Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hidden Dangers in Kids Food

It's long and dramatic, but very interesting. I'd actually heard about the WI school experiment awhile back and found it very interesting.

It discusses genetically modified foods and a lot of studies done with such foods on animals.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Pita Pizza Recipe

*updated 9/25/09  I found a nitrate free pepperoni at Whole Foods Market made by Applegate Farms that we use.  It's still really processed, but better then the regular stuff.  I also switched to making my own pizza dough with sourdough and half whole ground and half white flour instead of the pitas.  Still not great, but I think a step up none the less*

I've been making these for for awhile. They are simple and easy-and you can do the short-order thing if necessary. I have actually managed to stream-line it for all of us finally. It's a great way to hide things also. And the ingredients are easy to keep on hand and throw together last minute. And I even used my toaster today for the first time and it worked great! I didn't have to heat up the big oven, and I could still do 4 at a time.

They are not totally NT, but they are not too bad. I buy pitas at a grocery store. But they are actually made just down the street from us. I don't think they have a distribution center there, they just deliver to the grocery stores in the area. Stone ground whole wheat flour, water, yeast, salt and calcium chloride. The last is a preservative, but most of the other pitas (and there are 4 or 5 options in my store) have at least 10 ingredients, so I was happy to find this one. They freeze really well, so I buy a few packages at a time and keep them in the freezer.

For the sauce, I mix together (enough for approx. 6 pitas):

1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 can of water (rinse out paste can)
1 Tbls honey
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbls dried oregano
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese
Anchovy paste is optional (working on that)

To make up the pizza, I usually spread a little coconut oil (or olive oil) on the pitas and toast them for about 5 minutes. Then I spread on the sauce, slice up onions and green peppers in my mandolin right onto the pizzas, and sprinkle lots of cheese on top-I buy a block of mozzarella and Parmesan and keep them on hand. I also shred them right onto the pizzas. Very little clean up!!

I can't bring myself to buy pepperoni (my husband gets frustrated over that still) because it's horrible stuff. I'm hoping to find a good substitute for it-preferably anchovies or something like that. :) But we're not nearly there yet. I figure putting it in the sauce is a nice start. My farmer makes a yummy bologna-sweetened with rapadura and maple syrup. I love it, but the kids are still acquiring a taste for it-Drew still goes vegetarian when that is the only option. But that is what I usually put on it-it is pre-cooked. But chicken or any other cooked meats you have on hand are fine also. I cook it at 350 for 15 minutes or until the cheese is nice and melty.

I have not done much with the pizzas, but obviously the toppings are endless. I have done ham and pineapple, beans and salsa, thai chicken, etc. But the kids won't touch any of them, so I've mostly stuck with the tomato sauce and veggies lately. You can also do a ton of different veggie combinations. But, again, I've stuck with what works and we have it maybe once a month. I'll work into the others as we acquire new tastes for healthy foods.

They are also portable. We took them to the beach this summer once and it worked great. Drew takes them to work and eats them cold.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Cleaning Green

I am mostly down to baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and hydrogen peroxide for my cleaning. I do use regular dish soap and laundry detergent. But when they are out, I hope to buy a large container of all-natural, earth-friendly stuff.

This is a list from 'Green This' (link and more info below) for such products:

There is a company that helps you to have a 'Green Cleaning Party' where you help your friends to make cleaning products from the above list. I want to have one sometime. It's so much cheaper and healthier. It's a win-win situation! Most people just have no idea how toxic the cleaners are-or how easy it is to make your own. The party is completely free and they give you all you need to print things and even what to say. If I have one, I'll be sure to post about it. :) I love parties anyway.

In 'Green This' by Deirdre Imus, she suggests for maintenance of your sink (in place of Drano and hopefully even a plumber) , is to boil a cup of water, add half a cup of vinegar and 4 tbls baking soda. Pour into the drain and cover with a cloth for half an hour and then rinse. She suggests you do this once a week and 'you should be clog-free for life'.

She goes through each room in the house and gives helpful suggestions for how to maintain and fix issues as they arise. And also how to choose more 'natural' products, such as linens, flooring, etc. It was an interesting read. Very quick, but helpful. I've read most of the info in other places, but there was some interesting ideas and esp facts that I did not know.

I also loved 'How the Queen Cleans Everything' by Linda Cobb. Chock full of awesome tidbits about cleaning everything you can possibly imagine. And most of her suggestions are homemade concoctions with natural ingredients. She too uses the list I started with for most of her cleaning. She even has a list of cleaning chores for daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually and even some in between. And she is funny. I refer to the book often and would recommend it for anyone.

My 4 top all-natural, inexpensive, non-toxic cleaning products (buy in bulk-they all last a long time and are cheaper that way).

VINEGAR: It's cheap and it's a great all purpose cleaner-esp when mixed with baking soda. I go through about 5 gallons a month. It's great for bathtubs, toilets and sinks, bug repellent that is safe for the skin, fabric softener (I put it in the little blue ball at the beginning of my load-about 1/2 a cup), air freshener, stainless steel sinks (along with some baking soda for scrubbing purposes), vinyl floors, drains, mirrors (equal parts water/vinegar), also in place of the toxic dishwashing detergent-I put in some dish soap, vinegar and baking soda and it works great.

BAKING SODA: It's a great deodorizer and makes a good abrasive for scrubbing things. It's great for the garbage disposal, cleaning gunked on foods on stainless steel pans, wall paper cleaning, grout cleaner and for the bottom of the litter box to neutralize the smell some.

LEMON JUICE: Lemon juice is a natural disinfectant and bleach. It's supposed to work good on clothes for a stain remover-but I've never tried it. I generally add it to my cleaning produts when I want a nice smell and a disinfectant.

