Friday, December 30, 2011

Holy Horns, Batman!

Hastings, FL is a very interesting place.  It happens to be the halfway point from our house to my sister's.  We keep each other's kids every so often, and meet up in the middle.  It's fun to drive by all the hundreds of acres of farmland and see what the real farmers are growing.   We usually stop by the produce stand and grab some goodies.  There's a bunch of cool hydroponic farms there to check out too.  But, the most exciting attraction to me for some reason is this small little pasture with these insane looking animals.

Every once in a while, I find myself in a mystic trance, completely in awe of my natural surroundings.  God's creation is just an amazing thing.  When I get to heaven though, I'm not sure I will be able to control myself...I will just have to ask what in the world is this cow supposed to do with these crazy horns!?!?!  I know God makes everything with a purpose, but I am totally stumped by this one.  I want to know how it even holds it's head up...that's one strong neck!  Wonder if the lady cows like them? those body builder guys with the big necks.  It could be a new workout regimen...walk around with 5 foot long horns strapped to your head 24/7 and make some lady cows moo :)!


I'm sure the horns have something to do with protecting their lady cows...hence, the sign.  This guy wasn't looking too happy either.  For about 1.5 seconds, I considered getting out of the car for a better shot, but lucky for me, I'm a big chicken!

Anyways...sorry, I got off on a tangent for a minute there.   It fits perfect with my day big tangent.  Do you ever have those days where you just can't focus?  I started laundry, haven't finished it.  It's a beautiful sight from the kitchen.  Not to mention the enormous pile of shoes accumulating at the door.


I started unpacking, yes from a week ago (guess I've had this problem for a few days now :) ), and I ended up just scattering stuff everywhere.

It's much more fun to just take pictures of the mess than clean it.

 Yuck!  The worst part, the messier the house gets, the less I can focus...there's a funny!  Gives me a good excuse to go out for a REALLY long bike ride and just tell myself I'll deal with it tomorrow :)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Hunting We Will Go

A huge part of our new-found ways of eating stems from the hubby's passion for hunting. He's always been pretty "into" hunting, but all it took was a green light signal from me to kick it up a notch, and he was on it.  As I began to unravel all the pieces to how our food gets from "farm" to our plate, grocery store meat did nothing but make my stomach want to run.  

I put "farm" in quotes, because you really can't call the places the majority of American meat comes from a farm.  There's no e-i-e-i-ooo's going on at any of these places.  They are more like factories, which is where the term "factory farm" came from.   Get yourself a free month of Netflix and watch "Food, Inc". I am putting off the Pantry Raid post on meat for a few more. I have to really get my brain right for that one.  So, I'm going to leave it at that for right now, and get back to a happy place.

Being that we don't have land to raise our own cows and pigs, aside from local sustainable farmers, one of the best ways to get organically raised meat is from the woods.  Some people get a little squeamish thinking about meat from the woods.  I know, because I was one of those "some people".  You see, my whole family are a bunch of city folk transplanted somehow right into the middle of redneck heaven.   I am still completely perplexed on how we ended up moving from Long Island to Inverness, FL.  Nonetheless, that's where I was raised.  Surrounded by what you could call rural folk, and still trying to cling to my NY roots.  It took until I was at least 17 to embrace my inner redneck.  Thank God, because if I hadn't, I would have never even given my husband a second glance.  'Cause let me tell you, he is what you would call southern by the grace of God.  Now, I could move back to old Inverness, and fit right in...I just think that is so funny, because I bucked it for so many years.

I will give Inverness credit for something.  I did try my first taste of hunted meat there. It had to be hilarious to lookers-on.   I don't know what I was expecting.  It was a piece of venison jerky...not dog doo!  To my surprise, I loved it and have been enjoying it ever since.

We eat 90% of our meat from my hubby's fishing and hunting excursions.  The kids have been in on the fishing for years now, and he's just been chomping at the bit to get them into the hunting scene.  So, this Christmas was a redneck Christmas, and the kids got a bb gun, bow and arrows and a double hunting stand.  Little man couldn't wait to get in the woods and set up "his" stand. 

This kid's not scared of a little hard work.

He couldn't wait to test it out.

Mommy even got in on the fun.

I think I may have even gotten talked into learning to shoot a rifle and hanging out in the stand while the kids are at school...this could be interesting :)  Look out world...I'm going to learn to hunt!

Happy Thursday!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lemon Poppyseed Dressing

With all of the healthy veggies we've been harvesting, we've been doing a lot of salad dressing experiments.  Salad dressings are so easy to make, there is no excuse to buy the preservative/man-made chemical loaded versions from the store. This is one of the family's absolute favorite salad dressings.  Toss it up with some fresh lettuce, spinach, nuts or seeds, dried or fresh fruit and enjoy!  We even add some chicken, pan-seared fish or shrimp to make it a meal.


2/3 c. Olive Oil (I use organic extra virgin)
1/3 c. Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
1/4 c. Tbsp Raw, Local Honey (use less if you prefer)
1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard (use organic if it's available)
1 Tbsp Poppyseeds
1 Tsp Salt
Pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in a jar and shake well.

