Friday, October 16, 2009
I still have to finish laundry, pack and pre-prepare a lot of food... but I definitely am not focusing on work... or the half a dozen email questions you've sent me. (I apologize, but I may not get to them all until we're back into our normal routine.)
Before I head off though, I wanted to tell you about a particular book I'll be reading over the break. That is, one that I won't be reading aloud. Reading to my kids is always so fun to me... and this time I'm especially looking forward to it because we have a slew of really inspiring children's fiction selections. But the one I'll be reading to myself is In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, by Michael Pollan.
After reading this book review at Passionate Homemaking, I found the book at my local library.
So far, I have only read the introduction and the first chapter, but I already enjoy Pollan's intellectual yet casual writing style. He comes right out and spills the whole book in the first lines. "Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants." It seems odd at first read the recommendation that we eat food. But Pollan argues that most of what we see on supermarket shelves is not food. I totally agree.
Yes, this all sounds strikingly similar to Dr. Rex Russell's three Biblical principles from What the Bible Says About Healthy Living. (Eat what God Made. Eat it as close to how God made it as possible. Eat everything in moderation.) But Pollan takes an entirely different approach to draw nearly the same conclusion.
Instead of searching the scriptures to find Health Advice, Pollan researched the evolution of "nutrition" and how this new science has changed eating (and food) as we know it. I am eager to find out more...
Stop on over at Passionate Homemaking to read more about this book... and I'll let you know what I learn when I get back!
Enjoy your Autumn, whether you are blessed with time off or just take a moment to fill your senses with the changing of seasons.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I was grocery shopping. I was looking for canned tomatoes, and I noticed that the large cans of a brand name of "diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano" were on closeout special. They were cheap!
I picked them up thinking - "How perfect!"
But, almost as an afterthought, I checked the label just in case there was MSG. I was surprised to find High Fructose Corn Syrup instead. In tomatoes!!! Since when do we need to sweeten our tomatoes?
I wouldn't have thought of HFCS in tomatoes, but this is just another case in point -- we've got to be in the label reading habit!
For more information on High Fructose Corn Syrup, check out this informative site. It is a well written response to the current ad campaign in support of HFCS. Of course I want you to read the whole article so that you know why you need to avoid the stuff. But for your convenience, I'll summarize. It states in brief:
Really, you could skim the whole article in 3-5 minutes... and meanwhile, I'm off to get a very late start on what I hoped would be a full afternoon of baking and food prep for our coming Fall Break.
The Bottom Line on Research….
You should avoid consuming high fructose corn syrup because of the following:
1. High-fructose corn syrup has been linked directly to obesity, diabetes and metabolic dysfunction.
2. High-fructose corn syrup elevates triglycerides levels, which can lead to heart disease.
3. High-fructose corn syrup is simply empty calories with no nutritional
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Chocolate Apricot Granola Bars
- 5 cups rolled oats (no change)
- 1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour (no change)
- 1 1/3 cup brown sugar (I used Sucanat, but you could use any natural sweetener that is not crystalized, such as Rapadura or Maple Sugar)
- 1 tsp baking powder (Make sure you buy non-aluminum baking powder.)
- 2 tsp cinnamon (I omitted this simply for our personal taste preferences.)
- 1 cup olive oil (I used melted coconut oil, but EVOO is fine.)
- 2/3 cup milk (For the soaking, I used 2/3 cup of warm water plus 2 Tbsp plain yogurt; then I omitted this milk.)
- 2 eggs (farm fresh!)
- 1 cup grated coconut (It's pretty easy to find unsweetened, grated coconut.)
- 1 cup chopped walnuts (no change)
- 1 1/2 cup craisins (Use unsweetened cherries or apricots; unsulphered as well is best.)
- 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (You can purchase naturally sweetened chocolate chips... I chopped mine the second time around so that there would be more chocolate bites throughout... or you could start with the minis.)
- I also added 1/2 tsp of salt the second time around, which really helped punch the flavor.
First, mix the oats and whole wheat flour. In a separate cup, mix 2/3 cup of warm water with 2 Tbsp of plain yogurt. Combine the grains and the liquids. I used my hands because I was better able to get the moisture more evenly distributed than with a spoon. Let the wet grains soak overnight or all day long, covered loosely.
