Friday, May 29, 2009

Peanut Butter Power Pops!

Like my Power Bar recipe, I developed this snack for a very specific reason. My oldest daughter, Rainbow, takes ballet all afternoon on Wednesdays. After a long day of school she didn't always have the energy to take her through the class. She often told me that she had a headache on the way home.

I thought that she needed more than a little carbohydrate snack to sustain her through her class. So, I created Peanut Butter Power Pops. (Think pop them in your mouth, not Popsicles.) They have a combination of protein and carbohydrates that provides continued energy... and they are an easy car snack.

The recipe is actually quite simple to make. Here are the ingredients:

First, mix together the peanut butter and honey. This recipe works best if the sticky mixture is in the bottom of the bowl, rather than adding it on top.

Next, in a separate bowl, mix together the protein, cashews, almonds and raisins.

Mix the sticky and dry ingredients together until they are thoroughly combined. They will almost form a ball, but not quite.

Press the dough together into small, bite size balls and place on wax paper. Refrigerate until firm. Store in an air tight container.
Here Rainbow is moving the Power Pops closer together so she can fit more onto the wax paper. The recipe will make twice what you see here.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Your Questions Answered... Gardening and Bug Repellent

Melanie recently asked if I had any tips to share about Patio Gardening.

I am not a gardening expert, even though I do have a little experience. We have lived in several places over the past decade. Some of them have been garden friendly and some have NOT! In the places where we were able, we have kept a medium-sized family garden. Our children have become great seed planters, but they still need improvement in the weeding department : )

Our first garden was beautiful! We used 50 gallon drums cut in half as containers. Each one had three tomato plants or three bell pepper plants. If I'm remembering correctly, we had six of these containers. Then, we had a few raised beds for lettuce, broccoli, cucumbers, pumpkins, peas, beans, herbs and such. At that time, we had the space for a compost pile and our soil was truly nourishing. The result was a few seasons of really great vegetables!

We have grown more variety at different times, but have always had some space constraints. Currently, we live in a neighborhood with even greater regulation. For the last two years, we have kept a garden, but have been defeated by the deer and squirrels -- we have been unable to put in any fencing due to neighborhood regulations. This year, we are taking a break.

So, what are my recommendations? Gardening is SO worth it. Just start. My experience is that you learn the most as you go. Container or Patio Gardening is a great place to get your hands in the dirt. Keeping a variety of pots with tomatoes, beans, peppers or greens is a fabulous way to get into the gardening groove.

Here are a few great sites to get you started:

Also, Saralyn asked if I had any thoughts about a healthy insect repellent.

Unfortunately, insect repellents are laden with toxic chemicals which soak directly through our skin to our blood streams. They often include DEET and/or Dimethylphthalate, which can cause organ toxicity at the very least. But bugs can carry disease... so what is safe to do for our children?

In the past, we have used Burt's Bees Bug Repellent. It is made with rosemary, lemongrass and other natural oils. I would say it works about 70% as well as anything toxic. It does require a reapplication after sweating. And it does go on a little oily. BUT, it is a tradeoff for the toxins.

I have also read that Avon's Skin-So-Soft product is a good alternative to toxic bug repellents. I can remember using this as a teenager, and for all I remember, it really worked. Here is what EWG has to say about it:

Health officials routinely recommend bug repellents with DEET to protect against
mosquitoes that can carry West Nile virus. But insect repellents - especially
chemical ones - can irritate the skin, causing redness and itchiness.

If you do use a DEET product, one option is to apply it to your clothes instead of your skin. DEET was originally developed in 1946 for military use and overall has a
good safety record, yet some people still worry about its safety and dislike the
odor. It has been implicated in seizures in children, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, but there is not enough information to confirm it as the cause of the incidents.

Alternatives to DEET-based products include Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus IR3535 Expedition SPF 30. Avon discovered years ago that its Skin So Soft moisturizer doubled as an insect repellent and the brand now embraces its multitasking. IR3535, a nontoxic synthetic biochemical, offers eight hours of protection against mosquitoes, gnats, sand flies and biting midges, according to Avon.

I hope that this information is helpful! I have another kid-friendly recipe to post and my thoughts about Genetically Modified foods... as soon as time allows. My kids are wrapping up their school year so our daily routine (and my computer time) is changing. Thanks for coming back to check what's new at Health Begins With Mom!

Burts Bees Lip Balm Giveaway!

I am really excited about this giveaway. (Thanks, Money Saving Mom and Thrifty Mama!) Burt's Bees makes my all-time favorite lip balm. Enter the giveaway here and try it out for yourself. By the way, Burt's Bees is giving away 1000 a day for 25 days. So, if you miss one day, you can try the next.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Top Five Household Toxins

If you knew what the top five household toxins were, would you get them out of your home? Would it seem like too much of an overhaul to change five big life habits?

If you could just change two or three, you would be making a difference! Our children's detox systems are going into hyperspeed. If we can reduce some of their toxin exposure, especially in the home where they eat and sleep, we will be doing something VERY valuable.

If this is your first time to think about how our children are effected by household toxins, please read my previous posts on the topic. Today I am going to suggest an informative video from EWG.

