Friday, November 13, 2009

Falling for fall

Even though the sun is shining and it is a balmy 60 degrees here, it still feels like autumn. The changing of the season signals a change in our appetites and I crave root vegetables, pumpkin dishes and apple-ladened desserts. These foods taste better because they are in season. The spotlight shines on them because this is exactly when we are supposed to be eating them. With the new food technologies we have today, we can eat just about any fruit or vegetable we want any time of year. Just because we can, doesn't mean we should. Out-of-season foods can be genetically modified, full of chemicals and artificially ripened so that they can make the long journey from places such as New Zealand and Chile to our local supermarkets. Local fall harvests produce the sweetest and crispest apples, richly colored root vegetables, pomegranates (my favorite!) and cool season squashes and pumpkins(Click here for a wonderful pumpkin waffle recipe). Look for them this month and you will find that they are economical as well as tasty. The photo above was an organic mixture of red and gold beets, orange and yellow baby carrots, rutabagas, turnips, onions, garlic and celery roasted with olive oil and salt. The juice from the red beets tinted everything with a rosy blush and the mixture was delicious. Is it weird to find vegetables so beautiful that you want to take their picture? Probably, but I am past the age of worrying if people think I am weird.

The chickens are getting very close to egg-laying age and I was delighted that our local feed store ordered organic chicken feed for me. As much as a desired to be able to label my eggs "organic," I now realize that their truly is no such thing. Chickens eat bugs. For some of you that may be disgusting but it actually makes for better quality eggs in flavor and nutrition. I cannot guarantee that these bugs are only consuming organic food and not all fruit and vegetable scraps I throw out to the girls are organic. They also require ground-up oyster shells for calcium and I have yet to see organically-certified oysters. I will do my best but unless I lock them in a hermetically sealed container, they will continue eating any insects that come in their path and that is just another perk of having pet chickens.

This Veteran's Day we took a day-trip to a working date farm. I have never cooked with dates and hardly even tasted them but it did inspire me to make some date-nut bread and to learn more about their nutritional benefits. There are so many good things about dates that I don't want to bore you by listing them all here. If you are curious to see what is so good about them, click here. I will say that they are a good source of fiber, loaded with vitamins and minerals, used as medicines in some cultures and are in season right now. The date-nut bread was well-received by my family and friends and I have added the recipe for you below.

Since I began this journey, I have noticed that organic products are more prominently featured in regular supermarkets and the prices are dropping. The more we buy, the more the stores will respond with variety and sales. When I was watching a bonus feature with Michael Pollan on the "Future of Food" DVD, he was asked why organic food costs so much. He responded, "What you should be asking is why the other food is so cheap." Americans spend less of their income on food then they ever have but have no problem with spending hundreds of dollars a month on cell phone and cable bills. We have become complacent with food quality standards and rely too much on the government to protect our food supply. I highly recommend watching "The Future of Food" and "Food, Inc." which is also on DVD. It's time America knew what we are really eating and the long-term consequences that will result from it.


3/4 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups chopped dates
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 large eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl, pour hot water over dates and butter. Stir and let the mix sit until lukewarm. In a food processor, puree 1/3 of the mix to make a paste. Stir it back into the bowl full of date mix. Add the brown sugar, molasses, vanilla, and eggs. Stir until combined.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the date mixture. Mix together and and fold in walnuts. Pour the batter into a butter-greased loaf pan.

Bake for 60 minutes or so; loaf is done when the top has risen. Remove the bread from the oven and cool it on a rack for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Soup's On!

Sometimes I will allow my mind to wander and imagine would it would have been like to live during a much simpler time. A time where you stayed closer to home, spent more time together as a family, grew your own food and didn't worry if you had granite countertops and stainless steel appliances...then my phone alerts me to an upcoming appointment or the microwave beeps because my lunch is ready. It would have been so much easier to eat the way I want us to eat if it was all that was available to us. Unfortunately, we are living in a much more "convenient" time. Honestly I would prefer not to trade my washing machine and SUV for some rocks in a creek and a horse-drawn wagon, but I wish I had never developed a taste for processed convenience foods. No matter which organic, all-natural macaroni and cheese mix I buy, it never tastes as good as Kraft's. Even though I have no trouble baking from scratch, sometimes you just need to throw a package of Oreos in the cooler when you are packing a picnic. I actually did get the Oreos today, not caring what they were made out of but instead focusing on the creamy yet granular mystery filling sandwiched between two dark chocolate disks that stuck to my teeth when I chewed them. Good for me? Definitely not. After I ate a few I decided to read the ingredients so that I could feel sufficiently guilty. I discovered that Nabisco has replaced the hydrogenated oil with high oleic canola oil. I have never heard of this before and even after googling it I am still not sure if it is good for you or not.

I have just about run out of my grass-fed beef order and have decided that I will not be getting that package again. Cooking the roasts and ground beef have been easy, but the other cuts have definitely stressed me out. It is very easy to ruin a grass-fed steak. Our new refrigerator came with an Omaha Steaks gift pack and I was so excited to cook the grain-fed sirloin steaks tonight. I knew I could just season them and throw them on the grill and they would be cooked just the way we like them and taste just how we expect them to. From now on we will be ordering only grass-fed ground beef since this is the type of beef we eat the most of, it is almost impossible to ruin and it is the cut of beef most likely to cause illness from e coli bacteria when it comes from grain-fed cows.

Isn't amazing how the changing of seasons ushers in a changing of appetites? Even though it was a 90 degree October day here in Vegas, I still yearn for desserts made with pumpkin and apples and hearty soups. Soup is one of my favorite meals. You can pack lots of vegetables in it that your kids will ignore if they were just side dishes on their plates and they are so easy to throw together. If you are missing an ingredient or like something so much you want to have more of it in your soup, chances are the soup will still taste good. Any leftovers go into my kids' lunch boxes in their handy little thermoses. Our first soup of autumn was a family favorite: lasagna soup. I was even able to use spinach from my garden (yes, the fence is still keeping the chickens out of the garden so things are actually growing!). If you would like to make your own, pickup a baguette of crusty french bread or a lovely ciabatta loaf and prepare as follows:

Lasagna Soup
1 lb. ground Italian sausage (mild or spicy, you choose)
2 cups onion, chopped
1 cup carrot, diced
2 cups button mushrooms, sliced
2 Tablespoons garlic, minced
1 can tomato sauce (15 oz I think)
4 cups chicken broth
1 can chopped Italian-style stewed tomatoes (14 1/2 oz)
1 cup of bowties, medium shells or similarly sized shaped pasta
2 cups of fresh baby spinach
1 cup of provolone or fresh mozzarella, diced (I use provolone and the more it smells like dirty feet, the better it tastes in the soup.)
1/4 cup shredded parmigiano reggiano cheese (If you don't have some just use the Kraft stuff)
4 teaspoons thinly sliced fresh basil

Brown sausage in a large soup pot. Add onion and carrot and saute for about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic and saute another 5 minutes. Add broth, tomato sauce and stewed tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook until soft. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Divide cheese cubes in individual bowls and pour hot soup over them to melt. Top with parmigiano reggiano and basil.