HYDROGEN PEROXIDE: This is similar to lemon juice. If I'm particularly worried about germs (like when cleaning up from raw meat, or when we've been sick), then I will use it. I'm just getting into using the hydrogen peroxide. I also found out it makes a great mouth rinse. It's better then the chemical-laden mouthwashes in the grocery store. I did it once and it was kind of funky. I need to get into the habit of doing it every night before I go to bed.

I still like my all-purpose cleaner, although I did change it a bit. I stopped with the borax and I sometimes use lemon juice or hydrogen peroxide in place of the tea tree oil. Drew doesn't care much for the smell of the tea tree oil. I keep it in spray bottles and use it to clean the counters, table and bathroom. And I let the kids use it, which they love. It's safe and non-toxic and they feel so helpful.

I've also found that microfiber towels are great for cleaning and drying. And they are made without bleach and other chemicals. I use them for pretty much all of my cleaning (and other paper towel needs).

I enjoy cleaning-and I'm mighty lucky for that. But it's all the more fun to know it's safe for everyone.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering 9/11-7 years later

This has nothing to do with health. But after reading my husband and his sister's blogs, and watching the Foxnews videos on the memorials that went on today-I got to thinking and remembering and crying.

I have had very few traumatizing events in my life. I have never lost someone I really loved who was a part of my day to day life. My life, while not the easiest, has certainly not been overly difficult either.

September 11, 2001, however, was one day that will go down in my memory as a very traumatizing day. I lost no one I loved or even knew personally that day. And for that I am grateful. But the intense emotional stress it placed on my life was truly more then I expected or even understood at the time.

My story of Grace (as Lauralin appropriately put it):
I worked at the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street in downtown Manhattan. It was approximately 5 blocks from the World Trade Centers. Every day I took the PATH train from Hoboken, NJ to the basement of the WTC.
Tuesday, 9/11/01 was a gloriously beautiful day. I remember being excited that fall was here and the temperatures were cool, which made for a good commute and a nice walk along Battery Park at lunch time.
As I stepped off the train at 9:47, I was amazed at the fact that not only was I the first one off of the train, but there was no one else in the whole station. Usually the place is crawling with people from other trains and you have to elbow (in typical NYC fashion) your way to the escalators. There was a strange smell and a light fog surrounding the station (and it was 4 stories down). Nobody paniced, but there was definitely fear in their eyes. There were 4 flights to go up. As I was walking through the halls to the door, I noticed there were shoes and other personal items strewn on the ground. There was a number of coffee cups that were spilling all over the floor. And the stores, which were usually starting to open for business were still closed and dark. I was still a ways from the doors when I heard someone yell 'Run! Evacuate Now!' I turned around and saw a wall of people running toward the door-and me. Needless to say, I got out fast.

I stepped out into the bright sunlight and my heart sank to my stomach. I smelled fire and felt ash falling down all around me. The pavement was so hot my Tevas were almost too hot to wear when I got to work. I saw papers with the WTC address on them, just floating all around. Some were burned in places. I saw a woman with the back of her shirt burned through running and screaming-a police officer was chasing her, trying to get her to calm down so he could help her. And people all around were pointing up to the WTC with their mouths agape. There was a plane sticking out of the tower near the top. There were flames shooting from it. I could see people in the windows around it.

I walked to work and heard all kinds of stories and possibilities from people as I walked. Most people at that time thought it was an amateur pilot who lost control of his small plane. The newscasters were just getting a hold of the story. A tourist had gotten the whole thing on video and it was being shown all over the major networks. I got to work and the TV guys had their big screens on and everyone in the office was standing around watching. They were watching the plane hit over and over and discussing wheter it was intentional or not. As we sat around watching the North (I think that was the first one) tower burn and wondering how it was going to be rebuilt, one of the guys screamed 'here comes another one'. And sure enough, seconds later, the entire building shook like we'de been hit by an earthquake. We saw it hit the 2nd tower and burst into flames.

At that point we all knew it was intentional and that America had been attacked.

(The building was evacuated shortly afterwards. In an email I just reread, I was complaing about my calves being sore. But I only had to walk 16 flights, my poor SILs had to walk down 62! Not that any of us were really feeling sorry for ourselves. We all made it out safely. Kelly and Lauralin were in Rockefeller Center, 5th and 59th I think. They were stuck in the Bronx for 3 days, but we were finally able to bring them back to NJ.)

As we were all milling around the front of the building, trying to decide if we should stay or go, I decided the best thing was to just go back home. No one expected the towers to fall. The architects had come on the TV and said that it was not possible. But the chaos was none the less going to be intense as they tried to clean it all up-and nothing I could do to help the injured-so I decided to head back to NJ. There were ferries that people took across the Hudson River every day to work instead of the Path, so I decided to walk to Battery Park and take one of those back across to NJ.

As I was walking, I saw busloads of tourists staring up at the towers. I saw little children watching the flames. And at one point, I looked up and saw things falling from the towers. It took me a while to realize they were people jumping out of the windows. How does a little child process that? How does anyone process that?

The boats were packed and they were not taking tickets. I was one of the last ones to squeeze onto a ferry (and one of the last ferries to leave the docks from what I understand-they needed them for rescue efforts and they closed all of the traffic in and out of the city for security purposes). Everyone was talking about it as we slowly floated back to NJ. We were watching the towers as they burned.

Suddenly, and my heart stops just remembering it, there was this sickening thud and a poof of smoke rose up from under one of the towers. As we watched from the Hudson River, the entire South WTC building collaspsed in on itself. One story at a time, from the bottom up, it collapsed into a huge heap of twisted steel. And the plumes of smoke billowed all around the buildings downtown. It was surreal. I could not believe it was real life.

On the train home, I was listening to the radio on my headphones and I heard the announcer scream 'The 2nd one is collapsing too!'. I told everyone around me and we were all just stunned into silence. Two huge buildings-and all they stood for, and thousands of people who were expecting a normal day at work-just like us. All was gone. All the people we had left standing staring up at them-they were being chased by debris and smoke. We were all pretty grateful to be in NJ at that time. But yet we knew the dangers of terrorism was still very present and real.

