Monday, August 31, 2009

Friend Makin' Monday -- Just for Fun

I thought I would participate in this blog carnival, just for fun. You might not ever wonder about the Amy Ellen who writes the posts for Health Begins With Mom... but just in case you do... here twenty somethings about me:

1. Do you cook every night?
Pretty much. I try to cook enough during the week for leftovers on the weekends, but we rarely eat out. I am the sole cook in the house, although I have a nine year old helper.
2. What kind of laundry detergent do you use & why?
I use Shaklee Get Clean laundry products because they are non-toxic and realio, trulio work. With my four children, I have not met a stain I couldn't remove in the three years of using Get Clean.
3. Do you do laundry every day or loads at a time?
I do two or three loads on Tuesdays and two or three loads plus sheets on Fridays. Not everyone's sheets every Friday, but half one week and the other half the next. Call it a sheet rotation plan.
4. How often do you eat out per week?
Ummm... we don't. When we have the occasional gift card or for my birthday we go out, but it's definitely not a per week thing.
5. Where do you usually eat out?
My fave restaurant for my birthday is Carraba's... and my dad took me there this year! I also like to get burritos at Moe's on occasion. It's not totally healthy, but it is fresh and much better than some eat out options.
6. What is your favorite retail store?
Honestly, I can't associate anything retail with favorite. I just don't shop. But I love a good bookstore, just for a quiet afternoon.
7. What's your favorite thing to drink?
Hmmm... I love limeade, but hardly ever drink it. Remember my limeade fiasco? I mostly drink water and pregnancy tea (which I'll post a recipe for later this week).
8. Do you take vitamins? What kind?
Well, you all know I take Shaklee vitamins. I blogged about why in my three part "What Is Health Anyway?" series found on the left sidebar.
9. What percentage of the household chores to you do?
I actually only do about 30%. My children have really gotten efficient at our daily chores. We work at the same time and get a job done really quickly.
10. Do your children do chores?
Well, I answered that already. It took a lot of time and patience to work with them in the beginning, but it sure is paying off now! It's paying off for them too, in dividends of good attitude and diligence.
11. Do you go to church?
Yes, I go to a really great family integrated church. I am so thankful for it! Here's a website if you wonder what a family integrated church is.
12. Do you have a housework schedule?
Yep. It works like clockwork, but keep in mind it has only been minorly tweaked a few times over the last four years... so it's basically habit. I wrote specifics about it in the comments on this post.
13. Do you keep a working budget?
My husband keeps the budget, but I am in charge of the grocery budget. Yes, I work the budget.
14. What do you do at night as a family?
We eat supper together. My dear husband, Greatest Dad Ever, plays with the kids while I clean up. Then we have family worship time... sometimes it's simple like just singing and praying together. Sometimes my dh leads us in Bible Study. Sometimes we go over the outline from Sunday's teaching at church. We are usually reading a family read aloud at this time too. Currently we are reading George Mueller's autobiography.
15. How do you prepare yourself for a new week?
I have a homeschool planning time on Sunday afternoons where I write in my homeschooling journal, think over the week, put books on hold. At this time, I can plan for other things that need to get done too. I think about the children's training and if I am connecting with their hearts... things like that. It helps me start the week with more than just a to-do list, but a proper perspective on what really matters in our house.
16. What do your mornings look like?
Up at 5:30. Exercise. Quiet Time. Getting myself ready for the day. Meal prep in the kitchen while Rainbow serenades me on the piano and the children get themselves ready for the day.
17. What time do you get up in the mornings?
I already answered that. :)
18. What time do you go to bed at night?
I have been conditioned to think of 10-10:30 as my bedtime. BUT I need to change my thoughts and put myself to bed by 9:30. I feel like I should stay up longer, but this pregnant body needs more sleep! I need to make a bigger effort to get to bed by 9:30. Really, I do.
19. How do you manage all of the paperwork that floods into your household?
Not very well. I keep a stack of "deal with asap" papers by my computer. And a stack of "deal with later" papers on my desk. But I don't always look to see what is in the stack. Paperwork is not my friend. I do keep a filing system. But my husband is much better at keeping on top of things than I am.
20. How do you keep your household organized?
OOOh. This is a big question. Everything has a place. Everything goes in its place. If it doesn't have a place, we come up with a good place for it or get rid of it.
Happy Monday,

Friday, August 28, 2009

On Swine Flu (H1N1) and Immune Systems

Over the past month and a half, I have had countless people ask my thoughts on the Swine Flu. Meanwhile, I continue to hear of more incidents where someone in a nearby school, a local church, or a nearby neighborhood has contracted the virus. It hits close to home, literally, when you know families who have it!