Feel free to omit the mushrooms if you don't like them. Throw in an extra cup of pasta instead. Use the crusty bread to sop up the remaining tomato-ey goodness.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Allergy warning: This post contains peanuts or peanut products!

I confess, I have been a lazy blogger. Sometimes I just don't have anything to say so I would rather provide quality rather than quantity to your reading experience...

When you choose to go against the grain with your family's diet, it sometimes feels like a job. All labels must be read, you can't grocery shop at just one store if you want to get the best deals and a lot of the food you bring home gets rejected by your love ones whom you are trying to nourish. As if that isn't enough, instead of earning a paycheck, you actually have to pay more! I expected my kids to avoid any illness this year because of their healthier diet, but as I am writing this, I am home with a boy who has been sick for the last five days and had to receive intravenous antibiotics as part of his treatment. If not for this blog, I am sure I would have given up about a month ago and resume the easy way again.

Since I have not given up, I will share with you what I think is the tastiest peanut butter I have ever had. I always assumed that peanut butter was ground-up peanuts and maybe a little salt. After reading the label on my jar of Skippy, I discovered that in addition to those ingredients it also contains partially-hydrogenated oils. This discovery led me to look for a more natural peanut butter. In fact, I made it myself; well sort of. In the bulk food section of Whole Foods, there are about four machines that freshly grind nut butters. Just for fun, my kids made some regular peanut butter that ended up costing a little over $3 for a 16 ounce container. It is delicious on a PB&J, and even better spread between two milk chocolate stars!

The more I have been using the pastured butter from U.S. Wellness Meats, the less I think I need it. It is very salty and seems to be similar in flavor to organic butter. It also is sold in 1 pound blocks which makes measuring more difficult. I gave it shot but when it runs out it won't be gracing my fridge anymore.

Our chickens have been thriving but I must confess they aren't terribly bright. The compost pile is up against a wall and they have been using it to climb up to the top of the wall. I discovered them walking on the wall behind my garden and grew very concerned that they would jump down and eat everything in it again. I shooed them off and didn't see them up there for a couple of days. Since they are chickens, I had hoped that they forgot how to do it and it wouldn't be a problem. Unfortunately they did it again today. I came into their area of the yard and found one chicken in the backyard (Maddy who is in the pic) and the other five in the front yard looking into the backyard through the gate. Then when I opened the gate to let them back in, they just stood there like poultry statues. It is a miracle that one of the neighborhood cats did not discover them and I am tremendously thankful. It made me realize the importance of boundaries. In the Bible, God tells us things we shouldn't do. He doesn't forbid these things because He is out to spoil our fun and give us a boring life, the boundaries protect us from doing things that will hurt us or hurt others. Like the chickens, we ignore the boundaries that are there to protect us. Sometimes we are okay, like the chickens were this morning, but other times the consequences are much more severe. I guess chickens and people have more in common than I thought.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Would you like some pesticide with that produce?

I have just returned from a weekend ladies' retreat with my church where I might have broken every dietary rule. Somehow, when you load up the car with six friends and set out on a road trip, you feel entitled to eat whatever you want. For the fleeting pleasure the junk food gave me, I brought home 3 extra pounds and a disgruntled digestive tract. Maybe I would have done better if I hadn't stopped at Tom's Farms on the way there and the trip home!

We have constructed what I lovingly refer to as the "monster chicken fence." This 8 foot barrier has protected my young garden from my young chickens. They tried to find a way in at first but seem to have resumed their previous jobs of picking through the compost pile and leaving "presents" on my pool deck. It will all be worth it when they laying eggs in a few months.

My cookbook for grass fed beef has arrived and I have successfully prepared two of the recipes. One of the secrets to a tender steak is marinading it in unfiltered organic extra-virgin olive oil. Apparently, when olive oil is unfiltered it contains enzymes that tenderize the meat. I was amazed that I could even find such an obscure ingredient but they actually had three different kinds at Whole Foods. It has a great aroma and seems slightly thicker than regular olive oil.

I also received my first order from U.S. Wellness Meats which included free-range chicken breasts, pastured butter, ground beef and a couple of skirt steaks. The pastured butter is supposed to taste better and is the recommended fat to cook the grass fed beef in. The taste reminded me of butter that I used to have when I was a kid. I was almost out of the ground beef from my last order with Grassroots Meats so I purchased 5 pounds from them to supplement because I am not ready to place a full order yet. The author of the cookbook claims that grass fed beef's flavor changes with where the cows are from. For example, cattle raised in Colorado will taste different than cattle raised in Missouri. Since the animals exclusively eat the plants that are available where they are pastured, their varied diet creates different flavors in the beef. I haven't cooked it yet but I am curious to see if it is true.

I believe it goes without saying that the healthier food cost more and yet here I am saying it again! Since I started this, it has gotten easier to pay more and buy less but if you are not interested in a radical food makeover and need some baby steps to change your family's eating habits, check out this slide show which exhibits the foods that contain the most pesticides and chemicals and the ones that are safe to eat when they are conventionally grown. There are many naysayers that will tell you that it is impossible for organic produce to be completely organic and that it is a scam. Since our soils have been saturated with chemicals from conventional farming it may be true but at least these farmers have changed their methods to make fruits and vegetables more nutritious and less artificial. Organic produce has not been genetically modified, takes longer to grow (which allows it to draw more nutrients from the soil), and does not have chemical fertilizers or pesticide residues. If you are wondering if these compounds are safe for you, read the warning labels on these products at your local nursery. These are diluted compared to the industrial-grade versions. Up until about 60 years ago, food was grown with healthier methods but corporate farming has corrupted the system and our food supply has been compromised in exchange for higher crop yields and more profits. Whenever you are able, send a message by purchasing "real food."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

If they weren't so cute...

The other day I was admiring the progress of my garden. My seeds had turned into plants that were beginning to show a lot of promise. One variety of lettuce was actually large enough to start cutting leaves off. After examining its progress, I thought I would snap a few pictures for my blog but there wasn't enough time before I had to pick my kids up at school. I arrived home about an hour later to discover that my garden had vanished! There were a couple of trampled and pecked seedlings left but basically it looked like I hadn't planted anything at all. The chicks ate the whole thing! It was quite the gamut of emotions running through my mind: shock, anger, bewilderment, denial and finally sadness. I knew chickens and gardens didn't mix, but I mistakenly believed that I had more time before they discovered mine. The good news is that there is still time to plant again and they also ate all of the little weeds that were starting to sprout. My husband built a fence around it for me and I am ready for my second attempt. Thanks Jodie for sharing your broccoli rabe seeds with me.

