Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Preparing for Spring Gardening-Three Sister Planting

Pin It We spent a little time this Sunday at the community garden harvesting and planning out what and where we will be planting in the next few weeks.  It alway blows my mind that as soon as we are getting a real harvest from the garden, it's time to start planning and planting for the next season already.  It seems like yesterday that we planted these carrot and rutabaga seeds and so quickly, they are all grown up!  We got to bring them home and fill up the frig...what a beautiful sight!!

This year, we are trying a new style of planting that we have never had the space in the past to attempt.  The hubby has been chomping at the bit to plant corn since the day we put our first seed in the front yard.  With our limited space, we are always seeking out ways to get the most bang for our buck.  We've learned in the past, usually the hard way, how not to plant.  We've learned that three tomatoes in one pot are way too many, pumpkins can take over the entire front yard, peas need full sunlight.  Sometimes we just can't help but push the boundaries and experiment with how to cram as many plants into our little space as possible without effecting their yield.  This time, the Native Americans have done all the experimenting for us, and we will just follow instructions (if we can control ourselves).

Early Native Americans had spiritual beliefs that tied corn, squash and peas together in perfect growing harmony, but their very successful system has been passed down through early American settlers and still remains in practice.  Basically, the peas grow up the corn stalk and the squash fill in the ground below as a ground cover to choke out weeds and keep the soil moist. Genius!

Here's how it works:

You will need a 10 x 10 space divided into 3 rows.  Each row is 10' long and at least 18" wide.

Start Planting when tempatures at night reach the 50's.

Use the diagram below
B=beans (any pole variety)
S=squash (like yellow neck, zuchini, pumpkin, cucumber, etc)

Plant the corn in a square, each seed being 6" apart.  

Once the corn is about 4" high, plant the beans in a square fitting inside the corn 6" apart as well (3" from the corn plants).  For each "S" in the diagram, plant three seeds.  If all three germinate, pluck one so that you only have two squash plants between each mound of beans and corn. 

We planted our corn two weeks ago, and will be ready for beans and squash this weekend...lots more pics next week!!

Happy Planting!!


Monday, January 30, 2012

Pantry Raid #8: All Natural

Pin It As we move towards being a society that is more in tune with what exactly is in our food, all kinds of catch phases are popping up on food packaging everywhere.  We see labeling like "Gluten Free", "No GMO's", "No MSG", "No Preservatives", "No Additives", and my favorite, "All Natural".

What exactly is "All Natural" anyways?  Here's what the FDA says on their website....

"What is the meaning of natural on a food label?

From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is 'natural' because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances."

Raise your hand if you thought the label "All Natural" was regulated...insert hand raised here!

So, here's my experience this weekend.  We went to a party Saturday afternoon to celebrate a close friend's upcoming arrival of her second baby boy.  Parties are always a great place to partake in a not-so-clean eating experience.  I don't put restrictions on myself or my family members in these situations for lots of reasons, but mostly because it would make me a a big party pooper :)  Although, I am constantly amazed to find that wise choices are made for the most part by all of us, including my three year old.  They would all prefer to indulge in the fruit and veggies over the processed junk food.  I've even had to pry them away from veggie trays before just to make sure there was enough for the rest of the party goers.

Since the day was already "tainted" so to say, when the hubby's late night cravings took hold with a hankering for a sub, I didn't try to talk some sense into him, and off to the grocery store he went.  I blame it on the junk food he had been consuming all day--maybe his brain was a little hazy.  Nonetheless, he came home with two non-approved (I say that sarcastically...it just sounds funny) extras.  Apparently, a certain brand of kettle chips were on sale and he couldn't help himself :)

Side Note:  Kettle chips are one of my absolute favorite snacks and one of my only packaged food splurges.  An open bag in my house doesn't have a fighting chance.  We buy Kettle Brand Organic Sea Salt.  They have three ingredients (all organic) potatoes, oil and sea salt.

This set of imposters that came home in the hubby's grocery bag were a whole different story.  After looking at the label, researching exactly what the ingredients were, neither of us could stomach opening a bag.  Here's the kicker...both bags were advertised as:

At first glance, that doesn't look bad at all.  The only thing that jumped out at me was the canola oil.  Why?  Because I know that unless that bag says non-GMO, that is genetically modified canola oil.  Nobody knows for sure what genetically modified foods do to our body, but the research that has been done is not very encouraging.  Some scientists have proven that GMO foods are linked to many of our major diseases we face today.  It's a very politically touchy subject, so these findings are not yet advertised as common knowledge.   These websites are very informative on the subject

www. just labelit.org

I am working on an upcoming post that will better explain this subject as well.