Tip:  Add 1/4 c. homemade mayo for a creamy dressing.  I will be posting the recipe for mayo soon

Homemade Mayonaise

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A few years ago, I had an epiphany--I realized that someone (or some machine) has to "make" all those packaged items we find in the grocery store.  Think about it...things like lemon curd (that was my epiphany item), hummus, evaporated milk (yes you can make that), yogurt and even mayonnaise don't just happen.  That's right, lemon curd does not grow on a tree...I had no idea!  No really, I just never stopped to think about it.  We had a pile of lemons that I was not about to let go to waste.  In my frantic research to find a use for them, I came across a recipe for lemon curd, tried it, and, amazing, it worked!  Even more amazing, it was delicious!!

So, my quest began.  I became determined to make as many of these mysterious foods myself as I could.  At that point in life, it was more for the financial benefits than our health.  Making these things yourself saves so much $$.   Little did I realize that I was also depriving my family of every American's right of passage...over-consumption of preservatives and additives.  It is amazing to me what goes into these "foods" that is not food at all.

Here's a sample ingredient list from a commercial mayo that you very well may have in your pantry right now, just waiting for you to slather it's Calcium Disodium Edta all over your innocent homemade wheat bread:

"Water, Olive Oil, Soybean Oil, Vinegar, Modified Food Starch, Sugar, Maltodextrin, Eggs, Contains less than 2% of Salt, Mustard Flour, Dried Onions, Dried Garlic, Natural Flavor, Enzyme Modified Egg Yolk, Beta Carotene* (Color), Lactic Acid*, Potassium Sorbate* and Calcium Disodium Edta As Preservatives, Phosphoric Acid* *Ingredient not Normally Found In Mayonnaise Contains: Egg."

I love the * note about  ingredients not normally found in mayonnaise.  You think?!?!?! 

There are all of FOUR ingredients in real mayonnaise.


1 Egg (room temperature...this is important)
1/2 tsp Lemon Juice (could use vinegar instead)
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
3/4 c. Oil  (Choose organic.  Could use olive oil, coconut oil or palm oil)

Yields ~ 1 cup mayo

Note:  This recipe becomes no work if you have a food processor.  The Cuisinart brand has a small hole in the bottom of the "pusher" (that is the piece that goes into the top of the processor to plug the tubular hole you use to add ingredients).  It works perfect to deliver a slow drip of oil into the emulsified egg.  You will just need a little patience if you don't have a this piece of equipment. 

Crack egg into food processor or mixing bowl.  Beat the egg using food processor or hand mixer.  When egg begins to fluff and turn a lighter yellow color, add lemon juice and salt.  Once salt and juice are whisked in well, slowly drizzle a thin, continuous stream of oil into the mixer while beating.  This is where the hole in the pusher comes in handy.  If you have one, just fill the pusher with oil and let it do the work for you.  Beat until oil is gone and tada...mayonnaise!

Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container (another great use for saved glass jars).  It will last for as long as your egg would have, so usually two weeks.  Ours never makes it any longer than that :)  Also, if your mayo does end up hanging out of a few, it is possible that it may "break" (the ingredients will separate).  This doesn't happen to store-bought mayo, because they add chemical emulsifiers to hold everything together.  If your mayo breaks, it's easy...just whip it up again.

Happy Mayo Making!! 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Best Christmas Morning Ever-Scavenger Hunt

I know I'm a little late on this post, but I figure, just like I needed, you will need a year to ponder it.

Last year, we decided to decrease the number of presents the kids received from Santa.  We went with the traditional three.  If three gifts were good enough for Jesus, then it should be good enough for us.  I was so used to the status quo, that the change really had me second guessing the whole idea.  Well, to my surprise, it went great!  We didn't put any restrictions on gifts received from grandparents that year, so of course (God love them), the children had more than any child needs come the end of Christmas.

A mere four months later, during one of my routine fits about children's rooms looking like Toys R Us lost it's lunch on their bedroom floors, I offered bags to fill with donations from their disaster recovery zones.  It was a momentary lapse of reasoning I had just seconds before my head would have normally started spinning and flames would have come flying from my mouth.  I don't know why I don't stop and allow rational behavior like that more often, because it always seems to work!  The kids filled four garbage bags full of treasure for Goodwill.  The pitiful part...much of the treasure was accumulated just four months prior for Christmas.  It was "less to clean up", they said.  That's when it really hit me...even three presents was too much!!  In the coming months as the new toys broke, ran out of batteries or just became boring, my theory was solidified.

So, this year we did something gift from Santa and one from each grandparent.  It took me a good week to get the guts up to sit the kids down and inform them of this new movement in the household.  To my surprise again, they were fine with it..."hmmm, weird," I thought.

So, how could I make this one gift thing not be the center of our Christmas morning.  I so desperately wanted the focus to be off the gifts and on Jesus.  Looking to my husband for some direction, another thing I need to do more often (I am way too much of a control freak sometimes), paid off big time.  He suggested a scavenger hunt....genius (he loves when I say that)!!

So, Christmas morning, one big box sat under the tree.  The kids were perplexed.  We made our coffee, prayed and opened the box.

  "What!?!?!  A flashlight???", the looks on their faces was priceless. 

Under the flashlight, was a clue.  Guided by the star shining from the flashlight and their bibles, the kids made like the Magi and took off on a hunt.  Each clue included bible verses that helped them find the next clue.

 One clue led to another...

to the neighborhood pond...

  the front yard, the neighbor's yard...

They even found hairy veggies.  It was pretty funny watching them try to figure out which of the front yard veggies had hair.  It took them a few to find our Veggie Tales nativity in the front yard.

