Parenting Hack: Popsicles for breakfast. Every day.

My husband let me sleep in last weekend. It was glorious. When I woke up, the first thing he said was, "They had popsicles for breakfast." In our house, that's fine. In our house, the popsicles are healthier than the cereal because they're homemade popsicles.  Make these. It's easy. Your kids will probably love them. Also, this is a GENIUS way to get your kids to eat all of the good stuff at once, even the things they may not necessarily like to eat.

Parents, here's what you do:

1. Buy these: http://amzn.to/2q7rpSy. Or these: http://amzn.to/2rFPTmV. When we bought the push-ups, they sent us double so we have tons if anyone wants to take some off of our hands!

2. Blend up all of the good stuff. You can play with different combinations, that's what we do. I never follow a recipe. I just start adding the stuff I have in the fridge and anything else I want to make sure they get. Remember fruit sweetens it up. Bananas and mangoes are always winners. I usually use the following: coconut milk, cashews, pineapple juice, water, banana, carrots or kale or beets, ginger, full fat and plain yogurt maybe some apples or peaches. Play with a few different combos. Your kids may not love the first few attempts, but you'll get the hang of it. And then add anything else you need to get your kids to consume. Does your kid need extra iron? No kid likes that taste, but toss it in here. They'll never notice. Anything else? Extra fat? Oils? Go nuts.

3. Toss them in the freezer for about 8 hours, sometimes a bit longer.

I am constantly making more and more of these in our house. My son eats the push-up pop and the popsicle versions. For my little one, I just pour the smoothie into a tupperware (about an inch thick) and freeze that. Then I cut it up into squares and she eats them up with her fingers. It's messy, but she loves it.

Healthy, easy and definitely better than the store bought ones. Perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner and pretty much any other time of day.

Add booze for adult versions, naturally.

The Great Garlic Harvest of 2015

Farming, like many of the sweet things in life, asks for your patience, diligence, commitment, love and faith. Days of watering. Weeks of waiting. Months of weeding and watching and, yes, even worrying. You get dirty. Your hands get worn. Your muscles ache. You finish your days exhausted, filthy and satisfied.

And after 9 months of patiently waiting, working, weeding and watering, The Great Garlic Planting of 2014 was ready for harvest. My brother Ben is the garlic master on the Ricter Farm. And as with all of Ben's endeavors on the farm, The Great Garlic Harvest of 2015 brought together friends and family, all working together, digging, cleaning, bundling, and hanging the garlic while laughing, sweating and telling stories.

Harvesting this much garlic isn't a simple task. It took 3 days of dedication to hand pick it from the soil and get it ready for curing, which takes another 3-4 weeks. It's a delicate process. Who knew garlic was so finicky? (To be honest, in my kitchen I'm pretty rough with the stuff.) Once pulled from the nutrient dense earth, the garlic has to be moved to shade so it doesn't sit in the hot sun. And garlic bruises easily, so the work has to be done with care. 

Once it's hung and cured, the garlic stems and roots are trimmed, and the dirt cleaned off. Then, and only then, do you have the finished product - 7500 gorgeous garlic bulbs, far more amazing in fragrance and taste and texture than anything you can buy in the store.

And this garlic, it's beautiful stuff.

It's fascinating to learn the entire process that brings the food we eat to our table. Everything our food has gone through before it finds its way to our farm stand or grocery store is a bit of a mystery, and rarely something we consider. But it's important. Garlic is a staple for our household, but I've never thought much about the planting, growing, harvesting and preparation of this fabulous food. Next time I'm preparing a homemade spaghetti sauce, I'm going to give my garlic a bit more respect.

Ben is a farmer in heart and soul. The energy he put into this year's garlic crop was inspiring. It takes planning and research and work and care and worry and anticipation and love. And you don't know if it will all pay off until the moment you start the harvest, 9 months after you planted.  It's slow.  And this is a world where we expect constant feedback, immediate gratification, everything available at the moment we want it. I believe these slow practices, the ones that require us to work and wait and work and wait and wait, these are the things that put us in balance.

Get dirt under your nails. It's good for your soul.