Anyways...here's what a closer look at the labels told me.  

Two ingredients on this label stood out to me--Maltodextrin and Sodium Diacetate.  I didn't need to spend five years in college to get a piece of paper that called me a Biomedical Engineer to figure out that they didn't sound very "All Natural" to me.  

Maltodextrin is a sweetener.  According to wikipedia, it is "enzymatically derived from any starch".  The most common ones being corn (yikes, another GMO) and wheat.  Call me crazy, but isn't wheat a gluten??  The package did say "Gluten Free", but wikipedia also says that "maltodextrin is such a highly processed ingredient that the majority of the protein is removed, rendering it effectively gluten free".  I guess I can accept that, although I would question trusting it if I had gluten allergies.  Do I agree that maltodextrin is "All Natural"...absolutely not!  If wheat has been processed to the point that is no longer resembles it's former gluten-filled self, the chemistry has been so altered that you just can't call that natural in any way shape or form.   Have studies been done to see what this chemical does to our bodies before they put it on our grocery store shelves?  Yes, one German study that was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology proved that maltodextrin contributes to weight gain. BEWARE: Since it is such an inexpensive sweetener, it is VERY frequently used in the world of processed foods.   

Sodium Diacetate "is a compound with formula NaH(C2H3O2)2. It is a 1:1 mixture of sodium acetate and acetic acid but is also described as the sodium acid salt of acetic acid", as per wikipedia again.  I will let you decide how "All Natural" that is...you know what I'm thinking :)

Here is the second label.

Hmmm....Dextrose, Torula Yeast, Natural Flavors (Mesquite Smoke), Oleoresin, Citric Acid, Caramel Color.  Let's see...

Dextrose is a highly processed sweetener, like maltodextrin, that is produced from any starch.  Most of the time, it comes from cornstarch, a GMO.  Both maltodextrin and dextrose have very high glycemic index ratings, which screams DANGER in regards to diabetes.  Is it "All Natural"?  Like it's cousin maltodextrin, did God or science make it?  

Torula Yeast is an interesting ingredient.  Manufacturers have caught on to the fact that we have gotten smarter about what we are consuming.  MSG is one of the food additives that started this "revolution".   Remember the slogans "Once you pop, you can't stop", or "You can't eat just one".  That wasn't manufacturers just being full of themselves.  They knew they had a guaranteeing ingredient, because MSG messes with the function of your endocrine system and stops your appetite control.  In other words, your brain stops getting the message that you are full.  MSG is also linked to nerve disorders, headaches, reproductive disorders, lasting endocrine system and appetite control problems.  Once this became public knowledge, any company driven by morality would certainly remove THAT from their products!  Um, not all of them.  They just covered it up with a whole list of aliases.  One of which being torula yeast.  Ok, well, maybe it's natural???  Wikipedia says "It is produced from wood sugars, as a byproduct of paper production. It is pasteurized and spray-dried to produce a fine, light grayish-brown powder with a slightly yeasty odor and gentle, slightly meaty taste."   Yes folks, you are eating a by-product of the paper industry.  I used to live on St. Simons Island.  On a day when the wind blew just right, you could get a good whiff of the pulp mill where they made paper in Brunswick.  It is one of the most wicked smells you will ever lay your nose on...oh, I can't even think about it... that is just plain old gross!!!

Natural Flavors (Mesquite smoke):  One of the hubby's favorite summer past-times is spending his weekend on the driveway watching smoke billow out of the top of his barbeque smoker.  I've seen the process.  He burns some wood on one side, puts a piece of meat on the other, adds a whole lot of skill and out comes some of most succulent pieces of food I have ever placed in my mouth.  That seems like a pretty "All Natural" process to me.  So, you're telling me that this manufacturer put some potato chips in their ginormous smoker with some mesquite wood and got them some "All Natural" flavoring??  I think not, but can't see any other "All Natural" way to do it??

Are you grossed out yet??  I am!