I have blogged about the Environmental Working Group before. You can read that post here. They often have very useful guides for parents who are concerned about how toxins effect their children's health. Right now they have a very useful guide to buying sunscreen. Check it out here.

And, right now they have a very insightful video for parents about the top five household toxins. Watch it here. It is actually posted on a news website, but it is a EWG scientist in the interview.

Please don't let getting rid of household toxins overwhelm you. It is impossible to prevent our children from exposure to all toxins. We simply do what we can to reduce their Body Burden. And, it just so happens that home is the best and easiest place to start!

While you're at the EWG website, take a look around. They have so much great information. Also, click here to sign up for EWG's monthly Healthy Home tip for parents via email.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Do You Like My Surprise?

Surprise! There have been some big changes here at Health Begins With Mom! Thanks to Summer of Perfectly Provident, my blog has had a facelift. Those of you who view my posts in a reader should come on over and take a peak at the new look!

I was very blessed to win Summer's recent Blog Redesign Giveaway. She has been quite easy and quick to work with. I think she captured the theme of my blog very well. Thanks, Summer! If you are in the market for great, affordable designs, check out her portfolio at Designs By Summer.

Did you notice that she made me a blog button too?!? Please pick up the code and link to my blog from yours. Thanks!

Stocking Up

It has been a very busy past few days. I have been stocking up on our food supplies. With a trip to Earth Fare (our local "healthy supermarket"), a normal grocery store run, another produce box, picking up our grass-fed cow portion, and picking up our pastured poultry today, our freezer and refrigerator are FULL!

It is a good thing we have a "bulk food" budget or this would blow our monthly grocery allotment in just a few days!

I am so thankful to have all of this high-quality, healthy food at our fingertips. Finding all of these resources didn't happen overnight though. It took time to network with people and to find the best sources for the lowest prices. I have always kept my ears open for possibilities. Over time, this has paid off.

What about you? Are you able to bring home foods that would truly nourish your body? Are you still looking for resources? Or are you needing to cut back on your grocery budget to allow some room for bigger purchases? I encourage you to think outside the "grocery store box." Most of the healthiest foods are not found in the supermarket aisles. If you haven't yet found the right food sources, don't give up. Keep up your search. You'll find what you're looking for!

On another note: I have a big surprise up my sleeve! I can't wait to show you! I have a few thoughts for posts this week... but what do you want to read about? Please comment to request any topic or ask your questions. This is a good week for it!

A Book You Might Find Worth the Buy

Those of us who are concerned about our children's health, are also concerned about their safety. But, is it necessary to spend $700 dollars for the top-of-the-line car seat? Or do we really need to buy organic toys?

I think you may find this book to be a helpful resource. Sandra Gordon and Consumer Reports are releasing on June 1st a book entitled Best Baby Products: the A to Z guide to everything you need for your baby. In it, you'll find the best buys... for your wallet and for your children's safety. Check it out!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Healthy Summer Treats for Kids

Fun Popsicle

My kids are almost finished with school. How about yours? Inevitably, our kids will want snacks this summer. Fun snacks. Here are a few ideas for Healthy Summer Treats.

First, it is simple to make Homemade Popsicles. What's more refreshing than a Popsicle? While the store-bought Popsicles can have a lengthy list of artificial ingredients, you can make them healthy at home with 100% fruit juice. Popsicle molds can be purchased very cheaply. Simply pour 100% fruit juice in Popsicle molds and freeze for later enjoyment. There is a wider range of 100% fruit juices available than Popsicle flavors. Your kids will love them!

For a Creamier Popsicle, try blending together one part plain yogurt, two parts fruit juice and a bit of honey. You can freeze this just like the one-ingredient variety above. My kids like bits of frozen fruit in them... blueberries, grapes, strawberry bits. Try grape juice with frozen grapes or orange-pineapple juice with bits of strawberries. Kids think snacks are more exciting when they help make them, so as much as possible, let your children make these simple pops.

Another warm weather treat my kids love is Homemade Jello. Since we stick to all natural foods, I had to come up with a better alternative than the sugar, artificial-color and artificial-flavor laden choices at the store. You can make 100% Fruit Juice Jello really easily. In fact, the recipe is on the box of Knox (or Kroger Brand) unflavored gelatin. You simply warm 2 cups of fruit juice, dissolve the packets of gelatin and then add cold fruit juice. My children's favorite is cranberry grape jello.

Last, if you have a powerful blender, you can make healthy Strawberry Ice Cream. Blend together 1 cup of real milk, 1 tsp. of vanilla and 2-4 tablespoons of honey. Then add 2 1/2 cups of frozen strawberries and blend again until thick and creamy. This treat is loaded with Vitamin C. But kids just love it because it is cold and creamy.

Do you have any healthy summer treats? I'd love to hear them!

For more Works For Me tips, visit WeAreThatFamily.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Just Say No... to Soft Drinks

I was thinking that cutting out soft drinks would be a topic for "Simple Changes". Then, I reconsidered. I remember all too well my days of drinking Mountain Dew. Making this change may be simple, but I don't think it is as easy as selecting an all natural peanut butter.

