Where we are, What we’re doing, How we’re doing it

Hello Dear Readers!  Much has happened in my life in the last 12 months.  It’s been hard, but it’s all good.  Major life changes, even the good ones, don’t come without effort, stress, tears, and prayer.  Since I last posted, we have moved from a rental house into our country home on 23 acres.  A month later, we had our fourth baby:  beautiful 8 lb. 5 oz. Rebekah.  We also added 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, and a study onto our house.  Then we bought 12 chicks (future egg layers!).  This has all been in the last 6 months.  Currently, we are waiting for it to stop raining long enough for us to fill our raised beds with dirt and start our garden.  Slowly, we are making this house and land our home.

Our move to the country took us away from most all of our healthy food sources.  With our beloved farmer’s market, farms, and even Whole Foods more than an hour away I have had to reinvent my entire method for obtaining healthy food without sacrificing on the health part.  Pregnancy and nursing are critical times in the life of Mommy and Baby, and at 43 years old I cannot afford to let that go like I did at 29.  But it’s not all about me – I have 3 other children and a husband looking to me to provide them with nourishing food that will keep them well now and in years to come.  Well it’s been a year this month since our move away from the city and I am thrilled and thankful to say, “We did it! And we ARE doing it!”  I want to share with you a little about how we did it, and a few things I have learned in the process.

Our here in the country there is not only no health food store, but the local grocery stores leave a lot to be desired.  Thankfully the grocer in our neighboring community has just remodeled and in so doing has expanded their natural foods section.  They have a long way to go, but there has been great improvement.   Unfortunately they still do not offer any natural or pastured meats, and the only acceptable dairy product they offer is Kerrygold butter.  I’m still searching for local sources for organic or nearly organic produce.  These things take time, and usually you meet someone who knows someone else who saw a little stand somewhere … In the meantime, we are going to learn how to grow our own and I am excited about that.

So what am I doing?  I am relying on my freezer.  We have eaten an entire beef this year.  Not a quarter, not a half, but a WHOLE.  I picked it up from the processor last June.  We have just a few cuts left.  I will be picking up our next whole beef in June again.  This will be our main meat supply for the coming year.  This forces me to plan what we are going to eat, and to learn new ways of  preparing certain cuts that I previously knew nothing about.  In the last 12 months, I have not bought one single cut of beef from a store!  Additionally, we’ve been eating the whole chickens I purchased and froze before our move.  We have not been having fancy, expensive boneless chicken breast dishes.  But I have learned how to cut up and de-bone an entire chicken to have on the grill or bake in the oven.  In the last year, I have not bought one single package of chicken from a grocery store (ok I did buy some drumsticks from a local farm)!  Additionally, once a month we drive 90 minutes to Whole Foods and load up on foods that we can’t get here that freeze well.  And I just reserved a pig that will be ready for us around the end of the year,  about the time we’ll have made a good dent in the beef.  That will re-fill the freezer.  Can I just say that the investment in a large chest freezer has been worth every penny?

Something else I am learning to do is rely on the “Dirty Dozen” list that tells me which fruits and vegetables should be organic and which ones are ok to eat conventionally.  Our local grocer has some organic produce but not much so I buy according to the Dirty Dozen list most of the time.  When we drive to the city once a month, we go on a Saturday and make our first stop the farmer’s market where we buy as much produce as we can there, making sure not to over-buy so that we eat what we buy within two weeks so it is all still fresh.  I’ve learned that healthy meals don’t require lots of produce.

After asking everyone I knew, and praying about it, I have found our source for fresh raw milk and farm fresh eggs.  We are getting eggs from pastured hens for $1.25/dozen!  On the other hand, we’re now paying $9/gallon for milk (as opposed to the $3/gallon we paid before the move).  We go through several dozen eggs and 5 gallons of milk per week.  These are very important items.  The cost is a non-issue – we have to have the milk and it evens out since the eggs are so cheap and we are not buying as much produce, etc.  Hopefully by the end of the summer our 12 chicks will be providing us with plenty of eggs!

Finally, I am relying on the mail and online ordering for items like cheese, maple syrup, coconut oil, cod liver oil, etc.  I am still able to use our bulk food co-op since they have a delivery location nearby so that is a great blessing.

Does all this sound crazy?  Consider Proverbs 31 verse 14 where God tells us that a virtuous woman, whose price is far above rubies, is “like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.” 🙂

Here’s the kicker to all this:  we are eating really well, very healthy, in abundance, and we are spending LESS. Yes, we are spending LESS!  We are still spending a bundle per visit to Whole Foods, and a hundred or more per month through my food co-op, and we are buying expensive milk and expensive coconut oil and expensive maple syrup and more, but we are spending less.  For one thing, we no longer have the convenience of running to the grocery store to pick up a little something for dinner.  For another thing, we are buying in bulk.  And finally, we eat at home.  There just isn’t anywhere to eat out around here, so we just eat at home.  I am cooking a full breakfast for my family of six most every day of the week, and a full dinner every night.  But we are spending less money.  I never use coupons, I never get anything on sale.  I just buy directly from the farmer when I can, including through the mail, and we eat at home. Oh yes – and we cook from scratch instead of eating prepared, processed foods.

So we’re spending less, and eating more, and I have a new baby who nurses every 2 hours plus 3 others to homeschool and I am cooking more.  How is this being accomplished?  I am making meals as simple as possible, and I have taught my children how to help.  My ten year old daughter has learned how to do a lot of things in the kitchen this year.  Because she can read and follow directions, and I have taught her a few cooking techniques, she can do quite a bit in the kitchen.  On Sunday nights, she is completely in charge of our meal!  Anything she has a problem with she just asks.  I can nurse the baby and give verbal directions at the same time.  Also, she and my son are in charge of emptying the dishwasher and cleaning up the kitchen after breakfast and dinner.  They do this every day.  And like I mentioned earlier, we eat very simple meals.

It’s been quite the year for our family.  I never thought we’d move out to the country like this, and I sure didn’t think that I would be having a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby at 43 years old.  There have been many times where I have marveled at God’s mercies to have brought me where I am today.  If He had not led me on this journey of healthy eating, and I had not listened, how would my body have handled pregnancy and birth at this age?  There was a long season in my life where I had nothing to drink but diet Coke, and McDonalds was my primary food source.  But I did listen, and while it has been difficult, it has been worth it.  