I was able to call my poor worried husband from someone's cell phone and he met me at the train station. We went to see my FIL who hugged me tighter then he's ever hugged me with big tears in his eyes (yes, I'm loved!). It was surreal.

We locked our doors for the first time that night. That feeling of security was gone. I was traumatized beyond anything I'd ever known. And my poor husband had NO idea what to do with his new, traumitized bride.

But, I have to tell you, as hard as that day was, it was the following months that were the hardest for me-and many of the people who worked downtown.

I still vividly remember my first trip back into the city. My boss asked me to come in on the following Tuesday. The NYSE had opened and America was going to rebuild and be stronger because of it-'Let Freedom Ring'. I was proud of America and glad to show those bastards that we were not going to lay down and take it!

But, taking the ferry across the Hudson was so hard! I had no idea. The smell was so incredibly strong. If I smell that strong stench of metal burning even now, it brings tears to my eyes instantly. There was a huge stream of smoke that we had to go through to get to the pier. We passed right by the Winter Garden, over which we could see the smoldering remains of the WTC. It smelled so awful and it stung your eyes when you were close to it. We docked and everyone was very solemn. We had to have badges to prove that we worked downtown or we would not be allowed to get off the ferry. As I walked up Wall Street, I felt as though I was in a different world-a different country. It had changed so much in one week-one day really.

There were soldiers with huge rifles in their arms posted at every corner. All of the streets were blocked off and only authorized vehicles were allowed in. There was debris all over the streets. There were posters of people all over the walls and polls. 'Have you Seen...?' Or 'Our Hero'. Some had pictures of just the person, others of their families. There were notes, poems, stories, of loved ones that were taken so suddenly and desperately missed.

The security at the NYSE was super tight. I was glad as it made me feel a little more safe. But yet, it also made me feel vulnerable. America wasn't supposed to be attacked! We were supposed to be safe from all of that! That only happened in other countries...

We were given face masks to wear, as even the inside of our building was covered in dust and wreaked.

Our cafeteria was opened to the workers at Ground Zero and we saw people going in and out all day with their fire fighting suits on, all covered in dust and looking utterly exhausted and so incredibly sad.

I heard a lot of stories of co-workers and their friends who lost loved ones. The newspapers were filled with sad stories, obits, etc. I never bought them, but I couldn't help but read them when they were next to, or in front of me. It drove Drew nuts-I'd come home so depressed I could hardly walk up the stairs. I'd dissolve in a puddle of tears and tell him a story I had read. 'Why do you read them then?' I didn't want to-but yet I felt I owed it to those who died somehow.

Choppers were constantly flying overhead. And if one would get to close, the entire office would get paniced looks on their faces. We were pretty on edge for awhile.

It was so incredibly strange to know that the bodies of some 3,000 people were lying only blocks from where I was. And here I was, going back to my day to day life.

I'd say it took about a month before the smell became tolerable. And about 3 months before we felt the office was mostly back to normal. Which really isn't bad all things considered!

For each of the sad stories I heard, there were at least 2 good ones. People whose work or doctors schedules changed (my MIL and SIL among them). People who had missed the bus or train and were frustrated-until they realized it saved their lives. Stories of people helping perfect strangers. Giving them rides (my SILs), letting them stay in their homes and eat their food. America really did prove herself in those days. NYC was truly united in a way that I had not, nor since, seen.

Drew and I went to a Yankees game (free tickets-go Mets!) a few weeks after 9/11. We sat in front of a group of firefighters from Texas who had come to help clear the rubble. There was a number of groups of peoples who were honored that night at the game for their selfless giving-and many from other states. It was pretty neat. And when the Star Spangled Banner played-there wasn't a dry eye in the arena! It really meant something. 'And the flag was still there'.

Every year it seems the anniversary has been a little easier. I took my sister and her family to Ground Zero in June. It's just a big worksite now. But I felt a lot of the insecurity and pain over again. I think that made this anniversary easier. I had already really grieved over it.

Today was a beautiful day-much like 7 years ago, sunny with a few clouds. I was walking outside and a plane flew over and it was rather loud. It's amazing how memories can flood back without any heeding. It's almost like they are pictures in an album and certain things trigger them into your conscience. Strong burning smells and low flying planes make me jumpy still.

Last year I was talking to my 1st grade SS class and read a few of their birthdays. Two of them were born on 9/11/01. I realized most of them didn't know the story-and the few who did really did not understand it.

I am not yet ready to burden my children with the realities of that day. But I do know that someday I will share with them my memories of that day. And I hope to help them understand that America did change that day. I hope that the lessons that were learned will not be forgotten in the next geneation. WWII was 50 years ago and yet, most of us have forgotten that freedom is not free. It came with a price, and will stay only with a price. Be it the lives of our brave police officers and firefighters, or the soliders who are out on the actual battlefields.

Every life is important to an all-knowing, all-loving God. But He also knows first hand the price of freedom. Rather then be angry about people dying, let's honor them and enjoy our freedom.

God is good. God is sovereign. We can choose to be a part of His plan and allow him to use us. Or not. I hope He continues to mold me into the person He wants me to be. The person who is best suited to glorify Him. I find suffering is what brings the most change (in my life anyway). I don't like to suffer-esp at the time. But every time I do, I can honestly look back later and see how much I've grown because of that difficult time.

Ok, it's way past my bedtime. But I thought I'd share 'my story of grace' before I laid down on my warm safe pillow to rest for the night.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Zap the Microwave

Yeah. I'm very excited. As I've mentioned before, I've never been real comfortable with using a microwave. But I've been too lazy to not.

Well, after reading more about what it does to our food, I decided it was time to get rid of it. Drew had no problem with it, since he felt the same as I did. We decided we would keep it until we were able to buy a toaster oven to replace it.