Trust me, I know that breaking habits can be tough. Eleven years ago, I gave up soft drinks. It was a huge benefit to my health... and to my teeth. I'll tell a short personal story, and then I'll get to the practical stuff.

I drank a lot of Mountain Dew. Way too much Mountain Dew. It carried me through college, I am very sad to say. Shortly after I gave up soft drinks, I visited the dentist. New town, new dentist... and I previously had just been getting my teeth cleaned by students at the local dental hygiene school for free. The dentist made note of the demineralization on my back molars and asked if I drank Mountain Dew. My shocked response was a hesitant, "I DID, how did you know?"

He told me that what he saw was commonly referred to as "DewMouth." Apparently, it is a growing problem among young people who drink a lot of soft drinks... and especially Mountain Dew because it is one of the very highest in sugar concentrations. YIKES! I had to get my molars drilled and filled. Fun :0

Soda in Glass with Ice by Martina Urban

Most beverages are high in sugar... Kool Aid, Sodas, Bottled Teas, "Juice" Drinks. They are all high in sugar and devoid of any other nutritional value. These empty calories can lead to blood sugar spikes and plunges, weight gain, and even heart palpitations. Okay... so the list goes on, but I don't want to focus too much on the negative. Please read this amazingly simple yet informational article on the Soft Drink epidemic in our nation.

Unfortunately, diet drinks made with artificial sweeteners are just as bad. Artificial sweeteners that have been around long enough have left a trail of infamous results. Splenda has not been around long enough yet, but its time will come.

What you drink is a big part of your health. So, if you do drink soft drinks, I encourage you to let them go! If your children regularly drink sugared beverages, please work to replace them too. It may take a bit of smarts, but your children need you to guide them in this area.

Replace soft drinks with good, pure water and the occasional 100% fruit juice. Or, you can brew green tea and add a little bit of honey. Keep a chilled pitcher in the refrigerator for a slightly sweet replacement beverage without having to prepare something. It may help your children if they have their own BPA-free water bottle to drink from... something to make water more exciting.

I'd love to hear from my readers... have you given up soft drinks? If so, what did you replace them with? We would all benefit from reading your successes! Please comment to share what you have done.

Bottom line, you can do it. I am confident you can!


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dropping the Ball

When our lives get windy, it's easy to be blown off course. That would describe my last eight days. Windy and Off-Course. I have a good, working plan of action in place. But even with my best intentions, "life" can prevent my plans from working out.

I am assuming this happens to you too. Do you get discouraged when you drop the ball... and have to order pizza? Or maybe you never order pizza! Well, the pizza tasted good last night (and so did the organic steamed broccoli), but I also neglected to soak beans or thaw meat for tonight's supper. Yep... I totally dropped the ball.

But there is hope! Think about it this way... if we were to miss a meal, say because we're out or way too busy to stop and eat, we don't skip eating the next meals too. We just get back to our normal meal routine as soon as we're able.
It's the same with our efforts to make healthy meals. There may be a meal that we don't think meets our goals for healthy living, but we don't just quit trying! We get back into our normal routine as soon as we are able. And we accept grace until that time comes.

I've met a lot of mothers. A lot of really, super-productive, energetic mothers. And I have never met one that doesn't sometimes drop the ball. We all do. So we should encourage one another to pick the ball back up, giving grace instead of judgement.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. II Corinthians 12:9

I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness comes by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. Galatians 2:21

While my purpose in this blog is to share knowledge and tools with moms desiring to create health for their family, grace is an important consideration... a point of both reproof and of comfort. I'll be back in the practical saddle again next time; for now, let us walk (and eat) by grace.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Red Pepper and Ricotta Mock Lasagna

I was adventurous in the kitchen last night... and it turned out absolutely wonderful! Everyone raved about the meal. This is a fantastic low-carb, gluten-free supper. Here's what I made:

Red Pepper and Ricotta Mock Lasagna:
  • two large or three medium zucchini
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • one large onion
  • three medium or two large red bell peppers
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 15 oz. ricotta cheese
  • meat from 1/2 large chicken
  • 12 oz mozzarella cheese, preferably hormone-free
  • one jar of marinara sauce
First, you want to prepare the zucchini. This is what you'll be using instead of lasagna noodles. Slice them thinly lengthwise. Salt both sides and let them drain in a colander for about 45 minutes. This will draw out the extra moisture so that your lasagna is not too runny.

While the zucchini is draining, saute one large onion in extra virgin olive oil. Add your red bell peppers and minced garlic cloves and let cook until the onions soften.

Add the ricotta cheese and chicken. Season with a bit of salt and lots of pepper. Mix well.

Assemble your ingredients for layering. First rinse and dry your zucchini slices. Grate 12 ounces of white cheese. While mozzarella would be the traditional choice, we used a Mellow Cheddar by Minerva. Also, I used an organic marinara sauce from Earth Fare.

