Wednesday, July 29, 2009

In the Meantime...

Today is the first day of school for us! Technically, I am still on a blog break while we settle into this new routine. But in the meantime...

What do you think about these wise words from King Solomon?

Proverbs 16:24
Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.

Proverbs 17:22
A merry heart doeth good like medicine: but a broken spirit drieth up the bones.

How much do encouraging words and a cheerful attitude contribute to our health? What are your thoughts on how building an atmosphere of joy effects our children's health? Please comment to share with us your consideration of these verses! I am very curious to hear your thoughts...

With peace and joy,

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Two Links

Dear Readers,

I hope that you are well! Even though I am still technically taking a blogging break, I have two links I want to share with you.

First, I have wanted to post about lacto-fermentation for a while. Simply, this is a process by which food can be preserved. Lacto-fermented foods are hugely beneficial to our systems since they contain prolific friendly bacteria. They are served as a condiment with each meal in order to increase the assimilation of the meal's nutrients. Sally Fallon includes a chapter on these foods in her book Nourishing Traditions. Now Shannon at Nourishing Days is posting a series on making these foods. It's worth checking out!

Second, I would like to share with you an interesting article on an investigative report into the lead content of crock pots... You might be thinking "Yikes!" The article is eye-opening. When lead content is below the approved FDA level, manufacturers are not required to disclose the amount that leaches into food. Yet it is the cumulative amount that effects our bodies. Read the article if you're curious... and be sure to read the first comment too!

May the rest of your week be full of joy with your family and in the kitchen!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Disappointing News

I write this post with disappointment in my heart. We have just a week and a half of summer left! During that short time, we will be taking an out of town trip, finishing up our summer lessons and getting ready for the next school year. I have a lot of planning to do! And I have a few big projects I started this summer that I really need to complete before school begins. And this weekend is Spiderman's birthday!

My top priority is my children - their hearts and their minds. I need to start off the school year with a plan and in a hopeful state of mind. In order to do so, I need to take a break from blogging. I wish I could do it all and blog too. Really, I do. But, I have to be realistic. Lord willing, I will be back once school is underway. I still have so much I want to share about how we can bless our families with greater health...

If you've been a long time reader, know that I really appreciate your comments and your participation in this blog. I look forward to reconnecting when I return.

If you're a new reader, I apologize for the pause. Please enjoy the archives while I'm away. I look forward to getting to know you soon!

On a side note: Our children need attentive parents. They need parents who will really listen, who will ask the questions that probe their hearts and take the time to hear their responses. Our children need quantity time, not just compartmentalized quality time. I talk about the amazing position we are in as mothers, mostly in reference to how we can bless our families with health. But, more importantly, we have been put in a position to nurture our children's hearts. Let's not miss the precious opportunity!

Peace and joy,

What's Cooking -- July

Whew... July has been a crazy month so far... I guess it is obvious by the haphazard record of our meals. Summer is fun, but I do look forward to normalcy again! I am going ahead and posting this month's archive... maybe there is an idea worth coming back to.

July 13th:
Today I am toilet training little Tickle. I find that the whole process works so much better if the first day is really focused. So today, I am totally absorbed in watching my bare-bottomed little girl play on the linoleum.That being said, dinner will be simple tonight. Huge green salad. Leftover Super-Veggie-Spaghetti. And watermelon for those kids who have a hollow leg to fill with food.

July 9th:
The last two nights, we have had a Spinach Parmesan Quiche and White Chicken Chili from the freezer for supper.

I heard from a friend that you can grill cube steak. Really, I don't even know what cube steak is, but some of it came with my portion of our grass-fed cow. So, since I am trying to work more meat into my pregnancy diet, I am going to grill some cube steak tonight.

On the side, I'll steam some broccoli, slice some cucumbers and mash some potatoes.

July 6th:
After a holiday weekend full of extra cooking, I am very pleased that tonight is covered! I made an extra Chicken Nacho Casserole when I made one for a church pot luck yesterday. So tonight, all I have to do is toss a salad and I'm done. What amazing things will I get done instead of preparing supper tonight? I think I'll read to my kids ;-)

July 3rd:
Tonight I am roasting three chickens again. It was so nice to have the extra chicken ready and waiting for me in the freezer last time around. I found it worth the time in deboning three at once, so I am doing it again.