This week I picked up an all-natural turkey breast at Sunflower Market and prepared it in the crock pot using my grandma's recipe. It was by far the best turkey I have had in my entire life. I am not sure if it was the quality of the meat or the preparation method but it was moist, juicy and full of turkey flavor. If you pick up your own, try this recipe out:

1 Turkey Bone-In Breast or half-breast
1 Stick of butter
1 Onion cut in wedges
About a cup of Baby Carrots
Salt, Pepper and Thyme to taste

Place onion and carrots at the bottom of the crockpot. Put pats of butter underneath the skin of the turkey and sprinkle salt, pepper and thyme under the skin also. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Slice and enjoy! It is even tastier if you pour the juices on top of the meat and vegetables before you dig in.

I have finally finished Real Food by Nina Planck and have become obsessed with saturated fats. According to her research, animal fats such as butter and lard are not bad for us, it is the manufactured vegetable oils that we need to stay clear of. It's crazy and goes against what we have been taught our whole lives but if you read the book it makes sense. It is how humans have been eating since creation. Currently I am on a mission to track down leaf lard which is supposed to be the finest for frying and baking. She even cites research that saturated fat speeds up metabolism! If my family starts looking pudgy and sick, you will know that this information was incorrect. Until then, pass me some more whole milk please...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A whole-wheat recipe that wasn't gross...hurray!

I have spent my whole life eating processed refined foods and so have my kids. Because of this, some of our new healthy recipes are not always well-received but that is not the case with this one: moist whole-wheat banana bread. Even though it contains stone-ground whole wheat flour, the texture was relatively smooth and moist and it was sweetened with honey and brown sugar rather than regular white sugar. You don't have to take my word for kids, husband and parents enjoyed it too. The website that I found this recipe on seems to have some other great recipes that I look forward to checking out. You can see for yourself at
In previous posts, I have mentioned my fear of overcooking the grass fed beef. Yesterday I decided to not worry so much about it which resulted in a very tough sirloin. Due to the low fat content, this beef can become very tough if cooked past medium. The only family member that could successfully chew it was our Australian Shepherd, Lucy. I finally broke down and ordered a grass-fed beef cookbook to help relieve some of the anxiety. The ribeyes and strips came out excellent when grilled to medium rare so I know a tender juicy steak is possible. Just to be on the safe side, I will wait for the cookbook to arrive before I try to use the tenderloin. Fortunately the ground beef is much easier to use and my first chuck roast came out wonderful when prepared in the crock pot.
After seeing it on so many food labels this week, I decided it was time to learn more about maltodextrin. I have seen it listed on many snack foods, sunflower seeds and pudding. It is derived from corn, rice, potato or even wheat starch and is used as a thickener or artificial sweetener. Although I could not track down any specific health risks, I did learn that it is easily converted to energy and used by endurance athletes for a quick pick-me-up during events and training. Based on that knowledge, it could have a similar effect on your pancreas as high fructose corn syrup but I don't know for sure. Knowing that it is chemically altered compound derived from a natural product could be enough to avoid it for me. Just because it starts out as something healthy doesn't mean it will still be good for you after it has been messed with by food scientists. I am pretty sure there are no listings in my grandma's cook book for 1 teaspoon of maltodextrin. When in doubt, stick with the pronounceable and recognizable ingredients...the kind that the human race has survived on for 1000's of years.

Friday, August 21, 2009

And just like that, summer was over!

As we embark on the last weekend before school starts, I am filled with sadness. It has really been an awesome summer and I am not ready to release my boys back to their institution of learning. I am also not ready to resume packing 9-10 lunches per week. This will be the real test of my commitment--filling the lunch boxes with nutritious real food that they will actually eat. Pringles and chewy granola bars are being replaced with, well I am not sure exactly what they are being replaced with yet. I have been stocking up on Kashi's bars, natural organic beef jerky and popcorn. It has been difficult to find deli meat free of nitrites, sugars, fillers, etc. Could I possibly be dedicated enough to roast an actual turkey breast to use for sandwiches? We'll see!

I have finally found the best Farmer's Market in Las Vegas and it is also the worst. Every Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. the Molto Farmer's Market, located at 7485 Dean Martin Drive Suite 106, is open to the public. It is actually a market for local chefs to purchase items from regional farmers and vendors and has some amazing and unusual items ranging from berries, beans and tomatoes to exotic mushrooms, oils, cheeses and vinegars. So how could it be the worst too? I learned about the market from the Las Vegas Review Journal yesterday and so did a lot of other people. We arrived at 11 and due to the small location, we were crammed in like sardines trying to make our way to each table. As if the oppressive feeling of claustrophobia wasn't enough, we were pushed around by some very angry and irritable senior citizens. They did not understand the kindergarten concept of "wait your turn" and would actually push past us at the tables to buy items even though the vendors were helping others (including us) at the time. In better conditions I would have browsed the tables better and tried some of the beautiful and unusual produce such as the cranberry beans (see photo) or purple cauliflower but my fight or flight response was overwhelming and I wanted to get out of there as quickly as I could. I will attempt to visit it again, but since it is so close to my house I will have no problem turning around and leaving if it is like that next time. In spite of the mayhem, we brought home some wonderful green beans, pluots, golden raspberries, watermelon and corn on the cob.

Our chickens are almost four weeks old and have grown so much already. They are getting out of their brooding box and I had to add netting to the top to keep them in. We have actually came home and found chickens in unauthorized locations around the house. I am thinking it is time to move to the outside coop but I want to wait until the temperatures drop a little first. I don't know if it is in their best interest to go from an 80 degree house to a 107 degree backyard. I also need to secure my garden from them, which is full of sprouting lettuce, beets, carrots, broccoli and brussel sprouts. So far it is off to a good start and it looks like my compost pile is actually working too!

I have been reading a lot of labels lately and thought it might be "fun" to research some of the ingredients that I don't recognize. This week my featured ingredient is propylene glycol. So far I have found it in Kraft light vinaigrettes and popsicles. According to the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for this chemical, users should avoid skin contact and it can cause liver and kidney damage if ingested. Other potential health effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and hemoglobinuric nephrosis. It is also an ingredient in makeup, shampoo, deodorant, styling mousse, baby wipes, after shave, tire sealant, fabric softener, paint, adhesive, aircraft de-icer, artificial smoke and wallpaper stripper. I think I will just use some vinegar and oil on my salad instead...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

It's not what you think...

