Tuesday, August 31, 2010
For the vast majority of my life I have trusted our government to protect its citizens whether from war, crime, disease, or shady food industry practices. In the case of the USDA and FDA, I believed that inspectors and top officials had the citizens' health and safety as their primary concern and would do everything in their power to protect the consumer. However, since beginning the quest for real food, my eyes have been opened to the power of money and special interests even in regard to our nation's health. Watch Food, Inc. (or do a little digging) and you'll see for yourself that throughout the past several presidential administrations (and on both sides of the political aisle) the top officials within the USDA and FDA have either been previously employed by or been on the legal team for one of the major food corporations. Therefore, I believe that their loyalties are not to the American consumer.
When the food chain becomes so long that we do not know where or who our food comes from and the producer does not know (or care) who consumes their food, we have a major breakdown in food handling and safety. Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past few years, you understand the dangers of tainted meat (and now even eggs). A few days ago , I saw this article about yet another discovery of E. coli contaminated ground beef. So, do we play Russian Roulette with our meat, or avoid beef altogether? Or, maybe there is another option.
Since my conversion, I buy grass fed beef from a local source. I have met the man who owns the cows and who also consumes this meat. He cares about the quality of his food because his family's survival depends on it.
What's so bad about grain fed beef?
Cows were not designed to eat grain. Our industrialized food culture has trained cows to eat grain in order to fatten them up more quickly and ensure greater profits. There are also a number of health and safety benefits to eating grass fed beef over grain fed feed lot beef. This article does a great job of explaining those benefits.
For a while I thought grass fed beef wasn't an option for us because we don't have a deep freeze and cannot house a side of beef in our fridge's freezer. This particular farm sells beef by the cut, and it isn't much more than what I was previously paying for beef at grocery store (about $1/lb.). For me the quality (and safety) of the meat I feed my family is worth the additional $1/lb!
Shared on Fight Back Friday
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
And, this is just too good for me to butcher, so I'll just quote him from page 122:
"Since 1980, American farmers have produced an average of 600 more calories per person per day, the price of food has fallen, portion sizes have ballooned, and, predictably, we're eating a whole lot more, at least 300 more calories a day than we consumed in 1985...Nearly a quarter of these additional calories come from sugars (and most of that in the form of high-fructose corn syrup); roughly another quarter from added fat (most is in the form of soybean oil); 46 percent of them from grains (mostly refined); and the few calories left (8 percent) from fruits and vegetables." (He got these USDA statistics from FoodReview, Vol. 25, Issue 3, a publication of the Economic Research Service at the USDA.)
All I can say is WOW!
Here's the recipe I've been using:
2 c old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 c raw sunflower seeds
1 c almonds (I prefer whole almonds)
1/2 c toasted wheat germ
1/2 c flax seed
1/4 to 1/2 c honey (I like it with 1/4 c which provides a dry, crunchy, fall apart granola. My husband prefers the 1/2 c version, which results in a sweeter, stickier, bar-like consistency.)
1 oz unsalted butter, plus extra to butter the pan
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 c packed brown sugar/turbinado sugar/sucanat
Preheat oven to 350* F and toast oats, nuts, and seeds for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Make sure you at least toast the oats, otherwise they turn gummy/gooey from the wet mixture--I made this mistake last time thinking it wasn't an important step)
In the meantime, combine honey, sugar, butter, vanilla extract, and salt in medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook until sugar is completely dissolved.
Once, oat mixture is toasted, remove it from oven and reduce heat to 300* F. Immediately add the oat mixture to the liquid mixture and stir to combine. Turn mixture out onto buttered dish and bake 25 minutes.
You could use a 9"x9" glass baking dish to form bars or I just spread mine out into a thin layer on a baking sheet for loose granola (using the 1/4 c honey version) or "sheets" of granola (using the 1/2 c honey version).
Making this recipe your own:
From what I have read/heard about granola, it is all about the wet to dry ratio. Therefore, you could use whatever nuts/seeds/grains you want, just keep the dry ingredients to around 4 cups. You can even add dried fruit (the original recipe called for 6 1/2 oz, but that isn't really my thing), but don't worry about factoring this into your dry to wet ratio.
Let me know if you make it and what variations you try.