Pour 1/3 of the sauce in the bottom of your baking dish. Add a layer of zucchini. Layer 1/2 of the chicken mixture, 1/3 of the cheese, a second layer of zucchini, 1/3 of the sauce, the rest of the chicken, 1/3 of the cheese, the last of the zucchini, the last of the sauce and the remaining cheese. Here's what mine looked like halfway through:

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Our family likes vegetables with a little bit of crunch still in them. If you want your zucchini totally soft, cover your lasagna with aluminum foil to bake for the first 30 minutes. Then bake uncovered for the last 15 minutes. The foil will keep in the steam and cook the zucchini more thoroughly.

Important: Let stand 5 minutes before serving so that the juices absorb. Serve with a garden salad on the side.

Monday, May 18, 2009

On Butter and Margarine

I use Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the majority of my cooking. It is the universally accepted, heart healthy fat because of its unique monounsaturated nature. It has anticancer properties and has been shown to support clean arteries. It is even metabolized more like a carbohydrate than a lipid. EVOO is good.

But, if you notice from my posted recipes, I also use butter in moderation. Why would I use butter?

Butter has been falsely accused as a lethal saturated fat. Let's take a closer look. Is it the same as the saturated fats found in meat products? There is a big difference between the short chain fatty acids found in butter and the longer chained fatty acids found in the layers of fat surrounding red meat. The short chain fatty acids found in butter are metabolized and used for energy similar to a carbohydrate. The longer chained fatty acids from feedlot meats are unused and stored away, leading to plaque buildup in the arteries.

For a very interesting look at 20 Health Benefits of Butter, take a look at this site. If you have previously thought butter was a villain, you might want to go through all the documented sources on this page... very thought-provoking reading.

But what about margarine? A study conducted in 1995 at Harvard Medical School showed that heart patients who consumed margarine were twice as likely to have a heart attack than those who consumed butter. Hmmm... why is this study so unheard of? Margarine has been shown to cause arterial disease and it has also been implicated as a carcinogen. While margarine may look a lot like butter, don't be fooled. The restructuring of vegetables oils (hydrogenation) forms a toxin, not a food. Our bodies may deal with it as best they can -- we have amazing defense mechanisms -- but the toxic effect leaves its scar over time.

While I avoid ALL hydrogenated oils, I also avoid polyunsaturated vegetable oils (canola, corn, soybean) because they must be highly processed in order to be marketable. This processing leaves the oils unstable and rancid, unsuitable for consumption. I think it is best to stick to cold pressed olive oil, short chain fats (like butter) in moderation, and fats found in natural foods such as avocados and nuts.

So, again, on this "healthy fats" topic, I have only scratched the surface. Here are a few further research recommendations:

Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill

Know Your Fats : The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Few Blog Recommendations

Do you wonder what the big deal about High Fructose Corn Syrup is? I recently saw an ad by a corn conglomerate saying all the supposed health dangers of HFCS were simply hype. Would you like to hear the evidence?

Cathy, a stay-at-home mom with a PhD in chemical engineering, writes a very informative blog called A Life Less Sweet. In it she chronicles her life without High Fructose Corn Syrup. Occasionally Cathy will post her thoughts about other modern food ingredients. And she posts recipes too! Take some time to delve into her blog... I think you'll like it.

A second healthy blog I would like to recommend is Shannon's Nourishing Days. Shannon has lately been posting her thoughts and menus for eating mostly grain-free. She has posted some really great ideas that I think you'll benefit from, so check her blog out too!

Happy blog browsing! Amy Ellen

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Simple Changes -- Lunch Meats

Today I will mention another simple change... another baby step in your journey to health. If you choose to eat lunch meats, select a brand that contains no nitrates, nitrites or other preservatives. These extra ingredients are potent carcinogens that are linked with several digestive tract cancers, such as esophagus, stomach, intestinal and bladder cancers.

European countries, like Germany, banned the use of nitrates and nitrites in 1997. Yet the United States FDA has continued to allow their use. (For more information on this topic, go here and to the reference pages sited on this page as well.) The same nitrate/nitrite-free suggestion goes for bacon, hot dogs or other processed meats. If you are going to eat them, eat them without the preservatives.

Actually, I had to give up processed meats long before I found out all of the details about the preservatives. I discovered they were a trigger for my frequent migraines and so I gave them ALL up. (Thankfully, chocolate was not a trigger food for me, as it is for some people! This was several years ago, and I no longer deal with migraine headaches except on rare occasions when driving into the sun will spur on a migraine.)

Hormel makes a lunch meat line that is preservative-free and priced very reasonably. They also go on sale at my Kroger several times a year. Applegate Farms makes a very good beef frank hot dog, but I have only seen it available at my health food store. These hot dogs are a major treat every spring break!

We don't often eat lunch meat, but when we are traveling in the car over a mealtime, instead of stopping to pick up food, we will take turkey roll-ups with us. We just spread mustard over a whole wheat or sprouted wheat tortilla, layer on cheese, turkey and lettuce and roll it up. We keep it simple for the car so there is less mess. Tortillas don't crumb like bread and we all enjoy our meal in the car since turkey is considered a special treat.

For more Works for Me Wednesday posts, check out

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Just in case you thought...

Just in case you thought that we only ate strawberries... this is a shot of our biweekly produce box minus four bananas and one pear that jumped into our mouths before we even unpacked the box.