I hope that you are listening too.  Your journey toward healthy eating and better health won’t be easy either.  People won’t understand, they will criticize you, they will talk about you behind your back, they will challenge you, they will roll their eyes, and you will be tired and busy and frustrated many times.  You probably won’t see immediate results and your kids will refuse to eat and your husband will complain.  Hang in there!  It will be worth it for you too.  But don’t trust me, trust God.  He will direct your path.

…Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee. Psalm 143:8b

I Heart Meat Loaf!

Tonight I have to share with you a recipe that may give you the willies at first but believe me now and hear me later: this recipe is good!  And it is incredibly good for you!

The recipe is Spicy Meat Loaf from Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, page 356.   What makes this recipe so scary?  It includes a half pound of ground beef heart.  Here is where you must trust me: you cannot taste it at all, nor can you tell a texture difference.

If you can’t taste it or feel it, then why eat it?  So many reasons!

Organ meats, which include beef heart but also include liver, kidney, sweetbreads (thymus gland), and brains, are absolutely loaded with nutrition.  Primitive traditional cultures found to be in near perfect health treasured organ meat because they knew it would make them strong.  In fact, they would eat these parts of the animal first and often throw out the parts modern people prefer today!   Science has proven that organ meats are rich in fat-soluble vitamins A and D, essential fatty acids, and much more.   Fat-soluble vitamins are critical because without them our bodies cannot use the other minerals we eat, even if we are eating them in abundance.  Vitamins A and D are a requirement for good health, and modern scientific studies are proving that we are not getting enough of either. Another important vitamin found in all animal products, but especially in heart meat, is Coenzyme Q10 (also known as CoQ10).  Every cell in the body requires CoQ10 in order to produce energy.

A hundred years ago recipes including organ meats were plentiful in cookbooks across the globe.  Today, modern dietary advice and scare tactics have caused these nutritious foods to be nearly eliminated from our diets.  This is to our great disadvantage, as, contrary to popular belief, these are real foods and they are good for us.  Has anyone noticed lately how sick so many people are?  And thought about how our diets today come primarily from boxes as opposed to the land?  I am convinced that those two thoughts are very closely related.

But I confess: I really don’t relish the idea of eating organ meats.  I’m guessing you don’t either.  We were not raised eating them – we were raised on fast food and mono-textured foods.  Therefore organ meats smell, look, taste, and feel disgusting to our modernized palates.  But there is good news!  Grinding these foods and adding them to other things makes consuming them possible for people like us!  And that is why I want to tell you about this wonderful meat loaf that I fed my family for dinner tonight.  And they had no clue they were eating beef heart.

The recipe (which I’ve included in full at the end) calls for 2 pounds ground beef and one half pound ground heart.  Helpful hint: thaw the ground beef yet keep the heart mostly frozen and grind or shred it in your food processor (or meat grinder attachment to a mixer).  If you let the heart thaw it will be much harder to grind or chop.  A side note: if you don’t have heart, you can also use liver.  I personally can taste the liver in the meatloaf, but the kids had no idea.  Also, I’m sure you could purchase heart at the butcher, but I bought a whole beef from a local farm and requested the heart and liver with my order.  The processor cut them each into half pound sizes for me per my special request.

This recipe also includes carrot, celery, and onion all finely chopped.  My family prefers their meat loaf without chunks, so I chopped all the veggies in the food processor as well.  Perfect texture.  Also, the recipe calls for bread crumbs.  Instead of buying bread crumbs that are loaded with preservatives, I freeze old heels, burnt rolls, etc. then just run them through the food processor – bread crumbs!  While you’re prepping the rest of the ingredients, mix the bread crumbs with a cup of cream (raw is best, but never use ultra-pasteurized cream) and let them soak while you sauté the veggies and spices in real butter.

Once you’ve got everything prepped, just mix it together in one big bowl.  You’ll add one whole egg to this.  Here is a picture of everything dumped into the bowl…it doesn’t look appetizing at all, does it?

You can see the bread crumbs and cream on the bottom, the really red meat on the other side is the heart, the ground beef is piled in the middle, and it’s all topped with the sautéed veggies.  Using your hands, just mix this all together really well, then shape it into a loaf in a 9×13 pyrex baking dish.

The one thing I do not like about this recipe is the sauce.  4 tablespoons of tomato paste or ketchup just doesn’t work for me.  It’s not enough, and it isn’t near sweet enough.  This is where I alter the recipe to suit my tastes.  I mix up the sauce for my mother’s meat loaf, which I grew up eating, and pour this over the top.  There is plenty to cover the meat loaf and the sides of the pan, so that when it’s cooked you can soak the sauce into each yummy slice.  The recipe is simple: 8 oz. tomato sauce, ¼ c sucanat, ¼ c honey, and 1 t mustard.

It will take 90 minutes for this to bake, so make it first and then clean up and prepare the sides.  The smell will draw the entire family to the kitchen, begging for dinner!  My sides were the veggies I picked up at a local produce stand this morning:  purple hull peas (boiled in water with bacon grease and onion slices), squash, and red potatoes (which I boiled, drained, and fork-mashed with plenty of cream and butter).

This meal was loaded with lots of those animal foods that carry fat-soluble vitamins A and D, and CoQ10.  Even the veggies had their share of animal fats added (cream and butter).  Because of this, everyone was very satisfied, their bodies are not using up all their energy digesting the meal (because it was easily digested), and our bodies are making excellent use of all that important nutrition.  This is really good news for me, because a precious baby is being knit inside me right now.  These foods will make my pregnancy safer for me at 42, and will also help my baby be healthier in the womb and beyond.

So back to the family.  They had no idea they were eating organ meat, but my son got a little suspicious when I kept asking if he liked it.

My four year old loved it.

She had seconds, then thirds.  And cleaned her plate!

My 12 year old loved it – this is plateful #2.

And even the one who doesn’t like meat loaf at all saved it for last then cleaned her plate and confessed that it wasn’t so bad after all.

