Monday, November 2, 2009

Seasons of Life

Maple Leaves


Dear Readers,

After much thought, prayer and discussion with my husband, I am pressing the pause button on this blog. I am entering into a season of life when my afternoon computer hour would best be spent in other pursuits.

I may have the opportunity to put up a few posts from time to time... and I hope to put up a post or two to share some of my favorite healthy holiday dishes... but I am putting my regular posting routine aside for a season. (I will for sure put up an announcement when my baby arrives around Christmastime!)

When things settle into normalcy after the baby, I hope to resume my afternoon computer time. Until then, I will still be working as a Wellness Consultant and as a Shaklee Independant Distributor... so please feel free to email questions if you are interested in laying a foundation for your family's health with reliably pure supplements.

Have a peaceful holiday season,
Photocredit: Allposters.com

Friday, October 16, 2009

Are You Looking For Something To Read?

I have Fall Break on the brain. Seriously, we're done with lessons for the day, I've been getting fall clothes out of big rubbermaid basins, the sun is shining for the first time in what seems like weeks, I've made a fun meal plan and I'm gearing up for our trip to the mountains!

I still have to finish laundry, pack and pre-prepare a lot of food... but I definitely am not focusing on work... or the half a dozen email questions you've sent me. (I apologize, but I may not get to them all until we're back into our normal routine.)

Before I head off though, I wanted to tell you about a particular book I'll be reading over the break. That is, one that I won't be reading aloud. Reading to my kids is always so fun to me... and this time I'm especially looking forward to it because we have a slew of really inspiring children's fiction selections. But the one I'll be reading to myself is In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, by Michael Pollan.


After reading this book review at Passionate Homemaking, I found the book at my local library.

So far, I have only read the introduction and the first chapter, but I already enjoy Pollan's intellectual yet casual writing style. He comes right out and spills the whole book in the first lines. "Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants." It seems odd at first read the recommendation that we eat food. But Pollan argues that most of what we see on supermarket shelves is not food. I totally agree.

Yes, this all sounds strikingly similar to Dr. Rex Russell's three Biblical principles from What the Bible Says About Healthy Living. (Eat what God Made. Eat it as close to how God made it as possible. Eat everything in moderation.) But Pollan takes an entirely different approach to draw nearly the same conclusion.

Instead of searching the scriptures to find Health Advice, Pollan researched the evolution of "nutrition" and how this new science has changed eating (and food) as we know it. I am eager to find out more...

Stop on over at Passionate Homemaking to read more about this book... and I'll let you know what I learn when I get back!

Enjoy your Autumn, whether you are blessed with time off or just take a moment to fill your senses with the changing of seasons.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Buyer Beware

I was grocery shopping... does this sound like other posts I've started?


I was grocery shopping. I was looking for canned tomatoes, and I noticed that the large cans of a brand name of "diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano" were on closeout special. They were cheap!


I picked them up thinking - "How perfect!"


But, almost as an afterthought, I checked the label just in case there was MSG. I was surprised to find High Fructose Corn Syrup instead. In tomatoes!!! Since when do we need to sweeten our tomatoes?


I wouldn't have thought of HFCS in tomatoes, but this is just another case in point -- we've got to be in the label reading habit!


For more information on High Fructose Corn Syrup, check out this informative site. It is a well written response to the current ad campaign in support of HFCS. Of course I want you to read the whole article so that you know why you need to avoid the stuff. But for your convenience, I'll summarize. It states in brief:

The Bottom Line on Research….
You should avoid consuming high fructose corn syrup because of the following:
1. High-fructose corn syrup has been linked directly to obesity, diabetes and metabolic dysfunction.
2. High-fructose corn syrup elevates triglycerides levels, which can lead to heart disease.
3. High-fructose corn syrup is simply empty calories with no nutritional
value whatsoever.

Really, you could skim the whole article in 3-5 minutes... and meanwhile, I'm off to get a very late start on what I hoped would be a full afternoon of baking and food prep for our coming Fall Break.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Great Granola Bar Challenge (recipe at the end)

Recently, Elizabeth at Yes.They're.All.Ours sweetly challenged me to makeover her recipe for Craisin Chocolate Chip Granola Bars. She wondered if they could be made any healthier, but still be as yummy. Two of my favorite things are chocolate and berries, so I immediately knew I was up for the challenge.

My first thought was that I wanted to soak the grains in order to neutralize the enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid, making the grains more digestable and their nutrients more accessible.

My second consideration was what to do with the craisins. While I love their flavor, they always contain added refined sugar. But who wants to eat a cranberry that has not been sweetened? So, I nixed the craisins... and I thought of cherries, my very favorite fruit. And cherries go very well with chocolate... so I couldn't miss with cherries, right?

Well, I ran into a problem at the grocery store. I could only find cherries with added sugar. I know unsweetened cherries are available at Health Food Stores, but I did not have time to make that trip... plus they're pretty expensive.

So I thought I would just have to use apricots, since they are available unsweetened and taste yummy with chocolate and nuts. (In college I used to dip apricots in nutella for a "perfect" snack.) But before I left the grocery store, another idea popped into my mind. What about using a cherry "all-fruit jam"? Would that give the bars a cherry flavor without the added refined sugar? I figured it was worth a try.

On Monday I made my first batch of granola bars. I was hoping to call them Very Cherry Chocolate Granola Bars, but they were not very cherry. Even though I used the whole jar of Polaner All-Fruit Cherry jam, they still only had a hint of cherry flavor. They were good, and my children were pleased to eat them... but I thought there was room for improvement.

So, on Tuesday, I gave it another go. This time I used apricots... and we loved them. Now, if you are able to buy unsweetened, dried cherries, I still think they would be BEST. But, if you can not, the apricots were quite tasty with the chocolate and walnuts.

Here is the recipe... Elizabeth's original ingredients, then the ones I used in bold.

Chocolate Apricot Granola Bars

  • 5 cups rolled oats (no change)
  • 1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour (no change)
  • 1 1/3 cup brown sugar (I used Sucanat, but you could use any natural sweetener that is not crystalized, such as Rapadura or Maple Sugar)
  • 1 tsp baking powder (Make sure you buy non-aluminum baking powder.)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (I omitted this simply for our personal taste preferences.)
  • 1 cup olive oil (I used melted coconut oil, but EVOO is fine.)
  • 2/3 cup milk (For the soaking, I used 2/3 cup of warm water plus 2 Tbsp plain yogurt; then I omitted this milk.)
  • 2 eggs (farm fresh!)
  • 1 cup grated coconut (It's pretty easy to find unsweetened, grated coconut.)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (no change)
  • 1 1/2 cup craisins (Use unsweetened cherries or apricots; unsulphered as well is best.)
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (You can purchase naturally sweetened chocolate chips... I chopped mine the second time around so that there would be more chocolate bites throughout... or you could start with the minis.)
  • I also added 1/2 tsp of salt the second time around, which really helped punch the flavor.