And, finally, back to the tree where three gifts "magically" appeared while we were off hunting.

The verdict was in..."This is the BEST Christmas ever!", they all agreed. hypothesis was correct.  They didn't need a pile of gifts to make them happy...just a little family time enjoyed with our Savior.  Thank you Lord for sending your son to save us from ourselves!!! John 3:16

I've been watching the short movies on this website, and have really enjoyed them.  This one really hit home with me and fit in with a huge part of the reason we changed our Christmas morning this year. We've been making changes in our home based on these same theories over the past few years.  It's fun to see all the thoughts in a short film that even a preteen will understand.  Watch this one and check out their website too



Monday, December 26, 2011

Pantry Raid Part 3: Produce

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Ahhh...after a fun filled weekend spent celebrating our Savior's birth with all the family, we are finally home.  I'm one of those people that enjoy traveling for 3-4 days max and, then, I'm ready for my cozy bed and all the comforts of home.  I was reminded last night about just how blessed I am to have "the comforts of home".  Our travels brought us past quite a few homeless people, and as I was enjoying my hot shower last night with my favorite soap, the shower head I love so much and the smell of a fresh, clean, sun-dried towel I was reminded of just how blessed I am.  Those people we passed don't have the "comforts of home".  They don't even have the privilege of a hot shower every night or something we take for granted as much as a clean towel.   They don't have the choice to grow a garden in their yard either.  What a blessing to have even a small yard that we can give a function to other than just looking pretty!

We spent the day today enjoying that very privilege.  We enjoyed the morning in our yard pulling weeds, harvesting and planting new seeds.  Then, took a trip over to the community garden to do the same.  The best part...all our work brought home a bunch of yummy, fresh produce.  What a beautiful way to enjoy the day! Here's what we got out of the front yard alone...

Check out this fun Candy Cane Beet.  It's an old, heirloom sweet and festive!  We even eat the leaves of the beet...tastes just like spinach.

For lunch, we enjoyed the fruits of our labor.  Just add soft-boiled eggs and some local, raw cheese.


We love salads around here...even the kids love them!


Oops...caught :)!

God created our bodies to need lots and lots of fruits and veggies.  The average American gets two and half servings total of fruits and vegetables a day where we should be eating five.  Even worse, most Americans get their daily intake from nutritionally depleted fruits and vegetables.   "What?!?!", you say.  "Well, I'm fine...I buy fresh fruits and veggies.  No cans and frozen stuff in my house."  Nope...sorry, still depleted.

Let me explain.  The vegetables and fruits that you buy at your grocery store are shipped from all over the country, or worse, the world.  I never quite understood this problem until we grew our first crop of tomatoes.  First off, they were bright red, but never mind that...the taste blew my socks off!   I found it strange though, that they would sit on my counter-top for a few days and would already be starting to go bad.  How did the grocery store tomatoes sit around for a week or sometimes longer?  Not to mention, why do they not taste anywhere near the same as what was coming from my front yard??  Well, it's simple.  The tomatoes are grown with hybrid seeds engineered to give a certain shape, size, yield, color, etc, etc..  They are sprayed with chemicals to keep the bugs off, and synthetic fertilizers are added for a speedy growth.` Then, they are picked from the plant before they get to turn red and gassed with ethylene—a colorless, flammable gas (C2H4) derived from petroleum.  Picking tomatoes green and ripening them artificially is what makes them taste bad, according to Brett Clement, managing editor of Tomato Magazine.  

"Why?", you ask.  So, that the grocery stores can offer you inexpensive tomatoes all year round.  You see, tomatoes are grown and harvested only once a year.  In Florida, we can sometimes squeeze in a second season with a Fall crop, but for the most part, tomatoes are planted in the Spring and harvested in the early Summer.   As demand grew (or maybe our patience shrunk) to have access to tomatoes all year long, growers learned to use science to accommodate us. 

It's not just the tomatoes.  Most of all "fresh" produce you get in the grocery store is not in it's most natural state.  Something has to be done to it in order for it to look perfect, ship across country and still have a shelf life.  The more we "mess" with our food, the more nutrients we lose.  The longer it spends in shipping and sitting on a shelf, the more nutrients we lose.  The more chemicals used in growing it, the more our bodies are poisoned and become dis-functional.  All of these things effect the taste as well.  As we experiment with more and more varieties of veggie in our garden, I realize that people would eat their five servings a day if they could just taste what God meant for us to taste.

Ok, so you don't have a garden right now.  What are your options?  Your local farmer's market is the best place to start.  Not only will you be supporting your local farmers, but you will be getting the MOST freshness available without growing it yourself.  Now, let me insert a warning here.  Just because you visit a stand or farmer's market does not mean you are getting local, fresh produce.  Nor, does it mean it won't be grown with chemicals.  Ask questions.  Where did the produce come from?  Is it organic or pesticide free?  When was it picked?  Some farms can't afford or don't want the hassle of being organic certified, but they grow organically.  Ask.  Most of the time, you will be able to talk directly with the farmer, because they will be the ones selling it.  If they are offering produce that is grown properly, they will be excited to talk about it with you.  Most of them are passionate about offering a sustainable product that they can feel safe eating themselves as well.    

The next best place to go is your local health food store.  Most of these stores are concerned about sustainability and offer the very same produce you will find at the market or the closest version of it they can supply.