When I returned to the dish and saw the meager leftovers, I couldn’t believe it.  After all, 2 ½ pounds of meat plus all those veggies should go pretty far!  Well, see for yourself – this won’t make another meal for our family.

It will have to go for some really tasty meat loaf sandwiches this week instead.  I’d say this was a success, wouldn’t you?

Now that you know how healthy and yummy organ meats can be, YOU can try this recipe.  Maybe YOU will “heart” meat loaf too!

Spicy Meat Loaf from Nourishing Traditions page 356

2 lb ground beef or other red meat

½ lb ground heart

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, peeled, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

4 Tablespoons butter

¼ teaspoon dried chile flakes (adjust to taste – omit for no spice)

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon cracked pepper

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 ½ cups whole grain bread crumbs

1 cup cream

1 egg

1 Tablespoon fish sauce (optional – I omitted this)

1 Tablespoons tomato paste or naturally sweetened ketchup (I omit this and use my own sauce)

Saute’ onions, carrots, and celery in butter until soft.  Add chile flakes, thyme, pepper and salt and stir around.  Meanwhile, soak bread crumbs in cream.

Using your hands, mix meat with sautéed vegetables, soaked bread, egg and optional fish sauce.  Form into a loaf and set in 9×13 pyrex pan.  Ice with ketchup or tomato paste (or sauce).  Add 1 cup water to pan (no water is needed if you use my sauce recipe).  Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 ½ hours.

I hope that you love this recipe so much that you will buy this wonderful cookbook.  You can buy a copy from Amazon via the Well Fed Family’s web store at www.wellfedfamily.net.  While you’re there, browse the site for more fabulous nutrition articles.  This month’s topic is feeding babies – in the womb and beyond.

EGGS

I’ve got a great visual for you today.  Get ready, for you are about to see with your very eyes the difference between something raised the way God designed vs. something raised the way man finds convenient.   You are about to see actual nutrition, and a lack of it.

Here you see eggs from the grocery store. These eggs are expensive, “all-natural” eggs from the health food store and, according to the label, actually came from a local farm (although I have never heard of this farm, as it does not show up on local farm searches nor does the farmer attend local farmer’s markets).

These eggs are a typical light yellow color.  Notice that as they were cracked into the bowl, they fell out all in a jumble.

Now check out eggs purchased direct from a farmer I know.

 

Notice the deep orange yolks.  You can also see the uniformity with which they landed in the bowl when they were cracked open.  This is because the whites are thicker around the yolks, keeping the eggs spaced apart.  If you look closely at the yolk on the top right, you can see the outline of the thicker egg white.

Need another comparison?  Look at this next picture.  Here you see the two types of eggs next to each other.  Can you guess which is which?

Yes, the three pale eggs came from the natural foods store (and these were actually from a nationally known company, and were certified organic) while the one deep orange egg came from another local farmer I know.  You might be interested to know that the local egg was actually about 3 weeks old – not super fresh.  Again, notice the difference in the texture of the whites – you can see the thick egg white from the local egg, while the whites of the store eggs are almost not visible.

So what’s the point of all this?  The point is that the deeper, richer, and more vibrant color of the egg yolk, the more nutrient dense and healthy it is for you to eat.  And how do you get eggs such a deep orange color with firmer whites?  You let the hens roam freely on pasture, in the sunlight, eating the bugs and greens they choose.

I’m sure you have had sticker shock over the prices of organic free-range eggs from the grocery store.  The local eggs from the store in the first picture cost me $3.69 a dozen!  I bought them because they were local – the stamp on the carton said so – but I definitely did NOT get my money’s worth.  Basically I got a dozen eggs from hens that were most likely confined to the indoors, eating an all vegetarian diet of various grains.  And who knows what was really in that mix.  I know this simply by looking at the pale yellow yolks and runny whites.  There is no difference in the store eggs in the first picture and the organic store eggs in the last picture, except the organic eggs cost even more and had all kinds of great wording on the label.  In the end, both store eggs were over-priced and low-quality.

I’m also sure that if you have tried to purchase pastured eggs direct from a local farmer that you’ve had sticker shock there as well.  I know that I have paid up to $4.50 a dozen for local, pastured eggs.  But go back up and look at the pictures again and you will see that while both are expensive, one is a much better deal than the other.  The pastured eggs are far superior in every way.

While the local pastured eggs are definitely more visually appealing, that is the tell-tale sign that these are healthier, more nutritious eggs.  It is this intense orange color that is proof of more carotenes and higher levels of fat soluble vitamins.  Fat soluble nutrients do all kinds of good things for you, including lowering your risk of cancer, protecting your skin, and supporting your eyesight.  Eggs from hens allowed to forage for bugs and greens on pasture in the sunlight actually have more nutrients than those from hens raised indoors on all vegetarian feeds.  This includes more Omega 3 Fatty Acids (in fact, pastured eggs have a near perfect ratio of Omega 3 and Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Vitamin E, Vitamin A, Folic Acid, and Vitamin B12.

Another very important nutrient in pastured eggs is Choline.  This is a substance found in every living cell in your body, and is a major component of your brain.  But your body cannot make enough Choline on its own, therefore we need to get it from animal foods such as pastured eggs.  A Choline deficiency leads to a folic acid deficiency.  This is why pregnant and nursing women should be eating at least two eggs every day, and why cooked egg yolks are the perfect first food for baby.  Additionally, Choline can help prevent heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and cognitive decline such as Alzheimer’s because it is an anti-inflammatory and actually helps prevent fat and cholesterol from sticking to arteries.  So eggs are an important source of nutrition from pre-birth throughout life.

Now that you know how nutrient dense pastured eggs really are, you might not be so upset about their high price.  Even at $4 a dozen, eggs are a really inexpensive source of valuable nutrients.  But if it’s still tough on your budget, then you might consider raising your own backyard flock.  Unless you live in a highly restricted neighborhood, most cities and towns allow residents to own a few hens.  Roosters are another story.  But hens don’t need roosters to lay eggs!  Supposedly, keeping a few hens in your backyard is not just easy but fun as well.  And from what I hear there is nothing quite like having your own supply of fresh, pastured eggs just outside your back door.