Oleoresin is a "naturally occurring mixture of an oil and a resin extracted from various plants, such as pine or balsam fir."  That's pretty natural...I'll give them this one.  Where they come up with this stuff is beyond me though.  Let's go extract some resin out of that tree out there and put it on these potato chips...that'll be yummy!  Sorry, I can't help myself sometimes :)  

Citric Acid is a preservative....wait, I thought these chips had "No Preservatives".  I guess because it is a "Natural" preservative, it doesn't count.  Anyways, how is citric acid made?  I always thought citric acid was just lemon juice.  Boy, was I was wrong!  There is a less expensive way to make it.  Certain strains of mold, when fed sugar (GMO corn based is cheapest), produce citric acid.  "After the mold is filtered out of the resulting solution, citric acid is isolated by precipitating it with lime (calcium hydroxide) to yield calcium citrate salt, from which citric acid is regenerated by treatment with sulfuric acid."  Not so "All Natural" sounding to me anymore. 

Caramel Color:  Can I just say my brain is literally in pain after trying to decipher this one.  Caramel is made by heating a carbohydrate in the presence of an acid, alkalies and/or salt.  In commercial production, the carbohydrates permitted by the FDA can be "fructose, dextrose (glucose), invert sugar, sucrose, malt syrup, molasses, starch hydrolysates and fractions thereof."  The acids "are food-grade sulfuric, sulfurous, phosphoric, acetic, and citric acids; the alkalies are ammonium, sodium, potassium, and calcium hydroxides; and the salts are ammonium, sodium, and potassium carbonate, bicarbonate, phosphate (including mono- and dibasic), sulfate, and bisulfite."   Also, "food-grade antifoaming agents, such as polyglycerol esters of fatty acids, may be used as processing aids during manufacturing".  BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAAAHHHH!!!!!!!!  I said it, because I know you're thinking it :)   So, it boils down to taking an already highly processed sugar (carbohydrate) and adding more highly processed stuff to it to get some coloring to make your food look like what it really isn't.  Call it what you want, but I am surely not calling any of that mad-scientist, chemical, insanity "All Natural"!!

I just can't seem to shake this question...what in God's green creation is wrong with plain old POTATOES, SALT AND OIL?????  

The moral of my story??  Packaged food labeling can be VERY misleading.  The solution??  Read your labels, and let's go with the FDA's blurb on natural foods that I quoted at the beginning of this post.  Just steer clear of packaged foods with ingredients that you don't recognize as coming from the earth.  

Happy Monday!!


Friday, January 27, 2012

Carrots Gone WIld

Pin It This was our very first year attempting to grow carrots, which I found to be a little backwards, because according to almost everyone that knows anything about gardening, carrots are supposed to one of the easiest things to grow.  Last Spring, as I was drooling over all the gorgeous heirloom veggies in our seed catalogs, I just couldn't resist ordering the kaleidoscope carrots.  I've never seen such a beautiful assortment of carrots in my life.  The picture showed this amazing bundle of red, purple, orange, yellow and white carrots.  I thought all carrots were orange!!  Those heirloom catalogs never cease to amaze me!!

Anyways...this is what my carrots are supposed to look like.

And, here's what they ended up looking like....

"How", you ask?  Aren't carrots supposed to be easy to grow???  Well, because I was so desperate to have a perfect pile of brightly colored carrots, I babied the crumbs out of these little seeds.  The hubby thought I was nuts, but I was bent on getting a flawless pile of bright carrots just like the catalog showed.  So, I planted each little seed in it's own individual peet pellet.  Well, I take that back, two seeds...just for good measure.  I mean, what if I just put one and it didn't germinate?  Then, I would be a week or maybe two behind on the planting schedule and that would mess everything up, right?!?!?

When each tiny sprout (or two) poked it's head out into daylight, I paid extra attention, keeping it watered and facing the sunshine.  As they began to outgrow their pellets, they got transplanted into bigger pots and babied some more.  Then, when the weather was just right, and the seedlings were big enough to hold their own, we planted them in the front yard. 

Well, apparently, the thin mesh holding the peet pellet together doesn't really dissolve like we thought it did.  We've just never tried them out on root veggies before, so we have never pulled something small out of the ground that had been grown in one.   My poor carrots were grown around and under and in the mesh...it was so ugly!! 