Shared on Real Food Wednesday
Saturday, August 21, 2010
While I'm very happy to see food manufacturers removing HFCS from their products, this doesn't mean I'm going to buy their products. Many of these products will still contain large amounts of refined white sugars, which aren't all that good for you either. The American diet fills us with sugar (in various forms) during every meal, snack, and drink. Most of us don't even think about our sugar consumption unless we're eating dessert, and I think our desserts have to be sweeter and sweeter for our sweet tooth to be satisfied. Once we cut down our sugar intake in everyday foods that we don't think of as "sweet", I think we'll be able to better satisfy our sweet tooth with more subtle flavors.
So, what sweeteners do I use? I'm mostly using pure maple syrup (pay attention to pancake syrups at the grocery store. Most are HFCS with maple flavor), honey, and rapadura/sucanat (unrefined, unbleached whole cane sugar--pictured in the bowl). I do keep refined sugar on hand for certain things, but I don't use it very often.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
We've been making homemade pizza at our house for years, but I've always used store-bought sauce, white flour, and pre-shredded cheeses. Now I'm tweaking the recipe to better fit our quest for real food using whole wheat flour, and real (even raw) cheese. Tonight I made a margherita style pizza for myself and a salami pizza for the hubby. For my margherita pizza I used the crust and sauce recipes below as well as sliced mozzarella, some shredded raw colby cheese I picked up at the farmer's market, fresh basil from my own plant, and some tiny little tomatoes (Matt's Wild variety) that I also picked up at the farmer's market. For the hubster's salami pizza, I used the same crust and sauce, shredded mozzarella and raw colby cheeses, and all natural, nitrate-free salami. I would have taken a picture of the salami pizza, but it was completely consumed before I had a chance.
For the crust (This recipe is an adaptation of Bobby Flay's recipe):
3 1/2 to 4 c. flour (I used about 2 c. whole wheat and 1 1/2 c. bread flour)
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp dry yeast
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c. warm water
2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp olive oil
I combine all dry ingredients in my Kitchen Aid stand mixer with the dough attachment. Then add water and 2 Tbsp olive oil. I increase the speed and until a ball forms and sticks to the dough hook. You may need to add more flour if the dough sticks to the sides or more water if the dough does not incorporate all of the flour. Grease a large bowl with 2 tsp. olive oil, add dough and cover with a damp towel. Allow to rise until doubled (about 1 hour). Divide and allow to rest on floured surface 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 450*F and place your baking sheet/pizza stone in the oven. After the oven is preheated and/or your dough has rested remove the sheet/stone and (carefully) roll out your dough on the hot sheet/stone. Add desired sauce and ingredients. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until cheese has melted.
For the sauce (This recipe is Bobby Flay's recipe):
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
28 oz tomatoes (I used one can of sauce and one can of petite diced, but you can adjust according to your desired texture)
Basil or Italian Seasoning to taste (if desired--I actually forgot to add this tonight)
Salt & Pepper (again, I forgot to add this tonight)
Heat olive oil in sauce pan over medium heat, add onions and cook until soft , about 5 minutes. Add garlic and chili flakes; cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes, and simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir in seasonings.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
My HealthIER chicken & stars has only 6 ingredients: chicken, chicken broth, pasta, carrots, thyme, and poultry seasoning. I cooked the chicken and carrots in the broth until the chicken was cooked through, then I removed the chicken and chopped it into small pieces, returned it to the pot along with the pasta, thyme, and poultry seasoning, and simmered until the pasta was tender.
I made my first batch one evening while the girls were asleep so they wouldn't know it was another one of my attempts to get the to eat better. I packed it in the firstborn's lunchbox the next day and it came home practically empty. It was a hit with the 2-year-old as well, she even wanted it for breakfast.
A few weeks ago, I took the firstborn back to school shopping. We bought a lunch box and all kinds of neat contraptions to keep food hot or cold. I bought all of this thinking she would take her lunch on occasion, but that was before our food conversion. Now that we are making better choices, I knew we would be mostly packing our lunch and occasional eating school lunch. However, she is PICKY. She eats a lot of what she likes, but she doesn't like a lot! It is sometimes difficult to keep menu choices interesting when the list of "approved" items is so slim. She's most adventurous when it comes to fruit, but vegetables are a hard sell. We've just begun week 2 of school and I'm already running out of ideas for her lunches and snacks. Here are some of the ideas I came up with (and I'll be making most of these items myself):
Turkey & Cheddar (sandwiches, pitas, etc)
Roast beef & mozzarella (sandwiches, pitas, etc)
HeathIER chicken & stars soup
Mac & Cheese
Hot Dog (I read that Tori Spelling's mom would put a hotdog in a thermos with boiling water & it would still be warm at lunchtime. We tried that today. Also, I buy Applegate Farms hot dogs that are 100 % beef, antibiotic, growth hormone, & nitrate/nitrite free.)