First, mix the oats and whole wheat flour. In a separate cup, mix 2/3 cup of warm water with 2 Tbsp of plain yogurt. Combine the grains and the liquids. I used my hands because I was better able to get the moisture more evenly distributed than with a spoon. Let the wet grains soak overnight or all day long, covered loosely.

When you are ready to make the bars, break apart the clumps of grains with your hands. Then mix in the rest of the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add the eggs and oil. Stir to combine thoroughly.

Spread on a cookie sheet or a jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

These are delicious and nutritious. But remember to eat everything in moderation, even the good stuff!

Enjoy,

Making Maple Syrup Last

Once you make the decision to steer clear of refined sweeteners and artificial flavors, you can't buy the cheap "maple syrup" anymore. However... real maple syrup is expensive! (Think outside the grocery store box and look for a food co-op or a bulk food store in order to get a better deal.)

But what do you do on a perfect Saturday morning with six stacks of pancakes ready for six hungry mouths?

Bottles of Maple Syrup at the Morse Farm Store in East Montpelier, Vermont, February 6, 2006

Here's what works for us:

I melt butter in a small saucepan and add the same amount of maple syrup. (So, that may be 1/4 cup of butter and 1/4 cup of maple syrup if I need a 1/2 cup of syrup in the end.) As it heats through, I stir it vigorously until it is completely combined and a pretty light brown color.

Not only do I get to skip buttering the pancakes... who wants to butter that many pancakes anyway? The children get more syrup on their pancakes, but only half of it is maple syrup. And the syrup is wonderfully warm, sweet, and buttery. Yum!

I actually got this tip from my dear sister-in-law several years ago. I don't know if she will even remember... but we have done it like this ever since. Thanks, Renee!

For more Works For Me Wednesday posts, visit Kristen and WeAreThatFamily.com.

Thanks for stopping by today!

Photo Credit: Allposters.com

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Free Samples of Little Ducks Organics Snacks


This is a no strings attached freebie! I just signed up for this one... Go here to request free samples of Little Ducks Organics infant and toddler all-natural snacks.

You've Just Gotta Watch This!!!

I posted the link for this video several months and a few hundred subscribers ago. It is called Toxic Brew, and I consider it a MUST SEE for every woman. I was reminded of it yesterday, but when I went to rewatch it, I noticed that the previous link is broken... so I'm posting it again.


Like I said, this is a MUST SEE. Do not clean your house again before you take the time to watch it!


video


If, after watching this short news segment, you wonder what non-toxic cleaning products I use, follow this link. I love them so much, I sell them!


To your health,

Monday, October 12, 2009

Meal Plans for the Week

What have you got cooking this week? Are you trying anything new? I suggest trying a new vegetable this week. Serve it along with a tried and true vegetable that you know your children already enjoy... but don't be afraid to pick out something you have not tried before!


How about Collards? My children like these greens since they don't wilt as much as spinach. Or how about Bok Choy? This is one of my favorite greens. Have you ever served your children fresh (not canned) beets? Or how about some of the wonderful fall squashes that are filling up our grocery stores?


Try something new with the aim to increase the color, quantity and variety of produce in your family's fare.


Here is what I have planned for this week --


Monday:
Mushroom, Spinach and Chicken Creamy Pasta with a Garden Salad. I don't have a good name for this meal, but it is one my children look forward to! It seems that when you make a simple cream sauce and include pasta (we use whole wheat or another whole grain blend), the children don't really mind the mushrooms.


Tuesday:
Make Yogurt in the Morning
Leek and Potato Soup with Garlic Cheese Biscuits and a Garden Salad. The children recently read the book Twenty and Ten, in which the fifth graders speak about LOVING Leek and Potato Soup... so, naturally, they convinced me to make it for them. The Garlic Cheese Biscuits are a family fave... hopefully I'll post the recipe with pictures next week... and for the Cherry Chocolate Granola Bars I am making!


Wednesday:
Remember that Wednesday is our Family Frugal Night. Click here to read why I reserve one night a week for some combination of beans and rice.


Thursday:
I plan on making the Crock Pot Roast (from Grass-Fed Beef) that I didn't make the other week. We have plenty of potatoes to oven-roast and I also have a wealth of other greens that will need to be used up. I'll probably cook the whole mess and freeze what we don't eat for future soups. I think I will have chard, cabbage, carrots, onions and garlic left in the fridge.


I will also have to catch up on Baking... my plan is six loaves of bread, Love Muffins, and Banana Nut Muffins for next week's breakfasts. If I have the time, I may make some cookies to take on our Fall Break trip too.


Friday starts our Fall Break! YAY!!! I am so looking forward to our little family vacation... and I will have to clean out my fridge on Friday, so we will put together all the leftovers for a smorgasbord meal. I anticipate still having salad veggies too, so we can have that on the side... again... who ever heard of too much salad?!?


Friday, October 9, 2009

Free Homeopathic Products for Mom Bloggers

Great news for the coming Cold and Flu Season! If you are a mom living in the USA with an active blog, you can sign up here to receive samples of Children's Homeopathic Remedies: Children's Oscillococcinum; Children's Coldcalm Pellets; Children's Chestal.

I have used the Chestal product with success before, but haven't tried the other two. These are great remedies to have on hand and to use at the first sign of Cold or Flu! I also have the ear ache product from the same line and have used that with success as well. If you're a mom blogger, I recommend giving these a try!


Once you enter your email address here, you'll receive an email in your inbox. Just click on the link and fill out the form to receive your free samples in the mail.Thanks, Saving Dollars and Sense and Money Saving Mom!

Hoping we all stay well,

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Helping Your Children Make Wise Choices

As parents, we are in a very privileged position. We have the opportunity to guide our children in their decision making. We are granted a handful of years in which to instruct them according to wisdom and equip them for the lifetime of choices they will have to make.

As babies, we decide everything for them. As toddlers, we give them liberty in some areas to choose according to their preferences. We guide our littles with wise counsel, all the while teaching them the facts they need to know in order to make good decisions. And over time, our children grow independent, making all of their own choices.

This process of independence applies to nutrition choices, as well as everything else under the sun. We can not stand over our older children's shoulders and dictate their choices. Yet, we should take every opportunity to give them knowledge and understanding so that they, themselves, will make sound choices.

If we are going to raise up children who have enough understanding to choose wisely, we need to guide them while they are young. Look at your nurturing position as an amazing opportunity! And daily take advantage of that opportunity...

But what specifically should we tell our kids? First, understand the mechanisms of wellness yourself. If you did not read this series yesterday, refresh your memory today.
What next? Well, I talk with my kids all day long. We talk about almost everything. So, it only makes sense that we would talk about health and nutrition.