The moral of the story...sometimes you have to just put the carrot seeds in the ground and let them grow.  A lesson on not trying to control everything for me, and two points for the hubby :)
I know I'm not the only total gardening failure out there.  Someone make me feel better with some of their stories! :)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Fall Harvest Chicken Salad

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Saturdays have unintentionally become our "food-centered day".  We are that weird family that still wakes up at 6am even though it's Saturday.  I'm thinking it's mostly my fault.  I have this crazy notion that if I am not up at the crack of dawn, I will sleep away my life.  So, before the sun peers over the horizon, I am in the kitchen banging around pots and pans making all kinds of wake-up-the-house ruckus.  One of these days, I will learn to cause a little less sleep disturbance when I wake up, and, just maybe, I could get one of those quiet mornings you see in magazines where the woman is sitting in her posh, cushy chair cupping her coffee mug with two hands, eyes closed...blah, blah, blah.  I guess I'd just rather be cooking. 

Breakfast usually leads to a stroll through the front yard garden, some harvesting, chatting with the neighbors, maybe a trip to the community garden, more harvesting, more cooking, more eating, the farmer's market, more cooking, a little more cooking and a bunch more eating.  That's it...a day in the Big Life :)

Last Saturday pretty much followed that schedule.  I got up with this overwhelming craving for beet greens, so off to the garden I went with a flashlight and my giant chef's knife to go collect some greens for our morning Sauteed Beet Greens and Portabello Mushroom Frittata.  I can't even begin to imagine what my neighbors think of me.  The kids probably think we're that house you need to walk on the opposite side of the road and run by.  Just kidding...they all love us...the kids even come inside and play with our kids :)  I will have to get that recipe posted soon...it was so yummy!

We wandered out to the garden after breakfast and harvested some carrots and beets.  That's when my brain starts churning..." a little chicken leftover in the refrigerator, chop up some carrots, a little beets, greek yogurt...", mid thought, I find myself running off to the kitchen, pots flying, pans banging...I have got to make me some chicken salad!!!

It turned out so good, I just have to share!  This would be a beautiful dish to serve at a Lady's Luncheon or Baby Shower!!  Although, the hubby really enjoyed it too!!


1 Candy Cane Beet, diced
1 Carrot, diced
2 Tbsp Green Onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp Chives, finely chopped
2 c. Chicken, shredded (I used organic, free-range--the taste is worth the price)
1/8 tsp Dried Tarragon (a small pinch goes along way)
1 tsp Sea Salt
Pepper to taste
1/4 c. Organic Greek Yogurt
1/4 c. Homemade Mayo
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar

Put all your veggies and chicken in a large bowl.  In a seperate container (I like to just throw it in a mason jar and shake) mix together the remainder of the ingredients.  Pour your dressing into the bowl and combine well. 

This recipe can be made ahead of time and refrigerated overnight.   Note: The beets may run if set overnight, so if you're serving this at a party or something and not looking for pink chicken salad, skip this step.

Happy Eating!!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

All Things in Moderation

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Every Sunday, the hubby and I have the privledge of teaching an incredible group of 4th graders in a Sunday school class together.  I have to tell you, this group of kids is such a perfect match-up for the two of us.  I just look forward to seeing their smiling faces every week and hearing all their crazy stories that they just can't wait to share.  They love to enlighten us on just what life as a 4th grader is really all about.  I love their energy and the unconditional joy that just floods out of them.  It really is a great experience every week! 

Each month, we study a "Virtue".  This month was Self-Control. Forget about the kids, I REALLY needed to hear this one!  I don't know how many times I catch myself in a situation that is quickly spiraling to a yucky place and can't be stopped unless some self-control takes the wheel.

I almost fell over when the bible verse related to this week's lesson was revealed.  Sorry, Miss Jen, you caught me...I didn't look at the lesson beforehand and did some winging it this week :)  Imagine my surprise!!

If you find honey, eat just enough-
too much of it, and you will vomit.
Proverbs 25:16

I had no idea that was in the bible!!  Of course this verse is about much more than just eating too much, which is my main downfall in life.  But, the basis is-too much of a good thing goes in, and bad stuff comes regurgitating out. 