Well, I went to a local thrift store a few weeks ago and found a really nice Oster toaster oven for $13, and half off of that! I was psyched. It's in great condition. I was able to make sure it at least turned on. Other then that, it was a gamble. But we've been using it regularly for over 2 weeks now and LOVE it!

I had not used the microwave for a few months, so I knew I would not miss it, which is nice. But the addition of a toaster oven has been more helpful then I expected. I can even see myself making bread in a different shape and using the toaster oven so I don't have to heat up the whole oven for it-esp in the summer.

I thought I'd copy some info from Nourishing Traditions regarding the microwave. I think that is ok as long as the source is stated...

Page 68-"The small amount of research done on the effects of eating microwaved food has shown that the microwave may have unfavorable effects on fats and proteins, making them more difficult to assimilate., More recent studies carried out in Switzerland revealed that the microwave caused changes in vitamin content and availability. Eating microwaved food results in abnormal blood profiles, similar to those that occur in the early stages of cancer."

Page 422-"...'Of all the natural substances-which are polar-the oxygen of water molecules reacts most sensitively. This is how microwave cooking heat is generated-friction from this violence in water molecules. Structures of molecules are torn apart, molecules are forcefully deformed, called structural isomerism, and thus become impaired in quality . This is contrary to conventional heating of food where heat transfers convectionally from without to within.' Dr. Hans Hertel quoted in Search for Health".

Page 424-"The same violent friction and athermic deformation that can occur in our bodies when we are subjected to radar or microwaves happens to the molecules in the food cooked in a microwave oven. In fact, when anyone microwaves food the oven exerts a power input of about 1000 watts or more. This radiation results in destruction and deformation of molecules of food and in the formation of new compounds (called radiolytic compounds) unknown to man and nature. Today's established science and technology argues forcefully that microwaved food and irradiated foods, do not have any significantly high 'radiolytic compounds' than do broiled, baked or other conventionally cooked foods-but microwaving does produce more of these critters. Curiously, neither established science nor our ever protective government has conducted any tests of the effects of eating the various kinds of cooked foods on the blood of eaters. Dr Hans Hertel did test it, and the indiction is clear that something is amiss and larger studies should be funded. -Tom Valentine in Search for Health'

Page 523-'The second reason I dislike microwave ovens is the more serious situation. What about the quality of the food that comes out of the oven and is immediately consumed-free radicals and all. With the depressed immune system of the average affluenet American, the last thing we need is another increase in our free radicals. It is well documented that microwaves are powerful enough to rupture cell walls of the food matrix, and this is undoubtedly why protein molecules are altered from microwave cooking. Warren Clough in PPNF Health Journal'.

Add the above information on microwaves to the fact that food that comes out of the microwave just does not taste as good and is generally rubbery in texture-and it was pretty easy to give it up.

And I'm so excited about how much I have used the toaster oven in place of the oven. Warming it up is so much quicker and definitely uses less energy.

Tortilla Chip Recipe:
On of our favorite snacks is spreading butter on tortillas and sprinkling cinnamon and sugar on them. Then I use a pizza cutter to cut them into 8 slices for each tortilla and bake them for 6 minutes at 400-or until they are crispy. They are delicious! But I always felt guilty warming them up the entire oven just for a few tortillas. And I can do 2 at a time in the toaster as it has 2 tray positions (and 2 trays). I can also put my Corelle and Pyrex in the toaster.

I made caramel popcorn in it. It needs a lot of tweaking, but I was glad to know I could easily make it in the toaster instead of the oven. I tried rapadura, butter, vanilla and baking soda. If I get it right, I'll post it. :) I have a thing for caramel corn.

I have baked fish twice in it and it's perfect for that. We can now toast more then 2 slices at a time (even if my husband insists it takes 45 minutes to toast them). I also will try our pita pizzas in them next time we make them.

All in all, it's a great switch for the microwave!

**update** 9/13 Today I made my chicken nuggets in the toaster oven and they turned out so crispy and delicious-and it took no time at all! Hee hee, I love my toaster oven! :)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Delicious Ceviche Recipe

Ok, I have not posted an actual recipe in awhile. :) Did I mention what a lousy cook I am. Plus, I have to fully understand something before I can work with it. Which means I need to understand how all the ingredients work together, etc. Which is more then you can ever do with a recipe. I am finding the more I actually make meals, the more I understand how different foods operate and work together. And I'm also finding that quality ingredients make a huge difference in a meal. Unfortunately, none of them were actually local. Not even sure if Avocados grow in North America. But, I'll definitely make it next time I have fresh strawberries and/or fresh mahi mahi! :)

It seems the French still have a real appreciation for food-real, good food. I picked up 2 French books, one was Chocolate & Zucchini, by Clotilde Dusoulier. She had a recipe for Strawberry Avocado Ceviche. It looked easy and delicious. I'm trying to cook fish once a week. None of us are really into the stuff. So I thought adding the sweetness of strawberries-which the kids love-might help in at least making it look appealing. :) It turned out really delicious!

Drew and his family lived in Ecuador for 12 years and Ceviche is pretty popular there. It's Shirley's favorite appetizer-but they have it with cooked shrimp usually instead of fish.

1.5 lbs lean, firm fish (Mahi Mahi is what I used, also suggested swordifsh or halibut-quality is important, mine was so-so)
2 Tbls lime juice (1 lime)
1/2 cup lemon juice (3 lemons)
1 Tbls Olive Oil
1 to 2 tsp Tabasco sauce
Salt and pepper
1.5 cups fresh strawberries
1 tbls honey
2 tbls chopped cilantro (or she said flat leaf parsley or chervil instead)
*Rice (see italics below for directions and ingredients for rice)

Cut fish into small cubes (she says 1/3 inch cubes) and put into a bowl (not plastic) with the citrus juices, olive oil and Tobasco sauce. Stir it up good and cover and refrigerat for 2-6 hours. The longer the better it seems. It basically cooks it.