I will roast oven potatoes and make a garden salad to go with tonight's portion of the chicken.

July 1st:
Tonight I am preparing beans and rice. I have small red beans soaking and I cooked a double portion of brown rice last night. I recently saw an interesting recipe for a beans and rice salad. Since it is HOT here in GA, I might just give it a try.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Do Know Why You Have Headaches?

Well, I know that some of my headaches are due to constant noise. That's unavoidable in a busy household. But what about other reasons? It is so hard to nail down just what triggers our headaches! Just the hormone factor is enough to be overly-complicated...

Today I'd like to introduce you to a new resource called Headache U. It seems like such helpful tool in narrowing down the specific causes of your personal headaches. Then, once you know a more specific trigger, you can find more targeted relief.

"Headache U is the perfect website for headache sufferers to turn to! By logging onto Headache U, you can begin to “Chart Your Course to Relief.” This first-of-its-kind online and interactive personal headache care tool asks you questions about your own experiences and based on your answers, guides you to resources… tailored specifically to YOU! Because sufferers want to spend less time worrying about their next headache and more time enjoying the fun things in life, Headache U matches sufferers with resources based on personal headache patterns, providing the steps toward getting relief!"

I hope this is a helpful tool for you. What other natural remedies help your headaches? Comment to share your thoughts... you may just bless another reader! And, if you use Headache U and love it, come back and tell us!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Simple Changes -- Substituting with Plain Yogurt

I am continually amazed at how useful Plain Yogurt has proven itself to be in our family. Really, we go through quarts of it! (It is really simple to make at home.)

Did you know that you can use Plain Yogurt as a healthy substitution for Sour Cream? You should try it! It can be used in dips, in Mexican dishes, dolloped on soups or chili. Where else do you use Sour Cream? In most cases, I bet you could make a switch.

You can also substitute Plain Yogurt for Mayonnaise at times. I do when I make Potato Salad. I just mix some fresh herbs, salt, fresh garlic and Plain Yogurt in with cooked potatoes... sometimes I mix in a little brown mustard as well... throw in some green onion, diced bell pepper and black olives... or whatever veggies strike your fancy... and Voila! You've got some healthy potato salad. I get rave reviews on my potato salad at picnics. No one even knows it's loaded with probiotics ;-)

So what do you use Plain Yogurt for? I'd like to know...

For more Works For Me Wednesday Tips, check out WeAreThatFamily.

Monday, July 13, 2009

What To Do With Baby Apples or Making Applesauce at Home

We have lived in our current home for four years this month. That is actually the longest we have ever lived in one place! When we first moved in, we planted a self-pollinating apple tree in our front yard. We have enjoyed the apple blossoms in the spring, but this is the first year the tree has produced real fruit.

But, we ran into a problem. The young tree produced far more fruit than its small branches could hold! We had to pull 100 baby apples off the tree so that it would support the ripening of the last fifty or so. I let the apples sit on my counter for over a week while I tried to decide how to make good use of our first "harvest."

Since the apples were crisp and sweet/tart like a Granny Smith, I decided to make applesauce. It was my very first try. And, surprisingly, it turned out quite delicious. Here's what I did;

First, I had to wash the 100 baby apples. No big deal here.

Then, I had to peel the 100 baby apples. Big deal here. This photo was taken at the point where I decided my knife needed sharpening if I was really going to make it through all 100. If we live here next summer and our apple tree blesses us with abundant fruit again, I will invest in an apple peeler. That is, of course, if the apples are big enough to fit into the mechanism.

Then, it got back to being easy again. I added 2 cups of water and steamed the apple pieces until they were soft. I did this while we were eating our Saturday Supper of Super-Veggie-Spaghetti, so I am figuring it took 35 to 40 minutes.