Eat Fresh!

White Chicken Chili -- A Super Supper!

White Chicken Chili (AE's version) This is a stellar meal. It combines legumes with chicken and chicken stock for a nutritionally-rounded AND frugal meal. Beans offer a rich array of B Vitamins and anticancer agents. Chicken adds protein and umph. And chicken stock, imparts a plethora of minerals along with digestive aids.

I am going to share a big recipe for this Super Supper. This will serve 12-16. So if you don't want enough to freeze (or take to a church pot-luck as I did), you will want to cut the recipe in half. One more thing... it's white, which is kind of classy. But please do serve this with a brilliant green salad.

  • 2 lbs. White Beans, such as Navy or Great Northern
  • A few Tbsp. EVOO (that's extra virgin olive oil)
  • One large onion
  • One large green bell pepper (or chilies if you like it hot!)
  • 4 minced garlic cloves (large ones!)
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • 3 tsp. sea salt
  • Meat from one cooked chicken
  • 4 cups of chicken stock

I started this recipe with my whole chicken already cooked and its stock reserved. Click here to see how I do that.

Begin by soaking your beans in order to neutralize the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors that are present. Doing so will prevent any digestive difficulties. The night before you want to make this meal, sort a 2 lb bag of white beans (Navy or Great Northern) for any bad beans or stones. Put in a pot with plenty of water and 4 Tablespoons of plain yogurt.

The next day, rinse the beans well and place back in the pot. Cover with fresh water, bring to a boil, and skim off any foam that comes to the surface. Let simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until soft and beginning to split. Here are my cooked beans.

Set the beans aside. (I left mine in the colander.) And saute one large onion in extra virgin olive oil. (I only had a purple onion, but that added some nice color!). While the onion is sauteing, wash and dice one green bell pepper. (If your family enjoys more spice, use fresh chilies instead.) Add the green bell pepper and four crushed garlic cloves. Let that saute while you measure out your spices. Add the spices and let them cook for 1-2 minutes.

Add your chicken and chicken stock. Add your beans back in and let this entire combination simmer for at least one hour, as long as 2. The flavors will meld together as it simmers.
Serve with a topping of your favorite white cheese... we used Minerva's White Mellow Cheddar... and, of course, a green salad.

Note: You can use 6 cans of white beans instead. However, this will add to the expense and reduce the digestibility of the meal. If you do use canned beans, you will need to cut the amount of salt by at least a half.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Grass-Fed Beef

So I know that "being healthy" can seem daunting. And I know that it can be overwhelming. I deliberately try to keep this blog simple and encouraging because most moms I have talked with want to take small steps... and their families want them to make changes slow enough that they don't notice either!

While there is definitely a place for drastic change, my blog exists to keep busy moms learning new ideas AND moving progressively. All that being said, there are some big changes that deserve consideration. Today I'll discuss one of these bigger health steps... buying grass-fed meat products. Resist the temptation to say "we could never do that!" Read my post. Give it some thought. Digest the information. Take it one step at a time!

So, grass-fed meat. What's the big deal about regular meat? Why not just buy the Walmart specials. Well, completely setting aside irradiation and other meat preservation methods, completely setting aside the dangers of E. Coli or mad cow disease, completely setting aside the dangers of genetically modified feed... let's just look at how grain- and other strange-product-fed beef effects our health.

Did you know that the fatty acid profile of commercial meats is drastically different than grass-fed varieties? And, did you know that when a cow is penned up, the muscle, the meaty portion that we eat, becomes different as well? Unfortunately, feedlot beef is not a good thing.

We hear a lot about the dangers of eating too much red meat. So many of these health hazards are man's own doing. You see, cows were designed to roam and to eat lots of green grass. When they are raised on a modern feed lot, penned up and given grain or other by-products for food, they are like cow couch potatoes. They loose quality muscle; they put on the not-so-great kind of fat. Did you know that feedlot beef has 50% more saturated fat than pastured beef? Sadly, commercial beef contains the kind of stick-to-your-arteries fat we want to stay away from.

In addition to the increase in saturated beef found in feedlot cattle, the Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acid ratio is shown to be skewed. So, while we want a diet with Omega 3s and Omega 6s in a close ratio, America's diets are most often between 1:15 and 1:50. This is largely due to a lack of Omega 3 fatty acids and a staggering amount of Omega 6 fatty acids in feedlot beef. Beef from cattle allowed to graze on pasture is loaded with Omega 3s and CLA, which are both known to support heart health and reduce inflammation.

So, yes, feedlot beef is really bad for our hearts! It is really bad for our waistlines! However, properly raised beef has a healthy ratio of fatty acids and is naturally leaner. Like with boxed cereal, this is something I just think you should know... not that it is pleasant to be the bearer of bad news.

Just a side note: We have been vegetarians in the past. Then we added in some high quality, grass-fed meat products, and we noticed a significant benefit. However, we consume meat in moderation, and fill up our daily fare with LOTS of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and grains.