One week ago I left my corporate job in San Diego, packed up my 2 year old son, kissed my husband goodbye and jumped on a plane. My destination: a small farm in Wisconsin. My goal: to slow down, way down.

I stepped away to breathe, to be a mother, to find out what doors will open when one is closed.

This morning I woke up and harvested kale and asparagus with my sister while drinking my first cup of coffee. I picked arugula and chives, nibbling as I worked. I watched my son pick his first radish and plant his first pepper. I sat in a hammock and just sat there; no agenda, no place to be, no technology demanding my attention. It was liberating.

I cringed for a moment at the dirt under my nails, but then decided to embrace it. What's the point of committing to 3 weeks on a farm if you aren't willing to go to sleep with dirt under your nails? I worked hard. I used a shovel. I can't remember the last time I did that, I don't even own a shovel. My son ate more dirt than I'd like to admit. We didn't shower. We held worms and searched for spiders endlessly. As the day ended, I was exhausted, filthy and dehydrated. But every moment of it felt right, like a giant exhale, even the dirt under my nails. The world slows down when you step away, completely away. When you disconnect from your busy life and reconnect with simplicity, something magical happens. I haven't found words for it yet, but I believe it's what we need most.

I swear, get dirt under your nails. It's good for your soul.


(shout out to my husband who encourages such adventures)

slow pizza on the farm

My brother Ben has a gift. I bet so many people know him and don’t even know he has this gift. But every single person in his family is well aware of it because it makes our lives even richer. We have an absurdly large and boisterous family. Ben is more of a laid back, quiet personality. But he has a knack for bringing us all together around food…slow food…delicious food…food in which the preparation itself creates a social event for family and friends. It’s pretty remarkable.

Ten years ago, inspired by a New York Times article and guided by a stack of books, Ben set out on the endeavor to build his pizza oven. Armed with a handful of family members, all uneducated in the art of pizza oven making (myself included), he got to work. After hours of work, endless cuss words and lots of sweat, the result is amazing and has withstood a decade of the Wisconsin elements and countless baking sessions.

While it only takes 90 seconds for the pizza to cook once it hits the brick in the oven, the entire process is the epitome of slow. At the Ricter farm, it begins with the garden: tomatoes, onions, spinach, garlic (of course), basil, oregano, and so much more, all planted and watered, weeded and harvested. The tomatoes are canned to be used for sauce. The garlic is cured and the herbs are dried. The dough can be made with a basic pizza dough recipe or a sourdough starter, either way it is prepared the day before and allowed to rise slowly overnight. On the day of the pizza making, the fire in the oven is started in the morning, many hours before the oven is ready. The firebrick requires significant time to reach the intensely hot temperatures needed to cook the pizzas in 90 seconds. Meanwhile, the dough and sauce are being prepared, and the vegetables are being picked (if it’s the right season) and sliced. When the oven is finally ready, the fire is pushed to the back of the oven, and the front of the oven is swept clean. The dough is rolled out by hand and the pizzas are topped. It took a bit of practice, but we eventually learned that less is indeed so much more in terms of pizza toppings. The pizzas are carried out, across the lawn to the outdoor oven. They are carefully placed on the brick and 90 seconds later, well, you have an amazingly delicious pizza. You know where the ingredients came from. You know how it was made. You know who made it. You helped make it. You may have even helped to make the oven it was cooked in. And all of this makes it taste even better.

Beyond creating an amazing meal, the pizza oven creates an amazing experience. We have had 1 year olds and 90 year olds partake in the process. It's a slow style of cooking, so we have time to connect. We smile. We laugh. We share stories. We have baked pizzas in the sweltering August heat and in the depths of the freezing Wisconsin winters. We have baked pizzas for our immediate family and for the entire neighborhood. No matter what, every single time, the pizza oven has created a sense of connection, creation and complete enjoyment as we all come together to cook with fire in an old fashioned way, preparing a delicious meal for ourselves.

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Pizza is delicious. Pizza prepared the right way is extraordinary. Pizza prepared slowly, with intention and enjoyment in Ben’s pizza oven is divine.

Good job Ben. And thanks.