When ready to serve, cut up the strawberries and mix them with the honey. Put the strawberry mixture, avocado and cilantro in a bowl.

I deviated from the recipe here. We could not bring ourselves to actually eat the fish raw-although we tasted it and it was not bad. But we are working our way into fish slowly, so no reason to go crazy. :) So, I drained the juices into the strawberry mixture and put the fish pieces on my toaster oven tray. I put it on broil for about 5 minutes. It was perfect! I added the warm fish to the strawberry mixture. I put a little rice on 4 plates, spooned the fish mixture over the rice and 'viola'. Man was it good!

Myia had one piece of strawberry, avocado and a TINY piece of fish-but that is still major progress for her. Samuel ate it as long as it was fed to him, while sitting on daddy's lap (did I mention our children's horrible table manners?).

Not sure how it'll do as leftovers. There was enough for Drew to take to work tomorrow-so we'll find out.

*I generally use half brown, half white rice. I took 1.5 cups of water, half a cup of chicken stock, 1 tablespoon of coconut oil, salt and pepper and brought them to a boil. I added the rice and stirred it. Once it came to a full boil, I turned it way down and put the cover on. I let it sit from1-3 hours, depending on how much time we have. The longer the better for NT purposes. Put the flame down as low as it will stay. Otherwise, you can make rice however you make it.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Is it Worth It?

I gotta tell ya (if anyone is reading this-if not, I'll re-read it and remember it *grins*), sometimes, I get discouraged and embarrassed about how much time I spend reading and trying new recipes (and failing again and again) and ideas. I mean, really, I'm 30 years old. Shouldn't I have all of this figured out by now?

But then I think-why would I already know them? Well, the obvious answer is that my mother would have passed down these techniques and recipes and way of life down to me. And she would have learned them from her mother. But, my mother was not raised eating this way, so she had no idea how to pass it along to me! The art of preparing and consuming food has been long lost in America. We eat because we must. And look where it has gotten us.

So, when I get discouraged or feel really foolish for spending so much time on what seems to be simple tasks, I remind myself that I am doing this for my own children also. I hope that the things I do now will become second nature to all of us, and when they go out on their own someday, they won't have to think about it-it will just come natural. They will easily fall into patterns of making their own milk products and broths. Of finding good sources (which is getting easier all the time) for foods. Of using glass and even simple things like labeling. Fermenting will hopefully be a simple thing they do on a regular basis.

Right now it seems like it all consumes me. But then I look back and realize how much easier it is for me to make yogurt and yogurt cheese. How the broth is so easy I can almost do it in my sleep. How even choosing meals and preparing them isn't nearly as daunting as it was 3 months ago. I still have a long way to go-and I hope to always make food preparation a pleasing part of our lives. But, I see major progress and look forward to seeing my kids as adults-pursuing other studies because their health is already figured out and a natural part of their lives.

My Meal Plan

It never works out how I want it to-but it's a process. I try to plan 4 weeks worth of meals at a time. I put them into a PowerPoint document. I have the last year and a half's, so it's nice to look back for comparison and ideas. This is the first month I have that is based on NT ways of eating though. I'll have to see if I can get a picture of it, or a link to it. I love reading other people's menus for inspiration.

Ours is somewhat unusual, as my husband works nights. So it's either the kids and I at night, or we all eat lunch together. Neither are ideal. We've never really had 'meals' together. I'm trying to change that, since you can't eat truly healthy on snacks. And, introducing new foods to young children is impossible without sit down meals where the parents are eating the 'unusual' food. Not to mention table manners-eesh-those are non-existent in our house since there is no meals to practice with (can you end a sentence with a preposition?).

And, my newest desire to become a really good cook (that is going to take a miracle since I'm a lousy cook) can not be realized if I only cook for the kids and myself. Kids are lousy critics. I'm hoping for another miracle-for Drew to get a day job-and like it! :) One can dream...

This is what I'm working towards for our meal plans. I want to buy my meats once a month, or less often, right from the farmers who grow them when possible. If you can afford more at a time and have the freezer space, buying meat in bulk saves a ton of money.

Eggs, bacon and Toast with a cup of raw milk
Fried potatoes and ham and a glass of raw milk
PB&J toast and homemade yogurt with strawberries and honey
Toast with lots of butter and a smoothie
Waffles (they're not nearly NT yet, but working on it) with butter, PB, maple syrup and/or jelly
French Toast (lots of butter, milk and eggs for the dip)

Leftover from the night before


Monday-Roasted Chicken
Thursday-Chicken (from Monday's chicken)
Friday-Ham, roast beef, pork chops or some other meat

Add to each a salad and/or veggies from the local farmer's market (and someday my own garden), a glass of fermented drink and a fermented veggie and we're good to go.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Tips for Getting Started

Here are some simple changes I've made in our diets.

1. Switch to Celtic or Sea Salt. While it is considerably more expensive then table salt, it is not a huge budget increase overall and worth it's weight in nutrition. The table salt has been processed, has added chemicals to replace the nutrients lost in the processing and then bleached to make it white again. It's horrible stuff. No wonder it's earned a bad reputation! I buy the larger crystals and grind them when I use them. We have a bamboo pepper grinder and a matching, but smaller salt grinder. Not sure if it makes a difference if you buy the pre-ground or not. I do know it tends to stick together if I grind it and keep it in the salt shaker (hence the original processing in table salt-to make it not clump together). But now, we salt liberally, knowing that not only are we avoiding something that is unhealthy, but we are getting all kinds of nutrients from it-and it makes everything taste better of course. I get sea salt from the grocery store. It's a huge red container for about $3. It lasts awhile. I also was able to get Celtic salt from my co-op. Not sure if most health food stores, or even grocery stores sell it or not. From what I understand, it's a better choice then sea salt. Only because it has more minerals from where it originated. But, no matter what you get-stop eating table salt!!!!