When you are ready to make the bars, break apart the clumps of grains with your hands. Then mix in the rest of the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add the eggs and oil. Stir to combine thoroughly.
Spread on a cookie sheet or a jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.These are delicious and nutritious. But remember to eat everything in moderation, even the good stuff!
But what do you do on a perfect Saturday morning with six stacks of pancakes ready for six hungry mouths?
I melt butter in a small saucepan and add the same amount of maple syrup. (So, that may be 1/4 cup of butter and 1/4 cup of maple syrup if I need a 1/2 cup of syrup in the end.) As it heats through, I stir it vigorously until it is completely combined and a pretty light brown color.
Not only do I get to skip buttering the pancakes... who wants to butter that many pancakes anyway? The children get more syrup on their pancakes, but only half of it is maple syrup. And the syrup is wonderfully warm, sweet, and buttery. Yum!
I actually got this tip from my dear sister-in-law several years ago. I don't know if she will even remember... but we have done it like this ever since. Thanks, Renee!
For more Works For Me Wednesday posts, visit Kristen and WeAreThatFamily.com.
Thanks for stopping by today!
Photo Credit: Allposters.com
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Like I said, this is a MUST SEE. Do not clean your house again before you take the time to watch it!
If, after watching this short news segment, you wonder what non-toxic cleaning products I use, follow this link. I love them so much, I sell them!
To your health,
Monday, October 12, 2009
How about Collards? My children like these greens since they don't wilt as much as spinach. Or how about Bok Choy? This is one of my favorite greens. Have you ever served your children fresh (not canned) beets? Or how about some of the wonderful fall squashes that are filling up our grocery stores?
Try something new with the aim to increase the color, quantity and variety of produce in your family's fare.
Here is what I have planned for this week --
Mushroom, Spinach and Chicken Creamy Pasta with a Garden Salad. I don't have a good name for this meal, but it is one my children look forward to! It seems that when you make a simple cream sauce and include pasta (we use whole wheat or another whole grain blend), the children don't really mind the mushrooms.
Make Yogurt in the Morning
Leek and Potato Soup with Garlic Cheese Biscuits and a Garden Salad. The children recently read the book Twenty and Ten, in which the fifth graders speak about LOVING Leek and Potato Soup... so, naturally, they convinced me to make it for them. The Garlic Cheese Biscuits are a family fave... hopefully I'll post the recipe with pictures next week... and for the Cherry Chocolate Granola Bars I am making!
Remember that Wednesday is our Family Frugal Night. Click here to read why I reserve one night a week for some combination of beans and rice.
I plan on making the Crock Pot Roast (from Grass-Fed Beef) that I didn't make the other week. We have plenty of potatoes to oven-roast and I also have a wealth of other greens that will need to be used up. I'll probably cook the whole mess and freeze what we don't eat for future soups. I think I will have chard, cabbage, carrots, onions and garlic left in the fridge.
I will also have to catch up on Baking... my plan is six loaves of bread, Love Muffins, and Banana Nut Muffins for next week's breakfasts. If I have the time, I may make some cookies to take on our Fall Break trip too.
Friday starts our Fall Break! YAY!!! I am so looking forward to our little family vacation... and I will have to clean out my fridge on Friday, so we will put together all the leftovers for a smorgasbord meal. I anticipate still having salad veggies too, so we can have that on the side... again... who ever heard of too much salad?!?
Friday, October 9, 2009
I have used the Chestal product with success before, but haven't tried the other two. These are great remedies to have on hand and to use at the first sign of Cold or Flu! I also have the ear ache product from the same line and have used that with success as well. If you're a mom blogger, I recommend giving these a try!
Hoping we all stay well,
Thursday, October 8, 2009
As babies, we decide everything for them. As toddlers, we give them liberty in some areas to choose according to their preferences. We guide our littles with wise counsel, all the while teaching them the facts they need to know in order to make good decisions. And over time, our children grow independent, making all of their own choices.
This process of independence applies to nutrition choices, as well as everything else under the sun. We can not stand over our older children's shoulders and dictate their choices. Yet, we should take every opportunity to give them knowledge and understanding so that they, themselves, will make sound choices.