Would you believe the ice cream cone cupcake this handsome boy is holding is made with whole-wheat flour and organic turbinado sugar? Well don't! For those of you that don't see us on a day-to-day basis, you might think we have attained some amazing level of eating excellence. Unfortunately that is not the case. These cupcakes were made from a recipe found in a book called The Cupcake Doctor. All the recipes in this cookbook involve doctored cake mixes. It is not that I cannot bake a cake from scratch but rather that cakes from scratch do not always have consistent results. It was my son's birthday and I wanted to make sure the cupcakes weren't yucky and I knew a cake mix would produce the correct texture and moistness level. I did scan the ingredients on my Duncan Hines box and discovered many unpronounceable chemical compounds. Quickly I averted my eyes and pretended I didn't see them. I did make a homemade buttercream frosting at least. Instead of cupcake liners, they bake in ice cream cones made with hydrogenated soybean oil...put it all together and you have one yummy cupcake! We finished the birthday with a dinner to the restaurant of his choice--Del Taco. We enjoyed chili cheese fries with beef and cheese of unknown origin and fried in who knows what. It was not a banner day in our healthy eating journey. My stomach did not feel good the next day at all. In the last week I have also purchased Texas Toast (loaded was high-fructose corn syrup and bleached flour) to make French toast because whole-wheat French toast does not taste as good. At least we topped it with 100% maple syrup instead of the Sam's Club jug of Aunt Jemima.

I have started reading a couple of really interesting books this week, The Maker's Diet and Real Food. The first book is a eating plan based on Biblical eating principles and explains scientifically why God created these dietary laws. The author was suffering from Crohn's disease as well many other digestive and immune system ailments which were reversed after he started following this eating plan. The second book was written by a journalist who grew up in a farm in Virginia eating "real food" and explains what "real food" is and why it is better for us. I am loving both books but not loving The Maker's Diet's explanation on why we shouldn't eat pork and shellfish. It makes sense but those are foods I am not ready to give up. We will have to see how strong my convictions become.

Remember that several small choices in what you eat each day can have a major impact on your overall health. We still hit an occasional fast food restaurant and I did sprinkle Oreos on my frozen yogurt last night but I am not going to let that discourage my overall resolve to eat better. Some days are harder than others and it seems the best policy is to not even bring the forbidden foods home. If your kitchen is full of "real food," you will have no choice but to eat it when you are hungry. As we head back to school and a new sports season starts, it will be interesting to see how we pull this off. We are about to become a very busy family again...stay tuned!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Pleased to "meat" you...

It's overwhelming when you think about it--eating has become so complicated. There had to be a time when if the food tasted good it was good for you and if it tasted or smelled bad you avoided it. Unfortunately that is no longer the case. What seems to be perfectly safe food is causing illness and sometimes even death. The most recent case happened just the other day when salmonella was found in ground beef packed in Fresno, CA, prompting a recall of 826,000 pounds of beef. This same company recalled 1560 pounds of beef cheek products (Just knowing that there are products made from beef cheeks is disgusting enough!) a year ago due to E. coli contamination. If these problems keep appearing why hasn't something changed in the way our meat is processed? Could it be because the government agencies that we trust to protect us and uphold food safety standards are more interested in protecting the interests of the food companies? Just a thought...

I was relieved that this was one meat recall I didn't have to participate it. My ground beef came from a ranch in Colorado where cows aren't crammed into feedlots standing knee deep in their own waste. It didn't cost $1.89 a pound like the recalled beef probably did, but we have been eating it for two weeks and have nothing to worry about. So how do you know which beef to buy? There are so many adjectives describing the items in the meat case these days how do you know what matters and what is just a marketing ploy? Click here to see definitions of the terms found on your meat labels.

This week I wanted to compare some produce prices so I visited my local Whole Foods. Based on this week's prices, the Winder Farms' organic produce box came in about a $1 more than the same items at Whole Foods. It seems like prices have dropped throughout the whole store. The Kashi cereals were around $3.49/box, the Stonyfield Farms Yokids yogurt tubes were on sale and I was delighted to find hamburger buns without high fructose corn syrup(I don't remember if they were on sale, I was just happy to find them). We also tried the Horizon Organic kids yogurt tubes which did not pass Jack's taste test. They are very tangy compared to other "kid" yogurt. I didn't like them very much either and I am pretty forgiving in the yogurt taste department. I also found boneless, skinless, organic air-cooled chicken breasts for $4.99/lb. When I purchased them I had no idea what air-cooled meant, I was just happy to see organic boneless skinless breasts for the same price that Albertson's organic bone-in breasts were. I haven't tried them yet but after some research I discovered that they are supposed to have amazing flavor.

Our baby chickens are growing so fast and their only air cooling will come from our air conditioning unit because we brought them home to be egg layers not fryers. I never knew how much joy could be found from watching chickens. They are so goofy and cute. We take them out each night after dinner and watch them trying to catch bugs, taking dust baths, learning to fly and pouncing on each's hilarious! I will have to film it and post a video. They will be all grown up before I know it but at least when that happens, I will have the freshest free-range organic eggs that money can't buy.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Dark Side of Compost..

What do you get when you mix grass clippings, pine litter, fruit and vegetable scraps, water and sun? Hopefully it will eventually be compost, until then you get some serious bugs! Since I began the pile, several ants, flies and some bugs I cannot name have taken residence in there. It makes sense though, doesn't it? Garbage decaying in hot sun with high moisture content is a natural draw for any 6 legged scavenger. I shudder to think what crawls around in there after the sun goes down. I guess I thought since I was doing something noble with the refuse, it would not be like other garbage. I considered it special because some day it would be compost and help my garden produce fine vegetables for all to enjoy. Maybe someone should have told the bugs. After further research, I learned that this is not unusual. Hopefully when the pile heats up it will kill everything. This would be a lot easier if I could just pick up a bag of compost at Target.
One thing I will not be needing from Target is chicken broth. I froze the bones and skin from some organic chicken breasts I cooked a couple of weeks ago and simmered them for a few hours with some vegetables that were on their way to the compost pile (if you know what I mean). It contained carrots, celery, red onions, green onions, garlic, salt and pepper. When the water was a respectable shade of yellow and the flavor was reminiscent of homemade chicken soup, I removed it from the heat and let it cool completely. Afterward I strained the liquid and froze it in 2 cup portions (which is approximately the volume of a traditional can of broth). I am particularly proud of this for a couple of reasons, the first being that it was organic. This was not my intention but it just happened that everything I put in it was organic. The second is that it cost me nothing. I know, I paid for the original materials however this was stuff that was heading to the garbage. The celery and carrots had gone limp, the onions were getting slimy and I had more fresh garlic than I could use before it was past its prime. As far as the chicken bones go, they are only good for supporting the body of a chicken so really I had done all I could with them. The hardest part of the whole experiment was trying to find enough containers to freeze the 2 cup portions in. This yielded the equivalent of 9 cans of broth...woohoo!
Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a research problem. When I want to learn something new I read everything I can on the subject. Before the advent of the internet, I was limited by my ability to get to a library and what their collection held. With the internet I can spend hours poring over new information. Since I want so desperately to be able to grow food we can eat, I have been reading a lot about gardening. In addition to numerous websites, I also have a local gardening booklet from the Nevada Cooperative Extension, The Sunset Western Garden Guide, The Complete Guide to Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs, planting guides from Star Nursery and some bargain book from Barnes and Noble about organic gardening. From these I have learned that not all experts about gardening in the desert Southwest agree with each other. I am so overloaded with conflicting information that all I can do at this point is dig a hole, put in some seeds and hope they grow. My husband blessed me by having irrigation installed for my raise beds so I went ahead and planted some seeds today: lettuce, carrots, broccoli and brussel sprouts. According to some sources this is the correct time to do so while others say to wait until September. I guess I will know who is right come winter...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Going postal...compostal that is!