Take for instance technology.  I spend lots of time on the computer.  The computer is a good thing.  I use it to work, blog, keep up with friends, run the household, read the bible...all kinds of good things.  Entirely too often, I find myself sitting on the thing for hours still doing "good" things, but something weird starts to happen.  It's like a hypnotic trance, and I can't focus on anything else but the pretty flashing screen in front of my face.  A kid or a hubby will come ask me a question, and I don't hear them.  Or, if I do hear them, the trance is broken, my head goes whipping around, and, 99.95% of the time, a big, fat "WHAT?!?!?!" comes erupting out of my mouth.  Yes folks, it might as well be vomit. 

Luckily, God's grace cleans up the big mess on the floor (which I am so grateful for, because doing it myself would make me gag), but that doesn't mean I should keep on like nothing just happened.  It just means I need some fruit, and not the find that grows on trees. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galations 5:22-23

Yep, that should cover it.  So, instead of sweeping my little mishap under the carpet, and hoping next time I can muster up a little self-control on my own, I will be praying for some of that sweet, ripe fruit! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Power Packed Peanut Butter Cookies

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I have this random memory of baking peanut butter cookies with my grandmother.   We were still living in NY, so I know I was under the age of five.  All I remember is sitting at the dining room table and using the fork to make the marks on the top of the cookies.  I can't remember eating them, but I remember thinking those fork marks were the coolest thing since ice cubes. 

Not really ice cubes, but in my world right now, ice cubes are very cool.  Our refrigerator stopped doing it's thing last week.  The repair man said it was a repair that his shop didn't do because of the risk involved.  Then, he said "Good news for the wife, she gets to go refrigerator shopping".  So NOT good news for me!!!  When he heard I was on the market for a new computer and replacing our frig was the least exciting thing I could think of, he gave us an idea that "could" work.  To make a long story short, we tried his idea of drilling holes in the wall seperating the frig and freezer.  The verdict...ice is now a commodity in my house!  The rigging works one day and not the next, so the ice melts and gets the contents of the freezer all wet.  It's a big mess.  The good news...I have a new computer!!   The bad news...I will probably have to one day soon, unfortunately, break down and go refrigerator shopping...urghhh.

Although it has given me the chance to clean out the frig.  Like the three containers of store-bought
hummus that expired a year ago that were still in there.  Might I mention, the gross part is I think they could have still been eatable!!

Anyways...back to peanut butter cookies!!  I used organic peanut butter I made at the local health food store.  They have one of those fun machines that you just flip the switch and out comes peanut butter.  I like this because I know that there is absolutely nothing in my peanut butter but peanuts.   It's also better on the environment because there is no manufacturing, no packaging and less shipping.  Then, my favorite part...it hasn't sat on the shelves so long that the oil rises to the top and you have to stir it back in.  The stirring thing drives me crazy!  It never stays in the container and I always have a giant, oily mess spilling down the sides of the container and all over the countertop.

Peanuts are an excellent source of Vitamin E, niacin, folate, protein and manganese.  The fat in peanuts is what you would consider a good fat promoting heart health and disease resistance.  Peanuts also contain high levels of antioxidants rivaling those of pomegranates and berries.  Just one serving a day can help an average American obtain important nutrients that they otherwise would normally be lacking with their daily eating habits.  Please note, I said one serving...because a good thing will always become a bad thing if you eat too much of it. 

Instead of sugar, I used raw, local honey.  Honey has a lower glycemic index and lots of great health benefits.  It is a great source of Vitamin C, calcium and iron.  It too is a wonderful antioxidant while also energizing and boosting the immune sysytem.  I vote honey as the best choice all around when it comes to sweeteners.  In this recipe, you don't have to use much, because the organic peanuts have a natural sweetness already.   That is tops on my list of favorites about organic food.  Who doesn't love a little natural sweetness?

To tip the scales and make these cookies perfectly healthy, I used fresh milled wheat flour, ground flax seed and the most beautiful free range egg I have seen in a while.  I wish I had taken a picture of this egg.  The yolk was this deep orangy, yellow color.  I'm thinking about my breakfast egg in the morning and hoping the rest of the carton is just like that! 

Let me just end by saying this is one of simplest cookie recipes ever!!   It would be a fun one to make (and eat) with the kids :). 