For more information, including a book list for keeping backyard flocks as well as recipes for your own chicken feed supplement, check out “Eat Your Eggs And Have Your Chickens Too” by Jen Albritton at www.westonaprice.org.   There is also a wealth of information about the health benefits of eggs at www.whfoods.org.   For lots of great egg recipes, info on feeding eggs to babies, and even more egg nutrition information, read Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig.

So all this business about eggs clogging your arteries and causing heart disease is just not true.  You no longer need to avoid egg yolks or that delicious fried egg breakfast.  It is the egg substitutes and powdered eggs and imitation junk that is truly dangerous to your health.  In fact, salmonella isn’t even a concern with pastured eggs, since a healthy hen does not lay contaminated eggs.  As always, God’s foods reign superior, especially when they were raised the way He designed.

 

GUEST BLOGGER: A TESTIMONY OF FAITH, HEALING, AND HEALTH

 

Note from The Grain Girl:  Today’s post is written by my dear friend Cindy, who has poured out her heart and soul to share the story of her and her sons’ journey toward health – and healing – by simply eating “God’s food.”  Cindy’s testimony is powerful and I pray that everyone who reads it will be encouraged and motivated. I tell everyone who feels they don’t have time, money, or motivation to change their lifestyle that if my friend Cindy can do it, anyone can.  She has endured  an intensely difficult struggle, and won.  Praise God for her courage and faith in him!

Be sure to read through to the end so you don’t miss a word of her amazing journey.


Thank you, Cindy, for sharing your story, and for being an example, so that others may also find health and healing through God’s perfect provision.


A TESTIMONY OF FAITH, HEALING, AND HEALTH

Last night I had the opportunity to help a lady whom I had never met, but had spoken to on the phone, to try and show her some ways she could make a difference in her family by changing how they eat.  It made me think back to my journey in this area over the past 3 years.

During 2006, I was trying to figure out how to help my son who was having trouble at school.  I knew he had behavior issues before he started Kindergarten, but it eventually came to a head in 3rd grade.  Teachers would say things like, “He has a wonderful heart but he has sudden outbursts that go against his normal personality.”  These outbursts would sometimes involve pushing other kids.  They would just happen.  I had tried multiple different things trying to help him.  The school system even had him tested/evaluated for various things and were recommending I put him on prescription medications even though he was not diagnosed with anything –for this particular teacher her only solution was to give him a pill and it would make her life easier here at school.

November of 2006 was when I went to my knees in prayer (yet again) and cried out to the Lord to please help me know what to do for this precious boy.

I distinctly remember what I can only say was the Holy Spirit saying it’s the food.  I “Googled” diet and behavior and was amazed that one of the leading hits was a website that specialized in helping people take the “bad” stuff out of their food to positively impact children with ADHD and ADD (neither of which my son has by the way).  I learned that research has shown that the shift in America to processed food tracks consistently with lots of health problems, but very clearly tracks with the sky rocketing of behavior based health issues – ADD and ADHD to name a couple.

 

A few days ago when I mentioned to my son that I had been asked by a teacher at school to help a mom with a son having behavior problems similar to what my son used to have my son said, “Well you are the one to do that.”  The next day he asked if he could share his story with this mom when she came by.  He has never spoken to others about this journey we have been on; he likes to just say, “Mom has gone organic.” My son is now 11 years old and a 6th grader at our local public middle school.  He shared with this mom the following thoughts:

·      How he was in the principal’s office 3 times in the first half of 3rd grade year when all he was trying to do was get along with everyone

·      He felt yucky inside all the time

·      Nobody wanted to play with him

·      He would get angry and frustrated very easy

·      He never felt like doing anything but video games (which I had been limiting trying to help him)

He then proceeded to say that his mom, “decided to take out artificial stuff, ingredients we cannot pronounce, and things other people make in factories.”  He shared how it took about a year but then he had lots of people who would play with him at recess, he never went back to the principal’s office (except to give hugs), now feels good, ran on the middle school cross country team and, his quote “it’s all because we eat what God made.”

My precious son has Sensory Integration Disorder – basically his nervous system would not process input from the 5 senses at the same rate most others do.  This input would build up in his body and he was continually in a constant state of “on edge” – like you feel when you are under tremendous stress and it doesn’t take much to push you over the edge – which would happen routinely at school.  We hope and pray that this disorder is something he will out grow but it has been obvious it has not.  When I say obvious what I mean is I can tell he still has it when the following situation occurs:  well meaning people give him a bag of M&M’s as a treat, if he doesn’t have the willpower and decides to eat them then he has significant physical/emotional symptoms that are from the Sensory Integration Disorder.  Every time this happens, it reaffirms that what I am doing with our diet is critical to his health and wellbeing.

So my journey started November of 2006 by taking out all preservatives, artificial colors/flavorings and even some natural foods that could cause this behavior.  We had 6 weeks of “detoxification” while all of our bodies rid itself of these bad things.  After the 6 weeks, I could add back in things like apples/strawberries one at time and see if anything happened with him.  Today he (and we) eats anything made by God as close to that natural state that I can realistically make it.

Just so you know, I am a single working mom of 2 boys – age 11 and 8 — and yes, I make everything we eat. This is just how our family eats – not because of my son’s behavior but because I have been convinced that God knows our bodies best and we should eat what God provides.

“How do I do it” is a question I frequently get.  You know when something is a priority its amazing how you can find time to fit in the activity – that is how I look at feeding my family naturally without processed food.  It’s just how we have to eat.

One of my goals was to not have my children feel “deprived” so I promised them and myself I would learn how to make all their favorite things with “good” ingredients.  My children do not miss out – instead of those yuckily processed Cosmic Brownies that they used to eat, I make brownies from scratch.  By making everything I can control the ingredients.   Every once in a while the boys will say something like I wish I could have “x” and I will say okay let’s find a recipe and make it and we do.

My key kitchen tools are:  bread machine, grain mill, deep freezer, crock pot and my Kitchen Aid mixer. I make all of our bread (using a mill to grind wheat – it’s as easy as pour in the grain, turn on the mill and get freshly ground flour -MAGIC).   I love to make bread with my mixer and hand knead it but reality due to time constraints is that usually I rely on my bread machine – I can put in all the ingredients, press start and in 3 hours 45 minutes we have freshly made bread or I can set the timer and its ready for breakfast.