Do you ever really think about garbage? Probably not, I know I have a lot more important things to ponder. If you do decide to dwell on what you are tossing out however, you may realize that there is gold in that there wastebasket. As I research more about gardening in this barren wasteland, the word "compost" keeps popping up (or do I mean cropping?). So what is compost exactly? It is a plant fertilizer made from decaying organic matter such as yard and kitchen waste. It looks like my smelly garbage is going to be helping me grow more smelly garbage! Composting always seemed like something reserved for hippies or Al Gore and even seem too complicated...layer of green waste; layer of brown waste; water; turn; lather; rinse; repeat. I guess the only way I will learn is by doing. There was already a lonely compost bin in my backyard from the previous owners so really I have no excuse to delay the decay...we have started a compost pile. It began with some soil, pine needles, grass clippings and fruit and vegetable scraps. Will it really turn into the black gold that will help my vegetables grow? I will keep you "posted."

Until I am growing my own vegetables, I will be trying a new improved Winder Farms organic produce box. Somehow a representative from Winder Farms came across my blog and called me to discuss my produce issues. Is that incredible or what? I explained to him that I was very happy with their service, I just thought I could do better buying the produce in the store. He stated that, "we don't want you 95% satisfied, we want you a 100% satisfied." I think I am a 110% satisfied with their customer service, that's for sure. We successfully made our last bottle of Winder Farms milk last through this morning, and are anxiously awaiting our next delivery tomorrow. I actually ran out while pouring a bowl of cereal and used half and half to fill the rest of the bowl. Not a good idea, half and half tastes great in coffee but ruins a perfectly good bowl of cereal.

Speaking of cereal, I can confidently say that the Kashi cereals are cheapest at Wal-Mart. They all sell for under $4 a box which is much better than every other store I have been to. I like these cereals because of their simple ingredients and lack of high fructose corn syrup. We have tried Cinnamon Harvest (which is also available at Sam's Club in big box form), Honey Sunshine, Island Vanilla and Strawberry Fields. Jack is a fan of Strawberry Fields but Keith is more of an Island Vanilla guy.

We got to enjoy our first grass-fed beef cheeseburgers. They really do retain their precooked size and were very juicy for how lean they are. Unfortunately I had to serve them with hamburger buns that contained high fructose corn syrup. I could not find one package without it at the grocery store and I didn't have to time to check other stores. It's amazing that even the products in packages designed to attract the health conscious still contain the ingredients that we are trying to avoid. Even Quaker Original Instant Oatmeal is not as wholesome as it seems. You would be better off microwaving the actual oats instead. Does this mean I will have to make my own buns now? I sure hope not because if they are anything like the whole-wheat dinner rocks...I mean rolls, I will have to go low carb!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Where's the beef?

Where's the beef? It's in my freezer, 42 pounds of it. Yesterday was a big day for our family as our baby chicks arrived as well as our 100% pastured grass-fed beef from Pagosa Springs, CO. I have to say the chicks were a tad more exciting than the beef but both were special in their own way. From the moment we ordered the chickens, the anticipation was building in the whole house. We were so eager to see them and talked about it constantly. Our actual mailman called from the post office at 8:15 a.m. to find out if I wanted him to bring them on the truck or if I wanted to pick them up. Well of course I had to pick them up! When the clerk at the post office came around the counter with a peeping box, I actually felt a little teary eyed. My babies were here! All six arrived healthy and thirsty. You would be amazed how much joy baby chicks can bring to a family. We are head over heels in love with these little girls. There is a 10% chance that there could be a rooster but until we know for sure we have named them Ida, Annie, Penny, Nina, Madelyn and Lillian.

I can't believe how nervous I was to cook the new beef. Everything I had read warned that it was really easy to overcook the beef because of it's lower fat content so I was really concerned that I would ruin the steaks. I chose a package of NY strips and a package of ribeyes, not realizing that each pack actually contained two good-sized steaks(we actually had enough left for another meal). The one thing I noticed was how much meatier it was than grocery store meat, if that makes sense. It is denser and more flavorful and fills you up faster. I cooked it on a hot grill for about 6 minutes on each side and than turned the heat off and left it on the grill for about 7 more minutes(It was still slightly frozen in the middle when I first started cooking it so it will probably cook faster next time). I seasoned some with garlic salt and some with Lawry's seasoning salt. I think I liked the Lawry's better, probably because it was invented to season beef (It was created by the founders of Lawry's the Prime Rib restaurant). I am looking forward to making hamburgers with the ground beef this weekend.

We are still chugging the Winder Farms milk like newborn calves. Tonight at dinner the four of us drank a half gallon. I will probably have to break down and buy some store milk because I don't think we will make it until our next delivery on Monday. Milk has become my kids number one choice for a beverage now and I see no reason to discourage this. Looks like next week I will have to add another gallon to our order. Moo!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What's that smell?

It has been about month since this journey began and we have made changes that I hope will last. I no longer miss Coffeemate, and get totally disgusted if I read the ingredients. My kids are eating more fresh fruit than ever because, quite frankly, there is not much else to snack on. The additives that we are trying to avoid seem to lurk in those convenient, quick fix items that I am no longer buying. Sometimes I just want something crunchy and salty with a Nabisco triangle in the corner but it is easy to resist if it is not in the house. We pop our popcorn the old fashion way (well maybe not the old-fashion way because it is not in a pan over a fireplace in a log cabin) in a pot with some oil and eat it with a light sprinkling of salt. Microwave popcorn actually moved out of our house about a year ago after people who worked in the manufacturing facilities were getting lung cancer from the chemical used in the butter flavoring. If we really wanted to be good, I would use an air popper but I don't like the way that popcorn comes out so I will shamelessly be deficient in that area.

Consuming more organic products has led to much smellier garbage (I know, I should be composting but I am not ready to start that yet). I think it is a combination of my natural food spoiling quicker as well as our family consuming more produce overall. This week my last bottle of Winder Farms milk spoiled 3 days before the expiration date. There wasn't that much left and I think it is partially our fault for leaving it on the counter too much. We will do better this week and if it happens again I will contact Winder Farms.