For further information on this topic, please visit this very informative site. Also, while I find Mercola's Grass-Fed Beef a bit pricey, here is his very helpful explanation. And, this Healthy Child page will give a great summary on the benefits of grass fed beef for your children. (The site will also link you to a scientific page.) I have just been able to touch on the subject here, but these websites do a very good job explaining things!

And the Winner is...

And the winner of the Happy Family Baby Products Package is... Taradon. Yaaaayyyy!

(I will email you with the details, but if for some reason you don't get the email, please email me: ae at healthbeginswithmom dot com.)

Thanks to everyone who entered this blog giveaway! I appreciate each reader and the support you show for HealthBeginsWithMom.

These are some of the strawberries we picked. Aren't they beautiful! I think I'm going to make a strawberry smoothie for lunch... post again later today!

Friday, May 8, 2009


While we need to be diligent in honoring the Lord with our bodies, it is equally important to keep a proper perspective. There is a difference between being passionate in following God's ways and fretting or even making nutrition an idol. I love this poem:

Overheard in an Orchard

Said the Robin to the Sparrow:
"I should really like to know
Why these human beings
Rush about and worry so."

Said the Sparrow to the Robin:
"Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me."

Elizabeth Cheney

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Matthew 6:25,26,32,33
Don't forget to enter in the Happy Family Baby Food Giveaway here.
Have a great weekend! Next week, I'll be posting about the benefits of Grass-Fed Beef, a super-supper recipe, more simple changes... and who knows what else!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

13 Healthy Things I love

All the posts I have spinning around in my head are weighty... so today I'm going lite! Here are the 13 healthy things I am glad to make a part of my regular life:
2. Blueberries, so good for our brains... and which I'll write about in July when we pick enough to stock up our freezer with the wonder food.
3. Sleep. Yes, sleep is a good thing to make a regular part of your life! The recommendations are 7.5-8.5 hours. I find that if I aim for 8, I get about 7.5, which serves me well.
4. Walking. I love to exercise, even though I don't always wake up early enough. But walking is my favorite... such an invigorating exercise for my body, mind and spirit... I think I'll go for a walk this evening, if it is not raining.
5. Chicken. Well, I have to qualify this one... healthy chicken is a good thing, and one of my very favorite foods! I've posted about chickens here.
6. Avocados... and for me to post any more about these fruits would be overkill. You can read my post here.
7. Vitamins. Yes, I really love my vitamins. They have changed my life.
8. Beans. Wonderfully full of fiber and nutrients... nothing like a good bean burrito. Yes, you can soak them overnight with water and a few tablespoons of yogurt to neutralize the components that cause digestive trouble.
9. Kale. Yep, this might be my favorite green. It holds its shape without wilting too much, doesn't have the film like spinach and is packed with calcium, iron and vitamins.
10. Non-toxic cleaning products. I can really tell a difference in our home...
11. Almonds. Might be a perfect food.
12. A big plate of raw vegetables with lemony hummus for dipping. Nothing like a fresh take on lunch!
13. Chocolate Cheesecake. Hee Hee. Cheesecake can be a really healthy thing, part of my passion for living :-)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Happy Family Giveaway

I am pleased to announce that the Happy Family Company has offered a wonderful giveaway for my mom readers! They are makers of great baby and kid food products. Their motto is: "Think outside the jar." Isn't that great! Their products are 100% organic, all-natural and even come in BPA free containers. I'm impressed...

While some of you moms may prefer to make your baby food at home, isn't it nice to have some quick and convenient options for days on the go? Enter to win the prize package below AND spread the word to all other moms-of-littles you know!

The $50 prize package consists of:

  • 2 free trial coupons for YoBaby, our marketing partner
  • 1 infant and toddler Nutrition Guide, co-authored by Dr. Sears
  • 1 FAQ on Probiotics & DHA
  • 1 HAPPYFAMILY Recipe collection

In order to be included in the random drawing,

  • Post a comment with your name for one entry.
  • Become a follower or subscriber of this blog for a second entry. Tell me you subscribed or followed in your comment. If you are already a follower or subscriber, tell me in your comment.
  • Post a blog entry on your blog about my giveaway (and comment to tell me that you posted) for a third entry.

I will close the giveaway on Sunday, May 10th at 11:59:59 pm, and will announce the winner in my Monday post.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Simple Changes -- Salad Greens and Seasonings

I have begun compiling a "Simple Changes" topic over the last month. My idea here is to offer some simple things that you and your family can do to improve your health. It is easy to become overwhelmed when embarking on a new health journey. Take Baby Steps! Keep moving forward and you will find your self crossing even the bigger hurdles... only do move forward. These "Simple Changes" are geared to help you make progress. Commit to each one and you'll look back amazed at how far you have come by taking baby steps. (For my previous Simple Changes, click here.)

The simplest first: Swap the whitish iceberg lettuce for darker salad greens. The dark green lettuces have a significantly higher nutrient content, so look for romaine, green leaf, red leaf, mixed baby greens or baby spinach. Some families I know even add Swiss Chard to their dinner salads, but it lacks a sweetness that other lettuces have so it can't replace lettuce entirely. Tossing in a few chard leaves among lettuces is a great way to add vitamins, calcium, iron and tons of other minerals.