1/2 c. Organic Peanut Butter
1/4 c. Raw Honey (local if you can find it)
1 Egg (try to get these from your local farmers market, promise you will never go back)
2 Tbsp Organic Ground Flax Seed
1/2 c. Organic Fresh Milled Wheat Flour (store bought White Wheat or Wheat Pastry Flour will work too)

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix the peanut butter and honey together thoroughly.  Add the egg and mix in well.  Add flax seed and flour.  Mix until combined. 

Roll in 18 equal sized balls.  Press the balls flat using the back side of a fork to make the cool fork marks.

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet 10-12 minutes until lightly browned.

If you're having one of those days like I was and feeling a little spunky, melt down some organic 85% cacao chocolate and drizzle it over the tops of these babies...yummo!!!   I promise, you will be loving me for that new addiction :) 

Happy Baking!!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pantry Raid #7: Cow's Milk

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I started this post with the intention of encompassing all of dairy.  As I started typing, I realized I was on the verge of writing a novel.  There was no way I could fit all of that info into one post that would be short enough for anyone to read in one sitting while still feeling all warm and fuzzy about this blog :).  So, I decided to focus on cow's milk for now.

Dairy can be a touchy subject these days with all the lifestyle changes some are making like vegetarian and vegan.  Believe me, I've toyed with making those changes too, but I have been completely unsuccessful in my attempts to persuade my dairy loving family to turn from their ways.  I can't lie, my occasional hankering for some dairy ridden delights could knock me off the wagon real quick too.   I love cheese entirely too much to ex it out of my life completely.

I've seen the graphic documentaries exposing the horrible treatment of dairy cows.  For those of you on my facebook, you've been so blessed to see all the video links I've posted in relation to this subject too.  This might be a good place to insert a thanks for dealing with me and my facebook ravings :)  But, in all seriousness, it really is important that we understand where our food comes from.  Those animals are treated horribly all in the name of hot chocolate or a cheap grilled cheese sandwich.   On top of that, looking beyond the inhumane treatment is a flurry of antibiotics and other drugs they pump into our milk providing buddies.  Add in some pesticide (and God only knows what else) ridden feed, and you've got one big nasty mess.
So where does that leave us as consumers?  I spent quite some time just feeling plain old frustrated.  Any changes to this part of our grocery list was going to cost us majorly.  Needing to just do something, the place we could afford to start with was our milk.   Making the switch to organic was just a small baby step.  We are by no means exactly where I want our family to be when it comes to milk (this is a "we're almost there" project for me), but armed with this information can help us all make the proper decisions for our family and the environment when in comes to milk.


The only thing organic milk insures for me is that my family is not consuming pesticides, hormones and pharmaceutical drugs via their milk.  Unless I have had a chance to tour the farm my milk is coming from, the fact I am buying organic can not insure how the animals are treated.  Most likely, the milk I purchase at the grocery store comes from a giant vat fed by farmers all over the country.  My gallon of milk could come from a gazillion different cows...crazy, huh?

Milk purchased in the grocery store, including organic, is also pasteurized/ultra-pasteurized and homogenized.  Pasteurization is the process of heating milk to a specific temperature and quickly cooling it.  They do this to kill pathogenic microbes that can cause disease.  Why is pasteurizing necessary?  When you have 1000's of cows packed into warehouses, all lined up and hooked to milking machines whose milk is then moved by truck in tanks to a processing plant where it is added to milk from other farms, processed and bottled, there is no way that you can insure cleanliness.  It's just too much product being handled by too many people.  So, to solve the problem, milk gets pasteurized. 

Pasteurized milk, like all other foods we heat up, loses nutrients and enzymes (i.e. the good for us stuff) during the pasteurization process.  Now, to take it a step further, some milk is ultra-pasteurized.  It is heated to an even higher temperature which kills pretty much everything, but this dead milk has a heck of a shelf life.  Good for the manufacturer, and bad for you.  Of course, because putting back a fake version of what you took out in the first place is always the right thing to do (sarcasm here), Vitamin D and A are added back in.