Instead of putting the soft apples through a food processor in batches, I decided to give my hand blender a try. It worked beautifully. So easy. So clean. I would use this handy appliance for applesauce again! I added 1/2 cup of honey to the blended, warm apples just to take some of the tartness away. The applesauce turned out the sweetness of store-bought "natural" applesauce, which was what I was aiming for.

I ended up with two quarts of applesauce - one for the fridge and one for the freezer. It's debatable whether it was worth the time in peeling the 100 baby apples. But then again, what else was I going to do with 100 baby apples. They taste much better as applesauce than they did as apples!

I am looking forward to the next batch of apples from the tree! And, I'm really hoping they will be terrific apples just for eating.
Thankful for apples,

Today's Winner!

I am very pleased to announce that the winner of the Stonyfield Farm YoBaby Package is... Marlene W. of Nate & Marlene + 3. Congratulations! I will be emailing you information on receiving your prize package.

I know I say this every time I post a winner, but I am so thankful for each of you who read my blog. Your encouraging words are such a blessing to me! Thanks for participating!

For your health,

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Your Questions Answered... Balance and Weight Loss

Today I am going to address a question that comes from BusyMomOf10 from yes.they're.all.ours. She writes:

"I have a question for you. With all the conflicting information out there, proper nutrition for health and also for weight loss is so confusing! I'm just wondering what your take is on eating for weight loss. I just discovered (on your blog) that using Splenda contributes to weight gain not loss!! Who would have thunk it? LOL! So, how do I balance it all out -- eating for health, for weight loss, and also eating frugally, and not spending my entire life in the kitchen??!!??!!"

Balance is elusive, I find. Some weeks I feel like I am always in the kitchen. Some weeks I think I'm so far behind in my goals since I am not in the kitchen all week. Bottom line is that we do the best we can with the resources we have.

One important key is to do what you can for your family without comparing your family to other families. Each of us have different resources of time, money and kitchen help. Prayerfully do your best! And remember that ultimately we are only stewards, and not "Lords," over our bodies.

Honestly, I don't have a lot of experience with weight loss except for two scenarios. First, I finished college with an extra 30 pounds that I needed to shed. And second, I have had baby weight to lose after each delivery. With each of these times, I didn't use any of the popular diet prescriptions. Instead, I just ate according to What the Bible Says About Healthy Living, which is our basic model for what we eat anyway.

The three guiding principles from the book are:

1. Eat what God made

2. Eat it as close to how God made it as possible

3. Everything in moderation

I have blogged about this topic here and here. With these three principles, and proper exercise, the weight came off naturally. One drawback I see in the popular diets is that it is very difficult to follow a plan that your family is not following. However, eating God's way is something we all should be doing, even if we as the mom are eating less in order to lose weight.

I am certainly not saying that weight loss is simple. On the contrary, I know that it can be a very grueling process. But, I still think it is very important to follow God's plan for eating when we are trying to lose weight. If I had to suggest a weight loss diet, I would recommend the following:

  • Eat nothing artificial.
  • Eat everything in moderation.
  • Eat as much fresh, raw foods as possible.
  • Exercise diligently so that you do not lose muscle and thereby lower your metabolism.
  • Don't give up no matter how long it takes.
  • And, if you really want a program to follow, consider substituting this healthy weight loss shake for a meal or two each day. This program is the only "diet" that I find isn't full of artificial ingredients or other disordered eating habits. It includes a high-quality nutrition supplement that supports muscle preservation, maintains steady energy and prevents unwanted cravings.
Persevere! Permanent changes don't come easy... whether it is weight loss or just changing dietary habits. But it is worth it. Maintaining an ideal body weight reduces countless health risks. Keep pressing on.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Another Stonyfield Giveaway!

Stonyfield Farms has offered my readers another giveaway package. I love this company! You can read why here.

Stonyfield is introducing a brand new product for babies... YoBaby 3-in-1 Meals. Some of you may make your own baby food... some of you may purchase baby food already prepared... but we all need convenience at times. This new Stonyfield product is a great way to feed our babies and toddlers a meal on the go without sacrificing nutrition. It is a unique 3-in-1 combination of protein-packed yogurt + fruit + veggie purée in one cup. Sounds like a great way to sneak in veggies!

