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."

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