Homogenization is a little more complex.  You see some silly person along the way thought it would be nice if they didn't have to shake their milk before drinking it.  By nature, milk fat rises to the top of the container leaving the bottom pretty much skim milk.  In order to distribute the fat, the milk must be agitated.  So, a process was developed that broke down the fat globules into smaller pieces to be distributed evenly through the milk without having to shake it.  Essentially, it stays emulsified.  The chemistry that happens in your body after drinking the milk is so complicated, I don't even want to begin to try and describe it.  It boils down to excessive proteins in our blood stream.  Basically, homogenized proteins become so small that instead of being digested, which is what normally would happen, they bypass the digestive system and are floating around in our blood stream.  Since cow's milk proteins are so similar in chemistry to human's, the body treats them as excessive human proteins which, in one way or another, can trigger diseases like milk allergies, diabetes, heart disease and autoimmune disorders.   Yuck!


The option a step more healthy than organic milk is non-homogenized milk.  I find it at our local health food store.  Finding a local dairy that offers milk in this stage is the best alternative.  This way, you know where your milk comes from.

As far as pasteurization goes,  it is illegal in most of the US states to sell unpasteurized milk unless it is labeled for animal consumption.   I won't get on my rant about that right now.  If you can find a local dairy farmer that offers raw milk for animal consumption, make sure you have done your research.  The government is not all wrong in agreeing with pasteurization.  If your farmer has not handled their milk as clean as possible, you do risk getting sick from drinking it.  Do the benefits outweigh the risk?  That is for you to decide.  In my family, we drink non-homogenized, raw or organic depending on availability.  I'd prefer to just have a cow in the backyard, but at this point in time, that is just not an option.  If we had direct access to a very local farmer who let us tour the facilities and offered raw, for animal consumption milk, my cat's ;) would be drinking only that.


Some argue cow's milk shouldn't be for human consumption, period.  That's where I go running to the Bible.  There's a lot in there about food!  The Bible says God provided the Isrealites with a Promise Land.  God called it a land of "milk and honey".

Ezekiel 20:6  In the day that I lifted up mine hand unto them, to bring them forth of the land of Egypt into a land that I had espied for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands:

This is certainly not the only place God refers to the Promise Land as the "land of milk and honey".  He says this over 20 times when He talks about the Promise Land.

So, is He referring to cow's milk??

2 Samuel 17:29 (NIV)  honey and curds, sheep, and cheese from cows' milk for David and his people to eat. For they said, "The people have become hungry and tired and thirsty in the desert."

So, rewind in time.  Were cow's pumped full of drugs, hormones and pesticides back then?  Nope.  Was milk pasteurized?  Nope.  How about homogenized?  Nope.  Were cows fed grains?  Nope.

Side Note:  Cows are not created to eat grain.  It messes with their stomachs and causes things like e-coli.  Huh...another mess we've made of our food system.  Cows should be fed grass, so look for milk from grass fed cows.

Psalms 104:14   He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate-- bringing forth food from the earth:   ( I love this verse!!)


Some could argue that people back then didn't live as long as they do now.  Tell that to Moses.

Deuteronomy 34:7  Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.

My point being...just start somewhere.  This is a subject that we still have not fine tuned in my family as well.  A goal this year for us is to get closer to cutting organic, grocery-store milk out completely.  Our local farmer's market has a farmer that offers raw goat's milk.  We will be giving that a try when she has stock.  Another plan is to start making our own almond milk (the grocery store stuff is way too processed).   I figure between goats, cows and almonds, we should be able to completely kick the over-processed, grocery-store milk without a problem.

I know that was a lot of information.  Please don't let me discourage you if you are making the switch from conventional to organic grocery store milk.  That is still an extremely beneficial step!!!

Happy Monday!!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Healthy Homemade Graham Crackers

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Graham Crackers have always been one of those things I like to keep in the house.   Back when I was completely obsessed with coupons, I always had at least 10 boxes stored away in my pantry.  Taking into consideration the plethora of uses for them, who could help themselves at a dollar something a box.  What are some of your favorite uses for graham crackers? 

Why make you own though?  Because I have become nothing short of amazed with what is really in packaged food, I couldn't help but check this out.  Here's the ingredient list from a popular brand off the store shelves:


At first glance, it looks pretty good...honey, wheat flour...there's even some soy in there.  That's good for you right?  I'm not saying this is the most unhealthy item you can feed your family, but a deeper look reveals the reality of what's in these guys.

A few major items in their ingredient list stand out to me...Enriched flour (at least it's unbleached), hydrogenated oil, sugar and artificial flavor.  I'm not in love with the soy lecithin and cornstarch either, because they are GMO. 