I have told them...
  1. that they are in a stage of very rapid growth,
  2. that their body's trillions of cells are reproducing themselves so that nearly their entire body will be brand new in just one year,
  3. that their cells need real building materials for this amazing work,
  4. and that if their body does not have the building materials necessary, their cells will still have to replace themselves, just with a weaker copy...
  5. that they have the choice to build healthy or weakened cells, which will in turn make up a healthy or weakened body.
That is totally understandable to Rainbow and Spiderman. But what about Witzy and Tickle? It has been helpful to use this illustration... maybe you'll find it illuminating as well.
Marshmallow Hearts for Valentine's Day
Marshmallow Hearts for Valentine's Day

Imagine that you are building yourself a castle. It has to be a strong castle, because you live in a land where there are flying dragons that could break down the walls. You have to have strong walls in order to keep out all your other enemies too.

So, what will you build your castle with? You have some choices... You can build your castle with legos, blocks that have been especially designed to interconnect and stack securely. Or, you can build your castle with marshmallows and M&Ms.

If you choose marshmallows and M&Ms, and if you are very careful about how you stack them, you might see a wall take shape. But, the first time an enemy approaches, even his footfalls might shake the ground so much the walls would fall. Or, the first time a dragon flies by, his wings would create enough wind to blow down your only defense -- your walls.

Your body is the same way. You are building it with the food that God has specifically designed to make healthy cells, just like the lego blocks in your castle. You would not want to replace a lego with a marshmallow. That part of the wall would be weak. And, if you trade too many legos for marshmallows, your wall would not hold up at all.

When you have a choice of what to eat, choose the foods that are closest to what God made and leave the other stuff for only very special occasions (like your birthday!).

Then, practice identifying foods with your young children. See if they can tell what God has made, what is only slightly changed by mankind, and what is totally man-made. As always, your children will like adventure... so make your story exciting, and make the daily choices a game.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What's On My Mind

Today my mind is so full. First, I am about to start cooking three large chickens. (Click here to read how I do that.) I went to a local farm to pick up an order of chickens for the next several months, and there were three that were so big I couldn't fit them in a freezer bag! I plan to cook and debone these this afternoon so that I can replenish my stock of ready-to-use meat in the freezer.

I am also thinking of Fall Break Plans, School Lessons, dividing a MEGA LARGE cheese order that I placed for myself and several of my local friends, how I'm going to balance my pregnant body on a bar stool tall enough to vacuum the ceiling fan in our vaulted living room, maintaining a cheerful spirit, and getting everything done this afternoon in enough time to get Rainbow to ballet on time.

Clouds, Sky


Then, there is a larger thought cloud in the back of my mind today. I say cloud, but think big and fluffy cloud rather than dark rain cloud. "Thought cloud" as in a conglomeration of thoughts that provides the background for all my other thoughts today.

What is this thought cloud? Well, I have been thinking how thankful I am that my family is healthy. I am not saying that we will never get sick. That is out of my hands. But, we are well. And and I am thankful for this gift.

My thoughts go on... What about wellness? Well, I can tell you that wellness doesn't happen over night. It is a two fold process of developing healthy habits and giving your body's cells time to replace themselves with healthy, vibrant cells.

(If you are a new reader and have not yet read my "So What is Health Anyway?" Series, the idea of "replacing cells" might seem new to you. Please take the time to read that three part series. I think it is foundational to understanding why it matters what we put in our bodies. It wouldn't be long, and it won't be painful... and you might just ignite a new motivation too.)
Wellness does take time. You may start to feel more energy rather quickly. Or you may notice less digestive distress within a short time. But, the building of a healthy immune system, the overcoming of chronic symptoms and the creation of lifelong healthy choices takes time. Give yourself time. But start now!


Photo Credit: Allposters.com

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Our Favorite Autumn Breakfast

There is something truly wonderful about the smell of cinnamon and apples simmering on a crisp fall morning! One of my favorite signs that autumn has arrived is my children's request for their favorite fall breakfast: Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal. I love the smell warming up the house. And my kids love the taste! This dish is fabulously healthy too, so I thought I would share the recipe with you.

It is a "soaked" grain recipe. For those of you who are new readers, here is a quote from Sally Fallon to explain the soaking process.

Scientists have learned that the proteins in grains, especially gluten, are very difficult to digest. A diet high in unfermented whole gains, particularly high-gluten grains like wheat, puts an enormous strain on the whole digestive mechanism.... During the process of soaking and fermenting, gluten and other difficult to digest proteins are partially broken down into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption.
This meal is quite easy to make... it seems much simpler to me than eggs and toast, for sure. But, it does start the night before. I shared last week that as I clean up the kitchen from supper, I think ahead to the meals for the next day. At that time, I set out the oatmeal to soak, if that is what I am going to serve for breakfast.

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
(This recipe has served me and my four children for the past year or two, but I discovered this morning that I will have to increase it by 50% in order to accommodate Rainbow and Spiderman's growing appetites.)
  • 1 1/2 cups of warm water
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp. plain yogurt or kefir
  • 1 1/2 cups of whole, rolled oats
  • another 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 1/3 cup of diced dried apples
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3 Tbsp. Sucanat, Rapadura, Maple Syrup or Raw Honey
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly ground flax seed, optional
  • Milk, Cream or Butter, optional
The night before, measure out 1 1/2 cups of warm water in a glass bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of plain yogurt and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir to combine.

Then, add 1 1/2 cups of whole, rolled oats and stir to thoroughly mix. Cover it, but not completely airtight. You can see from this photo that I just place a bowl over my pyrex mixing cup. A little air still gets through the spout opening.


The next morning, bring and additional 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil. Add the soaked oats plus 1/3 cup of diced dried apples and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Let this simmer for five to seven minutes, stirring occasionally.


Once the oatmeal is cooked stir in 3 or more tablespoons of Sucanat (or Rapadura or Raw Honey or Maple Syrup). You can add more or less sweetener, depending on how sweet your children prefer their oatmeal. But I do suggest slowly weaning them off highly sweetened breakfast foods, if they have grown accustomed to them.


Stir it completely and serve it up!




Note: In the cookbook Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon recommends adding a tablespoon of freshly ground flax seed and butter or coconut oil to increase the nutritional content of her regular soaked oatmeal. The flax seed adds fiber and important fatty acids while the fat from the butter or coconut oil enables the body to more readily absorb the nutrients from the oats. You might want to try her recommendation for my Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal recipe too.
Enjoy your autumn!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sorting Out Organic Food Labels

The Organic Foods industry is gaining momentum! There seems to be an "organic" option for every type of food in the grocery store. But is "organic" worth buying? Are some "organic" products a waste of money?

I read an article this weekend in Dr. Mercola's newsletter that contained some very useful information on sorting out Organic Food Labels. (You can read the whole article here.)