YoBaby 3-in-1 Meals come in three delicious flavors -- Pear & Green Bean, Peach & Squash, Apple & Sweet Potato. And the single serve 6-ounce cup offers 50% more than current 4-ounce YoBaby multipacks.

This is a great prize package... it includes a reusable YoBaby bag, an organic YoBaby bib, an Eric Carle growth chart, 5 FREE YoBaby 3-in-1 coupons, and a travel YoBaby bowl with lid and utensils.

To enter, just submit a comment saying that you'd like to win. It's as simple as that! You may enter this giveaway until 11:59:59 on Sunday, July 12th. On the following Monday, I will select a winner at random and post the winner!

For your littles' health,

Florida Orange Juice

There are some things that we can buy organic. And there are some things that we can't. It's all about budgetary constraints and choosing wisely. Since we have to be selective, we want buy organic when it matters most... the items that would contain the highest concentration of toxins if purchased conventionally.

Orange Juice is one of those products that can contain an higher concentration of pesticides. Why? Because most OJ comes from Central American countries where DDT and other American-banned pesticides are still used. So, when we buy a non-organic OJ, we are bringing home the pesticides.

I'll be the first to admit... organic OJ is pretty pricey. So, on this one, we have settled for the middle ground. We buy OJ from Florida Oranges. It may not be organic, but at least it complies with the FDA codes on excessive and previously outlawed chemicals.

This OJ works for me! For more Works For Me tips, visit We Are That Family.

Note: Florida's Natural did not compensate me for advertising their product. In fact, they don't even know I posted this! I only mention their brand because it is what we drink. Pretty simple, huh?

For your health,

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Subscribe Via Email

Just letting you know... I added a "Subscribe Via Email" widget to my sidebar. If you prefer to read Health Begins With Mom posts that way, please enter your email address to sign up!


Picking Blueberries and My Cobbler Recipe!

It has been our family tradition to go blueberry picking every Fourth of July. And, part of the tradition is Blueberry Cobbler with Vanilla Ice Cream. We have been doing the same thing for ten years, and each of us eagerly await the day.

Unfortunately however, waiting until the Fourth this year meant waiting too long. The farm operator where we pick said that this year's peak was two weeks earlier, which meant more difficult picking... and fewer berries. But, on the brighter side, we all had an opportunity to exercise contentment, gratitude and other positive character traits that need exercising from time to time.

We may not have left with enough blueberries to last all winter, but we did leave with plenty for cobbler (plus enough for breakfast these past few days... and for freezing a few quarts too).

My cobbler recipe is an adaptation from Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions. And I guess it is not technically a cobbler since it doesn't have dough on the top. It is more like a Blueberry Crisp. This time around, I increased the recipe by 50% because of the growing appetites in our family. This is one dessert recipe that I don't mind my kids eating a full portion of since it is mostly fruit.

I started with 8 cups of freshly picked, washed blueberries.

Then, I mixed 3 tablespoons of Sucanat and 1 1/2 tablespoons of Arrowroot Powder into the berries. The Sucanat takes a bit of the tart away while the Arrowroot thickens the juice. (You can find Arrowroot in the health food section of most grocery stores. I bought mine at Kroger. For info on Sucanat, check out this previous post and this one too.)

Pour the blueberries into a pan. Since I was increasing the recipe, I couldn't use a pretty tart pan, but used my 9x13 glass pan instead.

For the topping, mix together:

  • 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat or spelt flour
  • 1 1/2 cups of whole oats
  • 3/4 cup of melted butter, we use an awesome amish butter
  • 1/2 cup of Sucanat
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. real vanilla
Gluten Free Note: This can easily be a gluten-free dessert. In Sally Fallon's original recipe, she calls for equal amounts of arrowroot and almond flour instead of wheat and oats. We have tried all combinations of these four ingredients, and each have a very distinct flavor. The arrowroot and almonds have a unique flavor from the arrowroot. We like almonds and oats for its granola-y flare. (You can make your own almond flour by putting almonds in the food processor until they are powdery.) But this time around, I used grain flour for convenience.