So what is a mother to do? That's the question I keep hearing. And I do have some thoughts I would like to share with you. But keep in mind, I'm speaking mother to mother... not medical professional to patient... I have no medical credentials! For the record, I hold a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics with a minor (lacking six hours to be a major) in Fine Arts. Health is our lifestyle and my hobby.

You'll read from many credible sources, even the CDC, that Swine Flu is not a severe threat to those with strong immune systems. Of course, the flipside is also true: any flu is a threat to any person with a weakened immune system.

And what about vaccines? Once a vaccine is developed and released, it will protect against the particular strain of flu it was developed for (along with side effects), but it offers no help against mutations or newly developed strains. A healthy immune system will offer up a defense no matter what strain of flu attacks. It is my belief that a person with a strong immune system, when confronted with any flu or virus, will have reduced symptoms and a shorter duration of sickness.

Avoiding contact with infected persons may not be within our control. Honestly, if the Swine Flu spreads as the CDC predicts, we will come into contact with infected persons -- probably BEFORE they know they are infected. Our family was in contact with the swine flu recently. But we didn't know it until the next day!

Bottom line: We need to do what we can to build up our immune systems for the viruses we will most likely encounter this fall and winter -- H1N1 or any other invading pathogen.

This leads to the question: "What can I do to make sure that my family has strengthened immune systems?"

1. Did you know that your body's first line of defense is your skin? So it only makes sense to follow the ubiquitous advice and "Wash Your Hands."

2. If an invader breaks through your first barrier, your body will defend itself with its patrolling scavenger cells. A strong, healthy immune system will have plenty of these cells. Remember, it takes building materials to build immune cells, so take a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement. Make sure yours includes a substantial amount of Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Zinc and B Vitamins. Each of these (plus others!) play a big role in supporting a functional immune system.

It is very, very rare that a person could consume adequate amounts of these vitamins through diet alone. (Click the links at the top left of this blog for my "What Is Health Anyway?" series. In those three posts, I offer a more complete discussion of this topic.) Balanced, real supplements supply your body with the building materials it requires to build an army of scavenger cells. This is my choice for myself and for my children.

3. Those pathogens that make it through the skin barrier AND get passed the patrol guard, infect individual cells. Once a cell is infected, it will secrete Interferon. "Interferon is an immune system regulator that is extremely active in cell defense due to its antiviral and immune stimulating effects. When produced by cells infected by viruses, interferon communicates with uninfected cells to trigger an antibody response to the virus. Interferon can also activate natural killer cell activity, macrophage activity, and trigger the release of powerful cytotoxic chemicals designed to neutralize immune system invaders."

If you didn't get all that, just know that interferon is your friend and you need plenty of it to fight the good fight. Nutriferon is the only natural supplement I know of that boosts your body's own interferon without any negative side effects. It can be taken without pause, unlike other immune boosters, because it's efficacy does not diminish over time. In my opinion, a daily dose of Nutriferon would prepare your body for H1N1's friends and mutations better than any specific vaccine that can only defend against a particular strain.

4. Supplement your supplements with probiotics. Current research shows that the intestines are an important line of defense for the immune system. Prolific friendly bacteria in the gut will inhibit the growth of invading pathogens, so it is vital to keep a stong colony ready for action. My vitamins already contain probiotics, but I give this additional product to my children.

5. Finally, when you feel the slightest tinge of fever or other symptoms coming on, act right away with Garlic, Echinacea and Elderberry and Vitamin C around the clock. See yesterday's post for how I did this with Spiderman.

Keep in mind that if you or your children are just now beginning your health journey, it may take a while to build up your immune system. Eating whole foods, supplementing regularly, getting as much sunshine as possible, getting adequate rest and exercise... all of these things contribute to healthy immune function. Whatever you do, don't let yourself be discouraged about how far you have to go. Just get started! Your body will thank you, whether it's fighting Swine Flu or just living well.

There is so much more to be said about H1N1, vaccinations, immune systems, etc. I am trying to keep this brief. Just know that:

  • We will most likely come into contact with some sort of potent viruses in the years to come.
  • We may not be able to avoid sickness.
  • But, we can protect ourselves from devastating effects of sickness.
  • We are all at God's mercy, which is the very best place to be.

I welcome your comments on this topic. Please post your thoughts.

And the Winner Is...

I am so pleased to announce the winner of my Eco-Friendly Toy giveaway today! CSN Stores offered such a valuable prize... and it goes to ChrissyB. (Chrissy, I will email specific information to you, but if you don't receive my email, please send your snail mail address and confirm your toy choice to ae(at)healthbeginswithmom(dot)com.)

This was such a fantastic giveaway! Thanks to all who entered and to CSN Stores for their complete generosity. What a good company to know about!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Do My Children Ever Get Sick?

I've been asked this question several times. Do my children ever get sick? Well, not very frequently. But, yes. In today's world it would be totally impossible and even unreasonable to protect my children from any and all contact with germs.