Most of us are financially unable to purchase all of our foods with a Certified Organic Label. We would like to bring home the most nourishing foods for our loved ones, but does it have to be organic?

There has been a lot of debate about whether or not organic foods actually contain more nutrients, but a recent EU study showed that organic foods do, in fact, contain more beneficial components than their conventional counterparts. For example:
  • Organic fruit and vegetables contain up to 40 percent more antioxidants
  • Organic produce had higher levels of beneficial minerals like iron and zinc
  • Milk from organic herds contained up to 90 percent more antioxidants
Buying organic does matter! But, not for all foods. As Mercola says, a potato chip is a potato chip whether you start with an organic potato or a conventional potato. Either way, it is still deep fried! And, unfortunately, organic labeling has already been greatly compromised. "Whereas organic foods were once truly raised naturally, on small farms with great integrity, big business has now stepped in and tainted many of the principles upon which the organic label was founded."

So, how do you know which organic foods are worth the extra money? Mercola recommends looking for the USDA Organic seal. He says, "This seal is your best assurance of organic quality. Growers and manufacturers of organic products bearing the USDA seal have to meet the strictest standards of any of the currently available organic labels." In his article, he lists out some of these standards, which you can read here.

Interestingly enough, Mercola also recommends EWG's Organic Buyer's Guide for help in selecting which produce it matters most to buy organic and which we can buy conventionally. Click here to read my post from last March in which I recommended using this great resource.

Are you asking, "So where do I start?" Keep an eye out for the USDA Organic Seal, print out EWG's Guide, and keep in mind these thoughts from the end of Mercola's article:

"Non-organic meats actually have far higher concentrations of pesticides than all of the fruits and vegetables. And the highest concentration of pesticides is actually in non-organic butter. So if you can only buy one organic food item it should be butter. Your next priority would be meats, and once those are addressed, then you’ll want to focus on the fruit and vegetable list [from EWG]."

I hope my brief notes on Mercola's article help you sort out the some of the confusion on buying organic... If you've got the time, check out his full article... there is so much more I could have mentioned, but I like to keep things short and simple.

And, by the way, if you are wondering about my meal plan for this week, I will be late in making it since I won't see what is in my produce box until later tonight. Any suggestions for healthy meals? We're up for something new!

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Particulars of Our Diet Choices

Did you all find the WAP list of Dietary Guidelines from my last post helpful? I hope they weren't too overwhelming. I find the list to be very useful. It's streamlined and it's concise... just as information in a busy woman's life needs to be.

In the comments, Michelle asked a good question about my family's personal diet choices. Since I'm figuring she asked a question that popped into most of your minds, I thought I would answer it in my post today. She writes:

"I find it so intriguing that you have been posting about Sally Fallon's book Nourishing Traditions! I was just introduced to this book a week or two ago and have been excited to learn about it. Is this diet what ya'll primarily try to follow? My friend who is on it has had great success!"

Well... I have mentioned why we eat what we eat in My Personal Health Journey, Raw Food Diets, Natural Sweeteners 101, and a in variety of other posts. But it may be hard to put all those pieces together in sequential order. So today, I thought today I would write it all out in one place.

I started my health journey as a senior in college. (See My Personal Health Journey.) At that time, I new little to nothing about nutrition and I had several health ailments to show for it. As I was browsing in a Christian Bookstore, I found What the Bible Says About Healthy Living. On a whim, I picked it up and purchased it.

As I've mentioned before, in the book Dr. Rex Russell presents three principles for healthy living. My paraphrase of them is:
  • Eat what God made
  • Eat it as close to how God made it as possible
  • Eat everything in moderation.

This was revolutionary for me, at the time. When I evaluated what I was eating, I found that most of my food was a man-made "improvement" on a natural food. I discovered that very little of what I was eating was actually natural or whole. So, I made big changes, which you can do much more easily when single than with a family to consider.

My husband had also read this book (independent of me, before we got together), and so we started our marriage on Dr. Russell's whole food principles. (Well, that wasn't the foundation of our marriage, of course... I mean that when we started, we were both on the same page with nutrition.) I didn't know much about cooking, but I taught myself how to read labels and how to prepare food as healthfully as possible.

Then, we were introduced to Dr. George Malkmus' famous Hallelujah Diet. He recommends eating 90% of your foods in their raw state and eating no animal products or processed foods at all. (I wrote more extensively about raw food diets here.)

We jumped on the raw food bandwagon and did our share of juicing and barleygreen. That lasted for about a year and a half, at which time I linked my severe postpartum depression and my daughter's failure to thrive to the diet's lack of proteins and fats. (Like I said, that whole story is here.)

As we searched for solutions to our diet deficiencies, we knew that we did not want to go back to eating processed foods, white sugar, white flour, fractionated and rancid fats or commercial animal products. As we researched, we discovered Sally Fallon's work through the Weston A. Price Foundation.

I read her book, Nourishing Traditions, plus Price's Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, plus about a dozen more from that school of thought. It was a huge time commitment, but I had time for it with only one child!

After careful research into the WAP guidelines (and arguments against them as well!), we decided to add raw milk products, fish oil, eggs from farm hens, and some fish to our diet. We noticed a very positive improvement in how we felt.

Over time, we took things a step further and added grass-fed meats, mineral rich stocks, fermented dairy products, soaked grains, and lacto-fermented foods as well. Notice that I added these things in steps. It took time to understand the processes involved with each of these nourishing foods. And I took it one step at a time. As one thing became my common practice, I would add another. I think this is the most realistic way for a mom to make health changes while still keeping the rest of her life in balance. Don't let yourself be overwhelmed. Take baby steps.

I might need to add that we never went as far as organ meats and raw meat dishes (for those of you who have read Sally Fallon's book in its entirety). We tried to eat liver from grass-fed cows a few times, but I always had extreme difficulty with the smell. That being said, I think we still did pretty well following the WAP diet!

Fast forward three more children (and the fifth on the way)... Since my days as a mother of two with plenty of afternoon hours for food preparation, I have had to simplify. I now have three children in homeschool, a toddler in tow and will soon have a newborn to wear as well. I find that some of Sally Fallon's recipes require much more time than I have... or ingredients that are too expensive for us to acquire at this stage in our lives.

However, we have not neglected the health wisdom that we have gained over the last ten years. We still stay away from white flour and white sugar. We still keep fresh salads and raw foods as a prime part of our daily fare. We still eat healthy, grass-fed meats. We still eat unprocessed eggs and dairy from healthy animals. We still eat everything in moderation.

Yet, I know that it is not feasible for me to soak every nut, legume and grain that we eat. I strive for soaking the majority of what we consume, but I know that I can't do it all. I still make yogurt weekly, but I rarely have time to make lacto-fermented foods. I still use a great deal of homemade chicken stock, but I have to be realistic about how much time I can spend in the kitchen. I simply can't do it all and nurture my children's hearts and minds as well... remember it's not all about their physical bodies, although I do actively concern myself with their health!