My crock-pot is a great friend so that the meat portion of dinner is ready – I have meat ready, bread ready and then all I have to do each night is come up with the healthy side dishes.  We eat rice a couple of times a week, fresh veggies, sautéed veggies and salads.  I also participate in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) which is a program with a local farmer where I receive a box of locally grown vegetables every other week which keeps me well stocked with fresh veggies, helps us try new things and adds a ton of nutrition into our regular meals.  I minimize the use of veggies from a can since so much nutrition is lost in the processing process – trust me I know, my work takes me inside of manufacturing plants!

I make waffles, pancakes, tortillas, bread, and rolls; every time I make some I bag a few for the freezer.  That allows me to have some in the moments when I fail to plan for a meal.    I don’t write out a plan for the week but I have a general plan in my mind and I always know what tomorrow’s menu will be so I can plan ahead.  Not planning is the one thing that could cause me to feel like we have to go out to eat or drive thru somewhere.  I even take coolers of food to their soccer/flag football games so that we are not tempted to buy snacks there – I think every time I can provide healthy alternatives to nachos and hot dogs we are better off.

A few tips that work for me are:

·      Each Sunday the boys and I create a veggie tray that stays in the fridge all week

·      I keep apples, pears and strawberries in the fridge at all times

·      I make granola bars, cut them and put them in lunch baggies for those quick need to grab something as your go out the door

·      I make muffins once or twice a week for after school snacks and freeze the leftovers

·      I buy fresh lettuce from the local farmers market and keep it in the fridge in a large plastic bowl (lined with paper towels to minimize spoilage) for a quick salad

·      I have taught my boys if you cannot pronounce an ingredient we cannot eat it – they also know of a few other things we don’t ever eat even if they can pronounce it!

·      I keep the healthiest tortilla chips I can find so that they can take “chips” in their lunch for school (once again so they don’t feel deprived)

·      Each week I cook at least one new and different food to keep them trying new things – our latest favorite that yes 2 boys asked for as part of Christmas dinner is drum roll please brussel sprouts (I didn’t think I even liked them but we do)

·      I make bulk chicken stock and freeze it both in quart freezer bags and ice trays so that I can pop a cube of chicken stock into rice and other things to intensify the nutritional impact

Another question I get frequently is “Why don’t you just do this for your older son and let your younger son eat whatever he wants” – well the answer to that is my conviction that God designed us and designed our food and no matter what our physical make-up says what God made is what is best for us all.  But my younger son has experienced benefits too.  He used to require daily breathing treatments, but hasn’t had one in two years!  My younger son loves to eat – 5-6 times a day he is asking for fresh fruit, raw veggies, and healthy snacks like that as well as eating large servings at each meal.  His body craves the nutritional impact from our food and it shows in his growth, health and energy level.


It’s been a 3-year process but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  For those of you who do not know me, I did not grow up eating this way.  We ate lots of  “easy cooking” and comfort foods so this has been a big change for me as well.  It has been amazing how much better I feel physically and I really do not feel deprived myself.  I’ve just found ways to have these things in a more natural God provided way.   Those times when I find myself eating some of the “old” foods I can always tell the difference later that day and the next day how I feel.  What we feed ourselves truly impacts our physical bodies.

My older son had been encouraging me for a long time to break one bad habit I had – my diet cokes.  I had changed everything in how we ate except I didn’t think I could give up my addiction to diet coke – I was drinking 6-8 cans a day.  This past summer I quit buying and drinking these (the local Sonic happy hour is wondering where I am!)  It was amazing in hindsight that an 11 year old could so clearly see the importance of this one item and not give up until he convinced me to quit.

As you can tell I am passionate about this lifestyle because I have seen so much good come from switching my family to a God-planned, nutritionally dense diet lifestyle.   My children have not been on antibiotics in 2 ½ years and my 8 year old 2nd grader hasn’t missed a day of school since starting at elementary school (2 ½ years now).   My 6th grader did miss the day after Thanksgiving break with a fever that lasted six hours, but I truly think it was because we were out of town for a week eating things we do not normally eat.

It’s interesting, but as Amy and I discussed this article, I realized how much I had forgotten about the difficulty I had those years before our lifestyle diet change.  The Sensory Integration symptoms began showing when my older son had just turned 2; it took two years after that to get a diagnosis and then the trial of  a variety of methods to help him – reflux medication since he gagged and threw up regularly (which he actually started taking at age 2 ½ before the diagnosis),  occupation therapy to calm his nervous system, physical exercise programs (because this also manifests itself with loss of gross muscle control/lack of coordination), behavior modification programs to just name a few things – all of this took place for 6 long and arduous years in one form or another before I changed what we put in our bodies.  By the way, the divorce occurred about 3 years into this 6 years of sensory integration running rampant with him – I think that is important to know since it wasn’t just the emotional impact of divorce manifesting itself thru these symptoms, it was much bigger than that.  I also thought you might like to know he now runs cross country for his school and plays flag football and basketball – all are things that come much easier to him these days without a drop of prescription medication. At the same time all of these issues were occurring with my older son, my younger son was dealing with constant asthmatic and upper respiratory attacks which, as I mentioned earlier, required daily breathing treatments.  My life was consumed with doctor appointments, meetings, tests, medications, and stress.  Today, my life is consumed with simply loving on and enjoying my healthy, joyful boys.

 

Another benefit that has occurred is that I also am off of a long term medication that my insurance did not cover.  I had been on anti-depressants since my younger son was born – between postpartum depression and the intense emotional situation of a divorce I thought prescription medication was the only way to manage life.  About a year into this way of eating, God put on my heart to trust him and trust the food I was putting in my body and quit taking the medication.  I quit and have been off of it for 2 years now. God’s way really worked for me.

All of these health improvements are an important benefit, but the biggest benefit is seeing the 180 degree change in my son and to hear him say “Just do everything my mom says about food and life becomes great.”