And, lastly, the grocery store.  I know organic is more expensive, but try it.  You will see what I am talking tastes better!  Americans are a little funny.  We won't hesitate to go out to eat fast food and spend $20 on on meal for the family, but a dollar or two extra on a produce purchase makes us blow a gasket.  As you are making these changes to your pantry, you will find that eating out (especially fast food) will become less and less appealing.  Then, you will have more and more freed up $$ to spend on healthier groceries.

We eat a ton of salads in my house during the Fall.  Mostly because of the bountiful bed of lettuce we get each year.

I know salad is one of those things we like to eat in the summer when it's hot and we want something cold and refreshing, but lettuce is a cold weather crop.  Why?....cause God made it that way :).

Try and eat your veggies raw as much as possible.  Cooking them is altering them from their natural state, and that decreases nutrients too.  If you do want to cook them,  less is more.  The more you cook them, the more nutrients and enzymes are killed.  Aim for 50% raw.  You will want to eat them raw when you taste a "real" vegetable...I promise! 

The next Pantry Raid...salad dressings!  What are your favorites??

Happy Eating!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Today's Catch and Harvest

This morning, Daddy woke the kids up at 6:30am (hence the bedhead in the pic) and whisked them off to go fishing.   Not only was it free time for Mommy (praise God!), but a perfect opportunity for Daddy sharpen the kids' skills.  I love that our kids are learning to live off the land with fishing and gardening.  It's so fun to watch them enjoy it!   Victoria was so proud to watch her fish get skinned and cooked up for the family.  

A quick stroll through the garden finished off dinner--Sauteed broccoli and cabbage with fresh red fish...yummo!!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Jesus!!

So, I'm talking to one of the little first graders at Sunday school and ask her if she's excited about Christmas break.  She was a cute, little, talkative thing that went immediately into rattling on about their vacation plans, what presents she was getting and the amusement parks they were visiting.  She got stuck on the present subject just long enough for me to squeeze in a question..."Who's birthday is it?".  She looked at me a little bewildered and asked if it was mine.  I said, "No", and asked a little differently..."Why is everyone getting presents?".  She told me because it was Christmas...I was waiting for the "duh" at the end of her sentence.  "So, what are the presents for?", I asked.  She looked at me with this blank stare and just sat there.

Well...What are the presents for??  I know this was a six year old that I was having this conversation with, but she sure understood all the activities she would be participating in, and the fact that some guy called Santa was bringing her gifts (and lots of them).  I get sad at this time of year to see so many kids just aren't getting it.  Shoot...I feel like I just don't get it so much of the time.  Christmas Eve and morning we read the story, go to church,  act generous with lots of gifts, feel a little more generous and cook something special to share.  It all feels so mechanical sometimes.

Every year, about a week before Thanksgiving, the feeling starts hitting me...I want to get it.  I want to spend the entire month 100% focused on nothing but Jesus' Birthday.  Then, it all starts...the parties, the baking, the gifts, the running...even this year while I try so hard to simplify all the festivities, I find myself still distracted at times.  I have to admit, this year has been a little different though.  In the heat of all the insanity, I found myself doing the insanity a little differently.  The pressure to get it perfect and make everyone feel like they are having this picturesque Christmas is gone.  It seems to be replaced with this joy of serving.  I've been enjoying the baking and even the cleaning up after baking because for some crazy reason, I'm not worried about perfection...just about making someone smile with a treat.  None of it feels like it is about pleasing or impressing people...just the shear joy of seeing them smile.  I know I only have prayer and God to thank for this peace I feel this year.    

I like to imagine the smiles of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the wise men.  I bet the animals were even smiling :)  I can't even begin to think about how the joy must have been spilling over at the moment of this not-so-perfectly-planned, not-so-perfectly-posh birth.  Jesus didn't need three baby showers, a decorated nursery, a swing, a bouncer, a jogging and walking stroller, a crib, expensive blankets, a closet full of clothes, pacifiers, bottle cleaners, wipe warmers....goodness, I've never tried to put all that stuff on paper's so much!    He just needed to be born.  It's His birthday!  He's the one all the hubbub should be for...not for us.  We've already gotten the ultimate present...Him!

So, the rest of the week as we finish up all the "to-do's"...or just plain old throw the list in the trash (my preferred plan :)) ...let's remember just who we are doing all of these things for.  As I re-prioritize and shrink the list of things everyone wants me to do and focus on what God is prompting me to do, I find more joy in the doing, because the doing and giving now becomes for Him...for His Birthday.  With each opportunity to serve, I am reminded of His birth.

Merry Christmas!!  And, Happy Bday Jesus!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Stopping to Smell the Flowers

Every once in a while, I get one of those days that I feel free to stop and smell the flowers.  These days are a true gift from God being that He's the only one that can slow my brain down enough to enjoy something as simple as a beautiful pink Echinacea flower.  Just a few moments of peace and quiet, alone in the garden can do amazing things for my sanity.  The pink flower led me to sit still and see past my nose long enough to notice some beautiful blessings today.

Even though we've made enormous steps towards a less complicated life, my A-Type brain can still get wrapped up in the details of a bunch of mind-numbing craziness that probably didn't matter in the first place, and, in the grand scheme of God's plan, ultimately won't matter at all.  Without stopping to smell the pretty, pink flower, I would have never seen this bee.  He has one collect pollen.  Nothing else matters to him at that moment.  He hardly even noticed the fact that he was about to make the internet.