So what do we eat? I call it "whole foods." By that, I mean that we eat foods whole, not fractionated or adulterated. We stay away from artificial ingredients. We eat foods as close to their natural state as possible, and we stay away from things that wouldn't spoil. We also add in as much nutrient-dense food as possible, which for us includes yogurt and chicken stock and the occasional jar of homemade sauerkraut.

That's what we eat... It fits our family. What does "healthy" look like for your family? Are there things that you would like to improve? Keep in mind, change happens one step at a time... but change does require taking steps.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Basic Nutrition 101

Since I quoted from Sally Fallon yesterday, I thought I would continue along that line and share the Weston A. Price Foundation's Basic Dietary Guidelines. (Sally Fallon is the president of WAP.)

I find these 20 health suggestions really helpful. First, they were helpful when I was getting started and needed a solid foundation to build on. They gave me a place to jump in and begin my own research and investigation. Second, they have continued to be helpful as a resource to refer back to every now and again in order to refocus my efforts. So, here they are:

Dietary Guidelines
  1. Eat whole, natural foods.
  2. Eat only foods that will spoil, but eat them before they do.
  3. Eat naturally-raised meat including fish, seafood, poultry, beef, lamb, game, organ meats and eggs.
  4. Eat whole, naturally-produced milk products from pasture-fed cows, preferably raw and/or fermented, such as whole yogurt, cultured butter, whole cheeses and fresh and sour cream.
  5. Use only traditional fats and oils including butter and other animal fats, extra virgin olive oil, expeller expressed sesame and flax oil and the tropical oils-coconut and palm.
  6. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, preferably organic, in salads and soups, or lightly steamed.
  7. Use whole grains and nuts that have been prepared by soaking, sprouting or sour leavening to neutralize phytic acid and other anti-nutrients.
  8. Include enzyme-enhanced lacto-fermented vegetables, fruits, beverages and condiments in your diet on a regular basis.
  9. Prepare homemade meat stocks from the bones of chicken, beef, lamb or fish and use liberally in soups and sauces.
  10. Use herb teas and coffee substitutes in moderation.
  11. Use filtered water for cooking and drinking.
  12. Use unrefined Celtic seasalt and a variety of herbs and spices for food interest and appetite stimulation.
  13. Make your own salad dressing using raw vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and expeller expressed flax oil.
  14. Use natural sweeteners in moderation, such as raw honey, maple syrup, dehydrated cane sugar juice and stevia powder.
  15. Use only unpasteurized wine or beer in strict moderation with meals.
  16. Cook only in stainless steel, cast iron, glass or good quality enamel.
  17. Use only natural supplements.
  18. Get plenty of sleep, exercise and natural light.
  19. Think positive thoughts and minimize stress.
  20. Practice forgiveness.
These are straight from the book... without my additional comments added, although I could say some things about each of these.

If these guidelines present new information to you, please don't let them overwhelm you!!! I suggest taking small steps. Find a few that you could put into practice for the remainder of this year. Then re-evaluate the list at the New Year and select a few more for the next season. Allow each new practice to become habit before you add in more... but don't stop adding in more!

Off to run around like a chicken with my head cut off until bedtime...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Encouragement for Meal Planning

Yesterday I mentioned how important it is to create a reasonable meal plan full of nutritious and balanced foods... and then stick to it. Remember the adage: "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."?

For real, I know that putting healthy foods on the table for three meals a day can be very time and thought intensive. The good news is that most things will become habitual and lose a level of difficulty. However, even after eating this way for more than ten years, I still have to plan!

Eating healthy takes time and effort, but it pays off in energy, vitality and wellness. I find it very much worth the effort.

Today I'd like to share a simple tip with you that could increase your success... It is something I ran across in Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions. She gives a section of kitchen tips for those who need help getting started. In one of her tips, she suggests thinking ahead to the next two meals every time you prepare a meal.

This is how I have trained my mind to function over the years. But actually, I have found it helpful to think three meals ahead. So when I make supper one night, I can make sure meat is thawed for the next night. Or that beans are soaking so that they will be ready for the slow cooker the next morning.

When I make breakfast, I think ahead to lunch and dinner. At that point, I take the time to start grains soaking and I can also do any advance prep work that can be done to lighten the work load in the evening.

This is just a suggestion, but it works enough for Sally Fallon to include it in her book and it certainly works for me. I have discovered that I am greatly limited in what I can pull of if I wait until the last minute to plan and prepare supper. By waiting, I find myself with meat still frozen at the very least!

Do you have any tips on how to streamline meal preparation times in your home? I would love to hear your thoughts, so please share in the comments!

Thanks,

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pregnancy Update and Meal Plans

I am at the end of my second trimester! Things are going very well with this pregnancy... EXCEPT that I have been really tired lately. My doctor has evaluated my bloodwork, and I have talked at length with my midwife. Their final analysis: my fatigue is simply due to overloading my schedule and not getting enough rest.

Hmmm. I am glad it is nothing serious, but I don't know how to thin out my schedule... and napping doesn't really come easily in a house full of active children. We'll just have to see how I can fit in more rest... yeah, right.

But in the meantime, I know that my body (and my baby) would not appreciate me cutting corners and letting unhealthy convenience foods into my daily diet. These foods actually deprive us of energy because of the additional strain they put on our digestive and detoxification systems. In times like these, our bodies really need the right fuel to keep them operating at peak performance. (Which reminds me of a post I wrote a while ago about the proper fuel for our bodies.) The "right fuel" is real food... So I will keep pressing on with my "whole foods" meal plans and preparations.

Here's what I have planned for this week:

Monday: This quiche with Parsley Mashed Potatoes and a Garden Salad.

Tuesday: Make Yogurt in the morning.
Cabbage Rolls (from this cookbook) plus a Garden Salad. I have so much cabbage from my last produce box! I will make a double or triple batch of these and freeze them for future meals when I simply don't have time to cook.

Wednesday: This is our full-to-bursting day. So I will make Crock Pot Black Bean Soup (follow this link) and some fresh soaked flatbreads to dip into the soup. If I have time in the morning when I start to soak the flatbreads, I will also bake some Banana Nut Muffins.

Thursday: Crock Pot Roast, Oven Roasted Potatoes, Steamed Vegetables.

Friday: Chicken and Spinach Calzones with another fresh, crisp salad... full of all the wonderful raw food benefits we need to frequently take advantage of!


Press on dear readers... we all get tired, don't we? But what we eat really matters! Make a reasonable plan, then stick with it... you'll be glad you did!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Do You Ever Wonder...