. Make your own chicken broth. The stuff from the store is horrible. It has a ton of preservatives and MSG. It's really not worth buying at all. And honestly, making your own is not that difficult-and the most superest of super foods to boot! If you eat chicken with bones, just save them in a baggie in your freezer, and when you have a decent amount, you can make broth. I have found it to be much better if I add some chicken feet-but don't stress about that. Most butcher departments have them if you ask. Same for beef or pork. Just save the bones in the freezer and when you have enough, you can make stock.
I try to buy pastured chickens, and I found a farmer that I can get it directly from in as large of quantities as I want-and it's only $12 a chicken. I'm so excited! I'm currently spending close to $20 for one (granted, they're huge!). I roast one for a meal-put lots of butter on it to make the crispy chicken skin. And then I save the bones, marrow and any other part of the chicken we don't eat (besides the meat, which I put in the refrigerator for leftovers) and put them in a big stock pot. I add a gallon of water and a half a cup of vinegar. That is supposed to break down the bones more so you can get more of the nutrients. After about an hour, I turn the burner on to medium-high and bring it to a boil. I let it boil for about 10 minutes and scrape the scum off the top. I add 2 carrots and 2 celery and an onion, washed and stems cut off. Then I put it on really low with the cover on and I simmer it all day. I'm a little nervous, so I turn it off at night and then turn it back on in the morning. I like to do it for 2 days. The longer it simmers, the more nutrients it pulls from the bones. The NT book says to add parsley the last 10 minutes. I've never done it-but I should. I've also done it in my crock-pot and it worked fine.
We don't like soups, but I am going to learn to cook the most delicious soups so we can all learn to love them. :) And since we don't have a microwave anymore, most meals get reheated on the stove. I add chicken broth instead of water. I've also been sneaky and cooked hot dogs and macaroni & cheese (yes, we still eat those at times) in it. They noticed something, but ate the stuff anyway. I basically add it to anything that I can. I cook rice and pasta with half water/ half chicken broth. Replace it with water whenever you can get away with it.
Oh, I also store about 3 cups per freezer bags, just enough to thaw out and put in my Ball quart jars. I always have jar in the refrigerator to use, and a bunch in the freezer for when I run out. But, roasting a chicken a week has been more then enough. Hopefully with winter coming, we'll be going through a lot more of it! :)

Make your own bread. While it's still not nearly as healthy as it needs to be-at least I can work with it. And it's a LOT better then the store bought bread! Bread makers make it a lot easier-esp if you make it every other day like we do. They are worth the investment and kitchen space. But, it can be done with a mixer (or *gasps* by hand) also. I've been using my Kitchen Aid since my bread maker hit the dust.

Switch to raw milk. This is a bit of a pain to find sometimes, but once it's in your refrigerator, it's a great choice. It's a complete meal in itself technically.

Eat lots of eggs. Again, quality is important. Even if you start by eating the store bought eggs, you can eventually find a good source of pastured eggs. Winters are a bit harder, the chickens can't peck around the grass. But, again, I'd rather get from an organic farmer then from the grocery store if I can.

6. Smoothies. Oh man, they are such a life saver! I use them waaay too often, but at least I know they're healthy. Throw 2 cups of milk, 1/2 cup of cream, 2 raw egg yolks, 2 tablespoons of honey, 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and 2 cups of frozen strawberries in the blender and hit start. You can use other berries, bananas and cocoa powder, peaches or just plain vanilla. You can use coconut milk or yogurt instead of the milk and/or cream. And I sometimes put the whole raw egg in there. We do not have egg allergies and we get really fresh eggs straight from the farm.

7. Cut out as much sugar as possible. Switch to raw honey, unsulphered maple syrup, Rapadura and at least organic evaporated cane sugar. We still eat way too much sugar, but it's down considerably from 6 months ago. And the honey is actually considered a super food-it's unheated and untreated, even some pollen in there! :) Honey, while it should be used in moderation, is actually very good for you. Same for maple syrup. It has some very valuable minerals in very easy to digest form.

8. Make your own yogurt. It's so easy and so nutritious. Pour 4 cups of milk (preferably raw, but pasteurized works also) into a pan. Heat it gently to 180 degrees (just before it boils). Let it cool down to about 110 degrees (so you can leave your finger in it for 10 seconds). Pour it into a quart glass jar. Add either a starter or half a cup of store bought yogurt (make sure it says there are live cultures in it), mix gently and cover. Put in either a yogurt maker or a gas oven for 6-10 hours. And that's it. We eat it most every day for breakfast. I take some frozen strawberries (I bought in bulk), put them in a glass dish for half an hour. Then I smash them with a fork and add 2 cups of yogurt and 1 tablespoon of honey. I also dip each spoon in the honey for good measure. It's fun to lick a little off every time you eat a bite. :) Even people who can't digest milk can sometimes digest yogurt-as it's mostly broken down for your stomach already. I use Yogourmet from Whole Foods for a starter, but there are others out there. suggests you use Natren starter. It's just expensive and not as convenient for me. Making yogurt is not a science-it's more of an art. It takes some practice, but is well worth it!

9. Have fun! It won't stick if you don't enjoy it.

Glass, it's the new plastic

I've known for awhile that food stored in plastic containers has some possible health issues. I've studied up on plastic and found that the various grades of plastics are different, with #1 and #2 being the safest for food. #3 is the worst, as it contains PVC (vinyl), which is a known carcinogen. I've read this in various places. The latest one being a good, short read. It's called 'Green This!' by Deirdre Imus. She was in charge of 'greening' the Hackensack Children's Hospital here in NJ. And she has some great alternatives for home cleaning. She also said in her book that plastic #4-6 are soft plastics that can degrade into your food, so avoiding them makes sense as well.