It got me thinking about all the other plants in the yard.  All of them have one grow.  

This broccoli is not thinking..."hmmm...if I stop growing now, maybe I won't get eaten".  No, it's just busy growing.

Just like this cabbage.

This beet.

And, this squash.

So, as I lay under the palm in our front yard, probably looking like a freak to the neighbors,  I am blessed to find 15 precious minutes to learn from God's creation.  Imagine how simple life could be if I just bask in His promises of provision and focus (just like the bee) on nothing but my callings from God.

Matthew 6:27-34

Our garden helps "center" me...where is your "happy place"?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pantry Raid Part 2: Processed Sugar Alternatives

I am so excited to dive into the Pantry Raid posts!  I decided to start with one of the ingredients that I believe can be a game changer for so many people.  The average American accidentally consumes enormous doses of sugar everyday.  Not only do we knowingly add it to foods that we mindlessly devour, but to many's surprise, in some way, shape or form, it's in an endless number of items we find on the grocery store shelves.  

The main forms of sugar you will see in packaged foods are corn syrup and sugar (refined white).  These are the two least expensive sources of sweetness, so large manufacturers use them in order to keep their expenses down.  In fact, when you see the ingredient sugar, unless it clearly states that it is "cane" sugar, you are more than likely consuming beet sugar, which is less costly to produce.  Recently, the FDA approved sugar beets as part of the growing list of items that they are allowing to be genetically modified.  A genetically modified sugar beet is designed to be resistant to a chemical called glyphosate, or more commonly known as Roundup.  Roundup is a chemical weed-control made by a company called Monsanto that is sprayed directly onto the plants and the soil.  I could get into all the political insanity about Monsanto and their corruption, but let's just stick with the basics for now...the DNA of the sugar beet has been altered (genetically modified) by injecting it with the DNA of another species and it is basically grown in a bath of Roundup.  The result...toxic Frankensugar...not something I personally want to eat.   

While we're on the GMO (genetically modified organism) subject, let's talk corn syrup.  Corn is one of the largest commodity crops grown in the USA.  The majority of corn crops grown are not grown for us to eat summertime favorites like corn on the cob and creamed corn.  In fact, the strand of modified corn most commonly grown in the US is not even eatable in its natural form.  Hundreds of thousands of farmland acres each year are devoted to corn crops that produce nothing but corn syrup.  Like sugar beets, the corn is genetically altered and sprayed with Roundup and other toxic chemicals.   The chemicals really were enough for me to make a change, but if you're concerned that life may be altered without your daily dose of toxicity, you may be more swayed by the lack of research available to prove what effect mutated corn and sugar beets have on our bodies. Interestingly enough, diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes have been on the rise since the introduction of these test tube foods.

A slightly better alternative to the above sweeteners is cane sugar.  Cane sugar is derived from the sugar cane plant and is most commonly found on supermarket shelves in the form of white table sugar.  The liquid extracted from the cane actually has nutritional properties.  After chemicals are added such as phosphoric acid & calcium hydroxide, and it's centrifuged, carbon filtered, heated, crystallized, dehydrated, milled and  bleached, it's finally ready to be added to all your sweet treats.  The problem being that any nutritional value the sugar had prior to all that processing is completely obliterated.   Not to mention, your body does not recognize it as food at all.   This is what we call empty calories...a substance that has calories and contributes absolutely nothing nutritionally to your body.


It is possible to purchase a form of cane sugar in an almost natural state.  It can be found in health food stores under the label sucanat or Rapunzel (a brand name).  I find it in the bulk bins of our local health food store.  Sucanat is cane juice evaporated with low heat until it drys into a grain form.  It has the taste of brown sugar because it is in its most natural state without the molasses having been extracted.  Brown sugar is white table sugar with molasses added back into it.   Unlike brown sugar, sucanat still has all of the original vitamins and minerals existing in the cane juice.  I have used it in many conventional recipes, and it subs perfectly in most instances. 

There are a few other cane sugars you will run across on your quest to find a better sweetener.  Some of which being evaporated cane juice, raw sugar and muscavado.  All of these are just a less processed version of white sugar.  The less processed the better, so in a pinch, I would choose any of these (preferably organic) over white table sugar.  Choose organic over conventionally grown whenever you have the opportunity.  It's not only contributing to your health by eliminating pesticides, chemical fertilizers and GMO's, but this choice is also helping sustain the health of our farmland and ultimately our existence.

All of the above choices have a similar effect on your blood glucose level.  If you are looking for a sweetener with a lower Glycemic Index, choose local, raw honey or agave if you prefer a milder taste.  I personally use honey as my main substitute for sugar.  Measured as equal parts to sugar, I even use it to sweeten my morning coffee.  Honey with all it's uses is a true gift from God.  When the Isrealites entered the Promise Land, God told them it would be 'flowing with milk and honey'...thank you Lord for bees!  Raw honey may be a little more difficult to find, but will be well worth the hunt.  Try your local farmer's market first...someone there will be able to direct you to a local beekeeper.  It's raw because it hasn't been heated or "pasteurized".  When we heat any food beyond 118 degrees, we kill it's natural enzymes and other vitamins/minerals.  Eat as much food as possible in it's most natural state to maximize your vitamin and mineral intake.

As far as low calorie sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose my advice is to steer clear.  These are all synthetically produced sweeteners.  The basis of whole eating is to cut out processed foods.  These types of sweeteners are some of the most highly processed.  Some even stem from pure chemicals that were never a whole food to begin with.