However, as moms we are not left at the mercy of a host of viruses and bacteria. God's mercy, yes. But germs, no.

Our children are going to encounter sickness. What we can do is boost their immunities so that they will be able to fight off the invading germs in as quick a time as possible. Children with strengthened immune systems will have lesser symptoms and a shorter duration of sickness. So, there is definitely something we can do.

Today I want to share an example from our week... tomorrow I am posting specifically about the Swine Flu (H1N1) and what we can do to boost our immune systems for the season ahead. Please come back to read that post tomorrow!

Tuesday morning Spiderman woke up with a 101° fever. He told me that his whole body ached and that his head was going to explode. I sent him back to bed and checked his temperature again in an hour. It had escalated to 102°... and it just kept going up. Clearly his body was fighting something.

Having been recently exposed to H1N1, I didn't want to take any chances. We quarantined him and I let him watch Moody Science Videos and nap all day. For Spiderman to stay in bed all day was a huge clue that something big was amiss. He doesn't sit still for fifteen minutes, must less settle into bed for the whole day.

My son already has a strong immune system because of the daily supplements that we give him on top of our whole foods diet, limited sugar, plenty of outdoor exercise, and adequate sleep. (His daily supplements have a good measure of Vitamin D and other immune boosters in them.) But when I saw his fever go up, I knew that he could use an extra boost. Fever is a sign that there is increased activity in the body... that there is war going on.

So, practically speaking, here's what I gave him:
  • Nutriferon, which is, in my opinion, the very best natural Immune Booster available. I gave him one tablet immediately and will continue to give him one daily until I am sure he is well past it. I am also giving my girls Nutriferon because no matter how much we wash our hands, they might need a boost too.
  • Probiotics. I gave him both a probiotic and a prebiotic. I did this one for the girls too.
  • Two Garlic Tablets, which he can swallow, but I would skip for my littles who couldn't. Garlic can be crushed or made into a poultice for a young child, but I usually wait to see the severity of what I'm dealing with before I go to such smelly measures. I gave him garlic again Wednesday, even though the fever had broken, but I didn't today since his symptoms and fever have been gone for over 24 hours.
  • Increased daily multi-vitamin. His normal dosage is two per day, I gave him an extra tablet at lunch.
  • Echinacea, Zinc and Elderberry. I gave him four immediately and then two at each meal until he returned to normal.
  • Vitamin C. I like to give this in the inbetweens, since his multi has a good bit of Vitamin C in it. So I gave him two between each meal and before bed until he returned to normal.
By Wednesday morning, his fever had broken and he was his usual energetic self again. Thursday morning marked 24 hours past the fever and symptoms. I can't say what bug he was fighting, but he fought the good fight. It might have been just a short-lived germ, but he just might have conquered something even greater. I'll never know.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post on Swine Flu... it's one I've been thinking over for quite some time.

See you then,

Please don't forget that today is the very last day to enter the Eco-Friendly Toy Giveaway. The prize is your choice of any toy, with a $50 limit. Click here to enter.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Egg Replacer

I would like to share with you a healthy substitution for eggs in baked goods. Understand though that I see nothing inherently wrong with eggs. In fact, I think they are a remarkable food, possessing a combination of nutritive properties not found in other sources.

However, I understand also that we need a suitable egg replacer when there is an egg allergy, when eggs are unavailable or when one is following a physician prescribed, egg-free diet.

What do I mean by suitable replacer? One that is real food AND that does the work of holding baked goods together as real eggs do. I do not consider Eggbeaters real food. Neither do the scientists who performed an interesting study on rats.

The picture below shows two rats from the same litter 6 weeks after birth. The one on the left was raised exclusively on real eggs from birth, while the one on the right was raised exclusively on Eggbeaters. Do you remember that Eggbeaters were advertised as having the same taste and nutrition as farm fresh eggs? Synthetic foods are just not the same!

MK Navidi and FA Kummerow, Pediatrics 53: 565-566, 1974. Thanks to Dr. Stephen Chaney.

So what is my suitable replacer? Well, you certainly couldn't fry this up in a pan, but it works for baking! It is ground flax seed mixed with water. Simple, right? (Stick with me here and I'll show you how it works.) The flax seed has a gelatinous property that will work to hold your baked goods together. And, flax seed is a rich source of fiber and important Omega 3 Fatty Acids. It's good stuff.

A long time ago, I read in Sue Gregg's cookbooks that flax seed could be substituted for eggs. I didn't try it because she gave a recipe for mixing up a whole batch and keeping it in the fridge for your baking needs. I never really had a need to keep the stuff around. However, the other week, I mixed up the first part of muffins only to discover that I didn't have any eggs. Instead of waste the already mixed ingredients, I decided to give the substitution a try. I only wanted enough to replace two eggs, so I had to make some alterations to Sue Gregg's method... later I found out that many people use the same "altered" method.