I have always had a hard time getting plastic containers clean of oil. And if you are too tired to clean the dishes right after you eat-forget about it! And I've also noticed a funky taste when it's in plastic. Lots of little bells have gone off regarding plastic over the years.

But, I did not want to go crazy over it all either. After doing a lot of research, everything has it's own issues attached. Stainless steel is generally not 100% stainless steel and it has nickel, which is like lead, once it gets into your blood stream, it does not leave. Aluminum has been a known leacher of elements for awhile. Copper has nickel in it as well.

While I do use stainless steel pans and plastic containers that I have collected over the years, I am trying to slowly transition into using more glass for mixing, cooking, and storing our foods in. I thought at first that it would be horrible, but it's been a smooth sail so far. And I'm quite happy with where we are. Since I do most of the cooking and putting the food away, I can easily choose glass whenever I want.

I have been using Pyrex to bake most things in the oven, as well as some stoneware that I can put in the oven, broiler and toaster oven.

And Ball Glass containers have become my best friend! :) They're so easy to clean and they dry in a much shorter time then plastic-which is nice since I have only a small amount of counter space and it's completely taken when I have dishes drying. There is some question as to the safety of the lids-but most food does not touch it, and I figure it's still better then plastic. Oh, and opt for the wide mouth jars. They are so much easier to clean. And the lids are the same for both quart and half gallon.

I started brewing tea for Drew every day and you have to pour super hot water in the container. And I know that is bad on plastic. But glass is not a problem. Ball containers don't leak when the cover is on tight and they fit nicely in the refrigerator. They can be used with really hot things, and they can be used to freeze things (just be sure to leave plenty of room for it to expand and not crack). And I would not suggest you go from really hot to really cold right away-it will crack-I know that from experience-and not just once sadly enough. I've been using them for a lot of things lately-even leftovers. I have the pint, quart and half gallon ones and I use them all the time. Plus I save the glass containers from things like spaghetti sauce, pickles, etc.

And the local thrift stores have some great glass pieces cheaply priced. I picked up a really neat set of Pyrex nesting bowls. They work in the oven as well. There are 4 pieces, the largest holding maybe a gallon, and then getting smaller. We use them for mixing and serving. No tops with them and only the outside is painted (lead is a problem in older pieces sometimes). I paid a decent price for them, but felt like I had found a great little treasure! :)

I still use my plastic containers-esp for taking food out of the house. But I've found switching to mostly glass has been easier, cheaper and more fun then I expected. And MUCH classier. ;)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

My Nutritional Journey so Far

This is really quite long and possibly more information then anyone cares to read about me. But, I find it hard to 'give a defense' for what I believe without explaining how I came to believe it.

So, for better or worse, here is my story.

I was born and raised in a Christian home. We went to church faithfully every time the doors were opened (and I loved it-truly). I went to a Christian school. I said and did the right things (until I was 13, then I turned into a brat-but that's a whole other story and too embarrassing to post) and I knew God really was who He said He was. But... I still had to prove it to myself.

In His graciousness to me, He sent me to NJ to an amazing church with a very Godly pastor. He also introduced me to my husband and his family. I was in a 'safe' environment where I could question and search and find my answers-but on my own terms. And I did. It took me awhile. I'd say I started 'searching' when I was 18 and while the search goes on to some extent. I finally knew I was comfortable and sure of my faith when I was about 25. I have continued to grow since and hopefully will do so until I die. But, I needed to find the 'foundational truth' in my own way before I could start growing in it.

God graciously and lovingly showed me how I was utterly helpless, sinful and selfish. He showed me how Satan had deceived the world regarding spiritual and eternal things. And He got me into the Word.

Like I said, I had always been a ‘good’ girl, and pride was huge with me. Most things I did, including keeping my weight in check, was done out of pride. I wanted everyone to think I had it all together. Over time, and esp with the birth of my firstborn, I came to lose much of that pride, and at the same time, lost any self-control I ever had. My motivation was gone and I was helpless. Or so it felt. But, I have found that when we are at our worst, when there seems to be no hope, that is when God is finally able to really get a hold of us and to change our hearts from stone to flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). But then it’s no longer about us, but about Him. Which is incredibly freeing. Albeit incredibly painful!
Rather then reading Scripture, or serving in a ministry, or loving a spouse or child unconditionally because it was expected of me, I found myself doing those things out of love for my amazing God!

I began to rethink my motivation for most things. And it has actually affected the way I parent (still have to decided if that’s good or bad), eat, study Scripture, help a friend, teach Sunday School. And, it’s changed the way I look at the world. For example: my husband smokes, he has since I married him (I swore to myself I would never marry a man from a big city or one who smokes-he’s from the Bronx and smokes-go figure!). He has tried to quit, oh, about 10 times a year, and failed. I used to get so frustrated and I was sure if he would just ‘pull up his boot straps’, he could do it. I was convinced he was too lazy. However, I have come to see it as something he simply can not do on his own. It’s a spiritual battle and I truly believe that when the Lord provides the right motivation-he will be able to stop. Nagging from a well meaning (?) wife is not the answer.

FYI-I’m not laying down spiritual truth here, just writing what I believe God has lead me to see in my own life and reality. It takes the pressure off of us sinful human beings to do everything right. But it puts major pressure on us to be in the Word daily and in prayer, and staying sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading. That is the only way true change can take place.

My motivation had to go from pleasing people to pleasing God. And that meant getting to know Him personally. Reading John MacArthur is really good, but it’s not an acceptable replacement for studying Scripture. Listening to Pastor Minema on a Sunday morning is definitely good spiritual sense-but it’s not a substitute for allowing the Holy Spirit to take Scripture and apply it to our lives personally.

I fail, I fail often. I go months without being in Scripture-and it shows in every area of my life-which is the way it ought to be. But, I no longer kick myself for not doing some daily devotional. I truly yearn to get back into fellowship with my God and Creator. That is what I want my motivation to be for doing my study. Not guilt or shame or pride. A simple, passionate love for God. Of course, that is in a perfect world. But, it’s something to strive for while on this earth.