Unbleached, Enriched Flour: I talked about this flour in my wheat flour Pantry Raid.  Unbleached is definitely a good thing, but that's where it stops.  A way to simple way to sneak extreme nutrients into your family's diet is milling your own wheat.  There is the upfront cost of the mill, but it will pay for itself very quickly in health and savings on store bought, "fake" flour.

Hydrogenated Oil:  I also talked briefly about these oils in a Pantry Raid.  These are your man made trans fats...very dangerous!  I could go into all the science and bore you to death.  I might do a post on that one day for all my fellow nerds :).  The basics are that they harden arteries, contribute to diabetes, MS and cancer.  That's one big, FAT YUCK!!!

Sugar:  That was another Pantry Raid.  White table sugar is nothing but empty calories, basically a chemical substance.  Not only does it have zero nutritional benefit to us, but it is also a major contributor to disease (especially diabetes).

Artificial Flavor:  Last, but not least.  Someone please tell me what an artificial flavor is??  As defined in the Code of Federal Regulations, "a natural flavor is the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional." Artificial flavors are those that are made from components that do not meet this definition.  So, again, where the heck does an artificial flavor come from??

With that said, I think I will stick to making my own graham crackers.


1/4 c. Organic Butter (1/2 stick), melted and cooled
1 Organic Egg, beaten
6 Tbsp Raw Honey (local if you can find it)
2 Tbsp Water
3/4 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
2 1/4 c. Organic Graham Flour (this is fresh milled wheat flour, use store bought whole wheat in a pinch)

You really can't mess this recipe up. 

Preheat oven to 350.


Sorry, couldn't help myself...just love to look at butter.  Melt butter and let it cool.  Add honey.  Mix thoroughly.


Add egg.  Mix thoroughly  Add water.  Mix thoroughly.  Add salt, baking soda and flour and mix until combined.

Put dough in refrigerator to harden up a little (about 30 minutes, can leave overnight if needed).

Divide dough in half.  Flour rolling pin and rolling surface.  Roll out 1/2 of dough to about an 1/8" thickness.   Score the dough into rectangles.  Prick with a fork just to make them look pretty.


We're not looking for perfection here...remember, they are homemade, which makes them special.  You can even use cookie cutters and make them into fun shapes if you're feeling spunky :)

Transfer to an ungreased baking pan.  Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Bake for 15 minutes or until a golden brown.  They will crisp up as they cool.  Store in an air tight container to keep them crisp.

Happy Baking!!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tour de Front Yard Garden

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I sometimes have to laugh when I reflect back on what our front yard looked like when we first moved into our home. Lots of grass, a palm tree and some boxwood shrubs under the kitchen nook window. Can you say....BORING! We added a little color here and there, but the big fun started when we planted our first set of collard greens.

That seems like light years ago, but it was really just a few years ago.  Now, the yard is just a treasure trove of precious, little, edible plants nestled around and under what appears to be "real" landscaping.  I just love to watch passers-by stop and stare.  Some of them just can't help themselves,  I see them stepping onto the pavered paths to peer deeper into the billows of greenery to confirm what they think they are seeing.

Yep, that's a cabbage :)

What are the odds...as I'm sitting here writing, I spotted a set of those passers-by.  The hubby was outside and always loves to chat and share a little love with amazed neighbors.  These ladies left with a bag full of greens.

When you spread the love, it comes back a hundred fold.  This was on my doorstep this afternoon.  It is such a gift to be able to share our blessings.  We never expect anything in return, which makes it that much more special when something like this shows up at the door.

Another favorite thing about our yard is how it morphs each season into a completely different kind of beauty. 

Spring 2011

Fall 2011

Sometimes, for a month or so, there will be a patch of bare soil just waiting for tiny seedlings to pop up from the darkness below.  This is our neighbors little space.  It is so exciting to me that they've gotten in on the fun!!

Then, in a matter of weeks, little sprouts become maturing plants holding promises of edible delight as they bask in the warm rays of Florida sunshine.

Lettuce sprouts

grew into lots of salads for us all Fall with more to come.

No matter what the season, I can count on knowing that a whole different array of delectable goodies will be on their way soon, and I will be blessed to participate in the joy of watching them grow from seed to table.

Here's a glimpse of this Spring

What will you be planting this Spring?