Gently press the topping over the blueberries and bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Serve with an all-natural or homemade vanilla ice cream... yum!

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do! For more recipes today, check out Blessed With Grace and Balancing Beauty and Bedlam.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Roasting Chickens and Making Mineral-Rich Stock

For the past year, I have been cooking a crock pot chicken each Monday and stretching the meat over three meals. (You can read about that method here.) But this summer, things are not quite as routine. Thinking ahead to prepare the chicken has not been happening. I had to come up with a good solution so that I still could use my whole chickens, which I buy from a local pastured poultry farm.

I have been roasting three chickens in my turkey pan, freezing the meat in meal-sized portions, and making several quarts of stock with all of bones and such. This has been a great solution. I have chicken ready in the freezer for those meals that have to be prepared quickly, which has been a lifesaver through this unscheduled season.

Here's how I've been doing it:

First, I thaw out my chickens in the fridge. Then, I rub them with extra virgin olive oil and place them in my turkey roasting pan. You see here that these three were so big that one had to fit on its side. (I also use this pan for cooking up huge quantities of pumpkin and such.) I sprinkle them with salt and pepper only since I don't know the final dish the meat will make. I wouldn't want clashing herbs or seasonings!

Then, I cover the chickens by making a "tent" with foil. The pan came with a lid, but I prefer to allow some air circulation.

I oven-roast the chickens at 375 degrees. These three took a little less than three hours. After two hours, I took off the foil so that the meat could brown a little. I started checking the temperature at two and a half hours. But it didn't reach the final temp (180 degrees at the deepest part of the thigh) until twenty five minutes later.
We ate a hearty portion of the chicken for supper. Then I deboned all three of the birds and divided the meat into baggies to freeze for later. The deboning does take a while, BUT it is sure nice to have all of the meat ready. I consider it worth the effort.

See the pile of bones? Don't throw those away! There are so many minerals and other nutritive properties in those bones. Making stock is a great way to make use of every nutrient in the chicken!

To use all three carcases at the same time, you will need an extra large stock-pot. But, don't let making stock scare you. It is actually really, really simple. Sorry I don't have photos for this process...
  • Place all of the bones, skin and everything in your stock pot.
  • Cover with fresh, pure water.
  • Optional: add three to five carrots and three to five celery stalks for extra flavor.
  • Add three tablespoons of vinegar to help draw the minerals out of the bones.
  • Let stand for thirty minutes.
  • Bring to a boil and skim off the foam that rises to the surface.
  • Cover and let simmer for 12-18 hours.
  • Optional: add a bunch of parsley for the last ten minutes. This will impart extra mineral ions to the stock. (This tip, and much of this process, belongs to Sally Fallon.)
  • Remove bones and strain stock into large bowls.
  • Refrigerate until the fat congeals at the top.
  • Skim and discard the fat.
  • Divide the stock into pint- and quart-sized portions and freeze for future use.
I use stock when I steam rice, when I make soup, when I make sauces or when I cook beans. It makes a meatless meal even more nourishing! By the way, you know you have used a healthy chicken when the stock congeals like jello... just in case you wondered.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Tips From My Kids!

This summer morning turned out immensely better than I could ever have planned for. We have been quite busy so far... so much so that we haven't really had any no-account time. But this morning, I took my cup of NutriCafe and a camp chair and sat out under the canopy of trees we call our "woods." Rainbow and Spiderman were playing a game of stick hockey with bamboo poles and a tennis ball. They creatively made goals out of found logs. It was blissful to sit and watch their joy.

Then Rainbow got whacked with the pole on her knuckle. No serious wound, but she was out of the game for a while. She came and sat down next to me. Spiderman followed, having no one to continue the game with. The little girls were collecting rocks around us. Like I said, this was the kind of morning I couldn't have planned. I just talked with my kids...

After a while, I thought about blogging. I was thinking of what I might write to encourage you today. I decided I would ask my kids. I said, "If you could give one health tip to the moms who read my blog, what would you say?"