Next simple change: Substitute real spices for seasoning packages that contain MSG and other unwanted ingredients. For a complete list of seasoning substitutions, visit this site. The packet I would use most would be for Mexican dishes. For Taco Seasoning, I use:
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • a pinch of cayenne, unless you want it hot, in which case you can add 1/2 tsp.

I would love to hear your substitution tips! Please comment to share your healthy ideas with us... Thanks!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Freezing Strawberries

Strawberries, wonderful strawberries! Strawberries are an example of God's rich love toward us. Not only do they contain a whopping amount of Vitamin C, folic acid, potassium and plenty of fiber, fresh picked strawberries are bursting with sweet flavor! They are a perfect food...

I usually stick to my topic on this blog, but today I am going to indulge in a bit of personal story as well. I took my children strawberry picking last Friday morning. We were "scheduled" to leave at 7:16... only we had a protein shake splatter on the kitchen floor... and then we had a person-in-charge (would that be me!?!) realize she had forgotten to dig up containers in which to bring the strawberries home... and then, when all were buckled into the van, we discovered that the three children not in diapers were so eager to get the day started none of them had used the bathroom...

We left late. But we were still in good spirits. It was a beautifully overcast spring morning. The children selected Vivaldi's Concerto for Two Trumpets in C Major for the car ride... perfect selection for heightening morale and camaraderie. They felt ready to conquer the world... or at least a few rows of strawberry plants. Here are my littles with the bounty:

Yes, that's right. My kids picked nine gallons of strawberries in less than one hour. I can't really say that Tickle helped to pick the berries, but at least she stayed close by and didn't prevent us from picking! Witzy was primarily my bucket carrier. Now, these kids may just look like normal children to you, but they are superstars to me :-) I am so proud of their cheerful efforts last Friday. I thought about rewarding them with Chick-fil-a or Ice-Cream... but then I thought how perfect ripe strawberries are. They were very pleased to be rewarded with the fruit of their labors, a much better choice!

Here they are again. This picture shows a bit more of the farm with the strawberry rows stretching back into the horizon.

So when I returned home, I really had my work cut out for me! Nine gallons... and the sooner fresh-picked strawberries are frozen, the more nutrient content will be retained. We didn't freeze all nine. It was more like 7 1/2 since we ate MANY and gave a way some too.
I divided what I had to freeze into three batches. The above picture is my setup... I washed and cut the stems off of them and then set them in a single later to dry. (There is a third towel with strawberries to the left of the picture.)
Once I finished 1/3 of the berries, I let those dry completely, poured them into bags and sealed them for freezing. In this manner, I divided the work into three sessions AND the strawberries had a chance to dry completely which is very important. Freezing wet strawberries will cause them to stick together in one frozen clump and they are more likely to get freezer burn.

At this point, I had finished 2/3 of the berries. I included my beautifully stained tea towels in this photo only because last year I was scared that I had ruined them and was pleasantly surprised at how easy the stains came out. This year I am not fazed, I will soak them in Nature Bright again... along with all the children's beautifully stained clothing... and they will be as good as new!

After washing strawberries during "rest time," in the late afternoon before our take-out supper, and again after cleaning up from supper, I was very glad to be finished! I let the last batch dry until bedtime and then bagged them up for the freezer. One problem... this year, because I was taking pictures, I did not put the bags directly into the freezer once filled. I kept them all out for this picture. Silly of me... because condensation accumulated in the bags... the very moisture content I was trying to prevent! You can see the condensation in some of these bags. I let them air out again as much as I could, but it would have been best to put them directly in the freezer. I'll know for next year... and so will you!
One other note on freezing strawberries: I find it just as easy to twist the stems off the berries while rinsing them if the strawberries are very ripe. If they are not red all the way through, twisting the caps off leaves a bit of the stem attached. I cut part of our nine gallons and twisted the other part. I don't know if I will notice any difference between the two when I use them over the next year... in smoothies, mostly.

Friday, May 1, 2009

What's Cooking -- May

May 29th;
Since the kids have finished an awesome school year, we are having a Family Fun Night to celebrate. They have chosen to have my version of "Hamburger Helper," steamed broccoli, and "Jello" for dessert.

For the Hamburger Helper, I make my own cheese sauce using a basic white sauce recipe. Then, I add the browned beef, noodles and seasonings. It really is quite easy... and the kids love it for a special treat.

May 28th:
We have not had Quiche in quite a while, so that is on our menu for tonight. I will be adding some spinach, onions and mushrooms to the normal egg and cheese mixture.

We will also have Oven Roasted Potatoes (again). My kids just can't get enough of them, and we always seem to get potatoes in our organic produce box.

For dessert we are having White Grape With Peach popscicles... I can't wait!

May 27th:
Tonight would be our normal Frugal Meal Night, consisting of some version of beans or rice. However, I have so much lettuce from my produce box on Monday that will not last much longer! It needs to be eaten ASAP... so tonight I am serving another main dish salad. I will be making a Salmon Salad, which my children really enjoy, believe it or not.