All of that to say…I had to do my own research and study and thinking and believing. I could not just believe what everyone else around me said. I had to prove it for myself. It had to be REAL. I had to find the foundation that I could then build upon the rest of my life. God used my spiritual journey to sharpen my skills and passion and then worked on other areas of my life

Recently, He turned me toward nutrition. That happened early last year. I had always tried to follow what I was told was healthy-but it started getting more ridiculous and complicated and I stopped believing what everyone else said. I was fed up with all of the conflicting 'nutrition science' and I wanted to know the truth. Every time a study would come out, it would contradict another one. So, again, I prayed for God to clear my mind and to show me from the ground up, what was the truth in nutrition. First I saw all the discrepancies and what a mess I was (a quart of ice cream or a bag of chips in a sitting without blinking, incredible food cravings, inability to function without sugar, moods and energy swings, out of control weight gain, and my kids' diets were beyond atrocious and I had no idea how to change them or what to change them to). And then I decided rather then try to not eat all these things that I was told were bad, I wanted to figure out what TO eat and what would truly nourish our bodies. Even if I thought it was too late for Drew and I, I wanted it for the kids. I looked into the vegetarian, vegan, raw foods, weight watchers, Atkins, South Beach. I read up on them and prayed that God would help me to pick out the truths and ignore the rest.

And then somehow I realized that industrialization had to be bad for food and I became interested in finding out what non-industrialized cultures ate. And God brought me to the WAPF website, and then to the NT book. Which I just ate up (haa haa). It took me a week to read it and I was constantly in awe and reading parts of it to Drew. And honestly in tears over some of it. Because it made sense. I knew it was what I was looking for. I had read a lot of the various studies and ideas in other places. But this put it all together. I have since read a number of other books that believe in similar nutritional practices. And I've come to understand the whys and hows of it more. I'm trying to make not only our food healthier, but more sustainable and better quality. And to make the preparation and eating of it truly relaxing and a fun part of the day. I am praying for God to entirely change my attitude toward food so that I can then pass that onto my own children. It’s so counter-culture, although a sub-culture is emerging and growing. Slow-Food, Native Nutrition, locavore, green living. It's catching on in the main stream as well.

So, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! Now if I can just apply what I’m learning…

Too funny!

I found these on a blog and had to post them. How funny! It took me awhile to realize they were not real advertisements. :) It's from Modern Forager's blog.

Going 'Greener'

Green is such a buzz word these days. It's easy to get caught up in it all. And I do believe that recycling and being responsible with our resources is extremely important.

Now, I also believe that the world is not going to get 'better'. The Bible tells us there will be wars and rumors of wars and that the world will wax worse. Basically, it's going down hill no matter how hard we try to stop it. But, that does not excuse us from taking care of the earth that God has given to us. And I think it's a good witness to others for Christians to appreciate God's creation and to take care of it. It certainly can be a good way of presenting our amazing God to those who do not believe in Him.

It's been kind of fun, as I get back to the source of food and try to make things 'from scratch', I find myself having less trash and even less recycle.

I feel like I am living pretty 'self sufficient' for living in an urban setting without any place to grow my own foods. Or at least, I'm working my way towards that.

We recently switched our garbage can in the kitchen to recycle for paper. And I took a small garbage can and put a grocery bag in it for trash.

I'm not sure how much less we actually put in the trash-but we do recycle a LOT of paper. Myia and Samuel love to do crafts with our computer paper. I love it-but I felt really guilty throwing that much paper away. Now I don't. :)

As I throw things away, I try to figure out if I could change something slightly to have less trash. I don't think it's worth going crazy over. But if the change presents itself in a natural way, why not try it?

I also use glass jars for my raw milk. So I reuse them. It has reduced my recycle load-which I take to a recycle center. It gets to be nuisance, so the less I have, the better!

And, while I am all for recycling, I realized that a lot of resources goes into packaging and shipping everything. And even the process of collecting and bringing the recycled products to a recycling center, AND the energy used up to change that recycle into products is draining and worth avoiding if possible. Hence the reusable glass Ball jars for milk. Recycling is a much better long term option then throwing things in the trash. But not producing the stuff to begin with is a better option.

Again, I know that is not possible 100%. But I'm having fun doing what I can.

I am currently working on a water filtration system so we don't use a gallon of Poland Springs a day. That is not only expensive, but it's very wasteful. The prescription drugs in the water make that a more difficult choice for me... But that is another post.

It's been so much fun. As I get closer to the source of my food, there is just so much less packaging to deal with.

I was reading Michael Pollan's book 'The Omnivore's' Dilema' and it really opened my eyes to how many miles our food travels and how much that costs the environment and us in the long run. The average food on our plates travels 1500 miles before it lands there! That is insane. Some come from other countries, some from across the states. And some, goes around in circles.

I ordered some organic orange extract when I ordered my TT Coconut Oil. I looked at the label the other day-it's made and packaged in NJ. But it was shipped from Ohio. It had to go to Ohio, to be sent back to me.

Sometimes that is necessary, of course. But, for day to day living and eating, I think it's possible to try to make less of an impact on the environment and to help support local artisans and producers. Or better yet, to try to learn to make some of these things on our own!

Buying foods from local farmers and artisans (think cheese, breads, pastries, candies, fermented drinks and foods, jams, etc.) is the best choice all around. Not only are you supporting someone who has learned a lot about that particular product, but they will most definitely choose the best, healthiest, tastiest ingredients. It will have a lot less (if any) preservatives and less packaging. Food that sits for years on a shelf has to have a lot of preservatives and packing to be even remotely safe for consumption.

And gas prices might go down with so much less oil being spent to transport our foods! We can all go for that for sure!