Do you ever wonder why I recommend only Shaklee supplements and cleaning products? I mention why in my series on What Is Health Anyway? (Part I, Part II, Part III) and in My Personal Health Journey. But, I have recently found this video that summarizes my reasons (plus more) very nicely.

If you have ever wondered "Why should I choose a Shaklee supplement over a store bought or health food store vitamin"...

If you have ever asked, "Why is Shaklee a better value?"... please watch this seven minute video.

video

For more information on Shaklee supplements (or for purchasing) click here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Busy Evenings and Quick Meals

I feel like a broken record, as if the same thought keeps echoing in my head... "Things have been so busy here!" Have you heard yourself saying the same thing?

Our challenge is to keep providing healthy meals for our families despite the busy-ness. Be encouraged... It can be done! And, be encouraged... even if you have to get take out once in a while. I am positive that your efforts the other 97% of the time will still count for good.

So what do you do when you arrive home at 5:20 and have to be finished with supper by 6:00 for the next evening activity?

First, it really helps if you have some already prepared meat in the freezer that you can pull out to thaw the morning of a busy day. For example, you can brown a few pounds of beef, add taco seasoning and freeze it in one-pound portions. The morning of a busy day, you can pull a pound out to thaw and then make some beefy quesidillas and a salad for supper. (Try sprouted wheat tortillas!) With lettuce already washed and ready, you could make these two things in just fifteen minutes.

With plain ground beef already browned, you can use the thawed meat to make a quick spaghetti sauce. Finely chop onions, peppers, garlic, squash, zucchini, greens... any vegetable you have on hand... and saute them with the browned beef. Then, add two cans of Crushed Tomatoes and some Italian Seasoning for a fifteen minute spaghetti sauce to serve over whole grain pasta. Like with the lettuce, if you have already chopped veggies, you can really save time. I keep diced onions and peppers in my freezer and can pull those out and put them directly into a skillet to saute. (You can chop and freeze fresh onions and peppers without any other preparation.)

Or, have some cooked chicken in the freezer. I have gotten into the habit of cooking a few chickens at a time and then freezing the meat in meal sized portions. The ready-prepared meat and stock came in really handy yesterday! In the morning, I threw ingredients into a crock pot... and when I arrived home at 5:20, I had Arroz Con Pollo ready to dish up for supper.

So here's how I made Arroz Con Pollo, which might just be the easiest meal EVER. This meal serves 8-10.

Add each of these ingredients to your crock pot in the morning... I add them in this order:
  • Meat from 1/2 a cooked chicken. As I mentioned before, I like to make our meat stretch, so I just use half, but if you wanted this meal extra meaty, you could use a whole.
  • 2 diced onions
  • 2 diced green peppers
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. of Italian Seasoning (make sure you use a natural seasoning mix so that it contains no added, unwanted ingredients)
  • Cayenne Pepper... I just add a few sprinkles, but if your kids like spice you can add more.
  • One can of Crushed Tomatoes
  • One can of Petite Diced Tomatoes (on the tomatoes, it is preferable to use organic or home canned tomatoes, but use what you are able to buy)
  • 2 cups of brown rice
  • 1-2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 cups of chicken stock or fresh water

Give the pot a few gentle stirs. Then let it cook on low all day long... say from 8-5pm or 9-6pm, give or take, which is what is nice about crock pot meals. When you're ready for supper, you'll have a tasty, hearty, healthy meal for your family!


We will all have extremely busy days. If we think ahead, we can still put a nourishing meal on the table. Think ahead, work ahead... and next time I have a quick meal idea, I'll be sure to pass it along too.
Enjoy your days!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Don't Throw Away the Liquid from Cooking Vegetables!

While I really see the health value in eating raw vegetables and salads as much as possible, sometimes veggies are just better cooked. I'm thinking about eggplant, zucchini, and greens for example.

In fact, some veggies are even more healthy when they are cooked. For example, cabbage, broccoli, brussles sprouts and kale contain thyroid inhibiting compounds called goitrogens. Spinach, chard and beet greens contain oxalic acid, which blocks the absorption of calcium and iron. Cooking neutralizes both of these negative factors.

But what do you do with the leftover cooking liquid? Here is what's left from a pan in which I sauteed onions, rainbow chard and garlic. There's a lot of good stuff in that liquid!

But who wants to drink it??? (There are rare children like Spiderman who eagerly await the liquid from cooking beets as his choice beverage, but I understand he is a rarity. None of my girls want any part of it!)

Don't throw it out! Don't waste the extra nutrients! Instead, you can add the liquid to your store of stock in the freezer or fridge. Keep the stock plus vegetable liquid to steam rice or add to soup, spaghetti sauce, chili or almost any crock pot meal.

I usually have some chicken stock in the fridge or in the freezer. I pour this 1/4 cup of liquid in with it. By doing so, I add extra flavor and nutrients to whatever I use the chicken stock for. The possiblilies are endless!

Note: If you have a pint or quart of stock in the freezer, adding 1/4-1/2 cup of cooled vegetable liquid will not defrost the stock enough to cause a problem. If you are adding more than 1/2 cup, you may want to just freeze it by itself in leftover yogurt containers. Just think ahead to pull it out of the freezer before you make rice or soup. Or you can quick-thaw-it by leaving it submerged in a sink of cool water for a bit.

This works for me -- I hope it works for you too!

For more Works For Me Wednesday posts, visit We Are That Family.

Monday, September 21, 2009

New Blog Listing

What a full weekend! And what a Monday!!!! I'm about to get my produce box, so I haven't made my meal plan for the week yet... I hope to post that and get back to regular posting tomorrow. Until then, here is a fun tidbit for those of you who like to blog hop:

Health Begins With Mom has been listed in a blog link collection entitled "100 Best Blogs for Entrepreneurial-Minded Moms." The list is separated into subcategories from which it is easy to pick and choose what meets your interests. The categories are:
  • Advice and Support from other Mom-Entrepreneurs
  • Budget
  • PR and Marketing
  • Health
  • Balance
  • Parenting
  • Quick Recipes
  • Beauty, Fashion and Shopping
  • Helpful Resources
I, for sure, will be checking out the Quick Recipes blogs... looking for healthy ideas or recipes I can tweak to meet our whole foods standards. And I'm sure I'll check out the other health blogs, plus a few more.

If you like to see what other moms are up to, be sure to visit the link!

Happy Monday,

Friday, September 18, 2009

76 Reasons to Avoid Sugar

I recently received an email that included a list of 76 Ways Sugar Can Ruin Your Health. The list was compiled by Dr. Nancy Appleton, who has written several books about America's destructive affair with sugar. Her most recent book is entitiled Suicide By Sugar: A Startling Look at our #1 National Addiction.

Do you think that sounds a bit extreme? I thought so at first... but you've got to check out this list she compiled. Each has a corresponding published clinical study (or more) to support her claim. Pretty interesting stuff...