For every egg you want to replace, use 1 Tbsp of flax seeds, freshly ground...

(I used my coffee bean grinder to mill the seeds into meal.)

Then add 3 Tbsp of water for each Tbsp of flax seed. (I thought that it had to be hot water, but I've done it both ways and it doesn't seem to matter.)

Let the mixture sit for about five minutes, or the time that it takes to mix the other ingredients. Add it as you would the egg.

These are the Blueberry Muffins I made using this Flax Seed substitution. The first time around I made some Orange Almond Muffins. Both turned out very nicely.

For more Works For Me Wednesday posts, check out

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bodyweight Exercises for Women

I have hesitated to write a post on this topic, but it seems to address the concerns of many women who, like myself, are fighting the not-so-slimming effects of multiple pregnancies.

Why do I hesitate? There are only a handful of Bodyweight Training Programs out there. And they all seem to have the same claim-based, immodest-model-driven marketing scheme, to which I'm not entirely favorable. Nonetheless, I'm going to tell you the program I use. It's Eddie Baran's Bodyweight Exercises for Women. Please keep in mind my disclaimer about the marketing style.

I post this because I know from experience that Bodyweight Exercises really do work. In fact, it has been my experience that they strengthen muscles, increase flexibility and tone a body without bulking up size. And they don't take a lot of time. Isn't that what we are all looking for?

I alternate Bodyweight Exercises with interval training for a complete exercise program. (I do modify this slightly during pregnancy.) Every other day, I do Eddie Baran's Fab Five exercises, plus a small selection of others from his book. The entire routine takes about twenty minutes and it does the job.

So, for what it's worth, if you dare to endure the marketing, please check out the above link. I hope it will benefit you as much as it has me.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A "Very Hungry Caterpillar" Birthday

What a fabulous birthday! You see, my Tickle doesn't really talk yet. Please don't worry, we take her to see a wonderful pediatrician and she is not neglected. She will speak, but for now, she can't really tell us what she wants for her birthday meal and cake.

We spent weeks coming up with ideas and seeing what her reaction would be. She is quite communicative, even if she doesn't use words. Nothing really struck her fancy UNTIL we mentioned the Very Hungry Caterpillar. It happens to be one of her very favorite books, and we all love to read it to her.

So, after she excitedly signed caterpillar, letting out various squeals and chirps, we KNEW that she would be pleased with this cake:

Okay, so the face is kind of droopy. And I had to take the picture fast. The icing was getting too warm by the time I put on the eyes so they are not quite even. But Tickle didn't care. She was thrilled.

The cake itself is a Honey Vanilla Pound Cake baked in a bundt pan. It turned out very tasty even though I tweaked the recipe (of course!). The eyes and mouth are chocolate chips and the antennae and feet are cut from an all-fruit leather (Stretch Island Fruit Company). However, the icing is not made from wholesome ingredients. And, as you can see, it contains food coloring, which is something we stay away from for the most part. But, in all my brain-racking, I think this was Tickle's first food coloring. And, if we go another two years before she has it again, I think we'll be okay.

For her meal, I tried to stick with the Caterpillar theme. I made these cucumber boats to look like caterpillars:

They are filled with a chopped salad made of tomatoes, cucumbers, black olives, parsley and feta cheese. I should have used smaller olives for the eyes, but I didn't think ahead on that one. And the antennae are carrot matchsticks. Yes, my kids love this kind of food.

Then, I wanted to make something for the caterpillars to eat, so I made these lettuce wraps. They are just a green lettuce leaf with brown mustard, thinly sliced white cheddar cheese, and preservative-free turkey wrapped up.

I had to have something to fill up my guests, so I made this cold tortellini salad:

We all ate clementines too -- just because they are Tickle's favorite, but the hungry caterpillar ate fruit too.

By the way, if you have not entered my really awesome giveaway, please do so today! You could win an eco-friendly toy for your child with a value up to $50. There are fabulous toys to choose from!

Meals for the Week

Well, I started to plan for this week's meals in the midst of planning for Tickle's birthday party and getting ready for company. Then, I dropped my list somewhere in the grocery store... I write my meals on one side of the paper and my grocery list on the back, so losing it means losing the whole plan.