Speaking of Winder Farms, after my third delivery I have come to realize some things: The organic produce box is overpriced and full of several Earthbound Organic brand products. When I was figuring it out, I realized I could do better buying the items myself (even at Whole Foods) and not end up with items I can't finish before they spoil. I expected the produce to be coming from a farm in Utah so I thought it would be worth it but since it is the same brand I can buy here I am no longer ordering it. We have tried several other products (especially ones I have coupons for) but I am realizing that I am really in it for the dairy, bread and possibly the lemonade. The other items I can purchase for less at Whole Foods or even Smith's. That is not a misprint, I really did say they would be less at Whole Foods...

Tomorrow is going to be an exciting day, the grass-fed beef is scheduled to arrive and hopefully we will be getting our baby chicks too. We have a 3 day window for our peeps to come so we are rushing home each day to see if they came. I called the post office and asked them to hold them for pickup but just in case they end up on the truck for delivery I have been staying home. I don't want them to end up frying on my 120 degree front porch.

Hopefully we can keep this up. Eating better food is a luxury. There is definitely more money going to food lately, but I have found that our portions are getting smaller and I am shopping less. It is like we are learning to survive on what we have instead of trying to eat like wild animals and replace everything as soon as it is out. I did have to up my Winder Farms milk order because we are consuming it with a passion and I don't want to have to buy grocery store milk to make it until the next delivery. If paying more for milk has given us not just tastier but healthier milk, I shudder to think what we were drinking when I was buying gallons at Sam's Club for $1.87. (Insert shiver here)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Just "beet" it

Aren't they beet-iful?
Fry time

Just as pretty in chip form

As mentioned previously, I received some beets this week in my organic produce box from Winder Farms. I have never liked beets, I am sure it has to with some traumatic beet experience from childhood. It still didn't change the fact that I had fresh organic beets in my kitchen and I need to find something to do with them. After some internet searching, I decided to make beet chips. Yes, they are fried in oil but we are not trying to eat low fat, we are trying to eat less processed food and more natural foods. The first thing I noticed when I sliced the beets was how red they were. When you cut into them red juice streams down your knife and all over the cutting board. If I had to guess, I would say it stains but fortunately I didn't have to find out. The other thing that I noticed is how beautiful sliced beets are. They have perfect concentric circles alternating between light and dark red like a mini redwood tree. We ate them sprinkled with garlic salt and all of us liked them except Jack, who said they were one of the worst things he has ever tasted. I found that the crispier they were, the less they tasted like beets. Keith actually liked the flavor of the softer ones so I am thinking that we might have one beet eater among us.

As if beet chips weren't exciting enough, I placed my first order for grass-fed beef and baby chicks (not from the same supplier). The grass-fed beef with shipping works out to about $7/pound which is still cheaper than organic ground beef at Whole Foods which retails for $9.99/pound. I chose this supplier based on their policy to put God and family first and the fact that there is no online checkout because they like to speak to their customers personally. My order was placed with Allan, the actual owner of the ranch and he is a really nice guy. We will be receiving 27 pounds of steaks and roasts and 15 pounds of ground beef. I can't wait to try it! Even more exciting is that six baby chicks will be arriving next week. We researched the breeds and decided on 3 black star and 3 Easter eggers. Both are known to be good egg producers as well as good pets. Easter eggers actually lay colored eggs such as blue, green and pink. Today I will be meeting my friends mother-in-law who raises chickens down the street for us. I can't wait to see her place, it has a lot of other animals too.

I have always wanted to live in the country but it hasn't worked out for us yet. The next best thing is to make my own "country" here. Yeehaw!

Monday, July 20, 2009

The whole (wheat) truth.

I've been to farmer's markets, Whole Foods, Sunflower Market and finally today I made it to Trader Joe's. I have loved shopping there for years but there isn't one close to me so I have to really want to go before I make the trek. The funny thing is, shortly after we moved out of Henderson, they built one a mile from our old house. I guess they didn't realize the money they would have made if only they had been there a few years earlier! My favorite find there today was white whole wheat flour. It is their own brand and sells for $2.99 for 5 pounds. Why is this exciting? White whole-wheat flour can be substituted for all-purpose flour when you are baking and still has a smoother texture than regular whole-wheat flour. It is made from a softer white wheat so you still get whole grain but the texture of your bake goods does not resemble wet cement. About a week ago, I made some dinner rolls substituting the regular stone-ground whole-wheat flour for half of the all purpose flour. They were like little hockey pucks. I found the recipe on the internet and I imagine that there were probably some proportion issues with the ingredients however, I have been scared to use whole-wheat flour ever since. We had chocolate chip cookies made with the white whole-wheat flour today and no one could tell any difference. The cookie recipe is on the bag but it is basically the Nestle Toll House recipe with the proportion of white sugar to brown sugar altered slightly.

We tried a new brand of whole wheat pasta(see photo) this evening which I have decided is now my favorite. My older son asked if it was whole wheat (he is paranoid about the food I make lately) but I know he couldn't tell the difference this time. This brand is made in Italy, organic and sells for under $2.00 per pound at Sunflower Market. I served it with a meat sauce and it was delicious.

Our latest Winder Farms delivery arrived today and I can honestly say the their honey whole wheat bread is as amazing as the ten grain. We have already gone through a half gallon of the new milk (probably because we had the chocolate chip cookies) and the organic red grapes were beautiful and delicious. They are clustered together much closer than conventional grapes, I don't know if that means anything or not but it looks cool! My organic produce box contained fresh beets with the dirt still on them. I am up for the challenge of preparing them in a way that my family will enjoy eating them. I have to admit I have hated beets since I was very young but I don't want to waste food that we paid good money for so by golly, I am cooking them.

When I was at Trader Joe's today, I realized how much of their food is actually not good for you. It is still important to read labels if you are trying to avoid chemicals, hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup. I especially noticed these ingredients in their frozen items. Adios mini beef tacos, the Nolls are breaking up with you. You are full of ingredients I can't pronounce so this relationship is not going to work anymore. No, we can't still be friends...please stop calling!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Breaking the rules!

Well we have returned from a great trip to Lake Tahoe with some great friends, unfortunately we were eating some not so great things. Our drive started off well enough, our first Winder Farms delivery had arrived the morning we left and I brought the fruit with us to snack on during our 9 1/2 hour drive. We stopped in Beatty to get gas at the "Death Valley Candy Factory." Believe it or not, when you go inside it is full of CANDY. The worst part was that we actually bought some assorted licorices and gummy things and ate them! This was in clear violation of rule #1: Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food; #2: Avoid foods that contain ingredients that are A) Unfamiliar B)Unpronounceable C)More than five in number and D) Contain high fructose corn syrup; and #9: Don't get your fuel from the same place your car does. When we arrived at the cabin I instructed my kids that they had to eat whatever was served to them without complaint. I think that must have been why they were smiling so big downing those root beer floats the first night. There were also a large number of Oreos consumed which I don't think actually qualify as a food based on their ingredients. The Pringles we ate on the way there and back would probably also fall under the non-food category. We could also be spotted enjoying roast beef melts and curly fries at Arby's in Minden as well as Flamin' Hot Fries in Tonopah. Thoroughly sick of junk food, not one of us was interested in getting chips with our combo at Quizno's once we arrived home.