Well, what to do next?  Start sifting through your pantry.  Read the labels and donate the foods you choose to remove from your repertoire of acceptable items for your family to consume.  As you start making the change to a more natural sweetener, keep in mind that large doses of good things can undo their goodness, so in other words...don't over do it.  Practice using less and less will be surprised how your palette adapts!!  I'm so curious what you find in your pantry with ingredients that surprise you the most, so leave your experiences in the comment section below!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Lower Heart Diesease by Lowering Phosphates

I was flipping through our local, healthy-living magazine "Natural Awakenings" yesterday (they are free and I find them at the library) and came across an article on phosphates being related to heart health.  "Researchers at The University of Sheffield, UK, have demonstrated a connection between high intake of phosphates and atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, a leading cause of heart disease." 

Phosphates occur naturally in many foods.  The good news is that we need a limited amount of them in order for our body to function properly.  Phosphorus helps our body to build strong bones and teeth.  As a matter of fact, 85% of the phosphorus in our bodies can be found in those two locations. 

The problem lies in an over consumption of phosphates.  As usual, too much of a good thing always ends up leading to something bad.  Processed foods contain some of the highest levels of phosphates.  They are added to these foods in many sorts of inorganic (chemical) forms...mostly as preservatives and flavor enhancers.  The word "phosphate" may not even be listed in the ingredients, because it comes in so many shapes, sizes and forms. 
I get this question a lot..."What is a processed food?".   The answer...anything that isn't in it's natural form.  Of course, there are mega-processed foods like soda, microwave meals, packaged baked-goods, lunch meats, salad dressings, marinating sauces and so many more.

So what to do?  Easy...cut out the processed foods.  Try it for a week and tell me how you feel.  I'd love to see some posts in the comment section about your experiences!  Don't get too particular and make yourself nuts.  Just take it slowly. Start with just buying products if the ingredient list is very short and you can read all the items on it.  For instance, I do like to buy kettle chips on an occasional whim (one day I will stop being lazy and just try making these).  The organic sea salt flavored bag has only organic potatoes, sea salt and organic palm oil listed as ingredients. This I can live with :)

Happy Eating!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Community Gardening

We are so privileged to have gotten a little piece of heaven in our local community garden.  As well as we've been able to garden in the front yard, we are still so limited by what our neighbors would consider "pretty".  Makes me wonder sometimes who came up with the concept of what a "pretty" yard should look like...darn you, Southern Living!!  I love that magazine, but, boy, does it ever brainwash us :)

Anyways...a few months ago, a local community garden opened up, and we scored one of the coveted spaces thanks to our good friend Matt.  Not only do we have a little piece of land surrounded by loads of our church family, thank you again Matt, but we now have a place to plant in rows.  It seems so crazy, but to see our little plants all in rows, thank you Mother Goose :), just makes me smile.  It's one of the things I love about living a simpler life and having the time to spend gardening..  I look forward to pulling into the parking lot and seeing all the beautiful, green rows of veggies.  It truly is like a slice of heaven.  I like to imagine that in heaven we all have a precious little piece of land to plant our veggies in little green rows that never need to be watered, never get any bugs and the soil is perfectly balanced.    Ahhh.....

But, in the mean time, we have the community garden....

We harvested some of the best turnips today.  We've never been able to grow them this big...

Dinner tonight:
Fried Gator Tail (hunted by the hubby)--used organic palm oil and fresh milled wheat flour
Collard greens with turnips (from the garden)
Baked French Fries--used organic russets

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Agave Marshmallows

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This one's for you Christine :)

A while back, I had mentioned being too lazy to "go into town" and buy marshmallows, so instead of taking the trek across the street (that's where "into town" is) i said...lazy, I made some.  I know, who has the ingredients to make marshmallows on hand? ...let's just say a couponing obsession perk :)

Homemade marshmallows are really yummy, and the recipe I used way back was tasty, but pure out wrecked havoc on the human body and environment!  The main ingredient in those marshmallows was corn syrup.  Which is derived from GMO corn.  I won't get too deep into the GMO subject right now (a more detailed post to follow), but aside from being ridden with pesticides and all kinds of chemicals, as well as political horror, it's just plain old bad for you.

So, when the very occasional hankering (because too much of anything, especially sweet anythings, still isn't "good" for you) for a marshmallow treat arises, like S'mores over a warm camp fire, there is an alternative.  It makes a great gift too!  I just whipped it less and jarred it as a marshmallow fluff...yum!

PS...If you LOVE the taste of honey, you can sub it out for the agave...I've done both and both are delicious! 


1 cup agave syrup (I use organic. It is a low-glycemic sweetener you can use in place of corn syrup)
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin or (1 Tbsp if you have a box of gelatin)
1/2 to 1 tsp vanilla (to your taste)
1/4 tsp sea salt
6 Tbsp cold water

1. In a medium sauce pan, combine cold water and gelatin, mix until dissolved. Add agave syrup, salt and  vanilla. Mix well, then heat to almost a boil. 

 2. Pour into mixer, mix on high for 15 minutes. Should be very stiff.  Have your pan ready with a light dusting of organic corn starch (organic corn starch solves the GMO problem) while this is mixing.  If you want to make your own marshmallow fluff, just don't beat as long and pour into a jar instead of pan when done.