May 26th:
Later today we will be picking up our Pastured Chickens and so I will have to make a quick supper. I will use the pulled chicken I have in the freezer and some already prepared refried beans to make a Chicken and Bean Burrito Casserole. This is one of my children's favorite meals. Rainbow will make a salad to go with it... she has become a salad expert!

Catching Up:
Friday I made a Chicken "Ceasar" Salad for supper. It was very delicious. It was not technically a Ceasar salad since I used a healthier version of the dressing, but we still used lots of dark leafy greens, chicken, parmesan cheese... and sunflower and pumpkin seeds instead of croutons. We thought it was worth making again.

Memorial Day we grilled hamburgers. Yum-O! And I served kale, carrots and potatoes on the side.

May 21st:
Back to the plan today... I am cooking Sally Fallon's Lamb Meatballs with Oven Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans for supper. My children usually ask for seconds on Green Beans, so I am glad we got so many in our last produce box!

I also hope to make six loaves of bread this afternoon... if I can squeeze it in between blogging, ironing and ordering books for next school year.

May 20th:
Consider the ball dropped. I have no plan for supper tonight... which I'll blog about today. I think I'll have to fall back on leftover mock lasagna, which will mean an extra night of cooking this weekend when I would normally serve leftovers. Life is not always predictable ;)

May 18th:
Tonight I am going to be daring. I have chicken, red bell peppers and ricotta cheese. I am going to try something altogether new... a roasted red pepper mock lasagna.

Too bad I can't really find a good recipe for a starting point. I'll just have to wing it all! I have a few other ingredients I can throw in too. I'm thinking about zucchini and garlic...

...And a salad on the side.

May 14th:
Cooking a whole chicken every week has gotten a little tedious. I am going to try something different today. I plan on roasting three chickens this afternoon, pulling the meat off the bone all at once, then making several quarts of chicken stock in my extra large stock pot. It may be tedious for the afternoon, but I think I'll be glad to have meal sized chicken and stock portions ready in the freezer.

We will have some of the chicken for supper tonight. I will also make some oven roasted potatoes... my kids are ever-asking for them... and a vegetable stir fry with Bok Choy, another dark green Chinese cabbage, onions, carrots, mushrooms and garlic.

May 13th:
Tonight is our Frugal Dinner Night... I have black beans and rice in the crockpot.

I also have two quarts of yogurt culturing and a large pitcher of iced peppermint green tea chilling.

May 12th:
We are having pizza for supper tonight. Along with it, I will make a green garden salad and a beet and carrot salad that my children love. It is basically grated carrots and julienned beets with orange juice. Go figure... they really like it.

May 11th:
Tonight I will be serving my version of White Chicken Chili, a recipe that I will post tomorrow.

We will also get our produce box this afternoon, so I am expecting to have an abundance of salad vegetables to throw together for a side dish.

Besides that... I've really got to get my act together this week and get caught up on bread, yogurt and some other baking. I've been doing extra springtime yardwork and have had less time in the kitchen.

May 8th:
Last night we had Salmon Broccoli Pasta, a family favorite.

Tonight, we are going to have baked fish, sweet potato fries and asparagus. It is okay to have fish two nights in a row, isn't it?

This morning I baked some yummy muffins. I just got the muffin itch... I started with a slightly sweet recipe from a Southern Living Cookbook. Since I was making whole foods substitutions, I used some unrefined date sugar, raspberry All-Fruit and orange juice for sweetening them. They turned out super delicious... Especially the half I added chocolate chips to!

May 6th:
Tonight would be our Beans and Rice night, but I forgot to start soaking the beans since I was out at my discussion group last night.

We will have our spaghetti casserole leftovers... Rainbow will have a longer ballet class today... only two more practices until her recital!

May 5th:
I am leaving for a Health and Wellness Discussion Group this evening, so I will need to prepare a quick supper before I go.

Last week I found Kashi Brand frozen pizzas on sale at Kroger. They were $3.99 instead of $6.99. I had $3.00 off coupons as well... so I bought three 99c pizzas!

We will have the pizzas for supper tonight with some salad on the side.

May 4th:
Tonight I have some venison that I must use. I am clearing out the freezer for grass-fed beef and pastured poultry... 'tis the season!

Since I really don't like the taste of venison by itself, I will be making this portion into a spaghetti casserole. I will use swiss chard instead of spinach... and whole wheat fusilli by BioNature.

May 1st:
We came home from strawberry picking with nine gallons this morning! I am facing a long day of washing and freezing. (I will post about this as soon as I am able.)

We have some restaurant gift cards... I think today would be a good time to use them!

The Search is OVER!

Every mom is looking for Supersmart, Supersafe and Supernutritious products for her children. Which of us wants to give our children tainted supplements? It would be simple if the search was easy... if the FDA only let absolutely pure supplements and skin care products on the market. But, alas, it is not so! Supplement companies are not subject to regulations. And the burden of responsibility to investigate company manufacturing standards fall on moms.

That is why I am so pleased to share these two video clips with you. Our search for pure baby and children's products is over... here are the smart, safe, nutritious products we have been looking for. (If you wonder, read about my rigorous standards for purity, potency and performance here.)

For more information on these fabulous products, or to purchase, click here.