How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God!  therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.  They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house…

Psalm 36:7,8

MORE Nutrient Dense

Do you like sausage? Have you read the label on a package of sausage from the store? I don’t know what most of those ingredients are but I do know that most of them come from a lab. That’s why I didn’t eat sausage for a long time. Store-bought sausage is another processed food that we would all do well to eliminate from our diets.

But eating a nutrient dense diet is not necessarily about eliminating our favorite foods. It is more about re-thinking what you’re eating and changing it to make it as nourishing as possible. Make your old foods better. And making your own sausage is just one way to do this. I have never been a huge fan of sausage, but that was before I discovered sausage made with farm fresh meat and homemade seasonings. Isn’t it interesting how food made with fresh, real ingredients always tastes better?

One of our favorite recipes is turkey sausage from Marilyn Moll, the Urban Homemaker. The recipe is on her website. I made some recently and photographed each step so you could see just how easy it really is.

Start with the freshest meat you can find. Preferably this is meat from a local farm where the animals are raised on pasture in the sunshine, and are never given hormones or antibiotics. This meat will be full of important nutrients that will do your body good, including cancer-fighting CLA’s. Ground pork, turkey, beef, even lamb can be made into sausage. Since this is a recipe for turkey sausage, I used turkey.

First, mix the seasonings together into a small bowl. Notice that these are all seasonings you would typically have in your pantry as opposed to chemicals from a lab. God gave herbs and spices nutritional benefit as well as great taste. If you happen to have fresh thyme and sage, by all means use it! I doubled this recipe because I had extra turkey.

Second, pour the seasonings onto the turkey.

Third, mix well with your hands.

 Don’t be disgusted or leery of this. Because this meat started out as a healthy animal, and was processed at a clean local facility, by people who actually want to be there, then it is not going to be contaminated like conventional meat from the store. Wash your hands and utensils and countertop thoroughly of course, but there is no need to be disgusted.

Now, shape into patties.

 How easy was that?

Now you can choose what to do next: brown the patties in an iron skillet on the stove, bake them in the oven, OR, freeze them for a quick meal later. Usually I brown the patties on the stove but this time I froze them. I laid the patties onto parchment paper on a cookie sheet and set the entire thing in the freezer until the patties were frozen. Because I doubled the recipe, I made a double layer of patties by laying a piece of parchment on top of the first layer.

 As soon as they were frozen I put them into freezer bags. This way they do not stick to each other in the bag.

Now I have delicious and nutritious turkey sausage ready to go at a moment’s notice.

When you’re ready to have some, just take them out of the bag directly to a hot iron skillet. It will take 5 – 8 minutes to cook, depending on how thick you’ve made them.

We especially love these with a squeeze of yellow mustard on a fresh, hot buttermilk biscuit made with an overnight soak for even more nutrition. If you want to know more about that, stay tuned for my upcoming dvd.

Meanwhile, be thinking of more ways you can fill your diet with more nutrient dense foods, and be sure to give this recipe a try.

Yummy!

Nutrient Dense

November has shaped up to be quite a busy month.  Life was plenty busy already, so I decided to add another major activity into the mix.  My sister and I have teamed up to film a video called “The Well Fed Family.”    We have grand visions of turning this into a series, but for now it is just one video designed to show people how to make bread products of all kinds as healthy as possible.  That would include grinding grain into flour yourself, as well as soaking the flour in order to make it more digestible and nutritious.  In the video we demonstrate 6 different recipes, including yeast bread and quick bread.  Of course we have no experience with film, but we were blessed to have a professional do all the filming.  Jonathan Reichel of LightSpeed Productions agreed to handle our project for us.  The dvd will hopefully be available sometime in the next 3 or 4 months.  Here are some pictures of our big venture:

That’s me on the left, and my sister Lee on the right.  And yes, those glasses are full of delicious raw milk fresh from a local farm!  This project was a big family effort and we all had fun getting together.  But hopefully the time and effort put into it will bless many other people as well.

I mentioned that we wanted to show people how to make their breads even more nutritious.  But breads are not the only food that could – or should – be more nutritious.  Every food you eat could be, and should be, more nutritious.  The perfect phrase for this is “Nutrient Dense.”  You can take almost any meal and transform it from “nutrient less” to Nutrient Dense.  This simply means packing as much nutrition as possible into every bite.  You do this using ingredients God created, as close as possible to the way he created them.  You want every bite to count for something good for your body.  After all, the food you are eating needs to do more than please the taste buds and comfort the psyche.  It has to keep you healthy for the rest of your life.

Don’t let this overwhelm you.  By changing a few ingredients, you can make your favorite recipes healthy, or healthier, and definitely more delicious.  Just today my sister mentioned how she had substituted a whole food for a processed food and how much more delicious the results were.  As I was planning our Thanksgiving menu I realized that over the years that is exactly what we have been doing.

One of my family’s favorite holiday meals is sweet potato casserole.  The original recipe calls for canned sweet potatoes and a can of evaporated milk.  Canned sweet potatoes are actually packed in corn syrup, so we no longer buy them.  Instead we discovered that it is very easy to use fresh sweet potatoes, which are readily available this time of year.  And instead of the canned milk, we discovered that whole milk or even a high quality cream yield the same results.  Our recipe does not use marshmallows but rather has a fabulous sweet topping that uses brown sugar, cinnamon, and chopped pecans.  Cinnamon and pecans are already whole foods, but the brown sugar is not.  We just substitute Sucanat (or Rapadura), which is an unrefined sugar so it actually has vitamins and minerals in it.  This sweet potato casserole recipe uses a lot of butter, in the potatoes and the topping.   It also uses eggs.  Butter and eggs are very nutritious whole foods, so now instead of cringing when we add them, we smile real big and say, “Bless our hearts!”  These changes have turned an already yummy food into something even more delicious.  And now, even more nutritious.

Stuffing is another favorite food that can easily be made into a nutrient dense food.  The packaged stuffing may taste good but the ingredients read like a chemist’s lab.  Start with some good bread – we use a combination of our homemade yeast bread and homemade cornbread – crumbled up.  Mix in some sautéed onion and celery.  Add in fresh herbs and a little chicken stock.  These are all whole, healthful ingredients and they will make up into a delicious dish that will provide great nutrition for your body.  If you need a recipe, consult the old Better Homes and Gardens plaid cookbook – there is a great recipe in there.