Here's my snack list:
I would love to hear any other suggestions!
Sunday, August 15, 2010
I also made more pitas tonight (per the firstborn's request before packing lunch in the morning). Last time, I cooked them for 3 minutes as the recipe indicateS. This time I decided to leave a few pitas in for a couple more minutes. I opened the oven door and discovered that my pitas had puffed! I was so excited that I called for my husband (who thought that something was wrong) to come see my puffed pitas! They deflated after taking them out of the hot oven, but still have the pocket I was hoping for.
Can you see it?!?!
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Makes 8 pitas
3 cups flour (I used 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour and 1 1/2 cups white all purpose flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon sugar or honey ( I used local honey)
1 packet yeast (or, if from bulk, 2 teaspoons yeast)
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water, roughly at room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil, vegetable oil, butter, or shortening (I used olive oil since it is the most traditional oil used in making pita bread---and I'm trying not to use shortening or any other vegetable oils...I'll get around to posting about this in the future.)
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
About a year ago, I saw a Facebook friend's comment about homemade crock pot yogurt. I was intrigued, but never took the initiative to make it myself (and I was afraid of a soured milk smell wafting around the house, but my fears were unfounded...there is no spoiled milk smell). Also at that time, I wasn't thinking about a food conversion, and store bought (even highly sugared) yogurt was fine with me. However, as I started reading labels, and paying attention to the foods I'm feeding our children, I decided homemade might be the most cost-effective way to provide healthy yogurt for the girls. As I said in a previous post, we're going through a batch (it makes about a half-gallon) each week. It immediately became the firstborn's snack food/breakfast food/anytime food of choice. Here's the rundown on how to make it (click here for the real recipe):
1. Heat a half-gallon of whole milk in your crock pot (with lid) on low for 2 1/2 hours (but don't use ultra-pasteurized as UHT (ultra high temperature) milk won't firm up. Where I live all organic milk except Publix Greenwise milk is ultra-pasteurized so make sure you double check.) .
2. Unplug or turn off your crock pot and wait for 3 hours (don't remove the lid).
3. Scoop out 2 cups of warmed milk and mix with a 1/2 cup of plain yogurt (I've been using a whole cup...not sure what difference it makes). Return this mixture to the crock pot and stir.
*You can either buy a cup of plain yogurt (try to get one with multiple cultures. I used Stonyfield Farms the first time because it has 6 active cultures) or after the first batch, you can reserve a cup of homemade yogurt to use on the next batch.
4. Return the lid to the crock pot and wrap with a thick towel to insulate. Allow to sit for at least 8 hours. Voila! You've made your own (healthy) yogurt.
The result is a little thinner than most store bought yogurt (although if you've ever bought Stonyfield Farms' Yo-Baby it is about the same consistency). I've heard it will continue to thicken the longer you allow it to sit, but I'm not sure how long is too long as far as spoilage is concerned. And, you'll notice the whey on the top, which I mix back into the yogurt. I make sure to scoop out some to use as my starter the next time as well as some extra that I use instead of sour cream. Then, I stir in some vanilla and a little sugar, although I think I'll start using honey in the future. Depending on the firstborn's mood, she'll eat it just like this or with fruit mixed in. I've also started blending it with fruit in the blender and pouring it into Popsicle molds, which the girls think is really cool to eat "Popsicles" for breakfast. The original recipe says it can be stored in the fridge for 7-10 days, but ours is always gobbled up before then.