I didn't have time to reconstruct the meal plan until today, which is too late to thaw meat for tonight. So, I'm switching it all around. Here goes:

Bean Burrito Casserole with fresh guacamole (thanks to my mom who brings avocados almost every time she visits) and a BIG salad. We'll also have leftover Very Hungry Caterpillar Cake with Ice Cream. (Post about Tickle's birthday coming next.)
Make yogurt in the morning so it can culture all day.
Bake a triple batch of Banana Nut Muffins. I happen to really love muffins these days... call it a pregnancy craving, if you'd like.
Supper -- Cook a Crock Pot Chicken to serve with oven roasted potatoes and green beans.
I think I can skip my baking day since I've still got a stash in the freezer, although I may make cookies for my husband's Bible Study that night.
Supper -- Use the leftover chicken for Chicken in Garlic Parsley Sauce over Brown Rice again. It was a hit! I'll do a big salad again as half of the meal.
Crock Pot Roast (our Grass-Fed Beef) with potatoes and lots of greens with carrots. I really miss my produce box because it is so hard to find good, organic greens at my Kroger.
Taco Salad made with the leftover beef, beans and all the veggies. It's too bad my avocados won't last until the end of the week!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Just a Reminder

Just a reminder for weekend readers... I have an amazingly valuable Eco-Friendly Toy Giveaway going on right now. Scroll down the page to check it out... or click here.

I will be entertaining company and celebrating Tickle's birthday with "A Very Hungry Caterpillar" cake. I'll post pictures next week.

Until then,

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Don't Try This At Home

Do these two red cans look similar to you? Let's just say you're in a big hurry to whip together supper. You're having Chicken in a Garlic Parsley Sauce over Brown Rice, and you need Non-GMO cornstarch to thicken the sauce.

You reach for the closest red can. It is slightly smaller than the can you're looking for, but you don't notice because you're rushed. You add two tablespoons of the white powder to the cup of cold milk you have sitting on the counter. You turn around to get a spoon so that you can stir it up and add it to the warm chicken stock on the nearby stove.

But, by the time you turn around, you notice that you have created a white volcano that is overflowing the mixing cup and spilling down the counter onto the floor. You make a run for the sink with the volcano in hand, but you leave a trail of frothy white meringue-y stuff the whole way there... two tablespoons of baking powder is enough to do that to a cup of milk, I've discovered!

You get a good chuckle, wish your kids could have seen the amazing display, quickly clean up the trail of froth and start with a fresh cup of milk. This time you use cornstarch from the bigger red can, thankful that you had an extra cup of milk to spare in a house where the gallon always seems to be nearly empty.

Had any kitchen bloopers lately? I'd love to hear about them...

Keeping this health journey adventuresome and fun,

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

You Don't Want To Miss This Giveaway!!!

I have been given an amazing opportunity by CSN Stores. They have offered me an eco-friendly toy (translate: healthy for your child and free of toxins, dangerous paints, unsafe plastics, etc.) to either review or giveaway. I have chosen to give it away to one of my dear readers! Don't miss this one... you've just gotta participate in this giveaway... and tell your friends and family too!

So, I have been browsing CSN's children's site. It is bursting with amazingly cute wooden baby toys, organic stuffed animals, learning toys and puzzles for toddlers, crafty toys for your middles and even stuff that makes an older child think and learn too! And then they've got eco-friendly bedding, kids chairs, other furniture and decor. Seems like a one-stop-shop for all your children's stuff... and you can buy it with confidence to boot! Peace of mind is priceless, you know.

If I had to pick just one toy (which is quite a challenge since I have four children and one on the way who together would love about fifty of these toys), I would select these Rainbow Sound Blocks by WonderWorld. Each of them makes a different tone when shaken... and I can just see the kids spinning around the living room with one of these blocks in front of their eyes saying: "My world is pink!" or "My world is green!"

So I am realio, trulio excited about this giveaway. To enter, please click here to visit CSN's AllChildren' and browse through their eco-friendly toys. Leave me a comment with the toy (under $50) that you would like to win. Make sure to leave your email address if it isn't linked to your profile name. Note that this giveaway is open to US residents only.
Leaving a comment with your choice toy (under $50) will enter your name in the giveaway one time. For a second entry, post about my giveaway on your blog, and leave a second comment to tell me that you did. You can post using these words:

"Health Begins With Mom is hosting an eco-friendly toy giveaway sponsored by All Children’s Furniture who carries everything from kid's furniture to toys. Stop by before midnight Aug 27st EST to enter to win! "

The giveaway will close on Thursday, August 27th at 11:59:59 pm EST. (I want to give this giveaway plenty of time to circulate on the web!) On Friday, I will randomly select a winner and post the lucky name!

I hope you win... these are truly great toys!!

Nothing Beats...

...the great taste of Wat-aah after a long afternooon of PLAY.

Stop by 5 Minutes For Mom for more Wordless Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Funny, Yet Effective Awareness Campaign

Have you ever heard of Chicken Plumping? I hadn't heard the term, although I had heard of the practice. I think you oughta know about it... so go to watch the short video on the front page, then click the "Health" tab and watch another part of the video. I got a chuckle from it... and it made a very good point.