Often, you just have to make things yourself if you want truly nutrient dense foods.  Chicken stock is a great example. The stuff from the store is just a waste of your money.  When you make it at home, following the instructions from my post last fall, you’ll not only get an incredibly delicious stock but you’ll also get an incredibly nutrient dense stock that will truly nourish your body by strengthening bones and building immunities.  A soup with homemade chicken stock as the base will turn the most finicky eater into a soup lover.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Pasta e Fagioli

Chicken Noodle Soup

Salad dressings are another simple way to turn a health-destroying food into an enzyme-rich, nourishing food.  Recipes are in abundance on the web.  For a delicious vinaigrette, start with  the best quality cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil you can find, and pair it with a high quality vinegar such as Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar or BioNaturae’s Balsamic Vinegar.  Or find a recipe on the web for ranch dressing that doesn’t use powdered milk.

Use the best quality buttermilk or kefir you can find as the base.  Suddenly, the guilt of drowning your salad in dressing is gone because you know that instead you’ve got a very nourishing food.  Add in some fresh raw garlic to give it an even bigger punch – taste-wise and health-wise.

So what about desserts?  Those can be nutrient dense too.  It is the holiday season and while we all know sugar is definitely not a health food we’re still going to indulge in some sweet treats.  But there are ways you can make enjoying desserts a healthier, more nutritious experience.   First, instead of buying the traditional white sugar, make sure you purchase organic sugar.  It isn’t necessarily healthier, but the organic certification means that you will not be contributing to or consuming genetically modified sugar cane.  Second, wherever brown sugar is called for in a recipe, substitute it with Sucanat and you will actually add vitamins and minerals to your dessert.  Third, make sure that your sweet treats always use healthy fats such as lard (from grassfed pigs) or butter, and healthy eggs (locally raised on pasture if possible).  And finally, eliminate the corn syrup all together.  Sometimes you can use brown rice syrup as an acceptable substitute for corn syrup.

 

How about trying something new such as baked apples, using maple syrup as your sweetener?  Baked apples are easy enough that you don’t need a recipe.  Just choose a good baking apple, enough to feed your family.  You can peel and slice them, toss them with cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon juice, then dot them with butter and drizzle them with real maple syrup.  You can add pecans and raisins if you like.  Then bake low and slow until they’re tender and smelling great.  Serve them with a drizzle of fresh raw cream or low-heat pasteurized cream.  Or, make your own whipped cream by simply whipping cream in your mixer, adding a taste of honey and vanilla if desired.  You will have a delicious, and nutritious, dessert. 

 

Apples are in season right now so that makes them the perfect choice for a fall dessert.  I like eating foods in season.  I sense that that is what God actually intended for us to be doing in the first place. At our local farmer’s market fresh apples of all kinds are in abundance. Here is a picture of some baked apples I made recently, coring them and peeling them about 1/3 of the way down then stuffing them with a fabulous mixture of butter, almonds, spices, and maple syrup.  The incredible smells coming from the kitchen tantalized the entire family for hours!  I would never have given these a chance as a child, yet my kids gobbled them up and begged for more!

One of my favorite discoveries is nutrient dense ice cream.  Yes!  Ice cream that is nutrient dense!  The recipe is in the back of my favorite cookbook, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, in the section “Sweets for Kids of All Ages.”  This is an amazingly delicious, nutritious, and easy recipe.  Especially if you have an ice cream freezer that doesn’t require ice or salt, but rather a freezer container that you store in the freezer when not in use.  I have some freezing right now to enjoy with our Thanksgiving dessert.  You need 3 farm fresh egg yolks, 3 cups of cream (preferably raw but never ultra-pasteurized), ½ cup maple syrup, 1 Tablespoon arrowroot powder or non-GMO cornstarch, and 1 Tablespoon real vanilla.  Just beat the eggs with a mixer, then beat in everything else, and pour it into the ice cream freezer.  One time I added a couple of teaspoons of cinnamon – so very gourmet!  Just think – if you make this ice cream then you will get loads of vitamin A and D, calcium, and a plethora of other vitamins and minerals.  Everyone wins!

I confess, I get giddy thinking about this ice cream!

I hope that the wheels of your mind are turning as you consider how to transform your meals into nutrient dense meals.  The foods God created are all nutrient dense.  The foods that man has created are all nutrient-less. For me, there is great freedom in the knowledge that I can indulge in decadent-tasting sweets that will nourish my body.  We are not slaves to the conventional way of eating that robs us of our health. And it is a great comfort to know that there is an abundance of foods available to us that will truly heal our disease.  This is not a salvation issue but it is definitely good news.  Our God is a great giver, and he has truly given us good things to eat.  Let us honor and glorify him in return, giving thanks as we partake of his bounty.

What the Doctor (Should Have) Ordered … All About Stock

What the Doctor (Should Have) Ordered

 

Cooler weather is here to stay and we are on the brink of the holiday season.  This is the perfect time to talk about homemade stock. 

 

Can you identify this processed food?

Chicken stock, chicken flavor (maltodextrin, water, dextrose, salt, chicken flavor [chicken stock, salt, enzymes], autolyzed yeast extract, onion powder, chicken fat, modified food starch, ascorbic acid, sugar, rosemary extract), salt, dextrose, spice extract, carrots, celery, flavoring, onions, water, sugar, sodium phosphate, autolyzed yeast extract, soy lecithin, citric acid.

 

Here is a picture:

 

Now identify the homemade version:

Bony chicken parts, filtered water, celery, carrot, onion, vinegar, parsley.

 

And, a picture …  Can you SEE the difference????

 

Both are supposed to be the same thing yet one can bring good health and healing while the other can slowly rob you of your health.  One originates in a lab and is manufactured in a processing plant while the other comes straight from God’s creation.  Have you figured out what it is?