[AE's Note: I have the extra long list of medical journals and other scientific publications that corresponds to the endnotes for each of these claims. If you would like to know which journal to refer to for each item, please email me with "Sugar Notes" in the subject line and I will attach the file to send to you.]


76 Ways Sugar Can Ruin Your Health by Nancy Appleton, Ph.D

  • Sugar can suppress your immune system and impair your defenses against infectious disease.1,2
  • Sugar upsets the mineral relationships in your body: causes chromium and copper deficiencies and interferes with absorption of calcium and magnesium. 3,4,5,6
  • Sugar can cause can cause a rapid rise of adrenaline, hyperactivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and crankiness in children.7,8
  • Sugar can produce a significant rise in total cholesterol, triglycerides and bad cholesterol and a decrease in good cholesterol.9,10,11,12
  • Sugar causes a loss of tissue elasticity and function.13
  • Sugar feeds cancer cells and has been connected with the development of cancer of the breast, ovaries, prostate, rectum, pancreas, biliary tract, lung, gallbladder and stomach.14,15,16,17,18,19,20
  • Sugar can increase fasting levels of glucose and can cause reactive hypoglycemia.21,22
  • Sugar can weaken eyesight.23
  • Sugar can cause many problems with the gastrointestinal tract including: an acidic digestive tract, indigestion, malabsorption in patients with functional bowel disease, increased risk of Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis.24,25,26,27,28
  • Sugar can cause premature aging.29
  • Sugar can lead to alcoholism.30
  • Sugar can cause your saliva to become acidic, tooth decay, and periodontal disease.31,32,33
  • Sugar contributes to obesity.34
  • Sugar can cause autoimmune diseases such as: arthritis, asthma, multiple sclerosis.35,36,37
  • Sugar greatly assists the uncontrolled growth of Candida Albicans (yeast infections)38
  • Sugar can cause gallstones.39
  • Sugar can cause appendicitis.40
  • Sugar can cause hemorrhoids.41
  • Sugar can cause varicose veins.42
  • Sugar can elevate glucose and insulin responses in oral contraceptive users.43
  • Sugar can contribute to osteoporosis.44
  • Sugar can cause a decrease in your insulin sensitivity thereby causing an abnormally high insulin levels and eventually diabetes.45,46,47
  • Sugar can lower your Vitamin E levels.48
  • Sugar can increase your systolic blood pressure.49
  • Sugar can cause drowsiness and decreased activity in children.50
  • High sugar intake increases advanced glycation end products (AGEs)(Sugar molecules attaching to and thereby damaging proteins in the body).51
  • Sugar can interfere with your absorption of protein.52
  • Sugar causes food allergies.53
  • Sugar can cause toxemia during pregnancy.54
  • Sugar can contribute to eczema in children.55
  • Sugar can cause atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.56,57
  • Sugar can impair the structure of your DNA.58
  • Sugar can change the structure of protein and cause a permanent alteration of the way the proteins act in your body.59,60
  • Sugar can make your skin age by changing the structure of collagen.61
  • Sugar can cause cataracts and nearsightedness.62,63
  • Sugar can cause emphysema.64
  • High sugar intake can impair the physiological homeostasis of many systems in your body.65
  • Sugar lowers the ability of enzymes to function.66
  • Sugar intake is higher in people with Parkinson's disease.67
  • Sugar can increase the size of your liver by making your liver cells divide and it can increase the amount of liver fat.68,69
  • Sugar can increase kidney size and produce pathological changes in the kidney such as the formation of kidney stones.70,71
  • Sugar can damage your pancreas.72
  • Sugar can increase your body's fluid retention.73
  • Sugar is enemy #1 of your bowel movement.74
  • Sugar can compromise the lining of your capillaries.75
  • Sugar can make your tendons more brittle.76
  • Sugar can cause headaches, including migraines.77
  • Sugar can reduce the learning capacity, adversely affect school children's grades and cause learning disorders.78,79
  • Sugar can cause an increase in delta, alpha, and theta brain waves which can alter your mind's ability to think clearly.80
  • Sugar can cause depression.81
  • Sugar can increase your risk of gout.82
  • Sugar can increase your risk of Alzheimer's disease.83
  • Sugar can cause hormonal imbalances such as: increasing estrogen in men, exacerbating PMS, and decreasing growth hormone.84,85,86,87
  • Sugar can lead to dizziness.88
  • Diets high in sugar will increase free radicals and oxidative stress.89
  • High sucrose diets of subjects with peripheral vascular disease significantly increases platelet adhesion.90
  • High sugar consumption of pregnant adolescents can lead to substantial decrease in gestation duration and is associated with a twofold increased risk for delivering a small-for-gestational-age (SGA) infant.91,92
  • Sugar is an addictive substance.93
  • Sugar can be intoxicating, similar to alcohol.94
  • Sugar given to premature babies can affect the amount of carbon dioxide they produce.95
  • Decrease in sugar intake can increase emotional stability.96
  • Your body changes sugar into 2 to 5 times more fat in the bloodstream than it does starch.97
  • The rapid absorption of sugar promotes excessive food intake in obese subjects.98
  • Sugar can worsen the symptoms of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).99
  • Sugar adversely affects urinary electrolyte composition.100
  • Sugar can slow down the ability of your adrenal glands to function.101
  • Sugar has the potential of inducing abnormal metabolic processes in a normal healthy individual and to promote chronic degenerative diseases.102
  • I.V.s (intravenous feedings) of sugar water can cut off oxygen to your brain.103
  • Sugar increases your risk of polio.104
  • High sugar intake can cause epileptic seizures.105
  • Sugar causes high blood pressure in obese people.106
  • In intensive care units: Limiting sugar saves lives.107
  • Sugar may induce cell death.108
  • In juvenile rehabilitation camps, when children were put on a low sugar diet, there was a 44 percent drop in antisocial behavior.109
  • Sugar dehydrates newborns.110
  • Sugar can cause gum disease.111
If you are still reading, you may want to consider a Sugar Fast. I gave six reasons your body will benefit from a Sugar Fast here.

For your health,

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Look Up Your Cell Phone's Radiation Level

I have not yet posted about Cell Phone Radiation. It's one of those things, you know -- things that have the potential to be dangerous, that have a growing body of negative research.
Yet, practically speaking, can we really prevent radiation exposure in our modern world? After all, if we were to stop using wireless, cell phones and the like, we would still live in the midst of unseen exposure from our neighbor's gadgets.

Up until now, I have just let this issue unfold as I gather more information. This week, however, I received an email from EWG with something truly helpful. They have come out with a compilation of cell phone reviews which will show how much radiation your phone (or one you are looking at buying) emits. This is good news for me since I am in the market for a new cell phone and can now choose one that is rated "low radiation."