"The practice of injecting saltwater, chicken stock, seaweed extract or some combination thereof into chicken to increase its weight and price, meaning that when you buy a package of chicken you can be spending 15% more on SALT WATER. More importantly, a plumped chicken has up to 700% more sodium than a chicken that hasn't been plumped. The result: hundreds of thousands of consumers are ponying up extra cash (about $1.50 per package of chicken) to unwittingly feed themselves and their families a dangerously unhealthy amount of salt."

How much SODIUM?

"One serving - just 4 oz - of plumped chicken has the same amount of sodium as a large order of french fries. That's 700% more than natural chicken."

What should you do?

Read the labels. Don't purchase chicken that says something like "contains up to 15% saltwater." Or, read the ingredient label to make sure it doesn't contain added salt of any kind. Buy real chicken and salt it to taste at home.

For your health,

Monday, August 17, 2009

This Week's Menu

To make an extremely long story short, I have been experiencing technical difficulties. What a way to get back into blogging after my back-to-school-break, huh?!? My laptop crashed. It left me with a very slow PC to work on. It left me without all my shortcuts, pictures and files. The good news is that I am now blogging on a lightning fast laptop (maybe just compared to the dinosaur I've been using). I only have to get my files back in order and I'll be good to go.

In the meantime, I did plan for our meals this week. I don't have much extra baking to do since I've baked double, triple and quadruple recipes of everything the past two weeks. Here's what I've got cooking:

Lunch -- Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Non-GMO Corn Chips, Grapes and Strawberries
Supper -- Leftover Pakistani Kima (see last week's menu for cookbook link)

Pot Luck Sandwich lunch at church -- take Turkey Roll Ups (with preservative-free meat) and Garden Salad
Supper -- popcorn and smoothie

Use meat pulled from a whole cooked chicken in Chicken, Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna. I take a shortcut and skip precooking the whole wheat noodles. If you add about two cups of extra water to the sauce, the noodles will cook in the hour that the lasagna bakes covered in foil. I will also be making a tomato and cucumber salad on the side.

Make yogurt in the morning so it can culture all day.
Supper -- It is Tickle's birthday today! So, I will be grilling hamburgers and making oven fries and steaming vegetables. This is celebratory food for us. Her actual birthday party will be on Saturday, so that's when we will have her special chosen meal, cake and ice cream. What will this two-year-old pick???

Make Power Bars and bake some breakfast muffins... I'm looking for something new to try!
Supper -- Some version of Beans and Rice

Salmon Broccoli Pasta, a favorite of all my littles

Leftover Lasagna with all the vegetables I have left over too (since I'll be grocery shopping on Saturday morning).

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What Else To Do With A Foley Food Mill???

See this simple kitchen tool? Well, back when I posted about peeling 100 baby apples in order to make applesauce, a few of you recommended that I invest in a food mill like this. Much to my surprise, my sweet mother-in-law brought this to me when she came for Spiderman's birthday.

It is a Foley Food Mill. Exactly what I need to make applesauce in the future. This is actually a hand-me-down from my husband's late Grandma Anne. I have very wonderful memories of visiting her home. She made every effort to see that her guests were always comfortable AND well-fed, a character trait I aspire to...

But here's my question... what else can I do with this food mill? Do any of you use something like this? What kitchen adventures can I have with this tool? What all can I make? Any suggestions?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Gluten-Free Resources

A sweet friend of mine (IRL) has Celiac Disease. I don't say she suffers from it because she is dramatically healthy. She follows a Gluten-Free Diet, supplements with Gluten-Free vitamins, and lives remarkably well.

She has recently compiled her hints on how to thrive on a Gluten Free Diet in a FREE five-part mini course entitled "Beyond coping with the Gluten Free Diet! How to Celebrate Celiac Disease!" Click Here!

She covers the following topics:

  • How to Save Money while eating Gluten Free Foods
  • Simple Steps to Reducing Your Stress Levels when eating away from home
  • The Most Overlooked Ingredients that can cause you BIG Problems
  • And much, much more!
If you are just now switching to a gluten-free diet or if you have been on one for a while and need some refreshing encouragement and ideas, check out what she has to offer! Click Here!

Monday, August 10, 2009

On Meal Planning...

With this new year of school, I am shuffling up some of my routines in order to find what works for us in this season of life. I love planning and I love order, but I do hold onto my plans with somewhat of a loose grip. I do know that life with young children frequently changes, and it only makes sense that routines would have to change as well.

I have been doing my meal planning and grocery shopping on Tuesday afternoons. I got my produce box on Mondays, so I really couldn't make a meal plan until I saw what was in my box. However, it now seems that I will not be getting the box for a while (sigh). The co-op may start up again, but for now, I am buying my produce along with my groceries. And, after school activities that we used to have on other days are now all on Tuesdays.