Speaking of Winder Farms, my first order arrived without any issues. My organic produce box contained baby spinach, celery, potatoes, cantaloupe, peaches and green grapes. Their 10-grain bread was out of this world and we used it to make sandwiches which we ate on a pier overlooking beautiful Lake Tahoe. I am looking forward to next Monday's delivery which will have more items than the first since we will be home next week.

Convenience foods are aptly named. When you are far from home it is so much easier to eat the bad stuff than to seek out and prepare the good stuff. I won't be discouraged however, because I looking forward to picking up where we left off BRT (Before road trip).

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ignorance is bliss

All right, it is time to get real. This is so hard! I was so happy today to make some Kraft Macaroni and Cheese for lunch because, as I mentioned before, I am not throwing away the old food--just replacing it with better things. I was practically giddy pouring that powdered cheese packet and 3 tablespoons of Country Crock Spread into the pot. Within 15 minutes I served up lunch without any complaints from the audience, it was heavenly. Higher prices for better food are getting to me already too. Shopping frugally has been almost like a sport for me and some of these prices are just insanely high. All I can do is keep my focus on the "why" and not the "how." My father died from stomach and lung cancer this year at the age of 62, he was preceded in death by his younger brother who also had cancer. Why is there so much cancer? What has changed in America that cancer diagnoses are popping up everywhere? We eat much differently than we did 50 years that what's changed?

Today at the grocery store I was buying some Tostitos (which contain corn, oil and salt--that's it!) to serve with guacamole. My oldest son covered up the multigrain version with his hands and said, "please don't buy the multigrain!" He is now suspicious of everything I serve. He won't even eat the cinnamon raisin bread from Sunflower Market which is funny since he loves raisin bread and hasn't even tasted it yet. Oh well, if you are hungry enough you will eat anything (insert evil laugh here)...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Do you know the muffin man? He might want this recipe.

When we went to the farmer's market in Summerlin, I had picked up some sweet potatoes. Usually I use them to make sweet potato fries which Todd and I totally love, but it has been too hot to run the oven at dinnertime and these potatoes were a little short and squatty--not really good for cutting into fries. I browsed several recipes but I couldn't find one that worked for the ingredients I had on hand or they just had some ingredients I didn't want to use. Feeling particularly adventurous, I made up my own recipe that was loosely based on some of the others. Unlike yesterday's granola bars, these were a hit. I think we have 3 of the 12 leftover as of right now. Next time I make them, I will throw the shredded sweet potato in the microwave for a couple of minutes to soften it up. Some of the shreds still had a little crunch to them in the finished muffins. Yes, I know there are chocolate chips in them. I used them to lure my kids to eat them. If this grieves your conscience just buy the best organic chocolate chips you can or use carob chips. Remember, this is a gradual transformation for our family, we aren't there yet!

For dinner, we had Taste of Home's Southwestern Spaghetti with whole-wheat pasta and zucchini from Lissa's neighbor's garden. We have no leftovers which is always a good sign. This is a tasty and quick skillet meal if you would like to try it yourself.

MFOM Sweet Potato Muffins

1 1/8 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups stone-ground whole wheat flour (I used Bob's Red Mill, it was the cheapest at Sunflower Mkt)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups peeled, shredded sweet potato
1/2 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners or grease.

2. Mix together brown sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs in a large bowl.

3. In medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, spices and salt.

4. Gradually add dry ingredients to the large bowl of wet ingredient until just mixed.

5. Fold in sweet potato and chocolate chips.

6. Spoon the batter evenly into 12 muffin cups. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Take the muffins out of the pan and serve warm.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

You can lead your kids to healthier food but you can't make them eat!

This morning I woke up excited to start the day. What made today special? I was making homemade granola bars and I couldn't wait to try them. I am living on the edge, I am breaking the rules, I am...failing miserably! It seems to me that my kids are purposely rejecting the new things in the hopes of getting the old foods back(or I am paranoid). Personally I thought they were tasty. They weren't as crunchy as Nature Valley granola bars but not as chewy as the Quaker ones. If you do make the recipe, don't cut them until they are completely cooled or else they won't hold their shape well. They(my dear sweet children who I am trying to give the best available food to so that they can be as healthy as possible and have long productive lives with great jobs and loving wives and adorable children and summer vacations at the beach, etc.) have also rejected the new yogurt. Rather than being a homogenous blend like Yoplait and Gogurt, there is actual fruit in the yogurt. They asked what it was and found the watery-fruity part gross. Isn't this how real yogurt has always been? It is just more evidence that something needs to change.
Here are some of our Farmer's Market and organic purchases steamed and tossed with olive oil and garlic salt--Delicious!

Today found us at another Farmer's Market. We hadn't planned to go but we were visiting friends in Henderson and they suggested it to us so we went to see it together. It was larger than the Summerlin one and had better prices. They even had some bakeries but we arrived too late and they had already left for the day. If you are looking for the best strawberries on the planet, don't miss this market! They were as sweet as candy and so was the lady that sold them to me. One overflowing green plastic basket was $3.00 or you could get 3 green plastic baskets for $8.00. I wish we had bought 3.

Tomorrow's adventure: sweet potato muffins made with farmer's market sweet potatoes!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Serious food...silly prices!

Did you guess the store that I shopped at yet? It was double-ad Wednesday at Sunflower Market (Today's title is their slogan) so I stopped in to check their prices and grab some bulk food items. You can run into a lot of people there...especially with your shopping cart due to the narrowness of the aisles but I will be more careful next time! I was excited to find the same yogurt I bought at Whole Foods for 69 cents each rather than the 89 cents I paid on Monday. Their whole-wheat pasta was comparable to the grocery store price for regular pasta so I picked up some penne to try. I noticed they have a lot of processed food masquerading as healthy food so it is still important to read the labels. Their organic produce seems to be a little less than Whole Foods but is anyone really surprised by that? We are going to make our own granola bars tomorrow and I was able to find the ingredients I needed at a very reasonable price in the bulk food bins. I think that may be my favorite part of the store. For some reason if you take the same old food items that you are selling in other areas of the store, put them in cute wooden barrels and stick a metal scoop in them, suddenly they are very appealing. It is also nice if you need a 1/2 cup of raw sunflower seeds for a recipe and don't want to invest in a large package of them. I abstained from the wooden barrels full of candy which would have undone all the progress we have made this week. As with my trip to Whole Foods, I had meat department issues but this time it was the smell coming from that area that kept from getting closer and investigating. It reminded me of our trips to Larry's Great Western Meats when I was a kid...stinky! They must have been grinding sausage or something. I noticed in the freezer case you can purchase bison and elk meat. I am sure somehow that would fit in with our new plan but I am not that adventurous yet.