Spiderman, who will be seven this month, abruptly said: "Don't eat candy; eat grapes or granola bars instead."

Rainbow, who is nine, thought about it all morning. At lunch, she said: "If you want to help your children be healthy, you can feed them lots of carrots for their eyesight and eggs so they will be smart." (You can read the reasoning behind eggs in this previous post.)

Witzy, who is just four, hummed her little Five a Day song from Signing Times Volume 6. I would love to post a video of it today, but it is not available for public use. Rachel Coleman sings this incredibly catchy song teaching little ones to count to five while they add up their fruits and veggies each day. "Any way you slice it, or dice it, or peel it, it's gotta add up to five a day!" Very cute song... so worth checking out the dvd.

So there you go. From my kids... if you want to help your kids be healthy, teach them to choose their foods wisely, making sure to include at least five fruits and veggies each day. Make it a game... and enjoy the adventure!

By the way, have you ever tried Dragon Fruit? If you haven't, be on the lookout for it. This is just the type of adventure your children will love. Even if they don't love the fruit itself, it is such a thrill to see its scaly pink outer skin and then reveal the beautiful black and white speckled flesh inside.

Enjoying the journey,

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Come Visit Me At Money Saving Mom!

After a day at the lake, I came home to a pleasant surprise! I'm a guest writer at Money Saving Mom today! Well, I did know that it was coming; I just didn't know when. My post is about our Frugal Food Night each Wednesday. You've heard me mention it in the "What's Cooking" sidebar... now you can read the details.

Crystal does a wonderful job keeping me in the loop with coupons and special deals. She also keeps me thinking frugally. I enjoy her blog and her positive perspective on mothering. So, hop on over to read my post and browse around on her blog if you have not been there yet!

Happy Summer!

Diet Sodas, Metabolic Syndrome and Type II Diabetes

This is interesting. Very interesting. Especially since it comes from a big name like the American Diabetes Association. You've heard me say before that artificial sweeteners can be hazardous. Well, really I think most "improvements" that we make on nature have their risks. But artificial sweeteners seem to be at the top of most potentially dangerous lists. Here's more evidence:

A new study has recently been published that links diet soda with an increased risk of Metabolic Syndrome and Type II Diabetes. Read the summary of the study here. It's worth three and a half minutes of your time.

For your health,

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Exercise That Works

I enjoy exercise. Especially if I notice that it makes a difference in my waistline. You know, after four babies, I need something effective. But not all exercise is effective.

A few years ago, I began to cull some evidence that the slow and steady workouts I had been spending my time on were not as efficient as a shorter interval workout. Efficient in terms of fat burning and muscle toning. I also read an article that described how the long, slow, steady workouts were not as beneficial in keeping our heart muscle functioning at top notch.

The research showed that during a slow and steady workout, such as a walk or a jog or a session on the elliptical machine, our metabolisms will start to "preserve" energy by slowing down. This is the exact opposite of what we are trying to achieve. We want to burn more calories and more fat, not keep it. But, in a long, slow workout, our bodies prepare for a marathon and keep the energy for what might come. I guess they just don't understand that we will stop after 45 minutes or so.

However, when we put our body through interval training - where we mix short bursts of maximum exertion with periods of active rest - we keep burning fat and calories at a peak rate. This type of interval training also keeps our heart muscle working at its peak potential.

I have used this type of training for a few years. It has been a good use of my time. Instead of 45 minutes, I exercise 25 and get even better results. I have even seen interval training exercise dvds put out by some of the biggest names in exercise. These workouts are usually 20 minutes plus the warm up and cool down. Sounds good, huh?

If you don't use exercise equipment or dvds, you can still work this exercise theory into your running or your walking. You can time yourself for two minute bursts of maximum effort and equal active rest times to let your heart settle back into a steady rhythm. The goal would be to work up to three minute fast intervals with two minute rests. Just walk or jog at a slower pace during your recovery time.

You could even change things up by alternating fast and slow songs on an ipod. It doesn't have to be meticulously methodical... the key is just to vary up your exercise intensity. Keep your body guessing. It will do your metabolism good.