All that said, it looks like Saturday morning is becoming my time to plan and shop. Some things will stay the same... like making yogurt on Tuesday mornings... that still fits. And baking on Wednesday afternoons... that still fits. My meal prep time in the mornings will stay the same... and our lunches will be pretty consistently similar as well.

So, here's what I'm planning for this week:

Lunch -- Quesidillas, Grapes and lots of raw veggies
Make Granola and Banana Nut Muffins.
Supper -- Use leftover homemade Gyro meat in a salad with cucumbers, tomatoes and a feta cheese dressing. Garlic Smashed Potatoes on the side. Limeade Popsicles for dessert. (I picked up a bottle of organic limeade at Kroger for 50 cents!)

Pot Luck lunch at church -- take Black Bean Chili and Corn Muffins
Supper -- popcorn and smoothie

Use meat pulled from a whole cooked chicken in Chicken Burrito Skillet. Serve with a whopping side salad with homegrown tomatoes (thanks to dear friends!!!). Our side salads are often bigger than the main dish!

Make yogurt in the morning so it can culture all day.
Supper -- Homemade Pizza made with preservative-free ham I picked up on sale with a coupon for almost nothing! We don't usually eat ham, but this was a terrific opportunity. I make a whole wheat crust and my own version of pizza sauce. I'll prepare Green Beans, just because my kids love them... and I am going to be trying Spinach Balls on the side too, a recipe from my new fave cookbook. I hope they're a hit because they look so simple!

Bake bread and another breakfast item, maybe Morning Glory Muffins from the same fave cookbook.
Supper -- Beans and Rice

Supper -- Beef Stir Fry over rice. I have lots of grass-fed beef in the freezer, which is really nice because I have so many different cuts for a major cheap price. I see stir fry as a good excuse to cook A LOT of veggies. I will use onions, garlic, carrots, cabbage, kale and whatever else I have on hand... maybe squash or zucchini too.

Supper -- Pakistani Kima, which is a curried beef, peas and potato dish from this cookbook. We will have another mega side salad and another portion of Green Beans with this skillet meal.

Friday, August 7, 2009

An Interview... With Me.

Okay... so keep in mind that this image is definitely not what my pregnant body looks like at this point in my second trimester, BUT the interview really is for real. Hop on over to "5 Minutes for Mom" and read all about it!

Happy weekend! My husband asked me to marry him eleven years ago today, so we are celebrating with supper out tonight (BIG SMILE). Fun fact: we went on our very first date that same night eleven years ago too!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

On Tweaking Recipes

It's tough to find good, whole foods recipes. Every once in a while I will find a really useful cookbook. But, it seems like most of the recipes I run across contain ingredients that I am trying to avoid... ingredients that are fractionated, over-processed or man-made.

My overarching principle in selecting and preparing food for my family is to "eat what God made as close to how He made it as possible." In doing so, I serve my family foods that are specially designed with rich nutrients in exact combination with other supporting nutritive factors that are exactly how our bodies need to be fueled. (For more on this topic, read the book What The Bible Says About Healthy Living: Three Biblical Principles that Will Change Your Diet and Improve Your Health by Dr. Rex Russell M.D.)

So what happens on a birthday celebration when my son wants a Coonskin Cap Cake? There is no whole foods recipe out there for that! But, with a little kitchen ingenuity, any basic recipe can be tweaked to fit my health principles. For this one, I started with a Basic Chocolate Cake recipe from a Southern Living cookbook, one that you can tell from the photo is well-worn.

When tweaking a recipe, I take a look at the ingredient list and see what needs to be substituted... things like whole grains for white flour, natural sweeteners for white sugar. Or, for a meal recipe, I will often have to make a from-scratch sauce to substitute for a canned product. If these things seem daunting to you, I recommend just taking an adventurous leap. You may be surprised how quick you learn. And, if you are just starting out, you may want to use 1/2 white flour, 1/2 whole grain as a transition step.

I often substitute applesauce for 1/2 of the butter or oil in a recipe, or I substitute plain yogurt for all sorts of creamy ingredients. I even make yogurt cheese to substitute for cream cheese. I hope to post about a surprisingly healthy and tasty egg substitute very soon. I like to use unsweetened cocoa or unsweetened baking squares instead of melted chocolate chips so that I can add my own choice of sweetener.

So, back to the cake... I melted 4 squares of unsweetened chocolate in a saucepan and set it aside... just like the recipe said. I creamed the 1/2 cup of butter with 2 cups of sucanat instead of sugar, then added the 2 eggs one at a time just like the recipe said. I mixed the melted chocolate into the creamed mixture... just like the recipe said.