 

Chicken stock.  Yes, it isn’t just a folk tale – chicken stock, and all properly prepared bone broth (fish, beef, chicken), is truly good for what ails you.  Stocks are definitely nutrient dense for many reasons but the secret to their “power” lies in the use of acidic wine or vinegar which draws valuable minerals from the bones into the stock in a form that is ready to use by your body.  That means your body does not have to work hard to digest stock.  Think of it as “ready to use” minerals, a far better electrolyte solution than Gatorade.  Be sure that any store bought stock will not have undergone this simple preparation.

 

Bone broths (yes I am using “broth” and “stock” interchangeably), like all whole foods, are just loaded with good things but because they are so easily digested broths are superior to other foods. Good stock is your best source of usable calcium, especially if you cannot have dairy.  Other healing minerals include iodine, magnesium, and potassium.  Gelatin is another particularly important aspect of good stock because it is a powerful digestive aid in that it enables the body to fully use proteins.  Gelatin is helpful for cancer, arthritis, anemia, diabetes, muscular dystrophy, and more.

 

If you are sick, whether serious or mild, your body is working hard to strengthen its defenses and repair the problem.  To do this requires vitamins and minerals, as well as energy.  If your body is already running on empty, it makes the job much harder.  Digesting the healthful food you eat is how your body gets what it needs to have a strong immune system.  If you are not giving your body nutritious foods, then it is expending a lot of effort for very little result.  If you are giving your body sugary treats, you are literally suppressing your immune system for several hours at a time.  So your body is working and working and working to fight off sickness and heal itself, yet it is fighting a losing battle.  And even depleting your body of more energy and strength in the process.   This is where bone broths come in.  They are just what your body needs – all the right minerals in a form that won’t require any extra energy to digest.  Lots of bang for the buck.

 

So what is wrong with broths from the grocery store?  Read over the ingredient list at the top and see that store broths are made of a lot of processed chemicals.  Some of them are actually known to cause cancer.  A good stock must be properly prepared using the very best ingredients you can afford.  Think of it as health insurance.  You would spare no amount of money if it meant the health of a loved one.  This is no different.  And the good news is, you can easily make your own nutritious stock at home, using ingredients you probably already have on hand.

 

Here is a recipe for chicken stock from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, page 124:

 

1 whole free range chicken or 2 to 3 pounds of bony chicken parts, such as necks, backs, breastbones and wings

 

gizzards from one chicken (optional)

 

feet from the chicken (optional)

 

4 quarts cold filtered water

 

2 Tablespoons vinegar

 

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

 

2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped

 

3 celery sticks, coarsely chopped

 

1 bunch parsley

 

If you are using a whole chicken, cut off the wings and remove the neck, fat glands an dthe gizzards from the cavity.  By all means, use chicken feet if you can find them – they are full of gelatin.  Farm-raised, free-range chickens give the best results.  Many battery-raised chickens will not produce stock that gels.  Cut chicken parts into several pieces.  Place chicken or chicken pieces in a large pot with water, vinegar, and all vegetables except parsley.  Let stand 30 minutes to 1 hour.  Bring to a boil, and remove scum that rises to the top.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 6 to 24 hours.  The longer you cook the stock, the richer and more flavorful it will be.  About 10 minutes before finishing the stock, add parsley.  This will impart additional mineral ions to the broth.  Remove whole chicken or pieces with a slotted spoon.  If you are using a whole chicken, let cool and remove chicken meat from the carcass and reserve it for other uses.  Strain the stock into a large bowl and reserve in your refrigerator until the fat rises to the top and congeals.  Skim off this fat and reserve the stock in covered containers in your refrigerator or freezer.

 

A few comments … chicken feet sound gross but they are a very valuable addition to your stock by adding silicon which is good for strong, flexible bones, healthy cartilage, connective tissue, skin, hair, nails, etc.  A local farmer is your best source for healthy chicken feet.  Also, I rarely use a whole chicken in my stock.  My family eats a roast chicken several times a month.  When we have had all we’re going to eat, I take the entire carcass, skin, fat, meat bits, and all the juice and put it in the freezer.  When I go to make stock, I will use 2 or 3 of these carcasses at one time and add in 4 to 6 chicken feet.  I don’t even wait for them to thaw – just dump it all in the pot with the vinegar, water, and vegetables like the recipe says.  This is an extremely economical way to make stock – we lose count of how many meals we get from just one chicken!  And the stock is always gelatinous, rich, and delicious.  I try to let my stock simmer 24 hours, even when we are not home.  Sometimes I just turn the heat off when we leave and turn it on when we return.  The results are still excellent.  Remember that simmer doesn’t mean rolling boil; simmer means just barely bubbling.  Finally, you’ll need to let the stock cool on the stove before you strain it.  I have left it sitting on the stove for an entire day before and when I finally got around to straining it, it was still warm.  Once you refrigerate the stock, it will take at least one overnight in order to gel and form the fat on top.  After skimming the fat, I freeze it in quart sized containers.  Sometimes it is helpful to freeze a little in one or two cup amounts or even in ice cube trays so you always have the right size for your recipes.

 

Good news:  you can use the above recipe with the carcass from your Thanksgiving turkey!  Just put the whole thing – skin, bones, meat bits, juice, fat, everything – into the pot and follow the above recipe.  You will get 6 to 8 quarts of golden rich, nourishing, and truly delicious stock.  For FREE!

 

Bone broths are not just good for you, but they are truly delicious.  Once you have had the real thing you will never be able to go back.  Anything else will be bland and watery.  Soups will become a special treat that you will want to eat frequently because they will not only be so easy to make but delicious as well.  Last year I got caught without stock and ended up getting a mild flu.  My sweet husband knew I needed some good soup so he made a special trip to the health food store and carefully read the label of every can/carton of broth available.  He did his best to pick the least offensive one.  He came home and made my special soup … No one could eat it!  It was absolutely tasteless.  And this was certified organic, all natural broth!  There is a huge difference between the processed stuff at the store and the real thing you make at home.  Homemade broth is superior in every way.

 

Our ancestors may not have understood the science behind it, but they never doubted the healing power of bone broths.   They witnessed it many times.  I have felt it myself, and seen it work on my own family.  Be a wise woman and make stock right away.  Make sure you always have a good supply on hand, and make a point to eat it once a week during cold and flu season.  It is just what the doctor should have ordered!