I’m proud to share that I’ve lost all of my “Marina” baby weight. I’ve still got thirty pounds to go until I reach my goal because I was holding onto some “Roman” baby weight and some “before Roman” weight, too. 😉

So what do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts about processed vs. whole foods. I’d also love to hear your favourite whole food recipes if you have any!


Behind the Scenes with Wendy’s Fresh Salads

May 11, 2015

Wendys Salads // livelovesimple.com

I have to be honest — I was skeptical when I was invited to get a behind-the-scenes look at fresh salad prep inside of a Wendy’s restaurant. I haven’t been a fan of “fast-food” for quite some time. In the past, I’ve tried drive-thru salads, only to be sorely disappointed. But as of today, Wendy’s has completely changed my mind! Let me start at the beginning.

Last week, myself and a couple of other bloggers met up at a nearby Wendy’s for our behind the scenes event. I had no idea what to expect, but — low & behold — my expectations were completely exceeded.

As it turns out, Wendy’s staff hand-prepares each salad with fresh vegetables every day. We got to check out the produce and watch as the vegetables were washed, chopped, and added to salads. The process reminded me so much of the way that I prepare salads for my family at home, which was really refreshing.

The Wendy’s that we visited receives its farm-fresh produce three times each week. That means that often times, produce is making it from the farm to your plate at Wendy’s in less than a week. That’s even faster than most supermarkets. (Check out the journey of Wendy’s romaine lettuce from farm to drive-thru on the Wendy’s YouTube channel.)

Wendys Salads // livelovesimple.com

Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas opened the first Wendy’s restaurant in 1969 grounded on the premise that “Quality is our Recipe®.” Watching fresh produce get washed, chopped, and placed into salads with so much care gave me a first-hand look at Wendy’s commitment to that promise.

Wendys Salads // livelovesimple.com

After we watched the produce and salad prep, we got to “glove-up” and give it a try ourselves. We each picked a salad and went to work. I chose the Apple Pecan Chicken Salad featuring ripe red and green apples and crunchy roasted pecans. The salad is then topped with cranberries, creamy blue cheese crumbles, and a pomegranate vinaigrette. Finally, every salad entrée is topped with premium white meat chicken breasts that are grilled at the time of your order and placed warm on your salad. I opted out of the blue cheese — I’m going dairy free for Marina’s sake — but even without it, the salad was seriously delicious. We also got to try out Wendy’s new organic HONEST Tea and it was the perfect compliment to the salad.

Wendys Salads // livelovesimple.com

Wendys Salads // livelovesimple.com

Wendys Salads // livelovesimple.com

The entire experience opened my eyes and completely changed my opinion about what a “fast food” salad can be. Wendy’s gives you the best of all worlds — combining healthy with fresh and quick. It’s everything that a busy mom like me could ask for. I’ll definitely be heading back to test out the other premium salads soon.

Wendys Salads // livelovesimple.com

Wendys Salads // livelovesimple.com

What about you? Would you consider trying a fast-food salad? Have you ever tried a Wendy’s salad? Which one is your favorite?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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