Just a side note: I find that darker cakes are more adaptable than light cakes. Carrot cake, Apple Cake, Chocolate Cake, Spice Cakes... they are generally a bit more dense and there are more flavors to cover the more noticeable flavors of honey, maple syrup or sucanat. There is even a Hummingbird Cake in this same cookbook that is a perfect tweaking recipe... it contains carrots, apples, pineapple and nuts.

Next, the recipe called for mixing together 2 cups of flour (I used my freshly ground winter white wheat berries), 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. baking soda and 3/4 tsp.salt. I use aluminum-free baking powder, found in the health food section of my grocery store, and sea salt. Also, if you are using honey instead of sucanat, you will want to increase the baking soda by 1/4 tsp. for every cup of honey.

In a separate bowl, the recipe called for 3/4 cup of buttermilk, 1 tsp. of real vanilla, and 3/4 cup of water. I prefer not to buy the buttermilk from the store because of the added ingredients, so I used homemade plain yogurt (my dependable standby). Also, it is worth the extra expense to buy real vanilla rather than a chemical tasting like vanilla... did you know that it is one of the same chemicals used in antifreeze for your car? Interesting, huh!

Just like the recipe said, I alternately added in the flour mixture and the liquid mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Then I poured the batter into a big Pyrex bowl. Because I was baking in an nontraditional container, I had to keep my eye out for when it was done. Actually, I pulled it out and thought it was done, only to put it back in again for a while. Rule of thumb, be flexible while you're recipe tweaking, especially with a first time recipe.

So, while the cake was baking, I made the icing. I used a recipe from Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions which was already healthy, but needed to be adjusted for my use. Her recipe for Cream Cheese Icing called for 2 cups of cream cheese, 1/2 cup of butter, 1 Tablespoon of vanilla and 1/2 - 3/4 cup of honey.
I creamed the softened cream cheese until it had no lumps, added the softened butter, the vanilla and the full amount of honey (because I planned to add unsweetened chocolate). Then, I added 1/2 a jar of fruit sweetened marmalade (for the orange kick). It was totally yummy! For each of the shades of brown, I added a different amount of melted chocolate to achieve the right color.

So then I had to put the cake together. I trimmed the upside down hemisphere so that it was the cylindrical shape of a coonskin cap. I cut the cylinder in 1/2 horizontally and spread a layer of icing in between the layers. Then, I used the two trimmed parts, each a semicircle, staggered to make the shape of the tail. Make sense?
I spread the shades of brown in a mottled pattern all over the cap, making sure to leave distinct dark rings on the tail. Then, I made an uneven toothpick comb and tousled up "hair." My husband snapped this shot of my concentration face.

For a final picture of the cake, check out yesterday's post. And, here is what my kids were doing on the other side of the counter... it's blurry, but isn't it a fun picture?

I'll post more about tweaking recipes, but I hope this gives you an idea of where to start. And, I hope it gives you a confidence that you can do it too! The mistakes are part of the adventure, remember?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Greetings and Birthdays!

Hi again! It is nice to be back... although I might have to come back by degrees. We have had a fantastic start to our school year, but I have grown accustomed to keeping my computer turned off. I'm still deliberating over how I'll fit computer time into our very full days.

The break has been very good. I have spent a lot of time just being with my kids, of course. But, I have also spent time just being creative in the kitchen, which I have missed. When my day is cram-packed, my kitchen time doesn't allow for much piddling. But I love to piddle because that is when I strike upon those really great, do-overable recipes... like on Sunday afternoon when Rainbow and I decided to make a Blueberry Cake, or like when I had enough time to make homemade soaked flatbreads to go with our homemade Gyro Meat and Tzatziki Sauce. These new "inventions" don't happen when I am in a hurry.

While I was away, Spiderman had a perfect birthday celebration too. Here is the spread he chose: (You can read here about our birthday tradition where the birthday kid picks the meal and dessert.)

Grilled Cheddar Burgers, Non-GMO Cornchips with fresh Guacamole, Watermelon, Cherries, Olives, and Crackers with Cucumber Dip (which was supposed to be an appetizer, but everyone was having too much fun to munch while I cooked).

And here is his Coonskin Cap Cake. Yep, he's been reading a few too many frontiersmen biographies.

This cake is a Chocolate Cake with Orange Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing, made in four shades of brown. The next time I post, I'll tell you how a Basic Chocolate Cake recipe from a Southern Living cookbook turned into this healthy, "whole foods" birthday cake. It's really not that hard to tweak recipes, you know ;-)
Just for fun, here are Spiderman's two previous birthday cakes. The first is a Moon Cake complete with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, and the second is a Sword in the Stone Cake. In case you can't read the sign, it says: "Whoever Pulls Forth This Sword From The Stone Is Worthy To Turn Six." Those are my husband's talented calligraphy and sword-making skills, by the way... I just do cakes.

See you soon!