If we are going to raise up children who have enough understanding to choose wisely, we need to guide them while they are young. Look at your nurturing position as an amazing opportunity! And daily take advantage of that opportunity...
But what specifically should we tell our kids? First, understand the mechanisms of wellness yourself. If you did not read this series yesterday, refresh your memory today.
- So What Is Health Anyway? Part I
- So What Is Health Anyway? Part II
- So What Is Health Anyway? Part III
I have told them...
- that they are in a stage of very rapid growth,
- that their body's trillions of cells are reproducing themselves so that nearly their entire body will be brand new in just one year,
- that their cells need real building materials for this amazing work,
- and that if their body does not have the building materials necessary, their cells will still have to replace themselves, just with a weaker copy...
- that they have the choice to build healthy or weakened cells, which will in turn make up a healthy or weakened body.
Marshmallow Hearts for Valentine's Day
Imagine that you are building yourself a castle. It has to be a strong castle, because you live in a land where there are flying dragons that could break down the walls. You have to have strong walls in order to keep out all your other enemies too.
So, what will you build your castle with? You have some choices... You can build your castle with legos, blocks that have been especially designed to interconnect and stack securely. Or, you can build your castle with marshmallows and M&Ms.
If you choose marshmallows and M&Ms, and if you are very careful about how you stack them, you might see a wall take shape. But, the first time an enemy approaches, even his footfalls might shake the ground so much the walls would fall. Or, the first time a dragon flies by, his wings would create enough wind to blow down your only defense -- your walls.
Your body is the same way. You are building it with the food that God has specifically designed to make healthy cells, just like the lego blocks in your castle. You would not want to replace a lego with a marshmallow. That part of the wall would be weak. And, if you trade too many legos for marshmallows, your wall would not hold up at all.
When you have a choice of what to eat, choose the foods that are closest to what God made and leave the other stuff for only very special occasions (like your birthday!).
Then, practice identifying foods with your young children. See if they can tell what God has made, what is only slightly changed by mankind, and what is totally man-made. As always, your children will like adventure... so make your story exciting, and make the daily choices a game.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
I am also thinking of Fall Break Plans, School Lessons, dividing a MEGA LARGE cheese order that I placed for myself and several of my local friends, how I'm going to balance my pregnant body on a bar stool tall enough to vacuum the ceiling fan in our vaulted living room, maintaining a cheerful spirit, and getting everything done this afternoon in enough time to get Rainbow to ballet on time.
Then, there is a larger thought cloud in the back of my mind today. I say cloud, but think big and fluffy cloud rather than dark rain cloud. "Thought cloud" as in a conglomeration of thoughts that provides the background for all my other thoughts today.
What is this thought cloud? Well, I have been thinking how thankful I am that my family is healthy. I am not saying that we will never get sick. That is out of my hands. But, we are well. And and I am thankful for this gift.
My thoughts go on... What about wellness? Well, I can tell you that wellness doesn't happen over night. It is a two fold process of developing healthy habits and giving your body's cells time to replace themselves with healthy, vibrant cells.
(If you are a new reader and have not yet read my "So What is Health Anyway?" Series, the idea of "replacing cells" might seem new to you. Please take the time to read that three part series. I think it is foundational to understanding why it matters what we put in our bodies. It wouldn't be long, and it won't be painful... and you might just ignite a new motivation too.)
Photo Credit: Allposters.com
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
It is a "soaked" grain recipe. For those of you who are new readers, here is a quote from Sally Fallon to explain the soaking process.
Scientists have learned that the proteins in grains, especially gluten, are very difficult to digest. A diet high in unfermented whole gains, particularly high-gluten grains like wheat, puts an enormous strain on the whole digestive mechanism.... During the process of soaking and fermenting, gluten and other difficult to digest proteins are partially broken down into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption.This meal is quite easy to make... it seems much simpler to me than eggs and toast, for sure. But, it does start the night before. I shared last week that as I clean up the kitchen from supper, I think ahead to the meals for the next day. At that time, I set out the oatmeal to soak, if that is what I am going to serve for breakfast.
Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
(This recipe has served me and my four children for the past year or two, but I discovered this morning that I will have to increase it by 50% in order to accommodate Rainbow and Spiderman's growing appetites.)
- 1 1/2 cups of warm water
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 3 Tbsp. plain yogurt or kefir
- 1 1/2 cups of whole, rolled oats
- another 1 1/2 cups of water
- 1/3 cup of diced dried apples
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 3 Tbsp. Sucanat, Rapadura, Maple Syrup or Raw Honey
- 1 Tbsp. freshly ground flax seed, optional
- Milk, Cream or Butter, optional
Then, add 1 1/2 cups of whole, rolled oats and stir to thoroughly mix. Cover it, but not completely airtight. You can see from this photo that I just place a bowl over my pyrex mixing cup. A little air still gets through the spout opening.
The next morning, bring and additional 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil. Add the soaked oats plus 1/3 cup of diced dried apples and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Let this simmer for five to seven minutes, stirring occasionally.
Once the oatmeal is cooked stir in 3 or more tablespoons of Sucanat (or Rapadura or Raw Honey or Maple Syrup). You can add more or less sweetener, depending on how sweet your children prefer their oatmeal. But I do suggest slowly weaning them off highly sweetened breakfast foods, if they have grown accustomed to them.
Stir it completely and serve it up!
Monday, October 5, 2009
I read an article this weekend in Dr. Mercola's newsletter that contained some very useful information on sorting out Organic Food Labels. (You can read the whole article here.)
Most of us are financially unable to purchase all of our foods with a Certified Organic Label. We would like to bring home the most nourishing foods for our loved ones, but does it have to be organic?
There has been a lot of debate about whether or not organic foods actually contain more nutrients, but a recent EU study showed that organic foods do, in fact, contain more beneficial components than their conventional counterparts. For example:
- Organic fruit and vegetables contain up to 40 percent more antioxidants
- Organic produce had higher levels of beneficial minerals like iron and zinc
- Milk from organic herds contained up to 90 percent more antioxidants
So, how do you know which organic foods are worth the extra money? Mercola recommends looking for the USDA Organic seal. He says, "This seal is your best assurance of organic quality. Growers and manufacturers of organic products bearing the USDA seal have to meet the strictest standards of any of the currently available organic labels." In his article, he lists out some of these standards, which you can read here.
Interestingly enough, Mercola also recommends EWG's Organic Buyer's Guide for help in selecting which produce it matters most to buy organic and which we can buy conventionally. Click here to read my post from last March in which I recommended using this great resource.
Are you asking, "So where do I start?" Keep an eye out for the USDA Organic Seal, print out EWG's Guide, and keep in mind these thoughts from the end of Mercola's article:
"Non-organic meats actually have far higher concentrations of pesticides than all of the fruits and vegetables. And the highest concentration of pesticides is actually in non-organic butter. So if you can only buy one organic food item it should be butter. Your next priority would be meats, and once those are addressed, then you’ll want to focus on the fruit and vegetable list [from EWG]."
I hope my brief notes on Mercola's article help you sort out the some of the confusion on buying organic... If you've got the time, check out his full article... there is so much more I could have mentioned, but I like to keep things short and simple.
And, by the way, if you are wondering about my meal plan for this week, I will be late in making it since I won't see what is in my produce box until later tonight. Any suggestions for healthy meals? We're up for something new!
Friday, October 2, 2009
In the comments, Michelle asked a good question about my family's personal diet choices. Since I'm figuring she asked a question that popped into most of your minds, I thought I would answer it in my post today. She writes:
"I find it so intriguing that you have been posting about Sally Fallon's book Nourishing Traditions! I was just introduced to this book a week or two ago and have been excited to learn about it. Is this diet what ya'll primarily try to follow? My friend who is on it has had great success!"
Well... I have mentioned why we eat what we eat in My Personal Health Journey, Raw Food Diets, Natural Sweeteners 101, and a in variety of other posts. But it may be hard to put all those pieces together in sequential order. So today, I thought today I would write it all out in one place.
I started my health journey as a senior in college. (See My Personal Health Journey.) At that time, I new little to nothing about nutrition and I had several health ailments to show for it. As I was browsing in a Christian Bookstore, I found What the Bible Says About Healthy Living. On a whim, I picked it up and purchased it.