3. Pour into floured pan and level with a spoon.  Let cool completely and cut with wet knife. If you really want a stiff marshmallow, put in fridge.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Famous Homemade Laundry Detergent

I can't even begin to count how many people I've passed this recipe on to.  I've got it from my friend Dana a few years ago originally as an alternative to expensive commercial laundry detergent.  As our household became more aware of the products we bought and how they effected the environment, it just added to my love for this recipe.

We make a conscious effort to steer clear of buying products with lots of packaging.  We do this in lots of ways...buying used, frequenting the bulk bins at the health food store, staying away from individually packaged anything, enforcing the use of water canteens and reusable coffee mugs, eating only fresh veggies,  hunting and fishing our meat instead of buying it, banning paper towels in our house...really just being aware of what we buy.  There are so many ways to reduce waste, and a little effort by all goes a long way!  Pick one idea or come up with your own, and try it for a may never go back :)

Even though we recycle, it still takes a process that uses energy, transportation  and emissions are still produced.  Don't get me wrong, recycling is MUCH better than throwing it "away"...just where is "away" anyways?   So, in the case of laundry detergent containers, our preferred method of the three R's (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) is to Reduce.  I triple the recipe, store it in a 6 gallon bucket saved from my bulk wheat berry purchases, and refill an old Tide container as needed. 

Before I give you the recipe, just a  few more bits of info I want to share.  This soap will not suds like commercial laundry detergent.  You will see a small amount of suds while you are making the soap, because soap does make a small amount of suds naturally.  The lack of suds does not mean it's not working.  Suds were actually introduced to soaps for marketing purposes.  We've basically gotten trained to seeing suds and think cleaning.  Commercial laundry detergent manufacturers use sodium laurel sulfate or some derivative of it as a surfactant.  That's what makes the suds.  Unfortunately, it is a proven carcinogen.   Aside from the surfactants, more recently, another set of chemicals being introduced called optical brighteners, are used to "trick" the eye into by altering ultraviolet wavelengths to make clothes look brighter. Studies have shown these agents are extremely toxic to fish and can cause mutations in bacteria. They can also trigger strong allergic reactions in humans when exposed to sunlight.  Last, but not least, commercial detergents contain phenols.  Phenols have been deemed toxic by the National Health Institute.  They can cause damage to the lungs, heart, kidneys and liver. They are very easily absorbed into the skin, making them especially dangerous. Phenols have been linked to serious health conditions and even death.  None of these are something I'd like to have touching my family's bodies all day or entering our waterways.

On a happier note, I like a little smelly good in my detergents...especially on towels and sheets.  I don't add it to my big batch, because I use vinegar as a fabric softener on my dark loads of laundry, and it neutralizes whatever scent I added.  Since I line dry my clothes, a fabric softener helps to do a dryer's work and remove any lint that tends to be visible on dark loads.   If you're not using vinegar as a fabric softener, feel free to add a few drops of essential oils to your detergent.  I like to use lavender, but get creative...try jasmine, lemon, eucalyptus, orange, geranium, rose, vanilla.  You can mix them or try them on their own.  Have fun with it!    

Lastly, I find all these ingredients at Publix.  The Borax is a little less expensive at Target, so if I'm there already, I try to remember to grab a box.  Did I mention, this recipe costs practically nothing?  I make a 6 gallon bucket of laundry detergent for under $5, and it lasts me at least 4 months (if not longer).

I know there are so many versions of this recipe out there.  This one worked right off the bat for us, so I never tried any others.  If you have a recipe you use, please feel free to post it in the comment section!!


1/3 bar soup (Fels Naptha or other types of soap like Zote )
1/2 a cup of washing soda
1/2 cup of borax powder
2 gallon size bucket to mix in

Grate the soap into a sauce pan. Then add 6 cups of water & heat til soap is completely melted. Add washing soda and borax and stir that til dissolved. Remove from heat; pour 4 cups of hot water (we just use out the faucet, as hot as it would get) into a bucket; now add your soap mixture; stir. Then add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water; stir. Use 1/2 a cup per load.

Happy Cleaning!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Pantry Raid-Part 1

A side effect to whole eating that I hadn't really put much thought into when we started making these changes was weight loss.  After three kids, I had spent two years getting back into a good exercise habit and was actually very happy with the condition my body had settled into.  I hadn't done too much with my eating habits aside from moderation, so it really caught me by surprise, because I wasn't setting out to lose weight.  I had people asking me almost on a daily basis, "what the heck are you doing??".   Honestly, it took me a few to really process what was happening.  I hadn't changed my exercise routine or the amount of food I was eating, yet, the pounds were dropping off like flies.  Even my husband who was already very fit compared to the average Joe also lost 10 pounds.

Basically, as we started becoming more conscientious about the foods we consumed from a green standpoint, eating more whole was just a natural progression.  The more whole we ate, the more our bodies adjusted to a healthier state.  The best side effect I've ever experienced! :) 

The first step was reading labels.  Sure, I had checked out fat and calorie content on labels.  I had even advanced to checking fiber and sugar information, but very rarely did I even glance at the ingredient list.  The more aware I became of strange ingredients like Butylated Hydroxyanisole (I can't even say that!), the more I couldn't imagine eating those foods anymore.  Go get a bottle of salad dressing from your pantry and read the ingredients...I dare you!  You will be amazed!  Just because I'm a little anal retentive, I started researching these ingredients only to find that I had been pumping our family full of chemicals and biologically modified foods (which is so ironic taking into consideration that I spent my early years out of college as a scientist in the industry responsible for these modifications...a whole other post coming on that subject :) ). 