This afternoon we went as a family to Food, Inc. I was glad the kids saw it because I want them to know why we are doing this. Keith was totally interested but Jack couldn't get out of their fast enough. Can you believe an almost 7 year old doesn't care how corn gets into 80% of our food products? I found the previews before the movie were inappropriate for children so if you are thinking of taking your own kids, get there a little late. It also shows the slaughtering of animals so if that is something that would be upsetting for them it is best to leave them home. After seeing the film, I am more motivated than ever to keep doing this. I could spend hours writing on what I learned from it but really it is best to go see it for yourself. Amazingly enough, 3 out of 4 of us were hungry after the movie so we stopped by Archi's for some quick Pad Thai. I don't know what all the ingredients are, but with the exception of the noodles, everything looks like it does when it's found in nature and that is a good start...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I have secretly replaced their regular noodles with whole wheat spaghetti...

Okay, so I didn't replace all of the pasta with whole wheat; only about half. It seemed like a good way to introduce the unfamiliar texture to my family. Whenever you change your pet's food, the bag always says to gradually mix in the new food with the food they are currently eating until you have totally replaced the old food with the new food. If it's good enough for dogs, why not us? I served it with meat sauce (the pasta, not pet food) and I personally couldn't tell the difference between the two types of noodles and everyone else seemed to love it. Next time I may go 100% whole wheat.

Since it is Tuesday, we headed to the Las Vegas Farmer's Market in Summerlin. I was excited to buy produce from real farmers, unfortunately there were only two of them. I hadn't been to a farmer's market for about 5 years and I had hoped that it had grown since the last time but apparently it has shrunk. The trip wasn't a total waste however, as I am now signed up for Winder Farms home delivery. I had consider doing this a year ago but it didn't make sense financially. Now the prices and startup fees are lower and it seems like less of a commitment than when I looked into it before. I can't verify if any of this is true, but according to Bob the Winder Farms salesman, their milk is better for you because it is not ultra-pasteurized like every other milk at the supermarket. This enables the milk to retain more nutrients and does not destroy the natural enzymes that aid in digestion. He also said that even people who are lactose intolerant can drink this milk because of this fact. Their milk has no chemicals, hormones or antibiotics and is processed in Salt Lake and than delivered to Las Vegas the next day. Conventional milk has a 6 week shelf life but their milk has a two week shelf life. This is a good thing! I also learned that all of the organic milk in the U.S. is processed at one of two locations: Colorado or New Jersey. It is also ultra-pasteurized so it can travel across the country. Winder Farms also carries organic fruits and meats in addition to all-natural breads. The minimum order for delivery is $5 and the startup fee is $10. My $10 included a 55 gallon cooler that is mine to keep. We tried samples of their milk, apple juice and raspberry tea and loved them all. The apple juice tastes as good as the cider from Gilcrease Orchards.

Our diet makeover is going to be gradual and rather than throwing away all the naughty food we are finishing it and not replacing it. I did throw out two unopened packages of Kroger popsicles after I found out they had propylene glycol in them. Just because the whole bag is 88 cents doesn't mean we should be eating an ingredient found in shampoo and hand soap. Thanks for the tip Meg. Hazelnut Biscotti and Peppermint Mocha Coffemate are what I will miss the most. In powdered form non-dairy creamer is highly flammable and yet I faithfully pour it in my coffee every morning. Click here to see a video of the Mythbusters using it as an explosive in a cannon. Is that really what I want in my body? Do you want it in yours?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Make sure you bring your whole wallet when you go to Whole Foods...

With some simple guidelines I embarked on my first shopping trip of this new season in my life. Typically I have avoided organic foods due to their higher prices and I had always thought of them as some kind of gimmick to get more money out of the poor, unsuspecting consumers. The fact that they had no chemicals or pesticides really did not sell me. It was when I learned the difference in the nutritional value that I became interested in upping my produce budget. Organic produce takes longer to grow which enables the plants to develop longer roots and draw more nutrients from the soil. Conventionally-grown produce is fertilized with Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium and grows very fast. These elements are good for us but they aren't the only ones we need to draw from the plants we are eating. Organic produce also develops resistance to pests and disease and the compounds created by this process are passed into our bodies when we consume them. They in turn help our bodies to be more resistant to certain diseases and illnesses.

Armed with knowledge and a desire to eat well, I visited my local Whole Foods this morning to grab some food in its natural state. Organic produce was definitely higher priced than conventionally grown produce by at least 50 cents/pound. Was my family worth an extra 50 cents/pound? Definitely! So I picked up some peaches, nectarines, raspberries, strawberries and broccoli. My next stop was the meat department. I am very interested in trying grass-fed beef and I know I won't be seeing it on the shelf of Super Wal-Mart anytime soon. Cautiously I approached the counter, trying to read the prices without drawing attention to myself. I knew if I caught the butcher's eye and he asked if I needed help, I would buy something just to look like I knew what I was doing. I am so glad I had that Lasik surgery a few years ago because I could stand as far away as the frozen vegetables and see that the ground beef was $9.99/pound! That is not a misprint. I feel wild and crazy if I buy filet mignon at that price and I most definitely will not pay that for hamburger meat!!!! Some steaks were as high as $17.99/pound and I don't even know if they were grass fed or simply organic.

In the dairy case I grabbed some individual yogurts for my kids that ran about 80-90 cents a piece. Quite the departure from the 60 cent Yoplait at Smith's but I recognized all the ingredients on the label and it was free of high fructose corn syrup. I sure hope my kids like it as much as Gogurt!

For dinner tonight I attempted to make a meal free of any processed food. I seasoned chicken breasts with salt, pepper and chili powder and grilled them. They were accompanied by a broccoli and brown rice casserole (brown rice was 89 cents/pound at WF) which my family ate a couple of bites of and then asked for ketchup. Enjoy the processed tomatoes and high fructose corn syrup on your all-natural, homemade meal...your pancreas says, "thanks!" Oh well, at least they were eating brown rice...

People might say I'm crazy but...

My first brush with nutrition came while my my husband was in nursing school and learned how much fat and sugar was in many of the foods we ate daily. I remember that we were very impacted by the figures and had changed the way we were eating--at least for awhile. When we decided to start our family, I set myself on eating the best food possible for conception and pregnancy. After my first son was born, I tried to follow all the best nutrition rules for him and even vowed that he would never eat chicken nuggets!

Well that was over ten years ago and I sometimes buy my chicken nuggets in the freezer section at Sam's Club and find myself stocking up on snack foods so I won't have to actually "prepare" things when my ravenous children are calling out for food. Even though we have tried to minimize sugary treats and not eat out too much, there is still much room for improvement. After I finished reading Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, I am excited about feeding my family well again. I don't expect it to be easy and I don't think I can follow everything 100% but if even small changes can have a positive effect on our future health, I think it is worth a shot.

So here it goes, my attempt to wean my family from what food researchers call the "Western Diet."

FEEDJIT Live Traffic Feed