As I've mentioned before, in the book Dr. Rex Russell presents three principles for healthy living. My paraphrase of them is:
- Eat what God made
- Eat it as close to how God made it as possible
- Eat everything in moderation.
This was revolutionary for me, at the time. When I evaluated what I was eating, I found that most of my food was a man-made "improvement" on a natural food. I discovered that very little of what I was eating was actually natural or whole. So, I made big changes, which you can do much more easily when single than with a family to consider.
My husband had also read this book (independent of me, before we got together), and so we started our marriage on Dr. Russell's whole food principles. (Well, that wasn't the foundation of our marriage, of course... I mean that when we started, we were both on the same page with nutrition.) I didn't know much about cooking, but I taught myself how to read labels and how to prepare food as healthfully as possible.
Then, we were introduced to Dr. George Malkmus' famous Hallelujah Diet. He recommends eating 90% of your foods in their raw state and eating no animal products or processed foods at all. (I wrote more extensively about raw food diets here.)
We jumped on the raw food bandwagon and did our share of juicing and barleygreen. That lasted for about a year and a half, at which time I linked my severe postpartum depression and my daughter's failure to thrive to the diet's lack of proteins and fats. (Like I said, that whole story is here.)
As we searched for solutions to our diet deficiencies, we knew that we did not want to go back to eating processed foods, white sugar, white flour, fractionated and rancid fats or commercial animal products. As we researched, we discovered Sally Fallon's work through the Weston A. Price Foundation.
I read her book, Nourishing Traditions, plus Price's Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, plus about a dozen more from that school of thought. It was a huge time commitment, but I had time for it with only one child!
After careful research into the WAP guidelines (and arguments against them as well!), we decided to add raw milk products, fish oil, eggs from farm hens, and some fish to our diet. We noticed a very positive improvement in how we felt.
Over time, we took things a step further and added grass-fed meats, mineral rich stocks, fermented dairy products, soaked grains, and lacto-fermented foods as well. Notice that I added these things in steps. It took time to understand the processes involved with each of these nourishing foods. And I took it one step at a time. As one thing became my common practice, I would add another. I think this is the most realistic way for a mom to make health changes while still keeping the rest of her life in balance. Don't let yourself be overwhelmed. Take baby steps.
I might need to add that we never went as far as organ meats and raw meat dishes (for those of you who have read Sally Fallon's book in its entirety). We tried to eat liver from grass-fed cows a few times, but I always had extreme difficulty with the smell. That being said, I think we still did pretty well following the WAP diet!
Fast forward three more children (and the fifth on the way)... Since my days as a mother of two with plenty of afternoon hours for food preparation, I have had to simplify. I now have three children in homeschool, a toddler in tow and will soon have a newborn to wear as well. I find that some of Sally Fallon's recipes require much more time than I have... or ingredients that are too expensive for us to acquire at this stage in our lives.
However, we have not neglected the health wisdom that we have gained over the last ten years. We still stay away from white flour and white sugar. We still keep fresh salads and raw foods as a prime part of our daily fare. We still eat healthy, grass-fed meats. We still eat unprocessed eggs and dairy from healthy animals. We still eat everything in moderation.
Yet, I know that it is not feasible for me to soak every nut, legume and grain that we eat. I strive for soaking the majority of what we consume, but I know that I can't do it all. I still make yogurt weekly, but I rarely have time to make lacto-fermented foods. I still use a great deal of homemade chicken stock, but I have to be realistic about how much time I can spend in the kitchen. I simply can't do it all and nurture my children's hearts and minds as well... remember it's not all about their physical bodies, although I do actively concern myself with their health!
So what do we eat? I call it "whole foods." By that, I mean that we eat foods whole, not fractionated or adulterated. We stay away from artificial ingredients. We eat foods as close to their natural state as possible, and we stay away from things that wouldn't spoil. We also add in as much nutrient-dense food as possible, which for us includes yogurt and chicken stock and the occasional jar of homemade sauerkraut.
That's what we eat... It fits our family. What does "healthy" look like for your family? Are there things that you would like to improve? Keep in mind, change happens one step at a time... but change does require taking steps.