The more educated I became, the better we ate.  Out with processed foods and in with organic, whole foods.  I think mostly because of the visible, physical improvements, I have so many people asking me about making healthy changes to their eating habits.  The big question--So, where do I start?

Every household is different.  Personally, I have a hard time diving right into anything, so we started gradually.  Our focus was really driven by our new-found knowledge of where our food comes from and what effects its production has on our environment.  

My goal with starting this blog back up is to be able to answer this question for as many people as I can reach.  Clean, whole eating can prevent and cure many diseases that have become common to our country, and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to share what I have learned!  I will be posting a weekly series called "The Pantry Raid" where I will be sharing all kinds of mind-blowing info on our food supply and baby steps on how to get your pantry in shape, so make sure you check in frequently for new posts!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The VERY Best Wheat Bread Ever

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So, I log onto the blog thinking it's only been a few months since my last post, and hits me like a ton of bricks.  I haven't posted anything in over a YEAR!   What hit me even harder was reading up on past posts and seeing how much everything has changed in a year.

It was fun to see how far we've come in our Big Life and our Little Garden in such a short time.  I am so excited to get the blog back up and running so I can share all the fun experiences and knowledge we've gained!  The change that struck me the hardest was that I've gone from the "queen of couponing" eating pretty much nothing but processed food and what we grew in the garden to becoming full blown, what most would call, health freaks.  Our quest to green our household has sent us on an amazing journey into the world of whole food living.  Quite some time ago, we had a chance to see the documentary "Food Inc.".  What an eye opener!  One documentary led to another and things started changing in or house faster than you could say "high fructose corn syrup".  Which, amongst many others, has become quite the buzz word in our house.  Lots of posts about that subject to come :)  

Amazing though...some things never change.  My last post was a precursor to the best wheat bread recipe ever.  Low and behold, what was I planning on posting when I logged on and discovered I was in denial about what a year really feels like?   ...The best wheat bread recipe ever.  Coincidence, I think not.  With all the changes to our eating habits, one thing has remained steadfast--homemade bread.

I started making our bread almost three years ago as a less-expensive alternative to store bought wheat bread.  I had found myself buying the cheap, store-brand, white bread and even in the midst of financial crisis was very sure that was a pretty unhealthy habit for my family.  Desperate to do the right thing and not break the bank, I started making my own bread.  For those of you who are cost-conscious and making the switch to healthier, you know that the jump from white to wheat flour is not the easiest to execute.  So, in search of the most cost effective solution and some advice from some great friends, I turned to milling my own wheat.

Over the years, I've tried and tweaked many different recipes, and  finally have a forever keeper.  This recipe makes either two one-pound loaves and a baguette, or two larger loaves.  I go with the two loaves and a baguette most of the time, not just because it's fun to watch the family fight over the baguette while it's still warm, but it also makes a nice, healthy addition to any dinner.

So...without further ado...the recipe

5-6 c fresh milled organic hard white wheat flour (*can use store-bought if you prefer)
3 c water or leftover whey from cheesemaking
4 Tbs dry active yeast
1 Tbs sea salt
2 Tbs honey (I use raw local)
2 Tbs organic olive oil

*if using store bought flour, I recommend King Arthur's Whole White Wheat Flour

In mixing bowl, combine 1 c flour, 2 Tbs yeast and 3/4 c water.  Stir with wooden spoon ~100 times.  Cover with clean kitchen towel and let set for an hour.  This is called the poolish.  After an hour, the mixture should have visible air pockets (bubbling).

Add the remaining 2 1/4 c water, 2 Tbs yeast, 4 c flour (reserving 1 c ) and salt.  If using a stand mixer, use the dough hook to combine.

Once all ingredients are well combined, add the honey and olive oil.

Your dough may look very wet at this point depending on the condition of the air in your kitchen.
If using a STAND MIXER, the dough should be forming a ball, but barely not sticking to the sides of the mixing bowl.  Add remaining flour as needed to obtain the right consistency.  On occasion, I have had to add more than the suggested 6 cups.  This happens mostly on a humid Florida day.  Allow the mixer to knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth.

If you are hand mixing, go ahead and turn the dough out onto a floured surface and continue adding flour as you knead the dough until the point where it is still sticky, but not sticking to the surface as you knead.  Knead until soft and smooth...about 15 minutes.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow it to rise until doubled in size.  This usually takes an hour or so.  Don't get nervous if it takes longer...the air temperature is a huge factor.

Heat oven to 450.  Punch down the dough, divide into two 1-lb loaves and a baguette or 2 larger loaves.  Shape, place in greased pans and cover until dough doubles in size again.

Lower oven to 350, place a pan on the bottom shelf of the oven with 1 c. of ice.  Bake loaves until golden brown on top and when tapped on the bottom sound hollow.  This can take anywhere from 20-45 minutes.

Remove loaves from oven and cool on cooling rack.

The baguette is great warm.  I do suggest allowing the other loaves to cool all the way before slicing to get a better slice.  The dough is still cooking until it cools off.  Loaves freeze well if they don't get eaten on baking day.  I double the recipe and freeze them to get all my bread baking done for the week.

Happy Baking!!