Another thought: Haven't tried this but my friend says she uses unflavored gelatin to thicken her yogurt. I assume you would need to put the gelatin in while it is still pretty warm.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Friday, August 6, 2010
Today was my firstborn's meet the teacher day for kindergarten. She is so excited, and I am too! We have all of her school supplies and bought all kinds of neat containers that will keep her food cold or hot when packing her lunches. She's excited about eating in the cafeteria as opposed to eating in her classroom like she did in Pre-K. She's even memorized her student ID (a 6 digit number) that she must enter to "pay" for her cafeteria lunches. However, with all of my new convictions and awareness to our industrial food system, I'm concerned about her eating school lunches. Within our back to school packet I came across the form for free or reduced price lunches. The first 2 sentences say "children need healthy meals to learn. [our county] offers healthy meals every school day." Then I was looking over the menu this evening and noticed things like corn dogs, rib-b-que sandwiches, etc. But, I think what I thought was the worst was the "funnel cake" on the breakfast menu. I thought funnel cake was fair food, not part of a "healthy" school menu. Soooo...after looking over the menu and in the interest of not being "that" mom, we're planning to let her choose a few days she wants to eat the school menu (thankfully there a ton of days she won't like either of the offerings anyway) and we'll provide our own lunch most of the time. We are also required to provide a snack for her each day (or if we forget she'll receive one out of the "snack box," so we just won't forget) and I'll plan to pack something that is found in nature or consisting of "real" ingredients. And, we're planning on letting her do "Ice Cream Thursdays" with the rest of the class. So, maybe I'm still quite a ways off from being "that" mom.
So far I think we're doing pretty well with our feet-first jump into the real foods movement. We had a few products in the freezer that weren't organic or grass-fed and I must admit we finished those off....I even admit that tonight we had hotdogs (but from now on I'm buying the kind in the organic section without nitrates/nitrites!). This week, I made stovetop mac & cheese and it really was a hit! I baked more bread from the Healthy Bread in 5 book. This time I tried the Soft Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread and even made buns/rolls in addition to the loaf. I also made another batch of crockpot yogurt, which I really will have to blog about next because the girls are eating about a half gallon per week (NOT A JOKE!). And, tonight, I made a delicious peach crumble (the original recipe is for organic peach crumble; mine wasn't completely organic, but still consisted of all REAL ingredients)! Tomorrow morning, we're planning on eating some of the bacon I picked up at the market on Wednesday and will probably head back out to the market to see what else we can find (I hear there are quite a few more vendors on Saturdays)!
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
We went to the local farmers' market this morning. This is our second Wednesday in a row and I'm loving it! Haven't been able to make it on a Saturday yet, but I've heard there are twice as many (or more) vendors on Saturdays. I bought local wildflower honey, two ginormous cucumbers, tomatoes (I have a plant, but the last two ripe ones were eaten by some critter and all the others are still green), a cantaloupe (which will be gone tonight once the hubby gets home and cuts it open), and my most exciting purchase....pork.....from a local farm! This pork was pastured, not given any steroids, hormones, or antibiotics and I bought the pork from the man who owns and raises the pigs. Today I only bought a pound of bacon and a shoulder roast, but I hope to buy much more from him in the future and once we get a deep freeze maybe we can even buy in bulk. I spoke to him briefly about this option, and he even mentioned us coming down to the farm to see the pigs. After watching Food, Inc. and as I'm reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, I'm learning more and more about how our industrial food system is cloaked in secrecy. I love buying local, knowing that I can go directly to the source and see how they are treating their animals (also known as my food). I love knowing that the money I pay for my food is going directly into the pockets of the farmer to provide for their family instead of helping some CEO becoming richer and richer, while the farmer grows poorer and poorer. Check out www.localharvest.org to find farmer's markets in your area.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
The purist wouldn't even drink pasteruized (heated to 161 degrees F) milk, or homogenized (which keeps the fat content equally distributed throughout the milk) for that matter. The purist would drink raw milk, and I'm quickly moving that direction.
However, I was pleased that the Kroger guys took my contact information and said that they would find out if it was possible to carry items that are not utra-pastuerized and let me know.
Monday, August 2, 2010
I've known for a long time that our American diets aren't really good for us, but I'm recently finding out just how BAD these foods are for our bodies. We're not necessarily going organic, or health food. We're going Little House on the Prairie, using ingredients my great-great grandmother would have recognized. Eggs, butter, milk....not maltodextrin, MSG, high fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenated oils. I'm realizing that I'm going to need to make things myself if I want to keep these (and other) ingredients out of our foods.
The first step was reading food labels....and more labels...and more labels and choosing the one with the least processing, least artificial ingredients, or even choosing not to purchase the product at all. My first real food purchase was organic maple syrup. No more high fructose corn syrup masquerading around as pancake syrup for us.
So here's the challenge, pay attention to what you're feeding yourself and your family. Read the ingredients label, and do a little research to understand exactly what all of those abbreviations mean.