Here's what EWG has to say about this new resource:

"At EWG, we... undertook a 10-month research review to understand the risks -- and our research is receiving a lot of attention. Turns out, cell phones do emit radiation -- enough so that scientists are concerned about potential cancer risks. We'd like to believe that cell phone radiation is safe, but no one can say for sure. Much more research is crucial for scientists to reach a conclusion.

Make no mistake -- at EWG, we are still using our cell phones. But we believe that until scientists know much more about cell phone radiation, it's smart for consumers to buy phones with lower radiation emissions. As a result, we have put together the most comprehensive online consumer guide to cell phone radiation, rating more than 1,000 cell phones marketed in the U.S."

Are you curious about your cell phone's radiation level? Are you thinking of buying a new cell phone? Check out this great resource here.

For your health,

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Soaked Flatbreads

This is such a versatile recipe. We love Flatbreads in our family and would eat an entire double batch if I wasn't so firm about saving some for the next day. They are actually quite easy too. Here goes...

Soaked Flatbreads

Note: you will want to start this recipe either in the morning or the night before to allow time for the yogurt to fully predigest the wheat and neutralize the phytates. We call this "soaking"... read more about it here.

First thing in the morning, mix the following ingredients in your electric mixer:
  • 3 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup of warm water mixed with 1/2 cup of plain yogurt
  • 1/4 tsp. non-aluminum baking powder
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4. cup of extra virgin olive oil
Knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball. I use my mixer for this and let it knead for about four minutes.

Cover the dough lightly with wax paper or plastic wrap, and leave it for 10 or more hours at room temperature. (Soaking is a process and if you can only let the dough sit for seven hours, that is definitely better than no soaking at all.)

When ready to make the flatbreads, divide the dough into 12 equal sized balls. (I double the batch and make 24.) Either roll the dough to a six inch circle or use a tortilla press. Here you see I use a tortilla press, but these are definitely not as thin as tortillas. To make thin tortillas, I would have to roll the ball out to ten inches, which can be done with a rolling pin.


As you can see in this picture, after pressing (or rolling) the dough flat, I throw the breads onto a very hot, ungreased griddle. I use a large griddle to cook six at a time... and yes, it is coated with teflon (!), but in an ideal world where I had lots of time at my disposal, I would cook these one by one in an ungreased cast iron skillet heated to high.

These breads only cook for a minute or two on each side. You'll notice that they start to get brown circles on them (like tortillas) when one side is done. If you let them get too brown, they will be on the crunchy side instead of all-soft.

Let them cool on a rack. Serve them fresh!


So what do we do with flatbreads? We love them filled with Gyro Meat (homemade without preservatives), Tzatziki Sauce and tomatoes. Or we love them filled with hummus and other chopped veggies. They are also great dipped in soups. Last night I served them with a salad made with Grilled Meat, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Garlic, Parsley and a Feta Cheese Dressing.



Tonight, I think I'll melt some cheese onto them and put some chili beans inside.

Enjoy!

Baking Day -- Part Two

WHEW! Yesterday's Baking Day made for a long afternoon! I am so thankful to have my freezer and pantry stocked, but it was no small effort...

You can read about the first part of my day here.

For the most part, things progressed without huge detours. My children can not be considered detours... just part of any mother's day. But one thing I did not plan for was dipping out honey. You see, we buy honey in a five gallon bucket (and save a lot of money doing so). But, every so often I use a ladle to dip it into squeeze bottles for convenience. I didn't count on running out of accessible honey yesterday.

After I took care of the honey (and washed my sticky arms since I'm down to the bottom of the bucket), I started in on the Love Muffins. No problems there... While they were baking I made the Power Bars and put them in the fridge to set.

Then I got started peeling and pureeing my sweet potatoes. I am sad to say, but I got lazy here. Instead of washing out the muffin tins from the Love Muffins, I decided to just use bread pans and make Sweet Potato Bread instead of muffins. It didn't work out so great... the loaves wouldn't bake through and they got pretty brown before the inside was done. I think I'll stick with Sweet Potato Muffins next time around, since I know the recipe works that way.

While the bread was baking, I had to do a round of dishes. Then I started on the Granola. Once I spread it onto pans, I made the flatbreads and started supper. We ate late... but I half way expected that.

Here is a snapshot of my final results:



I froze half the granola and kept the other half for us to have for breakfast for a while. I left the Power Bars to cut and individually wrap in the morning. I bagged the Love Muffins in three quart sized bags of six, since my husband takes one with him every day for lunch. Two bags went into the freezer and one into the fridge. The yogurt went straight into the fridge. I kept one Sweet Potato Bread out for this week and froze the other one. (They are edible, though I wouldn't serve them to company.) There were only half the flatbreads left after we ate 12 for supper... And the crock-pot in the back has my beans soaking for Wednesday's supper.

So, in the final analysis... a Baking Day can be tedious, but it is hugely beneficial. Perhaps you could set aside this Saturday Afternoon and get a few things put up for next week. It helps SO much to have healthy food on hand!

Coming next... my Soaked Flatbread Recipe.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Baking Day -- Part One

Baking Day got off to a wonderful start this morning. Truthfully, I had not really been looking forward to it, even though I saw it as a necessary means to catching up. I am nearing the end of my second trimester with this pregnancy and have been feeling tired lately.

However, my heart was lifted as I read the Scriptures this morning. I read Proverbs 15:15: "All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast." I realized that if I approached the day with a defeated attitude, I would surely find trouble. Yet, if I embraced a merry heart, that cheerful perspective would redefine the day with all its "trouble."

Encouraged by these thoughts, I jumped right into my baking plans. I wanted to get things started first thing in the morning so that my grains would have time to "soak." (Soaking grains with yogurt breaks down the phytates, which are difficult to digest and prevent the absorption of grain's bountiful nutrients. For more on that, read here.)

My plans are to make yogurt, Love Muffins (which are wheat-free and do not need to be soaked), Flatbreads, Sweet Potato Muffins, Power Bars (also wheat-free), and Granola.

  • First, I started the half gallon of yogurt.
  • Then, I washed and started the sweet potatoes baking.
  • I milled my wheat for the day.
  • I started two batches of granola soaking.
  • Then I got a double recipe of flatbread soaking (recipe for this coming tomorrow).


That all took me about an hour. It was not a solid hour though, since my children were waking up and doing their chores and required some help from me from time to time.

A normal day for us means I give my children my undivided attention until about 1:30 or 2:00 when we have a Quiet Hour. In that time, I am online, my older two finish up their schoolwork, Witzy plays quietly in her room, and Tickle naps.
I plan on jumping back into my baking day when everyone starts bustling about again around 3:00. That should give me enough time to make everything. I'll start with the items that didn't need soaking and finish with the granola and flatbreads around supper time.
One note: I got started really early so that things could soak all day long. If I were unable to do this, I would have things soaking overnight.
More on Baking Day later!